Everyone we know with young kids raved about Parksville, so we thought we should check it out. We were blown away by how great it was and will definitely come back. Parksville is a town on central Vancouver Island. It is easy to get to, about a 40 minute drive from the Duke Point Ferry Terminal in Nanaimo (if you’re coming from Vancouver) or about a 2 hour drive from Victoria, BC. Here are 7 things to do in Parksville with kids that are also easy on the budget.
All of these locations are within a 20 minute drive from Parksville. Just enough time so that the kids don’t get antsy and they make a great morning activity option so you can get back to your accommodation for attempted nap time.
Goats on a Roof
This is just 10 minutes away from Parksville, in Coombs. Goats on a Roof is a touristy destination where you can see… goats on a roof (except in the fall and winter time, they get too cold up there). At the Old Country Market there are very reasonably priced toys (higher quality toys like wooden toys, not the usual stuff made out of plastic) and puzzles that are unique.
Think Melissa and Doug wooden toy quality but cheaper.
They also have a cafeteria where you can get a huge basket of fries for $7.
There’s a produce market a few doors down where you can get fresh fruit and vegetables and also a donut shop. Gourmet donuts are $2.50 each and glazed and chocolate dipped donuts are $1.99 each. There’s literally something for everyone.
Fun fact, years ago I bought two notebooks from Old Country Market that I have used over many years for my net worth updates!
This is definitely a fun thing to do in Parksville with kids that you as the adult will enjoy too. They are open daily from March to December.
Cost: You’ll likely end up buying something from Old Country Market
Big Qualicum Hatchery
The Big Qualicum Hatchery has some viewing parts where you can see salmon that are closed to the public because of COVID, but the spawning channel is still open.
The spawning channel is about a 500 metre walk on gravel road from the parking lot. The spawning channel provides a controlled flow of water and optimal conditions for salmon to lay their eggs. The spawning channel prevents the water from flooding or freezing which would damage or kill the salmon eggs.
We saw a lot of large, dead salmon on the bank of the river/ channel (and the seagulls were enjoying the feast). I actually remembered my elementary school education of the lifecycle of the salmon and remembered that after salmon lay their eggs they die. It was fun trying to teach a 2 and 4 year old the salmon life cycle.
We also saw a seal in the river too!
Visiting the salmon hatchery provided a nice walk outdoors for the kids. It was interesting as they have never been to a salmon hatchery before.
The best time to visit the salmon hatchery is between September to November in the fall, that’s when you will see fish.
North Island Recovery Wildlife Centre
One of our friends who lives on Vancouver Island recommended the NIRWC in Errington. At first we were wary of paying $36 to see an owl or two, but it was surprisingly worth it and much larger than we had thought.
The centre is over 8 acres and is a non-profit world class rehabilitation centre. It has eagles, falcons, turkey vultures, owls, ravens, and during our visit, a black bear. The goal of the centre is to educate the public and take care of injured animals. Each ‘resident’ had a story of why they were there. Some were hit by a car and their wings were broken, some were raised in captivity and never learned how to live in the wild, and some were sadly hit with a bullet and thus could not fly anymore.
I had never seen an eagle so ‘up close’ before and was in shock at how large they actually are. Our kids had a great time running around the centre, there’s even a large rock sculpture and cave they can climb and crawl through, and interestingly a large Easter Island head replica.
The North Island Recovery Wildlife Centre is open from 9:00-4:30pm daily.
- $15 for adults
- $6 for children 4-16
- 3 and under free
Another great place to go with kids is Morningstar Farms. It is a dairy farm near Parksville and Qualicum Beach.
This is where Little Qualicum Cheeseworks cheeses are made.
You can go with your kids to a free self guided tour of the dairy farm, where you will see 2 day old calves, and a few-month old calves, all the way to dairy cows enjoying their hay and dessert (granola) and being milked by this fancy milking machine. They also have a self serve milk dispenser where you can get 1L of milk for $2.25.
They used to have free samples of cheeses, this is not the case anymore. Now you can get a sampling of 6 different cheeses for $5.
Our kids loved petting the calves and really enjoyed the experience visiting the dairy farm.
Morningstar Farms is open from 10am to 5pm daily except holidays.
Cost: Free, $5 for a sampling of 6 cheeses
Cathedral Grove (MacmIllan Park)
MacMillan Provincial Park is a 20 minute drive from Parksville. It is a small boardwalk ‘hike’ on the side of the highway. It gives you easy access to huge Douglas Fir trees, many are over 800 years old, and one of them “the big tree” is over 9 metres in circumference.
Coombs/ Goats on a Roof is on the way to Cathedral Grove and Parksville.
It’s a great little walk to burn off their energy.
Qualicum Beach is another town within a 15 minute drive from Parksville. It is smaller than Parksville but also has a beautiful beach. It definitely has a retirement community feel as it has a large senior population.
The Ravensong Aquatic Centre has a wading pool for kids, and bonus, it is very warm for a public pool. It’s very quiet and there are no waits for the change rooms and shower rooms!
Cost: The Aquatic Centre was around $12 for two adults and two young kids
Rathtrevor beach is famous for the beautiful sunsets. The tide is very calm and goes very low at low tide (like kilometres out). It is a rocky beach though. The
The fun thing about it is that there are wild bunnies everywhere. It is very entertaining to watch your young kids try and “catch” a rabbit.
Rathrevor beach also is a campsite and has a playground.
Even though it was cold outside, our kids had a great time trying to build a sand castle and collecting dried kelp, rocks, driftwood to make a moat.
We had a great time in Parksville and will probably go again in the summer. There are so many fun things to do with kids in Parksville that doesn’t have to cost very much at all.
Have you been to Parksville?
What other things to do in Parksville with kids do you recommend?
GYM is a 30 something millennial interested in achieving financial freedom through disciplined saving, dividend and ETF investing, and living a minimalist lifestyle. Before you go, check out my recommendations page of financial tools I use to save and invest money. Don’t forget to subscribe for blog updates, a free dividend yield spreadsheet, and the free Young Money Bootcamp eCourse.