Does your vehicle pass the road trip checklist? Keep reading to find out.
Road trips are a great alternative to traditional plane, train, or bus-based travel right now. If you want to avoid packed airports, and the germ-spreading potential of recycled plane air, driving yourself to your vacation destination is the way to go. It also ensures that you are only traveling with your “close-knit” crew, be it friends or family, and not exposing yourself outside of your social bubble.
Before you through a weekend bag in your trunk and pick a travel playlist, we recommend doing a once-over inspection of your vehicle of choice. Here are 7 things you should always check on your car before setting out on the wide, open highway.
1. Fluid Check & Oil Change
If it’s been a while since your last oil change, you should get one done (or do it yourself) before any long trip. You should change your oil approximately every six months (depending on M/KM usage). While you are at it, check the status of your transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, and coolant, as well.
2. Battery Voltage
If you have your own test equipment, you can do this at home. Otherwise, take your vehicle to a trusted service provider and ask them to test the battery voltage. If the reading is too low, or it’s been over three years, you might consider a battery replacement. If your battery needs a charge, it can take anywhere from 4 to 24 hours to do so. So, leave enough time in your schedule to handle this before you go. Battery problems are one of the top reasons AAA listed for emergency intervention on the road, so make sure you are ready.
3. Brake Check
Typically, the brake warning light on the car console will come on if there is an issue; however, it’s always good to do a quick self-lead check. If you already did the fluid check (above) then you’re ahead of the game. When testing your brakes: listen for any abnormal noises (squealing, scarping), note if the vehicle is erroneously pulling to one side or the other, and make note of the pedal feel as you press it. If anything seems out of whack, take it to a shop to get checked.
4. Turn Signal Lights & Headlights
For this, you’ll need a partner. Have someone stand outside your vehicle as you flash each turn signal (have them check back and front lights), brake lights, headlights, and fog lights. Remember that a burned-out bulb can get you a very easy-to-avoid ticket! Be sure to change any light bulbs that are performing poorly.
5. Tire Air Pressure (Including Spare)
Tire trouble is not only very common on long trips, but it is so, so easily avoidable. Check the tire pressure before you leave and keep a portable tire pressure gauge in your vehicle for on-the-go inspections. Fill your tires with air according to the levels recommended in the vehicle’s manual. If you have a spare tire: fill that one up, too! After all, it won’t do you any good to lug around a spare tire if it’s flat.
6. Insurance Paperwork, Registration, and License
Sometimes the most obvious things get forgotten about. Do a quick check to ensure that the insurance paperwork is kept somewhere obvious and accessible. Check the expiration date on your license. And make sure your plates aren’t due to expire any time soon.
7. First Aid Kit & Emergency Items
This is one of the most important parts of any road trip checklist. Be sure to have a roadside assistance emergency kit in your vehicle at all times, particularly when you are about to embark on a long road trip. You can also cobble one together yourself. You’ll want to include bandages, alcohol pads, a flashlight, candles, matches, jumper cables, reflective devices, and maybe even an emergency blanket.
Planning a road trip this year? Check out Breakaway Vacations’ various rental properties in the Okanagan and Vancouver Island areas. Booking now for summer 2021.
You don’t need to be cooped up indoors during your stay at a Breakaway Vacation property in Parksville or Qualicum Beach from November through January. Vancouver Island, while renowned for its summertime affairs, has plenty to do even when the snow starts falling. Plus, you won’t have to fight the typical warm-weather crowds! Here are a few winter activities you can look forward to in the area.
New Year’s Day Annual Polar Bear Splash
Don’t mind the chill? Want a challenge? Join the Parksville community on New Years Day as residents and visitors alike participate in the Polar Bear Splash. Dash into the winter-chilled ocean at Parkville Beach to brave the cold.
Sports at Oceanside Place
Oceanside Place is a sports and ice area that is perfect for the whole family. They have an active skate schedule on their website if you want to pop by. You can also catch an Oceanside Generals game, if you want to watch the local hockey team.
There are plenty of hiking areas that are open year-round, like Little Qualicum Falls, Top Bridge Park, Englishman River Falls, or Rathtrevor Beach. Most are empty during the winter months even though they are open, meaning you can have the trails and scenery all to yourselves!
Take a Pacific Rainforest Adventure Tour
These are available year-round and offer trips suitable for families and seniors. You can pick the theme of your tour, ranging from nature tours to wine tours. The Salmon Spawning Tour is only available in October and November, making it a winter-exclusive activity!
Horne Lake Caving, Winter Edition
We love caving year-round but winter caving tours tend to be less crowded and offer a different experience due to increased levels of moisture for the season. Horne Lake Caves offers October through January bookings with limited availability, so call ahead and save your spot.
Visit Grotto Spa
The Tigh-Na-Mara Grotto Spa just outside of Parkville was named one of the top spas in Canada by Spas of America in 2018! Check out the large mineral pool, the relaxation lounge, various spa treatments, and finish your night with a meal from the attached Cedars Restaurant & Longue.
Vancouver Island has many, many things to do in the winter months. Want to hear more about where to stay to access these winter activities? Reach out to the Breakaway Vacation staff, we would be happy to help.
We talk a lot about wine on this blog. After all, B.C. is considered the “wine country” of Canada. Beer drinkers need not despair! We have plenty of craft breweries in the area, too. B.C. craft beer is rising in popularity, especially on Vancouver Island and in Vancouver proper. That means there is a ton our there for beer-lovers to try.
Autumn and winter come with their own flavours (think: dark beers, like stouts, and anything spiced). And B.C.-based breweries are more than accommodating to these seasonal tastes. Try any of these fall/winter season B.C. craft beers. You won’t regret it.
Granville Island Lions Winter Ale
If you don’t already know, Granville Island is a peninsula and shopping district in Vancouver, B.C. Granville Island Brewing was Canada’s first modern microbrewery. Their beers are ubiquitous across the province. You’ll have no problem finding the Lions Winter Ale, and more, at any local liquor store. The Lions Winter Ale has a vanilla-like flavour that pairs well with full-flavoured foods and cream-based sauces.
Whistler Brewing Chestnut Ale
You can probably guess by the name, but Whistler Brewing is located in Whistler, British Columbia. This ski-resort-town is bustling with winter sports and year-round entertainment, including eateries and breweries. The chestnut ale is a spiced/herbed beer with a blend of caramel and crystal malts. It’s a “Warm you up from the inside out” kind of drink. The bold, nutty flavour will do well with any rich winter meal.
Hoyne Dark Matter
Hoyne Brewing is located in Victoria, B.C., so if you are staying at one of our Parksville or Qualicum Beach vacation properties, a day trip for a tour is not out of the question. (It’s about a 2-hour drive away.) Dark Matter is a delicious stout-meets-brown-meets-porter. It’s a bit of an enigma, soft to sip with hints of chocolate. This is a beer for everyone, even those who tend to avoid darker brews.
Nelson Brewing Co. Faceplant Winter Ale (Organic)
Nelson Brewing, located in, obviously, Nelson, has been a staple in the local community since 1991. They produce all nature, full-flavoured beers. They are certified organic, producing without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or genetic engineering. The Faceplant winter Ale has hints of brown sugar and molasses. It’s sweet, malty, dark, and smooth.
Driftwood Satori Harvest Fresh Hop IPA
Driftwood Brewing is located in Victoria, B.C. The Satori Harvest Fresh Hop IPA can only be brewed once a year when fresh Centennial hops are collected from Satori Cedar Ranch near Chilliwack. This IPA is hoppy, floral, piney, smooth, and grassy. Everything we love in a fall and winter season beer. It has a 7% ABV, so enjoy responsibly.
Find something you like thanks to this guide? Let us know in the comments! Want to visit some B.C. breweries first-hand? Ask us about our British Columbian vacation rentals.
If you are visiting Vancouver Island this October there are plenty of things to do as Halloween grows near. These events are compiled with our Breakaway Vacation properties in Parksville and Qualicum Beach in mind but don’t forget to explore what goes on in other areas like Victoria, as well!
Halloween Party & Masquerade Ball
If you don’t mind a short drive to Nanaimo then be sure to buy tickets for the annual Halloween Part and Masquerade Ball, hosted by the Serauxmen Service Club. Enjoy dancing, live music, and a best costume prize (solo and group).
Location: Nanaimo Curling Club (106 Wall Street)
Pumpkins on the Drive
Wander along Resort Drive to see an assortment of pumpkins carved and decorated for the season. If you’re lucky, you might be able to pick up some candy and hot chocolate along the way!
Location: Resort Drive in Parksville
Friends of Foster Park Pumpkin Walk
More pumpkins, what a surprise! Tour through hundreds of pumpkins carved by community youth. This event takes place every year and is free to attend. The walk is family-friendly with enough rooms for strollers.
Location: Foster Park, Parksville
Errington’s Pumpkin Trail and Fireworks
Visit Errington’s Community Park with the whole family in costume (child-friendly event) and check out the props hidden along the trails. Treats will be handed out at different milestone locations. There is also a market site at the end where you can stock up on treats and drinks. Plus: fireworks!
Location: Errington’s Community Park
Coombs Candy Walk
This is a Halloween event held every year. Visitors can enjoy a circus-themed candy walk, concession stands, a “Little Ghouls” haunted house, and fireworks later in the night. The event is by donation, so chip in what you can.
Location: 1014 Ford Road, Coombs
Halloween in the Village
Located in the heart of Qualicum Beach, Halloween in the Village includes a pumpkin trail, hotdogs and other treats, a bonfire, and some nighttime fireworks. Check online for more details, as they sometimes have a haunted house (OR a family-friendly version) set up, as well.
Location: Downtown Qualicum Beach
Halloween Howl Swim
Want something totally unique? Try the Halloween Howl Swim at the Ravensong Aquatic Centre. The Centre is always decorated for the occasion. Also, there will be games and activities for kids. The event closed off with a piñata bash, so be sure to stick around.
Location: Ravensong Aquatic Centre, Qualicum Beach
Not sure what you want to do to celebrate this Halloween with your family? Ask us about our vacation rentals on Vancouver Island!
April Events in the Qualicum and Parksville Areas (2020)
April ushers in the start of springtime festivities on Vancouver Island. The Qualicum and Parksville areas, where you can stay in one of Breakaway Vacations’ wonderful rental homes, have plenty going on. There is also much to do in the surrounding areas. Thanks to the smallness of the Island, it’s easy to take a day trip to Nanaimo or Victoria to see a show.
Here are a few things you can do in April!
QUALICUM AND PARKSVILLE AREAS
Side-by-side, these neighbourhoods are ripe with local activity. There are plenty of communities that touch borders with these areas, making it easy to attend festivities in many different towns during your stay.
Elegant Threads and More Show & Sale at Qualicum Commons
April 3-4, 2020, starts at 10:00 AM
The Qualicum Weavers and Spinners present Elegant Threads and More as a part of the weekend-long Brant Wildlife Festival. Shows, studio work, items for purchase, and more.
30th Pacific Brant Carving, Woodworking & Art Show at Parksville Community Centre
April 3-4, 2020, start times varies
The 30th Annual Carving and Woodworking show has demonstrations, exhibitions, art for sale, professional photography, seminars, auctions, and a youth painting workshop.
North Island Wildlife Recovery (NIWRA) Centre Eagle Release
April 4, 2020, starts at 11:00 AM
NIWRA helps protect and rehabilitate owls,
eagles, falcons, bears, and more – and you can be a part of it. During this event, a rescued eagle will be released back into the wild (~2:00 PM).
CHRCO Flea Market & Pancake Breakfast at the Coombs Rodeo Grounds, Qualicum
April 5, 2020, starts at 9:00 AM
Browse the local flea market to pick up some souvenirs or just check out what’s available. They also offer pancake breakfast for a small price, $6 for small and $8 for large.
Nell & Jim Band at Joyce Beaton House Concert, Qualicum Beach
April 20, 2020, at 7:30 PM
Nell & Jim Band is making a few different stops around the Island and Qualicum Beach is one of them! They claim influence from folk, bluegrass, Americana, roots, swing, jazz, and blues music.
BONUS: What’s Nearby?
Qualicum Beach is a short 45-minute drive from Nanaimo (Parksville is slightly shorter), which is where you can expect to find many larger events. Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia, is just over a 2-and-a-quarter-hour drive from the Qualicum Beach area. The drive is easy and beautiful and you can totally plan a day trip around it.
If you don’t mind going for a bit further, there are a few cool events hosted in these nearby hotspots:
Vancouver Island Symphony at The Port Theatre, Nanaimo
April 25, 2020, at 7:30 PM
Enjoy their show Symphony Rhapsody, which will feature audience-favourite works by Gershwin and Dvorak as well as two tuneful, jazz-infused brand new pieces.
Russell Brand @ University Centre Farquhar Auditorium, Victoria
April 5, 2020, at multiple showtimes
Looking for some edgy comedy to spice up your stay? Actor, comedian, and podcast host Russell Brand’s Recovery Live show might be just what you need.
Music, arts, community, and culture. You’ll find everything during your stay on Vancouver Island this spring. What event are you looking forward to?
The Best Coffee Shops for Island Vacationers
Mayne Island, Qualicum Beach, Pender Island, Parksville—Breakaway Vacations can help you find the perfect rental home for your Vancouver Island or Gulf Islands trip. There’s lots to see and do while you’re in the area, not least of which is to enjoy a steaming cup of joe at one of the many local cafes.
You can find a great coffee shop no matter where you find yourself on the Islands. Here are a few that stand out:
- Sunny Mayne Bakery Cafe – Sunny Mayne Bakery Café and the Miner’s Bay Ice Cream Emporium are locally and family-owned businesses based on gorgeous Mayne Island. While here, you’ll have fresh baked goods, homemade lunches, ice cream, custom cakes, take-out pizza, and more.
- Shavasana Art Gallery & Cafe – Sip some coffee or tea and wander through a local art exhibit—the two go hand-in-hand at Shavasana Art Gallery & Cafe. They have beautiful art and a down-to-Earth atmosphere. They serve 23 kinds of tea and a daily coffee. Note: They are only open May-through-September.
- Slow Coast Coffee on Pender Island – Watch the ferries come-and-go with the beautiful ocean view at Slow Coffee. The cafe’s everyday menu items include crepes, dosas, and quesadillas, as well as daily specials on weekdays. You can even sit on the balcony, weather permitting.
- Coffee + Kitchen – Be sure to call ahead for a reservation or arrive early if you want to check out Coffee + Kitchen; they fill up fast! They offer farm-to-table handcrafted food focusing on local ingredients and in the summer they even grow their own herbs and greens. Enjoy a coffee, tea, lattes, and more hot drinks as well as a made-fresh-daily lemonade.
- Courtyard Cafe – This cafe and crêperie boasts a welcoming and warm environment and a menu full of options, from crêpes, eggs, muffins, salads, cappuccinos, and more. The crêpes are easily the stand-out item and you can request them gluten-free and/or vegan. They serve both sweet and savory crêpes.
- Oh So Yummy Cafe – Don’t let their minimalistic web presence fool you, the Oh So Yummy Cafe is not to be slept on! They sell homemade jams, homemade hot sauce, all-day breakfast, and more. They are truly the best-kept secret in Qualicum Beach so be sure to stop by.
- Farmhouse Cafe and Bakery – This cafe and bakery has a modest selection of hot beverages but a great number of baked goods and snacky food items. The house blend coffee and flavoured tea offerings come with free refills so you can linger and relax. They bake farm-fresh bread so don’t forget to grab a loaf on your way out.
- Rawthentic – Ready for a unique “cafe” experience? Trade the regular old black coffee for an antioxidant smoothie, mint matcha latte, kombucha, or a wheatgrass shot. They serve raw food from an uber-healthy menu and are definitely one-of-a-kind on the Island. They have a kids’ smoothie menu, as well, so the whole family will be happy.
Quiet island life just isn’t the same without a steaming cup of coffee to sip while you enjoy the ocean view and slow beats of small-town life. We hope you have time to explore some of these great cafes during your stay.
Where to Celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day in Qualicum Beach
Looking to vacation on Vancouver Island? Want to travel BC or enjoy a staycation near the coast? Qualicum Beach or Parksville could be the perfect location for you. With Saint Patrick’s Day around the corner, why not start planning a fun getaway?
Saint Patrick’s Day has long held a reputation for being an excuse to drink and party. Across the Strait of Georgia, you’ll find people doing just that in the heart of downtown Vancouver and neighbouring municipalities. But Vancouver Island moves at a different pace and we think you’ll appreciate doing things our way.
We welcome you to enjoy St. Paddy’s Day our way!
- Catch Some Live Music
Better yet, make it live Celtic music or other Irish-inspired tunes. There’s always a musical show or two going on but Vancouver Island has a small claim to fame in the Celtic music circle. Celtic Chaos—a traditional Celtic band that includes fiddle, Irish wooden flute, a pennywhistle, and more—calls Qualicum Beach and Nanaimo their home. You can also look out for other performers, for example, Will Millar (ex-frontman of The Irish Rovers) has been known to play shows on the Island (he did in 2019)!
- Make Your Own Green Beer
Breakaway Vacation rentals each have a full-sized kitchen for you to enjoy—so why not use it? Stay in and make your own festive green beer. There are several ways to do this so you can pick the one you like best. Using a light-coloured brew will yield the best results. You can use green food colouring, 4-6 drops should do. There are other ways to achieve a similar effect, like using a green beerzicle in a clear glass bottle or, if you’re brave, try making it using matcha powder!
- Watch The Irishman (or another Irish-themed movie)
Been meaning to watch the much-buzzed-about Martin Scorsese movie, The Irishman? Why not dive in on the day meant for celebrating Irish culture? Okay, okay, The Irishman isn’t exactly the pinnacle “Irish movie” (it was filmed in the New York area) but it’s definitely a title on everybody’s lips these days since it’s Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations. Looking for something more traditionally Irish? Try The Hole in the Ground by Lee Cronin or Float Like a Butterfly by Carmel Winters.
- Grab a Beer at LoveShack Libations
Open Wednesdays, Saturdays, and by appointment, LoveShack Libations is a must-visit venue for beer drinkers near and far. This microbrewery and pub is a local treasure and the owners have a genuine love of all things beer. They have served Irish beer in the past, like their Who’s Your Paddy Irish red ale, but you should always call ahead to see what they have going on before you set out. Green beer or no green beer, this charming little pub is a must-see on St. Paddy’s Day and beyond.
What are your favourite things to do for St. Paddy’s Day?
10 Best Hikes in Strathcona Provincial Park
Strathcona Provincial Park is one of British Columbia’s hidden gems – a vast wilderness in the heart of Vancouver Island, teeming with unusual wildlife and impressive mountain landscapes. This 250,000-hectare park is a hiker’s paradise, with plenty of beautiful trails over magnificent terrain, passing by wildflower meadows, craggy ridges, and serene lakes.
The hiking trails in Strathcona Provincial Park are concentrated around Buttle Lake and the Forbidden Plateau, and here you’ll find dozens of bucket list hikes. Outside these areas, the wilderness of the park beckons, making it the perfect destination for adventurous hikers. Strathcona Provincial Park is one of the best places to go get lost on Vancouver Island, and we’d highly recommend it as a hiking destination!
To give you a little inspiration, we’ve put together a list of the top ten best hikes in Strathcona Provincial Park. These epic trails are just waiting to be explored, so grab your hiking boots and get out on the trails today!
This iconic Strathcona hike certainly lives up to its name, passing along a high ridge littered with delicate alpine flowers. The trail rises steeply before emerging out onto the ridge, where you’ll enjoy a fabulous panorama of Mounts Septimus and Rousseau, Cream Lake, and the picturesque Nine Peaks. In the right season you’ll find some glorious flora alongside the trail, including bright pink mountain heather. This is one of the best hikes in Strathcona Provincial Park, and will leave you with wonderful memories.
Perched at the edge of the Forbidden Plateau, Mount Albert Edward’s distinctive peak dominates the Mount Washington Ski Resort. This is a popular area of the park for both skiing and hiking, and this hike is one of the most satisfying and impressive routes in the region. The trail passes through dense, atmospheric forests, past the beautiful Whiskey Meadows, and finally emerges, after a steep climb, at the summit of Mount Albert Edward. The views here are incomparable, and a welcome reward after the efforts of the hike!
Strathcona Provincial Park is known for its lovely waterfalls, and this route to Lady Falls showcases one of the finest. The falls lie deep in the enigmatic forests of the Cervus Creek Valley, and the trail to the viewing platform is simply magical. The cliff walls surrounding the falls are covered in fragrant moss, and the mists that rise from the waters sometimes create beautiful rainbows. This is one of the best family-friendly hikes in Strathcona Provincial Park.
The hike up to Bedwell Lake will take you along one of the most accessible trails in Strathcona Provincial Park, with plenty of bridges, staircases and boardwalks to help you to navigate the park’s terrain. The views from the trail are simply spectacular, with a vista that includes Big Interior Mountain and its enormous glacier. Baby Bedwell, the small lagoon at the start of the lake, is an excellent spot for swimming, and you may well feel like a dip after the steep climb!
The Elk River trail traces the path of the river all the way to Landslide Lake, and is one of the most popular treks in Strathcona Provincial Park. The route passes through a beautiful landscape filled with tall trees, all the way up to Landslide Lake. The views from the top are incredible, with a fantastic view of Mount Colonel Forster and the southern side of Elkhorn Mountain.
Looking for a fun half-day hike in Strathcona Provincial Park? The hike up Mount Becher offers incredible views over to the Comox Glacier and Mount Albert Edward, from the top of the easternmost peak in the park. The trail rises gently, passing tranquil ponds and meadows filled with flowers, until you ascend above the tree line to enjoy a fabulous panorama over the nearby mountains. This is one of the best hikes in Strathcona Provincial Park.
One of the classic Vancouver Island hikes, Mount Myra is one of the most famous hiking peaks in Strathcona Provincial Park. Passing by tranquil lakes, flower-strewn alpine meadows and rocky gullies, this trail is deservedly popular among local residents of Vancouver Island, and makes for a very satisfying day out. The views from the summit of Mount Myra are spectacular, taking in the Golden Hinde, Mount Tom Taylor, and several impressive glaciers.
This short hike out to Lake Helen MacKenzie is an excellent family-friendly trail in Strathcona Provincial Park. The trail is well maintained, passing along boardwalks and gravel walkways, through atmospheric old growth forest. The beautiful lake offers many wonderful photo opportunities, with the tranquil waters reflecting the snow-capped peaks that surround it.
The Upper Myra Falls tumble 23 meters down a lush cavern into a deep blue basin, making this one of the most magical sights in Strathcona Provincial Park. This easy, family-friendly route switchbacks through a gentle hillside, passing by old growth forest and mossy underbrush. Come in spring when then falls are at their finest, and admire the spectacular sight from the specially made viewing platform.
Augerpoint Beach sits on the bank of the magnificent Buttle Lake, at the point where the Phillips Creeks meets the water. The views over the lake itself are truly magnificent, with the towering peak of Mount Myra looming large over the beach. This is a great place for a family walk and a swim, and in summer there are plenty of watersports and activities available on the lake. This is one of the best easy hikes in Strathcona, and a wonderful way to enjoy the park’s wonderful scenery.
-By guest writer Lukas Saville