THE IS­LAND ROUTES

VAN­COU­VER IS­LAND, BRI­TISH COLUMBIA

Canadian Geographic - - CANADA'S BEST WINTER DRIVES - —John Lee

DRIV­ING THE EAST COAST of Van­cou­ver Is­land from Nanaimo to Port Hardy on High­ways 19 and 19A can take just four hours. But what’s the rush in the off-sea­son, when her­itage ham­lets, lo­ca­vore gems and surf-bat­tered beaches beckon in Canada’s mildest win­ter re­gion?

Nanaimo

Be­gin your jour­ney in the is­land’s har­bourfront sec­ond city, where the book­stores, cof­fee shops, mu­sic stores and art gal­leries lin­ing Com­mer­cial Street in­vite leisurely ex­plo­ration.

Rathtrevor Beach Pro­vin­cial Park

The 19A passes small com­mu­ni­ties and Sal­ish Sea bays. Stop at Rathtrevor’s drift­wood-stud­ded sands for beach­comb­ing and skedad­dling sea ot­ter sight­ings.

Morn­ingstar Farm, Parksville

Side­step from the high­way to visit this farm, home to the Lit­tle Qualicum Cheese­works. They serve up gen­er­ous sam­ples (try the Bleu Claire) and also sell delectable, vel­vety black­berry wine from the on-site Mooberry Win­ery.

Cum­ber­land

If you pre­fer beer over black­berry wine, stop in at the Cum­ber­land Brew­ing Com­pany for a pint. The old vil­lage’s hip store­fronts in­vite fur­ther pe­rusal, but ski­ing at Mount Wash­ing­ton is just 30 min­utes away.

Tele­graph Cove

Drive past Camp­bell River and de­tour via Beaver Cove Road to reach this scen­esteal­ing charmer, where the brightly painted old build­ings present the per­fect photo op.

Alert Bay

Save your mem­ory card for equally be­guil­ing Alert Bay, a short ferry ride away from Port Mcneill. Its board­walk shacks and strik­ing totems are joined by bald ea­gles whirling over­head.

Port Hardy

Ex­plore the north’s main town, then make for Cape Scott Pro­vin­cial Park. Its for­est-fringed San Josef Bay beach is a dra­matic, wave-whipped re­minder of the raw beauty of win­ter travel.

Van­cou­ver Is­land’s Mount Wash­ing­ton, just 30 min­utes from the vil­lage of Cum­ber­land.

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