Al­lur­ing na­ture of Van­cou­ver Is­land

Di­rect flights from Cal­gary, balmy cli­mate have lux­ury property buy­ers tak­ing no­tice

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Recreation & Investment Properties - BARB LIV­ING­STONE

Can you pic­ture yourself on your own pri­vate is­land?

Or would you pre­fer a more ur­ban wa­ter­front home, with a beach and daz­zling views just out­side your door?

Or how about step­ping from your pa­tio onto a golf course?

While the soar­ing hot real es­tate mar­ket of the past may have put those dreams out of grasp, the east coast of Van­cou­ver Is­land is lur­ing back Cal­gary buy­ers who for the past few years have spent recre­ational/ re­tire­ment property dol­lars in the U.S.

“There is con­sid­er­ably more in­ter­est in our mar­ket­place now,” says Martin Dou­glas, man­ag­ing bro­ker for RE/MAX Ocean Pa­cific in the Co­mox Val­ley. With the lower Cana­dian dol­lar and re­cov­er­ing U.S. econ­omy, he says the ground­work is laid for people from Al­berta and Saskatchew­an — the third buy­ers’ mar­ket af­ter lo­cals and the B.C. lower main­land — to come back to the is­land. Dou­glas says prices, par­tic­u­larly at the lux­ury end for wa­ter­front — or for your own pri­vate is­land — are now more within reach.

“Your dol­lar will never go far­ther than it will to­day,” says Dou­glas, a 44-year real es­tate vet­eran.

That con­fi­dence is echoed by the steady growth of one of the largest projects on Van­cou­ver Is­land, the 395-hectare Crown Isle com­mu­nity built around a cham­pi­onship golf course in Courte­nay.

Ja­son Andrew, di­rec­tor of real es­tate for Crown Isle, says 15 to 20 per cent of cur­rent res­i­dents are from Al­berta or other parts of the prairies, and he ex­pects that num­ber to in­crease in the next two to five years.

“WestJet turned around the com­mu­nity with the di­rect ser­vice from Al­berta,” says the Cal­gary-born Andrew. There are 900 res­i­den­tial units in the com­mu­nity — 500 sin­gle fam­ily — and it is zoned for 2,700 units.

With a re­gional hospi­tal be­ing built across from Crown Isle — and a ma­jor commercial en­ter­prise now open and a Costco slated just north — Andrew says the de­vel­op­ment ex­pects strong growth. It has three new sub­di­vi­sions com­ing on stream and Mon­terra Homes is build­ing an 18-unit pa­tio home project. Prices range from $379,000 to more than $1 mil­lion for fair­way homes.

Cur­rent res­i­dents in­clude Ed­mon­to­ni­ans John and Pat John­son, both 64, who re­tired to the is­land in 2010. John had vis­ited the Courte­nay area on fish­ing trips but on a Fam­ily Day weekend the cou­ple flew into Crown Isle. By the Mon­day, the John­sons had bought a home.

“It is a very spe­cial spot. It has a Mediter­ranean cli­mate — I can count on two fin­gers the num­ber of times it gets cold.”

John John­son, an avid golfer, is proud the course is host­ing this year’s PGA Tour Canada qual­i­fy­ing school and also points to Mount Wash­ing­ton Moun­tain Re­sort, 45 min­utes away, where he now snow­shoes. He says for Al­ber­tans, Crown Isle of­fers ev­ery­thing they could find in South­ern U.S. climes — in their own coun­try. Adds Crown Isle’s Andrew, “We are five min­utes from the air­port, close to world class fish­ing, bik­ing, hik­ing, moun­tain climb­ing — and with our cli­mate you can do all those things year round.”

Heather McEachen of Van­cou­ver Is­land Tourism, says with WestJet re­cently start­ing di­rect flights from Cal­gary to Nanaimo, she ex­pects even more Al­ber­tans to visit the is­land.

“Most im­por­tant is our coastal cli­mate — we don’t get the heavy win­ters the rest of the coun­try saw this year.”

McEachen says ev­ery com­mu­nity is close to the ocean, which means beaches, boat­ing and lots of wildlife.

“You can kayak over to New­cas­tle Is­land or Pro­tec­tion Is­land from Nanaimo, have a drink at a pub, and then kayak back.”

Or you can watch the killer whales, or or­cas, in Camp­bell River, the sal­mon fish­ing cap­i­tal of Canada; visit a plethora of winer­ies that pop­u­late the is­land (many of them in the Cowichan Val­ley); or hike the many kilo­me­tres of trails.

“It is the di­ver­sity of things to do here — and you can do them all year round. You might need a good pair of rain boots, but you won’t find many snow boots here,” McEachen says.

Al­ber­tans have long been at­tracted to the coun­try-vil­lage styled ar­eas of Parksville/Qualicum Beach. Karen Roberts of Royal LePage, says be­tween 15 to 20 per cent of buy­ers in re­sort ar­eas there (like Beach Acres, Ocean Trails, Tigh Na Mara, Ocean Sands Re­sort) have been Al­ber­tans. While many Cana­di­ans did buy in Palm Springs and Phoenix since 2008, in­stead of on the is­land, with prices dra­mat­i­cally de­creased, Roberts ex­pects Al­ber­tans to re­turn to her area.

“Parksville re­sorts are 40 min­utes from ei­ther the Co­mox or Nanaimo air­port and both fer­ries. It’s fa­mous for miles of sandy beach, Rathtrevor Provin­cial Park as well as five great golf cour­ses that are fairly easy to book tee times.”

Brian Danyliw of Sotheby’s in the Cowichan V al­ley (in­clud­ing the towns of Lady­smith, Chemainus, Dun­can and Lake Cowichan) says there is a lot of in­ven­tory in an area he says is still rel­a­tively un­known.

“You dol­lar goes a lot fur­ther here, es­pe­cially on Lake Cowichan where there are huge op­por­tu­ni­ties for lake­front prop­er­ties.” He says he has ev­ery­thing from a bungalow on the lake from the $400,000s to three­quar­ters of an acre on the lake, with a beau­ti­ful home within walk­ing dis­tance of the town for less than $1 mil­lion. Danyliw es­ti­mates wa­ter­front prop­er­ties — whether on the ocean, lake or river — have been re­duced 20 to 30 per cent from peak years.

“Cowichan means ‘the warm land’ and our cli­mate is un­beat­able,” says Danyliw who grew up in the area.

Co­mox Val­ley

The Co­mox Val­ley in­cludes the cen­tres of Co­mox, Courte­nay, and Cum­ber­land, along with Den­man and Hornby Is­lands. More than 10,000 years ago, the Co­mox Val­ley was formed as sheets of ice scoured val­leys across the is­land. A glacier still looms over the val­ley. The Co­mox area, served by daily di­rect WestJet flights from Cal­gary, of­fers year-round golf­ing, ski­ing at Mount Wash­ing­ton, a quar­ter mile of shore­line at Saratoga Beach, and kayak­ing in Baynes Sound. Parksville-Qualicum Beach

These cen­tral Is­land com­mu­ni­ties are home to 43,000 people, with a pri­mary fo­cus on tourism and re­tire­ment. Six golf cour­ses are less than 30 min­utes apart and re­sorts pop­u­late the area. The mild cli­mate means cour­ses are open al­most 365 days a year. There are 19-kilo­me­tres of near-per­fect sand found on the com­mu­ni­ties east­ern ocean side (in­clud­ing the well known Rathtrevor Beach). Parksville is known as Canada’s Riviera, and Qualicum Beach has been called Canada’s Carmel.

Nanaimo is B.C.’s third old­est city, with mag­nif­i­cent ocean­front and a long and colourful his­tory of coal min­ing. Two ferry ter­mi­nals (to the Sun­shine Coast and B.C. main­land) are lo­cated in the area and WestJet has daily flights from Cal­gary. Great hik­ing, div­ing, kayak­ing, fish­ing, cy­cling, boat­ing, and artists’ stu­dios ga­lore.

Cowichan Val­ley The Cowichan Val­ley is made up of a num­ber of small com­mu­ni­ties — in­clud­ing Lady­smith, Chemainus, Dun­can, Lake Cowichan, Cowichan Bay, Mill Bay and Cob­ble Hill — each with dis­tinct char­ac­ter and unique ac­tiv­i­ties. Nes­tled north of Vic­to­ria, Cowichan is the cen­tre of the is­land’s wine coun­try. It is also known for fish­ing, kayak­ing, hik­ing and golf­ing ad­ven­tures. The sea­side vil­lage of Cowichan Bay be­came in­ter­na­tion­ally fa­mous in 2009 when des­ig­nated North Amer­ica’s first Cit­taslow (Slow City) town. Cit­taslow orig­i­nated in Italy, rates el­i­gi­ble towns on ev­ery­thing from friend­li­ness to en­vi­ron­men­tal poli­cies.

Crown Isle

The Crown Isle golf course is just min­utes from the Co­mox Bay Ma­rina and Res­i­dences by Howard Land Group.

Is­land Joy Rides

Is­land Joy Rides of­fers vis­i­tors to Van­cou­ver Is­land an ar­ray of cy­cling tours on hy­brid bikes for all abil­i­ties and ages. One of its tours is a one-day choco­late and wine tour of the Co­mox Val­ley.

Qualicum Land­ing

Qualicum Beach is an ideal place to watch a sun­rise or sun­set.

Dave Hal­l­i­day/Postmedia News

Goats keep the grass roof of the Old Coun­try Mar­ket in Coombs, B.C., neatly trimmed dur­ing sum­mer.

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