A popular stopping point for tourists on the way to the west coast, the little village of Coombs is dotted with several heritage buildings, small gift and craft shops and antique stores. Coombs is also known for the family of goats nimbly grazing on the grass rooftop of the Coombs Old Country Market.
Coombs was established at the turn of the twentieth century by families who arrived as part of the Salvation Army’s immigration program, a humanitarian scheme that brought nearly a quarter of a million poor English and Welsh to Canada.
A handful of families settled here around 1910 under the leadership of the Salvation Army’s Ensign Crego. The community was named after the Army’s Canadian Commissioner, Captain Thomas Coombs.
Location: Coombs is located on the Port Alberni/Tofino Highway 4, 5.5 miles (9 km) west of Parksville on Vancouver Island.
Be sure to stop in to the Coombs General Store, which has been serving every need of the community since 1910.
The Coombs Emporium and Frontier Town will keep everyone entertained and excited.
July is the time for Old West activities at the Coombs Rodeo Ground; an old time fiddlers jamboree, a bluegrass festival, and the Annual Coombs Rodeo.
The annual Coombs Country Arts & Crafts Fair is held in mid July at the Coombs Rodeo Ground. Visitors come for the arts, crafts, concessions, entertainment, and many other exciting demonstrations.
Butterfly World and the Emerald Forest Bird Garden are popular attractions where you can stroll amongst hundreds of exotic butterflies flying free in an indoor tropical rainforest. Witness the entire life cycle of these amazing insects. Spectacular flowering plants and foliage, fascinating birds, waterfalls and streams all contribute to make this a photographer’s paradise and a truly memorable experience for the entire family.
The World Parrot Refuge in Coombs provides a “home for life” for previously owned pet parrots. This educational facility is dedicated to the health and well being of parrots, and is open to the public to raise awareness of the growing problems of parrots in captivity. The refuge has created a more natural environment for the birds, with 23,000 square feet of indoor, heated, free-flight aviaries, and 16,000 square feet of easily accessed outdoor flights for the warmer months. The World Parrot Refuge is located at 2116 Alberni Highway.
Hamilton Marsh provides natural habitat for such marsh birds and is particularly active in spring and fall with migrations of ducks and geese. Woodland trails from the small parking lot lead you to and around the marsh, with a viewing platform for closer observation of marsh inhabitants. Hamilton Marsh is located approximately 4 km north of Coombs on South Hilliers Road, just off the Alberni Highway 4.
The Little Qualicum Spawning Channel on the Little Qualicum River is accessed via Melrose Road. Turn north off Highway 4, 3.5 miles (6 km) west of Coombs, and follow the signs to the hatchery. Over 4 million chinook salmon are raised annually, with the best visiting times being February to June and October to November. This hatchery is not to be confused with the big Qualicum Falls Hatchery, located on the Qualicum River north of Horne Lake.
Golf: There are no fewer than 6 world-class golf courses in the nearby Parksville and Qualicum Bay area, and the pleasant, sunny climate means play continues year-round. Select from the Morningstar Golf Club in Parksville, or Arrowsmith Golf & Country Club, Eaglecrest Golf Club, Pheasant Glen Golf Resort, and Qualicum Beach Memorial Golf Course in Qualicum Beach. Golf Vacations on Vancouver Island.
Spend an afternoon lazing on the beach at the Cameron Lake Recreation Site, surrounded by mountains and forests in the Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park on Highway 4, 7 miles (12 km) west of Coombs. Facilities at the lake include picnic sites, a boat Launch (private), and campsites (private and provincial). Cameron Lake is stocked with rainbow and cutthroat trout, and offers good fishing through summer. Anglers can test their fly fishing skills on the lake’s brown trout, often the most difficult of trout to catch in B.C. Strong winds blow here in the afternoon, which attracts windsurfers but definitely deters those in small boats. Boaters and paddlers should take note of the strong and sudden gusts of wind often experienced on Cameron Lake.
At the west end of Cameron Lake is the Beaufort Picnic Site, another fine location for picnicking and swimming adjacent to the campground in the Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park. Picnic tables are arranged beside the beach. Cameron Lake is bordered by steep mountains: Mt. Wesley to the north and Mt. Arrowsmith to the south.
Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park straddles the scenic Little Qualicum River, where impressive waterfalls cascade and plummet down a rocky gorge in a beautiful forest setting. This magnificent 440-hectare park is a popular family recreation area, and is perhaps the most magnificent park on Vancouver Island, Little Qualicum Falls incorporates the entire southern shore of Cameron Lake, adjacent to MacMillan Provincial Park and the awesome Cathedral Grove Rainforest.
MacMillan Provincial Park is famous for Cathedral Grove, one of the most accessible stands of giant Douglas-fir trees in British Columbia. Some of these trees are 800 years old, and walking the trails through this virgin coastal forest can be quite an inspirational experience. Loop trails on either side of the highway lead awe-struck visitors through the mighty forest stands. The south loop showcases the largest Douglas-fir trees, with the biggest one measuring over 9 metres in circumference. The trail on the northern side of the road winds through groves of ancient Western Red Cedar to the shores of Cameron Lake. The 136-hectare park is located on Highway 4 on the shores of Cameron Lake, 7.5 miles (20 km) west of Coombs.
Englishman River Falls Provincial Park, situated along the Englishman River, features a spectacular canyon between two beautiful waterfalls cascading along the descending riverbed. This 97-hectare park offers several walking trails that meander through lush old-growth forests of cedar, arbutus, fir, maple and hemlock along the Englishman River. Gaze up among the tall timbers where fingers of sunlight slant down to the ferns below. You’ll find vehicle/tent sites and there’s great picnicking, summer swimming and a 2-mile walking trail that passes through a stand of maple trees to an impressive waterfall and gorge. Located 3.5 miles (6 km) south of nearby Errington.
Hiking: The Mount Arrowsmith area offers good hiking and rock climbing, with breathtaking views of Vancouver Island. The trailhead for the Arrowsmith Trail is at the Cameron Lake picnic site, and winds up to the 6,000-foot summit in the Mount Arrowsmith Regional Park. The hike is strenuous, and do not set off without a trail map! Evidence of a forest fire that roared through here 300 years ago is still visible on the thick bark of the tallest Douglas fir, and windstorms during the winter of 1997 toppled hundreds of trees. Located 7.5 miles (12 km) west of Coombs on the Alberni Highway 4.
Both Englishman River Falls and Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Parks have rambling trails that lead beside the clear waters of these pristine rivers. A walk to the falls is a big part of a visit to either park.
Fishing: There’s excellent bank casting for rainbow and cutthroat trout on the Englishman River, either near the river mouth on the Strait of Georgia near Parksville or in Englishman River Falls Provincial Park. There’s a steelhead run as well in the river. Unfortunately, a decline in salmon stocks in BC has forced closures on fishing for a number of species, so be sure to check in advance. Over the past century, brown trout have been successfully introduced to a number of Vancouver Island rivers, such as the Little Qualicum. The best access to the river for bank casting is at Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park. You’ll also find good trolling and boat casting in Cameron Lake, part of which also lies within the park. There’s a boat launch at the picnic grounds on Cameron Lake.
The Kulth Music Fest is held in Coombs in mid July. The Kulth is a festival created for people of all ages, with both local and international artists performing folk music, electronic music, and Reggae music. The festival is located at the Coombs Rodeo Grounds on the Alberni Highway.
To the east of Coombs is the seaside resort town of Parksville. Bordered by ocean and sheltered by mountains, Parksville boasts some of the finest beaches in Canada, including those at Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park. When the tide goes out in Parksville, it leaves hundreds of metres of firm golden sand – internationally acclaimed as the best building material for sandcastles!
Directly north of Coombs is another seaside pleasureland. Steeped in a quaint British heritage, modern day Qualicum Beach offers visitors the same gentle countryside and golden, seemingly endless sandy beaches as Parksville, plus 4 top golf courses.