human settlement in British Columbia, Canada

Lighthouse Country is a rural area northwest of Parksville/Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island that includes the communities of Qualicum Bay, Bowser and Deep Bay. Quieter and less busy than communities to the south, it has some fantastic scenery (particularly around Deep Bay) and Horne Lake is known for its caves and spelunking.

Understand edit

Lighthouse Country has miles of shoreline on the Strait of Georgia with numerous beaches for swimming. Many streams join the ocean in this area and each one has a hiking trail beside it.

Communities edit

  • 1 Qualicum Bay   — A large natural bay with a huge expanse of sand at low tide. Qualicum Bay has roadside stores where you can stock up on fresh caught seafood.
  • 2 Bowser — A waterfront community which overlooks the gulf islands of Denman and Hornby. It is just a few minutes drive north of Qualicum Bay.

Bowser is the main community centre of the area and has most of the commercial facilities: a supermarket, liquor store and post office, restaurant, hardware store, gas station, and small resorts.

  • 3 Deep Bay   — A small oceanside community devoted to fishing. Mapleguard Point is a spit that juts out and protects Deep Bay’s natural harbour right beside the larger expanse of Qualicum Bay. Sheltered by the Point, Deep Bay launches boats that fish for salmon in the area of Norris Rocks, Chrome Island and Eagle rock.

Get in edit

Map of Lighthouse Country

The main way in is Highway 19 (the Inland Island Highway), about 15-20 minutes north of Parksville/Qualicum Beach and a little more than an hour north of Nanaimo. Exit 75 (Horne Lake Rd) connects Qualicum Bay to the highway and Exit 87 connects Deep Bay. A slower and more scenic way is to take the old coastal highway, Highway 19A.

By bus edit

  • IslandLink Bus, . Operates daily using a hub and spoke bus service with hubs in Nanaimo and Buckley Bay. Trips run non-stop from the hub to the destination area. This system works well if direct travel would run by a hub anyway, but can result in significant detours if direct travel would not pass by either hub. Using this service, the hubs connect to Campbell River, Oyster River, Comox, Courtenay, Cumberland, Bowser, Parksville, Nanaimo, Duncan, and Mill Bay, and Victoria. As of January 30, 2023, service is also available to Port Alberni, Tofino, and Ucluelet, though trip frequency ranges from 3 days per week in the winter to daily in the summer.

Get around edit

Having access to your own wheels -- car, bike or taxi -- will be the only way to get to all of the attractions in the area.

By public transit edit

  • BC Transit (Regional District of Nanaimo Transit System), +1-250-390-4531. Operates buses connecting communities within the Regional District of Nanaimo, including: Bowser, Lantzville, Nanaimo, Nanoose Bay, Parksville, and Qualicum Bay, and Qualicum Beach. $2.50 cash fare, children 5 and under free.    
    • From Qualicum Beach to Nanaimo, there is regular daily service throughout the day. In contrast, between Qualicum Beach to as far north as Deep Bay, there is bus service twice per day from Monday to Saturday.

See edit

  • 1 Deep Bay Harbour, at the end of Gainsberg Rd, Deep Bay. The harbour, framed by the marina and Coast Mountains, is a beautiful spot to stop at for a few minutes or a few hours. There’s a small gift shop and restaurant (Ship & Shore) by the boat ramp with a small but tasty selection of ice cream.
  • 2 Deep Bay Marine Field Station, 370 Crome Point Rd, Deep Bay (from Hwy 19A, turn onto Gainsberg Rd. Just before Deep Bay Marina, turn left onto Burne Rd and then left onto Crome Point Rd. From the end of Crome Point Rd follow the gravel road to the parking lots), +1 250-740-6611, . 10AM-4PM. A working research station operated by Vancouver Island University. There are exhibits on marine conservation issues and local marine life, including touch tanks and a whale skeleton. Guided tours are available as well as self-guided information sheets. The deck looks out over the Baynes Sound and provides some nice views. $12/6 (adults/students 6-17), children 5 and under are free.    

Do edit

Inside the Riverbend Cave
  • 1 Horne Lake Caves (Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park), 3905 Horne Lake Caves Rd (head west at exit 75 on Highway 19 (Horne Lake Rd); the paved road becomes gravel, take the gravel road for 12 km), +1 250-248-7829. Tours offered daily throughout the year, but not all tours are available at all times of the year. Reservations are required in the winter (Oct-Apr) and recommended at other times of the year. A provincial park with a number of caves and a 3 km hiking trail interpretive trail that explains the caves and geology of the area. The Outdoor Centre offers a number of guided tours to the caves, ranging from 60 minute family-friendly excursions to 5 hr adventures that mix caving and rappelling. Visitors are allowed to explore some caves on their own, but it is limited to the entrance area of the Main Cave, the Lower Cave and Andre’s Annex — a tour is required to see the other caves. A helmet and lights are recommended if you explore the caves on your own (there's no light inside them) and can be rented from the park Visitor Center. The Visitor Center also includes a small gift shop and the Cave Theatre. The caves are cold — about 8°C — and wet, so dress accordingly. $27-169 (tours), $12.50 for helmet/light rental (included if taking a tour).    

Buy edit

  • 1 Salish Sea Market, 110-6996 Island Hwy W, Bowser, +1 778 424-2012. M-F 10AM-5PM Sa-Su 11AM-4PM. Shop with a variety of locally made crafts, jewelry and artwork.

Eat edit

  • 1 The Brew Coffee House, 108-6996 Island Hwy W, Bowser, +1 250 757-9565. M-F 7AM-5PM Sa 7:30AM-5PM Su 8:30AM-4PM. All day breakfast bagel plus sandwiches, paninis, baked goods and a large selection of coffee, tea and expresso drinks. $5-9.
  • 2 Nickolini's Pizza, 6590 Island Hwy W, Bowser, +1 250 757-9996. Known for its generous amount of toppings and lots of cheese. Take out or delivery only.
  • 3 Tidal Taco Shack, 6001 Island Hwy W, Qualicum Bay, +1 250 240-2855. W-Su noon-6PM. Roadside shack overlooking the beach that serves up tacos and burritos. Options include beef, fish, prawns, Thai chicken, veggie and vegan, with the fish tacos the most popular. Portion sizes are good but not huge. The kitchen area is small so wait times for food can be 30-60 minutes when busy. $5,5-7 per taco, $10-12 for burritos.

Drink edit

Sleep edit

  • 1 Free Spirit Spheres, 420 Horne Lake Road, Qualicum Beach, +1 250-757-9445, . Suspended, completely spherical tree houses built out of fiber glass and wood. They're designed to vaguely look like huge nuts or seeds. They can be rented out overnight for the treehouse experience. From $160 - $255 depending on the sphere. Starts at $180 for two people.
  • 2 Lighthouse Motel, 6035 Island Hwy, Qualicum Beach, +1 250-757-8765. Small motel right on the water and the road. Rooms can accommodate 2-4 adults and some rooms have full kitchenettes. $80-150 in high season (May-Sept).

Connect edit

Go next edit

Routes through Lighthouse Country
Campbell RiverCourtenay/Comox  N   S  Qualicum BeachNanaimo

This rural area travel guide to Lighthouse Country is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.