ACTIVITIES AND ADVENTURES IN OUR AREA:
Located halfway between Nanaimo and Ladysmith - 10 minutes, either way - Amberwood is in an ideal location for many activities in the mid-Vancouver Island area. Lakes, the ocean, and the Gulf Islands are all nearby, and for business travelers we are close to the Trans Canada Highway, ferries and the Nanaimo airport.
Activities on Our Property
If you love swimming, there is no better way to spend a hot summer day than down at the river – all our guests agree it’s the best “swimming hole” they’ve been to. Once you make it down the 123 cedar stairs and landings (yes, 123!) you can choose to sit on a beach beside a huge deep pool, or on the rocks by a bit of current that will take you via deep pools through a canyon. It’s quiet, private and absolutely gorgeous – crisp, clean water that is surprisingly warm – more like the temperature of a lake, than a river. Bring river shoes if you have them….
Our favourite thing to do each summer is a river “float” - it takes about an hour and a half, and is a lazy float, in inner tubes or an inflatable boat, down the river. Near the end, you can float in the water and watch jumpers at the Bungy Zone, then carry on to a spot by the highway where we can pick you up (as long as advance arrangements are made).
There are a variety of great local courses to choose from – it’s why we live on the West Coast! There are 19 courses within an hour’s drive of Nanaimo, and 3 courses are within 10 minutes of Amberwood on the River B&B:
- Eagle Quest at Fiddlers Green: a 9 hole public course (5 minutes away).
- Ladysmith Golf Club: a 9 hole public course and driving range (10 minutes away).
For the ultimate adrenalin rush come to the world-famous WildPlay Element Park, formerly called the “Bungy Zone”. You can bungy jump from North America’s first legal custom made bungy jumping bridge over the Nanaimo River, or, hit radical speeds on the “King Swing”, or, ride the high-speed zip line through the river canyon. These are adrenalin pumping, heart thumping high speed thrills – it’s even a thrill to watch, if you don’t want to jump yourself! You might also want to try the new “Aerial Tree to Tree Adventure Course” – an elevated obstacle course in a Douglas Fir forest suspended between the trees at 10 to 50 feet off the ground.
There are many small lakes close to Amberwood – trout and small mouth bass. Your hosts at Amberwood can point you in the right direction and even take you fishing for an afternoon if the timing is right – Ron is an avid fisherman and would love an excuse to go!
Kayaks can be rented during the summer months at Transfer Beach in Ladysmith. You can sign up for a beach day tour, a full moon paddle, or lessons.
Walks / Hiking / Cycling
- Roberts Memorial Provincial Park (10 minutes away)
This park offers a small day-use area on the beach overlooking scenic Stewart Channel – an ideal spot for a quiet afternoon picnic. An easy 1 kilometer (.6 mile) trail through mature forest leads to the sandstone beach, which offers good opportunities for wildlife viewing. From here, visitors can often see Steller’s and California sea lions, who haul out to bask in the sun on the park’s unique sandstone ledges during the summer months. Great Blue herons, Bald eagles and a variety of seabirds can also be spotted in the park.
- Jack/Point Biggs Park (10 minutes away)Visit this park by following the signs to the Duke Point Ferry Terminal. This is a nice walk on 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) of trail (about an 1 hour) that will take you along the ocean out to a point with amazing views of Nanaimo. The first 10 minutes is a bit noisy because it parallels the highway to the Duke Point Ferry and a lumberyard, but once you pass those it’s amazing how quiet and forest like it is.
- Parkway Trail (10 minutes away)
The Parkway Trail is the backbone of Nanaimo’s trail system. It links Auld’s Road in the north to Chase River in the south. The 20 kilometer (12.4 miles) paved and tree-lined corridor provides a recreational playground where cyclists and pedestrians can move safely throughout the community away from vehicle traffic.
- Cable Bay Trail (15 minutes away)
This walk is one of Gracie & Bella's favourites! A 1.9 kilometre (1.2 miles) trail; this is one of Nanaimo’s best-kept secrets. A forest of alders, maples, firs, cedars and western hemlock tower overhead yet give the trail a quiet serenity. A 30-minute hike leads to Cable Bay Bridge. Hikers can observe migrating sea lions, enjoy a picnic, afternoon of beachcombing or walking the dog, as this area is also an off-leash park.
- The Town of Ladysmith Trail Guide (10 minutes away)
The Town of Ladysmith has a developed a guide (available from your hosts at Amberwood) identifying hiking trails in the area. The guide includes maps, directions to get there, on and off leash areas for dogs, and trails suitable for mountain biking.
Last Thursday in November
Kick off the Christmas season with the Christmas Light Festival in beautiful historic Ladysmith! This special evening attracts visitors from all over Vancouver Island and the lower mainland (16,000+). Volunteers cover the main street, rooftops and buildings with over 100,000 twinkling Christmas lights, which are all lit up at once. Festival Night includes a community dinner, entertainment, fireworks, visit from Santa, souvenirs and the Kinsmen Parade. Santa leads the countdown to turn on all the lights at 6:30 p.m.
February 10th to 12th, 2012
Experience French Canadian customs by visiting the Maple Sugar Festival. Learn about the art of tree tapping and the making of maple syrup or dance to the infectious rhythms of both traditional folk and contemporary world beat music.
July 6th - 8th, 2012
Held on the Nanaimo harbour at Maffeo Sutton Park and Pioneer Plaza, the Dragon Boat Festival draws approximately 20,000 people to paddle, help out or cheer on the teams. Anywhere from 40 to 60 teams, each comprised of 20 athletes plus a drummer and the person who steers the 60-foot long vessel, work together in these Hong Kong-style dragon boats (ordained with a dragon head and tail). The teams vigorously compete to raise awareness and money for breast cancer.
4th Weekend in July
The world’s cleanest sport! Nanaimo is famous for bathtub races, believe it or not. The "Great" RACE starts in Nanaimo harbor and ends at Departure Bay beach. The course (36 miles) leave Nanaimo harbor around Entrance Island up to and around Winchelsea Island past Schooner cove and back to Departure Bay in Nanaimo. The bathtub race starts on Sunday, July 22, 2007 at 11:00 and it takes “tubbers” approximately an hour and a half. For 40 years contestants have taken on the elements in the Georgia Strait being battered about in bathtubs with six-stroke engines and fancy paint jobs in a grueling 50-kilometer race. Tubbers come from as far away as Australia to compete.
July 14th & 15th, 2012
Spend a day at beautiful Rathtrevor beach, marveling at these amazing sand sculptures – they can’t really be called sandcastles because you won’t believe what people can build out of sand. This world class competition draws sculptors and visitors from all over the globe, and the festival offers entertainment, food and fun for the kids. The competition itself lasts for 16 hours over 3 days – best to go on the Sunday to view the final entries. The sculptures remain in place for three weeks following the competition, and admission to the venue is by donation.
Sunday August 26th, 2012
From 10 am to 4 pm come and visit the annual Arts on the Avenue. Admission is free. The main street of Ladysmith is blocked off and filled with local artisans selling everything from pottery and paintings to beautiful wood carvings. There is live music, artist demos and a kids art area. You can stoll through all the tables of "cool" stuff and pick up something unique and special. We go every year and always come back with some wonderful trinkets!
Christmas Tour: November 15th to 18th, 2012
The artisans in the Cedar & Yellowpoint areas have created a “Touring Map” (available on their website or from your hosts at Amberwood) making it easy to visit their studios, shops and farms during the spring/summer or for their Christmas tour. Enjoy their latest creations – there is everything from herbs and garden art, to pottery, blown glass and cedar products. A perfect way to make a dent in your Christmas shopping!
DAY TOURS TO THE NORTH:
You’ll know you’ve reached this park because massive trees suddenly create an awesome green roof across the road. Cathedral Grove is a preserved stand of old-growth forest which is at least 800 years old, if not older. Trails are dotted with interpretive signs explaining what you see. It’s difficult to describe these forest giants but maybe one dimension will bring it home: the largest tree in the grove measures over 30 feet around.
The market is well known for the family of goats that nimbly graze on its grass roof. You can buy local produce, preserves and breads, have an ice cream cone from an abundance of flavors or have a fabulous, wholesome lunch at the self-serve café. July is the time for “Old West” activities: a fiddle jamboree, bluegrass festival and rodeo.
Trails lead to waterfalls and inviting pools in this, Vancouver Island’s oldest provincial park. The forest species of flora and fauna keep naturalists intrigued and there are a number of good fishing spots here. Be sure to check the British Columbia fishing regulations before you start, though.
A twenty-minute ferry ride from Nanaimo harbour takes you to Gabriola Island where forested parks, quiet beaches, sensational ocean views and amazing sandstone formations await you. During the summer months visit the busy Farmers Market every Saturday and Wednesday and enjoy fresh island produce, baked goods and crafts. Gabriola Island is called the “Isle of the Arts” because you can visit many artist’s studios, galleries and delightful shops. A cycling ride around Gabriola is lengthy - the island is about 12 miles (20 km) long - but touches on a variety of good beaches, including Gabriola Sands, Sandwell and Drumbeg Provincial Parks, roadside picnic tables at Brickyard Beach, and the sheltered enclave at Silva Bay, a popular stopover for marine traffic in summer and a good place to wet your whistle. The island is served by a challenging nine-hole golf course overlooking Hoggan Lake. Gabriola Island Golf & Country Club offers a full service clubhouse that always welcomes non-members.
A system of bridges across the river offers great views of the falls in this provincial park. You can hike beside the river and stop for a picnic at a number of scenic spots. It’s an invigorating place to go at any time of year.
This provincial park has one of the greatest beaches on Vancouver Island as well as an excellent programme of interpretive nature walks. It’s a birdwatcher’s delight, especially in the spring months when thousands of brant geese stop on their annual migration. There is a spectacular sandcastle competition (http://www.parksvillebeachfest.ca/) in August.
DAY TOURS TO THE SOUTH:
Drive south from Amberwood to Chemainus (20 minutes), called “The Little Town that Did”. This small town is famous for its murals, painted on the outside of many buildings, and it’s theatre. Go for lunch and a visit the many unique little shops.
Drive south from Amberwood to Crofton (30 minutes) and take a 20-minute ferry through the Straight of Georgia to Salt Spring Island – there’s lots to do. Hiking, beachcombing, kayaking, fishing and golf are among the more popular outdoor activities. Artists, farmers, chefs, romantics, retirees and dreamers have been drawn to this island and, renowned for its creativity, Salt Spring is known as a small arts mecca. Shops, galleries, and artists’ studios offer a wide choice of high-quality arts and crafts from paintings to pottery and weaving to woodwork. The seaside village of Ganges is a focal point for arts, restaurants and unique shops. On Saturdays, from April to October, visit "Salt Spring Island's Saturday Market" - a fabulous artisan craft fair in the town square that features many of the local arts and crafts. The market philosophy is "Make it, Bake it, Grow it" and with an ever-changing line-up of vendors it is always unique.
With five outlets in British Columbia (including nearby Duncan and Nanaimo), Hill’s Native Art has acquired the largest and most varied collection of First Nations and Inuit arts and crafts. Hill’s has caught worldwide attention as the largest Northwest Coast Native Art Gallery in North America, and has exhibited hundreds of works by emerging and internationally renowned artists. At any given time, Hill’s features over 1200 Native artists and represents every Tribe and Nation of the Northwest Coast.
With more than 150 stores and services Woodgrove Centre is the largest shopping mall in central Vancouver Island. Featuring the Bay, Wal-Mart, Winners, Chapters, Toys “R” Us, Sport Check, Pier 1 Imports, White Spot and many more, there’s something for everyone.
This is a great place to go if you like shopping for "trinkets" and walking through a beautiful and unusual garden. You can easily spend an hour wandering along the paths through their funky/eclectic garden and browsing in the small gift shop which is full of garden trinkets and high end art. You'll have trouble leaving without buying at least a little something!
NEARBY RESTAURANTS & EATERIES (Our favourites!):
Menus and explicit driving instructions are available from your hosts at Amberwood.
Voted the best Pub food on Vancouver Island, the Crow & Gate is a real English pub in a country setting, with baron of beefs, burgers, ploughman’s plates, great salads and fabulous home-made desserts. Fast service, and reasonable prices. During the summer, eat outside at picnic tables and ducks wandering around. During the winter eat inside by the fireplace.
Our new favourite - fabulous food in a fabulous location. Fine dining at reasonable prices in a beautiful oceanfront location overlooking Ladysmith Harbour. Part of an historic lodge with inside and patio dining, plus a great big fireplace in the winter. A great place to go for a special occasion, or, for a fabulous lunch sitting by the water watching the boats in the harbour and marina.
An authentic Mexican restaurant in downtown Nanaimo – you will be full when you leave! Great margaritas - not too strong - and you must try the halibut ceviche appetizer. Fast service, and very reasonable prices.
The Mahle House offers fine dining in the country. An excellent choice for a special occasion – check out the menu on their website. Open from Wednesday to Sunday for dinner only, their menu changes weekly to take advantage of the freshest local produce. Highly recommended!
Excellent steak and seafood house with a huge menu - if you have the New York steak "oscar" style, we guarantee you’ll still be thinking about it the next day!
Excellent service (friendly and attentive servers), a bit pricey but well worth it for a special occasion.