The next destination of our British Columbia road trip was Courtenay, one of 4 stops on Vancouver Island.
Courtenay is just a 90-minute ferry ride and a 15-minute drive away from Powell River. This was one of the ferry services for which we could make a reservation. Therefore, we left at 11.50am from the Westview terminal in Powell River to arrive at 1.20pm at the Little River terminal in Comox. As we wouldn’t be able to check into our hotel anyway, we took the opportunity to first explore nearby Campbell River.
We drove the 50 kilometers / 35 miles over the scenic South Island Highway 19A. But, first after the arrival: a great late lunch at Quay West (921 Island Hwy)
- Quay West Burger: Beef with aged white cheddar, bacon, and burger sauce
- Ahi Tuna Poke Power Bowl: Quinoa, tuna poke, avocado, edamame, sesame seaweed, cucumber, radish, green onion, pineapple salsa, tobiko, gyoza crisps, and spicy mayo
- Ultimate Burger: Beef with aged white cheddar, bacon, mushrooms, BBQ sauce, and onion ring
We washed down the food with some refreshing beers from Vernon, BC’s Okanagan Spring Brewery: The 1516 Bavarian Lager and the Extra Special Pale Ale.
We walked off lunch by strolling south past the Fishermans’ Wharf. Campbell River is the self-proclaimed salmon capital of the world and – under strict regulations which spring you can keep depending on the Chinook salmon season – you can a permit and get out your fishing rod and try to catch one from the Discovery Fishing Pier.
The weather was magnificent that day, so we enjoyed a late dinner on the enclosed patio of Il Falcone Restaurant (536 6th St).
- Salumi Board with Bocconcini, Dove Creek Melon, Fruit preserves, Fresh figs from their garden, and grilled toast. Too bad that the latter were a bit caramelized…
- Crisp, lightly battered Zucchinis & their ricotta-stuffed Flowers, Shishito peppers, Pesto aioli
- The kids choose the classics with Buccatini: the Amatriciana (Bacon, Garlic, Basil, Green Chili, Olive Oil, Tomato Sauce, Pecorino) as well as the Carbonara (Bacon and egg sauce, Parmigiano Reggiano and cracked black pepper)
- We had the daily specials: Chantal had the Eggplant Caponata with Tuna Steak, and I choose the oven-roasted lamb with 12 different roasted vegetables in a red wine jus. The 2016 Tuscan red Promis by Gaja was an elegant accompaniment with both dishes.
The next day we started with brunch at the cozy Atlas Cafe (250 6th St). Besides fresh smoothies and fresh fruit and yogurt smoothies, I had the Classic, being two eggs, scrambled, spicy Italian sausages, caramelized onions, and focaccia toast. Chantal had the Frittata (three eggs, arugula, tomatoes, leeks, and goat cheese, with focaccia toast) which was very good, but very filling. Not fancying anything with eggs, the kids choose the Chicken Quesadillas from the kids’ menu.
It was a good start for our hike in the Seal Bay Nature Park, where we took the southern part of the trails through the regenerated second-growth forest. We took the well-groomed trails on the waterside part of the park from the North/West side of the parking on Bates Road. Three trails lead down to the waterfront, where you have about one kilometer of beachfront to explore before heading back to the parking through Douglas firs, big-leaf maples, and red alders.
The next hiking stop that day was Nymph Falls Nature Park, about 5 kilometers to the east Courteney on the Forbidden Plateau Road. We didn’t know that the falls were relatively low and had loads of swimming opportunities, so we just hit the trails in this park.
Later that afternoon, we had a walk through downtown Courtenay, with stops at the small microbrewery Forbidden Brewing Company (Suite A, 1590 Cliffe Ave) and Blue Spruce Ice Cream (526A Cliffe Ave), No pictures, but the Spruce Tip (Locally harvested young spruce tips steeped in their custard base with a touch of lemon), Raspberry White Chocolate (Tart, tangy, and sweet raspberries mixed with white chocolate shavings) and the Krupnik Honeycomb (A spiced honey liqueur from Wayward Distillation swirled with sweet, salty caramel sauce and topped with made in house honeycomb candy) were absolutely outstanding.
With the rest of the family chilling at the hotel, watching bunnies hopping through the garden, I needed to fill up the car and chose a gas station close to Comox’ Land & Sea Brewing Co. (2040 Guthrie Road). No time for sampling, but I got a quart can of their delicious Glacier Cream Lager to go and also got some great tips for Vancouver Island craft breweries for the remainder of our road trip. Land & Sea started only late 2018, and the rate of expansion of craft breweries on Vancouver Island is insane: 33 during the summer of 2019, and there will be 39 by the end of the year!
Final Dinner while in Courtenay was at Gladstone Brewing Co. (244 4th St). You place your food order – options are limited to burgers and a few salads and sides – and pay at the food bar counter. Then you pick-up and pay for your drinks at the tap counter and find yourself a spot inside or on their patio. The food will come out when ready.
With 2 taster trays, we got to sample the entire range that was on tap that day: The Core Line up consisting of the Belgian Single, Pilsner, Hazy Pale Ale, and the IPA. The Seasonal ones were the Cream Ale, Kölsch, Czech Dark Lager, and Dry Irish Nitro Stout. The kids had some craft malt sodas from Victoria’s Phillips Soda Works, defintately their favorites.
The beers were great, as were the burgers. I had the superb 50/50 (Smoked brisket & locally-sourced ground beef patty, bacon, red currant ketchup, mozzarella, and smoked asiago). The kids had the Weekly Cheeseburger with Natural Pastures cheese and additional bacon. When ordering, we totally missed the fine print that the burger’s standard serving was with Brioche buns and Aioli. Our fault for not noticing upfront given my son’s egg allergy, but the staff were so kind as to redo one with a lettuce wrap, and without aioli. Chantal had the delicious vegetarian Daredevil burger: Roasted yam & quinoa patty, guacamole, and smoked asiago.
The accompaniments were a bit underwhelming. We picked the Curry Salt Fries (great flavor, but the mix contained way too much salt) and the Poutine, which had a surprisingly bland gravy (typically, the breweries try to work in some of their own dark beers to give it more oomph). Nevertheless, a great place to hang out and enjoy some beers and burgers.