Beach Picnics on Vancouver Island

With the return of the sun and warm weather, here on the West Coast, we don’t waste a second before we head back to the beaches. Even if there is a little nip in the air, if the sun is shining, it’s likely that we’re beach bound. We may not be in our bathing suits diving into the waves yet but there are still lots of ways to enjoy the beach before the heat of summer sets in! One of the best ways to experience a West Coast beach in the spring is to make a day of it! Bring some delicious food and your favourite book and just enjoy the warmth of the sun and the fresh ocean breezes. To ensure a super successful beach day at this time of year, you’ve gotta prepare properly – that’s where we come in. We’re going to give you the lowdown on where to go, local eats and how to prepare for a cooler, sunny beach day on Vancouver Island! 

What to bring:

No matter where you go on Vancouver Island for your spring beach day, it’s important to be prepared! Here’s our handy checklist of items that are our must haves for a successful day on the beach.

  1. Blankets: make sure you have one for under you and one or more for on top, that breeze can get chilly! 
  2. Garbage bags: it’s always a good idea to bring two bags so you can separate your garbage from compost or recycling, but when it comes to garbage bags, they aren’t just handy for holding rubbish! Bring a few larger ones along if it’s been raining to keep your blanket dry while you’re sitting on it!
  3. Extra pair of warm socks: I always love to take off my shoes and socks to go explore sandy beaches. It’s incredibly relaxing and feels great, the only thing is that it can be cold! With a pair of warm socks, you can pop them on when you’re done exploring and keep warm for the rest of the day
  4. Layers: This is important because no matter what you think the weather will be like, it can always be way hotter or cooler than expected! Make sure to wear a t-shirt and bring a sweatshirt or sweater, light jacket and wooly hat to protect you from unexpected breezes! 
  5. Sunscreen and sunglasses: it’s always important to protect your skin from UV rays and some spring days on Vancouver Island can be unexpectedly hot and sunny! 
  6. Camera: you never know what you’ll see when your on a Vancouver Island beach
  7. Towels: this one is especially important if you’re heading to the beach with little ones! They always get soaked! Even if you’re not with tots, a few towels to dry off feet is a great idea. 
  8. Tupperware filled with picnic supplies: the spring breezes can be surprising so if you’re packing a picnic, be sure to pack plates, cups, napkins and utensils in a tupperware box. That way, you can pop the lid back on and nothing blows away!
  9. Wet wipes: always great to have on hand and bonus points if you buy biodegradable ones!
  10. Book: a must for any beach day!

Victoria:

The capital city is surrounded by some of the most stunning beaches in the world. In fact, there are so many to choose from, it can be tough to know where to go to make the most of your beach day. If you’re staying at an EMR Victoria property like The Corazon, Landmark Executive Sub-Penthouse, Harbourview Executive at the Reef or Beacon Hill View Condo, these are our top three beaches to enjoy on a sunny spring day in Victoria. 

Holland Point Park: This waterfront park is the perfect place to find a little spot on the beach to sit, enjoy the sun, watch colourful kite surfers sail through the sky, sailboats skim over the sparkling ocean and enjoy some food and a good book while the Olympic range shimmers in the distance. 

Ross Bay Beach: This popular pebbly beach is filled with driftwood and offers lots of great spots to lay a picnic blanket down to enjoy the ocean views. On the far east side of the beach, there is a small sandy bay with large rocks and tide pools that are great for kids of all ages to explore. 

Gonzales Beach: With soft sand and gentle lapping waves, warmer shallows and surrounded by jaw-dropping homes, this little neighbourhood beach is a must visit while you’re in the area, especially if you’re at Barkley Manor Executive, just five minutes away! 

Eats in the Area

If you love the idea of enjoying these stunning urban beaches with some delicious food that you don’t have to make and pack, try these nearby, local favourite spots for fast, healthy take away and enjoy it in the warm sun! 

James Bay: 

  1. Red Barn Market – the sandwiches are to die for! 
  2. Good Earth – everything is as delicious as it is healthy!

Fairfield:  

  1. Fire it Up Pizza – delicious slices hot and ready to go! 
  2. Thrifty’s – local market that specializes in fresh, ready made snacks and meals.

Cook St.:

  1. The Root Cellar – gourmet natural food store with fresh, healthy snacks, lunches and easy eats.
  2. Big Wheel Burger – locally owned and operated classic fast food staples made with fresh, local ingredients.
  3. Empire Donuts – best donuts in Victoria. Hands down. 

Sidney

This beautiful seaside town is home to one of the prettiest marinas on the South Island, an incredible outdoor art walk, cafes, eateries and boutiques. If you’re staying at an EMR Sidney property, these are the two beaches we like the most on the top of the Peninsula!  

Lochside Waterfront Park: At this beautiful beach you can pull up a log or lay down a blanket and watch the boats skim along the water to and from the marina and if you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll probably be able to spot the dorsal fin of an orca or see a friendly seal pop up to say hello!

Robert’s Bay: This tranquil migratory bird sanctuary is an excellent spot to have a beach picnic, especially if you’re looking for somewhere that is less populated! Make sure you have your binoculars so you can check out the marine birds as they fly and fish in the bay and keep a lookout for the sweet sea otters that are known to frequent Robert’s Bay. 

Eats in the area:

These spots are our top picks for easy, healthy and delicious to-go food that is a perfect pairing for a sunny spring beach day in Sidney! 

  • Fish on 5th – long time local favourite fish and chip shop offering incredible options and plenty of plant based alternatives! 
  • Quince Cafe – sweet little locally owned café that serves in-house made soups, sandwiches and pastries if you’re looking for a light lunch
  • Thrifty’s –  local market with a great selection of hot and cold, ready made to-go food options

Cowichan Valley 

The verdant Cowichan Valley is known for being one of the top wine destinations in BC and has some truly incredible vineyards. If you’re staying at Cowichan Valley Wine Country Retreat and you’re looking for a great local beach to enjoy or if you’re at Beachside Living at Cherry Point or Beachside Cottage on Saanich Inlet and want a change of scenery, we got you! 

Cherry Point: This beautiful little beach on the edge of the valley is one of the best places for a great beach day. With a long strip of pebble and sand shore to explore, plenty of driftwood to lean against and picnic tables if you prefer, this super sunny spot is a great way to soak up the spring sunshine and listen to the wind rustling through the trees. If you bring binoculars, you can have a look for marine birds and mammals that are known to frequent the area. 

Eats in the area:

When it comes to great cafes in the area, it can be tough to find what you’re looking for on the windy country roads. 

  1. True Grain – freshly baked pasteries made from local grains and incredible coffee in the sweet little marina village of Cowichan Bay
  2. Little Corner Sandwich Shop – drool-worthy sandwiches made with fresh ingredients!
  3. Moo’s Pizza – seriously delicious pies, pastas and more

Nanaimo

While you’re staying in the Nanaimo area at Hammond Bay Executive Stay and Nanoose Bay Country Home, if you’re unsure of where you should go for a great day on the beach, no worries! 

Neck Point Park: This stunning park, just north of Naniamo is only steps away from Hammond Bay Executive Stay and provides visitors with a stunning park and beach to explore and enjoy. Take a walk over the rocky bluffs covered with grasses for an incredible view and when you’re ready for a picnic, head down to the beach and enjoy the sound of the waves lapping the shore. 

Eats in the area:

  1. Tacomania – insanely good and surprisingly authentic tacos. Yum!
  2. Piper’s Pub – classic pub fare and reliable staples perfect for a picnic

Parksville & Qualicum Beach

The quaint resort towns of Parksville and Qualicum Beach are home to many attractions, both man made and natural. People from all over the Island, BC and beyond flock to these towns in the summer months to soak up the sun and enjoy all the outdoor amenities. If you’re staying at White Heron Oceanfront Estate or Columbia Beach House and are looking for a great beach picnic spot in the area, we’ve got just the place for you! 

Qualicum Beach – East Beach: When it comes to picturesque West Coast beaches, Qualicum Beach might take the cake. With endless soft sandy shores to walk on and gorgeous views of the Coast Mountains on the mainland, Qualicum Beach is a truly spectacular place to spend a spring afternoon.

Eats in the area:

  • Bailey’s in the Village – huge menu and delicious, casual, homemade fare that is perfect to order to-go.
  • The Knockananna Grill – upscale food truck right on the beach offering incredibly flavourful burgers and unique poutine.
  • Qualicum Beach Cafe – ok so not really the place to find to-go picnic items but the food and the view is worth a trip if you decide that picnicking isn’t your style!