The bustling marine community of French Creek is situated on Highway 19A, which runs along the east coast of Vancouver Island beside the open water of the Strait of Georgia.
French Creek’s working harbour is home to a large commercial fishing fleet and many charter operations that can take visitors fishing, sightseeing, and diving. French Creek Marina offers sheltered moorage and yachting amenities for sailboats and pleasure craft.
The dock and Coast Guard station are the hub of an industrious marine community that makes a perfect vacation base, with a specialty seafood store, marine outfitter, general store and pub.
Lasqueti Island: A private ferry service operates between French Creek and False Bay on Lasqueti Island. The ferry offers a foot passenger service only, and departs from the French Creek Government Wharf just off Highway 19. The ferry completes the round trip several times per day, except for Tuesday. There is no service on Wednesday during the off-season. For information on BC Ferry schedules please contact the Parksville Visitor Centre. The staff at the French Creek Marina and Store may also be able to assist with ferry information.
Fishing: The annual fall salmon run at the mouth of French Creek as it enters the Strait of Georgia 3 miles (5 km) north of Parksville attracts anglers to the French Creek Marina and the public boat launch adjacent to the federal dock and Lasqueti Island ferry. Kids enthusiastically cast their lines off the dock, hoping for their own vacation story to tell. Teeming with halibut, cod and salmon, the Strait of Georgia is a haven for salt water anglers, while trout fishing is popular at several nearby lakes and rivers. Fishing charters are available in the area.
Paddling: The federal dock at French Creek on Hwy 19 north of Parksville is sheltered by a sturdy breakwater, a hint that conditions do get breezy here on occasion, most notably in winter months when winds blow from the southeast. When conditions are favourable, this is a good place to launch your canoe or kayak.
Boat Launch: A boat launch is provided at French Creek Marina.
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 25 minutes drive southwest of French Creek, on South Hilliers Road, just off the Alberni Highway 4.
Golf: There are no fewer than 6 world-class golf courses in the French Creek area, and the pleasant, sunny climate means play continues year-round. Select from the Arrowsmith Golf & Country Club, Eaglecrest Golf Club, Pheasant Glen Golf Resort, and the Qualicum Beach Memorial Golf Course. Located in Parksville are the Morningstar Golf Club and the Fairwinds Golf and Country Club. Kids and adults love the two fun-filled 18-hole mini-golf courses located near the beach in Parksville. Vancouver Island Golf Vacations.
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 6 miles (14 km) south of French Creek, near the community of Errington.
Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park, just east of Parksville, offers yet another fabulous swimming beach, and over 150 different species of birds. So vast is its sandy, shallow shingle, particularly when the tide is low, that you can spend hours beachcombing and bird-watching here beneath the wide-open sky. The waters of the Strait of Georgia warm up quickly when the tide rises over these sun-baked expanses. Seals often approach the beach, following the salmon that follow the needlefish that follow the zooplankton. Join the chain!
Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park has acres of campsites to match its 1.3 miles (2.1 km) of beaches. If you’re lucky enough to be travelling in the off-season (September to June) you’ll have plenty of choice from among the vehicle/tent sites. Otherwise, phone ahead for reservations, particularly on weekends. So good does the living get here that some families spend their entire vacations at Rathtrevor Beach, where the maximum stay permitted is 14 consecutive days. Small wonder, when all the comforts of home, such as hot showers, gas barbeques in covered beachside picnic shelters, and firewood, are included in the camping fee.
Hiking: 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.
The annual Brant Wildlife Festival celebrates the migration of up to 20,000 Brant geese from Mexico to their Alaskan breeding grounds. The beaches around French Creek and neighbouring Parksville and Qualicum Beach have been the site of an annual migration of tens of thousands of brant geese since well before the settlement of the towns. With the establishment of the Brant Goose Feeding Area by the Mid Island Wildlife Watch Society, the arrival of the geese has been the trigger for annual festivities in mid-April. By then, thousands of the black-hued, duck-size sea geese touch down on the beaches and marshlands surrounding Parksville and Qualicum to rest and feed on the algae, eel grasses, seaweeds, and especially herring roe. Most of the migrating birds are travelling from Mexico to the Yukon-Kuskokwim delta of western Alaska. Guided tours of the feeding areas take visitors to special viewing locations, or you can simply walk out on the beach with a pair of binoculars and stalk them (and the more than 200 other bird species passing through at the same time).
The largely undeveloped Lasqueti Island lies a short distance across the Strait of Georgia from French Creek. The island is a quaint and eccentric little community of self-reliant homesteaders who enjoy the island’s mild climate and relative isolation. One of the charms of Lasqueti Island is being presented with a kerosene lamp or a candle at nightfall, as generators are turned off at night. With no hydroelectric power on the island, resorting to lighting methods reminiscent of the pioneer days adds to the wonderful feeling of isolation and distance from all things modern and complicated. Pretty romantic too!
To the north of French Creek, Qualicum Beach gently spreads in front of one of the most pleasant small towns on the east side of Vancouver Island. Pause here at any of the numerous beachside pullouts and smell the salt air intermingled with the perfume from the many private and public floral displays.
Neighbouring French Creek to the south is the seaside resort town of Parksville, favoured as one of the most popular summer family vacations destinations of Vancouver Island and British Columbia.
Circle Tours: See the best of BC when you embark upon one of the many circle tours that take in Vancouver Island, the Discovery Coast, and the Sunshine Coast. The coastal tours involve exciting road and ferry trips on BC Ferries, and scenic highways flank the coast, taking you through charming beachside communities, rolling farmlands and majestic mountain ranges. Check out the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island Circle Tour, and other Circle Tours in British Columbia.