The Englishmen River estuary is a Parksville jewel that one should not miss out on.
I have lived in the Parksville area for just over six years and it took me that long to discover this gem. And only because of a recent guided bird tour I went on (otherwise I still wouldn’t know about it). Since then, I’ve been back to this beautiful area three times. Each time discovering something new.
A Bit of History
Since 1993, The Nature Trust of British Columbia and their public and non-profit partners have worked to secure land along the Englishman River. Due to their efforts, over 100 hectares (247 acres) of the estuary and adjacent forest are now protected.
The estuary is part of the Parksville-Qualicum Beach Wildlife Management Areas comprising of over 1,000 hectares of land lying between Craig Bay and the Little Qualicum River.
The wildlife rich area supports over 250 bird species, 23 mammals, all species of Pacific salmon, plus several amphibians and reptiles. The estuary is also a critical staging ground for the Pacific Grant Goose.
The Englishman River Estuary Trails
Along the trails of the park you will have views of the river, salt marshes, the estuary, forested areas and the ocean. There are several different loops around the park varying in length. As well, the park can be accessed from either side of the river, each with its own highlights.
Main Access Point
You’ll find a small parking lot at the very end of Shelly Road which accesses the west side trails of the Englishman River Estuary. Shelly Road is located off of highway 19a shortly after the orange bridge heading into Parksville. You’ll turn right and head towards the ocean. Follow the road until you reach the parking area.
There are a few loops and a variety of trails on this west side. Along these trails you will find viewing areas, interpretive signage, mature second-growth forest, and, of course, a variety of birds!
The wildflowers, tall grasses and views of the ocean make this a very scenic area for photos.
According to All Trails, there is a designated 1.8 km loop around this part of the estuary. However, at the time of publishing, I have yet to confirm whether or not this is true.
Secondary Access Point
On the east side of the estuary you will find easy access to a viewing platform perfect for bird watching. The short trail heading away from the platform leads you to other viewpoints along the river and eventually Plummer Road.
The entire trail from the parking area (mentioned below) to Plummer Road is only 0.9 kms. So although a very short trek, there’s usually lots to see (especially if you are a birder).
To access this side, head into the San Pareil neighbourhood by turning right off of hwy 19A onto Plummer Road. (Plummer Road is located just before the orange bridge when heading into Parksville).
Plummer road turns into Shorewood Drive at the first sharp turn. At that turn there is a small pull-out on your left hand side and a trailhead. If you’d like, you can park here and head down this side of the trail to the viewing platform.
Otherwise, continue on Shorewood Drive and turn left onto Mariner Way. Follow until nearly the very end where you will see a small parking area for the beach access.
The trail to the viewing platform is found on San Malo Crescent – just a short jaunt from this parking area.
Note: There is a small gravel area on San Malo Crescent right behind a bench which is at the beginning of the trail. Although there are no “no parking” signs anywhere, I have yet to see anyone park here. I’ll leave that discretion up to you.
From this same beach access parking area, head towards the large white fence instead and follow the beaten path around the point. This gives you another vantage point of the estuary as well as a beautiful ocean view.
Whoever lives out on that point is one lucky duck (no pun intended)!
Things to Note
- The area is dog friendly, however, they MUST stay on a leash at all times. Please pick up after your dog!
- Although the majority of the trails are wide, there are a few that are quite overgrown, so could cause difficulty for stroller or wheelchairs
- Please stay on the trails. This ensures that the more sensitive areas remain untouched.
- Don’t forget to bring your binoculars and camera!!
- If you need help identifying the birds you see, I recommend: A Birder’s Guide to Vancouver Island
Other Areas of Interest Along the Englishman River
The Englishman River has several other inviting spots.
Top Bridge and the Englishman River Regional Park offers a multitude of trails to meander as well as a beautiful suspension bridge to cross. Top bridge, especially, is a great swimming spot when the weather is hot.
Englishman River Falls is a 1.5 km loop trail showcasing two beautiful waterfalls. This part of the Englishman River is accessed in Errington.
You can find more details about these two areas in the following article:
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