Under the shade of a canopied trail, travellers have slowed, scanning the trail edges with hints in hand. They’re scoping out the terrain for a geocache. If you’ve never geocached before, the concept is simple: your GPS and hints are the map, and the treasure is a box or small cache, cleverly disguised to match the environment. Within those boxes, you might find something left behind (called SWAG), and often a log book to make your mark. In the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region, you’ll find stops in parks, along boardwalks, and tucked in gardens throughout central Vancouver Island’s Parksvile Qualicum Beach region. The new Amazing Places GeoTour Field Guide winds through points of interest, for travellers to learn the social and ecological significance of each stop along the way.
The real-life treasure hunt was developed in part by Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region (MABR) and The Amazing Places Project to appeal to both avid geocachers and first-timers alike. With the Amazing Places GeoTour Field Guide, you can equip yourself with information and history on each Amazing Place and its geocache, a map of the region, and step-by-step instructions on how to collect all of the stops. Successful adventurers earn a special treasure: a customized Amazing Places GeoTour geocoin.
You can complete the entire Amazing Places GeoTour in one day, though it’s best done at a pace where each beautiful location can be enjoyed to the fullest. Parksville Qualicum Beach and surrounding communities of Nanoose Bay, Errington, Coombs, French Creek, Qualicum Bay, Bowser, and Deep Bay have a delectable variety of places to grab a quick bite to eat or to have a slower, more savoured experience. Grab a sandwich to-go or visit one of the local resorts for a full-course meal curated by local chefs and crafted with local ingredients. You might just find a few other “treasures” not included on the tour while doing so! Use this guide to find out more about local restaurants before you go.
Things To Know Before You Go
The Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region is quite expansive, so you’ll need a car to visit all 10 Amazing Places on the self-guided GeoTour, which stretches from the old growth forest walk at Cathedral Grove (MacMillan Provincial Park) to long sandy beaches at Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park and dramatic rocky lookouts at Qwiyulass (often referred to as Notch Hill) at the lookout, from which there are stunning ocean views of Nanoose Bay and beyond. Along the way, you’ll find interpretive signage with the name of the First Nations traditional territory in the local language, as well as English translations and breathtaking scenery including waterfalls, suspension bridges, manicured gardens, oceanside walks and provincial parks.
The Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region is managed by Vancouver Island University, who ensure the biosphere meets the ongoing standards required to retain its UNESCO-designation. The university also runs the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Research Institute (MABRRI), bringing together researchers, students, local communities, and First Nations groups, creating collaborative opportunities to learn more about sustainable living, conservation, and to organize educational events promoting the region’s traditional cultures and history.
About The Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region
One of two biosphere regions located on Vancouver Island, the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region encompasses 1,200 square-kilometres of biologically diverse land throughout Parksville Qualicum Beach. It was designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2000, recognizing it on the world’s stage as a prime example of a place where people live and work in harmony with nature.
The biosphere region is named after Mount Arrowsmith, the highest mountain on southern Vancouver Island. The vertical elevation spans just over 2,100 meters from the Mount Arrowsmith’s peak (1,817m) to 300 meters into the Salish Sea. This vertical range makes the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region unique among Canadian Biospheres. The biosphere is currently home to 45,000 people and part of the traditional territories of seven First Nations communities. The diversity of the region’s landscape—mountain peaks, endless beaches, ancient trees, plunging waterfalls, lakes, rivers and ocean—make the Mount Arrowsmith biosphere a distinctly rewarding place to live and explore.
About The Amazing Places Project
The Amazing Places Project began in eastern Canada, in the Fundy Biosphere Reserve in New Brunswick, to encourage visitors to get off the beaten path and explore the region as a whole. The Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region joins four other Canadian biospheres in adopting Amazing Places to share ecologically significant highlights as key points of interest for residents and visitors alike. Adding an element of fun and adventure to the Amazing Places tour is the geocaching portion (the GeoTour)—which was launched in late November, 2018.
Vancouver Island is well-known amongst geocachers in British Columbia and the Amazing Places GeoTour is the only tour of its type currently on the Island. Already, its reputation is preceding it: on the first weekend the GeoTour drew visitors from Vancouver and as far as Washington State and Oregon. Even locals will find the GeoTour an interesting new way to interact with some of the most beloved natural places in their communities.