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Horne Lake Caves

Most people, even Vancouver Island residents themselves, would be surprised to learn that the Island is roughly the same size in km2 as Taiwan. Formed hundreds of million years ago, this large and ancient piece of land holds many exciting secrets beneath the surface. With more limestone caves located on the Island than all of the Canadian provinces combined, Vancouver Island holds the highest concentration of caves in North America (over 1,000 discovered so far).

Horne Lake Cave trail

These caves are the hosts of delicate ecosystems, preserved over millennia. Unfortunately, due to a lack of education on the importance of these underground systems, industrial activities such as mining and logging have put these systems in jeopardy. Further degradation occurred in the early days of the 20th century from tourists visiting the caves without understanding the impact their presence could have. Because of this, a community effort was made to protect the Horne Lake area from further degradation. In the 1970’s the Horne Lake area was granted provincial park status, entrusting it with protection from industrial activity. In the 1980’s a management plan was created to further protect the caves from vandalism.

Guided cave tour

Today, Horne Lake Caves is well-known as one of Vancouver Island’s best eco-tourism sites. Emphasis is placed on environmental stewardship, education and personal challenge. There are guided options for a variety of ages and abilities within the many caves. From a quick one hour tour down Canada’s only cave slide, to a five hour tour of the Riverbend cave ending in a seven storey rappel down the Rainbarrel waterfall.

Limestone cave formations

In addition to the caving activities, the community of Horne Lake is also host to a variety of other outdoor activities including hiking, rock rappelling, swimming, and fishing to name a few. Interested in checking out Horne Lake Caves for yourself? Why not try our Caves, Waterfalls & Old Growth Forests.

Chateau Wolff Estate Winery & Vineyard

Chateau Wolff

Vancouver Island seems to attract those looking to follow their passions. In view of Mount Benson’s south-facing slope, in a unique micro-climate nestled in Nanaimo’s rural Jinglepot area, you can find a family doing just that. The Rigas purchased the five-acre Chateau Wolff property after years of working in the restaurant business. They initially opened the Port Bistro-Pub in Trenton, Ontario in 2011 with Matt working as a chef, and Natalie working the front-of-house.

Soon this duo found themselves visiting vineyards and wineries on their days off, enjoying a glass of wine together, and imagining owning a property of their own. After three years of successfully operating their restaurant, they decided to take the leap. They sold their restaurant and moved to Vancouver Island in pursuit of their dream.

Luckily for them Harry Von Wolff, the original owner, had planted his quality vines in the early 90’s which produced mostly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  The Rigas didn’t waste any time after their big move and the birth of their daughter, Siena. With the help of friends and family they set about learning the ins and outs of winemaking. Their efforts paid off, and in 2015 they saw their first harvest.

View of Mount Benson

Today, this boutique-style winery is known for it’s Chardonnay, Syrah, Pinot Noir, and a fortified red called Rouge, which can be found in many local stores and restaurants. You can visit their intimate tasting room or enjoy the rustic elegance of their property while on our Taste of Nanaimo tour!

Arbutus Distillery

Arbutus Distillery tasting room

Walking into Arbutus Distillery and Cocktail Lounge can feel a bit like walking into a wizard’s shop. Inside you’ll find hand-picked botanicals drying on racks along the walls, and mysterious designs adorning the bottles. But what makes this place truly magical is the products themselves, which are made with 100% BC sourced fermentables. You can try everything from their signature single malt Coven vodka to their Baba Yaga Genuine Absinthe to their Empiric blue gin (which performs some interesting tricks – I won’t spoil it for you!).

Some of their fine products

Of course, behind all good magic is a healthy mix of art and science, and Arbutus is no exception. Head distiller Mike Pizzitelli hails from a science and cell biology background and spent some time in Scotland, learning the art of brewing and distilling. Mike brings passion and knowledge to Arbutus and takes great pride in the products that he and his team create.

A site tour will allow the uninitiated the opportunity to sample their unique products, where Mike is all too happy to educate people on the work that goes into producing these tasty spirits as well as their history. We suggest pairing these products with food trucks, live music and good friends. You can visit Arbutus Distillery on our Taste of Nanaimo tour.

Longwood Brewery

Milo in all his glory

You can’t get much more Vancouver Island than surfing and craft beer. When it comes to the Longwood Brewery, you get a taste of both! A custom-made cedar surf board and zebrawood bar are the focal points of their tasting room and help explain where the inspiration for their name came from. The funky artwork adorning their walls as well as their merch tells you everything you need to know – this is a place for friends and fun (and in the case of Milo – dogs).

The Longwood Brewery is well-known as one of the Island’s premier craft breweries, that provides a consistently delicious product. What you’ll find on tap depends on the season, or what Harley’s been concocting as of late. Their staples include the Island Time Lager (a pilsner), the Steam Punk Ale (a dunkelweizen), The Big One (an IPA), Berried Alive (a raspberry ale) and the Stoutnik (a Russian imperial stout). But this brewery isn’t just inspired by unique flavours, they’re also motivated to provide a truly local product which they refer to as the Terroir of Beer.  Working with local growers to improve the quality and availability of local ingredients has been an on-going priority throughout their many years in business.

Longwood Brewery

This obsession with sourcing quality local ingredients is apparent during a tour of their brewery. Not only do you get to taste the finished product, but you also get to check out the raw ingredients and learn about the process of making these signature brews. And if you’re really lucky, you might even get to pet a scruffy dog. What’s more Vancouver Island than that?

Thinking about tasting some of Nanaimo’s excellent craft beers? You can check out the Longwood Brewery on our Taste of Nanaimo tour. Cheers!

Exploring is Never Boring – Mount Washington

“The best journeys answer questions that in the beginning you didn’t even think to ask.” – Jeff Johnson

My explorations on Tuesday led me to a place I know very, very well. A place I’ve been venturing to since I was a young lad growing up in Nanaimo: Mount Washington Alpine Resort, one of two ski resorts here on Vancouver Island.

As soon as I turn off the island highway onto the Strathcona Parkway, I feel like a kid again. It doesn’t matter that I’m 28 years old now and no longer that kid and I’m sure it still won’t matter when I’m 60 years old. The feeling I get while snowboarding or “charging” as I like to say is one of pure ecstasy… particularly on powder days!

I love Mount Washington because it offers me the easy-going island vibe along with some incredible terrain and deep snow. Although it wasn’t a famous “Washy powder day”, I couldn’t keep the smile off my face and I definitely couldn’t stop the “woooo’s” from coming out of my mouth! Finding fun lines and fresh tracks always keeps me returning year after year.

Mount Washington also offers some fantastic accommodation, but on Tuesday I chose to stay in “Rhonda”, my mobile chalet that sits in my truck bed. It may not have a 5-star rating, but it’s everything I need and the perfect mountain machine!

It was yet another awesome day spent on the mountain.
Pray for Snow.

My Place – Brendan Muehlenberg

Everyone has a special place, a place where you have memories, where you can find peace and harmony. A place where you know you are just happy being there. For some it’s a quiet place, for others it’s a noisy place. But all of these places have one thing in common; they are places where you think of first when asked “Where is Your Place?”.

1. Who are you and how long have you lived on Vancouver Island?

My name is Brendan Muehlenberg and I was born and raised in Port Alberni, BC… well, Sproat Lake to be more specific. My dad bought 4 lakefront properties back in the late 70’s when lakefront property was the same price as a 2018 Toyota Prius. Growing up in a family with 3 brothers and 1 sister, no TV and an endless natural playground outside our front door made me into the nature enthusiast I am today. I grew up hiking, exploring and camping on the trails and mountains near Sproat Lake and Strathcona Provincial Park. We also had a 28ft Bayliner which we’d take up the Alberni Inlet into Barkley Sound, specifically the Broken Group National Park. We spent the entire time camping, fishing and exploring, which I think has translated into my love for the West Coast which is where I reside today here in Ucluelet, BC. I made the outdoors my best friend at an early age and I thank my parents every day for their decision to raise us in such an epic place (Vancouver Island).
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Exploring Is Never Boring – North Island

“The best journeys answer questions that in the beginning you didn’t even think to ask.” – Jeff Johnson

Having grown up in Nanaimo, like most from this area, I have only ventured north of Campbell River a handful of times. It is common to meet local Vancouver Islanders who haven’t even been that far. If you are in search of desolation, wanting to get in touch with nature or just looking to unwind, there is no better place to be then amongst the trees in the rugged landscape of the north island. Read More

Wine of the Month – August 2016

Unsworth 2015 Rose

We started a beer of the month post in July, but then all the great local Vancouver Island wine got jealous. So here we go with Wine of the Month! We have so much wonderful wine here on Vancouver Island that many people don’t even realize we have. Hopefully we can help bring to light some of the delicious, approachable wine that we have to offer so that next time you’re in the liquor store or wine shop you feel confident to branch out and try something new.

Our first wine of the month just happens to be perfect for summer patio sipping on a beautiful August afternoon or even for pairing with a nice barbecue dinner. It also happens to be a rosé. Now don’t worry, I know that years of sweet, syrupy white zinfandels have scarred many human beings along the way. This should not be a reason for you to stay away from rosés! Most Vancouver Island rosés are crisp and dry wines that have amazing notes of strawberries or cranberries. Very easy drinking and approachable, yet all sorts of complex flavours coming through.

Unsworth Vineyards produces one of my favourite rosés anywhere and to me is a perfect expression of the wines we can consistently create right here on Vancouver Island. Theirs is a provencal style rosé that has a beautiful colour created by leaving the wine on the skins for just enough time to extract a bit of colour from the pinot noir grapes they use to make it. Pairs beautifully with cheese, grilled fish, or just good friends on the patio. Enjoy!

Beer of the Month – August 2016

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When at the liquor store trying to figure out which craft beer to buy, sometimes you need a little help. Lucky for you, we’re committed to trying lots of craft beer so that we can help you choose a solid beer that you will hopefully find just as enjoyable as we did.

This month’s choice is a seasonal beer from Longwood Brewery. The One That Got Away is a red wheat ale that I find both delicious and refreshing. This unique style was originally created for a tuna fishing derby out on the west coast of BC and has continued to be produced each summer due to its popularity. Its copper colour, rich flavour and surprising lightness make this a nice beer for boating or just sitting on the shore yet also pairs nicely with seafood.

This summer the folks at Longwood decided to use this beer as the base beer for their limited release beer creation for Longwoodstock Music Festival. Combining the red wheat ale with grapefruit juice to create Pulp Friction, their radler was the perfect drink for a scorching hot summer day listening to some great artists such as Daniel Wesley, Dope Soda and Wil.

It’s definitely a beer I look forward to each year and will be savouring the last few I have sitting in my fridge as summer begins to wind down.

Soren – Harvest Time at Chateau Wolff

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Vancouver Island is a place to visit for people of all ages. Join Soren as he tells us about some of his amazing adventures right here on Vancouver Island!

 

Papa knows that I love grapes.  All summer he brought me grapes from his house.  They are so sweet and yummy.  So when daddy asked if I’d go with him to pick some grapes at Chateau Wolff Estate Winery I thought I’d spend the whole day eating grapes!  I was excited to see soooo many grapes on the bushes. BUT we weren’t allowed to eat them, I tried one, and spit it out because it had seeds in it!  Papa makes nicer grapes to eat.  I guess these ones are for wine.  I don’t drink wine as I’m not tall enough.  Maybe when I’m taller I can go on one of daddy’s tours!

IMG_8316Daddy picked a lot of grapes and threw them into a big bin.  Where are they taking all those grapes?  Read More