St. Jean’s Cannery

St Jean’s

Whether you’ve lived on the west coast your whole life or you’re coming here for the first time, you’ve gotta try the fish! What better place to do so then at the largest salmon cannery in all of southern BC? St. Jean’s Cannery is well-known for their wild salmon, both smoked or candied. They come in a variety of flavors, making their gift shop well worth the visit. In addition, St. Jean’s has a variety of other seafood products such as shellfish, tuna, chowder and sauces, just to name a few.

St Jean’s was founded by Armand St. Jean, a young man from Quebec that made his way out to Vancouver Island with his family in the 1950’s. In the smoke house he built himself, Armand would often smoke oysters using techniques he learned back east. He would then package the oysters and sell them at local bars to hungry patrons. It didn’t take long for this small enterprise to grow into a proper cannery.

Armand St. Jean

Armand continued to run the business alongside his sons, and after a showcasing their products at Expo ’86, the family was able to open a larger facility. St. Jean’s also expanded their depots on the mainland and made connections with the sport fishing lodges along the coast. After purchasing Raincoast Trading, a brand dedicated to sustainable fishing practices, the majority shares in St. Jean’s were purchased by a group of five West Coast Nations. The Nuu-chah-nulth Nations have always played a dual role as both stewards and participants in Vancouver Island’s seafood economy, and their values of sustainability were shared by St. Jean’s, leading to a fruitful partnership.

Cheers to a new partnership

Today St. Jean’s continues to build upon their reputation for sustainable, quality seafood. On their website you can purchase frozen or canned seafood products that are guaranteed hand-packed. However, their facility in south Nanaimo is well-worth the visit. The Smokehouse gift shop provides their full range of products, including a host of gift options. If you’re lucky, you might get a sample or two!

Thinking about visiting St. Jean’s? Why not try our Taste of Nanaimo tour?

Simply Gabriola Island Day Tour

Just steps from the Malaspina Galleries

Gabriola Island has earned itself the title of Isle of the Arts among the Gulf Islands. Home to a wide range of artisans and agriculturalists, Gabriola often feels like a world away despite being a 20 minute ferry ride from downtown Nanaimo. Small, independently owned shops, galleries and restaurants reflect local tastes and visitors can expect to encounter wildlife, scenic beaches, and unique sandstone formations on our Simply Gabriola Island tour.

La Belle Vie Studio

Learning about local plants

Our first stop on the Gabriola tour is La Belle Vie Wellnes Studio. This beautiful studio is also the home of our host, Josée, who is a practitioner of Ayurvedic medicine. She conducts mutiple workshops on her property that include foraging for local edible plants, creating tinctures and teas, as well as full wellness retreats. While her husband is an architect who has begun designing tiny homes and is interested in environmentally friendly building practices, they also host a bed & breakfast.

Pier Gallery Collective

Checking out the local art

Our next stop is the nearby Pier Gallery where the work of over a dozen local artists is featured. From glassware, to ceramics, silversmithing, painting and weaving, just about every medium is featured. While the gallery itself is small, the artists use every inch of space to showcase the range of work that can be found of Gabriola.

The Kitchen

Fried catfish and okra wrap with malt vinegar fries

The Kitchen is a restaurant that draws inspiration from just about everywhere. From fried catfish to porkbelly to smoked peach compote, the Kitchen has something for just about everybody. Settle in to enjoy some unique flavor profiles while listening to their impressive collection of vinyl records.

Paprika Studio

Paprika Gallery

Nina is no stranger to the art of silversmithing, as this skill was passed down to her from her mother. Inspired by the natural environment, Nina’s creations are beautifully shaped and uniquely patterned. Her gallery space where she showcases her work and the work of others, also doubles as her studio, where she carefully crafts her pieces. Inside she demonstrates different techniques and tools needed to manipulate and shape the silver into her vision and shares her passion with others.

Ravenskill Orchard

Enjoying a tasting of delicious Gabby’s Cider

What started out as a hobby for Keith Mackenzie and Marti Wright quickly took on a life of it’s own. When they first purchased their property on Gabriola, it was a tad overgrown but showed a lot of promise. The idea to grow heritage varieties came from Marti, who missed the Northern Spy apples of her native New York. Before long they had built their home and began the process of growing a high-density orchard, which involved grafting their trees to dwarf rootstock. Today, they’re becoming well-known for their delicious Gabby’s Cider, so named for the Island they now call home. Visit their rustic tasting room, pick some apples in the U-Pick, and learn about the fascinating work that goes into creating such a tasty product.

Malaspina Galleries

Walking the beautiful Malaspina Galleries

Take a stroll along the beautiful and historic Malaspina galleries. This natural sandstone formation was initially visited by the explorer Captain Malaspina and his crew, and then again later on by early British settlers in the area. The Galleries are a must-see for first time or repeat visitors, as the calm waters of the bay overlook Newcastle Island and downtown Nanaimo in the distance. It’s the perfect place to take a break and reflect on the day.

Off the Eaten Path Dinner Series – Part 1

The difficulty with managing a tourism business on Vancouver Island isn’t that there aren’t enough opportunities, it’s that there are just too many to choose from! Between the amazing wineries, world-class restaurants, and beautiful scenery, deciding where to go or what to showcase can be a challenge. There are, quite simply, too many amazing businesses to partner with.

Beautiful dinner made by the team at Hilltop Bistro

We had this in mind when we sought to create our Off the Eaten Path dinner series, a Farm to Table venture set in different locations. The series, we hoped, would be a way to provide rare and intimate dining experiences by partnering with local businesses. Farm to Table dining experiences have become popular and are in high demand. People want something unique and different to participate in, while at the same time supporting local agriculture.

The Hilltop team hard at work

We approached a few friends about our idea and it wasn’t long before it began to take shape. The team at Hilltop Bistro have created one of the most sought-after dining experiences in Nanaimo. We knew that they’d create an unforgettable menu for our guests while sourcing many of their ingredients from local farmers. The Chateau Wolff Estate Winery has a beautiful property in rural Nanaimo facing the southern slopes of Mount Benson. This lovely property would prove to be the perfect setting for what turned out to be a wonderful night.

Tables set and ready

While we set up the tents, laid out the silverware, went bushwacking for the salal centrepieces and watered the flower pots, clouds loomed overhead. The threat of rain had all of us on edge as we toiled away. While we were determined to see our vision through, we thought bringing a few blankets along might not be a bad idea.

Chateau Wolff Estate overlooking Mt. Benson

But of course, in the end, there was nothing to worry about. The dinner was a masterpiece of west coast fare, made with plenty of seafood, local seasonal ingredients and prepared with the utmost care. Chateau Wolff were ever the hospitable hosts, happy to share their piece of paradise with our guests. As for ourselves, we can’t thank our friends enough for all of their hard work and we look forward to the next one!

If you’re interested in hearing about Part 2 of our Off the Eaten Path dinner series, the date and venue have been set! It will be taking place at Cedar Valley Hop Yards on August 16th, so be sure to follow us on instagram and facebook for updates!

WildPlay Elements Park

For those seeking a thrill, it doesn’t get much better than WildPlay! Beginning in March of 2006, the company took over operations of North America’s first bungee jumping bridge, located south of Nanaimo over the Nanaimo river. It’s estimated that over 250,000 people have bungee jumped off of the bridge without incident, making it a popular and well-known attraction. WildPlay soon expanded their park to include what’s known as the Primal Swing which involves being flung from the bungee bridge through the canyon on a harness swing.

the primal swing

For those looking for more controlled adventures, the canyon also plays host to their zipline tour of the Nanaimo river, which includes two flights of 300ft and 600ft, and remains the only zipline of its kind on Vancouver Island. The aerial adventure course takes place in the trees and includes multiple levels, each one reaching higher than the last. These obstacle courses allow the participants the thrill of risk-taking while in the security of a safety harness, and include ropes swings, smaller zip lines, climbing obstacles, swaying footholds, and a host of other challenges that add to the thrill.

aerial adventures await

While WildPlay is known for it’s fun and challenging aerial elements, it’s also well-known for its charity work. The bungee bridge has long been host to a fundraising bungee known as the Naked Bungee for BCSS. The purpose of this one-day event is to increase awareness for those living with schizophrenia and psychosis while reducing the stigma. This fundraiser has partnered with the Victoria branch of the BC Schizophrenia Society for the past eleven years to provide this fun and educational event.

With so many attractions for all ages and skill levels it’s no wonder they’ve found success in so many different markets. Since their opening twelve years ago, WildPlay has expanded their locations to Victoria, Kelowna, Maple Ridge, Niagara Falls and New York state. If you find yourself in any of these areas, why not stop by and get in touch with your wild side?

bungee jumping at wildplay elements park

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!

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

Favourite Vancouver Island Wine Releases – 2015

Spring time to some means flowers blooming, trees waking up from their long winter naps, and the return of warmer weather. To me, it means one very exciting thing: New wines to try!

Now that we are just getting our first taste of this year’s wines, I wanted to do a quick post about some of my favourite releases from 2015. In no way am I a professional at judging wines nor do I have a broad knowledge of all there is to know about wine. With that said, I do know more than the average person about British Columbia wines, and more than most about Vancouver Island wines.

You see, to make sure that everybody I take on a tour gets a chance to taste the best that Vancouver Island has to offer, I have to do a lot of painstaking research. I have to drive up and down the island Read More

Soren – Something’s Brewing at Longwood Brewery

 

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!

IMG_0085Mommy and Daddy drink beer, I don’t like beer it smells funny and it’s for adults only. They make lots of beer in Nanaimo, where we live and Daddy takes people on tours to show them how it’s made! Did you know that at Longwood Brewery their beer likes to ride in a hammock? So funny. Beer doesn’t belong in a hammock, it has to stay in the fridge!!

It was real loud in the beer making room. Everywhere you looked there were about shiny, clean tanks that I could see myself in!  Read More