Exploring Vancouver Island

Grand Beach Provincial Park on the shores of Lake Winnipeg is a great spot for relaxing on the...

Grand Beach Provincial Park on the shores of Lake Winnipeg is a great spot for relaxing on the beach or sighting rare birds. (Marcel Cretain/QMI Agency)

ILLONA KAUREMSZKY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:07 PM ET

Q: My aunt lives in Victoria, B.C. Iíll be visiting this spring. We were going to spend a few days with her and then have a couple of extra days. Any suggestions on what might make a good side trip?

ó B. Newton, Mississauga

A: A two-hour drive north on the eastern shore, Parksville and the Qualicum Beach region are two of fastest growing communities on Vancouver Island. The towns are home to 43,000 residents and contain some great gems.

You can find UNESCOís Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere in the area and also have a great drive along Hwy. 1, passing through quaint towns like Duncan (the City of Totems) and Chemanius with its outdoor murals.

For other ideas, consult with the Oceanside Tourism Association, Parksville Chamber of Commerce or the Qualicum Beach Chamber of Commerce. You can find lodging listings on their websites ó parksvillechamber.com, qualicum.bc.ca and visitparksvillequalicumbeach.com.

Q: What kind of identification is needed for travel to Mexico?

ó Best regards, K. OíRoarke, Toronto

A: Since March 1, Canadians have needed a valid passport to enter Mexico. more, contact the Mexico Tourism Board at 1-800-44-MEXICO or visit visitmexico.com.

Q: In one of your past columns you talked about a food festival in Eastern Ontario. I didnít keep the clipping and Iím hoping you might know of the one Iím thinking of. Sorry I couldnít offer more details. I appreciate any information you might have. Again apologies for not knowing more.

ó L. Naranowski, Mississauga

A: You may be thinking about Prince Edward County. This region east of Toronto has been attracting a lot of interest on the culinary front. No doubt it helped when chef extraordinaire, Torontoís own Jamie Kennedy, purchased a chunk of farmland here and planted rare red fife wheat for his artisanal breads.

Foodies look forward to Countylicious (countylicious.ca), which continues through April 17. During the event, top restaurants in The County serve three course meals for $30-$35. There is also a Taste Trail (tastetrail.ca), a culinary and wine route with 23 stops.

Q: Wildlife viewing isnít one of my kidsí favourite pasttimes but I want to try to change their minds when we travel to Winnipeg this summer for a family reunion. Do you have any suggestions?

ó R. Haines, Toronto

A: Manitobaís provincial parks are great places to get up close to nature, and to May 1, 2011, the park system is waiving entry fees for vehicles.

Winnipeg is near two provincial parks at the southern part of Lake Winnipeg. These include Hecla Grindstone and Grand Beach.

Hecla is home to Grassy Narrows Marsh, which teems with birds that can be seen from trails. Thereís also an observation tower for spotting larger critters such as moose and wolves.

At Grand Beach, itís all about the endangered piping plovers. Interpreters and volunteers ó called plover guardians ó ensure safe viewing of these rare birds. The beach is considered one of the best in North America.

Hereís a few tips: Takebinoculars and a birderís field guide; animal sightings are most common at dawn and dusk; do not approach or try to feed wildlife. See gov.mb.ca/conservation/parks.

ilona@mycompass.ca


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