Qualicum Beach’s Welcoming Nature
European settlers moved into Qualicum Beach in the late 1800s. They built a golf course in 1913, shortly after construction of the now-demolished Qualicum Beach Hotel. Other hotels, lodges and restaurants followed. Attracted by mild winters and scenic views—coastal islands and mainland mountains to the north and Mount Arrowsmith looming in the southwest—retirees began arriving in the 1950s and ’60s. Since then, successive waves of seniors have helped drive up the town’s collective age and shape its character.
Ian Lindsay, a local real estate agent who moved to Qualicum Beach from Calgary over three decades ago, says that because the town has no industry, older citizens will play an increasingly important role in the local economy. It’s easy to see why they’re drawn to the area. Apart from its verdant scenery, Vancouver Island boasts the highest average winter temperatures in Canada. For active retirees, that means more mild days for biking, hiking and kayaking.
Like most small communities across Canada, Qualicum Beach is trying to recruit more physicians. Though the local health authority has a strong commitment to home care that helps seniors stay put, it’s less than an hour’s drive to mid-sized hospitals in Nanaimo, Port Alberni and Comox, and Victoria’s large hospitals are two hours away.
A welcoming nature, which seems to come naturally to most of the town’s residents, is harder to quantify but still important. Retirees who make the move find an energetic group, the Qualicum Beach and Area Newcomers’ Club, ready to help them settle in. Founded in the early 1990s, the club hosts activities that include walking and golf expeditions, book and art meetings, wine and whisky tastings, and monthly lunch dates, plus interest groups for downhill skiing, kayaking, motorcycling, aircraft restoration and cribbage.
I joined approximately 20 club members on a two-hour Friday morning trail walk that passes between two creeks and winds up on the wheelchair-accessible, 2.5-kilometre south loop of the Lighthouse Country Regional Trail.
Hiker Evelyn McGachy says she didn’t know anyone when she and her husband left Montreal and moved here in 2013. Through the Newcomers’ Club and its dinner groups, she says, “We’ve met fabulous people… We weren’t anywhere near as social in our hometown.”