Road Trips

Road Tripping on Vancouver Island in a Lincoln

Explore these five natural wonders on the east coast of British Columbia’s vast Vancouver Island.

By Dan Heyman Wheels.ca

Mar 17, 2015 6 min. read

Article was updated 9 years ago

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Nanaimo, on the east coast of British Columbia’s vast Vancouver Island, may not be the road trip stop urbanites are looking for; however, not 20 minutes out of town, if said urbanites can put aside their bias—as my wife Tara and I did—for just a couple of days, they’ll find a plethora of outdoor activities that are easily (and shortly) reached by car, connected mostly by the fantastic Island Highway (otherwise known as British Columbia Highway 14). We chose the Tigh-Na-Mara resort in Parksville, BC (about 20 km from Nanaimo) as our starting point.

Rathtrevor Beach 

The beach itself provides a fantastic coastal walking trail with unimpeded views of the islands populating the Georgia Strait, while the coastal mountain range provides the perfect backdrop; just be sure to stay on marked paths as the area is an old-growth vegetation reclamation site. Your best bet is to head here early in the morning; you still get the fantastic sights, but you get the bonus of hearing the Sea Lions yowling from just around the point in Craig Bay. It’s a somewhat haunting sound, but it makes a wonderful soundtrack for the setting.

Rathtrevor Beach wooded path

Road Trip Travel Time:

from Parksville, BC: (5km) 10 min

Englishman River Estuary 

Speaking of spectacular: the Estuary, where the Englishman River meets the Pacific Ocean’s Georgia Straight is a sight to behold. Sort of a cross between The Lord of the Ring’s Dead Marshes and low tide, seagulls, ducks and sea lions all call the area home. Scores of entire trees, meanwhile, have been reduced to driftwood here, and the way their intricate roots stretch skyward is an image of unexpected beauty. Bonus points if you go on a clear summer’s day, when the still, brackish pools present a perfect mirror for the wispy white clouds and blue sky above.

twisted tree trunk on a beach in the Englishman River Estuary

Road Trip Travel Time:

from Parksville, BC: (10km) 11min


Top Bridge trail in Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park 

A multitude of trails, sights and vistas make up the park’s 347 hectares (covered mostly in old-growth forest), but one of the highlights has to be the Top Bridge trail. There are two trailheads, but you want to start on the eastern bank of the Englishman river. The rock formations on the western bank are impressive, but the way the water rains down spa-style through the moss-covered rock faces on the other side makes for a most relaxing—even spectacular--walk.

Top Bridge in Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park 

Road Trip Travel Time:

from Parksville, BC: (4.6 km) 8 min

Englishman River Falls 

The Englishman river really does provide a lot of sights, doesn’t it? You’ve already spent your time walking along the picturesque banks, you’ve seen where it empties into the ocean—why not see it at its wildest? The falls sit in the middle of Rathtrevor park; not to worry—that seemingly abandoned road you take to get there is the right one. Once there, a short walk gets you to the falls, where there are two fantastic viewing points—one lower, and one higher. The lower viewpoint takes a little more walking to get to, but once there, you’ll be treated to yet another sight straight out of J.R.R. Tolkein’s universe.

Englishman River Falls

Road Trip Travel Time:

from Parksville, BC:(13.6km) 17min 

Cathedral Gove 

This fantastic old-growth forest set in the heart of BC’s MacMillan Provincial Park is the home of some of North America’s oldest Cedar and Douglas-fir trees. Some of these behemoths are over 700 years old, while the area’s aptly named Big Tree stands taller than the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The best part is that no matter what time of year you visit, the sights are fantastic. In the summer, the shade provided by the trees is some welcome relief, while in the winter, the low angle of the sun and soft lighting it provides adds yet another level of majesty to the experience.

an old bridge in the woods in Cathedral Gove

Road Trip Travel Time:

from Parksville, BC: (31km) 25min


The Car

For our trip, the all-new Lincoln MKC was the perfect travel partner.

Power comes from a 2.3-litre EcoBoost turbo four-cylinder that makes its debut in the MKC (and has since made its way to the engine bay of the 2015 Ford Mustang), where it provides 285 horsepower and 305—three-hundred and five!—lb.-ft. of torque. There’s a less powerful 2.0L option, but you don’t want to miss out on the dynamics provided by the 2.3.

Thanks to all that power, merging on to the highway is a breeze, as is passing slow-moving semis and motorhomes.

Of course, with the MKC, as with so many luxury cars, you want to make sure you keep your eye on the speedometer since everything is kept so quiet. Its aerodynamic shape means less wind noise, while its well-insulated engine bay means you’ll barely detect any engine noise to hint at how fast you’re going.

The MKC’s exterior styling is also a highlight, with nice detailing ‘round the head- and taillights, nice creases on the body panels on the doors and hood and the re-imagination of the classic Lincoln split-winged grille.

2015 Lincoln MKC

Inside, the styling is a little tamer; the flat black plastic around the head unit and climate controls isn’t quite as befitting of a luxury vehicle as I’d hoped, but the leather used throughout, the soft-touch material on the dash and aluminum accents do their best to distract from the plastic.
Read the full review: 2015 Lincoln MKC Review

What’s really unique is the method used to change gears. There are no levers to speak of; just a set of buttons mounted vertically to the right of the steering wheel. If we forget, for a minute, that push-button activation has been around since the days of the Edsel, know that the lack of a gear laver means a less cluttered centre console area, which is nice. The one issue we had was that we found the system a little slow on the uptake when switching gears. This is especially annoying when trying to perform a three-point turn. There are a set of wheel-mounted paddles if you choose to shift gears on your own.

Really, though, once you’re in drive and on the road, the 2015 Lincoln MKC rewards with a nice, smooth ride, plenty of power and agile handling for when you’re on the bendier bits of the Island Highway. Of course if you’re on the straight and narrow, a host of electronic driving aids are on hand to help make the trip easier. There’s a blind spot notification system, forward collision alert (whereby a set of flashing lights reflected off the windscreen activate if the system senses an impending collision) and active lane keep assist. When activated, the steering wheel will vibrate if you waver from your lane, then automatically steer if you continue to do so.

Pricing for the 2015 Lincoln MKC starts at $39,440 for the 2.0L, and $49,150 for the 2.7L. All models come with All-wheel drive and a 6-speed automatic transmission.
Related: Top 5 winter road trip travel tips




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