This article was first published back in June 2009 in Take 5. It's still one of my favorite trails to take visiting guests to. Also one of my favorite trails to run.
Being a parent to a 4 and 2 year old, I am a regular visitor to many playgrounds in the area. It’s fun pushing the kids on the swing as they yell “higher, higher”. But the outdoor adventure girl in me occasionally needs to be released. That is when we pack a lunch and head out to Jack Point Park. Take the Duke Point Highway and follow the signs for Biggs Park - Jack Point. It seems an odd place for a scenic hike. A ferry terminal, lumberyard, an industrial park. But once you go thru the tunnel, endless adventures await you.
Jack Point Park has everything a playground offers plus more. The 2.5 km trail to Jack Point is easy for the little ones to use. The trail offers boardwalks, bridges and stairs. The kids enjoy looking for trolls under the bridges … no sightings yet. Benches are provided to accommodate picnic stops. This gives time to enjoy the view of Nanaimo and Protection Island. We like to find a more secluded spot on many of the large rocks near the water. A little more privacy to eat our chicken sandwiches, grapes, muffins and carrot sticks. While taking in the scenery and crunching on our carrots, the kids can explore the rocks. The sandstone rock has created some interesting formations and is home to one of the Snuneymuxw Petroglyphs. We were fortunate enough to have a kind man give us a good description of where to find the carving. Just so you can have your own adventure, I will only say it is where the last “grand” staircase begins, and you will know the “grand” one when you see it. (Hint: the petroglyph is facing out to sea). Once the kids see the carvings, the questions will start. The designs tell a story of returning salmon and every season a ceremony was performed to ensure plenty for the community. Removed from its original location in the 70’s, it was returned in the fall of 2008. Please keep on the trails and respect the petroglyph and its history.
Jack Point Park provides more than just a scenic hike with a rare petroglyph. Biggs Park, the beginning of the trail, is alongside the Nanaimo River Estuary. The largest estuary on Vancouver Island. If you can time your visit with low tide, you will be able to explore the estuary up close. Fresh water meeting salt water provides an environment rich in food, shelter, and life. Clams and shells can be fun and challenging to find. Avoiding the clams’ squirt is like being at the spray park. You can easily spend hours walking around finding sea creatures…hands on learning for the kids at its best. Bring the rubber boots for this adventure; it is a very large, muddy sandbox. The estuary is home to waterfowl, fish and other small animals. With over 200 documented bird species, surely you will come across a few. Birds like eagles and gulls are easy for the kids to spot, especially during the September/October salmon spawn. But how about a sharp-tailed sandpiper or western meadowlark? A real treat is spotting river otters, Townsend’s volves, pacific tree frogs or long-toed salamanders that use the estuary as their food source. Kid or not, you can enjoy exploring the estuary while getting up close and personal with what is living around you.
Spending some time at Jack Point satisfies my need for outdoor adventure. The kids get some time outside. I get to listen to the ocean and look at the beautiful scenery. We all learn about the history and ecosystem that make Vancouver Island what it is. I am ready to get out to the playground again. But as I push the swing higher and higher, I am already thinking about where our next adventure will take us. Living and learning never stops.
What to do
What to do
Explore Jack Point by walking the trails, trail running and if your really adventurous...get muddy in the estuary. Be sure to check tide tables before considering this option.