Tigh-Na-Mara is a wonderful seaside resort found on Vancouver Island. It is on the traditional land of the Coast Salish and the Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw (Laich-kwil-tach) people, most notably the territories of the Snaw-naw-as (Nanoose First Nation) and the Qualicum First Nation.
Today, I’ll walk you through the steps to get to Parksville, where the resort is located. If you’ve read my ‘About‘ section on this blog, you’ll know that I don’t drive. Ergo, I’m sharing how to get to Tigh-Na-Mara without the use of a car, just as I did. For reference, I’m based in Vancouver and I travelled at the end of August/beginning of September. You’re in for a bit of trek with this one, but it’s so worth it.
You do have to take various modes of transport, but then again, it breaks the journey up a bit which is a small victory! Firstly, you’ll need to get to Horseshoe Bay to board the ferry to Nanaimo (Departure Bay). You can either take the 257 express bus, or the 250 from Downtown Vancouver. If you get the express, it can take less than an hour depending on where you board; therefore, opt for the 257 where possible to shorten the journey. The bus lets you out right at the terminal. And you can either book your journey in advance, or just purchase a ticket at the terminal. If you’re purchasing at the terminal, consider the day and time you wish to travel, and arrive well in advance.
Once you board the ferry, it’s a non-stop sail and takes under 2 hours. This is an enjoyable part of the trip, and preps you for the next little slog. You’ll arrive in Departure Bay, and need to board the 20 bus to Woodgrove Exchange. The 20 boards right outside the ferry terminal. As with my last post detailing the car-less trip to the Village of Harrison Hot Springs, have exact change for the buses. And it might be worthwhile mentioning to the driver of the 20 that you’re transferring to another bus at the Exchange, as they may provide an exchange receipt.
From the Woodgrove Exchange, board the 91 bus in the direction of Qualicum Beach. Your stop will be Island Hwy at Resort Way which has a Stop ID of 104046 – I’d recommend mentioning you’re going to Tigh-Na-Mara to the bus driver, if you’re afraid of missing the stop. Once you get out of the bus, you’ll walk the short distance to the resort.
Tigh-Na-Mara is positioned in a lovely woodland setting. It’s charming, quaint and the perfect destination for a relaxing break. It has a variety of accommodation options on offer, from studios to suites to cottages. When I stayed, we rented a 6 person 2 bedroom cottage. Its kitchen was fully equipped, and it had its own private deck. We stayed for 2 nights at a total of CAD 860.20, which works out at CAD 144 per person if in a group of 6 or CAD 215 if in a group of 4.
There is a spa called the Grotto Spa within the resort which can be used for a fee, but there is also an indoor pool & fitness centre separately. The pool & fitness centre are included in your stay if you don’t want to pay extra for access to the spa’s mineral pools. There is a whirlpool/ hot tub and sauna at the pool & fitness centre as well.
In my opinion, the best part about the resort is its proximity to the sea. Just a few steps from wherever you’re staying within Tigh-Na-Mara, you can walk to Rathtrevor beach. And it is magnificent at sunrise or sunset!
Where to Eat:
If you’re staying in a cottage, you may want to bring some supplies with you. I know you’re probably thinking “how am I supposed to bring supplies without a car!?” and I’ll explain. The Woodgrove Exchange stop is right beside a Walmart, so all you have to do is make sure you time the buses and you’ll be good to go. A quick reminder: the Woodgrove Exchange is where you’ll board the bus that brings you to the resort.
Similarly, if you get back on the 91 at any point throughout your stay (the same stop you got off when arriving at the resort) and continue to the City of Parksville, you’ll find a grocery store called Thrifty Foods and an assortment of restaurants.
There is also a restaurant, Cedars Restaurant & Lounge, on-site in Tigh-Na-Mara. They offer takeout too, or you could just call for delivery from Domino’s right to your room or cottage. They’re located in the City of Parksville.
If you’re looking for something during the day (they’re closed Sundays & Mondays at the time of posting), there is a small bistro a few minutes’ walk from the resort called Taste Café & Bistro.
Finally, a small gift shop can be found within the resort as well, and they have snacks and some other necessities.
What to Do:
Who needs a car?! There are a variety of free jaunts and entertainment options for a fee to enjoy in close proximity to the resort:
- The Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park and the beachfront. If you travel in the summer months, I recommend a dip in the sea. But, there is also the aforementioned indoor pool if swimming in the sea doesn’t interest you.
- We also utilized the various recreational offerings the resort has when we stayed. They have tennis courts, a basketball hoop, and a ping-pong table to name a few. They provide the equipment, which can be borrowed from the front desk at no extra cost as well – so you don’t need to worry about packing rackets, paddles, or balls.
- They offer bike rentals too, depending on the time of year you visit. Which you could then utilize to explore a bit further. You could also hop on the 91 and continue on to the City of Parksville, just make sure to check the bus times, as the 91 is not that frequent.
- We can’t forget the Grotto Spa! I recommend making a reservation in advance if you plan on going. Unfortunately, we weren’t as forward-thinking and missed out on this experience. But I do plan to go the next time I visit.
- And finally, one of my favorite and free activities is to watch the sunrise or sunset – and let me tell you, the Rathtrevor beach view of both does not disappoint.
Alternative Accommodation Options:
While my post is specifically about getting to Tigh-Na-Mara without a car, there are a few other accommodation options in the area if you fancy something different. The Ocean Sands Resort, the Ocean Trails Resort and the Madrona Beach Resort are all within walking distance of Tigh-Na-Mara, meaning they’re all in walking distance of where the bus leaves you. They all have access to the beach, and Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park too.
Some Final Tips From Me:
- If you don’t want to travel from Nanaimo (Departure Bay) to the resort via public transit, just contact the resort to arrange a transfer – this does come at a higher cost, so just be aware prior to booking. I believe it’s CAD 50 one way and I can’t remember if that’s per person. The 2 public buses will set you back CAD 3 each one way.
- Tigh-Na-Mara does have laundry facilities if needed.
- Have exact change for the buses on the Island. When you’re on the Mainland, you can either use your Compass card (make sure to keep it loaded to cover all the fares) or have exact change for transit.
- Always make sure you check the bus times. And plan out your routes so you don’t miss any connections.
- Bring any sort of pharmaceutical supplies you may need, if you don’t plan on leaving the resort.
Thank you so much for reading. All photographs and opinions are my own (unless otherwise stated). I have not been sponsored by any business mentioned in this post. Please do let me know if I have fact-checked anything incorrectly, I’m always open to feedback and corrections.