Located on the east coast of Vancouver Island, in a picturesque harbour surrounded by hills of Douglas Fir and Western Cedars, Transfer Beach Park is a lovely spot for a ramble, a picnic, a dog-romp, a dip in the ocean, or a serene bit of paddling with a kayak or paddleboard.
Situated directly across the Island Highway from historic `downtown’ Ladysmith, Transfer Beach has plenty of parking and is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.To access the “Dogpatch Trail”, park in the gravel parking lot on the left as you drive down into the park. The trailhead is to the south of the parking lot. Short, leafy, sun-dappled trails wend all through this area, and the main trail leads down to the beach.Although strewn with white shells, the beach is coal black—literally coal black. James Dunsmuir built shipping wharves in Ladysmith in 1897 (then known as Oyster Harbour) for loading coal from a mine near Nanaimo, and the black beach is a reminder of the harbour’s early purpose.For private pilots flying into Nanaimo airport (CYCD) who want more than the usual $100 hamburger flight, Ladysmith is a 10 minute taxi ride to the south. There’s a plethora of restaurants to choose from along the town’s side streets and main street (1st Avenue), all which feature vintage 1900’s Edwardian buildings. It was a Saturday in September when we flew in, and unfortunately most restaurants were closed. We ate at The Wigwam, which, despite its name, serves burgers, Pho, and Chinese food.Transfer Beach Park is an easy 10 minute walk from the heritage town (population: 8,376), via Roberts Street, which crosses the Island Highway (Highway 1).With a temperate autumn sun shining on the postcard-perfect harbour, we enjoyed a lovely walk along the shoreline and over the rolling green lawn of the park (the waterfront grass park is for humans; Fido and furry friends have a grass park behind the paved parking and beach access along Dogpatch trail).For those who aren’t pilots, you can reach Ladysmith on Vancouver Island from Vancouver via BC Ferries BC Ferries info or if you want to see some truly spectacular West Coast BC scenery from the air, via Harbour Air Harbour Air info
Esoteric fact: Actress Pamela Anderson grew up in Ladysmith, BC (to the age of 12)!
Why the name Transfer Beach? Back in the early 1900’s, BC had a population of about 36,000, almost ½ of which lived in Vancouver Island. When BC joined Canada as a province in 1871, it was on the condition that the federal government extend a national railway all the way to BC… which meant, of course, Vancouver Island, where most BC residents lived. Vancouver Island was a great source of coal and lumber, products which were transported by rail to a harbour, where everything then had to be off-loaded onto a ferry, shipped over to Vancouver, then loaded back onto a railcar. The solution was to construct a dedicated transfer slip so that boxcars could be shipped directly by railcar ferry to and from Vancouver Island without off-loading the contents, and such a facility was built at Oyster Bay… now known as Ladysmith Harbour. Thus the name, Transfer Beach!