If you’re driving to Tofino on Vancouver Island and are looking for an interesting place to visit, you should definitely check out Coombs. This community is located about 10 km west of Parksville and is a popular stop for those headed west to Tofino.
Coombs is well known for its unique buildings – namely, the goats that live on the grass roof of the local grocery store. As you wander around the area, you will quickly realize this community is unique in more ways than one and is hard to describe but easy to enjoy!
You’ve arrived and taken your photo of some goats on a roof, now what? One street has the feel of a small town in Italy, with coffee shops, Italian restaurants and natural blood buildings; cross over to the next block, and you are in a middle America tourist trap with cheap statues, tchotchkes, bright colours and a lack of a single culture. It’s an interesting dynamic.
Our first suggestion is to head into the Old Country Market and get a sticker to mark your visit. The classic goat image sitting on a roof doing its business is well known and seen on the bumpers and back windows of vehicles across the island.
Billy Gruff Creamery & Bistro – is another excellent place to grab a coffee, snack or a treat.
Wabi Sabi Boardwear – Surf/skate shop and clothing store
Across the street is Coombs Village Center. This is where things get a little strange, but you may find in a good way? Walk around Statue Square, and take a photo at the Fairy Castle and do some shopping at the unique stores.
If you’re looking for a beautiful and peaceful place to walk, bike or ride horses, the Rail Trail is a 7km 3-metre wide gravel path that follows an old railway bed and is now a pedestrian and cyclist path. The trail runs from Coombs to Parksville, and is well-maintained and easy to follow, making it a great choice for a relaxing stroll or an invigorating bike ride. Access to the trail is on the North Side of the Alberni (4A) Hwy
Most people park along the main road, although it does get busy and can be challenging to cross or pull away when leaving. Turning at the Fairy Castle will lead to more parking beside and behind the Village Center.
Just down the road from the Goats on the Roof Market, you can find a few more places that might be worth visiting.
The Other Side Artisan Collective – a great local artisans’ shop across the bridge and other side of the road.
Butterfly World, Coombs – Pretty Self-explanatory: butterflies, birds, critters and fish.
Coastal Carvings Fine Art Gallery – Fine art, custom furniture and carvings by Aboriginal Artists from the West Coast of British Columbia.
North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre – World-class wildlife rehabilitation facility
Goats hanging out on the roof of the Old Country Market is the most iconic feature of Coombs. Started as a fruit stand in 1972 by Norwegian immigrants, it was inspired by the homes and farm structures back home. The fruit stand quickly grew and began selling hamburgers to travellers. A few years later it was upgraded into a full-size market.
How did the goats become a thing? Legend has it that the grass on the roof was getting a little long and needed a little trim before the Coombs Fall Fair. Goats were enlisted to spruce up the place. Now more than thirty years later, goats are entertaining locals and visitors from all over the world. Now the Old Country Market sees countless visitors stopping to take photos of the famous goats. There is even a Live Webcam, so you can get a glimpse of both the tourists and goats.
Coombs ends up being a quick stop on the way to or from a destination location like Tofino. Other places that are picture worthy and close to Coombs include:
Englishman River Falls: an easy 30-minute walk that includes a bridge looking down at one of the most popular waterfalls on Vancouver Island.
Little Qualicum Falls: Another Provincial Park with a well-marked trail, beautiful canyon and waterfalls.
Cathedral Grove: This famous stop along the highway is a must for any visitor travelling along Alberni Highway to Tofino.
Top Bridge in Parksville: A local swimming hole with unique rock formations.
Coombs is a charming stop on your drive to Tofino and is well known for its iconic goats that live on the roof of the local grocery store. There’s more to see in Coombs than just the goats. Embrace the weirdness of this small community and check out some of the other unique stores and attractions while you’re there!
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