Photo Presets

The Mandagies

travelling around vancouver island

The Complete Vancouver Island Road Trip Itinerary (The Best Stops in 1 Week!)

Post Summary: The Ultimate 1-Week Vancouver Island Road Trip Itinerary 

Looking for your next big road trip in the Pacific Northwest?

Maybe you’ve driven the entire Pacific Coast Highway , seen all the sights along an Oregon Coast road trip , or even discovered all the hidden gems along an Olympic Peninsula trip itinerary .

If you’re looking for even more  things to do in the Pacific Northwest , you’ve got to plan a Vancouver Island road trip! Full of lush green forests, secret beaches, and lots of adventure, we’re here to share everything we know about this amazing location.

In this post, we’re putting together an epic 1-week Vancouver Island itinerary for you , including ways to extend your trip for even more adventure!

Are you ready?

Because this island is going to blow your mind!

Vancouver Island road trip itinerary Pin

No Time To Read?

That’s okay! Pin this to reference later!

Wild Pacific Trail Waves - Ucluelet, Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island Road Trip: PRE-TRIP PLANNING

This post may contain affiliate links, vetted and chosen by yours truly!

Wait, Where is Vancouver Island?

Vancouver Island is located in British Columbia, Canada . British Columbia sits on the west coast of Canada, and Vancouver Island is the largest island in that province. With 12,079 square miles to explore, it would take you 7 hours in the car to drive from end to end.

Planning our Vancouver Island road trip, we naively thought we could see the entire thing in a mere two weeks. Oh, how wrong we were!

To give Vancouver Island the time and exploration it deserves, one would need to spend at least a month on BC or come back for repeat trips to see different parts of the island.

Now, we totally get that most people don’t have that kind of free time. Therefore, this post is going to be the ideal itinerary to see the highlights of visiting Vancouver Island in ONE WEEK , and hopefully, it will light that spark to make a return trip ASAP!

Vancouver Island Road Trip Map - TheMandagies.com

The Best Way To Travel Around Vancouver Island

The best way to travel around Vancouver Island is by car . However, in order to bring a car to the island, you’ll need to travel by ferry (more on that below).

Since this post is a road trip itinerary, we recommend bringing (or renting!) a vehicle that has everything you need. Here are a few of our favorite options for getting around Vancouver Island:

Renting a Camper Van

If you are traveling to Vancouver Island in the summer, we can’t emphasize how much we recommend camping! There are so many amazing campsites on Vancouver Island, some even right next to the ocean! Our favorite way to rent recreational vehicles is from Outdoorsy .

Renting a converted van would mean you have the freeing mobility to be cooking breakfast under a forested canopy in the morning, and watching the sunset through your open doors after a long surf session by evening!

Bringing a Regular Car

Another really great option for traveling around Vancouver Island would be with a regular-sized car . One large enough to carry your gear, of course, but this gives you options to easily fit in hotel parking lots, down small roads, and still have the option of car camping, too!

Read More: 20 Genius Car Camping Hacks To Try On Your Next Road Trip

Taking the MV Coho Ferry From Port Angeles to Victoria, BC

How To Get To Vancouver Island

Since this IS an island, you’ll need to take a ferry to reach Vancouver Island.

If you haven’t been on a ferry before, it’s basically a really large boat that you can drive your car onto, like a water taxi that takes you across the water. Depending on the route you choose, you will sail through the Howe Sound, the Salish Sea, or the Strait of Juan de Fuca and pass spots like Bowen Island and Newcastle Island Park. There are multiple routes to take – here’s a breakdown below:

  • Horseshoe Bay (North Vancouver) to Nanaimo : This is the best route to take if you are hoping to explore places like Campbell River or Tofino.
  • Port Angeles, WA to Victoria: This is convenient for people who live in Washington and Oregon, and it drops you off right in the middle of Victoria!
  • Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay:  This is the most direct ferry route for people who live in Vancouver and want to reach the metro areas of Vancouver Island.

Expect the ferry costs to be around $90 total for two people. Bringing a car onto the ferry costs around $50 for normal cars (less than 20 feet in length and 7 feet high) and a little bit more in price for RVs and larger vehicles, and each person will be around $15-$20.

If you are traveling to Vancouver Island during the busy season (May – September) we recommend reserving your ferry spots at the  BC ferries website . If you are traveling to Vancouver Island in the off-season, there is likely to be a spot on the ferry, and you can pay for your ticket upon arrival.

Ferry To Vancouver Island Route Map TheMandagies.com

When Is The Best Time To Visit Vancouver Island?

Honestly, there isn’t a bad time to visit Vancouver Island . The changing seasons bring a variety of awesome activities, and it all depends on what you want to include in your one-week Vancouver Island itinerary.

Here’s a breakdown of the seasons and their highlights to help you make your decision:

  • Winter in Vancouver Island: Fewest crowds, storm watching in Tofino, and opportunities to do snow sports in Strathcona Provincial Park.
  • Spring in Vancouver Island: Gorgeous blooming cherry blossoms in Victoria, waterfalls at their fullest, many hiking opportunities.
  • Summer in Vancouver Island: Sunny days, Butchart Gardens (Victoria) in full bloom, lots of camping opportunities.
  • Autumn in Vancouver Island: Witness the salmon run, visit island wineries, enjoy the many harvest festivals on the island.

Vancouver Island Road Trip: DAY BY DAY BREAKDOWN

So how should you break down the days on your 1-week Vancouver road trip itinerary? Below, we’re giving you our recommendations, as well as extra places to consider exploring if you have a bit of extra time!

Victoria BC Marina Downtown

Day 1: Explore Victoria, BC

Your Vancouver Island Road Trip route is going to begin on a ferry. As explained above, there are several ways to get here, but Berty and I chose to take the Black Ball Ferry Line from Port Angeles, Washington, which docks you right in the heart of downtown Victoria.

The ferry ride was an adventure all its own! We got some major Wes Anderson vibes with the boat’s accidentally retro color palette and frozen-in-time furniture.

Emily Mandagie sitting on MV Coho Ferry Deck from Port Angeles, WA to Victoria, BC

Royal British Columbia Museum

The Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria is a perfect place to learn about BC’s natural and human history. Berty and I wanted to make this one of the first stops on our Vancouver Island road trip because we wanted to gain a deeper appreciation for the land before we discovered any further.

The museum is separated into three parts – The Natural History, Becoming BC, and the First People’s Gallery. Each one shares a unique story about British Columbia and what makes this area special. We especially loved learning about the First Nations’ languages, the temperate rainforest, and different natural conservative efforts going on in BC today!

We only had 24 hours in Victoria, so we weren’t able to explore it as much as we would have liked. Keep returning to this post, because when we make a return trip to Vancouver Island (and we want to very soon!) we’ll update this post with more things to do in Victoria, BC!

Inside the Royal BC Museum - Vancouver Island Road Trip Stop - TheMandagies.com

Day 2: Victoria To Port Renfrew

Driving Distance: 2-hours, 110 kilometers

To continue your Vancouver Island road trip, grab some coffee at a local roaster in Victoria and hit the road driving to the west coast of the island. Today will include places like Sooke (with amazing cliffside views and trails), Jordan River (lush rainforest hikes), and delicious small town treats!

East Sooke Park Hiking Trails - TheMandagies.com

Sooke is an adventurous town, just 30 minutes west of Victoria, BC. Many come here to enjoy the surrounding nature, which includes the popular Whiffin Spit Park (popular for bird watching) and the Sooke Potholes .

Looking to try a multi-day backpacking trip on the Juan de Fuca Trail or the West Coast Trail? Sooke is the perfect base to get prepped before your big backpacking trip . You can find tons of resources, as well as many delicious restaurants to prep you for the big trail ahead.

One of our favorite stops in Sooke was East Sooke Regional Park . Here, you can take their many coastal trails to discover secret coves (perfect for a picnic!) and incredible views of the Salish Sea. Our favorite trail was to Creyke Point (pictured above!) for its scenic cliffs and great sunset spots.

Emily Mandagie hiking at Mystic Beach, Port Renfrew, BC

Jordan River

Known for its epic surfing locations, Jordan River is smack in the middle of Port Renfrew and Sooke, making it a great stop during your Vancouver Island Road Trip.

Here, you have quick access to famous beaches like China Beach and Mystic Beach , and the town also serves as the beginning of the Juan de Fuca Trail . This is also where we stayed at this gorgeous rainforest cabin , and listened to the rain as we drifted to sleep.

For even more surfing opportunities, rainforest trails, and even a secret waterfall, consider hiking to Sombrio Beach . This trail will bring you to a slot canyon covered in bright green moss, perfect for those Indiana Jones discovery moments on Vancouver Island!

Read More: 10 Epic Adventures To Take In Port Renfrew, British Columbia

Shirley Delicious Restaurant - Places To Eat In Vancouver Island

Shirley, Vancouver Island

Shirley is a small community  nestled between Sooke and Jordan River, along Highway 14 (The Pacific Marine Circle Route).

Here you can stop in to grab a bite to eat at the exceptional Shirley Delicious restaurant and maybe even time your visit for the annual craft fairs around Christmas and springtime. Outdoor attractions nearby Shirley include the Sheringham Point Lighthouse Park , and French Beach , where we saw plenty of winter surfers catching waves!

A little bit more about Sheringham Point Lighthouse – established in 1912, it saved numerous lives on the dangerous waves offshore (this area is known a the Graveyard of the Pacific) and was designated a historic site for visitors to enjoy year-round!

Read More: Incredible Pacific Northwest Cabins To Rent

Fern Gully Cabins in Port Renfrew, Vancouver Island

Day 3: Exploring Port Renfrew

Driving Distance: Around Port Renfrew (<50 miles)

Port Renfrew is the farthest west location on the Pacific Marine Circle Route, and also at the end of Highway 14.

This town is wildly popular for hiking , whether it be along the sea’s edge, or deep in the rainforests of Vancouver Island. From the glassy tide pools of Botanical Beach to the gnarly giants of the Avatar Grove , Port Renfrew is the perfect location to stay if you’re seeking outdoor adventure.

Here are some attractions to consider along this part of your Vancouver Island Road Trip:

Big Lonely Doug Tree - Vancouver Island Road Trip Stop

Big Lonely Doug

Standing in the middle of a clear cut forest towers Big Lonely Doug, a 70 meter tall Douglas fir tree . No one knows why this tree was spared and the others not, but it is a beautiful sight to come and see with your own eyes. We were surprised at how truly huge this tree was, we definitely felt like tiny ants at its base!

Driving Note: To reach Big Lonely Doug, you’ll need to take a gravel/dirt logging road for about a 45-minute drive. We recommend having a 4-wheel drive vehicle and/or a skilled driver to navigate those giant potholes and steep stretches!

Berty Mandagie in Avatar Grove, Best Stops In Vancouver Island

Avatar Grove

Looking to explore deep in the rainforest on Vancouver Island? Avatar Grove is located just a short drive north of Port Renfrew, and it boasts some of the largest trees in the county ! Carefully cared for by the Ancient Forest Alliance , there are two sections to Avatar Grove – the Upper Grove and Lower Grove.

Each has a series of boardwalks to weave you through the forest to explore the numerous attractions along the way. One of the highlights of the trail is seeing Canada’s Gnarliest Tree (located at the end of the Upper Grove), which is a giant tree with huge burl growths attached to it.

Avatar Grove is easy to reach from Port Renfrew, and along the same route as Big Lonely Doug . Plan to see them together to save time!

Emily Mandagie on rope swing at Mystic Beach, Vancouver Island - TheMandagies.com

Mystic Beach

Mystic Beach is one of the most popular beaches to visit in this part of Vancouver Island. Serving as one terminus of the Juan de Fuca Trail, you will see backpackers enter here for their long 47-kilometer journey as well as day hikers coming to watch the sunset.

The journey is just as fun as the destination! Along the way, you will find yourself walking across a suspension bridge , crossing streams, and climbing over tree roots to reach the beach. Once you arrive, turn to your left to discover the waterfall cascading over the sandstone cliffs into the ocean!

Berty Mandagie exploring tide pools at Botanical Beach - TheMandagies.com

Botanical Beach

If you love the sea, Botanical Beach is an essential stop on your Vancouver Island Road Trip! This beach in British Columbia has some of the richest and most diverse tide pools in the area. Most of them are so clear and so deep that it looks like you are peeking into a mini aquarium at your feet!

We highly recommend visiting during low tide so you can experience the tide pools in their entirety.

Tide pool etiquette rules are required to keep this place alive and thriving, so do your part by stepping only on bare rocks and putting things back where you found them. Finally, never turn your back to the ocean (even at low tide!) and stay safe out there!

Driving in the car - Vancouver Island Road Trip Itinerary

Day 4: Driving From Port Renfrew To Tofino

Driving Distance: 5 hours, 340 kilometers

To continue your Vancouver Island Road Trip, you’ll have to begin the journey from Port Renfrew to Tofino . There are many stops along the way  so we’ll briefly touch on those below, but we also wanted to mention some of our favorite road trip posts to keep you busy on the drive!

Our Favorite Road Trip Podcasts + Audiobooks

We’ve compiled a list of our all-time favorite podcasts for a road trip , including some Bachelor gossip pods, some about viral internet memes, and so much more. Click to read the full list here!

15+ Incredible Road Trip Planner Apps

These road trip planner apps help us find everything from the fastest routes to the cheapest gas stations. We use these road trip apps all the time to make our lives a little bit easier during long road trips, and we hope you find your new favorites, too!

101 Road Trip Questions

Want to get to know your group better? We’ve compiled the perfect mix of serious and funny road trip questions , perfect for long drives and great conversations . You can even download the list for offline use here!

Cathedral Grove, Vancouver Island, British Columbia - TheMandagies.com

Vancouver Island Road Trip Stops From Port Renfrew to Tofino

  • Bonsai Fir Tree – A little fir tree is determined to grow in the middle of Fairy Lake atop a log sticking out of the water. It’s a cool sight!
  • Lizard Lake – Take a late breakfast or lunch break on Lizard Lake’s huge dock.
  • Cathedral Grove – Similar to Avatar Grove, this protected area of Macmillan Provincial Park has short boardwalk trails on either side of Highway 4 to walk among the giants and stretch your legs.

Kwisitis Visitor Center in Pacific Rim National Parrk

Day 5-6: Explore Around Tofino

Driving Distance: Around Tofino

Tofino is a west coast town on Vancouver Island, known for its surf culture and relaxing ocean vibe . Many people come here for long weekend getaways, so you’ll find plenty of gorgeous Tofino resorts and cabins dotting the ocean’s shore.

There are a lot of seriously amazing things to do in Tofino , but we’re sharing the highlights of our Vancouver Island Road Trip below, perfect for 2-3 days in Tofino . We think that if you spend a few days here, you can achieve everything on this list below!

Don’t forget to check out our Tofino packing list! It has a lot of specific items you should consider, especially if you’re new to the Pacific Northwest climate!

Read More: The Best Resorts In The Pacific Northwest

Exploring Long Beach near Tofino, BC

Walk The Beaches In Tofino

Some of our favorite times of the day were spent wandering the shores of beautiful beaches in Tofino . Depending on the time of year you take your road trip on Vancouver Island, the beaches can look very different, each season with its own unique vibe!

Come to Cox Bay to watch experienced surfers catch the waves. If it’s raining, hideaway in Long Beach Resort ‘s window-filled lounge and watch them from the sofa!

Chesterman Beach is perfect for beginning surfers and Mackenzie Beach is great for people who want to try Stand Up Paddle Boarding. Don’t forget to check out Tonquin Beach for some quick and easy beach trails in town, too!

There are so many beaches in Tofino to explore – we recommend stopping by the Tofino Visitor Centre to ask for suggestions. They can let you know which beach is best for you and your desired activities.

Emily Mandagie at Hot Springs Cove, Tofino, Vancouver Island

Visit Hot Springs Cove

Hot Springs Cove is a once in a lifetime adventure to a geothermal pool tucked away on the rocky shores of Vancouver Island! To reach these PNW hot springs , you’ll need to book a boat tour or floatplane departing from Tofino.

Plan for a full-day trip to these hot springs in BC. Regular tours leave around 9:00 am and return around 4:00 pm. For more information (and tricks to potentially get it all to yourself!) click here for all our best tips on visiting Hot Springs Cove .

Read More: Book This Epic Trip to Hot Springs Cove, Tofino

Cox Bay Lookout Trail - View From The Top

Hike To Cox Bay Lookout

Cox Bay Lookout is arguably home to some of the best views in Tofino !

This short but steep hike is located at the southernmost point of Cox Bay . Find the inconspicuous trailhead along a creek’s end, and climb up the root-entangled trail for about 20 minutes.

It’s a steep climb, so leave your pups at home and prepare to get your hands dirty! There are hot pink trail markers wrapped around tree trunks to help guide your way if you get lost.

Once at the top, enjoy expansive views of the Clayoquot Sound and the town of Tofino in the distance. On a clear day, this is an incredible spot to watch the sunset!

Read More: 13 Epic Hikes in Tofino Plucked Right From The Rainforest

Eat At Delicious Restaurants in Tofino

Tofino is one of the best places to visit on Vancouver Island and to top it all off, they have some of the best restaurants,  too!

Some of our personal favorites included Tacofino (an iconic taco food truck with outdoor seating) and Rhino Coffee and Donuts. However, there are so many more restaurants in Tofino that we loved, here are just some of them below…

  • Tacofino – Outdoor seating with huge burritos and local ingredients.
  • Tofitian – Convenient coffeehouse next to several beaches.
  • Rhino Coffee and Donuts – Great coffee, but even better donuts and breakfast sandwiches.
  • Kuma – Amazing Japanese comfort food like hearty ramen with vegan options as well.
  • Shelter Restaurant – Excellent date night option with amazing moody ambiance and fresh local eats.
Want to Stay Longer In The Tofino Area? Discover the best places to stay in Tofino, BC! (camping, budget + luxury!)

Myra Falls in Campbell River, Vancouver Island

Day 6: Tofino To Campbell River

Driving Distance: 3.5 hours, 270 kilometers

Campbell River is located on the north-eastern side of Vancouver Island ,  along the edge of the Discovery Passage waterway. Known for its iconic Tyee fishing spots and  abundant outdoor activities this is a great spot for nature lovers of all ages.

Stay awhile in Campbell River for their unique local eateries like Beach Fire Brewing (with crazy Tuesday experimental brews!) and carefully sourced Pacific Northwest ingredients at the famous Anglers Restaurant .

They are also known for being close to nature, which means you can grab brunch in town and be out on the trails just a half-hour later!

No matter how many days you choose to stay, Campbell River is a must-stop destination on your Vancouver Island trip! Here’s what we suggest doing while you’re here…

View of Elk Falls Campbell River, BC - TheMandagies.com

Elk Falls Provincial Park

Visiting Elk Falls is one of the most popular activities in Campbell River, BC. Located just a quick drive from town (we’re talking only 10 minutes!) Elk Falls provides a fun opportunity for the whole family to get outside.

With just a 2-kilometer trail you can experience epic views of Elk Falls from the platforms, as well as walk across the suspension bridge to view the powerful 25-meter drop .

Come for the short trail to the falls, or stick around longer to take an extended hike (6 kilometers) farther down the river for more magical river views.

Read More: The Perfect Weekend Itinerary in Campbell River, British Columbia

Myra Falls in Strathcona Provincial Park, British Columbia

Take The Trail To Myra Falls (+ Other Waterfalls Near Campbell River)

Another amazing activity to do along your Vancouver Island Road Trip is to discover the many nearby waterfalls in Strathcona Provincial Park . One of the easiest waterfalls to reach is Myra Falls, a 1-kilometer out-and-back trail with a killer view of this multi-tiered falls.

Come to the two viewpoints (upper and lower) and explore around the rocks to discover even more places to view the falls from up close! Don’t forget to pack a picnic to share along the shores of Buttle Lake , the endpoint of Myra Falls .

Love chasing waterfalls? Here are some other waterfalls on Vancouver Island to explore!

  • Lupin Falls: A tall 30-meter drop viewable from a short forest trail.
  • Lady Falls:  Old-growth trail leads to a viewing platform to feel the mist from this powerful Vancouver Island waterfall.
  • Niagara Falls: Near Victoria, BC, this waterfall requires just a quick walk from the parking lot. Continue farther up the trail to visit Niagara Trestle, too (scroll down for more info on that!).

Cabins at the Dolphins Resort, Campbell River, BC

Relax At Dolphins Resort

After a long day of driving and exploring along your Vancouver Island Road Trip, it’s time for the ultimate evening of relaxation at Dolphins Resort ! This unique resort in Campbell River offers the luxury of oceanside views combined with the feeling of being tucked away in the woods.

Berty and I stayed at their room called the Beach House , which is a converted studio with unobstructed views of the water, specifically over Discovery Passage. It was an incredible place to watch the sunrise , as well as feel rejuvenated and restored for a new day of adventure ahead!

Niagara Falls in Goldstream Provincial Park, Vancouver Island, BC

Day 7: End Your Vancouver Island Road Trip From Campbell River To Victoria

Driving Distance: 3 hours, 265 kilometers

Your Vancouver Island Road Trip has come to an end, but that doesn’t mean the adventure stops on your way back! Driving from Campbell River back to Victoria, BC, here are some stops you should check out on your drive…

Watching sunrise across Discovery Passage in Campbell River, BC

Sunrise at the Discovery Pier

Before leaving Campbell River, make sure to watch the sunrise from Discovery Pier. This historic pier is 180-meters long, with plenty of unobstructed views of Discovery Passage and Quadra Island across the water.

Grab some coffee at the Java Shack beforehand, and take a walking tour of the pier before you start your trip south to Victoria.

Niagara Trestle in Goldstream Provincial Park - TheMandagies.com

Niagara Trestle

The Niagara Trestle (also referred to as the Goldstream Trestle) is located in Goldstream Provincial Park , just 30 minutes north of Victoria. The hike to the trestle is short but extremely steep , so be prepared to take plenty of breaks on the way up.

The actual trestle itself is on private property , so respect the area and please do not walk along/across the top that’s suspended above the river. Feel free to take photos from the sides, though! On the way back to the car, make sure to stop by Niagara Falls – it’s the most powerful in the springtime!

Here are some other similar attractions to check out along the way:

The Kinsol Trestle: The Kinsol Trestle, located in Cowichan Valley, has been converted into a walking bridge towering 44 meters above the Koksilah River below. Come to stretch your legs during your Vancouver Island Road Trip!

Todd Creek Trestle: Located in the Sooke Potholes Provincial Park, this wooden trestle in Vancouver Island is a fun stop along your route.

Want To Extend Your Vancouver Island Road Trip?

Not ready to leave Vancouver Island? There are so many places to explore on the island that you won’t be able to see everything in just one trip (which is fine because we’re already itching to come back!)!

If you want to even further customize your trip or take some side trips along the way, here are more suggestions for making your Vancouver Island Road Trip unique to you!

Port Hardy and San Josef

Ready to explore the northern Vancouver Island ? Cape Scott Provincial Park  and Port Hardy are some of the most remote communities and parks you can visit on the Island, which brings a lot more opportunity to see wildlife and more space to yourself.

Don’t forget to check out Telegraph Cove near Port McNeill , a picturesque village on the edge of the water.

West Coast Trail

The backpacking trip of all backpacking trips is hands down on The West Coast Trail .  This 5-7 day backpacking trip is 75-kilometers along the coast in the Pacific Rim National Park . Permits are required, children are not allowed, and you are strongly encouraged to be an experienced backpacker.

From hand-carts across raging rivers, root-crossed trails, several ladders, and more, this is one of the most exciting and daunting backpacking trips out there.

Thirty minutes south of Tofino is the opposite side of the peninsula – a small town called Ucluelet . It’s worth an extended visit all its own! You’ll get the same climate and vibe as in Tofino, however, it’s home to the Wild Pacific Trail , awesome camping opportunities, and dramatic swells along the rocky ocean shores.

Ucluelet is more affordable than Tofino, but you’ll have that extra 30-minute drive into town . Expect amazing views of craggy shores and views of the Broken Group Islands to the south, and one of the longest beaches in the area, aptly named Long Beach for lots of different activity choices.

Sooke is a town on the southern coast of Vancouver Island, just 40 minutes from Victoria, BC. Here, you can experience unspoiled beaches , several hiking trails , East Sooke Provincial Park, The Sooke Potholes , and Roche Cove Park (to name a few favorites!).

This is a great stop along the Pacific Marine Circle Route if you’re looking to make Victoria a home base with smaller day trips around the area.

Pacific Marine Circle Route (Condensed Vancouver Island Road Trip)

Don’t have an entire week for your Vancouver Island road trip? Or maybe you don’t want to spend long hours in the car? Try taking the Pacific Marine Circle Route, which connects Victoria, Sooke, Port Renfrew, Lake Cowichan, Duncan and then back to Victoria.

This condensed version of a Vancouver Island Road Trip can be accomplished in 2-3 days, or you can spend an entire week just on this route, spending a lot of time in each area!

Vancouver Island Road Trip Itinerary Examples (5 Days, 1 Week, 2 Weeks)

Wondering if you can see all these iconic landmarks in just a one week Vancouver Island Road Trip?

To accommodate different trip lengths, we’re  sharing some more example itineraries  for a shorter 5 days in Vancouver Island and longer 2 weeks in Vancouver. Read below to find your perfect itinerary!

Note:  For the sake of convenience, we’re starting these Vancouver Island itineraries in Victoria, BC. If you’d like to start in Nanaimo or another place, just accommodate for your starting location!

Five Day Vancouver Island Itinerary (Pacific Marine Circle Route)

Highlights:  Quick access beaches, short hikes, easy-to-reach locations just off the highway.

Five days in Vancouver Island is a  perfect way to see all the highlights  on a quick Vancouver Island road trip. With a five day Vancouver Island itinerary, you will have lots of time to explore the island’s most easily accessible beaches and attractions.

Prepare either for  lots of time spent in the car , OR prioritizing a few places and saving some Vancouver Island destinations for another trip. Five days is a perfect amount of time to explore a smaller section of the island like the Pacific Marine Circle Route. This means saving the rest of the island for another trip, which isn’t a bad idea!

No matter what you choose, there are tons of beautiful places to visit on Vancouver Island and you won’t be disappointed!

  • Day 1:  Victoria, BC to Port Renfrew, BC
  • Day 2:  Port Renfrew to Lake Cowichan, BC
  • Day 3:  Lake Cowichan to Duncan, BC
  • Day 4:  Duncan, BC to Victoria, BC
  • Day 5:  Overnight in Victoria and spend the day exploring downtown!

Two-Week Vancouver Island Itinerary

Highlights:  More time in each destination, longer hikes, less-visited destinations.

We think two weeks is the ideal amount of time to spend on a Vancouver Island Road Trip.  During this time, you can do everything a 5-day trip would experience and MORE. You will have more time to take longer hikes and reach farther places, exploring more parts of the island!

This will give you a  deeper look into the hidden gems of Vancouver Island,  and allow you to see places not many others get to experience!

Here’s how we suggest you break down your days on a two-week Vancouver Island Road Trip:

  • Day 1:  Victoria, BC to Port Renfrew (see Sooke along the way)
  • Day 2:  Explore Port Renfrew (Big Lonely Doug, Avatar Grove, Botanical Beach, etc)
  • Day 3:  Drive from Port Renfrew to Tofino
  • Day 4:  Explore Tofino Beaches
  • Day 5:  Visit Hot Springs Cove, Tofino
  • Day 6:  Explore Tofino and Ucluelet (Pacific Rim National Park)
  • Day 7:  Drive from Tofino to Campbell River
  • Day 8: Explore Campbell River Area
  • Day 9: Explore Campbell River
  • Day 10: Drive to Port Hardy
  • Day 11: Camp in Cape Scott Provincial Park Day 12: Drive back down to Campbell River (stop at Telegraph Cove)
  • Day 13: Campbell River to Victoria, BC
  • Day 14: Explore Downtown Victoria, BC and return home!

Want a printable Vancouver Island itinerary? Sign up below and get your free downloadable copy!

Vancouver Island Road Trip Map (Downloadable!)

Below, you can find a map of Vancouver Island, the best spots to visit, and our favorite stops on a road trip itinerary! Save this map by clicking the top left corner to refer back to it later!

What stop are you most looking forward to on a Vancouver Island Road Trip? Any stops you would add to our Vancouver Island itinerary? Let us know in the comments below!


Amazing Things To Do In Port Renfrew, British Columbia

Take The Adventurous East End of Rundle Hike In Canmore, Alberta

Visit Capilano Suspension Bridge Park in Vancouver, Canada

20+ Amazing Things To Do In Banff National Park

How To Spend One Day In Vancouver, British Columbia

How To Plan A Trip To The Pacific Northwest

Ready for your next epic Canada adventure? Consider a Vancouver Island road trip! This epic British Columbia itinerary is packed with epic beaches, ancient forests, gorgeous backpacking trails, and so much more! Save this post to plan your epic trip! #canada #vancouverisland #tofino #britishcolumbia #victoriaBC #roadtrip #sooke #portrenfrew #photography #campbellriver #PacificRimNationalPark #rainforest

Uncovering British Columbia

10 Epic Vancouver Island Road Trip Itineraries That You Will Want to Explore

Vancouver Island is a prime destination for road trips, boasting scenic coastal highways, charming towns , and stunning natural landscapes. A popular Vancouver Island road trip route is the Pacific Rim Highway, which stretches along the west coast of the island, offering breathtaking ocean views and access to Pacific Rim National Park. Another must-see is the Cowichan Valley, known for its wineries, cideries, and artisanal food scene. The island also has plenty of outdoor activities, such as hiking in Strathcona Provincial Park, surfing in Tofino, and whale watching in Victoria. With diverse attractions and stunning scenery, Vancouver Island road trips offer something for everyone.

Vancouver island road trip

Tips for a Road Trip to Vancouver Island

How to get to vancouver island.

There are several ways to get to Vancouver Island. This is an island with no bridges, so you can either take a seaplane, commercial airplane, private boat or a ferry. The ferry is the most popular option and is an extension of the highway system in British Columbia. Likely you will use the ferry if you are bringing a car. If you are flying to the island, you can also get a rental car on arrival (make sure to book ahead ).

Here are the most popular ways to get to Vancouver Island:

  • Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay (Victoria)
  • Tsawwassen to Duke’s Point (Nanaimo)
  • Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay (Nanaimo)
  • Port Angeles (WA) to Victoria
  • Anacortes (WA) to Sidney (Victoria)

How long should you spend on Vancouver Island

This all depends on how much time you have. A short Vancouver Island road trip can be done in a long weekend. To really explore the island, you will want at least a week. The island is 456 kilometers (283 miles) long and 100 kilometers (62 miles) wide. To drive from the bottom to the top (or vise versa) it would take about eight hours without stopping.

When is the best time to visit Vancouver Island?

The best time to visit Vancouver Island depends on what you plan to do. Summer is peak time to visit just about anywhere in British Columbia with families on summer break and international visitors. Victoria sees cruise ship passengers who are headed on an Alaska cruise as well as many international visitors who are exploring British Columbia’s capital. The rest of the island sees plenty of locals who are taking weekend trips from Vancouver . British Columbians love to camp and explore the beautiful province in the summertime.

Vancouver Island really can be visited all year round as long as you are prepared for the weather.

Do I need a Car

The easiest way to explore Vancouver Island is by car. Whether you bring your own or rent one , it will make it much easier to explore. There is a limited bus service on Vancouver Island that you can book, but it is not the easiest way to see the island.

What to Pack for Vancouver Island

Packing for a road trip adds a few more things than a normal packing list. I do have some complete packing lists for places like Tofino . So have a read of that list as well so you are prepared for the West Coast.

  • Car Phone Charger or Battery Pack
  • Sim card for Canada
  • Cooler for snacks and drinks
  • refillable water bottles and coffee cups
  • rain jacket and waterproof shoes

Popular Stops on your Vancouver Island Road Trip

  • Victoria (Read about Victoria with kids, Victoria with teens , Victoria at Christmas , and Victoria in 3 days )
  • Tofino (Read about Tofino restaurants , best places for breakfast, Where to stay )
  • Port Alberni
  • Campbell River
  • Qualicum Beach

Sample Vancouver Island Road Trip Itineraries

  • Vancouver to Parksville (via Nanaimo)
  • Parksville to Tofino (via Port Alberni and Ucluelet)
  • Tofino to Victoria
  • Victoria to Vancouver

6 days from Washington

  • Washinton to Parksville (via Tsawassen Ferry Terminal)
  • Victoria to Port Angeles

7 days from Vancouver

  • Parksville to Tofino (via Port Alberni)
  • Pacific Rim National Park and Ucluelet

7 days from Washington

  • Vancouver to Parksville (via Nanaimo Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal)

8 Days from Vancouver

  • Arrive in Vancouver
  • Vancouver to Parksville (via BC Ferries)
  • Parksville to Tofino (part of the Nanaimo to Tofino road trip route)
  • Tofino and Pacific Rim National Park
  • Victoria to Vancouver (via BC ferries)

5 Day Circle Route from Victoria

  • Arrive in Victoria via BC Ferries, WA Ferries or Air drive to Sooke
  • Sooke to Port Renfrew
  • Port Renfrew to Cowichan Bay
  • Cowichan Bay to Victoria
  • Depart Victoria

6 Day Circle Route from Victoria

  • Arrive in Victoria via BC Ferries, WA Ferries or Air
  • Victoria to Sooke

8 Days Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island

  • Vancouver to Sechelt vit Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal
  • Explore Sechelt
  • Sechelt to Powell River
  • Powell River to Tofino
  • Pacific Rim National Park to Victoria
  • Depart Victoria via Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal

5 Days Victoria Express to Powell River

  • Victoria to Cowichan Bay
  • Cowichan Bay to Sechelt (via BC ferries)
  • Powell River to Vancouver (via BC ferries in Sechelt)

Northern Vancouver Island 8 Days

  • Arrive Vancouver
  • Vancouver to Tofino (via BC ferries)
  • Tofino to Parksville
  • Parksville to Campbell River
  • Campbell River to Port Hardy
  • Port Hardy to Vancouver (via BC ferries in Nanaimo)


Lindsay Nieminen is the creator of UncoveringBC.com. She grew up and still lives in the suburbs of Vancouver with her family. She aims to inspire inform, and educate others about traveling in her home province of British Columbia. She is also the creator of carpediemourway.com  which aims to show parents how to seek out adventure at home or abroad, with their children in tow!

Leave a Comment Cancel reply

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

Logo for The Travelling City Girl.

7 Day Vancouver Island Road Trip Itinerary (With Map)

travelling around vancouver island

Are you looking for a 7 day Vancouver Island road trip itinerary?

I was born and raised in Vancouver, and Vancouver Island is only a ferry ride away. I have been to Vancouver Island countless times from the mainland and have done road trips on the island.

A Vancouver Island road trip is a fantastic way to explore the island’s beauty. The island is home to diverse wildlife, a mild climate, storm watching, surfing, and more.

While there are many places to visit on the island, this itinerary includes the main destinations, such as Victoria and Tofino.

Let’s dive into the itinerary for this seven day road trip on Vancouver Island.

7 Day Vancouver Island Road Trip Itinerary Overview

Here is a brief overview of the Vancouver Island road trip. You can also start your trip backwards, but you will have to start at the Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal instead of Tsawwassen Bay Ferry Terminal.

  • Day 1 & 2: Victoria
  • Day 3: Nanaimo
  • Day 4 & 5: Tofino
  • Day 6 & 7: Ucluelet

Day 1 & 2 In Victoria

Located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, Victoria is the capital of British Columbia and the first stop on your road trip to Vancouver Island.

Victoria is worth visiting because it combines historic and modern locations, making it a unique destination. It has much to offer, with iconic landmarks, beautiful parks, and a thriving culinary scene.

While there are many things to do in Victoria, you can still pack a lot of places to see in a couple of days.

Birds eyeview of the city of Victoria. Victoria is the biggest city on Vancouver Island. There are many buildings and trees and the ocean.

Things To Do In Victoria

Here are a few things to do while you’re visiting Victoria. If you’re visiting Victoria in winter, there are still things to do.

1. Walking Around Downtown

Nothing beats walking around downtown Victoria on a sunny day. Many hot spots include Chinatown , The Empress Hotel , and Fisherman’s Wharf . Downtown is also excellent for checking out local restaurants, pubs, and coffee shops.

Fan Tan Alley

Fan Tan Alley is a famous landmark in one of Canada’s oldest Chinatowns . It holds the record for the narrowest street as well.

Fan Tan Alley’s location is in Chinatown. It’s an alley in the middle of the block between Fisgard and Pandora Avenue, with boutiques, jewellery, clothing, and more.

Women (me) walking through a narrow alley way. Fan Tan Ally in Victoria is a must stop on a Vancouver Island road trip itinerary.

Victoria Bug Zoo

If you have children who love looking at bugs, insects, and arachnids, head to the Victoria Bug Zoo. It’s a great place to learn everything bug-related and closely examine their daily habits. Karly, the manager , is an excellent guide and incredibly informative!

I have been to the bug zoo many times, and while I’m not a huge fan of bugs, I did enjoy holding the stick bugs.

Ghost Ramen

If you’re looking for a place to eat for dinner, check out Ghost Ramen. They offer excellent ramen (a Japanese-style noodle dish served in soup with various toppings). The ambience at night was fantastic, and the service/servers were friendly.

2. Victoria Guided Food And History Tour

Suppose you want a more in-depth history of specific locations in Victoria, or interested in the culinary scene, or are a foodie in general. I recommend looking into the Victoria Guided Food and History Tour .

The tour will take approximately two hours , and a guide will take you around downtown Victoria to try local food, craft beer, chocolate and more!

➡️ Check Prices & Availability for The Victoria Guided Food and History Tour

3. Tour The Legislative Assembly of British Columbia

Explore the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia in Victoria and learn about the province’s political history and governance.

Take advantage of free daily guided tours , providing a look into the operations of the historic parliament buildings. Discover the legislative process and wander through the chambers.

Knowledgeable guides share narratives that showcase the development of democracy in British Columbia, creating an educational and immersive journey for visitors.

Sideway far away photo of the Legislative building.  A Vancouver Island road trip is an excellent way to explore the capital of British Columbia.

Where To Stay In Victoria

Here are a couple of places to stay in Victoria.

💎 Luxury Hotel — The Magnolia Hotel And Spa

The beautiful Magnolia Hotel and Spa building outside view. A modern but vintage looking building on a corner lot.

The Magnolia Hotel and Spa is a beautiful, luxurious four-star hotel in Downtown Victoria. Depending on which side of the hotel you’re on, you will have a magnificent ocean/scenic view or the Parliament Building.

It’s on the more high-end side of a hotel, but considering its location, the Magnolia Hotel and Spa is the perfect spot to stay.

Inside the Magnolia Hotel and Spa lobby with two grey couches across from each other with a glass table in between. There are modern decorations and a large chandelier on the ceiling.

🎯 Budget-Friendly — Hotel Zed Victoria

Hotel Zed in Victoria has modern comfort with a retro vibe, offering practical amenities like free Wi-Fi and a ping pong room. Conveniently located across from Mayfair Shopping Centre, it’s a budget-friendly option not far away from Downtown Victoria.

Day 3 In Nanaimo

While Victoria to Nanaimo is approximately one hour and a 40-minute drive, it’s a great spot to relax before hitting the road to your next location on your Vancouver Island road trip.

Nanaimo is situated on the Eastern coast of Vancouver Island, and it has many recreational options. It also has an extensive shoreline, one of the longest in Canada, and a backdrop of forested mountains just outside the downtown area.

Things To Do In Nanaimo

Here are some things to do while you’re in Nanaimo.

1. Neck Point Park

Walk through the forest of Neck Point Park until you reach the beautiful pebble beach entrance to the ocean — a great park to take the dogs and children or have a picnic until you catch the sunset.

Photo of a neighbourhood across the water with trees surrounding it.Nanaimo is the second largest city on Vancouver Island.

2. Nanaimo Bar Tasting

Nanaimo Bars are a well-known dessert or treat (at least well-known in Canada).

Originated in Nanaimo (hence the name) is a layered treat with a smooth chocolate layer on top, butter and custard powder mixed in the middle, and crushed graham crackers and nuts mixed with chocolate at the bottom.

It’s then refrigerated to chill, and then you can eat! I personally like eating Nanaimo Bars. I’ve been eating them since I was a kid.

Dessert called Nanaimo bars are a Canadian favourite dessert orginated on Vancouver Island. Smooth chocolate on top with yellow butter and custard powder in the middle, crush graham crackers and nuts mixed with choclate at the bottom. Cut into small squares.

Bocca Café is a great spot to try the original or different flavours of Nanaimo Bars. They also have a Nanaimo Bar Latte, which is worth a try.

3. Ammonite Falls

If you want to hike, Ammonite Falls is an excellent spot in Nanaimo. It’s also a fantastic hike in the snow if you happen to be hiking in the winter.

The two to three hour hike will take you to the Ammonite Falls. It can be a strenuous trek for some. As a precaution, there are steep areas. However, there are ropes in those locations to help you in those specific spots.

A waterfall on the right over a rock wall into a small pool of water at the bottom into a stream. Ammonite Falls located on Vancouver Island.

Where To Stay In Nanaimo

Best western northgate.

The Best Western Northgate is further out from downtown Nanaimo; however, it’s still surrounded by all your needs, for example, restaurants and grocery stores.

However, it’s just off Island Highway North, so it’s accessible to Downtown Nanaimo — only 12 minutes away by car and 28 minutes by transit.

Stops Between Nanaimo And Tofino

Nanaimo and Tofino are a three-hour drive away. The drive is beautiful and scenic, with views of mountains and lakes. However, there are stops on the way to Tofino that are a must-do. It’s also considered one of the best winter road trips in British Columbia .

Old Country Market – Goats On Roof

In Coombs , British Columbia, there’s a great market you need to check out called Old Country Market, aka Goats on Roof. If you’re wondering, yes, they have actual goats on their roof during the summertime .

The main market store is excellent for picking up groceries, pastries, and deli meat. You can also pick up gifts from a wide range of nicknacks to home goods from around the world.

On the outside, the surrounding areas have a gelato/ice cream parlour where you can grab some snacks, a retail store, and a produce market. Also, a small doughnut shop is at the back of the Old Country Market.

If you go through the fenced area, there are a handful of more stores to look at, too.

White goats on a grass covered roof in Coombs British Columbia.

Hole In The Wall

There are many Vancouver Island waterfalls around Port Alberni; notably, one is called Hole in the Wall. A small hike along a gravel path will only take about 20 minutes to do.

It was once a shortcut to the city’s waterline; however, now it’s a fantastic small waterfall for tourists to experience.

Port Alberni

Another rest stop along the way is Port Alberni. It’s a small town where you can stretch your legs and top off your gas. Port Alberni will be one of the last few places to fill up gas before heading to the next stop on your Vancouver Island road trip.

Day 4 & 5 In Tofino

Tofino is worth visiting and is located on the western edge of Vancouver Island. It’s a small coastal village renowned for its outstanding natural beauty and outdoor recreational opportunities.

It’s a popular destination for surfing, whale watching, and exploring the pristine beaches and old-growth rainforests.

Overhead shot of the coast of Tofino the ocean and islands in the distance with other parts of Vancouver Island. Tofino is one of the most popular places to visit on Vancouver.

Things To Do In Tofino

Are there things to do other than surfing in Tofino? Yes, there is!

1. Tacofino

One of the most popular things to check out is the Tacofino Food Truck. It serves Mexican-inspired food with a Western influence. The most popular items on the menu are fish tacos and burritos . I liked the pork gringas when I had them.

Front ordering station of an orange foodtruck with lots of different stickers on it and a lady Mary? Holding a burrito. Tacofino is famous in Tofino, known for its Mexican inspired surfer style food.

2. Beach Hopping

Tofino has many beaches to hop around, which are all amazing to experience during the storm-watching season. Some beaches that are closer to Tofino are Wickaninnish Beach , Cox Bay Beach , Long Beach , Mackenzie Beach , and my favourite, Chesterman Beach .

Where To Stay In Tofino

Cox bay beach resort.

Cox Bay Beach Resort is in an excellent location in Tofino. The resort is situated on Cox Bay Beach, with beautiful views and fully stocked amenities, making it feel like a home away from home. It’s also the perfect spot for families.

Day 6 & 7 In Ucluelet

Ucluelet is another coastal village 30 minutes from Tofino known for its rugged coastline and easygoing atmosphere. I personally liked visiting Ucluelet over Tofino.

The landscape features rocky shores, pristine beaches, and lush rainforests, providing a perfect retreat for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Things To Do In Ucluelet

While Tofino and Ucluelet are a short distance away, you may wonder if is Ucluelet worth visiting . What is there to do? Here are a couple of things to do.

1. Amphitrite Point Lighthouse

A must-visit attraction in Ucluelet is the Amphitrite Point Lighthouse or the Lighthouse Loop. This accessible 2.9-kilometer (1.8-mile) loop typically takes around 45 minutes to an hour to complete .

My boyfriend and I had a fantastic experience on this trail. We thoroughly enjoyed the numerous lookout points and discovered access to a charming small beach.

The Amphitrite Point Lighthouse in the centre of the photo with a red head and white body. The Lighthouse Loop is one of the best easy hikes to do in Ucluelet.

2. Big Beach

Big Beach in Ucluelet offers a captivating exploration experience. Turning over rocks can uncover tiny crabs and small tidal pools with hidden sea creatures at low tide.

Upon entering the beach, you will find a display featuring a picture of an eagle’s wingspan , allowing you to compare your wingspan with eagle information.

Do not miss The Tree of Life , a notable tree stump with historical information dating back to the 1200s!

Rocky beach with the sun setting. Big Beach was one of my favourite places when I visited Ucluelet.

Where To Stay In Ucluelet

Black rock oceanfront resort.

Black Rock Oceanfront Resort is on a small cliffside surrounded by black rock and spectacular ocean views. It’s in a great location, only a 15-minute walk from the main town of Ucluelet and a five-minute walk from the Wild Pacific Trail.

Fantastic for couples or families and has a small outdoor pool everyone can enjoy. During dinner, you can also experience Currents Restaurant with a spectacular ocean view and sunset. I also want to note that the rooms have no air conditioning .

When Is The Best Time To Visit Vancouver Island?

While you can visit Vancouver Island year-round, the best times are from March to May or September to November .

Also, temperatures during those months are more moderate and comfortable. However, you can expect possibly more rain.

If you’re on a budget, travelling during those months mentioned above will most likely be cheaper than going during the summer.

How To Get To Vancouver Island

How to get to Vancouver Island from Vancouver is incredibly easy, and it’s only a ferry ride away from the mainland of Vancouver. Before you start your road trip, you’re probably wondering how to get to Vancouver Island first.

Head along Highway 99 South , approximately a 40-50 minute drive to Tsawwassen Bay Ferry Terminal . You want to catch the ferry heading to Swartz Bay, Victoria .

The ride between the two ferry terminals will be approximately an hour and a 40-minute ride.

The other option is from the Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal . Heading on Highway 99 North towards West Vancouver is roughly 20 minutes from Downtown Vancouver (without traffic).

💡 Note: Departure times change, and delays may occur.

A bus route runs to and from the ferry terminal departing from Richmond. However, getting to the terminal by bus will be a more extended trip.

Depending on where you’re coming from in the city, you want to head toward the Canada Line . Once on the Canada Line, you want to get on the train to Bridgeport Station ; after you get off, head to Station Bay 12 and get on the 620 Tswwassen Bay Ferry Express bus.

You’ll then have to buy a walk-on ferry ticket at the desk or online. Once you reach the island, buses stop at the ferry terminal and take you to Downtown Victoria.

How To Get Around Vancouver Island

While Victoria is the central city, multiple buses operate throughout Downtown Victoria . However, getting to the more remote locations around Vancouver Island will be much more accessible by car .

If you’re travelling on foot, no rental car places are immediately close to the ferry terminal. However, there are many car rental companies in Downtown Victoria .

In addition, you can take a bus that regularly stops are the ferry terminal that will take you directly to Downtown Victoria.

Biking in Victoria is growing in popularity and is another way of getting around downtown Victoria. However, I would not recommend biking around Vancouver Island unless you’re prepared and qualified for a long bike ride.

Where Is Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island is located off Canada’s Southwestern coast, part of the British Columbia province. It’s separated from the mainland by the Strait of Georgia to the East and the Juan de Fuca Strait to the South.

Vancouver Island Road Trip Itinerary — FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about a Vancouver Island road trip.

What Is Special About Vancouver Island?

What is special about Vancouver Island, you may ask? Well, to start with, Vancouver Island is known for its untamed wildlife, beautiful scenic views, moderate temperatures, relaxing and easy-going environment, and so much more.

Hiking beautiful trails and water activities, such as kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, are the most popular things on Vancouver Island.

Can You Drive All Around Vancouver Island?

While you can drive on Vancouver Island, the island is an end-to-end type of drive as you can’t drive all of the island in a loop situation . There are also remote locations that you can’t get to by car on the island.

Can You Drive Vancouver Island In A Day?

No, you can’t drive Vancouver Island in a day . You can drive from one end of the island to the other, but it will take you more than seven hours without stops.

Is Driving Easy On Vancouver Island?

Overall, yes I would say driving on Vancouver Island is easy. However, there may be tight turns around corners, so always exercise caution regardless.

As you can see, there are many things to do and see on Vancouver Island in seven days. From Victoria to Tofino, each day offers different experiences and something waiting for you to explore.

Have a good day 🙂

' src=

Kelena is the founder and author of The Travelling City Girl. She's a part-time travel blogger passionate about exploration and dedicated to becoming a full-time travel blogger. She's here to help you gain information and knowledge, focusing on her expertise on her home province of British Columbia.

  • Destinations
  • Outdoor Adventures
  • Travel Photography
  • Trip Planning
  • Bucket List
  • Terms/Privacy
  • Travel Resource Library

My Wandering Voyage

Unforgettable 5-day Vancouver Island Road Trip itinerary

From mountains to forests to beaches and the ocean, Vancouver Island has it all. Use this 5 day itinerary for a Vancouver Island road to find the must see places on Canada’s west coast. | My Wandering Voyage travel blog #VancouverIsland #BritishColumbia #Canada #Travel

Vancouver Island is a magical, forested, natural beauty off the coast of British Columbia. From mountains to beaches, this sizable island has it all. There’s so much to see here that it will be hard to fit it into a five-day Vancouver Island road trip, but let’s try!

NOTE: Travel is not recommended at this time. These posts are here to serve as inspiration when we can explore again. Hey there – this post likely contains affiliate links, which means I earn a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you purchase from them. This helps me earn a few dollars to run this website.

What you need to know about a Vancouver Island Road Trip

Taking the ferry, how to get around on vancouver island, vancouver island road trip 5 day itinerary, ferry to island, explore nanaimo bar trail, stop and marvel at cathedral grove, drive to tofino, where to stay in tofino/ucluelet, explore pacific rim national park reserve, beach hop at pacific rim national park, hit both loops of the rainforest trail, visit outside break, go surfing, explore tofino, check out tonquin park, hit up the hot springs cove, drive to victoria, afternoon whale watching, where to stay in victoria, explore victoria, visit butchart gardens, depart for vancouver at swartz bay.

From mountains to forests to beaches and the ocean, Vancouver Island has it all. Use this 5 day itinerary for a Vancouver Island road to find the must see places on Canada’s west coast. | My Wandering Voyage travel blog #VancouverIsland #BritishColumbia #Canada #Travel

Vancouver Island, and much of coastal British Columbia, is known for its temperate climate. But, also for its wacky weather. It rains a lot here, and the humidity is unreal. When you go out for a hike, make sure you have good tread for the slick or mucky conditions. A light rain jacket is a good idea too.

The roads are reasonably well-kept on the island, but once you start venturing further out, the more rugged the roads become. Make sure your car can handle the road conditions. Also, make sure to keep your gas tank relatively full. Some of the stops are further than you’d expect. (The island is larger than the country of Belgium, after all.) But, cell signal isn’t great once you leave Port Alberni, so you won’t be able to call out if you run out of gas.

How to get to Vancouver Island

Getting to Vancouver Island | Vancouver Island road trip 5 day itinerary | My Wandering Voyage

Vancouver Island is, wait for it, an island! *gasp* So you’ll have to find some way of getting there. There are three options.

The best option is to rent a car and take one of the many ferries that cross over to the island. It’s the easiest way to have everything you need with you before setting off for the island, and you don’t have to worry about other transportation.

The second option would be to be a foot passenger on the ferry then rent a car once you arrive on the island. Sure, you’ll save yourself the $60 for the ferry fee, but the ferry terminals aren’t close to the towns, so you’ll have to arrange transportation to and from, which adds on to your costs.

The third option is to fly. There are airports (both on land or in the harbour) that you could travel to then rent a car once you land. It’s not a particularly economical option, but an option none-the-less.

BC Ferries Vancouver Island | Vancouver Island road trip 5 day itinerary | My Wandering Voyage

I quite enjoyed the ferry ride across the Georgia Strait. It was a calm and scenic journey. The boat was quite large (and fit so many cars!). It had a restaurant, a gift shop, a business lounge and a kids play area.

BC Ferries says its busiest times are on holiday weekends, with peak volumes on Thursday and Friday afternoons, Saturday mornings and Monday afternoons. They highly suggest that mid-week, mid-morning sailing times would be best for a less crowded travel experience.

For most travel crossings, you want to be there at least 30 minutes before your boarding time. I suggest at least one hour before for busy summer travel times. But check the BC Ferries website for up-to-date, accurate information.

For those who may have never boarded a ferry before, it can be an intimidating process. Once you check in to the terminal, you will be told to sit and wait in a lane until boarding. You can leave your car, but someone (a driver) must be with the vehicle at all times. Be careful of traffic in other lanes, and, for everyone’s sanity, make sure you’re back in your car before boarding so you don’t hold up everyone behind you.

Then as you drive up onto the boat, attendants will point you to where you park inside the belly of the ship. Follow the signs on board for how close to park to the person in front of you. Then turn off your car, head up the stairwell (noting where you parked) and enjoy the ride!

Driving on Vancouver Island | Vancouver Island road trip 5 day itinerary | My Wandering Voyage

There are a couple of ways to get around on Vancouver Island, but the most efficient will be your own car. This will allow you the freedom of your own itinerary, rather than waiting for public transportation. This Vancouver Island road trip is for people with vehicles since there are a couple of stops you’ll want to make in the interior of the island too!

But, there are other options. Just do your research and make reservations as much as possible.

Bus – The Vancouver Island Connector is a transit system that connects the towns all over the city. They have a couple of regular stops, like Victoria, Nanaimo and Tofino, but you can make reservations to stop at one of their many locations. Tickets aren’t super cheap, but depending on how long you are here, it might be the more economical option.

Seaplane – If you’d rather spend your time travelling in the air, then seaplane travel is for you. Unfortunately, there are no direct routes. For example, you could fly from Vancouver harbour to Nanaimo, then back to Vancouver to head to Tofino, then back again in order to fly to Victoria. Obviously, the weather will have a big part to play in landing on the water, that’s why many of their routes are seasonal. But it’s quite the experience!

Water taxi – In Victoria, you can hop onto the water taxis to effortlessly take you from one part of the harbour to the other. It’ll save you some walking time.

whale watching near Victoria BC | Vancouver Island road trip 5 day itinerary | My Wandering Voyage

On this Vancouver Island Road Trip, you’ll taste the Nanaimo Bar Trail, marvel at giant trees, beach comb at a National Park, hike in a rainforest, go surfing in Tofino, see the capital city and spot whales in the wild. Sound like fun? Let’s go!

Day one of a Vancouver Island Road Trip is all about getting to the islands and seeing your first sights. While it will only take half a day to get from the mainland all the way to the west coast of Vancouver Island, you’ll want to take your time to enjoy the stops along the way, like tasting delicious treats in Nanaimo and marvelling the giants at Cathedral Grove.

The first stop you’ll want to enjoy is the 1.5-hour crossing from Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay. I loved the smooth ride staring out the windows on the ship lookout out over the blue channel and seeing all the islands dotting the horizon. This crossing made me appreciate how wild much of British Columbia really is.

A Nanaimo Bar in Nanaimo BC | Vancouver Island road trip 5 day itinerary | My Wandering Voyage

When you arrive on Vancouver Island at Departure Bay, you’ll want to make the detour to Nanaimo, rather than heading straight to the western coast. Not only do they have an interesting downtown, but the town also boasts a Nanaimo Bar Trail.

You cannot leave Nanaimo without eating a Nanaimo bar. The coconut custard chocolate dessert bar’s history is a bit mysterious. No one really knows where the origins of the dessert came from, but the first time it was mentioned was in the 1950s in Edith Adam’s Cookbook and published in the Vancouver Sun.

Tourism Nanaimo has a 34-stop Nanaimo bar trail. From the traditional Nanaimo bar to a Nanaimo bar cinnamon bun to a Nanaimo bar pedicure – there is everything related to this delicious dessert.

Other things you should check out in Nanaimo include the Old City Quarter (with its colourful buildings), the Bastion and the 12 o’clock gun.

After you’ve had a grand old time checking out what Nanaimo has to offer, it’s time to hit the road toward Tofino.

RELATED: Sweet dreams are made of this: Nanaimo, British Columbia

Giant trees in Cathedral Grove Macmillan Provincial Park | Vancouver Island road trip 5 day itinerary | My Wandering Voyage

Your first and most important stop along the way should be at the Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Provincial Park. Located along Highway 4, you can’t miss the small parking lots located on either side of the road.

Once you stop, you’re greeted with giant Douglas Firs that reach up to the sky. Some of the trees here are over 800 years old. The largest tree stands 76 metres, which is 20 metres taller than the leaning tower of Pisa.

There are two trails, each winding like a figure eight on both sides of the road. On the south side, you’ll find the Douglas Firs that stand sentinel in the forest. On the northern side, you’ll find the ancient cedar groves. Both trails are not very long and are easy to walk, so take your time and hike both.

Sights along Hwy 4 on Vancouver Island | Vancouver Island road trip 5 day itinerary | My Wandering Voyage

As you drive from Nanaimo to Tofino, you’ll pass a few interesting places. Like the hole in the wall, a natural attraction outside of Port Alberni. This short trail, only 700 metres off the highway leads you to a human-made hole in the rock that was taken back by nature, becoming a waterfall.

Continuing along the Pacific Rim Highway, you’ll pass Taylor Arm Provincial Park, Sutton Pass Ecological Reserve, Clayoquot Plateau Provincial Park and Kennedy Lake Provincial Park before coming to the fork in the road that will take you to either Tofino or Ucluelet.

Another stop on the Vancouver Island Road trip that you have to make is at Wally Creek. This pull-off from the highway. With crystal clear water, it’s a cool spot for swimming in the summer. Plus, there’s also a love lock fence that’s fun to peruse.

Fair warning, the Pacific Rim Highway is not for the faint of heart. After clearing Sproat Lake, the rest of the journey follows the twists and turns of the Kennedy River valley for 42 kilometres. And while the scenery is gorgeous, you need to keep your eyes on the road to watch for falling rocks, tight turns and sections of the mountains that jut over the highway.

RELATED: Visit wild Tofino, British Columbia

Wya Point Yurts | Vancouver Island road trip 5 day itinerary | My Wandering Voyage

Once you make it to the fork in the road, you can decide which way you’d like to go. I stayed at Wya Point Resort , an Indigenous-owned (Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ) resort with cabins, yurts and campgrounds.

Falling asleep in the dark, with the stars above me, listening to the sound of the waves beat against the rocky beach was one hell of an experience.

Wya Point Resort is located just south of the fork – also known as The Junction. Each yurt has a perfect view of the beach and the Pacific Ocean both inside and out on the private deck. Yurts come equipped with a comfortable bed, bedding, a kitchenette (really just a wash station and dishes), a gas fireplace, and a small generator to run the lights. There are no washroom facilities in the yurt, but a common facility with bathrooms and showers is nearby.

inside the Wya Point yurt | Vancouver Island road trip 5 day itinerary | My Wandering Voyage

I was unbelievably impressed with Wya Resort . I still dream about how quiet the night was, except for the sound of the ocean with that feeling of being in the middle of nowhere and at peace.

I stayed at Wya Resort for the duration of my stay in the Tofino area. I used it as my jumping-off point for all the other adventures!

Looking to book a stay in Tofino/Ucluelet, use this handy map to find the perfect place:

Day two of a Vancouver Island Road trip consists of exploring the gorgeous and wild Pacific Rim National Park. Watch the surfers rip on the constant waves, walk along the shore on the lookout for wild animals and hike into the depths of Canada’s Rainforest.

Pacific Rim National Park, BC | Vancouver Island road trip 5 day itinerary | My Wandering Voyage

At Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, you feel like you’re at the edge of the world. Quite literally, you are on the western coast of Vancouver Island with nothing but ocean in front of you.

British Columbia’s Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, one of 47 parks in Canada, is one of the best places to explore Canada’s Temperate Rainforest. It protects over 500 square kilometres of forest, beach and ocean on Vancouver Island. With activities like hiking and surfing, it is an excellent place for adventure seekers.

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve encompasses three units of Vancouver Island’s western coast – Long Beach, Broken Islands and West Coast Trail.

The most popular and most easily accessible unit is Long Beach. Spanning from Tofino to Ucluelet, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve features beaches, trails and forest.

While you explore the park, make sure to stop at the Visitor Centre at The Junction and the Kwisitis Visitor Centre.

Beaches along Pacific Rim National Park BC | Vancouver Island road trip 5 day itinerary | My Wandering Voyage

The Long Beach unit actually encompasses several beaches along the coastline, from Halfmoon Bay in the south to Florencia Bay, South Beach, Lismer Beach, Wickaninnish Beach, Combers Beach, Long Beach.

Take your pick. Enjoy the surfers play in the waves, look for starfish and other underwater creatures in the tide pools, spot eagles flying gracefully overhead as the wind whips around you.

The Rainforest Loop Trail in Pacific Rim National Park, BC | Vancouver Island road trip 5 day itinerary | My Wandering Voyage

There are a ton of hiking options in Pacific Rim National Park. From the very short, 200m trail at Radar Hill that leads you to the Kap’Yong Memorial to the multi-day challenging 75km West Coast Trail.

But you can’t leave Vancouver Island without walking through the Rainforest! The Rainforest Trail in Pacific Rim National Park takes you through the temperate Rainforest that makes BC so unique. The trail consists of two 2km loops on either side of the highway.

Each loop takes you through moss-covered boardwalks, up and downstairs, over and under giant trees. It is absolutely breathtaking, and a moment of reflection will reveal how small we are in the world.

RELATED: Exploring British Columbia’s Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Outside Break surfers village, Vancouver Island | Vancouver Island road trip 5 day itinerary | My Wandering Voyage

Developed close to Chesterman Beach, Outside Break is a surfer’s village complete with shops, food kiosks, and a grocery store. You’ll definitely need to make Outside Break one of your stops on a Vancouver Island road trip. Here you’ll find cute shops like Chocolate Tofino, Groovy Movies and Bike Rentals, Sol Maya Glass Blower, and many more.

This is where Live to Surf, the original Tofino surf shop, started back in the 80s. Make sure to check out Tacofino Cantina – the original Tacofino, which sparked a delicious taco movement into Vancouver. If you’re not full of tacos, then also get some fish and chips at Wildside Grill. Honestly, the best goddamn fish and chips I have ever tasted in my life.

Surfing in the Pacific Ocean requires a full-body wetsuit, boots and gloves. It’s freezing, even in summer. But how exhilarating! Day three of a Vancouver Island road trip lets you ride the waves, explore the gorgeous surfer town of Tofino and, if you have time, head out to the hot springs deep in the island’s archipelago.

Surfing near Tofino | Vancouver Island road trip 5 day itinerary | My Wandering Voyage

One of the most amazing adventures I had on my Vancouver Island road trip was a beginner surfing lesson I had in Tofino. I had never surfed before, so why not throw myself into the rough, cold waters of the Pacific Ocean in Tofino?

The ocean here is not one to mess around with. Sure, you can rent your equipment and go by yourself, but if you’re inexperienced, that’s just a dumb idea.

I’m not going to lie, all morning I was a ball of nerves. There was a high wind warning for the area, making the waves extra powerful, but everyone at the surf shop was chill about it, so I let myself relax.

There are so many surf shops in Tofino that you can have your pick with which one will fit you best. After researching thoroughly, I chose Surf Sister for my first time surfing adventure.

Not only do I love their model for teaching, but I connected with the owner’s story. She wanted to have a shop that helped female surfers make their mark in Tofino. And get this – she succeeded. Surf Sister is a popular shop in Tofino, and their instructors are absolutely incredible and specialize in making a comfortable environment for beginners.

RELATED: Ultimate list of books and destinations for a Canadian road trip

I heart Tofino written in the sand | Vancouver Island road trip 5 day itinerary | My Wandering Voyage

After surfing, you’ll want to explore Tofino. I see why people love it here. Tofino is a small coastal town at the western edge of Vancouver Island. It’s surrounded by water on three sides, meaning there’s only one way in and out of town. It’s a small town with delicious eats and cool cafes, but what I enjoyed most about Tofino is the adventurous culture that helped it become a top destination for travellers.

While you’re in town, make sure to check out Tofino Coffee Roasting Co. and Rhino Coffee House for your morning cup of coffee. For meals, try the Wolf in the Fog, Sea Monster Noodle Bar or Ice House Oyster Bar for a place to dig in. And for shopping, be sure to stop into  Caravan Beach Shop and Mermaid Tales Bookshop for unique souvenirs.

You’ll also want to check out Chesterman Beach, the beach of choice for many visitors of Tofino!

Bald Eagle overhead in Tofino | Vancouver Island road trip 5 day itinerary | My Wandering Voyage

If you’re up for a short hike through the forest, then check out the Tonquin Park trail, which leads you through old-growth forest and beautiful view of the surrounding landscape to Tonquin Beach, Third Beach and Middle Beach. While the trek to the Tonquin Beach is only 800 metres, the whole loop is 3km of boardwalk and gravel trail

If you’d rather go hiking in a remote place that ends in a hot spring than throwing yourself into the waves of the Pacific Ocean, then you won’t want to miss going to Hot Springs Cove in Maquinna Provincial Park.

The island is only accessible by a 1-1.5 hour boat ride from Tofino. Once you get off on the dock, the Hot Springs Cove is located at the end of a 2km boardwalk hike (that includes quite a few stairs).

Once there, you’re on a remote island. There’s no freshwater (bring your own), and you’ll want to bring a dry bag since it’s often very wet there. Lastly, enjoy the boat ride; you never know what creatures you’ll spot on your journey.

RELATED: Explore beautiful British Columbia in 10 days

On day four of a Vancouver Island road trip, it’s time to say goodbye to Tofino and make your way to Victoria, British Columbia’s capital city. Here’s where you can hop on a boat and explore the seas surrounding the island in search of whales!

Fairmont Empress Hotel, Victoria, BC | Vancouver Island road trip 5 day itinerary | My Wandering Voyage

It’s time to say goodbye to Tofino and hello to British Columbia’s capital city, Victoria. Victoria is a gorgeous city, aptly named the Garden City, and is an excellent stop for a Vancouver Island road trip.

The trek to Victoria from Tofino takes just over four hours since you have to drive all the way back to Nanaimo before heading south. There are many places you could stop along the way, but I suggest straight-shooting it all the way there to give yourself as much time in Victoria as you can.

Orca Whale Watching in Victoria | Vancouver Island road trip 5 day itinerary | My Wandering Voyage

Once you arrive in Victoria, head straight to Fisherman’s Wharf for some whale watching. If you get to Fisherman’s wharf early, wander around and check out the colourful floating houses and grab a bite to eat at Barb’s Fish and Chips.

If you don’t go whale watching on your Vancouver Island road trip, then why did you come here?! (Joking, obviously.) But, seriously, why pass up an opportunity to see whales in the wild in one of the most populous whale areas?

There’s nothing like the thrill of the silence, with the boat engines cut, waiting for a glimpse of the majestic Orca. Then suddenly, they’re there, in front of you! Seeing these beautiful marine mammals in the wild is an incredible experience.

There are many whale watching tour operators in Victoria and Vancouver. Still, I chose Eagle Wing Whale and Wildlife Watching Tours due to their commitment to the environment and strict whale interaction procedures.

Whale watching tours are fantastic. Not only will you likely see orcas, since there are quite a few in the area, but you may also get a chance to see blue whales, humpbacks whales, seals, sea lions, and more.

RELATED: Whale watching in Victoria, BC

Like many cities, Victoria has so many options for hotels, B&Bs, hostels and more. On my trip, I decided to stay as cheaply as possible, taking a bed at Hostel International in the city, especially since I splurged for the yurt at Wya Point. Victoria’s Hostel International was quite lovely, with decent facilities for a hostel, but I wasn’t there much other than to sleep.

Like I said there are so many options, just look at this map:

Day five of a Vancouver Island road trip is your final day, explore Victoria, grabbing a bite to eat at one of its excellent restaurants, and stop at the Butchart Gardens before heading back to the mainland.

Breakwater lighthouse Victoria | Vancouver Island road trip 5 day itinerary | My Wandering Voyage

It’s your last day on the Vancouver Island road trip, so make sure to check out some awesome spots in Victoria. I find that Victoria is more charming than the metropolis of Vancouver. Not only does Victoria have more beautiful architecture, but it still has this small city vibe to it, which the giant city of Vancouver does not.

One of the places you have to see in Victoria includes the Fairmont Empress, one of the oldest hotels in Canada. Even if you don’t stay here, be sure to peek inside or make a reservation for its world-renowned high tea.

(If you don’t want to pay that much for high tea, check out Venus Sophia Tea Room. They have amazing scones and an impressive selection of tea at a much more reasonable price.)

BC Legislature, Victoria BC | Vancouver Island road trip 5 day itinerary | My Wandering Voyage

You also won’t want to miss taking in the BC Legislature building, which in my opinion, is the most beautiful in Canada. The sprawling gardens are dotted with statues and totem poles. See if you can find the statue of Queen Victoria, for whom the city was named.

Chinatown needs to be on your list too. Chinese immigrants have a long, rich and, many times, heartbreaking relationship to the growth of Victoria, BC. The district stands out with its red and gold colours and unique architecture. Take a look at the several shops and restaurants, but make sure to stop by the Gate of Harmonious Interest, the infamous Fan Tan Alley, and the lesser-known Dragon Alley.

Fan Tan Alley in Victoria BC | Vancouver Island road trip 5 day itinerary | My Wandering Voyage

Lastly, the trendy fashion district of Market Square and open pedestrian shopping district of Bastion Square are two stops you have to make before leaving Victoria.

Outside the downtown, try to make at least one stop at either the breakwater (a one-kilometre trail jutting out into the bay), Beacon Hill Park (a 200-acre park home to the fourth-tallest totem pole), Craigdarroch Castle (a Scottish-style castle known for its intricate stained glass windows), or Emily Carr House (once home to one of Canada’s most famous painters).

RELATED: Zoom through Victoria, BC: The regal capital city

Your last stop on a Vancouver Island Road Trip should be the Butchart Gardens. The Gardens, located about 30 minutes north of Victoria, is a National Historic Site of Canada. For over 100 years, these gardens are a treat to the eyes with a wide range of flowers and plants.

BC Ferries back to mainland | Vancouver Island road trip 5 day itinerary | My Wandering Voyage

Swartz Bay, where you’ll catch a ferry to the mainland, is only 30 minutes from Victoria. So, depending on your departure, you might have time to check out a few more places along the way.

There’s Cattle Point Dark Sky Urban Star Park, or the scenic views of Mount Douglas, the waterfront forest of Gowlland Tod Provincial Park, forested hiking at ȽÁU,WELṈEW̱/John Dean Provincial Park, or check out the small port city of Sydney, BC.

The ultimate guide to travelling in Canada from coast to coast to coast. This Canada travel guide has everything from where to go, what to pack, what you NEED to know and so much more. Plus, sample itineraries for travel in Canada! #Canada #Travel #TravelGuide | My Wandering Voyage Travel Blog

There really is so much to see on the island. This five day Vancouver Island road trip only stops at the highlights, so if you live close or want to explore more, please do, there’s nowhere else in the world quite like Vancouver Island.

From mountains to forests to beaches and the ocean, Vancouver Island has it all. Use this 5 day itinerary for a Vancouver Island road to find the must see places on Canada’s west coast. | My Wandering Voyage travel blog #VancouverIsland #BritishColumbia #Canada #Travel

Olivia Rutt

Olivia Rutt is the travel writer and photographer behind My Wandering Voyage, a travel website helping working millennials find time to travel. She shares insight in trip planning, travel inspiration and photography tips. Olivia hails from southern Ontario, Canada where she works in the media industry between travels. Follow Olivia on Instagram where she shares her travel photos, or catch up with her on Facebook or Twitter.

Further Reading...

travelling around vancouver island

Kilometre 0 (Home) – Kilometre 930 (Wawa)

Explore Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, located on the western coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia. From surfing to hiking to long stretches of beach, Pacific Rim is an adventurer’s paradise | My Wandering Voyage #PacificRimNationalParkReserve #VancouverIsland #BritishColumbia #ParksCanada #Canada #Canadatravel #travel

Exploring British Columbia’s Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Take a long weekend to visit one of Ontario’s premier destinations. Here are the best things to do in Prince Edward County. | My Wandering Voyage travel blog #ontario #PrinceEdwardCounty #Canada #Travel

The Ultimate Weekend Guide to Prince Edward County


Run, don't walk to @southbayfields!!! The lavender is in full bloom and the poppies are going to hang on for maybe another week. If you miss the poppies, don't worry the sunflowers are about to bloom!! This is such a cute little getaway in @sgeorgianbay! Make sure to get some lavender vanilla ice cream on your way out and pick up your own bundle of fresh lavender! 🪻 #OntarioTravel #ontariolavender #lavenderfields #destinationontario #travelontario #daytripping #southgeorgianbay #GeorgianBay #brucegreysimcoe

Privacy Overview

The Ultimate Vancouver Island Road Trip Itinerary

Last Updated on March 1, 2024

Are you read for an epic road trip on Canada’s west coast? Do you love wild beaches, ancient forests, roaring waterfalls and big views? If that sounds like you, you’re going to love a Vancouver Island road trip.

I’ve spent lots of time on Vancouver Island over a lifetime and I’m so glad to share all the best places to go on your Vancouver Island road trip. This article starts with some basics for trip planning and then provides a 5 day and 7 day itinerary. If you have less than 5 days, I recommend spending them in the Victoria area or going from Nanaimo out to Ucluelet and Tofino and back. To see both those places and to get to the remote North Island, give yourself 5-7 days. If you have more time, I have lots of ideas for how to spend it at the end of the article.

Road tripping around Vancouver Island gives you the opportunity to travel on the lands of many First Nations people, including the Coast Salish, Nuu-chah-nulth and Kwakwakaw’akw People. Indigenous Tourism BC is an excellent resource for learning about First Nations culture and businesses across the province, including on Vancouver Island.

How far is Vancouver from Vancouver Island?

Taking the ferry to vancouver island with a car, how long does it take to drive around vancouver island, when is the best time of year for a vancouver island road trip, how is cell phone service on vancouver island, electric vehicle charging on vancouver island, where to stay on your vancouver island road trip, 5 day vancouver island road trip itinerary, 7 day vancouver island road trip itinerary.

  • What to add if you have more time

What to pack for a Vancouver Island road trip

This post contains affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases .

The ferry terminal in Tsawwassen is about a 45 minute drive from downtown Vancouver . That ferry takes you to either Swartz Bay (Victoria) or Nanaimo. The Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal where you catch the ferry to Nanaimo is about 30 minutes from downtown Vancouver.

Ferry crossing times are:

  • Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay – about 90 minutes
  • Tsawwassen to Nanaimo – about 2 hours
  • Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo – about 1 hour 45 minutes

A ferry in the water in a small cove just away from the dock. There are forested mountains around the cove.

You’ll need a car for your Vancouver Island road trip. You can rent a car in Victoria or Nanaimo (which makes the most sense if you are flying into one of those cities). If you are driving from home somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, or if you are renting a car in Vancouver, Seattle or elsewhere, you’ll need to bring the car on the ferry to get to Vancouver Island.

You have three options for taking the ferry with a car to Vancouver Island

  • BC Ferries from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay – this is the best option if you are including Victoria on your road trip itinerary. The Tsawwassen terminal is south of Metro Vancouver and relatively close to the US border. Swartz Bay is about a 45 minute drive from Victoria.
  • BC Ferries from Tsawwassen or Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo – If you aren’t going to south end of the island (Victoria and the Pacific Marine Circle Route) then you want to take the ferry to Nanaimo. You can take the ferry from the same terminal in Tsawwassen, or you can take the ferry from Horseshoe Bay (which is more convenient if you’re starting on the north side of Metro Vancouver or Whistler).
  • Black Ball Ferry (the Coho) from Port Angeles to Victoria – If it’s more convenient for you to get to Port Angeles than Vancouver, this is the best option for you.

Which ferry option should you choose? I recommend choosing the one that’s the most convenient to where you are coming from and going to on the island. It works well to take one ferry over to Victoria and return from Nanaimo. This is what I like to do and recommend to others because it gives you more variety and less back tracking at the end of the road trip.

The BC ferries run more often than the Coho from Port Angeles, and reservations are highly recommended for all ferries if you are bringing a car.

If you want to mix things up and combine one of these Vancouver Island road trip itineraries with the Sunshine Coast, you can also take the ferry from Courtenay to Power River and then you’ll need to take two ferries along the sunshine coast to get back to Vancouver.

Because of the limited road system on Vancouver Island, you can’t exactly drive around it. Most places you’ll be driving out and back on the same roads. An exception to this is the Pacific Marine Circle Route, which makes a 260 km (160 mile) loop around the south part of Vancouver Island. The loop starts and ends in Victoria, taking you to Port Renfrew and Cowichan Lake (Days 1 and 2 on the itineraries below).

Sample driving times (not including stops and construction) are the island are:

  • Victoria to Nanaimo – 90 minutes
  • Nanaimo to Tofino – 3 hours
  • Tofino to Campbell River – 3.5 hours
  • Campbell River to Port Hardy – 2.5 hours

You can do a Vancouver Island road trip any time of year, though there are some seasonal considerations to keep in mind:

  • Summer – the longest days and the warmest and driest weather. Expect construction delays in summer and more expensive and harder to find lodging and camping. All tours are operating and businesses are open. This is the best time for high elevation hikes in Strathcona Provincial Park as well as beach days for soaking up the sun.
  • Fall – Cooler and wetter weather but more availability in lodging. Some businesses may be closed or have more limited hours
  • Winter – Storm watching is popular on the coast as well as winter sports in Strathcona Park and skiing at Mt Washington or Mt Cairns. Lower prices and easier to find lodging, though many businesses may be closed or have limited hours and most tours are not operating. Short and very rainy days led to slower driving conditions
  • Spring – Cool and wet spring days are often before the crowds, construction and highest prices arrive. Some tours will be operating and whale watching can be especially good as gray whales migrate past on their way to Alaska. Waterfalls are epic!

Cell phone coverage is excellent in the main towns on Vancouver Island. Most of the highways have at least some service, however there are significant dead zones.

There’s no service outside of towns north of Campbell River, or between Port Alberni and Ucluelet. Make sure to download maps, music, podcasts, audio books and anything else you might need in preparation.

If you are not Canadian, you will be roaming on the Canadian network. Check with your cell service provider to find out if there is an additional charge for this (it could be significant, but you may be able to change your plan so it’s included).

EV charging is more abundant on Vancouver Island than you might expect, given how many remote areas there are. Charging is abundant in the greater Victoria area as well as Nanaimo. Beyond that, I recommend using Plugshare and your vehicle’s range to determine if you can make this trip in an Electric Vehicle.

Fast charging is available at the Port Renfrew Community Centre, the Pacific Rim National Park Visitor Centre in Ucluelet, Port Alberni, Qualicum Beach, Courtenay, Campbell River, Port McNeill and Port Hardy.

My EV has a very limited range so I can do some portions of a Vancouver Island road trip, but not all the way to the north island.

If you are camping on your Vancouver Island road trip, BC parks is an excellent resource for finding camping, along with iOverlander. Expect campgrounds to fill up frequently, especially in busier areas in summer (not so much on the north island).

If you’re looking for a hotel or vacation rental, expect high prices and things to book up very early for summer. This map can help you find a place to stay that’s in a convenient location as well as compare prices. It’s centered on Nanaimo, but you can expand it to see the whole island.

If you can get to Victoria the day before, you’ll have a whole day to explore Victoria, which I highly recommend. If that doesn’t work in your itinerary, you can also arrive in Victoria on Day 1.

This itinerary has you staying in Parksville between Port Renfrew and Ucluelet, which I recommend so you can experience the different coasts of Vancouver Island (Victoria, Parksville and Ucluelet/Tofino), but you can also drive all the way to Ucluelet on day 3 and spend two nights there instead. See the 7 day itinerary for details on this.

Day 1: Exploring Victoria

A colorful orca sculpture is in the foreground and a large stone hotel in the background. It's a blue sky day.

Driving Distance : None, unless you’re driving in and out of the city (or arriving in Victoria this day)

Where to sleep : A hotel in downtown Victoria (walking distance to inner harbour) or camping at Goldstream Provincial Park.

Highlights in Victoria

There are so many amazing things to explore in Victoria! On a short visit, make sure you get a chance to at least walk around the Inner Harbour and take in the shops on Government Street. Afternoon tea is a great way to start off your trip as well as Butchart Gardens (which is a good stop between the ferry and downtown Victoria). Pro tip – have your tea at Butchart Gardens!

If you want to stretch your legs, go for a walk around Beacon Hill Park and see the world’s largest free standing totem pole, or head out along Dallas Road for a view of the Strait of Juan de Fuca or along the breakwater.

Day 2: Victoria to Port Renfrew

Black rocks at the edge of the ocean with waves crashing on them. Distant mountains are visible across the water from the beach

Driving Distance : 111 km (69 miles). Allow at least 2 hours of driving time.

Where to sleep : Cottage or Lodge in Port Renfrew or camping at China Beach Campground.

Highlights from Victoria to Port Renfrew

The drive along the coast of Vancouver Island opposite Washington’s Olympic Peninsula is absolutely stunning. Make sure to stop in the small community of Sooke, with wonderful farm (or sea) to table food in a beautiful setting. You can rent kayaks here for even more exploring.

As you continue, you’ll have the opportunity to visit numerous beaches along the Juan de Fuca trail. Mystic Beach and Botanical Beach are a couple of favorites but you can’t go wrong on the beaches here! Botanical Beach is particularly known for it’s stunning tidepools nestled into the black rocks.

Port Renfrew is particularly well known for its enormous old growth trees, so make some time to explore the famous forests.

An old growth forest on a Vancouver Island road trip with a giant gnarled tree in the center

Day 3: Port Renfrew to Parksville

Driving Distanc e: 173 km (107 miles). Allow at least 2.5 hours of driving time

Where to sleep : Hotel in Parksville or camping at Englishman River Falls Provincial Park

Highlights from Port Renfrew to Parksville

Cowichan River Provincial Park is a wonderful picnic stop or place to stretch your legs on a hike. Swimming is also an option here at the day use area. Pay attention to signs and current conditions as the river conditions can change rapidly.

Ladysmith makes for a fun stop in this seaside town with plenty of historic buildings and charming shops.

A marina with a blue building at dusk in the town of Ladysmith on a Vancouver Island road trip

Waterfall lovers should not miss beautiful Englishman River Falls before arriving in Parksville.

The main highlight of Parksville is beautiful sun drenched beaches so make sure to arrive early enough to spend some time at the beach.

A gravel beach at low tide with distant forested mountains.

Day 4: Parksville to Ucluelet

Driving Distance : 147 km (91 miles). Allow at least 2 hours of driving time.

Where to sleep : I like to stay in Ucluelet instead of Tofino because it’s a bit more low key and quieter. There are a number of hotels, vacation rentals and campgrounds in both towns and in between them. If you’re looking to save money, try camping along the way before you get to Ucluelet or finding a hotel in Port Alberni instead.

Highlights from Parksville to Ucluelet

There are so many wonderful things to see on this stretch of your Vancouver Island road trip that I have an entire article just about this part !

Make sure to stop at Little Qualicum Falls for a beautiful pair of waterfalls on a loop hike that takes about an hour. The trail doesn’t have a lot of elevation gain but it does have some and there are quite a few rocks, roots and mud.

A waterfall crashing between rock walls covered in moss and ferns in a forest at Little Qualicum Falls between Nanaimo and Tofino on a Vancouver Island road trip

Cathedral Grove is another stunning area of old growth trees that you don’t want to miss. The area on the north side of the highway is a board walk so a good place for wheelchairs, strollers and anyone who doesn’t want to navigate a lot of mud and roots. There’s an additional trail on the other side of the highway that’s a little rougher for those who prefer that.

Old growth trees with a boardwalk winding around them on Vancouver Island

Cameron Lake, Sproat Lake and Kennedy Lake are all good places for a picnic or a swimming break when it’s warm enough for that.

When you arrive in Ucluelet and Tofino, there’s plenty to do there as well. If possible spend an extra day here (see below for how to spend it) but at a minimum make sure to go to Long Beach in Pacific Rim National Park. If it’s clear, this is an epic place for sunsets!

A sandy beach at the ocean with big waves. It's a partly cloudy day and there are a few surfers heading into the waves

Day 5: Ucluelet to Nanaimo (or home)

Driving Distance : 182 km (113 miles). Allow at least 3 hours of driving time (and make sure to get to the ferry an hour early).

Where to sleep : Look for a hotel near the ferry, or head home this day no matter how far you’re traveling after your Vancouver Island road trip.

A marina and a historic red and white lighthouse surrounded by forested mountains in Port Alberni on a Vancouver Island road trip

You’ll be retracing your steps from yesterday so if there are any stops you didn’t have time for you can do that today!

This is a good day to have lunch or dinner and spend a bit of time exploring the town of Port Alberni . There’s a walkway near the river that empties into Alberni Inlet, as well as a waterfront park along the inlet. Those interested in history and economy will enjoy checking out the Port Alberni Maritime Discovery Center (housed in a historic lighthouse) or visiting the McLean Mill Historic Site.

If you have extra time you can also explore the town of Nanaimo before heading to your ferry.

If you have 7 days or more for your Vancouver Island road trip, then you can get up into the most remote and less visited areas of the North Island around Port Hardy, Port McNeill and Telegraph Cove . These destinations are an absolute delight and for those who love road trips, this longer drive is a must-do!

Stone buildings and an old clock on a city street on a sunny day. There are flags, hanging baskets and red umbrellas along the sidewalk.

This is the same plan for today as Day 1 in the 5 day itinerary. Spending a day in Victoria is a perfect way to get your Vancouver Island road trip off to a wonderful start.

Make sure you get a chance to walk around the Inner Harbour and take in the shops on Government Street. Afternoon tea is a great way to start off your trip as well as Butchart Gardens (which is a good stop between the ferry and downtown Victoria). Pro tip – have your tea at Butchart Gardens!

Starting a Vancouver Island road trip on Dallas Road in Victoria. There are green bushes in the foreground and the blue water of the Strait of Juan De Fuca in the background. There are distant mountains on the Olympic Peninsula across the water

Since you’re prepping for a road trip, Victoria is a good place to stock up on supplies for your trip.

A black bear eating leaves on a pile of gravel with shrubs

The same as Day 2 in the 5 day itinerary, this is where you start getting out into the remoter parts of Vancouver Island.

Day 3: Port Renfrew to Ucluelet

Driving Distance: 317 km (197 miles). Allow at least 5 hours of driving time.

Where to sleep : I like Ucluelet instead of Tofino because it’s a bit more low key and quieter. There are a number of hotels, vacation rentals and campgrounds in both towns and in between them. If you’re looking to save money, try camping along the way before you get to Ucluelet or finding a hotel in Port Alberni instead.

Today is when you diverge from the 5 day intinerary and get deeper into the heart of Vancouver Island. Today you’ll go from the west coast of the island, to the east coast of the island and over two fairly low mountain passes to meet the west coast again in Ucluelet and Tofino.

Ladysmith makes for a fun stop in this seaside town with plenty of historic buildings and charming shops and Parksville has gorgeous beaches perfect for a picnic or just hanging out for a few hours.

There are a couple of amazing waterfalls along the way, Englishman River Falls and Little Qualicum Falls, each with a loop for hiking through the forest to the falls.

A waterfall plunging over a rock face

Cathedral Grove is a mandatory stop for the stunning old growth trees. A wheelchair accessible boardwalk goes through the forest on the right side of the highway as you head towards Ucluelet and Tofinfo.

There are several lakes along the way with beautiful picnic areas and and opportunities for swimming on hot days.

Day 4: Exploring Ucluelet and Tofino

A white and red lighthouse on black rocks at the edge of the ocean on a cloudy day near Ucluelet on a Vancouver island road trip

Driving Distance : 80 km (50 miles) round trip between Ucluelet and Tofino.

Where to sleep : The same place you stayed last night.

If you have time in your itinerary, I highly recommend spending a full day in the Ucluelet and Tofino area (or more if you can spare it). There are so many incredible things to do here !

At a minimum, make sure to explore the Long Beach area of Pacific Rim National Park as well as the many other beaches in the area.

The Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet is another must do, especially doing the short lighthouse loop.

Beyond that, there are plenty of forest trails as well as surfing lessons, kayak tours, whale and bear watching tours and fishing charters.

A wooden totem pole without paint in a city park at the waterfront. In the distance are forested islands and mountains on a mostly sunny day

Day 5: Ucluelet to Port Hardy

Driving Distance: 574 km (357 miles) including a 100 km (60 miles) detour to stunning Strathcona Provinical Park.

Where to sleep : I love the Port Hardy RV Resort cabins. They are super cute and comfortable. This is also a great place for camping. The sites have a few of the estuary and plenty of space. They have showers and washrooms for campers.

This is the longest driving day of your trip, but if you can manage it I would still do the trip up to Strathcona Provincial Park. Snow lingers late into summer in the high country here, but even if you’re visiting earlier or you just don’t want to take that much time, I still recommend checking out Buttle Lake. You can swim here in summer and there are trails and picnic areas.

A lake surrounded by forest on a cloudy day

If you’re a hiker, you might want to add an extra day to your itinerary to experience some of the stunning hikes in the mountains here. There is also camping for those wanting to stay longer.

Make sure to stop at Elk Falls Provincial Park on your way to Strathcona (or as an alternative to make the driving day shorter). There’s an awesome suspension bridge with a great view of the falls, however there are 120 steps to get down to the bridge! The rest of the trail is well graded and wide, but watch out for the many many stairs!

A waterfall coming over a rock face surrounded by plants and forest on a Vancouver Island road trip

Campbell River is a good spot to stop for a bite to eat (Seabreeze Takeout is my absolute favorite – amazing fish and chips as well as PIE). There aren’t too many food options past here along the highway until you get to Port Hardy so it’s a good place to stop.

A basket of fish and chips on a wooden picnic table

From here, you’ll be driving mostly inland with occasional views of the mountains in the center of the island.

A high snow capped mountain with evergreen trees in the foreground on a vancouver island road trip

Day 6: Port Hardy to Telegraph Cove

Driving Distance : 64 km (40 miles)

Where to sleep : I love the Telegraph Cove Resort. The unique historic buildings are all a little different and the restaurant is really good. If you’re camping, there’s a campground close by.

It’s a short drive from Port Hardy to Telegraph Cove, which is a delightful change from yesterday! This gives you plenty of time for exploring the waterfront park of Port Hardy and still get to Telegraph Cove plenty early to enjoy some tours or just relaxing and taking in the vibe when you arrive.

If you’re up for more driving and exploring, Port McNeill, Port Alice and Coal Harbour are all interesting and relatively short detours. Port Alice has an amazing coffee spot (Foggy Mountain Coffee Company) and Port McNeill also has good coffee, a pub and a waterfront walking trail.

A foggy shoreline surrounded by trees.

All of these communities along with Port Hardy and Telegraph Cove are mostly logging communities and clear cuts and active logging are common. Many people make their living in the timber industry. I’ve found the people in Port Hardy and nearby Port McNeill to be extremely friendly and welcoming and enthusiastic about sharing their beautiful home with visitors.

A wooden log sign in a grassy city park that says Welcome to Port Hardy. Logging, Fishing, Mining

Telegraph Cove is near one of the best places anywhere to see Orcas, so this is an excellent place to do a whale watching trip. They also offer bear watching and kayak tours. Kayak tours can be a mellow evening paddle during the summer or an all day or even multi day adventure.

historic buildings on pilings over a small cove surrounded by evergreen trees. There is a marina in front of the buildings.

Day 7: Telegraph Cove to Nanaimo (or home)

Driving Distance : 356 km (221 miles). Allow at least 4 hours of driving time. Make sure to get to the ferry at least an hour ahead of time.

Today you’ll be retracing your journey on roads you drove so this is a great opportunity to explore any stops you missed on previous days of your Vancouver Island road trip.

A purple flower with green leaves

Take the time to get some amazing Fish and Chips at Seabreeze Takeout if you didn’t stop on the way north (and maybe even if you did!)and then explore the nearby park at the mouth of the river. This park is part of an extensive trail system that goes all around the town of Campbell River, so plenty of opportunity to stretch your legs as long as you like.

A grassy park with a large evergreen tree next to the water with forested hillsides across the water

If you have time, I recommend the slower highway that goes along the coast between Campbell River and Nanaimo (north of Campbell River there’s only one road). This will add at least an hour to your trip, but gives you the chance for more water views and some new scenery.

A float plane on grass with mountains in the distance

What to add if you have more time for your Vancouver Island road trip

If you’re lucky enough to have more time to spend on Vancouver Island, there are plenty of ways to add to your Vancouver Island road trip adventure. A few suggestions:

  • Strathcona Provincial Park – this itinerary just has a quick visit to Buttle Lake, but you could easily spend a week just in this park alone. Summer has amazing hiking and there are plenty of snow activities to enjoy in winter. Camp in the park or stay in nearby Campbell River.
  • Telegraph Cove – with the opportunity to do whale watching, bear watching or kayaking you can easily spend a few days here taking in all the activities
  • Tofino – another hotspot of excellent tours for whale watching, bear watching, kayaking, fishing and more, it’s easy to spend more time here.
  • Victoria – a gorgeous city with so much to see and do, you could spend plenty more days here.

My road trip packing list and how to plan a road trip article are good resources for you as you get ready for your epic Vancouver Island road trip adventure!

A couple of highlights to make sure you don’t forget for Vancouver Island in particular are:

  • Download all maps and entertainment for locations with no cell service or limited cell service and/or no wifi.
  • Rain jacket – you need a good rain jacket for Vancouver Island any time of year! If you already have one that works great. If you’re looking to buy one for this trip, I recommend the Marmot Minimalist or this REI Co-op Rainjacket for a combination of quality and price. The REI jacket is available in plus sizes.
  • Waterproof footwear – I love these rubber boots that you’ll see all across the Pacific Northwest and Alaska and are amazing for mud, beach walks and have good traction on wet surfaces. Waterproof hiking boots or shoes are also a good option.
  • Snacks and water – especially the further north you go on the island, the fewer options there are for food, so I highly recommend bringing some of your own food and snacks along to take advantage of all the amazing picnic areas across Vancouver Island.
  • Sunglasses and sun protection – when the sun comes out, the days are long and the sun is intense, especially at the beach! Make sure you have sunglasses and sunscreen even if the forecast isn’t for sun.

Jennie Flaming on Instagram

Privacy Policy

Vancouver Island Explorer

Featured image how to get around

How to Get Around Vancouver Island

Besides working out how to get to Vancouver Island, it’s crucial to consider how to get around once you’re actually there! The chosen mode of transport not only determines the style of your trip, but also the activities and attractions you’ll be able to experience.

How to choose your mode of transport

Choosing how to get around a destination is always a personal choice. When considering your options for Vancouver Island, I’d suggest thinking about:

  • How independent you want to be
  • How remote you want to travel

If the answer to either of these questions is at least ‘a little,’ I’d personally recommend hiring (or purchasing, if you’re staying for a long period) a vehicle of your own. Vancouver Island is well suited to independent travel, with so many wonderful places located on the way to the ‘major’ sights or just beyond the beaten path.

Short on time? A guided tour or place-to-place transport (such as bus or seaplane services) may be the right choice for you. Vancouver Island has a number of destinations ideal for a 1-3 day stay, with walkable attractions. Some examples would be Victoria, Tofino and Nanaimo.

Heart shaped driftwood sculpture on rocky beach, with ocean and mountains in background

What to expect when exploring Vancouver Island

The Victoria to Nanaimo corridor (Highway 1) is the busiest section of road on Vancouver Island. For most part, there are at least two lanes of traffic travelling in both directions.

For the most part, it is a smooth ride, with the exception of the Malahat Drive. This winding 25km section of the highway (starting just north of Goldstream Provincial Park) climbs to the Malahat summit of 365m above sea level.

The views are great (there are a number of scenic pull-outs), but can be difficult to drive at times. Heavy traffic is always a given, especially where the highway is reduced to one lane. Adverse weather conditions aren’t uncommon, with fog, rain and snow (in winter) causing visibility issues. If heading north from Swartz Bay or Sidney (or vice versa), the Malahat can be avoided by taking the Mill Bay Ferry .

Besides the Malahat, the only other point of annoyance on this section of Highway 1 is traffic lights. There are a lot of them!

travelling around vancouver island

Nanaimo to Port Hardy

Approaching Nanaimo, the highway splits. Highway 1 stays close to the coast and terminates at the Departure Ferry Terminal. Highway 19 continues north, becoming a lot quieter beyond Nanoose Bay.

At Parksville, the road divides again. The ‘Old Highway’ (officially known as Highway 19A) travels through the many coastal communities. It is a slower but more scenic route than the ‘Inland Highway’ (Highway 19). The latter is utilitarian, offering easy two lane driving and regular access back over to the 19A.

At Campbell River, the highways combine again to provide one route north to Port Hardy. Like most of Vancouver Island’s other ‘major’ roads (such as Highway 4 to Port Alberni and Tofino, Highway 14 to Port Renfrew, Highway 18 to Lake Cowichan and Highway 28 to Gold River), this is a winding highway with one lane of traffic in each direction, with occasional passing sections.

Industrial roads

All of the highways mentioned above are regular, paved roads. Beyond these, there are thousands of kilometres of unpaved, gravel roads across Vancouver Island.

The majority were constructed (and continue) to be for industrial use, mostly by forest resource (logging) companies. Many of these unpaved roads are open for public use, primarily for access to recreational areas.

Windshield view of gravel road on Vancouver Island with mossy cliff on right and lake (with barrier) on left

Need to know

If you’re wanting to get off the beaten path on Vancouver Island, utilising this huge network of gravel roads is definitely the way to go. But there are a few things you must know and be prepared for:

  • Expect rough conditions. The amount of potholes, loose rocks and dust vary between roads and also the time of year. Some roads have more regularly maintenance than others. Drive slowly and anticipate your journey time to take much longer than a regular road
  • Yield – industrial traffic always has right of way. Be prepared to pull off (as far as you can) the road at any time. Industrial vehicles are often large and moving fast. Stay alert and use caution around corners . Drive with headlight on
  • Check your spare tire. Before leaving a populated area, be sure to double check the condition of your spare tire and the tools required to change it. It may not be possible to get assistance on an unpaved road. Top up on gas too – there aren’t any gas stations here!
  • Be self sufficient. At a minimum, bring extra clothing, food, water and a first aid kit when exploring Vancouver Island’s unpaved roads. Remember to tell someone where you’re going and when you plan to come back. There is usually no phone signal available
  • Get a good map. Industrial roads don’t usually have comprehensive signage, if any at all. Be prepared to independently navigate. I use, love and heartily recommend the Vancouver Island Backroad Mapbook (9th edition)
  • Choose your vehicle carefully. High clearance is advisable, with AWD or 4X4 being preferable (but not always essential). Driving a rental car? Check whether driving on unpaved roads is allowed first

Please note – On this website, I will always mention when a destination is accessed by unpaved roads only.

Having your own wheels offers the most independence for your Vancouver Island adventure. This allows you the freedom to create your own itinerary, choosing where you want to go and when. Of course, exploring with a vehicle comes with additional responsibilities, such as finding parking and maintenance. But these are minor downsides – convenience definitely outweighs them!

As noted above, having your own vehicle makes it a lot easier to explore beyond the beaten path. This is especially true if you’re considering exploring Vancouver Island’s extensive network of unpaved industrial roads. Most rental car companies, however, do not allow their vehicles to be driven on unpaved roads that are not named highways. Be sure to check first or rent with a company does that specifically allow this type of adventurous travel.

Gravel road next to pond/lake area, with mountain in background

Vehicle rentals

Vancouver Island is host to branches of all the major North American rental car chains such as Budget, National, Enterprise, Avis etc. Pick-up locations can be found in the larger towns and cities as well as at the bigger airports. There are also a number of smaller rental car companies, such as PractiCar (formerly known as ‘Rent-A-Wreck’) and independents like Island Rent-a-Car .

An alternative option would be to pick up a vehicle on the BC mainland and then bring it across to Vancouver Island on the ferry. This can be a good choice if you’re visiting Vancouver Island as part of a larger British Columbia trip. Otherwise, the additional ferry costs for the vehicle are not necessarily worthwhile.

  • A credit card is usually required to rent a vehicle, some companies accept Visa Debit (check first)
  • Some rental car operators offer pick-up at ferry terminals such as Departure Bay (Nanaimo) and Swartz Bay (Sidney)
  • Confirm daily kilometer maximums, as additional mileage can increase overall rental costs quickly

Renting a RV

Camping is a great way to save money and experience the natural side of Vancouver Island. Besides renting a car and then using a tent, there is the option to rent a RV (recreational vehicle). These are available in many forms, from small converted vans and 4X4 vehicles with rooftop tents to large bus style RVs with pop-outs, separate bedrooms and electrical generators.

If camping is the main purpose of your trip, it is also possible to have a RV trailer delivered to a specific Vancouver Island campground. This avoids having to move a large vehicle around.

Long distance buses travel between Vancouver Island’s larger towns and cities, while public transit buses connect many smaller communities. Both can be used for travel purposes, though schedules must be followed carefully and no sightseeing services are offered.

Rocky headland with trees, on sandy beach in Tofino

Public transit

For travel within Vancouver Island’s cities and towns, check out BC Transit’s schedules and route maps:

  • Cowichan Valley
  • Port Alberni
  • Comox Valley
  • Campbell River
  • North Island

Adult fares are $2.25 for one journey (cash only).

In Tofino, there is an independent TikiBus (scheduled and on-demand) service.

Long distance buses

The cities, towns and small communities of Vancouver Island are serviced by a number of independent bus companies, forming a patchwork of routes from north to south and also to Port Alberni, Tofino and Ucluelet. These companies provide point-to-point services for locals and visitors. FYI, Greyhound ended bus services on Vancouver Island in 2018.

  • Island Link Bus connects communities along Highway 19 and Highway 1 between Campbell River and Victoria. They pick-up and drop-off passengers at the Departure Bay Ferry Terminal (Nanaimo)
  • Vancouver Island Connector also operates between Campbell River and Victoria, with pick-up at Departure Bay Ferry Terminal as well
  • Tofino Bus has daily scheduled services between Victoria, Nanaimo (Departure Bay Ferry Terminal), Tofino and Ucluelet
  • A new bus service from Campbell River to Port Hardy, operated by Waivin’ Flags Ltd , will soon run three days a week
  • The BC Ferries Connector offers convenient transfers between Victoria and Vancouver, including the ferry journey

Vancouver Island is home to a number of excellent long distance hiking trails. Hikers requiring transportation to the trailheads can find services via:

  • North Coast Trail Shuttle (for the North Coast Trail near Port Hardy)
  • West Coast Trail Shuttle (for the West Coast Trail and Juan de Fuca Trail near Bamfield/Port Renfrew)

Guided tours

If you’re wanting an all-inclusive experience around Vancouver Island, consider a guided tour. These can be anything from 1 to 8 days long with a knowledgeable guide, bus transportation, activities and some (if no all) meals. This is a good option to consider if you’re not comfortable with driving or are overwhelmed by planning! It also works well if you enjoy traveling in a small group. The longer, overnight tours will feature accommodation varying from camping to hotels/resorts.

Huge plunging waterfall with canyon

By seaplane

Seaplanes are ubiquitous on Vancouver Island, used for recreation (sightseeing flights, access to remote areas) and commuting as well as an alternative to ferries. If you’re not familiar, a seaplane is an aircraft with floats rather than wheels, with the purpose of landing and taking off on water.

To my knowledge, there are no scheduled seaplane flights between Vancouver Island locations. Harbour Air and Seair both offer charters and sightseeing tours on demand. There are a number of other seaplane operators located in smaller communities also providing flights, such as Tofino Air , Atleo River Air Service , Air Nootka and Wilderness Sea Planes . These can be utilised to reach remote trailheads.

Seaplane taking off in Tofino harbour with backdrop of forest and misty mountains

Most scheduled flights from Vancouver Island’s airports leave for destinations on the BC mainland, with very few connecting towns and cities within Vancouver Island itself. The exception is with small aircraft operators such as Island Express Air (Victoria to Tofino, for example).

While it is possible to book a journey from, say, Victoria to Comox with Pacific Coastal , the flight will go via Vancouver. The flight time is therefore long and the cost fairly prohibitive.

Small propeller plane at Comox Airport

BC Ferries operates more than dozen routes to Vancouver Island, from the BC mainland and surrounding Gulf Islands. There is, however, an additional route that connects two areas of Vancouver Island together, providing something of a ‘shortcut’ for locals and travellers.

The Mill Bay to Brentwood Bay ferry crossing is actually the oldest continuous ferry service on British Columba’s coast. The MV Klitsa carries around 19 vehicles across the Saanich Inlet, with a journey time of only 25 minutes.

If timed right, this ferry offers a shortcut to the Saanich Peninsula from Mill Bay (and vice versa). It doesn’t necessarily save a lot of time, but the distance is shorter (by 40km to Swartz Bay, for example) and avoids the need to drive the Malahat.

Following a truck onto a ferry, with yellow barriers and peek through ocean views

One half of the Canadian/British couple behind Vancouver Island Explorer, Gemma is happiest when hiking on the trail, kayaking to an idyllic island or planning the next adventure

Share this post:

In A Faraway Land

  • Canadian Rockies Itineraries

Canada’s Enchanting Vancouver Island – 4 day Road Trip Guide



  • January 19, 2024


Covered in lush temperate rainforest, surrounded by pods of killer whales, inhabited by very few humans, and resident of many genera of flora and fauna,  Vancouver Island is a beautiful introduction, or farewell, to your road trip around Canada .

What draws most people to The Island, in my opinion, isn’t the inland mountains, which by the way are much grander than I thought they’d be, but the  relaxed coastal lifestyle, the surf, and the late-night bonfires  on the beach.

Victoria is the biggest city and serves as the Capital of British Columbia. Though relatively it has its charm, if you’ve only got a limited amount of time on Vancouver Island, it’s not somewhere I’d really recommend . The highlights of the island are further north in the rainforests and on the west coast. 

If you are  road-tripping across Western Canada  and starting or ending your trip in Vancouver,  consider adding a few more days to your itinerary for a side trip to Vancouver Island. 

The best way to travel around Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island travel itinerary

The best way to get around the Island is by campervan. It gives you the freedom of being in the right place at the right time without having to worry about hotel bills.

The best place to search for camper vans is on the most extensive campervan price comparison website  Motorhome Republic.   Make sure you book your campervan well in advance! Canada is a popular destination for RV holidaymakers! 

If renting a campervan isn’t within your price range or you are not into camping just rent a compact car instead. I always use and recommend  Discover C a rs   for that purpose. It’s the world’s biggest car rental search engine.  

When is the best time to visit Vancouver Island?

Vancouver Island 22

Vancouver Island can be partial to some pretty bad storms, most of which come from November to February. This is also the coldest time of the year with average temperatures flirting with freezing point (0C/32F). That being said it is the quietest time of the year too.

The off-season lasts from November to April. Many of the shops, and most of the campsites, in places such as Tofino and Port Alberni, are closed for the winter season.

This road trip itinerary is best between May and October

When the longer days start to bring warmth back to the Island and the darling buds of May start to blossom, the island springs back to life. The  spring shoulder season of May and June  is a great time to visit. The Island’s not that crowded and the wildlife is already out in full force.

In the  peak summer months of July and August,  you are going to get the most sun, the least rain and beautiful long days, but because of this, you’ll find it hard to find some peace and quiet. Roadside pull-offs will be jam-packed and parking will be difficult to find at times but I highly doubt you’ll care about any of this when the sun is beating down on you.

After the summer rush, everything slowly winds down in the  shoulder season, from September and October . It’s still warm and the light still hangs around long enough to have a day’s worth of activities. Not a bad time for road-tripping either. 

Interactive map of the road trip around Vancouver Island

Below you can find the map of the itinerary. If you click on the top left of the map you will find separate layers marking the destinations, photography spots, hikes and accommodation.

To hide and show different layers just click on the check box next to the layer’s name. You can also click on the icons on the map to see the names of the places I have marked. I will be talking about them as I break the itinerary down day by day.

Vancouver Island Road Trip Day 1

Part 1: getting to vancouver island: horseshoe bay to nanaimo.

Vancouver Island 38

To get to Vancouver Island you will need to take a ferry. There are two major ferry terminals in Vancouver from where the ferries leave: Horseshoe Bay and Tsawwassen. Tsawwassen is closer to the city center and Horseshoe Bay is out to the West. I prefer Horseshoe Bay for several reasons:

  • You don’t have to drive through the center of Vancouver to get there.  
  • It gives you much better access if you plan on  traveling along the Sea to Sky Highway  up to Whistler after visiting Vancouver Island.
  • The ferry from Horseshoe Bay takes you to the departure point in Nanaimo which is easier for disembarking and offers access to supermarkets in the area should you need to get some supplies for your road trip.  

The ferry, for two people,  costs upwards of 90 CAD  one way with a normal-size car (less than 7ft/2.13m high and less than 20ft/6.1m long), with prices slightly increasing for larger cars and camper vans. 

You can make reservations, and check prices and the timetables for all ferries from Vancouver to Vancouver Island on the BC Ferries website .  I was travelling in the shoulder season and bought my ferry tickets right at the terminal.  Only cash or credit cards were accepted. 

The ferry journey is really spectacular, if you’ve chosen to depart from Horseshoe Bay then you’ll be embarking in the  Howe Sound  (pictured above), sailing past  Bowen Island,  crossing the  Salish Sea , and portaging just north of  Newcastle Island Park . I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between Howe Sound and  Milford Sound in New Zealand. 

Nanaimo itself has some nice parks and restaurants but it wasn’t exciting enough to keep me there for longer than a day. Aim at catching the earliest ferry, restock in one of Nanaimo’s supermarkets if necessary, and head straight for the scenic Highway 4, through the center of the Island to Tofino in the West. 

Part 2 – Nanaimo to Tofino. Where to stop along the way

After the initial excitement of the ferry, this is where you’ll be left in awe of the spectacle of nature. Head north on Highway 19 until you reach the turnoff for scenic  Highway 4 . It is a stretch of 170 km (106 mi)  pristine curvy road through the mountainous rainforest . There are several stops you can make on the way to Tofino and back. 

Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park

Vancouver Island 1

The park is home to several waterfalls most notably – the Upper and Lower Qualicum Falls. The walk around them, with stops for photos, could be done quickly. However, there’s no need to rush. Take it all in and give yourself at least an hour. It’s a perfect spot to practice some long-exposure photography of the waterfalls!

Cameron Lake

Vancouver Island 4

Shortly after you’ve had your warm-up on that short hike around Little Qualicum consider stopping at one of the many viewpoints that straddle the shoreline of Cameron Lake.  On a still day, it offers reflections of the surrounding mountains.

Cathedral Grove

Vancouver Island 6

The next major stop along Highway 4, at the western tip of Cameron Lake, is  MacMillan Provincial Park . It’s only a small park but it sure packs one hell of a punch.

It’s home to an ancient Douglas-fir forest, known as  Cathedral Grove , which was shortlisted as being one of the seven wonders of Canada. Although I wouldn’t go that far, it is pretty impressive. Some of the trees are over 800 years old and almost 3m in diameter!!

Bear in mind that  parking next to the Cathedral Grove trailhead  is right by the main road and it  can get pretty busy , especially in the peak summer months. 

The Hole in the Wall Waterfall

Vancouver Island 12

After Cathedral Grove, continue along on your epic road trip. You should be close to Port Alberni. A superb place to have some food and take a short stroll to  The Hole in the Wall Waterfall . It was man-made by blasting through a wall of volcanic shale the hole in the wall is a means to reroute the town’s water supply.

Generally speaking, I’m against humans interfering with nature but this turned out pretty photogenic. The waterfall can be tricky to find. Once you get to Port Alberni follow the signs for the visitor center where you can pick up a detailed map that will lead you straight to the waterfall. 

After Port Alberni, the road then continues to wind through the mountains stopping at various viewpoints such as  Sproat Lake and Kennedy Lake . It’s a bit like a roller coaster ride so make sure to keep your eyes on the road and stop only at designated pull-outs.

Once you get to the West Coast, it’s a short drive north to  Tofino through Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

Where to stay in Tofino

Tofino Hostel

Ecolodge – Tofino  

For Luxury Fans

Long Beach Lodge Resort

Day 2-3: Tofino and surroundings

Vancouver Island 23

Tofino and the surrounding islands were once small fishing villages inhabited only by the First Nations. Peaceful places where the local communities only took what they needed and left the rest to flourish. We could learn a lot from the way they used to, and still, try to live.  

Today Tofino is mostly known for being an awesome surfing hub and popular tourist destination.  It’s rife with coffee bars, restaurants, hotels, and tour operators. With that said it has still retained its charm of a tiny harbour town, so don’t be put off when I say it’s touristy. 

Join the hot springs tour

Vancouver Island 27

Speaking of tour operators. Most of them offer 3 different kinds of specialty tours. Bear watching, whale watching, and hot springs tours. They all cost roughly the same amount of money ($100 per person). 

I have opted for the  tour to the hot springs cove  with a local company called the Whale Centre and was it the right choice!  By choosing the latter I felt like I had just shot not two but three birds with one stone! Here is why.

Vancouver Island 29

On the way to the hot springs, which takes 90 minutes by boat btw, we spend some time looking for grey whales. As luck would have it we found 2 of them hanging out in one of the bays. We watched in awe as they resubmerged to catch their breath a few times.

Our tour then continued to the Hot Springs Cove. Upon arriving we hiked for 20 minutes through one of many beautiful rainforests on the Island. The natural hot springs were a delight.  The water temperature oscillates around 40-45 degrees year-round and there are a few different pools where you can soak until it’s time to leave.

Vancouver Island 28

Because we were one of the first ones to arrive, the area was peaceful. However, as we were getting ready to leave it got busier and busier. A tip from me would be to go as early as possible. 

During the return journey our captain, born and raised on one of the little islands around Tofino, managed to spot a mama bear with two small cubs hanging out on the shore, a lone wolf right on the beach and a sea otter  playfully cleaning its fur as we drove by!! Now you know what I mean when I got 3 tours in 1.

Vancouver Island 31

We were indeed pretty lucky, but to be honest wildlife appearances are very common on Vancouver Island hence I won’t be surprised if you see some on the way if you decide to do the hot springs tour! The professionalism and contagious enthusiasm the staff at the Whale Centre showed us, made it easy for me to recommend them.

Hike to the top of the Lone Cone

Vancouver Island 21

For the hikers amongst you with an extra day to spare, there’s an awesome trek to the top of the mountain near Tofino, called the Lone Cone. The peak is located on Meares Island to the north, right across from Tofino, and should take around 4 hours to complete.

There’s a campsite/hostel on Meares Island, that offers free water transportation if you choose to stay with them. You can also pay for a water taxi to get across. The ride only takes a few minutes and operates on a telephone request basis. 

Watch surfers & catch the sunset at the Pettinger Point

Vancouver Island 19

The trail to Pettinger Point heads out toward the beach. The view from the much larger outcrop is a fantastic spot to watch the sunset or surfers waiting for the perfect wave. It should only take you around 15 minutes to get from the road to the point but you could easily spend a few hours there, like I did, watching the world go by. 

To access the viewpoint  park your car in a public parking lot near Cox Bay Resort, across from the visitor center. Walk towards the beach through the resort grounds.

Vancouver Island 15

Once at the beach turn right and walk towards the forest until you see a path. The path will take you to the rocks where you can find a spot to sit down and watch the sunset. The walk will only take 15 minutes one way, but I would recommend taking sturdy shoes when walking on the rocks. 

Day 3-4: Explore Pacific Rim National Park

Vancouver Island 25

There are loads of hikes and paths in the Pacific Rim National Park, most of which are short affairs that end up on the beach. The national park, which hugs the western shoreline receives a lot of precipitation, about 3000mm a year to be precise, which is caused by the coastal mountains.

As a result, the catchment area is flooded with continual moisture culminating in a dense lush temperate rainforest and many marshes and bogs.

Before you set out on a walk, I would recommend stopping at Tofino’s visitor center, where you can pick up an awesome map with trail descriptions and the trailheads conveniently marked on it. 

Schooner’s Cove

Vancouver Island 24

Best at low tide the Schooner’s Cove trail heads through thick scrub before emerging out at the north point of Long Beach. Directly in front of you will be a small outcrop, possible to walk around.

This is only doable at low tide, do not attempt it otherwise. On this outcrop crabs, starfish and sea enema are a common sight. Take some lunch to eat, whilst sitting on the rocks and listening to the sound of the ocean.

The Rainforest Walk

Vancouver Island 13

Inland from Long Beach, the figure of eight-track is located on both sides of the highway in two separate 1km loops. Both along raised boardwalks through thick foliage offer a fantastic opportunity to take in the sights and smells of the area.

The trail encompasses 731 steps so is not as easy as a flat 2 km hike, but even with stops at the informative trail plaques and photography opportunities, it should take no longer than an hour. 

Day 4: Returning to Nanaimo

Vancouver Island 36

After several rounds of freshly caught fish ‘n’ chips, many early morning coffees, and hopefully some memorable sunrises and sunsets you’ll be reinvigorated with a new lease of life.

The road back the way you came will be just as exciting as the first time you did it. To drive nonstop from Tofino back to Nanaimo should take around 3 hours and although it seems like you haven’t seen much of the Island, trust me you’ve seen the best bits.

You also probably missed some roadside pullouts as well so make sure to visit them on the way back along Highway 4. You can leave Tofino late in the afternoon and catch the last ferry from Vancouver Island back to the mainland. 

Tips for Travelling around Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island 11

A lot of the cafes and other businesses in Tofino are only open 6 months a year they  do not accept cards . The ATMs here are scarce and will charge you for withdrawal. Remember cash is king.

Always carry bear spray  

Unless you are visiting in the winter carrying bear spray is essential. Know how to use it as well. I’ve heard horrid stories of people thinking the spray works the same way as a mosquito repellent. Here is the hint:  it doesn’t!  You don’t want your trip to end in a hospital. 

Pack a rain jacket  

The weather can change quickly. What looks like a bluebird day can become rainy within an hour.  After all Vancouver Island is known to be the rainiest place in Canada.   

Useful travel resources for planning a road trip around Vancouver Island.

Below are some links that will become useful in planning your road trip. They are all affiliate links meaning I receive a small commission when I book something. If you would like to pay it forward and help me run this site now it’s your chance. Thank you!  

  • Motorhome Republic  – find your perfect road trip campervan with this easy-to-use booking search engine
  • Discover Cars   If you are after renting a smaller car, this is the best website for comparing the prices and booking one. 
  • Booking.com  – my go-to website for booking accommodation.
  • BC Parks Website  – up-to-date information about campsites, trails & any wildlife warnings

As always if you have any questions please leave them in the comments! No questions or comments are left unanswered.    Go to my  Canadian Rockies and Beyond Travel Guide  for more hiking, backpacking, and photography inspirations! 


Hi! I am the photographer and creator of www.inafarawayland.com. I come from Poland, but I've been living, travelling and working around the globe since I turned 18. A few years ago, during one of my trips to Scotland, I bought my first DSLR and my adventure with photography began. When I am not stuck to my computer editing photos, you can find me hiking somewhere in the mountains.

Related Posts

travelling around vancouver island

Vancouver to Calgary in 2024: An Epic Two Week Road Trip Guide through Canada’s Finest Landscapes

  • April 13, 2023

travelling around vancouver island

Two Weeks In The Canadian Rockies – An Epic Road Trip Guide for Motorhome Travellers and Nature Lovers (2024 Update)

  • April 11, 2023

travelling around vancouver island

10 Marvelous Must-See Stops Along The Sea To Sky Highway In Canada

  • November 15, 2021

Thank you for your post? Are there any trails or parks where dogs are not allowed?

Hi Karen. As long as your dog is on the leash you are good to go. I only saw dog restrictions in Canada on multiday backpacking trails.

Hi, We are planning to go to Vancouver Island this summer and love your Tofino post. We are planning around 2 weeks on the island, hoping to head south towards Port Renfrew, Sooke and Victoria before ferrying to Port Angeles (Olympic NP). Do you have any itineraries for the southern part of the island? Thanks!

Hi Lisa. I am afraid I can’t give you pointers to other areas because I haven’t visited them myself. I hope you find information on what to do there. Have an amazing time on the Vancouver Island!

Hi Marta! You said that best way to travel is campervan (we have hired one!) but then recommended hotels/hostels… we are not sure where we stay with the campervan in/near Tofino – can you suggest something? Are you recommending all three nights in Tofino?

Hi Kim. Thanks for visiting. I recommend hotels for those who decide to travel with normal car. I recommend the green point campground which is not too far from Tofino. It has great access to the Long Beach. I hope that helps! Have a wonderful time on the Island!

Thanks for the fantastic blog! We are heading to Vancouver in late May or early June and hope to explore Vancouver, then travel to Whistler, then travel to Vancouver Island before flying to Calgary to explore the Rockies. I’m looking at car hire through Discrover Car and can see a restriction on the cars of no Ferry travel – can you recommend a car hire company for a compact to travel across to Vancouver Island by ferry with a hire car?

Hi Rebecca. Thanks for stopping by. That’s an excellent question and I don’t understand why every single company has that in place. I would suggest that you contact them directly because it seems to me like it has been checked by default. Plenty of people take their rentals on the ferry, it is within the same province. As I said, it seems to me like the rule is written by default.

hi we are flying into Calgary first week of May (we know it will still be cold) and have rented a motorhome for 3 weeks. our plan was to drive to Vancouver Island first How long would this take and where would you stop on the way? we dont need to visit Vancouver as we have visited there in the past. planning on about 5 days on VI before making our way back to Calgary via the Rockies naturally. is there a preferred route? final question would we need to book campsites ahead? really like your blogs so helpful so obviously the logical choice for all our questions. Thank you

Hi BJ. I recommend that you looked into my post about Western Canada in three weeks which takes you from Vancouver to the Rockies and back, It shows you both ways between the Rockies and Vancouver and all the things you can do there. As for the campsites, since you are going so early in the season you should be able to get away with it, although popular campsites might be booked out by the locals on weekends especially in areas like Whistler, Banff or Jasper. I hope that helps!.

Very helpful❤️

Thanks for the feedback!

Good morning, this was incredibly helpful. We are wanting to know if you got to Tofino and traveled back and forth each day.

We plan on staying in Nanaimo and was hoping that wouldn’t hinder your guide.

Hi Shailah. Thanks for your great feedback. I stayed in Tofino. I wouldn’t recommend staying in Nanaimo and doing day trip to Tofino because you are looking at a 3 hour drive one way so most of your day will be spent in the car.

Leave a Reply Cancel Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Name  *

Email  *

Add Comment  *

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

Post Comment

Let's be friends! Sign up receive our monthly newsletter with updates and new in-depth guides. 

Wheatless Wanderlust

A Spectacular Vancouver Island Road Trip Itinerary (7 Days)

Vancouver Island is stunning. Sand beaches. Coastal rainforests. All sorts of wildlife. Artisan, small batch food and drink producers. It has all of our favorite things. Ever since our own road trip on Vancouver Island, we’ve been dying to get back and do more exploring. However, vacation time isn’t unlimited, so it will have to wait for now. 

If you’re planning a trip to Vancouver Island, you’re in the right place. In this SUPER detailed Vancouver Island road trip itinerary , I’m going to give you all the detailed, nitty-gritty details you’ll need to plan an unforgettable trip to this gem of British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest.

Update 2021: Turns out, when you quit your corporate jobs to travel the world, vacation time IS unlimited! However, 2020 had other plans, and we’re still waiting for a return trip to Vancouver Island.

By the end of this guide, you’ll know how to get to Vancouver Island, how to get around, how to see the highlights over the course of a week, where to find the best coffee, wine, food, and cider, and where to stay.

So basically, everything you need to know to plan an incredible trip.

This is almost the exact Vancouver Island itinerary we followed on our trip, altered a bit based on our experiences and discoveries along the way. 

Pssst ! Don’t miss our guide to the best Airbnbs on Vancouver Island , with 16 places that we’ve added to our own list for that return trip.

travelling around vancouver island

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post, like hotel links, are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, we make a little bit of money if you click through and book. That being said, we would never recommend something to you that we don’t stand behind 100%.

An Overview of this Vancouver Island Itinerary

I remember telling people “I’m going to Vancouver Island!” and people saying things like “Oh, I love Vancouver! Great city!”

Let’s get this out of the way early – Vancouver Island is different from Vancouver the city.

Vancouver Island is the island off the west coast of mainland Canada , where you’ll find famous places like Victoria, Tofino, and plenty of unheralded places that you’re going to fall in love with. It’s a part of British Columbia, and is home to coastal rainforests, grizzly bears, orca whales, and some of the best hiking, backpacking, and water sports around. 

I’ve written this itinerary for seven days, but a week is nowhere near enough time to see the entire island. You’d need several months, and you don’t have that much vacation time.

Think of this as a guide to the highlights of Vancouver Island in 7 days, not a complete guide to EVERYTHING to see on Vancouver Island. 

At the bottom, you’ll find sample itineraries for 10 days and 14 days if you’ve got more time. 

It’s also worth noting that there are a ton of cool places to explore on Vancouver Island north of Nanaimo – Campbell River, Courtenay, and Port Hardy, to name a few – but a week isn’t nearly enough time to include them on this itinerary. If you’ve got a few more days, it’s worth looking into adding some time up there.

Here is the overview of this road trip (don’t worry, PLENTY of details below):

Day 1: Arrive in Victoria and head to Salt Spring Island Day 2: Road trip to Tofino Day 3 : Exploring the Tofino highlights Day 4 : Day trip to beautiful Ucluelet Day 5 : More Tofino, featuring wildlife, water taxis, and hikes Day 6 : Tofino to Victoria road trip Day 7 : Victoria and tears at the airport 

Here’s a visual for you.

You’ll be starting your road trip from Victoria – more specifically, Salt Spring Island, which is a short ferry ride from Victoria. If you’re coming from Seattle, Vancouver, or anywhere else, I’ve got a complete guide to how to get there down below.

travelling around vancouver island

Getting Around on Vancouver Island

This may sound dumb, but in order to do this road trip, you’re going to need… a car. 

You can either bring your own if you’re coming from the surrounding areas, like Seattle or Vancouver, or you can rent one in Victoria.

We recommend using RentalCars.com to rent cars around the world because they allow you to compare prices and reviews across all the available companies at locations worldwide. PLUS, you can see reviews of the exact location you’ll be picking up your car from, which I know from experience varies wildly.

Getting To Vancouver Island

This road trip starts with a day on Salt Spring Island, which is where you’ll need to get yourself to. It’s an easy journey from Victoria or Vancouver, but it can be a little bit tricky to do from Seattle since it will involve multiple forms of transportation. 

Have no fear, I’ve got you covered with detailed instructions on how to get to Vancouver Island from Seattle, Vancouver, and beyond. 

If you’re coming from somewhere other than Seattle or Vancouver and you’re trying to decide where to fly into, you should fly into Victoria if you can . If you’re not planning on doing any exploring in Vancouver, this is the best option, and is exactly what we did coming from San Francisco.

From Seattle

You’ve got a couple of approaches here, but all require a car. You can either bring your own or rent one in Victoria – I’ve got options for each. 

If you bring your own car , grab the ferry from Anacortes (~2 hours north of Seattle) to Sidney, BC, and drive up to the Swartz Bay ferry terminal to catch the ferry to Salt Spring Island (your first stop on this road trip itinerary). 

You could also drive from Seattle to Vancouver’s Tsawwassen ferry terminal (about 2.5 hours) and catch one of the three daily ferries to Salt Spring Island ( current schedule here ) which will take you another two and a half hours. It’s a long trip. It’s recommended to make reservations for your ferry trip on this route.

The car-less option is to head to Victoria by taking a flight with Alaska Airlines (more affordable ) or Kenmore Air (seaplane – more scenic!), or the Victoria Clipper , then renting a car in Victoria and heading up to the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal for the ferry to Salt Spring Island. 

From Vancouver

If you’re flying into Vancouver (or just leaving from Vancouver), pick up your rental car in Vancouver and head to the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal to catch one of the three daily ferries to Salt Spring Island ( current schedule here ) which will take you about two and a half hours.

If you can, catch the 7am ferry to get a nice early start, otherwise the 11am will do. It’s recommended to make reservations for your ferry trip on this route.

From Victoria

Flying into Victoria? PERFECT. That’s exactly what we did, and I think this is the easiest route.

Grab your rental car at the airport , and make the short drive to the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal to catch the ferry to Salt Spring Island . If you’ve got time to kill, head to Sidney, BC for lunch at Fish on Fifth (gluten free fryer!) and a walk down Beacon Avenue to the waterfront before heading out to catch the ferry.

travelling around vancouver island

The Best Time to Visit Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island is best explored in the summer , when long days and beautiful weather will make your trip one to remember. Plus, it’s whale season, which means you can hop on a whale watching tour to see the elusive orcas off the coast of Vancouver Island, or a kayaking trip to see the bounty of wildlife that calls the straits and sounds of the area home. 

Shoulder season in late spring and early fall (through mid-September) are also a great time to explore the island with less people. We were on Vancouver Island the week after Labor Day, and the weather was great except for up in Tofino, where it was essentially a torrential downpour. 

We were told it was the first storm of “storm season,” which is a draw in the winter to see impressive ocean swells and waves crashing on the rocky cliffs. Storm season in Tofino starts in mid-to-late September and runs through the winter. 

The Complete Guide to Planning Your Vancouver Island Road Trip

Now that you know how to get to Victoria, the best time to visit Vancouver Island, and how to get around, let’s get into the day-by-day detailed itinerary. 

Day 1: Arrive in Victoria, Head to Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island was the unanimous (between Alysha and I, to be clear) most surprising part of our road trip. It’s a small island community of around 10,000 people in the Gulf Islands just off of the coast of Vancouver Island. To get there, you’ll need to take a short ferry ride from Victoria (or a longer one from Vancouver). 

If you like slow living and handmade local art, food, and drink products, you’re going to love Salt Spring Island. It’s simultaneously a great place to relax, and it also has plenty of things to explore if you want to be on the go. Unlike my experience in some smaller communities, the locals were super friendly and happy that we were there. 

Needless to say, one day is not nearly enough time to truly explore the island, but it’s enough time to give you a taste of what makes it a special place, and leave you craving your next trip to the Gulf Islands. 

Here is a great map of all the local artisans on Salt Spring Island – from food to art and design. Download it as a PDF to have it with you on the trip. 

travelling around vancouver island

How to Get to Salt Spring Island

To get to Salt Spring Island, you’ll need to take a ferry, but it’s relatively simple to get to thanks to BC Ferries . 

From Vancouver, head to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal and catch one of the three daily ferries to Salt Spring Island ( current schedule here ) which will take you about two and a half hours. If you can, catch the 7am ferry to get a nice early start. It’s recommended to make reservations for your ferry trip on this route.

From Victoria , you’ll want to take the ferry from Swartz Bay terminal (which is up near Victoria’s airport) to Fulford Harbor – this route has more daily departures than the route from Vancouver, and only takes just over a half hour. Current schedule here . Arrive 15 minutes before departure to make sure you get a spot. 

travelling around vancouver island

Where to Stay Overnight on Salt Spring Island

On Salt Spring Island, Airbnb is going to be your best bet for finding an amazing place to stay at an affordable price. 

If you’re a couple , stay at this Hidden Retreat near Fulford Harbor on the quiet side of the island. You’ll be able to wake up and walk to the beach!

Want a super unique stay on Salt Spring Island ? Another option for couples is this Oceanfront Treehouse , which looks spectacular. 

For groups , take a look at The Sanctuary , a treetop lodge just outside of the town of Ganges. It sleeps six with three bedrooms, two baths, and stunning views from the outdoor deck. 

What to Do on Salt Spring Island

Visit Sacred Mountain Lavender Farm

Alysha’s favorite thing to do in the whole wide world is visit lavender farms and frolic amongst the beautiful purple blooms. Unfortunately, they were closed on the day we were on the island, or we might not have actually made it to any of the other stops we made. Visit the farm to do a self-guided tour of their lavender fields, which bloom during the summer time, and shop for all sorts of lavender-infused goods like honey and tea. 

Drink cider at Salt Spring Island Wild Cider

For us, two cider lovers, this was the standout of the trip to Salt Spring Island. They make amazing ciders from local fruits, and they fall on the dry side of the spectrum – just how we like it!

You can get a flight to try some (or all) of the different varieties they make – basics like Pear, all the way to more adventurous flavors like Pineapple Amaro and Hopped Apricot – or buy a bottle and share it with lunch.

The staff was super helpful in not only helping me figure out if all the cider is gluten free (yes, but I’d avoid any bourbon barrel aged ciders), but also helping us craft an amazing tasting flight.

travelling around vancouver island

Oh yeah, did I mention lunch?

They make “farm style tapas” (their words, not mine) which are 100% gluten free (when we were there, double check if you’re heading there), and 100% delicious. We were hungry when we arrived, so we decided to order a few different things to try and it was phenomenal food. The cider-braised sausage was the standout dish.

travelling around vancouver island

This is a fantastic place to go for lunch, and I’d head straight here from the ferry. They’ve got relatively limited opening hours – 12-5pm daily – so grab a bottle to enjoy at home tonight. 

Drink all the drinks!

It’s not just cider that’s made on Salt Spring Island, though that’s my favorite stop since I have Celiac Disease and can’t have gluten, including most beer.

There are all sorts of craft beverages to enjoy on Salt Spring Island.

If you’re into craft beer, head over to Salt Spring Island Ales to try some island-made brews.

Garry Oaks Winery is the spot to be for wine lovers, with a beautiful vineyard and a lovely tasting room. There’s also Salt Spring Vineyards , where you can get 4 pours for $5 (waived with purchase) and a wide range of island-made artisan food products.

Last, but not least, is the local distillery – Salt Spring Shine – which is crafted exclusively from British Columbia honey. Their tasting room is open 11am – 5pm spring to fall, and you can also find them at the local market – more on that in a second.  

Try some local cheese at Salt Spring Island Cheese

The other thing Alysha loves (and I do too)? Cheese. Salt Spring Island Cheese is a couple of minutes from where the Victoria ferry drops off, and is worth a stop as you roll off the ferry. Inside their small shop, you can try all sorts of different cheeses – like garlic chevre and spicy feta – and of course, buy them. It’s also a working farm, and the animals are behind the shop. Walk by and say hi!

travelling around vancouver island

Hike to spectacular views of the surrounding islands

There are plenty of amazing hiking trails to choose from on Salt Spring Island, but the two that I’d recommend would be the Mount Erskine Loop – which takes you 3.9km (that’s round trip) up through the forest to a lookout with views across the Gulf Islands, and back down – and Baynes Peak , which takes you to the top of Mount Maxwell. 

Kayak the coast

After our amazing sunrise kayaking adventure on our New Zealand south island itinerary , which was my first time in a kayak, I’m all about the kayaking.

On Salt Spring Island, you can take a day trip or a multi-day kayaking adventure with Salt Spring Adventures to explore the harbor, the coastline, or the surrounding islands. They now have night tours, too! We didn’t do this on our first trip, but it’s at the top of my list for our next trip to Salt Spring Island. 

Visit the Saturday Market

I’m a sucker for a good farmers market, and I was bummed when our midweek visit meant we wouldn’t be able to check out the Saturday Market on Salt Spring Island. If you do find yourself in town on Saturday, definitely check it out. Many of the vendors mentioned above have a stall at the market. The draw is their “homespun guarantee” – “Vendors must ‘make it, bake it, or grow it’ themselves, and all products must be ‘vendor produced and sold’.

A Perfect 24 Hours on Salt Spring Island

Starting off your trip on Salt Spring Island is a treat! Arrive on the island from Victoria or Vancouver at about noon, and head over to Salt Spring Island Cheese , which you’ll find a few minutes away from where the ferry from Victoria drops off (Fulford Harbor), and grab some cheese and crackers for later.

Then head over to Sacred Mountain Lavender Farm and take a stroll through the purple blooms (at least in summertime), and visit their shop to pick up some locally made gifts. 

For lunch, head to Salt Spring Island Wild Cider and get a flight of their incredible dry ciders alongside some farm-style tapas (the whole menu was gluten free when we were there). Their outdoor seating area is a great spot to hang out in the sun and sip on some amazing ciders. Grab a bottle or two of your favorites to enjoy later in the road trip. 

Next, head over to do some wine, beer, or spirit tasting at one of the places mentioned above, depending on what you’re into. 

For sunset, head up to either Mount Erskine or Baynes Peak to enjoy the incredible sunset over Vancouver Island. Bring the cheese and crackers for a lovely picnic, then head to wherever you’re staying for the night.

In the morning, get up and head over to the Switchboard Cafe in Ganges, which has the best coffee on the island. Grab breakfast in town and head over to the Vesuvius ferry terminal for the short ferry back to the mainland to start your journey to Tofino. 

travelling around vancouver island

Day 2: The Road Trip to Tofino

This is a little bit of a long day of driving, but the good news is that there are plenty of great stops along the way to break it up.

Grab the Vesuvius Ferry in the morning back to the Vancouver Island mainland, and head north.

Here are some stops to make along the way.

Wild Poppy Bistro in Ladysmith

A 100% gluten free bakery and cafe with amazing sandwiches, burgers, and of course, baked sweet treats. 

travelling around vancouver island

Regard Coffee Co, Country Grocer, and Greenrock Liquor are all in the same vicinity.

Regard has some of the best coffee on Vancouver Island and is worth the stop for coffee lovers. Or to send you into a caffeine-induced road trip dance party for the rest of the drive. Either way.

Country Grocer is my favorite grocery store on Vancouver Island, and is a good place to stock up on snacks, drinks, and groceries if you’re planning on cooking for yourself – there isn’t one in Tofino.

And Greenrock Liquor was one of my favorite liquor stores on the trip, with a huge selection of cider, wine, and beer (though I can’t drink that). 

Pirate Chips serves up all sorts of fried goodies, like fish and chips, that can be made gluten free in a dedicated fryer. It’s worth a stop if you skipped Wild Poppy, and it’s in the middle of the downtown area along the water. Also a good stop if you’re arriving on the ferry from Vancouver. 

The Vault is a good spot in downtown Nanaimo for coffee.

Coombs and the Old Country Market

The famous goats on the roof! Yes, literal goats on the roof. It’s a small market off the highway with a parking lot that’s too small, and inside you’ll find a range of basic to specialty grocery items, with a few gluten free items hidden on the shelves. Stop for the good cheese selection, and the decidedly NOT gluten free baked goods from the in-house bakery. There’s a produce market out back that is worth stopping at to pick up some farm-fresh fruit for the Tofino leg of the trip. 

travelling around vancouver island

Cathedral Grove

By now, your legs are getting a little stiff, and Cathedral Grove is the perfect place to get out and stretch your legs. There are two relatively short walks (I can’t even call them hikes) on either side of the road. You’ll be able to walk amongst the moss-covered 800 year old Douglas Fir trees that call Cathedral Grove home.

It’s a stunning walk full of green – the moss hanging from the tree branches, the ferns sprouting between trees, and the trees themselves, which you’ll have to crane your neck to see. You might have to park along the road as there are shockingly few parking spots available at the entrance to the park. 

Walk the Rainforest Trail near Tofino

Located in Pacific Rim National Park, the Rainforest trail is a short stroll through a forest of ancient trees. It’s a unique spot – there aren’t many coastal temperate rainforests around, but this is one of the best places to see one (along with Olympic National Park in Washington).

There are two loops – A & B – that each focus on a different aspect of the forest’s ecosystem, and it’s worth doing both. It’s an easy flat walk along the boardwalk, for the most part. Trail A starts across the road from the parking lot, Trail B starts from the parking lot. 

Day 3: Tofino 

travelling around vancouver island

For days 3-5 of this road trip itinerary, you’re going to base yourself in Tofino. 

The coastal town of Tofino is paradise for all sorts of people – surfers and outdoor adventure enthusiasts to name a couple. The combination of lush greenery, sandy beaches, and sometimes stormy weather make it one of the most unique places I’ve ever visited. 

Tofino itself is a small, walkable town that is at the northern tip of a peninsula jutting into Clayoquot Sound and the vast Pacific Ocean. Along the coast on the west side, you’ll find incredible sandy beaches, along with the best surfing in Canada.

Whether it’s Cox Bay, Chesterman Beach, or Long Beach, those beaches should be a focal point of your time up in Tofino. It’s easy to appreciate the spectacular oasis that Tofino has become when you’re watching the surfers and taking in an epic sunset on the beach. Which, let me tell you, Tofino has plenty of. 

travelling around vancouver island

In the winter, Tofino turns into the premier destination for storm watchers, and while we were there in mid-September, we got to see exactly what that means for one of our days. Picture sideways rain, huge waves crashing onto the beach, and wind whipping the hood of your jacket off your head. It was quite something – not ideal hiking weather, to say the least. 

Where to Stay in Tofino?

We stayed in this Airbnb along the waterfront , which was a fantastic choice. It’s small – perfect for a couple – but it has everything you might need in a home base for exploring Tofino, and it’s walkable to the entire downtown area. 

Here is another incredible waterfront Airbnb choice in Tofino . 

At the Shoreline Tofino , you’ll find Instagram-ready A-frame cabins tucked away from the hustle and bustle (not that there is much to begin with) of Tofino. I’m only half joking about the Insta-ready part. It’s a little bit removed from the downtown Tofino “main drag,” but it’s walkable (about 1km to Rhino Coffee, door to door). 

Tofino Resort & Marina is a solid option if you’re after a more traditional hotel – they’ve got 63 newly renovated and budget-friendly rooms, which are words that you don’t always see together, and the helpful staff can help you put together the perfect adventure in Tofino. Their tagline is “inspired by adventure” after all. It’s totally walkable to downtown. 

Last, but certainly not least, are the beachfront resorts and lodges along the coast to the south of downtown Tofino. You’ll trade proximity to downtown for incredible beachfront properties, which is a worthy trade off for some people. Check out Middle Beach Lodge (most rustic, Long Beach Lodge and Pacific Sands (my top pick of the three), which are all just outside of town. 

What to Do in Tofino?

The list of things to do and see in Tofino are nearly endless, but here are a few ideas to get started. Don’t worry, you’ll get a detailed day-by-day itinerary down below to help you plan an amazing couple of days!

Explore the Beaches : Short hikes to Chesterman Beach and Cox Bay, and all the beach walks.

travelling around vancouver island

Learn to Surf! What better place to learn to surf than Tofino, Canada’s capital of surfing? Here’s a highly-rated surfing lesson on Airbnb experiences.

Hike Lone Cone: Unfortunately, we skipped this because the weather was pretty terrible on our last day, which was when we had planned on doing it. It’s a hike up one of the tallest mountains in the Clayoquot Sound, and waiting for you at the top of the 3.5km climb are stunning views across the sound and beyond. It was super foggy and raining sideways, so we skipped it, but I wish we’d had a chance to do it. It’s short, but it’s straight up. You’ll need to take a water taxi from Tofino to get there. Here are some helpful details about the hike .  

Wildlife Watching : There are countless whale watching tours and bear watching tours that operate out of Tofino. The whale watching tours take you out of the Clayoquot Sound into the Pacific in search of gray whales, humpback whales, and ORCA WHALES, depending on the season. June to September is the best time of year to see whales. Bear watching tours, which is what we opted for, take you out at dawn or dusk into the fingers of Clayoquot Sound. We wanted to explore the picturesque islands and inlets of the sound, so we opted to go out in search of bears. We used Ocean Outfitters , and liked them. We saw a couple of bears, some seals posing for pictures (see below), and a bald eagle. 

travelling around vancouver island

Drink some local beer: In a cool warehouse space just outside of town, you’ll find Tofino Brewing Co . They had exactly zero gluten free options for me, so we didn’t spend much time here, but it’s a cool space and is a must-stop for beer lovers in Tofino. 

Where to Eat & Drink in Tofino?

Here are some of the best places to eat and drink in Tofino: 

  • Bravocados : 100% vegan, and 100% delicious. Eating here, I turned to Alysha and actually said the words “do we even need meat?” with a mouthful of their cauliflower wings, which is something I legitimately never thought would come out of my mouth until recently. Gluten free options aplenty, and a dedicated fryer. 
  • Wolf in the Fog : If you’re eating gluten free, I’d go elsewhere as the menu is VERY limited. But for everyone else, this is the place to be for a nice night on the town. Great ambiance, great cider selection, and the food is pretty good. Again, hard to tell when I could order only one or two things, but that’s my issue, not theirs. Make reservations – it was packed on a Tuesday night. 
  • Shed : Don’t bother if you need to eat gluten free, but this place was recommended to us by a couple of different people, including our Airbnb hosts. Burgers, pizzas, etc in a casual atmosphere with a good beer selection, if that’s your thing. 
  • Rhino Coffee House and the Tofitian Cafe are where to go for the best coffee in Tofino, but the latter is a ways out of town. Rhino is your best bet in town , but it will be packed. On a nice day, grab your coffee to go and take it to the waterfront. 
  • SoBo : The Chowder! Get the smoked salmon chowder! It’s gluten free, and I had to order a third bowl because it was so incredible. They’re a highly regarded restaurant, and were super helpful answering my gluten-related questions both before I showed up, and when I sat down. 
  • Tacofino: The original! Unfortunately, I chose not to eat here. Lots of fried stuff and flour tortillas, which is a cross-contamination nightmare for me and my fellow Celiacs. But, if you don’t have an issue with gluten, this should be high on your list. They’ve now got outposts around British Columbia, but this is the original. 
  • Chocolate Tofino : Most of their chocolate is gluten free! And it’s delicious. You’ll find everything from truffles to caramels, and they have ice cream which we regrettably passed on because it was stormy outside. 

travelling around vancouver island

How to Spend Your First Day in Tofino

On your first day in Tofino, wake up and take it slow. Walk to Rhino Coffee for your morning caffeine boost, and grab breakfast before walking from town down to Tonquin Beach , a nice easy 1.5km walk through the forest. Add on a side trip to Third Beach too, while you’re at it. 

Head back into town for a quick and easy lunch, either at home or at Shelter, and hop in the car for the drive out to Cox Bay. Take a surfing lesson here, or just relax at the beach. Park and walk along the beach to the south end, then back up the beach to Sunset Point for the sunset. 

travelling around vancouver island

Day 4:  Half Day Trip to Ucluelet

Today, you’re going to head down to the southern end of the peninsula (not sure if that’s the right word for it, but close enough) to check out the town of Ucluelet. 

A Morning in Ucluelet

Head south out of Tofino along highway 4 and stop at the Tofitian for some of the best coffee in the Tofino area. It’s a good spot for a quick breakfast too – they have a good pastry selection – but not if you need to eat gluten free. 

Drive all the way to the south end of Ucluelet to the trailhead for the Wild Pacific Trail , which was the highlight of Ucluelet for us. There are a couple of great hikes in the area that make up the Wild Pacific Trail, and you should do your best to do a couple of them. 

travelling around vancouver island

Start with the Lighthouse trail , which is the trailhead I just directed you to, and then hop back in the car to head to the other section of the trail, which starts from Big Beach Park and heads north along the coast. Supposedly, there’s a way to connect the two trails on foot ( according to this map ), but we couldn’t figure it out, and decided this way was the best solution. 

travelling around vancouver island

Here’s a super useful map of the hiking trails in Ucluelet . I’d recommend doing the hike from Big Beach all the way to the Rocky Bluffs if you’re up for it.  

After your hike, explore the town of Ucluelet. For an afternoon pick-me-up, head to the Foggy Bean for a nice cup of coffee (tea lovers head to nearby Thay Tea – it’s right around the corner).

There are a bunch of places to eat along Peninsula Road, but none of them were safe for Celiacs, so we packed sandwiches for lunch. If you’re not worried about gluten, then look at Zoe’s Bakery & Cafe and the Blue Room are highly rated, though I’ve never eaten at either. 

For ice cream, the perfect post-hike recovery food, head to Ukee Scoops . 

The Ucluelet Aquarium is worth a stop if you have kids, otherwise skip it. 

travelling around vancouver island

Back to Tofino You Go!

On the way back up to Tofino, there are a couple of stops worth making. 

First, stop at the Willowbrae trail to do a short hike out to the coast to see Florencia Bay and Halfmoon Bay. It’s an easy hike through the dense green forest out to a set of wooden stairs that will take you down to the waterfront. Admire the sandy beach that extends out to your left, with steep, rocky cliffs jutting out over the ocean. On the way back, take the short side trail to Halfmoon Bay. 

travelling around vancouver island

Next, stop at Long Beach to do some walking along the beach. How romantic. Here’s a map of the beach to help you figure out where to park and walk.

Third, stop at Chocolate Tofino for essential recovery food – handcrafted truffles and gelato. It’s next door to the Tofitian, where you stopped this morning on the way out to Ucluelet. Almost everything, except the cones, was gluten free, and they even offered to change gloves and wipe down the scale for me as they were weighing out my chocolate. WITHOUT ME ASKING.

travelling around vancouver island

Last, but certainly not least, round out the recovery food trio (that’s ice cream, chocolate, beer) with local craft beer at Tofino Brewing Co . They didn’t have any gluten free options for me, otherwise we would’ve spent more time there in the industrial, warehouse-feeling space. 

Head back to your place and relax before dinner out in Tofino. If you want something casual, head to Bravocados for awesome vegan food (plenty of gluten free options) that made me question my need to eat meat. If you’re looking for something a bit more upscale, make a reservation for Wolf in the Fog , or head to SoBo (AND ORDER THE CHOWDER). 

Day 5: Tofino

Today, your last day in Tofino, I’d choose between two great adventures. If you’re stuck, you could do them both, but it will be a long day. 

Your first option is whale watching or bear watching . We opted for a bear watching tour with Ocean Outfitters , which took us out on a Zodiac boat into the fingers of the Clayoquot Sound.

Exploring deeper in the sound was the main draw for us, and we were rewarded with gorgeous foggy treescapes, photogenic seals, and a couple of bears. It was a cool experience, and they offer tours in the early morning and late afternoon, which are the best time to catch the bears close to the water.

Whale watching is also a great option, and we only skipped it because I’ve done several whale watching tours (having grown up in Seattle), and wanted to check out the inner part of the Sound. If you’ve never seen an orca whale in the wild, this is one of your best shots if you’re in Tofino over the summer. 

The second option is hiking Lone Cone , the mountain that towers over the Clayoquot Sound and offers spectacular views on a clear day. If it’s not a clear day (it was pouring rain and super foggy for us), I’d probably skip it. Here’s a great guide on how to do it .

You could, theoretically, do both in one day if you wanted. I’d do wildlife watching in the morning, and Lone Cone in the afternoon.  

Day 6: Road Trip from Tofino to Victoria

Your time in Tofino has come to an end, and it’s time to complete the loop back to Victoria. I’d get an early start so that you have time this afternoon to explore Victoria a little bit. 

Stop along the way to stretch your legs at any of the stops you missed on the way from Victoria to Tofino. 

Once you get past where the ferry dropped you off from Salt Spring Island, there are a couple of stops worth making on your way from Tofino to Victoria. 

First is Westholme Tea Farm , which is, you guessed it, a tea farm. It’s a little ways off the highway, and Alysha loved it. You can either buy their loose leaf teas that they source from around the world, try their tea of the day for free, or sit down in their little tea garden and enjoy a tea of your choice. 

travelling around vancouver island

Next is Merridale Cider , which is a cidery and distillery (complete with an apple orchard) in Cobble Hill near Cowichan. They have a cool tasting room where you can try some of their ciders overlooking their orchard.

They’ve also got a full food menu if you’re hungry. Their cider isn’t my favorite – especially in a place with such a great selection of amazing ciders, but it’s certainly worth a stop.

We actually spent an evening in one of their yurts on the orchard , and it was fantastic! It was our honeymoon, so it felt like the right time to splurge. Highly recommend it – you get to walk around the orchard at sunset after everyone else has gone home, and we saw a bear!

travelling around vancouver island

Last is the Goldstream Trestle , a picturesque railway through the forest and over a bridge, which is a quick 3km hike off the highway. It’s sketchy to walk out onto the bridge, especially if you’re afraid of heights and are somewhat accident prone… like me. 

travelling around vancouver island

Head into Victoria to drop the car off at your accommodations, and head to Be Love for dinner. It’s a 100% gluten free and plant-based spot, and it was fantastic. I’d eat there again in a heartbeat. 

Where to Stay in Victoria

In Victoria, your best bet is to stay somewhere with parking, since you’ll still have the car at this point. Unfortunately, you’ll have to pay for parking at hotels, so I’d recommend finding an Airbnb that includes parking.

We stayed at this apartment downtown , and it was perfect. Plus, free parking! It’s a corner spot, so it wasn’t the easiest to get into, but still. Free parking!

Here are some great choices in Victoria that caught my eye.

Stunning Views and Modern Luxury Overlooking the Empress (1 bedroom + sofa bed, 1 bathroom)

Beautiful Suite in the Heart of Victoria with Parking (1 bedroom / 1 bathroom)

Spotless 11th Floor with Gorgeous Mountain Views, Sleeps Six (2 bedrooms / 1 bathroom)

Day 7: Victoria, Fly Home in the Evening

Ah, Victoria! It’s a charming port town with a relatively small downtown area that quickly turns into residential areas, which are full of hidden gems – independent bookstores, coffee shops, and some underrated shopping. 

All that being said, Victoria is a little too sterile for my liking. It’s not my favorite city in the world, which is why I’ve only given it a day on this itinerary. If you’ve got more than a week on Vancouver Island, I would spend an extra day in Victoria, but no more than that. There are some really cool things for outdoor lovers to explore just outside of Victoria – like Sooke to the west and the Tod Inlet to the north. 

On your last day, explore downtown Victoria in the morning, and head to the airport in the afternoon for your flight home. 

Start your day at Hey Happy , the best coffee shop in Victoria. You can get an incredible pour over from one of the amazing coffee roasters in the Pacific Northwest, or the usual espresso drinks. 

Next, go on a self-guided walk of the inner harbor of Victoria. 

Head back to check out of your accommodations, hop in the car, and head north to make a couple of stops on your way to the airport. 

First is Butchart Gardens , which I actually have been to a couple of times now thanks to a few Victoria trips with my family while I lived in Seattle. It’s beautiful, and is worth a stop. I wouldn’t call it a MUST STOP though. 

Second is Sea Cider , my favorite cider on Vancouver Island. And maybe in all of British Columbia. I’ve found a few of their ciders down in the United States, and every single one I’ve tried is outstanding. Their Bramble Bubbly is outstanding.

travelling around vancouver island

Anyway, they have a tasting room up in Saanichton (open 11am-4pm) where you can enjoy a flight of their craft ciders in a tasting room overlooking their apple orchard. It’s super cool, and is a good stop on the way to the airport to catch your flight home. 

If they have the Witch’s Broom, a fall seasonal that is a little sweet, full of cinnamon and other spices, get it. 

Now, sadly, it’s time to head to the airport and catch your flight home, bringing your trip to Vancouver Island to an end. 

travelling around vancouver island

What to Add to with More Time

If you have 10 days on Vancouver Island, I’d add a day in Victoria, a day in Sooke, and a day in Port Renfrew. This is how that itinerary would look:

Day 1: Arrive in Victoria and head to Salt Spring Island Day 2: Road trip to Tofino Day 3 : Exploring the Tofino highlights Day 4 : Day trip to beautiful Ucluelet Day 5 : More Tofino, featuring wildlife, water taxis, and hikes Day 6 : Tofino to Port Renfrew road trip Day 7 : Port Renfrew Day 8: Sooke Day 9: Victoria Day 10 : Victoria & Home

With a full 2 weeks on Vancouver Island, take the 10 day itinerary above and add three days North of Nanaimo, and an extra day on Salt Spring Island. Here’s a guide to the best things to do in Campbell River . 

Day 1: Arrive in Victoria and head to Salt Spring Island Day 2 : Salt Spring Island Day 3: Road trip to Campbell River Day 4: Campbell River Day 5 : Campbell River Day 6 : Campbell River to Tofino Day 7 : Exploring the Tofino highlights Day 8 : Day trip to beautiful Ucluelet Day 9 : More Tofino, featuring wildlife, water taxis, and hikes Day 10 : Tofino to Port Renfrew road trip Day 11 : Port Renfrew Day 12: Sooke Day 13: Victoria Day 14 : Victoria & Home

travelling around vancouver island

At the airport, if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably be planning your return to British Columbia. It’s such an amazing place to explore, especially if you love the outdoors. One week is enough to get a taste for it, but you’ll need a lifetime to fully explore it. 

Don’t miss our other Canada posts to help you plan the perfect Canadian adventure.

  • Gluten Free Vancouver, BC
  • Gluten Free Victoria, BC
  • Where to Stay in Vancouver, BC
  • The Best Weekend Trips from Vancouver, BC
  • A Perfect Weekend in Vancouver (Complete Itinerary)
  • A Complete Canadian Rockies Road Trip Itinerary
  • The Best Hikes in Banff
  • 3 Days in Banff
  • Gluten Free Banff
  • Where to Stay in Jasper

' src=

Matt is the founder and main writer behind Wheatless Wanderlust, which he started back in 2018 as a way to share his gluten free travel guides with his fellow Celiac travelers.

Since then, Matt and his wife Alysha have visited 18 national parks, spent three months in Europe and six weeks in Colombia, and have explored every corner of the Pacific Northwest, which is where Matt grew up.

He writes super detailed guides to the places they visit, bringing together personal experience and historical context to help YOU plan an amazing trip.

Hi, Many thanks for taking the time to post your itinerary. It sounds brilliant and just the sort of thing we’re looking for. We’ve got 7 days on Vancouver Is. in a hire car (because our scheduled cruise got cancelled) so this is perfect. After this we pick up a Motorhome for 20 days around the Rockies (so if you have any ideas/itineraries for this region that would be great!). Salt Spring Island sounds an amazing start to the week and somewhere we wouldn’t thought of visiting. Thanks again and keep blogging, John and Diane. North Wales, UK

Hey there! We actually have a guide to the Canadian Rockies (which we loved, by the way). You can find it here: https://wheatlesswanderlust.com/canadian-rockies-road-trip-itinerary/ . We loved Golden and Yoho National Park too, so make sure to stop there along the way (assuming you’re coming from the west, which means you’ll likely pass right through it). Enjoy!

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed .

Wild About BC


by Wild About BC | Vancouver Island


There’s something special about a road trip. Knowing you will be on the road, exploring new places every day is awesome and it’s one of our favourite ways to travel. Combine this with one of the coolest places in Canada and you’ve got the basis for an epic Vancouver Island road trip. 7 days is the optimal time to complete our main Vancouver Island itinerary but we also have a bonus section if you have some extra time or if you just want to plan another trip to Vancouver Island.

Even though it is so close to the hustle and bustle of Vancouver , the island feels very different and is the ideal place to plan a weekend away from Vancouver . While not the typical tropical island life of somewhere like Maui, there is definitely a more relaxed and easy-going feel on Vancouver Island. There are seemingly endless cool things to do on Vancouver Island, making it pretty hard to squeeze it all into a short space of time, but we think our road trip on Vancouver Island will give you all the best bits on an amazing week-long adventure.

Having grown up in Qualicum Beach and lived in both Victoria and Tofino , we feel like we know a thing or two about the Vancouver Island road trips you can complete and you’ll only leave wanting to come back for more. Unique cities, mountain scenery, beautiful beaches, ocean views plus some cool wildlife all add up to give you an incredible experience on your road trip around Vancouver Island.

Disclaimer – This post may contain affiliate links, meaning we receive a small commission if you make a purchase at NO extra cost to you. This will never impact our reviews and we only recommend products and services we firmly believe in. Thanks for your support !

Jump ahead to:

Vancouver Island Road Trip Itinerary Overview

As mentioned above, we recommend taking at least 7 days for your trip so you can enjoy all the scenic drives Vancouver Island has to offer. We have also added a bonus section if you have some extra time and want to explore further up island (which we really recommend if you have the time).

Download your FREE checklist of things to do on Vancouver Island!

Day 1 + 2 – victoria, explore the inner harbour.

  • Fisherman’s Wharf

Goldstream Trestle

Visit craft breweries, discover chinatown and fan tan alley, beacon hill park, go whale watching, day 3 – victoria to port renfrew, sooke potholes provincial park, mystic beach, port renfrew, day 4 – port renfrew to nanaimo, fairy lake bonsai tree, cowichan valley wineries, kinsol trestle, day 5 – nanaimo to tofino drive.

  • Coombs Old Country Market – Goats on the Roof

Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park

Cathedral grove, the hole in the wall, port alberni, sproat lake, taylor river rest area, wally creek, day 6 + 7 – tofino, surfing in tofino, drink a flight of beers at tofino brewing co, hike cox bay trail for sunset, dinner at shelter restaurant, explore the best beaches in tofino, eat at tacofino, walk along the forest boardwalks, check out the boutique shops and art galleries.


Best Time to Visit Vancouver Island

One of the great things about driving around Vancouver Island is that there isn’t really a bad time to do it. The weather year-round is quite mild and there is much less rain here than the likes of Vancouver, making it possible to plan an adventure here at any time.

Having said that, summer is always the best time to visit as you’ll get long sunny days and warm weather which is perfect if you are looking to camp or stay in a van. Most of the activities we suggest are outdoors, making summer the ideal time of year to come.

How to Get to Vancouver Island

Vancouver island from vancouver.

Wondering how to get to Vancouver Island from Vancouver? We’v got you covered. The options are to fly or to take the ferry to Vancouver Island from Vancouver. The most popular option is to take the ferry over and we suggest taking the ferry to Victoria as this is the starting point for our itinerary .

One of the Vancouver to Vancouver Island car ferries operates from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay, which is a 30-minute drive from downtown Victoria. This ferry is operated by BC Ferries and you can find their sailing schedules to help plan your trip here .

The second option is to fly to Victoria and then rent a car once you are there. This is the fastest way to travel to Vancouver Island from Vancouver. You can fly from Vancouver Airport (YVR) to Victoria (YYJ), with daily flights. But the best flight option is to take a seaplane from downtown Vancouver to downtown Victoria. This is an epic experience and if you are planning to fly this is the way to do it.

Check the latest schedules and availability for seaplane flights here .

The Ferry to Tofino at sunset

Seattle to Vancouver Island

If you are coming from Seattle then you have very similar options. The most popular choice is to drive onto the MV Coho ferry which travels from Port Angeles WA to Victoria BC and is operated by Black Ball Ferry Line. You can check the ferry schedule here .

The second option is to fly from Seattle to Victoria and rent a car when you land. You can fly from Seattle Airport (SEA) to Victoria (YYJ) or you can take a seaplane from several locations in Seattle to the inner harbour in downtown Victoria.

Vancouver Island Road Trip Map

The below Vancouver Island road map lays out the driving route for our Vancouver Island itinerary. Most of the driving will be along the highway and it should be quite easy to navigate around this route.

Vancouver Island Itinerary

Day 1 – victoria.

Victoria is the perfect place to kick off your trip. It’s a beautiful city with the inner harbour located right in the city centre. We recommend taking a couple of days to explore the city and its nearby surroundings – you could easily spend more time here. You can read our full guide on Victoria here .

Where to Stay in Victoria

Helm’s Inn –  Situated right on the corner of Beacon Hill Park and just minutes away from the inner harbour, this is an amazing location. The rooms are fantastic and select rooms also come with a kitchenette so you can cook your own meals.

>>Check the latest prices and availability for Helm’s Inn here.

Start your trip right in the heart of Victoria by exploring the inner harbour and the downtown core of this pretty city. The inner harbour is a hive of activity as you have a constant stream of boats and seaplanes coming and going throughout the day. The sound of seaplanes taking off always reminds me of walking around the harbour as it is a constant here.

The harbour is surrounded by some beautiful buildings including the Fairmont Empress and the Parliament Building . The Parliament Building has a large green lawn that sprawls down towards the water and is a great spot for a picnic lunch. You could easily spend hours sitting and watching the world go by as there is so much going on here.

Victoria Inner Harbour

Fisherman’s Wharf

One of Victoria’s more unique attractions is the floating community at Fisherman’s Wharf. Just a 5-minute walk from the inner harbour, you will find a small cluster of floating homes and restaurants connected by wooden boardwalks and it is all publicly accessible. Each floating home is unique in its shape, size and decor and it makes for such a funky place.

Most of the houses have full-time residents and you can see them out enjoying their decks on a sunny day. As you walk amongst the houses you may also get the chance to see some friendly seals that love swimming up to the boardwalk to see what all the tourists are up to. You can also grab a bite to eat as there are a couple of floating restaurants serving takeaway meals such as fish and chips and sushi.

Fishermans Wharf, Victoria

You’ll find Goldstream Provincial Park a short drive outside of Victoria. While there are numerous trails to explore, the hike to Goldstream Trestle is our favourite. A short but steep climb from the parking lot will lead you to the trestle.

The trestle bridge is a fantastic old wooden bridge that used to be a part of the island’s rail network. It has been abandoned for many years now but the secluded location, surrounded by forest is such an amazing place to visit. You will need around 1.5 hours to complete this hike.

Goldstream Trestle near Victoria BC

Like most cities nowadays, Victoria has an impressive craft brewery scene and its worth taking a few hours to try some of the local beers. You can either rent a bike and explore the local breweries yourself or there are some great local brewery tours you can take.

>> You can find more details for brewery tours here .

Our personal favourite is Phillips Brewing which is a west coast staple. They have a tasting room that looks into the factory, light snacks, a good atmosphere and most importantly delicious beer. Try out the Tiger Shark pale ale, it’s our top recommendation.

Craft Breweries in Victoria, BC

Day 2 – Victoria

Start your day with a delicious brunch.

Victoria’s food scene is pretty impressive, but they exceed in the brunch department. There are a whole host of delicious brunch places in Victoria but some of the best include Jam Cafe (expect long lines, especially on weekends), Blue Fox Cafe and the Ruby.

While the Chinatown area in Victoria is quite small, it is still an awesome place to visit with the highlight being Fan Tan Alley, Canada’s narrowest street . This is Canada’s oldest Chinatown district and you’ll find some great restaurants and unique shops to visit.

You’ll need to keep your eyes peeled as it’s easy to walk right past Fan Tan Alley. This narrow street is extremely picturesque with the red brick walls and boutique shops that are located here. If you do walk through this street we highly recommend checking out Kid Sister which serves up the best-salted caramel ice cream we have ever had and that’s saying something.

Fan Tan Alley, Victoria BC

A walk through Beacon Hill Park is a nice way to escape the city and it is just a 5-minute walk from the inner harbour. This is another great place to have a picnic, throw a frisbee around or just walk the many trails and enjoy the wide-open green spaces.

The waters around Vancouver Island are home to a large population of whales and there are few places as spectacular as this to enjoy a whale watching tour. The whale that everyone wants to see, which also happens to be the most elusive, is the Orca or Killer Whale. There are also Grey Whales and Humpbacks in the surrounding waters.

Whale watching tours leave right from the inner harbour and if you take an uncovered zodiac (this is the best boat to take as you get the wind rushing past you) you get a giant red suit to keep you warm. It’s an epic experience and one of the best things you can do on Vancouver Island.

>>Check prices and availability for whale watching tours here.

Whale Watching Victoria

  • Driving Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
  • Distance: 111 kms

Discover the rugged west coast of Vancouver Island as you drive from Victoria to Port Renfrew, with some epic stops along the way.

Where to Stay in Port Renfrew

Wild Coast Chalets – Enjoy beach access from your cute little wooden cabin on the coast and spend the evening watching the sun go down while barbecuing on your own private patio. These cottages are a great oceanside escape on the rugged west coast.

>>See the latest prices and availability for Wild Coast Chalets here

Cool off in the cold waters of Sooke Potholes. These naturally formed pools are dotted along the Sooke River and are the perfect place to go for a dip on a hot summer’s day. If you want to get the adrenaline pumping you can also cliff jump into some of the crystal clear pools. It does tend to get quite busy here, but it is such a good spot that we recommend stopping and you can usually find yourself a quiet enough place somewhere along the river.

The Juan de Fuca trail runs along this section of the coast and there are lots of cool beaches to stop at. One of the best is Mystic Beach . It’s about a 30-minute walk through a beautiful old-growth forest to reach Mystic Beach and when you arrive you are greeted with a short stretch of sand that is totally secluded from the outside world.

You can camp along the beach here or just make a quick visit. Mystic Beach is one of our favourites, not only because of its scenic setting but also because it has a waterfall that falls from the forest right onto the beach which isn’t something you see too often (you can also find a hidden waterfall nearby at Sombrio Beach ). You will need around 2 hours to hike to the beach, spend some time enjoying the scenery and then hike back.

We also highly recommend stopping at Jordan River if you have the time.

Mystic Beach

The end of the road! Port Renfrew is a tiny community located on the south shore of Port San Juan. Known for being truly wild, you can enjoy the amazing untouched beauty of the wild west coast out here. Stop in at the Renfrew Pub for a bite to eat and a beer on their amazing patio.

Botanical Beach is one of the coolest places to visit here , especially on low tide as there are lots of little tide pools that form here that you can walk between as you keep an eye out for wildlife. Sombrio Beach is another place you should check out and there is even a waterfall hidden in a mossy green canyon by the beach.

Mystic Beach

  • Driving Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
  • Distance: 135 kms

The Port Renfrew to Tofino drive takes 5 hours if you drive direct but there are so many stops along the way that we recommend splitting this trip into two days so you can enjoy the Victoria to Tofino road trip. Take your time making the relatively short drive from Victoria up to Nanaimo. There are some epic stops along the way, including the chance to sample some local Vancouver Island wine.

Where to Stay in Nanaimo

Gibralter Rock Ocean View B&B – Enjoy the fabulous ocean views from the balcony of this super little B&B. It’s located in a nice area of Nanaimo and offers a quality breakfast to fuel you up for your day of adventuring.

>>See the latest prices and availability for Gibralter Rock Ocean View B&B here.

A short drive from Port Renfrew will take you to the Fairy Lake Bonsai Tree . Close to the edge of Fairy Lake, you will spot a tiny Douglas Fir growing from the submerged stump of a much larger Douglas Fir tree. This is such a unique and quirky stop on your road trip and one that would be easy to miss unless you know it is there. Plus, you’ll only need a few minutes to stop and admire this beautiful feat of nature.

Fairy Lake BC

Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island’s wine region, is home to 14 different wineries . Spend a few hours sampling some locally made wines and grab a bite to eat at one of the winery restaurants. You can either drive yourself around all of the different tasting rooms or if you would prefer there are several tours that will take you to a selection of wineries.

See prices and availability for a wine tour here!

There are 8 different trestle bridges along the Cowichan Valley Trail route but Kinsol Trestle is easily the pick of the bunch. It is one of the largest wooden trestle structures in the world and measures 44 metres high and 187 metres long.

Unlike Goldstream Trestle, there has been a lot of work done to make this safe for people to walk and bike along this impressive bridge. The trail to the trestle is relatively flat and easy and the trestle itself is very impressive, spanning across the Koksilah River.

Kinsol Trestle along the Cowichan Valley Trail

  • Driving Time: 2 hours 50 minutes
  • Distance: 207 kms

The drive from Nanaimo to Tofino is one of the most fun and scenic road trips on Vancouver Island . There are a ton of great stops along the way so you will want to leave early to allow you a full day of exploring. The Nanaimo to Tofino driving time is just under 3 hours but you will need at least double that to enjoy all of the stops along the way. Keep an eye out for black bears along this route as it is not uncommon to see them.

We will mention all the stops we recommend below but for more detail on all of this you can see our full post on the Nanaimo to Tofino road trip .

Coombs Old Country Market – Goats on the Roof

There are many things that make Coombs Market worth stopping at but the goats that live on the roof are definitely the main attraction. As soon as you drive into the market you will see goats walking along the grassy roof just minding their own business as the crowds below watch on.

The main indoor market has a little bit of everything, food, toys, home decor and a variety of other products from around the world. You’ll also find an outdoor market selling produce, a doughnut shop, ice cream store (try the Ferrero Roche ice cream, a Mexican food truck, a cafe and a high-end Italian restaurant. You’ll leave Coombs Market exceptionally well fed and watered for the day ahead.

Goats on the roof at Coombs Old Country Market

Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park is home to several waterfalls and canyons and makes for a beautiful walk through the forest. There are several routes you can take through the provincial park but we recommend completing  the main loop which will take you to both the upper and lower falls and takes around an hour to complete.  If you are a little bit tighter for time, then you can do a direct out-and-back trip to the upper falls.

The main loop is roughly a 2-kilometre circuit with some incline , but nothing too difficult. We would classify this as a fairly easy trail and the views over the powerful falls are impressive. The upper falls are the real attraction here and you get a perfect view from the trail directly across the canyon from the multi-tiered waterfall as the Qualicum River cascades down through the rocky canyon.

Upper Falls in Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park

Walk among ancient giants in Cathedral Grove, a moss-covered forest filled with Red Cedars and giant Douglas Firs. The largest of the trees in the forest are about 800 years old, up to 75 metres (250 feet) tall and 9 metres (29 feet) in circumference.

There is a network of paths through the trees and it feels a bit like a fairytale setting. Walking through Cathedral Grove will make you feel like you are in the presence of giants and give you some sense of how rugged much of the island still is. It’s a beautiful spot and the slow, winding drive through this section of the forest is spectacular.

Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island

Stretch your legs and enjoy a short but sweet hike to the Hole in the Wall on the outskirts of Port Alberni. Make your way along the old gravel road and descend down a short rocky trail to reach this unique spot.

This is actually a man-made phenomenon from years ago when a large hole was drilled through the rock to make way for an old pipeline. The pipeline is long gone and what’s left behind is known as the Hole in the Wall. There is a beautiful swimming hole, full of crystal clear water that is fed by a small creek that flows right through the huge hole that has been carved into the rock. The water is fairly cold, but it does make for a great spot to cool off on a hot summer’s day.

The entrance to this trail is found almost directly opposite Coombs Country Candy which is just before the town of Port Alberni. There is a small parking lot next to Coombs Country Candy, or if you plan to buy something from the candy store you can park in their parking lot. Then make your way across the road and slightly back up the hill to find the trailhead.

The Hole in the Wall, Port Alberni

If you are determined to go for a swim on your way to Tofino then Sproat Lake is the ultimate place to do this. The weather in the Alberni Valley is usually a few degrees hotter than the rest of the island and you’ll enjoy cooling down in the temperate waters of Sproat Lake. An easy place to stop is either the Sproat Lake Provincial Campsite or a pullout just past Taylor Arm Provincial Park. Both options are right on the water.

This lake is huge and you could spend hours, if not days, exploring the numerous waterways and different areas here.

The water at the Taylor River rest area has to be seen to be believed and looks like it would be more at home on a tropical island. The crystal clear, vibrant green water is beautiful and you would have no idea it existed unless you were looking for this place. It used to be one of the real hidden gems on the island but has shot to fame through social media.

Don’t let that put you off as it is still 100% worth making a stop at. You can also swim and do some small cliff jumps here but the water is much colder than at Sproat Lake.

Taylor River Rest Area on the way to Tofino

The final stop on this part of your Tofino road trip is the pullout at Wally Creek, just off the main highway to Tofino. This is probably the best view along this stretch of road as you look right down the river and up into the mountains. You can walk along the rocks and go down to Wally Creek and you can take in the beautiful scenery as the water rushed by below you.

You’ll only need a few minutes to enjoy the epic views on your final stop before finishing the last part of the drive from Victoria to Tofino.

Update Summer 2021: Historically, this pull-off could be identified by its small fence riddled with locks but it has recently been removed. Now you can find it on Google Maps under “Wally Creek” where you will see a small pull-off with room for a few cars to park.

Wally Creek on the Nanaimo to Tofino Roadtrip

Day 6 – Tofino

Where to even begin with Tofino? This is a truly unique and special part of Western Canada and the old-school, surf vibes will make you fall in love with this remote corner of the world. Surfing, hanging out at the beach, hiking, eating delicious food, whatever your vice is, you’ll find something you love in Tofino. Of all the amazing places to visit on Vancouver Island, this is the best of the best!

We list our top picks for a 2 day trip below but you can read our full guide on things to do in Tofino here.

Where to Stay in Tofino

Tofino Resort + Marina –  Enjoy unparalleled views out over Clayoquot Sound from your hotel room. We have stayed here numerous times and waking up to this view never gets old. It’s also located right on the edge of town making it easy walking distance to all the restaurants and shops.  

>>Click here for prices and availability

Tofino has a vibrant surf culture and there are waves for every skill level. Whether it’s your first time surfing or you’re a pro, you’ll enjoy catching waves on some of the most unique and pretty beaches in the world. The most popular beaches to surf here are: 

  • Long Beach 
  • Cox Bay 
  • Chesterman Beach 

You can rent gear from any of the local surf shops in town and Surf Sisters even has a rental shop right at Cox Bay. Due to its prime location, Surf Sisters is slightly more expensive but you can also rent from other local shops such as Pacific Surf Co right in town for only $45-50 for a full day for both a surfboard and wetsuit rental. 

If you really want to learn to surf then we would recommend you take a surf lesson. You can find more details and book your surf lesson here .

Surfers in Tofino at Sunset

It’s hard to beat enjoying an ice cold beer with your mates and there are few better places to do this than at the tasting room at Tofino Brewing Co. They have a small indoor and outdoor area on the factory floor, next to where they actually brew their beer.

You can order single beers or get a flight so you can try a range of their types. The  Tofino Blonde Ale  is a simple but delicious beer and we are also fond of the  Tuff Session Ale and the Kelp Stout  (not as weird as it sounds). They have a wide range of beers to choose from plus you can even grab some beers to take home with you.

Tofino Brewing Co.

There is no shortage of places to watch the sun go down but our top spot to enjoy golden hour has to be the lookout at the top of the Cox Bay trail . From the top, you’ll get awesome 360-degree views, with the best of them all looking back down along Cox Bay, Chesterman Beach, as well as over to Lonecone Mountain and the islands on the far side of Tofino.  

The hike itself is quite short and relatively easy, although it’s very muddy all year round. You’ll need around 2 hours for the round trip from the parking lot at Cox Bay. It isn’t an official trail, so it isn’t signposted but if you make your way to the south end of the beach, you’ll be able to spot the main entrance to the trail about two-thirds of the way up from the water.

We complete this hike every single time we visit Tofino and even though it gives you these stunning views it is never busy. There might be a couple of people at the top but you won’t have to deal with too many people and you can chill out and enjoy one of the most epic sunsets you’ll ever see.

Cox Bay Trail, Tofino, Vancouver Island

The quality of the restaurants here, considering how small and remote Tofino is, is sensational. You can get delicious food from a number of places but easily the best restaurant in Tofino, and one of our all time favourites, is Shelter Restaurant .

The food is absolutely delicious and it also has a great atmosphere. Sit outside on the patio under one of the heaters. They just make simple and delicious food and never once have we been disappointed and we have eaten here A LOT! They also serve frozen daiquiris which are the perfect way to finish off an epic day of exploring.

Day 7 – Tofino

It seems almost unfair how many beautiful beaches there are dotted along this short stretch of coastline. While they may not have tropical blue water and white sand, Tofino’s beaches do have a unique beauty about them. The rugged scenery, tall trees that line the beaches and the many rocky outcrops combine to make some special beaches.

While there are plenty of beaches to explore, our top recommendations are Long Beach, Cox Bay, Chesterman Beach and Tonquin Beach . Each beach has something a little bit different and they are all worth visiting. Small campfires are allowed on Mackenzie and Chesterman Beaches from 6am to 11pm so you can also enjoy a fire on the beach during your trip.

Best beaches in Tofino

No trip to Tofino is complete without stopping at the Tacofino food truck. You’ll find the food truck a 5-minute drive from town at the back of the parking lot where Live to Surf and Wildside Grill are located, just off the Pacific Rim Highway. 

This has to be the most popular food in Tofino , so expect to find long lines when you get here. Luckily, due to the nature of the food they make, they pump it out quickly so you shouldn’t have to wait too long and it’s worth the wait. 

Tacofino Food Truck

There are several really cool boardwalks that take you into the heart of the dense forest of Pacific Rim National Park. One of the most popular choices is the  Rainforest Trail , which offers two routes, A and B, which are on either side of the highway. Another great option is the  boardwalk to Schooner Cove  which leads you right through the forest and onto an often deserted beach. 

Tofino Rainforest trail

In a place that attracts so many creative people, it is no surprise to find lots of cute boutique shops and several art galleries. You can explore them all for yourself but some of our favourites include Caravan Beach Shop, Pacific Surf Co and the photo galleries of local photographers Jeremy Koreski and Kyler Vos. The Roy Henry Vickers Gallery  is another cool spot with First Nations art made by long-time local Roy Henry Vickers. He even built the building his gallery is in with some of his friends.  

Other Things to do in Tofino

While the above activities are some of our favourites, there are plenty more things you can do in Tofino if you have some more time on your trip to Tofino. One of our top recommendations would be to go on a boat tour to explore some more of the area and get to witness the surrounding beauty from the water. The top tours here are bear watching, whale watching and visiting the Tofino Hot Springs.

You can also go kayaking, fishing, take a scenic flight, and in the winter, storm watching. The nearby town of Ucluelet is also worth visiting if you have some spare time.

Whale Watching Tofino

Planning More than a 7 Day Road Trip?

While we designed the main itinerary to be completed in 7 days, there are many other great spots we would recommend when discussing Vancouver Island vacation ideas. If you have an extra couple of days then we suggest heading further up Island, towards Comox Valley and Campbell River.

At the opposite end of the peninsula to Tofino is Ucluelet, which is quite similar to Tofino. It isn’t quite as cute and picturesque as Tofino but it is really worth spending some time here if you have an extra few days. One of the best things to do here is walk the Wild Pacific Trail which is a track that follows the rocky and rugged coastline at the end of the peninsula.

If you don’t want to complete the whole trail then check out the Lighthouse Loop, the most popular section of the trail, which is just 2.6km and will give you some breathtaking scenery synonymous with the west coast of Vancouver Island. Little Beach is one of the nicest beaches in the area and there are several cool coffee shops and bakeries to explore in the town centre.

In the salmon spawning season, usually from mid-September to mid-October , check out Thorton Creek Fish Hatchery to try and see some wild black bears . They come to this section of the stream to feed on the salmon and there is a viewing platform just above the creek so you can safely watch the bears from just a few metres away.

Bear watching Tofino

Comox Valley

Comox Valley is the outdoor, adrenaline lovers paradise on the island. You can find a range of activities year-round including mountain biking, hiking, kayaking, fishing, skiing and plenty more. Check out the small and incredibly picturesque town of Cumberland and get some Mexican food from Biblio Taco (it’s in the old library building making this the greatest restaurant name ever) and a beer from Cumberland Brewery.

Make the drive up to Mount Washington to explore the mountains and this is where you’ll find some great hikes and mountain biking in the summer and skiing, snowboarding and cross country skiing in the winter.

Campbell River

Further up the island is the town of Campbell River, which we love because not as many tourists make it this far up the island. In Campbell River, you can go whale watching, visit Quadra Island, go kayaking and head out to one of the best waterfalls on the Island at Elk Falls Provincial Park. There is a long suspension bridge that overlooks the falls and makes for a fun visit.

Campbell River also gives you the best access to Strathcona Park which has endless epic hikes and waterfalls . One of the most popular spots in the park is Myra Falls which is a huge multi-tiered waterfall that flows into Buttle Lake. If you want to complete some of the best hikes on the island this is also the place to come. One of our favourites is Bedwell Lake which leads on to Cream Lake if you are looking for a longer and more intense hike.

Bedwell Lake Camping

Final Thoughts

Vancouver Island is a truly special place and we hope our Vancouver Island road trip ideas help you to plan a wicked trip around the island. You can use this Vancouver Island road trip planner as the basis for your trip and adapt it to exactly how much time you have to explore. While you can definitely fit a great trip into 7 days, we recommend taking more time to really get to explore the Island as much as possible.

What’s your favourite spot to visit on a road trip on Vancouver Island? Let us know in the comments!

Planning a trip to Vancouver Island? Check out some of our other guides here:

  • MYSTIC BEACH CAMPING | Ultimate Guide

Epic Vancouver Island Road Trip | Follow our Vancouver Island road trip itinerary to discover all of the amazing places here and get the most out of your Vancouver Island trip!

Hello, is this road trip doable with a low clearance car? (I have a VW Golf)

Wild About BC

Yes, everything can be done in a low clearance car. We did everything on this itinerary in our Mazda 3 which has super low clearance so you’ll have no worries!

Annelise Leibbrandt

Hello, how long is the trip back to Victoria please?

It takes just over 4 hours if you are driving from Tofino back to Victoria!

Submit a Comment Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

Submit Comment

Wild About BC About Us

Hi, we’re Luke and Roxy, a couple of adventurers that are head over heels in love with British Columbia, Canada.

We share our activities and outdoor adventures with the hope of inspiring others to get out and enjoy beautiful BC!

Thanks for visiting our blog!

Popular Posts

St Marks Summit Hike, Vancouver

ST MARKS SUMMIT HIKE | Cypress Mountain

Things to do on Vancouver Island


Cox Bay Trail, Tofino


Epic view in tofino, stay connected.

Get the latest adventures, tips and guides straight to your inbox

Get your FREE day hike packing list!

  subscribe to our email list and get your free downloadable day hike checklist straight to your inbox. , success check your email for your packing list..

You can unsubscribe anytime. For more details, review our  Privacy Policy .

Download your FREE Vancouver itinerary!

 subscribe to our email list and get your free downloadable pdf vancouver itinerary straight to your inbox. , success check your email for your downloadable pdf guide., download your free checklist of things to do in tofino,  subscribe to our email list and get your free downloadable checklist of things to do in tofino straight to your inbox. , success check your email for your checklist.,  subscribe to our email list and get your free downloadable checklist of things to do on vancouver island straight to your inbox. , download your free banff bucket list,  subscribe to our email list and get your free downloadable banff bucket list straight to your inbox. , success check your email for your banff bucket list..

Nomadic Matt: Travel Cheaper, Longer, Better

Vancouver Island Travel Guide

Last Updated: August 30, 2023

a view of the lush nature and forests of Vancouver Island, Canada

Located just off the coast of British Columbia, Vancouver Island is a gorgeous getaway location that’s become immensely popular in recent years.

Home to just under 1 million people and spanning a whopping 456 kilometers (283 miles), this former retirement hotspot is one of the biggest islands in Canada . In recent years, it’s developed a much younger edge thanks to a university, burgeoning arts scene, and the younger crowd of people fleeing Vancouver’s astronomical housing prices. It also has the mildest climate in all of Canada, which certainly adds to its appeal.

You’ll find a flourishing natural food and beer scene here in addition to the island’s beautiful beaches, hiking trails, lakes, rivers, mountains, and scenic farmland. It’s a picturesque island, especially in the fall and spring when the temperature is perfect and there are fewer crowds. If you’re an outdoorsy kind of person, Vancouver Island is not to be missed!

This Vancouver Island travel guide can help you plan your trip, save money, and make the most of your visit.

Table of Contents

  • Things to See and Do
  • Typical Costs
  • Suggested Budget
  • Money-Saving Tips
  • Where to Stay
  • How to Get Around
  • How to Stay Safe
  • Best Places to Book Your Trip
  • Related Blogs on Vancouver Island

Top 5 Things to See and Do on Vancouver Island

A whale's tail breaking the water in beautiful Vancouver Island, Canada

1. Visit Cathedral Grove

This forest on the southwest part of the island, officially known as MacMillan Provincial Park, has some of the oldest cedar trees in the world (many are over 1,000 years old). The canopy is 80 meters high (262 feet) in some places, making it a great place to hike, go birdwatching, and just get away from it all. While this gorgeous area is hardly ‘undiscovered,’ this pristine protected natural park offers a glimpse of Canada’s unique temperate rainforests with lush ferns, moss, and towering ancient trees. Admission is free. Just be mindful to stay on designated paths and ‘leave no trace’ as you enjoy the area.

2. Go whale watching

Vancouver Island is one of the most active areas for whales in the world, including orcas and humpbacks. There are three pods of about 80 killer whales that live around the island’s southern tip, so you have a high chance of seeing a whale on your trip but the best time to see them is from May to October. Check the weather before you go and make sure to wear comfortable layers and bring sunscreen. Tickets cost around 90-150 CAD for a 3-hour tour.

3. Visit Butchart Gardens

This nearly 120-year-old garden is host to a spectacular flower exhibit with 900 plant varieties and colorful flowers. The Butchart Gardens were started in 1904 when Jennie Butchart set out to create a lush garden on the empty space left by a cleared limestone quarry. Today, the Gardens are still family owned and a National Historic Site of Canada. There are many peaceful walking paths and areas to just sit and enjoy nature, and the Japanese maples turn brilliant shades of reds and oranges in the fall. Admission ranges from 21-38 CAD. Note that prices are higher around December when there is a special Christmas exhibition with twinkling light shows and carols.

4. Hike the rainforest

If you don’t do some hiking while you’re here, you’re missing out on the best of the island. East Sooke Regional Park boasts 50 kilometers (31 miles) of rainforest hiking trails with sheltered coves and a rocky 10-kilometer (6-mile) coastal hike that’s challenging but promises spectacular views. If you want something more leisurely, check out Aylard Farm if picnicking is your main priority. You can get to the park by bus but just note the bus only runs during the week so check schedules before going. Admission is free.

5. Hang out in Victoria

Victoria is the capital of British Columbia and being here is like stepping into a British city where double-decker buses navigate the streets, the houses look like Victorian mansions, and cricket is all the rage. Victoria has a much more laid back vibe than Vancouver too. There are activities for any taste, from bike tours, nature and parks, street art, and craft beer. A free walking tour is a great place to start. Toonie Tours run a 2.5-hour free Victoria Walking Tour on weekends at 10am. Just be sure to tip your guide!

Other Things to See and Do on Vancouver Island

1. see the “goats on the roof”.

For a fun experience, visit the Old Country Market in Coombs which has actual goats living on the roof. Don’t feel too bad for them as the roof has plenty of grass and room for them to roam around! While you’re there, grab a handmade donut or some tacos from the market. There are also several gift shops, produce stalls, a deli, and restaurants located in and around the market. Bring an appetite!

2. Relax in Beacon Hill Park

This scenic park in Victoria covers over 200 acres and is a tranquil place to relax and take a stroll. There are tennis courts, a golf green, lawn bowling, flower beds, a petting zoo, and a hawthorn tree planted by Winston Churchill in 1929. Bring a book and lounge the day away.

3. Visit a winery

Vancouver Island has over 20 different wineries, most of which are located in the Cowichan Valley. I highly recommend going on a wine tour. Not only is the wine delicious, but the scenic valley surrounded by rolling green mountains provides a stunning backdrop to your visit. A full-day tour including lunch starts around 125 CAD, or you can rent a car and drive around yourself (but don’t drink and drive — find a sober friend to tag along with).

4. Visit the U’Mista Cultural Center

This center protects the heritage of First Nations peoples and offers visitors a look at indigenous life on the island. You’ll learn about the potlatch ceremonies (a huge shared feast where gifts are exchanged and wealth is redistributed) of the Kwakwaka’wakw people in Alert Bay who have been living on this island for thousands of years, and discover the unique history and challenges of the region’s indigenous peoples. Tickets are 15 CAD.

5. Take a ghost tour

Europeans arrived in the region in the late 1700s so it should come as no surprise that Victoria has a long (and spooky) past. Discover the Past offers one of the best tours for combining interesting city history with tales of gruesome crimes and ghostly encounters. The guides are knowledgeable and always have entertaining stories to share. Tickets start at 21 CAD for a one-hour tour. At Christmas, they have a special Ghosts of Christmas Past tour with haunted stories. Schedules are seasonal so check their website to book tickets online.

6. Admire Abkhazi Garden

Spanning just over an acre, this garden in Victoria was created by a former Russian prince and his wife in 1946. Today, the garden features Japanese Maples, native Garry oaks, and hundreds of rhododendrons. There is also a tranquil tea house offering a traditional tea service from 11am-5pm. The suggested donation is 10 CAD.

7. Day-trip to the smaller islands

Vancouver Island is the only island that brings in tons of tourists here, but the Gulf Islands archipelago consists of hundreds of smaller islands and inlets in the Georgia Strait, many of which make for a pleasant day trip. Consider renting a boat or arranging a tour to Gabriola, Saltspring, or Thetis, three of the most popular islands (or take the ferry and save money). You can hike, explore the bays and beaches, or visit local artisans and eateries there. Ferry rates start at 10 CAD.

8. See the Victoria Butterfly Gardens

This indoor tropical rainforest in Victoria is filled with thousands of butterflies (there are over 70 species here). The gardens also have koi, turtles, poison dart frogs, parrots, flamingos, and tropical flowers. It’s a fun place to visit if you’re traveling with kids. Admission is 18 CAD.

9. Chill out in Tofino

Tofino is a fishing village on the Esowista Peninsula that has become a major surfing hub. Hang out at Wickaninnish Beach, take a surfing lesson in Cox Bay, soak in the hot springs at Hot Springs Cove, or enjoy Tofino’s cafe and restaurant scene. It’s the “hip” part of the island. Surfboard rentals start at 35 CAD for a day while 2.5-hour group lessons cost around 90 CAD.

10. Explore Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

This national park is full of beaches, misty forests, and dramatic coastlines. Some of the island’s most popular beaches are here, including Long Beach, Combers Beach, and Wickaninnish Beach. The park is also home to the West Coast Trail Unit, a network of hiking trails covering 193 square kilometers (75 square miles), including the 75-kilometer (47-mile) trek between Bamfield and Port Renfrew (reservations required). Hit the Nuu-chah-nulth Trail, rent a kayak to paddle around Broken Group Islands, or storm watch at Kwisitis Visitor Centre (it’s a pastime here!).

  For more information on other destinations in Canada, check out these guides:

  • Calgary Travel Guide
  • Montreal Travel Guide
  • Nova Scotia Travel Guide
  • Ottawa Travel Guide
  • Quebec City Travel Guide
  • Toronto Travel Guide
  • Vancouver Travel Guide

Vancouver Island Travel Costs

A stunning forest landscape near a lake in beautiful Vancouver Island, Canada

Hostel prices – A bed in a 4-8-bed dorm costs around 35-45 CAD per night. Private rooms cost 65-85 CAD per night. Expect basic amenities like free Wi-Fi and self-catering facilities.

For those traveling with a tent, camping is available starting at 18 CAD per night. This gets you a basic tent plot without electricity for two people.

Budget hotel prices – A room in a budget hotel starts at about 110 CAD. This includes basic amenities like AC, TV, a coffee/tea maker, and free Wi-Fi.

Airbnb is available everywhere on Vancouver Island. Private rooms start at 75 CAD per night but average double that. An entire home/apartment starts around 100 CAD per night, though most are 150-250 CAD.

Food – On Vancouver Island, which is fast becoming a foodie hub, seafood is king. Oysters, crabs, and fresh fish are all common staples. Sushi is super popular, owing to the region’s Asian influence, as are fish and chips. Also, be sure to sample more general Canadian staples like poutine (fries with gravy and cheese curds), beaver tails (fried dough with maple syrup), Canadian bacon, and the oddly tasty ketchup chips.

There are lots of places to grab food on the go on Vancouver Island. You can find sandwiches for about 10 CAD, or you can get soup and salad for lunch for less than 20 CAD.

A fast-food combo (think McDonald’s) costs about 12 CAD. Fish and chips or a burger with fries is around 20 CAD with a drink. A beer costs about 6 CAD. A meal at a higher-end restaurant (like lobster or fresh game) costs about 40 CAD for an entree and a drink.

Pizza costs around 15 CAD for a large while Chinese food is 11-15 CAD for a main dish. For cheap eats, check out Warehouse Group restaurants that have items like tacos, burgers, salads, and sandwiches for 10 CAD or less in a bar-like atmosphere.

If you cook your own food, a week’s worth of groceries costs around 65 CAD. This gets you basic staples like rice, pasta, vegetables, and some meat or seafood.

Backpacking Vancouver Island Suggested Budgets

If you’re backpacking Vancouver Island, expect to spend about 70 CAD per day. This assumes you’re staying in a hostel, cooking all your meals, limiting your drinking, taking public transportation to get around, and sticking to mostly free activities like swimming and hiking. If you plan on drinking, add another 10-15 CAD to your daily budget.

On a mid-range budget of 195 CAD per day, you can stay in a private Airbnb, cook most of your meals, enjoy a couple of drinks, take the occasional taxi to get around, and do some paid tours and activities like wine tours or whale watching.

On a “luxury” budget of 310 CAD per day or more, you can stay in a hotel, eat out for all your meals, drink more, rent a car, and do whatever paid tours and activities you want. This is just the ground floor for luxury though. The sky is the limit!

You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages — some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in CAD.

Vancouver Island Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips

With a little effort, you can turn Vancouver Island into an affordable travel destination. Most of the outdoor activities are free so if you stick to those and cook your own food you can keep your costs low. Here are some ways to save money when you visit Vancouver Island:

  • Stay with a local – If you plan ahead, you can usually find a Couchsurfing host on Vancouver Island. This way, you not only have a free place to stay but you’ll get to connect with a local who can share their insider tips and advice.
  • Camp – If you want to camp, use the DiscoverCamping.ca website to find available campsites on Vancouver Island. A two-person site starts about 20-25 CAD.
  • Check for deals – HelloBC.com (the official tourism website) often lists seasonal travel deals and discounts in its “Plan Your Trip” section. Check it out for money-saving tips and deals.
  • Gas up on the mainland – If you’re coming from Vancouver by car, make sure you gas up before boarding the ferry. Gas prices are always higher on the island, as are most grocery prices. Stock up on everything before you arrive!
  • Look for the happy hours – The Ultimate Happy Hours website lists all the happy hour drink and food specials around Victoria. They update with new info frequently.
  • Take the ferry as a walk-on passenger – Ferry prices for vehicles aren’t cheap. If you’re just making a short trip and staying in one destination on the island (like Victoria or Nanaimo), consider ditching the vehicle and traveling as a walk-on passenger.
  • Explore the island by bike – British Columbia was made for mountain biking, and Vancouver Island is no exception. There are tons of bike paths, both inside the cities and in the provincial parks. Pack a picnic lunch, bring lots of water, and make a day of it.
  • Hitchhike – Since the island sees a huge boost in population during the summer, you can try your hand at hitchhiking between cities if you’re on a budget. It isn’t super common, but it can save you the cost of renting a car or taking the bus. Just don’t get off the beaten trail as you may end up waiting some time for a ride!
  • Bring a water bottle – The tap water here is safe to drink so bring a reusable water bottle to save money. LifeStraw makes a reusable bottle with a built-in filter to ensure your water is always safe and clean.

Where to Stay on Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island has a few hostels that make budget-friendly travel here possible. Here are my suggested places to stay:

  • HI Nanaimo Painted Turtle Guesthouse (Nanaimo)
  • Riding Fool Hostel (Cumberland)
  • Earth Club Factory (Denman Island)

How to Get Around Vancouver Island

A historic building along the shore of Victoria on Vancouver Island, Canada

Public transportation – Victoria is the only major urban center on the island. Downtown is very walkable and the bus can get you everywhere else on the island you need to go. Fares cost 2.50 CAD, or you can get a 10-ride pass for 22.50 CAD. A one-day pass is 5 CAD and is only available on the bus.

Bike rental – You can rent a bicycle in Victoria for about 40 CAD per day from Cycle BC. An e-bike costs 75 CAD per day.

Ferry – You can use BC Ferries to get to several places around the island. The route between Swartz Bay (Victoria) and Fulford Harbour is 11.60 CAD for a return ticket, while Swartz Bay to the Gulf Islands is 11.90 CAD. Nanaimo to Gabriola Island is 10.15 CAD for a return ticket.

Bus – The bus goes just about everywhere on Vancouver Island, although it isn’t cheap. A seven-hour journey from Victoria to Tofino is 105 CAD, while a one-hour trip from Victoria to Cowichan Bay is 20 CAD. A 3.5-hour trip from Nanaimo to Ucluelet is 50 CAD.

Taxi – Taxis are not cheap here. Their base rate is 3.67 CAD, and it’s an additional 2 CAD per kilometer afterward. Skip the taxis if you can as they add up fast and will destroy your budget!

Car Rental – Car rentals can be found for as little as 35 CAD per day. If you’d like to take advantage of all the outdoor attractions that Vancouver Island has to offer, it’s a great option, especially considering how expensive buses are. For the best car rental prices, use Discover Cars .

When to Go to Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island is busiest during the summer since its biggest draw is the great outdoors. Temperatures are usually in the mid-20s°C (high 60s°F) with little rainfall, making this time of year the best for hiking, cycling, whale watching, and other outdoor activities. Prepare for more expensive accommodations and bigger tourist crowds during this time (whale-watching season starts in August and ends in December).

Fall and spring are both excellent times to visit for sunny weather, as temperatures hover around 10-16°C (50-60°F). That means it’s still warm enough to hike and enjoy the outdoors. In the spring, the cherry blossoms start blooming, and the island comes alive. There are fewer tourists during the spring and fall as well.

Winter (December-March) is surprisingly mild here, with average daily highs just under 10°C (low 40s°F). It can be rainy during these months, so bring waterproof clothing. Room rates are cheaper in the winter as well. While this isn’t the best time to visit, if you have to spend winter in Canada, this is as warm as it gets!

How to Stay Safe on Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island is very safe. You’re unlikely to experience any crime here. Even petty crime like pickpocketing and theft is rare. That said, always keep your valuables secure and out of reach just to be safe.

Always check the weather before you go out hiking or swimming and make sure you avoid getting up close and personal with any wildlife (there are over 7,000 bears on the island, for example).

Solo female travelers should generally feel safe here. However, the standard precautions you take anywhere apply (never leave your drink unattended at the bar, never walk home alone intoxicated, etc.). For more information, check out one of the many solo female travel blogs in the city.

Scams here are virtually non-existent here, but if you want to play it extra safe, you can read about common travel scams to avoid right with this article.

If you experience an emergency, dial 911 for assistance.

When in doubt, always trust your instincts. If a taxi driver seems shady, get out. If your hotel or accommodation is seedier than you thought, go somewhere else. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID, in case of an emergency.

The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past.

Vancouver Island Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources

These are my favorite companies to use when I travel. They consistently have the best deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the companies I use the most and are always the starting point in my search for travel deals.

  • Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
  • Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
  • Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
  • Get Your Guide – Get Your Guide is a huge online marketplace for tours and excursions. They have tons of tour options available in cities all around the world, including everything from cooking classes, walking tours, street art lessons, and more!
  • SafetyWing – Safety Wing offers convenient and affordable plans tailored to digital nomads and long-term travelers. They have cheap monthly plans, great customer service, and an easy-to-use claims process that makes it perfect for those on the road.
  • LifeStraw – My go-to company for reusable water bottles with built-in filters so you can ensure your drinking water is always clean and safe.
  • Unbound Merino – They make lightweight, durable, easy-to-clean travel clothing.
  • Top Travel Credit Cards – Points are the best way to cut down travel expenses. Here’s my favorite point earning credit cards so you can get free travel!

Vancouver Island Travel Guide: Related Articles

Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on backpacking/traveling Canada and continue planning your trip:

The 6 Best Hotels in Toronto

The 6 Best Hotels in Toronto

Where to Stay in Quebec City: The Best Neighborhoods for Your Visit

Where to Stay in Quebec City: The Best Neighborhoods for Your Visit

Where to Stay in Vancouver: The Best Neighborhoods for Your Visit

Where to Stay in Vancouver: The Best Neighborhoods for Your Visit

Where to Stay in Toronto: The Best Neighborhoods for Your Visit

Where to Stay in Toronto: The Best Neighborhoods for Your Visit

Canada Road Trip: A One Month Suggested Itinerary

Canada Road Trip: A One Month Suggested Itinerary

How to Road Trip the Yukon on a Budget

How to Road Trip the Yukon on a Budget

Get your  free travel starter kit.

Enter your email and get planning cheatsheets including a step by step checklist, packing list, tips cheat sheet, and more so you can plan like a pro!


  • Where To Stay
  • Transportation
  • Booking Resources
  • Related Blogs
  • Travel in the Pacific Northwest and beyond
  • Work With Me

Postcards to Seattle

  • Pacific Northwest
  • National Parks
  • Seattle Travel Guide
  • Recommended Gear
  • Published Work

Road Trips , British Columbia , Canada

13 epic stops on a vancouver island road trip (+ 2 itineraries).

vancouver island trip

If you’ve been to the Pacific Northwest before, you know what a beautiful region it is. Many Americans tend to explore their home state, but there are so many amazing areas in British Columbia waiting to be explored. One of those is Vancouver Island, and the best way to explore it is through a Vancouver Island road trip.

I love visiting Vancouver Island, which is why I’ve been there multiple times over the year. The first time took me on a gorgeous drive around Vancouver Island for a week in the summer in Vancouver , where I explored waterfalls, kayaked on the ocean, and went hiking. I’ve since been back in in both spring and fall time in Vancouver , and even gone skiing on Mount Washington, which is the perfect addition to a winter in Vancouver trip!

This reason is why it’s taken me multiple Pacific Northwest trips to see new places on the island, and I still haven’t been to everywhere I want to go. However, I have my favorite areas to visit after going so many times, so I’ve compiled the perfect itinerary for you to follow for your own trip.

You can see plenty of the island if you only have a few days for your Vancouver Island itinerary. Whether you have 3 days on Vancouver Island or 7 days on Vancouver Island, this Vancouver Island road trip itinerary will help you plan a fantastic vacation!

This post was first written in 2020 and last updated on March 2023.

Table of Contents

Tips for a Road Trip to Vancouver Island

Here are some helpful tips to help you plan out your Vancouver Island trip.

How to Get to Vancouver Island

ferry vancouver island

There are several ways to get to Vancouver Island. This is an island with no bridges, so you can either take a seaplane or a ferry. However, for your road trip on Vancouver Island, you’ll need to take the ferry, so you can bring your car with you (especially if you’re doing a long Seattle road trip or coming from a drive from Seattle to Vancouver ).

Several ferries will take you to Vancouver Island, so you’ll have to consider where you’re starting your trip from. Some people opt to spend 2 days in Vancouver first before heading to the island.

Here are some of the most popular options for Vancouver Island itineraries.

  • Port Angeles (Washington) to Victoria (British Columbia ) – If you’re coming from driving on the Olympic Peninsula , the Port Angeles option is the most convenient, with a 90-minute crossing time.
  • Tsawwassen (mainland Vancouver) to Duke Point (Vancouver Island near Nanaimo ) – I take this way the most because Tsawwassen is just over the US-Canada border and puts you near Nanaimo when you get off. I also recommend reserving your spot in advance for this 2-hour ferry ride.
  • Anacortes (Washington) to Sidney (southeast Vancouver Island) – This route is the longest, with a 3-hour crossing time, but convenient if you live near Anacortes.

How Long Does It Take to Drive Around Vancouver Island?

The island is 283 miles long, 62 miles wide, and 12,407 square miles in area . It would take you about seven or eight hours to drive from one end to the other end, and that’s without stopping to explore or for food.

That’s why I recommend spending multiple days on a road trip to Vancouver Island, and I’ve provided a 3-day Vancouver Island itinerary as well as a 7-day Vancouver Island itinerary at the end of this article. I have multiple Vancouver Island road trip ideas for you to choose from.

Vancouver Island Road Trip Map

Vancouver Island road trip map

As you can see from this Vancouver Island road trip map, driving around Vancouver Island fully would take quite a while, which is why I picked out some of the best places to stop on this PNW road trip .

You should also note that you can’t drive through all parts of the island. For example, the drive from Victoria to Tofino will take you over four hours with no traffic or stops because you can’t drive on the southeast part of the island.

What is the Best Time to Visit Vancouver Island?

You can visit Vancouver Island any time throughout the year. However, you’ll want to think about what activities you’ll be doing first before deciding the best time to visit Vancouver Island.

For example, if you plan on doing plenty of hiking or exploring the beach, you’ll want to go during spring in Vancouver or the fall so you can take advantage of fewer crowds and moderate weather. I personally love coming here in the fall, as you’ll see some beautiful foilage along your road trip on Vancouver Island. It’s also perfect to add onto a 3 day trip to Vancouver to extend your vacation.

Summer has the best weather, with minimal rain and temperatures in the high 70s, but it’s also the most crowded time to visit. Many tourists and locals alike are booking weekend getaways from Vancouver at this time. You’ll want to book your accommodations and any tours well in advance so you can have the Vancouver Island itinerary that you want.

If you’re more interested in indoor activities and want to enjoy the island without crowds, you may like visiting in the winter . Temperatures are in the low 30s, and it can be a cozy time of year to get a hotel by the water and watch the rain fall while having your morning cup of coffee. There are plenty of winter hikes you can go on during this time and winter activities on Vancouver Island to participate in.

How Many Days Do You Need on Vancouver Island?

Due to how big the island is, you’ll want to spend multiple days there. It’s hard to pick how many days to spend on Vancouver Island, but the most common choices are 3 days and 7 days on Vancouver Island. That way, you can either do a short but packed weekend on Vancouver Island, or you can take your time and explore more of it at your leisure.

Do I Need a Car on Vancouver Island?

Yes, you’ll want to have a car to explore Vancouver Island fully. There isn’t easy public transportation to rely on, and you won’t be able to see many of these stops. Similar to Vancouver to Whistler road trip , it’s easiest to have your own car, but you can also rent one if you don’t have access to it.

If you take a ferry to Victoria or fly in, there are plenty of options to choose from. You can look on Expedia or Kayak to find a vehicle that works for you. Most of the roads are wide, so you’ll be fine with a medium-sized car and won’t need a larger one unless you have a big group with you.

What to Bring on a Vancouver Island Road Trip

drive vancouver island road trip

Anytime I go on a road trip, I always refer to my road trip essentials packing list that makes sure I don’t forget anything. However, here are a few items I recommend specifically for your 3 days on Vancouver Island:

  • Car phone charger – make sure your phone always stays charged for when you need to take pictures and videos
  • Emergency roadside kit – hopefully, you’ll have no issues on your road trip on Vancouver Island, but putting this in your trunk will give you peace of mind
  • Water bottle – staying hydrated is always important when driving around Vancouver Island
  • Cooler – store your drinks and snacks in here, so you don’t have to stop as much
  • Polarized sunglasses – cities on the coast get plenty of sun and the water reflects off the glasses, so have a solid pair of sunglasses
  • Rain jacket – it can always randomly rain in the Pacific Northwest, so keep this in the back of your car

Need help planning out your road trip? I’ve been using Roadtrippers for years to see exactly how long it’ll take from one point to the next and find new places to add to my itinerary!

13 Amazing Stops for Your Vancouver Island Road Trip

Part of the appeal is that the island’s landscapes vary greatly. You’ll find sandy beaches, a mountain range, glaciers, waterfalls, and dense forests populated with giant cedars. Much of the island is also protected, making it a great place to see black bears and whales. While the Sea to Sky Highway is one of my favorite drives in Canada, this island rivals it.

Packed to the brim with unique places to stop, this island is a blast to explore. Doing a little planning beforehand will also help you see the best of it, so this list will help you create your Vancouver Island trip itinerary. Pick a few of the stops below for an amazing Vancouver weekend getaway. The best part is creating your own Vancouver Island itinerary with how many options you have.

3 days on Vancouver Island

Nanaimo, the Harbour City, is a great starting point for your road trip around Vancouver Island. In addition, you can reach it by plane or ferry. Located on the east of the island, it’s a vibrant urban center that offers plenty of fun sea- and sky-based activities. 

Lakes and harbors dot Nanaimo with mysterious coves that you can explore by canoe or paddleboard. This city also has a great craft beer and culinary scene to add to your Vancouver Island itinerary for 3 days. Foodies will also love getting to grips with the area’s specialty dessert, the Nanaimo bar.

The Minnoz Restaurant & Lounge at the Coast Bastion Hotel is the place to go for delicious, fresh fish. Enjoy sustainable seafood meals like pan-seared scallops with mushroom risotto or grilled wild sockeye salmon.

Visit Gabriel’s Gourmet Café for a more relaxed dining experience. The four-cheese mac and cheese with crispy bacon pieces that this cafe is known for is created from scratch and is a customer favorite.

If you stop here during your road trip on Vancouver Island, make sure you check out the Nanaimo Museum with its cannon-firing ceremony at noon, accompanied by lusty bagpipes. 

If you’re searching for some fun Vancouver Island tours, here’s something special. You can take to the sky to see the majesty of Canada’s Sunshine Coast on a  40-minute seaplane flight , and the panoramic views will also leave you speechless. 

driving around vancouver island

If Vancouver Island isn’t enough for you, you can take a ferry to  another  island! 

Newcastle Island  is connected by a ferry across from Nanaimo that leaves every half hour (you can find the ferry schedule online). For 5 CAD, you can walk the trails of this beautiful area. 

Where to Stay: Coast Bastion Hotel is a few minutes away from the beach and is also close to shops and restaurants. (rates start at $122 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com )

2. Protection Island

protection island Nanaimo

Protection Island was also one of the most unique experiences I had on my first road trip around Vancouver Island. You can take a short ferry ride to the island from a marina in downtown Nanaimo. It was the cutest little boat, and everyone was excited to see what the island was like.

The boat docks right at the Dinghy Dock Pub , which may be one of the coolest pubs I’ve ever been to. It’s Canada’s only floating pub and gives you a fantastic view of Nanaimo. The fish and chips were somehow made better because I was right on the water.

When you’re done, take a leisurely stroll along one of the island’s beautiful walking trails if you’re seeking something relaxing to do. It’s a great way to end your night on your Vancouver Island road trip.

Where to Stay: Travelodge by Wyndham Nanaimo has free parking, and you can walk to Protection Island from here. (rates start at $98 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com )

3. Courtenay

courtenay vancouver island road trip

Courtenay is the only city and the largest community in the Comox Valley area. It’s located north of Nanaimo, along the island’s east coast. This area is also home to over 40 parks, making it an excellent stop for nature lovers.

There’s a different flavor for every undercover conservationist from Seal Bay Park to Miracle Beach Provincial Park. For those who have a love affair with ancient history, the District Museum and Paleontology Center will satisfy your curiosity.

To top it all off, there are many wineries in the area. Pull out a seat, kick back, and enjoy some samples of the local vintage. A great option is 40 Knots Vineyard , which uses only organic and sustainable farming methods. You can try their wines, which range from light whites to full-bodied reds, in the chic tasting area or on the patio overlooking the vineyards.

Where to Stay: Comox Valley Inn & Suites is an affordable option when you’re looking for a quick place to stay overnight. (rates start at $78 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com )

4. Comox Valley

comox valley vancouver island itinerary

This gorgeous valley is filled with wildlife and activities based on the great outdoors. There are all kinds of things to see here on your Vancouver Island road trip. In summer, you can take a trip to Strathcona Provincial Park , where you can spy the tallest peak on the island, the Golden Hinde. 

You’ll also get some great shots of the Della Falls – the highest waterfall in Canada. This magnificent waterfall is also in the top 10 highest waterfalls in the world! The Comox Glacier is also a beautiful landmark to visit as it’s easy to access and visible. 

Comox Valley is also home to Comox Town, which has roughly 15,000 people. This town is the Royal Canadian Air Force base seat, the CFB Comox, and the HMCS Quadra, a Sea Cadet training facility.

snowboarding me crystal mountain

If you’re heading to Vancouver Island during the winter months, head to Comox Valley’s Mount Washington Alpine Resort . It’s known for its snowfalls and is a popular tourist destination for skiing and snowboarding that’s on par with skiing in Banff. I’ve never been to a place where I could ski while staring at the ocean, and it was amazing.

Where to Stay: Old House Hotel & Spa is a great place to treat yourself to a facial, manicure, and outdoor pool. (rates start at $153 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com )

5. Campbell River

campbell river vancouver island

Follow the island’s east coast upwards from Courtenay, and you’ll reach Campbell River. This area is also known as the “Salmon Capital of the World,” and anglers and fisherfolk gather here in shoals. With attractions like Quinsam River Salmon Hatchery and Discovery Pier , Canada’s first saltwater fishing pier, you can understand why. 

Between July and September, you can witness a stunning natural phenomenon. You’ll be able to see and snorkel with thousands of salmon returning to the river of their birth.

You can also take a short walk down to the swinging Elk Falls Suspension Bridge . Here, you’ll see the thundering waterfall followed by a hike into the forest of sky-high trees. 

Where to Stay: Anchor Inn and Suites has fun themed rooms and an indoor heated pool and hot tub. (rates start at $85 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com )

6. Victoria

victoria fishermans wharf

The capital city of the Canadian province of British Columbia, Victoria, is positioned on the southern tip of the island. It’s another excellent starting point for your Vancouver Island road trip because it’s a quick ferry ride from Seattle and Vancouver, making it a great  long weekend trip from Seattle .

The “City of Gardens” is relatively small, so many of the main attractions are within walking distance of the city center. You’ll definitely want to visit Butchart Gardens , considered one of the world’s top gardens, even if you’re just taking a Victoria, BC day trip .

Do yourself a favor and take a few hours to  tour this enchanting wonder . You’ll see the Japanese Garden, Rose Garden, the Sunken Garden, and other natural treasures. You’ll be amazed by the incredible diversity you find there on your road trip on Vancouver Island.

Victoria, British Columbia, has a thriving restaurant scene, and there are so many places I’ve visited over the year that it’s hard to recommend only a few. Red Fish Blue Fish is a popular fish restaurant on the iconic Fisherman’s Wharf that was formerly a shipping container. While taking in the lively waterfront views, indulge in some fish and chips, seafood chowder, or grilled fish tacos made from sustainable seafood.

Irish Times Pub is a great option if you’re craving a classic pub atmosphere. This traditional Irish bar is right in the middle of downtown Victoria, and it has a great selection of traditional pub food, in addition to a warm and welcoming ambiance and live music. Have a pint of Guinness or a flight of whiskey with your meal of shepherd’s pie or fish & chips. Weekend nights are my favorite time to come, as it’s always lively.

Where to Stay: Marketa’s Bed and Breakfast is in a quiet neighborhood, so you’ll sleep great but can quickly walk to central Victoria for the action. (rates start at $81 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com )

7. Ladysmith

ladysmith bc

Driving to Ladysmith from Victoria, you’ll pass through farm-filled Cowichan, affectionately known as “The Warm Land.” After this scenic stretch, you’ll also end up in the quaint seaside town of Ladysmith. 

A peaceful town with a lively twist, Ladysmith boasts a bustling main street, First Avenue . This avenue also offers great boutique stores and creative local businesses. You’ll love exploring all these unique gems on your Vancouver Island trip.

The town is located right by the ocean, so there are plenty of seaside activities on offer. In addition, you can take a leisurely walk to the marina or visit the Sea Life Center to brush up on your oceanic knowledge. It’s also ideal to relax and watch the boats ebb and flow while enjoying the waterfront feel.

If you find yourself in search of a fantastic coffee shop, look no further than Old Town Bakery . This family-run bakery in the historic neighborhood of Old Town has been a neighborhood staple for over three decades. You can get your caffeine fix with a latte, cappuccino, or Americano, all of which are crafted with locally roasted beans.

Where to Stay: Inn of the Sea is a private apartment you can rent, making it great for families looking for multiple rooms and a kitchen area. (rates start at $240 per night)

8. Parksville

vancouver island itinerary parksville

Where Ladysmith is known for its harbor, Parksville is famous for its beaches and libations. This city makes it the perfect spot for kicking back on the beach and cutting loose. While you’re here, make sure you visit Parksville Bay and Craig Bay for some coastal explorations.

Check out the boardwalk and visit Mount Arrowsmith Brewing Co for a refreshing beer. You can’t go wrong with their award-winning Arrowsmith Blonde – fruity with a dry finish that won’t go over your head.  

Parksville is a great place to stop over for a beachfront stay, and why I always stay here when I’m in the area.  Book a night at Tigh-Na-Mara  to get a good night’s sleep with the sounds of the ocean as your lullaby. I love staying here because you can get a beachfront room or a cozy cabin in the woods.

Vancouver Island wins the award for some of the most scenic beaches in the world. Rathtrevor Beach is one of the most beautiful places on Vancouver Island to walk around, as the tide goes out really far during the day. Bring a picnic so you can take your time exploring the beach and take a break from driving around Vancouver Island.

Where to Stay: Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort is my favorite place on the island (I’ve stayed here multiple times!) due to being right on the coast and having a spa to enjoy. (rates start at $154 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com )

Looking for another coastal road trip? You’ll want to look at this 3-day Oregon Coast itinerary .

9. Qualicum Beach

Qualicum Beach

Qualicum Beach is a 10-minute drive northwest of Parksville. Located at the foot of Mount Arrowsmith along the Strait of Georgia, this area has picture-perfect views combined with small-town charm that you’ll want to see during your road trip on Vancouver Island.

It may be small, with a population of around 9,000 people, but there are still plenty of good reasons for you to visit. The beaches transform as golden sand makes way for beds of wave-stroked rock and pebbles north of this town. 

Take a stroll along a pebble beach and enjoy the sights of sea lions, ships, and even some killer whales. If you’re looking for something a little more action-packed, try out some caving. Discover the mysteries of the marble passages and crystal caverns on a  guided multi-cave tour during this unique Vancouver Island tour.

When you come to Qualicum Beach, you have to stop at Milner Gardens . After a short walk, you’ll be in the gardens, where they have some of the most beautiful flowers.

It was rated one of the ten best public gardens in all of Canada, and it’s easy to see why.

Milner gardens

There are 70 acres of a beautiful forest filled with Douglas firs, unique artwork, and colorful flowers like rhododendrons. It’s such a tranquil place that even Princess Diana, Prince Charles, and Queen Elizabeth have been here to visit. You can even have afternoon tea like the Royals in the Milner House.

With several different sections to explore, it’s the perfect place to find peace and quiet and reflect on your thoughts. You’ll feel a sense of calmness when you leave the garden.

What’s a road trip without a waterfall or two? Little Qualicum Falls Park has both the upper and lower falls, so make sure to walk around the whole park. Don’t forget to bring your camera, either!

Where to Stay: Qualicum Beach Inn has a beautiful outdoor dining patio and a gym to enjoy. (rates start at $161 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com )

10. Port Hardy

road trip on vancouver island nanaimo

Port Hardy sits in the Great Bear Rainforest on the island’s northeastern side. This area is breathtakingly beautiful as it is surrounded by lush, ancient rainforest set against a dramatic backdrop of mountains. 

Take a break from driving Vancouver Island and stretch your legs with some hiking and bear-watching in the forest. You can also grab a kayak and paddle to God’s Pocket Marine Provincial Park . You can hop on the water taxi from Port Hardy to Bell Island for a leisurely trip if you’re not an experienced kayaker.

If you want to stay the night here,  The Quarterdeck Inn & Marina Resort  offers a hot breakfast and a convenient location. The Seven Hills Golf & Country Club is also an easy drive away, and there is a ferry terminal nearby. 

Where to Stay: The Quarterdeck Inn & Marina Resort has private kitchens if you want to cook or a restaurant if you prefer someone to cook for you after a long day. (rates start at $153 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com )

11. Port Alberni

Port Alberni boardwalk

Port Alberni is renowned for its pleasant climate and breathtaking scenery. Surrounded by mountains, streams, and freshwater lakes, you’ll get an authentic Canadian experience. You might want to extend your time in this area to get the most from your trip. 

The area is a hotspot for boating, sport-fishing, windsurfing, hiking, and ATVing. You can even rent a kayak and explore the Broken Group Island s. You can hop on a water taxi to Sechart Lodge at the Pacific Whaling Company historic site if you have the whole day.

Near Port Alberni is Nahmint Valley , an old-growth forest home to centuries-old trees. There’s no better way to explore the mountain terrain than taking a 4WD guided tour from Alberni Valley. Witness Vancouver Island at its most dramatic while enjoying the thrill of 4WD. 

Where to Stay: Best Western Plus Barclay Hotel has a beer and wine store and snacks available if you forget something late at night. (rates start at $137 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com )

12. Ucluelet

ucluelet vancouver island tour

If you take the westerly road from Port Alberni to Ucluelet, be prepared for one of the longest stretches on your road trip on Vancouver Island. It’s a good idea to fill your tank and take some rest stops on the way, as well as one of the best places to visit on Vancouver Island.

When you reach Ucluelet, you’ll be met by a lovely seaside town that’s heavy on adventure tourism and wildlife. This town has Canada’s first collect-and-release aquarium. 

It also offers several access points to the Wild Pacific Trail. The trail is excellent for birding, walking, and taking memorable photos. 

Ucluelet Harbour is the ideal spot to take a  sea kayak tour  of Vancouver Island’s west coast. Keep your eyes peeled for eagles scouting the skies and black bears strolling along the shores during this Vancouver Island tour.

Where to Stay: Black Rock Oceanfront Resort is minutes from the beach and pet-friendly. (rates start at $212 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com )

tofino vancouver island tour

Tofino is located on the island’s west side and is the ideal point to wrap up your road trip with an authentic West Coast activity, such as surfing . If you’re a first-timer, book yourself a lesson and get ready to hit the waves. This area is one of the most beautiful places on Vancouver Island, in my opinion, and there are many Airbnbs in Tofino to choose from.

If surfing isn’t your thing, maybe storm-watching will catch your attention. Tourists visit this location to witness the impressive storm skies and ocean swells in the winter months.

The highlight of Tofino is the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve , home to the stunning Long Beach. This idyllic beach offers 10 miles of sandy stretches – perfect for intimate walks. The park has some epic hiking trails, so you’ll get a great mixture of tranquility and exertion, and it’s the perfect thing to do in Vancouver in the fall .

If you’re looking for a particular restaurant, look no farther than Wolf in the Fog . The crispy pork belly and the seafood chowder are two of the restaurant’s most popular items. If you have room, have the sticky toffee pudding for dessert.

Rhino Coffee House is a great option for a relaxed meal or cup of coffee. In the middle of downtown Tofino, in a beautiful old structure, is where you’ll find this wonderful café. They offer a variety of coffee and tea beverages in addition to their baked products, sandwiches, and salads.

Where to Stay: Pacific Sands Beach Resort is right by the beach and has rooms with balconies for a stunning morning view. (rates start at $155 per night; book your room on Booking.com or read reviews on TripAdvisor )

Want to extend your Canadian adventure? Head up to Whistler to explore all the things to do in Whistler in the summer or enjoy a relaxing weekend in Whistler .

2 Vancouver Island Itineraries to Copy (3 Days & 5 Days)

If you pick one, some, or all of the stops mentioned earlier, you’ll have an incredible getaway. Bear in mind that the more days you have for the trip, the less rushed it will be and you’ll be able to see so much more. This is just my Vancouver Island suggested itinerary that you can choose to follow or edit to make your own.

Like a  United States West Coast trip , there are many things you can put on the list for your road trip on Vancouver Island. To make things easier, I’ve included two sample Vancouver Island itineraries to help you plan the ultimate Vancouver Island road trip. 

Vancouver Island Road Trip: 3 Days

You can see much of the island when driving around Vancouver Island in 3 days. You might be a bit rushed, but this 3-day itinerary will give you a great snapshot of the island. 

If you’re leaving from Seattle, grab the  ferry service  to the capital of British Columbia. From there, take a 2-hour drive up from Victoria to Nanaimo to start your road trip.

Day 1 – Nanaimo to Courtenay

seaplane sunshine coast

On the first day of your Vancouver Island road trip itinerary, I encourage you to catch the early ferry to start your weekend on Vancouver Island right away. You can grab your coffee and breakfast at either the ferry terminal or on the ferry.

Once you dock in Nanaimo , take some time to explore the town. There are plenty of restaurants, shops, and parks to check out.

You can hike, bike, and boat your way around Vancouver Island, but flying on a seaplane is a unique way to explore it. I did this with Sunshine Coast to fly from Nanaimo to Sechelt Inlet (on the mainland part of Canada) and loved it.

When you’re done, start making your way to Courtenay (a little over an hour drive without stopping). Stop in Parksville on your way there to eat lunch or check out some of the many beaches they have there.

You can get to Courtenay with enough time to have dinner at a local restaurant and watch the sunset on a nearby beach. This is a relaxing end to your Vancouver Island tour.

Day 2 – Courtenay to Campbell River

Vancouver Island sunrise

While the sunsets are beautiful, the sunrises are even more stunning. I recommend getting coffee and going to the beach to start the second day of your 3 days on Vancouver Island itinerary in a relaxing way.

Check out of your hotel and take a hike in Comox Valley . This gorgeous region has plenty of outdoor activities to do and some beautiful Vancouver Island hiking trails, and you can easily spend the whole day exploring.

Campbell River is only about a 40-minute drive from Courtenay, so you may decide you don’t want to go too far for your next stop. Campbell River has plenty of waterfalls and bridges to explore.

Alternatively, you may want to drive further on your second day, in which case you can drive up to Port Hardy (3 hours from Courtenay). Many people want to go as far north as they can, but keep in mind you’ll be headed all the way south on the island for your last day.

Day 3 – Campbell River to Victoria

cameron lake

If you choose to stay in Port Hardy for the night, it’d be about a 5.5-hour drive to Victoria without stopping, which means you’ll want to get on the road early.

From Campbell River, Victoria is only 3 hours away, so you’ll have a more leisurely day exploring stops in Vancouver Island along the way.

Qualicum Beach has beaches, waterfalls, and many local, organic restaurants.

There are also several stops near this area, such as Cameron Lake. On my Vancouver Island driving tour, I drove by Cameron Lake and had to pull over because it was so beautiful spontaneously. Only a few people were swimming on the opposite side, so it was a relaxing place to stop. I loved how clear the water was and all the rocks you could see at the bottom.

At the north end of Cameron Lake is Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Provincial Park. Walking through this 800-year-old forest will have you in awe as you look at the giant Douglas Firs. The road splits the forest in two, but I recommend checking out both parts. It’s a peaceful place to take a walk and relax in nature.

cathedral grove

Stop by Ladysmith to check out the shops and get a snack on your way to Victoria. This is a good place to get souvenirs as well.

When you get to Victoria , you may decide to spend an extra night there. From taking a water taxi to stopping at one of the world’s most beautiful gardens, there’s plenty to do there. Alternatively, you can also catch the last ferry back to Washington State for a long but satisfying day.

Vancouver Island Road Trip: 7 Days

A week will give you far more time to explore the island and experience everything it offers. You can fit in some great tours and Vancouver Island hikes and set a more relaxed driving speed. 

Your starting point will be Victoria, so you’ll want to take a ferry to Victoria International. Once you reach the city, you’ll be ready to start your Vancouver Island road trip adventure. You can pick and choose from this list of the best places to stop on Vancouver Island to make your own trip or follow my suggested itinerary below.

  • Day 1 – Victoria
  • Day 2 – Victoria to Ladysmith
  • Day 3 – Ladysmith to Parksville
  • Day 4 – Parksville to Qualicum Beach to Port Alberni
  • Day 5 – Port Alberni to Ucluelet
  • Day 6 – Ucluelet to Tofino
  • Day 7 – Tofino to Home

These sample Vancouver Island itineraries do not include all of the stops on the list. If you’re committed to visiting all the stops mentioned in this post, you can always plan several road trips to Vancouver Island to make sure you see them all! 

No matter how many days you spend on a Vancouver Island road trip, you’ll love exploring this beautiful area! SaveSave SaveSave

travelling around vancouver island

Marissa Pedersen

Marissa is a Seattle local who's obsessed with exploring all things Pacific Northwest, especially hiking, road trips, and national parks. She's been to hundreds of places all over the region and started this website to help others discover the beauty of the area and create their own trips.

16 thoughts on “ 13 Epic Stops on a Vancouver Island Road Trip (+ 2 Itineraries) ”

travelling around vancouver island

I am going to Canada for the first time next summer for a wedding and we are doing a big road trip. These pictures are beautiful! We will definitely have to make some of these stops.

travelling around vancouver island

WOW! These places are beautiful! This is on my bucket list, but I just haven’t made it there site yet.

travelling around vancouver island

You will love driving around Vancouver Island then!

I hope you make it there soon!

travelling around vancouver island

What gorgeous pictures. I love taking scenic drives. Something about them is equal parts exciting and relaxing. Little Qualicum Falls Park looks beautiful!!!

travelling around vancouver island

I’ve never been to Canada, but I’ve been keeping tabs on places to go to when I get the chance! Scenic drives are my favorite!

Vancouver Island is a great place to take a road trip!

Oh you’ll love it!

travelling around vancouver island

Vancouver is totally on my list of travel destinations. A good friend of mine was there this summer and he says it was fantastic. Your photos only make me want to go more!

I hope you get there soon!

travelling around vancouver island

I’ve never even heard of Newcastle Island! How is it possible that you know way more about where I live than I do! You always inspire me to get out and adventure more! Kyla

travelling around vancouver island

Wow!!! I haven’t been to the Island since I was a kid. Cameron lake looks gorgeous, I’ll have to put it on my to do list.

It’s easy to forget to explore your own area!

There’s so much to do on the island!

travelling around vancouver island

My partner lived in Canada for a year when he was younger and he still raves about it! I am dying to do a little road trip around and can’t wait to stop at some of these places!!

You’ll love it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed .

Mixed ethnic, Eurasian sisters roast marshmallows on sticks.  Bamfield, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

© PamelaJoeMcFarlane/Getty Images

Foraging for edible Porcini Cep mushrooms (also known as King Bolete ) in rural Bamfield, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island is studded with colorful, quirky communities, many founded on logging or fishing and featuring the word 'Port' in their names.

Best Things to Do

Attractions, must-see attractions.

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Far more than just another pretty flower arrangement, Butchart is a national historic site and a triumph of early-20th-century gardening aesthetics. With…

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

One in a magnificent seven of BC national parks, Pacific Rim is replete with wave-whipped beaches and brooding forests, most of them far from civilization…

Totem poles, Totem park, Royal BC Museum, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Royal BC Museum

Arguably the finest museum in British Columbia and carrier of a ‘royal’ prefix since 1987, Victoria’s flagship sight mixes the cream of BC’s provincial…

"Craigdarroch Castle in Victoria, British Columbia.Other images of the Victoria, British Columbia:"

Craigdarroch Castle

More ostentatious country mansion than fortified castle, Craigdarroch, with its turrets, stained-glass windows and palatial interior, looks like it might…

U'mista Cultural Centre

U'mista Cultural Centre

This must-see longhouse-like facility proudly displays dozens of culturally priceless Kwakwaka'wakw artifacts confiscated when potlatch ceremonies were…

BDKR8B Parliment buildings, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Parliament Buildings

This dramatically handsome confection of turrets, domes and stained glass is British Columbia's working legislature and is also open to visitors. You can…

travelling around vancouver island

Victoria Bug Zoo

It’s not big, nor are its resident critters (although some of them are alarmingly colossal by insect standards); however, this diminutive indoor ‘zoo’ is…

2014 May 26: A Display of classic car rally at Miniature World located at Victoria BC. This shows a replica of vintage car rally.; Shutterstock ID 1140846539; your: Bridget Brown; gl: 65050; netsuite: Online Editorial; full: POI Image Update

Miniature World

Tucked along the side of the Fairmont Empress Hotel, this huge collection of skillfully crafted models depicting important battles, historic towns and…

Top picks from our travel experts

Vancouver island's 14 best things to do will make you want to book a trip right now.

Dodge City Cycles

Dodge City Cycles

Mega-friendly and informative bike shop with rentals and insider tips on the local terrain. It sells comprehensive color-coded bike-trail maps for $6.95…

Merridale Estate Cidery

Merridale Estate Cidery

One of BC's earliest exponents of craft cider-making, Merridale has since gone from strength to strength. The rustic-chic cidery site is lined with trees…

Mt Washington Alpine Resort

Mt Washington Alpine Resort

The island’s only major ski area is something of a local secret cherished by the type of crowd-avoiding skier who doesn’t care for the busy conveyor belt…

Plan with a local

Experience the real Canada

Let a local expert craft your dream trip.

travelling around vancouver island

Latest stories from Vancouver Island

Filter by interest:

  • All Interests
  • Adventure Travel
  • Art & Culture
  • Beaches, Coasts & Islands
  • Food & Drink

Man and women paddle stand up paddleboards through the Inner Harbour towards the Parliament Buildings. © Aaron Black / Getty Images RFC

May 8, 2024 • 11 min read

Plan your first trip to Vancouver Island, Canada, a haven of free-spirited surfing towns, pastoral wineries, community-built biking networks and much more.

travelling around vancouver island

Jan 19, 2023 • 6 min read

Mixed ethnic, Eurasian sisters roast marshmallows on sticks.  Bamfield, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

Dec 26, 2021 • 9 min read

old growth forest in Cathedral Grove MacMillan Provincial Park Vancouver Island British Columbia Canada

Dec 13, 2021 • 6 min read

Mountainous coastal landscape in the Pacific Rim National Park.

Sep 15, 2020 • 2 min read

JUN 18, 2016: First Nation (Native) dancers performing at the Victoria Aboriginal Cultural Festival at the Royal BC Museum in the heart of downtown Victoria.

Sep 8, 2020 • 7 min read

Aug 5, 2020 • 3 min read

Silhouette Surfer Walking On Calm Beach

Jun 17, 2020 • 4 min read

travelling around vancouver island

Feb 11, 2020 • 2 min read

travelling around vancouver island

Jan 22, 2020 • 3 min read

in partnership with getyourguide

Book popular activities in Vancouver Island

Vancouver island and beyond.

travelling around vancouver island

travelling around vancouver island

How to Get Around Vancouver Island Without A Car

Getting around Vancouver Island without a car can be challenging. With its sheer size and limited public transportation, it can be tough to navigate on foot.

Luckily, we’ve got a solution for you: ridesharing! Coastal Rides is a safe and convenient way to travel around Vancouver Island. We service the greater Comox Valley, with long distance ridesharing available, whether you’re headed to Tofino, Port Hardy, or Victoria. With Coastal Rides, you can ditch the car for a practical and stress-free way to travel Vancouver Island end-to-end.

Here’s what you need to know about getting around Vancouver Island by rideshare.

Ridesharing in the Comox Valley and to Popular Vancouver Island Destinations

Coastal Rides is based out of the greater Comox Valley. We offer reliable ferry service in and out of Comox’s Little River terminal and to surrounding communities like Cumberland, Campbell River, and Parksville and Qualicum Beach.

Hail a ride and you can be shuttling your bike to the foothills of Cumberland, hitching a ride up to Mount Washington, or farm hopping throughout the Comox Peninsula. Looking to hit popular destinations like Tofino or Victoria? We can get you there. Save yourself the drive and gas and enjoy the scenery instead. Some drivers even have bike and roof racks so you can bring your favorite toys with you, too.

How Does Ridesharing on Vancouver Island Work?

First, download the Coastal Rides app. The easiest way to secure your ride is to book in advance. On the app, enter your pick-up and drop-off locations, select the date and time you’d like to travel, and choose the type of ride that best fits your needs.

Once you’ve made your booking, you’ll receive a confirmation email or notification on your phone with all the details of your ride, including the driver’s name, contact information, and vehicle make and model. You’ll also be able to track your driver’s progress in real-time, so you know exactly when they’ll arrive to pick you up. Tip: let us know if you’re travelling in a group or have a lot of luggage. We’ll work to outfit you with a vehicle that has plenty of room for you, your friends and all your belongings.

Payments are all made in the app via credit card, and you’re not charged until you are dropped off at your destination.

That’s it! Book your next ride and start exploring Vancouver Island today.


Because we operate in communities that have much less activity than in the big city and often have long distances between populated areas, an on demand ride is not always only a few minutes away. We strongly encourage our riders to schedule in advance when they can, to make sure there is a driver available for their trip. Trips are pre-assigned to drivers so we know someone will be there for you, and over 97% of trips operate on time (stuff happens we can’t be perfect).

travelling around vancouver island

Things to Do

travelling around vancouver island

Fill your days on Vancouver Island with adventure, relaxation, and new experiences. From outdoor activities to wildlife viewing and cultural exploration to festivals – the Vancouver Island region boasts so much to see and do!

Eat & Drink

Outdoor Recreation


Spa & Wellness

Wildlife Viewing

Indigenous Experiences

Culture & History

Brewery Guide

Indigenous businesses & experiences, accessible travel guide, distillery guide, trip inspiration.

travelling around vancouver island

See Vancouver Island Through the Eyes of Travellers

Follow us @TourismVancouverIsland

Roaming RV

Touring Vancouver Island in your RV

  • Latest Posts

travelling around vancouver island

  • Best State to Buy an RV In to Save Money [Fees & Deals] -
  • A Guide to Cooking Lobster Tails on a BBQ (Without Ruining Them) -

Exploring Vancouver Island in an Rv is an experience!

Crossing by ferry from the mainland of British Columbia or Northern Washington will bring you to one of the worlds most picturesque and unique areas. Whether you come across for a day trip or experience it as your main destination you won’t be disappointed in what you find on scenic Vancouver Island.

travelling around vancouver island

Starting with the old English charm of Victoria to the world-renowned surfing and storm watching destination of Tofino, to the more isolated community of Port Hardy and experiencing everything in between, your days will be filled with interesting adventures.

Island Food

Seafood lovers will appreciate having the abundance of fresh seafood available year-round at many restaurants or being able to purchase ‘the catch of the day’ at a fish market and cook it themselves. Fresh local produce is available throughout the island at any of the variety of farmers markets or roadside stalls you come across. Check with the local tourism office for a schedule of market days so you don’t miss them.

Outdoor recreation

  Outdoor enthusiasts will never be bored here. Since it’s surrounded by water, Vancouver Island is a paradise for anyone looking for an exciting ocean paddling adventure. Paddle a kayak or canoe across the water while searching for otters and sea lions in their natural habitat.

For the more adventurous the scuba diving here is some of the best in the world with many wreck diving opportunities in a few distinctive locations. You will find both man-made and artificial reefs and keep your eyes peeled for large cloud sponges, huge Pacific octopus and giant six-gill sharks.

travelling around vancouver island

Fishing enthusiasts will appreciate being able to fish at either saltwater or freshwater locations and being able to throw a hook into the water and catch their dinner for that night. Visit Campbell River, considered the Salmon Capital of the world where you will have some very exciting fishing opportunities.

Once a Hudson’s Bay Company Fort, Victoria is the capital of British Columbia with a strong British influence. Take a tour on one of the double decker buses or enjoy a carriage ride around the Inner Harbour and if you are so inclined take part in a traditional afternoon tea at the Empress Hotel. An afternoon spent touring Craigdarroch Castle is worth doing especially if you are keen on seeing an interesting Victorian Mansion. You will find some of the best museums in Western Canada and your days will be filled while enjoying the many attractions including the totem poles at Thunderbird Park.

Old Growth Forests

Traffic and parking at Cathedral Grove

Towering upward over 240 feet are 800-year-old Douglas fir trees at Cathedral Grove (MacMillian Provincial Park) with RV parking and accessible trails for everyone, making it possible for visitors to experience a westcoast old growth forest.

Walking tour through history

travelling around vancouver island

First Nations

Generations of natives have preserved their heritage through the practice of carving totem poles and some of the best examples can be found at many locations including Victoria, Tofino, and Quadra Island, with some amazing specimens at Alert Bay.

The First Nations people were the first to live on Vancouver Island and for those who are interested in learning more of their culture and history a visit to the Quw’utsun’ Cultural and Conference Centre in Duncan is recommended.

Whale watching

Be prepared to be absolutely amazed at the sight of the killer whales (Orcas), humpback whales and Pacific Grey whales found in the surrounding waters. Take the time to attend a whale watching tour since the guides know where the best locations are for sightings. The most favorite locations and guides are at Campbell River, Tofino, Ucluelet, Alert Bay, Port McNeill and Victoria. It’s important to research before your trip to find out when the best time will be to see marine life.

Vancouver Island history

Logging and forestry was and still is important to the economy of Vancouver Island and some of the most notable landmarks found include the remains of the lumber barons. The British Columbia Forestry Museum in Duncan has all kinds of exhibits to explore.

The island was first settled by the First Nations and then became an important colony of Britain. Miners, fur traders and many Chinese labourers who were brought to build the railway all settled here and you can still see indications of their presence.

Pacific Rim / West Coast of Vancouver Island

The westcoast of Vancouver Island is known for it’s rugged coastline, trails and storm watching. The Wickannish Centre is the best place to learn more about the North Pacific Ocean and the history of the Nuu-chah-multh Indians. If nature and marine life is interesting to you the Whale Centre Maritime Museum in Tofino has a fabulous collection of artifacts and interesting traditional whaling equipment and kids will love seeing the 40’gray whale skeleton.

RV parks and campgrounds

Camping and Rving is extremely popular on Vancouver Island and there are RV Parks and campgrounds that will suit every type of camper or RVer. If you prefer a site along the ocean there are many private campgrounds, provincial and regional parks along the shoreline up and down the island but if you would like a quiet spot in the forest, nature sanctuary or in a community campground you will find plenty to choose from.

travelling around vancouver island

RV Parks and Campgrounds: http://vancouverisland.com/plan-your-trip/campgrounds-rv-parks/

BC Ferries: http://www.bcferries.com

MacMillian Park: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/macmillan/

Vancouver Island golf: http://www.hellobc.com/vancouver-island/things-to-do/outdoor-activities/golf.aspx

Diving: http://www.hellobc.com/vancouver-island/things-to-do/water-activities/diving.aspx

Totem Poles: http://vancouverisland.com/things-to-do-and-see/attractions/totem-poles/

5 thoughts on “Touring Vancouver Island in your RV”

travelling around vancouver island

We are a family of 5 looking to rent an RV for a week to travel around Vancouver Island. We are looking for a recommendation for an rv rental on the island and also 7 day child friendly itinerary. Your advice would be much appreciated!

travelling around vancouver island

Hi Emily, Thanks for your email. Are you from Vancouver or area? It is probably the best idea to rent one on the island and not have to pay the high ferry costs to bring an RV across. As to which is best I can’t make a recommendation. I haven’t dealt with any of them. I am sorry. However, I will post your request on FB and see what we get. Thanks – good luck with your plans.

travelling around vancouver island

We’re coming from California. Where would you recommend we take tthe ferry from ? Should we select one park to stay in are visit different ones ? We want to stay about 10days to fish, and visit different site on the island and do you have recommendation as to what to site see ?

Your plans sound wonderful. It will depend on where you wish to be on the Island. If you are going to be around the Victoria area you have a couple of choices. One is to travel through the San Juan Islands (which is beautiful by the way) and access Canada and Vancouver Island on the BlackBall Ferry . The second choice would be if you entered Canada on the mainland either at Peace Arch, Pacific Border Crossing or one of the other crossing along the Canada – USA border. Then I would suggest you travel to Victoria on BC Ferries at Tsawwassen, just south of Vancouver and close to the border. Ten days isn’t a long period of time but it will depend on how much traveling you wish to do. Here’s a link to Super Natural BC and Vancouver Island Travel you may find helpful. If there is anything else you need please don’t hesitate to email me directly at carolann@roamingrv.com and I will get back to you asap.

Safe travels, Carol Ann

Very informative

Leave a Comment Cancel Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed .


  1. 10 Best Things To Do on Vancouver Island (Canada)

    travelling around vancouver island

  2. Totem Peaks

    travelling around vancouver island

  3. Vancouver Island

    travelling around vancouver island

  4. Vancouver Island Photography ⋆ We Dream of Travel Blog

    travelling around vancouver island

  5. Vancouver Island travel guide

    travelling around vancouver island

  6. Vancouver Island travel guide

    travelling around vancouver island


  1. Boat Life isn't always Red Wine & Rainfalls

  2. Max and Raphy begin a kayak trip around Vancouver Island

  3. Ogden Point Breakwater Victoria BC Cruise Ships

  4. Around Vancouver Island Adventure

  5. Around Vancouver Island Day 1

  6. Around Vancouver Island Adventure


  1. The Complete Vancouver Island Road Trip Itinerary (The Best Stops in 1

    The Best Way To Travel Around Vancouver Island. The best way to travel around Vancouver Island is by car. However, in order to bring a car to the island, you'll need to travel by ferry (more on that below). Since this post is a road trip itinerary, we recommend bringing (or renting!) a vehicle that has everything you need. Here are a few of ...

  2. The Ultimate Vancouver Island Road Trip Itinerary

    To get from Vancouver to Victoria, you head down to Delta and take the Tsawwassen Ferry to Swartz Bay. It runs frequently throughout the day starting at 7 am, takes roughly 1.5 hrs and costs $62 for a standard vehicle plust $18 per passenger. To or from Nanaimo you take the Horseshoe Bay ferry out of West Vancouver.

  3. A first-timer's guide to Vancouver Island

    Once dismissed as a sleepy retirement home for aging Anglophiles, Vancouver Island has acquired a racier profile in recent years, courtesy of its free-spirited surfing towns, pastoral wineries, community-built biking networks and extravagantly eccentric accommodations. If you've ever spent time fantasizing about "hanging ten" in Tofino, sleeping in spherical treehouses, visiting Canada ...

  4. 10 Epic Vancouver Island Road Trip Itineraries That You Will Want to

    Vancouver Island is a prime destination for road trips, boasting scenic coastal highways, charming towns, and stunning natural landscapes.A popular Vancouver Island road trip route is the Pacific Rim Highway, which stretches along the west coast of the island, offering breathtaking ocean views and access to Pacific Rim National Park.

  5. 7 Day Vancouver Island Road Trip Itinerary (With Map)

    A Vancouver Island road trip is a fantastic way to explore the island's beauty. The island is home to diverse wildlife, a mild climate, storm watching, surfing, and more. While there are many places to visit on the island, this itinerary includes the main destinations, such as Victoria and Tofino. Let's dive into the itinerary for this ...

  6. Unforgettable 5-day Vancouver Island Road Trip itinerary

    Unforgettable 5-day Vancouver Island Road Trip itinerary. May 13, 2020. Vancouver Island is a magical, forested, natural beauty off the coast of British Columbia. From mountains to beaches, this sizable island has it all. There's so much to see here that it will be hard to fit it into a five-day Vancouver Island road trip, but let's try!

  7. The Ultimate Vancouver Island Road Trip Itinerary

    Road tripping around Vancouver Island gives you the opportunity to travel on the lands of many First Nations people, including the Coast Salish, Nuu-chah-nulth and Kwakwakaw'akw People. Indigenous Tourism BC is an excellent resource for learning about First Nations culture and businesses across the province, including on Vancouver Island.

  8. How to Get Around Vancouver Island

    Long distance buses travel between Vancouver Island's larger towns and cities, while public transit buses connect many smaller communities. ... If you're wanting an all-inclusive experience around Vancouver Island, consider a guided tour. These can be anything from 1 to 8 days long with a knowledgeable guide, bus transportation, activities ...

  9. Canada's Enchanting Vancouver Island

    Vancouver Island Road Trip Day 1. Part 1: Getting to Vancouver Island: Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo. To get to Vancouver Island you will need to take a ferry. There are two major ferry terminals in Vancouver from where the ferries leave: Horseshoe Bay and Tsawwassen. Tsawwassen is closer to the city center and Horseshoe Bay is out to the West.

  10. Home

    Start here to get the full run down on how to get where, how to get around, and how to travel Vancouver Island. Discover an ocean-carved land of extremes ranging from mild to wild, cultured to life-affirmingly raw. Backpack in majestic wilderness parks. Marvel at orcas, black bears and the sheer abundance of furred, feathered and finned wildlife.

  11. Vancouver Island Road Trips

    Nanaimo to Port Hardy. Choose your own adventure along one of the longest - and most wild - Vancouver Island road trip routes. This 385 km trip from Nanaimo to Port Hardy varies in travel time depending on the season but its rugged beauty is gorgeous year-round. The potential for animal sightings will have you at the edge of your seats with ...

  12. A Spectacular Vancouver Island Road Trip Itinerary (7 Days)

    Here is the overview of this road trip (don't worry, PLENTY of details below): Day 1: Arrive in Victoria and head to Salt Spring Island. Day 2: Road trip to Tofino. Day 3: Exploring the Tofino highlights. Day 4: Day trip to beautiful Ucluelet. Day 5: More Tofino, featuring wildlife, water taxis, and hikes.

  13. Getting Here

    Vancouver Island is a 460km (285 mile) island paradise located in the Pacific Ocean, about 97km (60 miles) west of Vancouver, and 117km (73 miles) north of Seattle. Explore the thousands of kilometers of roads and highways on the Island, between Port Hardy in the north and Victoria in the south, and Tofino to the west and Campbell River to the ...

  14. 14 best things to do in Vancouver Island

    Vancouver Island's newest and most novel attraction is a multi-tiered spiral tower with a lofty lookout and - we kid you not - a giant trampoline on top. Located 30km (18.6 miles) northwest of Victoria by road it offers 360-degree views over forest, sea, islands, and the glaciated hump of Mount Baker in the US.


    Day 5 - Nanaimo to Tofino Drive. Driving Time: 2 hours 50 minutes. Distance: 207 kms. The drive from Nanaimo to Tofino is one of the most fun and scenic road trips on Vancouver Island. There are a ton of great stops along the way so you will want to leave early to allow you a full day of exploring.

  16. Vancouver Island Travel Guide (Updated 2024)

    Nanaimo to Gabriola Island is 10.15 CAD for a return ticket. Bus - The bus goes just about everywhere on Vancouver Island, although it isn't cheap. A seven-hour journey from Victoria to Tofino is 105 CAD, while a one-hour trip from Victoria to Cowichan Bay is 20 CAD. A 3.5-hour trip from Nanaimo to Ucluelet is 50 CAD.

  17. 13 Epic Stops on a Vancouver Island Road Trip (+ 2 Itineraries)

    Once you reach the city, you'll be ready to start your Vancouver Island road trip adventure. You can pick and choose from this list of the best places to stop on Vancouver Island to make your own trip or follow my suggested itinerary below. Day 1 - Victoria. Day 2 - Victoria to Ladysmith.

  18. Vancouver Island travel

    Get to the heart of Vancouver Island with one of our in-depth, award-winning guidebooks, covering maps, itineraries, and expert guidance. Atlantic Canada. $ 24.99. British Columbia & the Canadian Rockies. $ 24.99.

  19. Plan Your Trip

    Plan Your Trip. Plan your trip to Vancouver Island by using the resources below. Vancouver Island is home to dozens of vibrant communities, each offering unique experiences for every type of traveller. If you need further assistance with your travel plans, please send us an email and we'll be happy to help.

  20. 33 BEST Things to do on Vancouver Island (2024 Bucket List!)

    Situated on the traditional territory of the Malahat Nation, the skywalk will give you a true appreciation for the beauty of this area as you'll have a view from 250 meters (820 feet) above sea level. You'll find the Malahat Skywalk on the southern end of Vancouver Island, around a 30-minute drive from Victoria.

  21. How to Get Around Vancouver Island Without A Car

    2023-03-24. Get The App Book Now. Getting around Vancouver Island without a car can be challenging. With its sheer size and limited public transportation, it can be tough to navigate on foot. Luckily, we've got a solution for you: ridesharing! Coastal Rides is a safe and convenient way to travel around Vancouver Island.

  22. Things to Do

    Fill your days on Vancouver Island with adventure, relaxation, and new experiences. From outdoor activities to wildlife viewing and cultural exploration to festivals - the Vancouver Island region boasts so much to see and do! ... Accessible Travel | May 1, 2023 Accessible Places to See Flowers Bloom on Vancouver Island See Vancouver Island ...

  23. Touring Vancouver Island in your RV

    Old Growth Forests. Towering upward over 240 feet are 800-year-old Douglas fir trees at Cathedral Grove (MacMillian Provincial Park) with RV parking and accessible trails for everyone, making it possible for visitors to experience a westcoast old growth forest. Walking tour through history.