Whether you are an adventurous, an explorer, a social camper, or a city lover, there is something for everyone on Vancouver Island. From waterfalls, age-old trees in the rainforest, rugged coastlines, and cozy harbors. Vancouver Island is the ideal destination to start or end your road trip through Canada if you have enough time as it is i huge Island.
Looking at a map of Canada, Vancouver Island isn’t more than a dot off the coast of British Columbia. But this is Canadian scale – where everything’s bigger than it looks. In reality, it’s the largest Pacific Island east of New Zealand, stretching 290 miles from north to south. The island has a mix of beaches and rainforests, wildlife and waterfalls, seafood, and local wine – and a Vancouver Island road trip is the perfect way to discover them.
We took a flight from Amsterdam to Vancouver an 11-hour flight and started our trip in Vancouver where we stayed one night in Chinatown. When we arrived we picked up our rental car for the trip and drove to the city and checked in our hotel. After we settled we walked a little bit around in the evening and looked for a place to dine. After a Chinese dinner, we got early in bed because we were so tired of the long flight and the jetlag. The next day we awake early because of the difference in time with Europe. So we took a walk in the early morning at Stanley park to see the city awake it was beautiful scenery and the park was almost empty.
After our morning walk, we took the ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo a 2-hour boat ride that brought us to Vancouver Island where we plan to stay for a week driving around the Island. You can see the timetables and routes from the ferry here
You can also make a reservation for the ferry it will save you some time.
Tip: breakfast and lunch are very good on the ferry
We drive an hour from Nanaimo to the north of the Island where we stopped at Cathedral grove national park which is famous for its huge Douglas trees. Cathedral Grove is a great stop on the road to stretch the legs.
Cathedral Grove, located in MacMillan Provincial Park, is one of the most accessible stands of giant Douglas fir trees on Vancouver Island. Here visitors can stroll through a network of trails under the shadow of towering ancient Douglas-fir trees, majestic pillars untouched by the modern world – some more than 800 years old. The park is easy to find with Google maps and not so big so you can't go wrong here. You can park your car on both sides of the road and on both sides of the road you can take a short walk in the park.
Tip download all the maps from Google to your phone so if you don't have an internet connection you still can use the maps.
We continued north another hour alongside the beautiful coast of Vancouver Island on the 19A
( you can also take the 19 it's faster but we like the views of the 19A ) We enjoyed the beautiful views and arrived at Campbell river where we had to take another ferry to Quadra Island. This time the ferry only takes 10 min and you can't make a reservation. Be aware that if you go back to Vancouver Island the ferry around 08:00 Is very busy with local people so you better avoid the early one. We drive another 10 min to Quadra Island and arrived at our resort for the upcoming 3 days at Cape Mudge on Quadra Island Have you heard of Quadra Island? If you haven’t you are in for a treat, because this island is amazing, and under the radar for tourism.
Unnfortanly the weather was rainy and windy so we had to cancel our first trip looking for whales and grizzly bears around Quadra Island. Lucky enough after the windy rainy day we woke up to the sound of whales in front of our room it was an amazing experience to see the giants swim in front of our room they just stayed there the whole morning.
A True nature escape at Quadra Island
TSA-Kwa-Luten Lodge on Quadra Island tucked between Vancouver Island and the mainland is secluded on 1,100 acres of pristine land surrounded by mountain peaks, tidal waters, and lush forests. Its calm and tranquil setting is steeped in aboriginal history and features authentic Pacific Coast architecture. The Tsa-Kwa-Luten Lodge is set on the picturesque bluffs of Quadra Island and managed by the We Wai Kai band; Tsa-Kwa-Luten means gathering place and is their name for the area commonly known as Cape Mudge
Staying at the lodge is an immersive cultural experience with every facet incorporating culture and historical importance
TIP: While staying at the lodge enjoy the nearby trails and the Cape Mudge Lighthouse or visit the Nyumbaleese Cultural Centre which features an extensive collection of potlatch regalia.
Staying at Tsa-Kwa-Luten is truly an unforgettable cultural experience. More about our stay at Tsa Kwa Luten
There are three main villages on Quadra Island Cape Mudge (Yaculta) home to the We Wai Kai band of the Laichwiltach People, part of the Kwa' Kwa' Ka' Wa'Kw First Nation,
Quathiaski Cove most populous of the three and the island's commercial hub, and Heriot Bay is a picturesque gateway to the Discovery Islands & mainland inlets.
Surrounded by breathtaking wilderness scenery and blessed with a mild temperate climate visitors have long been attracted to the island for its natural beauty, unlimited recreation, and friendly people
On Quadra island we spend our days listening to the sound of whales in the morning, we did some hiking to the lighthouse, visited the farmer's market where we got some nice curry worst and we drive to Rebecca Spit park to relax a bit and get some drone footage around the Island. Rebecca Spit is a great place to kayak, relax on the beach, or picnic and hike alongside the beach.
We visit the local community at Yaculta to learn more about their lives and their way of living. We shoot some pics at the fishing pier and the museum but in September the tourist season already stopped here so the museum was closed but it was still a nice place to visit to see how the local people lived with and from the sea.
We continued our trip on Vancouver Island with a long drive to the village of Tofino where we will stay at Long beach lodge for a couple of nights a great place to hike, go bear or whale watching, or just watch the people surf and in the fall season a great place to storm watching. From Vancouver, you can reach Tofino to take the ferry from Horseshoe Bay followed by a three-hour ride into the foggy mist of the rain forest, around hairpin curves, and through Pacific Rim National Park reserve to the ocean.
After we checked in at Long Beach lodge we settled in our cottage in the rainforest and drive in 5 minutes to the town of Tofino to do some shopping for evening dinner as the cottage has a living room, kitchen, and 2 bedrooms so its also perfect for families.
Tofino has something special, the many colors of the village you can feel the vibes when you enter the town, there are many great restaurants and shops to stroll around. On the way back we did a quick stop at Tofino brewery to buy some local beers and we are ready for a cozy night in our cottage. After dinner, we did a long walk on the beach to watch the sunset. It's amazing to photograph all the surfers during sunset and walk at the beach. On our way back we stopped in front of the hotel to sit back and relax by the fire at the sand bar bistro and enjoy the peaceful scenery.
The next day we did breakfast in the restaurant of Long Beach Lodge with a spectacular view over the beach of Cox Bay. Of course, you can also prepare everything by yourself in your cottage to save some money. After breakfast, we go to the harbor of Tofino to go on an adventure of bear-watching. The weather was rainy and foggy but we did get to see some bears on the beach and I photographed some dramatic moody shots with mist and the many small Islands around Tofino so it was a good trip.
After our bear-watching tour we lunch at Shelter I really recommended it, they use the most local produced products and the taste was very good. You can also have lunch on the beach of Long Beach Lodge resort when the weather is ok.
We drove back to our lodge to relax in the afternoon in our jacuzzi in the rain forest and in the late afternoon, the weather turns to sunny so we packed our stuff and walked a bit in the forest and to the beach again to watch all the surfers during sunset.
We had some good days at Tofino the vibes, nature, the beach, and the misty landscape makes it a special place. I will not forget and am sure we will come back to hang around when we are on Vancouver Island. More about our stay at long beach lodge
Our trip continued to the Canadian Rocky Mountains and we woke up early to drive back to the ferries and catch the boat to the mainland where we will drive the beautiful sea to the sky highway, our first stop will be at Whistler the cozy ski village in BC