Today is October 1st, 2020. We left for our van expedition on June 1st, 2020. And to this day, after everything we’ve had the chance to see and explore, I can positively affirm Vancouver island has been my favourite of all. A few reasons explaining this are :
- the diversity of landscapes within such a small island (the size of Taiwan approximately)
- the extended amount of wildlife
- the beauty and warmth of Victoria, BC
- The sunsets on the coasts
- the kindness of local people
I’ll share with you our full itinerary for 10 days on the island, however I took so many pictures throughout this section of the journey that I’ll slowly link you to Photo Series so you can deep deeper in each section. I will be posting the photo series gradually in the next few weeks.
Follow along the map 🙂
DAY 1 (Friday, July 31st) : EXPERIENCE VICTORIA, BC
Take an early ferry from Tsawwassen to Victoria ! The ferry only takes about an hour and a half to cross the strait and you’ll be on the island in no time.
At our arrival, we made our way straight the the magnificient Butchart Gardens ($35 CAD per person). The gardens are huge and it will probably take you 2 to 3 hours to stroll and discover the 900 varieties of flowers and plants displayed. The sunken garden in particular is a sight for sore eyes (second picture below) making you understand why the gardens employ more than 50 gardeners year round.
After that, it was time to fill the hole in our stomachs so we headed to the Teahouse at Abkhazi Gardens, a Georgian teahouse where you can enjoy the typical social gathering. Their tea time is reasonably priced (from $39 CAD to $55 CAD per person) and their garden is also a sight to see!
End your day by spending the evening watching the sunset on the coast. There is a walkway along Beacon Hill Park that I highly recommend.
DAY 2 (Aug, 1st) : CHASE WHALES IN VICTORIA, BC
Wake up to an incredible sunrise close to Beacon Hill. That’s where we spent the night and were lucky to enjoy both sunset and sunrise. However, sunrise had a particular “mystical feel” to it.
Head to Fisherman’s Wharf and take a tour to see whales. Please note we booked our tour the evening before on a long weekend here in BC so they usually always have availabilities. Our departure time was 6:30am with Eagle Wings tour (for $125 CAD each – count 5 to 6 hours on the water and off). The tour was great, we saw about 10 humpback whales and a myriad of sea lions and seals.
Grab late lunch at one of the numerous food joints in Fisherman’s wharf. I love the colourful houses and shops floating on the pretty waters surrounding the island and their restaurants offer a large array of cuisines going from pizza to tacos.
DAY 3 (Aug, 2nd) : EXPLORE THE ROAD TO PORT RENFREW
From Victoria to Port Renfrew is only a couple hours drive, but there are tons of beautiful places to explore in the middle. To name a few, make a stop in beautiful Sooke, French Beach & Port Renfrew itself.
After Port Renfrew, you won’t be able to keep going along the coast and you’ll have to head East. Towards the East, I suggest you stop at Fairy Lake (where you’ll witness the cutest bonsai tree in the world) and Lizard Lake. Two peaceful areas in the heart of the lass-traveled roads of the island.
From left to right : East Sooke, Fairy Lake, Port Renfrew
Want to see more pictures ? Read this article.
DAY 4 (Aug, 3rd) : SCENIC ROAD TO TOFINO – UCLUELET
The road to Tofino from Port Renfrew is a solid 5 hours so take your time and make a lot of stops. You’ll have to take the same road back to Nanaimo so you’ll be able to do some things twice and what you missed, you won’t really miss :). The first time we took that road, it was grey and warm and on the way back, we were under a gorgeous sun. It was fun to see it under both weathers.
1 Port Alberni
Your first stop on the road is most certainly going to be Port Alberni. Like its name suggests, it’s a harbour town. It’s very charming and full of history. We didn’t do a lot here but we certainly enjoyed the little streets.
2. Sproat Lake
Sproat Lake is a peaceful lake right in the middle of the road. The day was grey but the water was so warm we spent a lot of time swimming in the lake. It’s not a busy spot either, if you don’t stop at the main area (where they have showers and restrooms), you’ll be able to find some very lonely and calm spots. My favourite part was the little island in the middle. But you can also go for a small hike around the lake to go learn about ancient petroglyphs.
3. Wally Creek on the Kennedy River
Wally Creek is our favorite secret spot. Located right next to the highway, the entrance is almost impossible to see and you’ll have to keep driving through a very narrow and overgrown dirt road to reach this paradise. Once you arrive, you’ll find a few informal camping spots with fire pits, nested into the trees. You’ll be parked along a narrow canyon, divided by the Kennedy River. The crystal water is not the warmest but it’s absolutely lovely on a warm day. It’s very secluded and calm and if you can find it, you should definitely go and spend a night there (which we did on the way back).
Cute Ucluelet has the most scenic little harbour and typical Northern West Coast beaches. If you arrive at the end of the day like we did, I recommend you grab a beer and a snack at Ucluelet Brewing Co and then enjoy the sunset on Little Beach.
DAY 5 (Aug, 4th) : EXPLORE TOFINO
When we arrived in Tofino, a heavy fog was preventing us from really seeing the beauty of the coastal town. It didn’t prevent our enjoyment, the area was still beautiful, especially the little colourful shacks & small restaurants.
So, as we don’t like to wait around doing nothing. We decided to wait for the sun at a local restaurant for brunch. Sobo is a cute little place with views over the harbour (on the back, they have a second terrace). The food is healthy, fresh and plain delicious. We had some amazing oysters, ceviche, fish croquettes etc… We really enjoyed the place.
After our lunch, the sun finally came out and we walked all over town, taking our time observing the hydroplane taking off to some island surrounding the area. What a difference the sun makes!
And Tofino wouldn’t be Tofino if we didn’t talk surfing… Tofino’s surf beaches have quite the reputation in Canada. And indeed the beaches were FULL. Surfers from all over the planet come for Tofino’s waves. We didn’t see big waves at all and it was kind of funny to imagine this would be a surf hotspot but it seems like Cox Bay is very beloved. We enjoyed the beaches nonetheless as they are large and wild.
Head to page 2 for the 5 next days…