Vancouver Island has become increasingly popular as a local getaway in recent years, with beautiful beaches, hiking trails, lakes and a fantastic culinary scene all contributing to its appeal. From whale watching along the Pacific to dining on the freshest farm-to-table fare, if you’ve booked your flights to Vancouver and are looking for the perfect place to spend a long weekend away from the city, this is a great choice.
Given that the Island is 460 kilometres (290 miles) in length, you’re going to need a lot longer than a weekend to explore this beautiful destination to its fullest. So, to ensure you see as much as possible during your visit, we’ve compiled some of our highlights in an interactive road trip.
Starting in Vancouver
Vancouver Island is easy to access from mainland British Columbia, thanks to ferries and seaplanes departing regularly. If you’re hiring a car in Vancouver, you can bring your rental car on the ferry, or alternatively, hire a car in Victoria, where this road trip begins.
British Columbia’s capital city—and one of the oldest cities in the Pacific Northwest—is a popular location to visit, with its famous attractions including its pretty Inner Harbour, the Royal BC Museum, and Butchart Gardens—home to peaceful walking paths and a spectacular flower exhibit with hundreds of colourful blooms.
If you enjoy being outdoors, make sure to stop off at Beacon Hill Park. Covering over 200 acres, it’s a lovely place for a stroll and features tennis courts, lawn bowling and even a petting zoo. Around 17 kilometres (10 miles) from Downtown Victoria, you’ll also find Goldstream Provincial Park. Surrounded by temperate rainforest, it’s famous for the annual fall salmon runs in the Goldstream River, as well as the huge numbers of bald eagles that congregate to feed at that time.
Drive around four hours from Victoria and you’ll arrive in the small fishing town of Ucluelet. The Wild Pacific Trail is probably the most popular attraction in the area. The Lighthouse Loop is a common route along the trail and takes between 45 minutes and one hour to complete. Along the way, you’ll witness fantastic ocean, rainforest and—as the name of the route suggests—scenic lighthouse views. We would also recommend a stroll Long Beach, which spans the middle of Pacific Rim National Park for several kilometres, and the Ucluelet Aquarium, a wonderful family attraction.
Looking for a pit stop between Victoria and Ucluelet? The small village of Port Renfrew invites you to experience some of the most beautiful and tranquil locations along the west coast of Canada. Best-known as the trailhead for both the historic West Coast Trail and the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, the area attracts many hikers seeking out views of the wild coastline.
Another 30 minutes along the coast is the beautiful coastal village of Tofino. There is plenty to stop and see en route, including the orchards, farms and cideries of Cowichan Valley, the beautifully painted outdoor murals at Chemainus, and Qualicum Beach. Here, you can visit Coombs Old Country Market—home to the infamous ‘Goats on the Roof’—a little convenience store known for its grass-topped roof with resident goats.
Tofino itself is adored for its unforgettable sunsets and stunning natural beauty and is widely known as a fantastic destination for surfing. Chesterman Beach and Cox Bay are top choices for beginner surfers, with local surf schools offering lessons to help you suss out the swells.
Rather not surf? Relax at Hot Springs Cove, or keep your eyes peeled for wildlife as you take to the waters to kayak. If you’re visiting during winter, Tofino is also renowned as a fantastic place to storm watch because of its exposed coast. Book a cosy waterside cabin and watch in awe as waves roll in at up to 20 feet in height. For a quick bite, drop by the iconic orange Tacofino truck, or for a more sophisticated dinner with cocktails, The Wolf in the Fog is a local favourite.
For the last leg of the trip, drive just over three hours to Nanaimo. From there, you can take a direct two-hour ferry back to West Vancouver. With one of the longest shorelines in Canada, you can find yourself in the wilderness from Nanaimo’s city centre in just a few minutes, where the likes of Neck Point Park and Newcastle Island await. The city also has a beautiful harbourfront walkway—the perfect place to stop for a coffee and enjoy the scenery.
Interested in taking a road trip around Vancouver Island? Book your flights to Vancouver online, or talk to our Canada Experts to find dates and routes that work for you.