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Road Trips , British Columbia , Canada
13 epic stops on a vancouver island road trip (+ 2 itineraries).
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
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
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
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.
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.
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 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 )
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
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.
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
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 )
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 )
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)
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 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.
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
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 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 )
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 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
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
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
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.
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
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) ”
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.
WOW! These places are beautiful! This is on my bucket list, but I just haven’t made it there site yet.
You will love driving around Vancouver Island then!
I hope you make it there soon!
What gorgeous pictures. I love taking scenic drives. Something about them is equal parts exciting and relaxing. Little Qualicum Falls Park looks beautiful!!!
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!
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!
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
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!
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!
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The Complete Vancouver Island Road Trip Itinerary (The Best Stops in 1 Week!)
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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!
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Vancouver Island Road Trip: PRE-TRIP PLANNING
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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!
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
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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, 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
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
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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
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.
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
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!)
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…
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
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!).
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!
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…
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.
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!
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Vancouver Island is a paradise for outdoor lovers, whatever the weather © Pamela Joe McFarlane/Getty Images
Lightly populated and synced to a slower rhythm than mainland British Columbia , Vancouver Island is Canada’s province within a province.
For the first 17 years of its colonial history, it was an independent entity, and an element of this apartness still resounds in its community-focused towns where islanders are more likely to greet you with a conversation than a nod. A million metaphoric miles from the slick skyscrapers of nearby Vancouver , this is a place to lower your stress levels, commune with nature and get back to the land with home-brewed beverages, Indigenous legends and superb biking and hiking trails.
The island was also a top pick for Best in Travel 2022. With these incredible experiences, it's easy to see why,
Go mountain biking in Cumberland
A once industrious coal-mining settlement, Cumberland was in danger of becoming a ghost town in the 1960s when the mines closed, and its population almost evaporated. Reclassifying itself as a village, it was rejuvenated in the early 21st century by a group of entrepreneurial mountain bikers.
Under the umbrella of a registered non-profit organization, they created a network of 170 trails in an adjacent community forest. Cumberland’s once downbeat main street of mining-era buildings has sprouted a cool array of independent shops and restaurants to support the influx of two-wheeled tourists. Procure bike rentals and trail information from Dodge City Cycles .
Take afternoon tea in Victoria
While provincial capital Victoria supports a trendy consortium of craft-brewers, wine sommeliers and third-wave coffee baristas, it also harbors a religious devotion to afternoon tea, a custom bequeathed by caffeine-fuelled British colonists. The tradition prevails in an array of refined tearooms where dainty cakes mounted on three-tier silver trays are washed down with orange pekoe sipped from delicate china cups.
The high temple of afternoon tea is the Fairmont Empress Hotel , where the "full spread" (finger sandwiches, homemade pastries, and fresh scones) is served in an elegant lobby-lounge to a tinkling piano accompaniment.
Discover the Malahat Skywalk
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.
A 600m (1969ft) elevated walkway leads through a rust-hued arbutus forest to the 32m-high (105ft) tower which is rendered entirely in wood and was made in collaboration with the Malahat Nation. The icing on the cake? There’s a winding slide that gets you back to the bottom in 15 seconds. A special shuttle links the Skywalk with Victoria, Wednesday to Sunday.
Cycle the ʔapsčiik t̓ašii
Earmarked to be fully operational by 2022, this newly built cycling path stretches for 25km (15.5 miles) along the Pacific coast linking the two diminutive surfing towns of Tofino and Ucluelet. Its name (pronounced: ups-cheek ta-shee) means "going in the right direction on the trail" in the local Indigenous language. The unchallenging paved path cuts through the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve granting easy access to trailheads, waterfront accommodations and a sweep of broad beaches ideal for surfing, cycling, and watching the latest storm roll in. Bikes, including robust beach-worthy models with no gears, can be rented from Tofino Bike Co , near the trail’s northern terminus.
Surf in Tofino
Canada’s surfing capital meets the tempestuous waves of the Pacific Ocean with a jagged spectrum of stormy beaches. There are sheltered Mackenzie Beach (good for beginners); two-pronged Chesterman Beach, separated by a wave-breaking sandbar and islet; legendary Cox Bay, host of numerous surfing competitions; and the expansive sands of 16km (10-mile) Long Beach which lies within Pacific Rim National Park.
Despite its all-pervading surf culture, tiny Tofino (population 2000-ish) retains a rugged, elemental feel thanks to its isolated location on Vancouver Island’s west coast surrounded by temperate rainforest. If you’re hitting the waves, bring (or rent) a wetsuit. The water’s cold – even in summer.
Ski Mount Washington
In BC, all winter roads lead to Whistler , one of the largest and most comprehensive ski resorts in the world. But savvy islanders, wary of slow-moving lift lines and bulging apres-ski bars, often prefer to stick to the cheaper, less crowded runs of Mt Washington near Courtenay.
Inhabiting the mountain’s southwestern slopes adjacent to the craggy wilderness of Strathcona Provincial Park, Mt Washington is Vancouver Island’s only major ski area coupling 500 vertical meters (1640ft) of downhill action with an attractive Nordic park that makes use of the extensive summer trail system on the so-called Forbidden Plateau. Though less than one-third the size of Whistler, the resort logs a higher snowfall (up to 10m/33ft in a season) and significantly lower prices.
Hike the North Coast trail
Conceived as a muddier, swampier alternative to the island’s perennially popular West Coast Trail, this five- to eight-day wilderness extravaganza tracks the extreme north coast for 58km (36ft) between Shushartie Bay and Cape Scott. Along its course it dips into sandy coves, empty beaches and thick, wind-contorted rainforest following a rough, unkempt path that utilizes boardwalks and cable cars to cross creeks and rivers.
In such a remote and unsullied region, the wildlife is legion and inclement weather is practically guaranteed, so pack accordingly. There are several strategically placed backcountry campsites en route and a boat shuttle to ferry hikers to the trail’s off-the-road-grid starting point.
Read more: Vancouver Island's 7 best hikes
Admire Indigenous culture in Alert Bay
Ancestral home to the Namgis First Nation, tiny Cormorant Island and its affiliated village, Alert Bay, is one of the best places in BC to absorb Indigenous culture. The island is awash with totem poles, including the world's tallest, a 173m (568ft) carving depicting whales, wolves and two-headed serpents held up by taut cables. There is also a clan house, an original Namgis burial ground and the peerless U’mista Cultural Centre .
This unique facility, whose design was inspired by a wooden longhouse, eloquently displays a vast array of repatriated Kwakwaka'wakw artifacts confiscated when potlatch ceremonies were prohibited in Canada between 1884 and 1951. The center, which has been slowly negotiating the return of pieces from museums around the world, is adorned with a growing collection of masks, carvings, totems, stories and historical anecdotes.
Hit the Nanaimo bar trail
Named after the island’s so-called "Harbour City," the Nanaimo bar is one of Canada’s most iconic food products. Comprising a three-layered slab of wafer topped with cream and icing, it combines coconut, vanilla custard, and chocolate in a rich explosion of densely packed calories.
Despite its relatively recent invention, the Nanaimo bar’s history is foggy. There are at least 100 different recipes while its exact origins are hotly debated – indeed, some heretics claim the bar isn’t from Nanaimo at all. To strengthen its credentials, the city has come up with a 39-stop Nanaimo bar trail allowing sugar-lovers to surf a raft of local restaurants and cafes and enjoy the confection in a myriad of weird manifestations from deep-fried to liquified in a cocktail.
Set sail from Port Hardy
Port Hardy is a small Alaskan look-alike town on Vancouver Island’s northeast shore and a primary embarkation point for car ferries navigating the narrow channels of the Inside Passage on BC’s fjord-indented west coast. Book a cabin for overnight excursions (winter) or day trips (summer) and wave goodbye to civilization until you reach the isolated fishing settlement of Prince Rupert just shy of the BC-Alaska border. Sailing on comfortable, medium-sized ferries equipped with good eating facilities and adorned with striking First Nations motifs, passengers get the same scenery as the big cruise ships, but at a significantly more economical price.
Cross the Kinsol Trestle
This magnificent wooden trestle built in 1914 once carried a railroad across a deep ravine cut by the Koksilah River. After falling into disrepair when the line ceased operation in 1979, it was rescued by a vociferous community fundraising campaign that helped renovate and reopen the trestle to foot and two-wheeled travelers in 2011. Today it’s part of the long-distance Trans-Canada trail, Vancouver Island trail and Cowichan Valley trail, although it can just as easily be incorporated in a short half-hour stroll from a car park one kilometre from the Trestle’s southern end. Interpretive boards along the route explain the structure’s engineering background and railway history.
View wildlife from Telegraph Cove
A former telegraph station and fishing village that was turned into a picturesque boardwalk community in the 1970s, Telegraph Cove’s small ensemble of brightly painted wooden buildings perches on stilts around a sheltered marina.
Cute clapboard houses aside, the village is famed island-wide for its whale-watching and grizzly bear viewing. Humpback and orca whales can be seen breaching on seasonal boat trips or more athletic guided sea-kayaking excursions. The grizzlies, which are not resident on Vancouver Island, are visible (if you’re lucky) on a brief boat trip to Knight Inlet on the mainland.
Sip cider in the Cowichan Valley
The Cowichan Valley is Vancouver Island’s gourmet garden where rolling hills and a balmy semi-Mediterranean climate has encouraged a blossoming of vineyards, tea plantations and an enthusiastic farm-to-table ethos. One of the region’s most all-encompassing micro-businesses is Merridale , a craft cider-maker in the farming community of Cobble Hill whose rustic-chic cidery is speckled with gnarled apple trees and gabled barn buildings. It hosts a tasting bar dispatching multi-sample flights of the fruity booze.
Beyond cider, Merridale also has a micro-distillery producing gin and vodka, a patio bistro serving crusty apple pie, and posh yurts offering visitors the opportunity to glamp overnight in the adjacent orchard.
Browse Sidney’s bookstores
Designated Canada’s only "booktown" in 1996, the small seaside community of Sidney, 6km (3.7 miles) south of the Swartz Bay ferry terminal, has an abundance of bookstores (five) for a town of its size (11,500). The literary quintet sits on or around the main drag of Beacon Avenue and ranges from the Dickensian Haunted Books to the cavernous Tanner’s Books. Once you’ve purchased your heavy tome, the town has an equally impressive range of cafes where you can devour it with a steaming cappuccino.
Want more of Canada's bookish history? Here's a coast-to-coast itinerary to get you started.
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Canada's best wildlife experiences Experience First Nations traditions in British Columbia Smoking weed in Canada: how to legally toke up
This article was first published September 2021 and updated December 2021
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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!
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Perfect 2 Days In Vancouver Itinerary
by Melissa Giroux | Last updated Apr 18, 2023 | Canada , North America , Travel Tips
The coastal city of Vancouver is a must-visit spot for anyone traveling to Canada.
This British Columbian city has so much to enjoy and has consistently ranked as one of the most liveable cities in Canada and the world.
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In Vancouver, you have the snow-capped mountains close by, you are right on the water and you have some impressive skyscrapers. You really have everything you could possibly want and need from a weekend break.
Because of this, you may wonder, ‘Why visit Vancouver as a tourist?’, or ‘Is Vancouver worth visiting?’
Vancouver also has an abundance of markets to explore, especially around Christmas time, and you’ll find plenty of fabulous parks, beaches and restaurants along the water.
Most travelers find 2 days in Vancouver to be enough time to enjoy all the main sights. So, if you’re wondering how many days in Vancouver you’ll need – 2 days should be enough!
Your first day in Vancouver will consist of lots of fresh air, sightseeing, and food! It’s the perfect introduction to the city.
For your first morning in Vancouver, let’s head to the impressive Stanley Park. This is a 400-hectare national park and green oasis in the middle of the bustling city of Vancouver.
A great way to get out and see the park and get your bearings is to join this Cycling Tour . It’s best to start this tour around 9 am, especially during the Summer, so you are getting out and about before it gets too hot.
This is a 3-hour tour that includes a look through Stanley park and also some time in the city You will have a local tour guide with you on your tour sharing information about Stanley park and its biodiversity.
The cycling tour starts in downtown Vancouver and brings you through some local neighborhoods before reaching Stanley Park. Here you can enjoy the ocean views of English bay while you cycle along the smooth bicycle paths.
This tour is suitable for families with kids as you will be on dedicated and safe cycle paths the entire time. There will be plenty of photo opportunities of views of the North Shore, The Lion’s Gate Bridge, as well as English Bay, and the West End.
Following a morning cycling around and enjoying Stanley Park, it’s time to enjoy even more nature. This time, we are headed to the Capilano suspension bridge . This is a must-do while you are in Vancouver and a really unique afternoon out.
The Capilano suspension bridge is a 137-meter treetop bridge overlooking the Capilano river and surrounded by lush green forest.
This is a really popular attraction with tourists as you can walk across the bridge and enjoy the breathtaking views in every direction while perched above the river.
During the Winter, the late afternoon is the best time to go as there is the Canyon Lights display for tourists to enjoy. All the bridges and surrounding areas are illuminated with a changing multi-color display during this event.
Make sure you book your tickets ahead of time for this as the Capilano Suspension bridge can get very busy.
It’s been a busy day of activities, so your first evening in Vancouver will focus on enjoying some incredible dinner and drinks. Let’s head to Granville Island as this is a great place to visit all year round in Vancouver.
You can reach Granville island by ferry from downtown Vancouver. You can either get the Aquabus or the False Creek ferry that have services running all day. Alternatively, the number 50 False Creek bus stops at Granville island from Gastown in the downtown area.
This is a small island in Vancouver that is bursting with art, history, and food. Granville Island has an eclectic mix of things to do here with markets, theaters, restaurants, breweries, and kids’ shops.
Here you can see all of the original buildings from the industrial age of Vancouver. You will find lots of unique shopping here and a distillery and a brewery if you are looking for some drinks.
We recommend the Sandbar Seafood restaurant to grab some dinner and then head to the Liberty distillery to enjoy its cocktail menu.
After some dinner, it’s time to wander around the Granville Island public market. This is a really popular market with groceries on one side and then a food court with all local vendors. This is a great place to grab some dessert while walking around.
Get ready for your second day of exploring Vancouver. This will be a day of enjoying nature, learning about the history of Vancouver, and enjoying a thrilling ride in the mountains!
Let’s start day 2 off with a relaxed stroll through the Van Dusen Botanical Gardens. This is a 55-acre oasis in the heart of Vancouver and is not to be missed during your time here.
These stunning gardens have plant species from all over the world and you can spend a few hours walking around and soaking up the beauty.
You will see plenty of wildlife while in the park and you can enjoy the Elizabethan hedge maze too. This is the perfect place for some photography all year round.
After some walking, you can enjoy a coffee or some lunch on the patios of Truffles Cafe or Shaughnessy Restaurant.
Next up, we have the spectacular Grouse Mountain Skyride. Grouse mountain is just a 15-minute drive from downtown Vancouver if you rent a car , or alternatively, you can use one of the public transport options available.
Once you arrive, you can hop on the amazing Grouse Mountain Skyride which operates all year round, departing every 15 minutes.
Here you will tower high above the forest on the mountain and have some breathtaking views of Vancouver city. You will also get some views of the Pacific Ocean and the gulf islands while traveling in the largest aerial tramway in North America.
Once you disembark the Skyride at the top, you can enjoy some winter activities such as snowshoeing and outdoor skating.
There are different activities available on Grouse Mountain, depending on the time of year.
Your final evening in Vancouver will bring you to the historic Gastown area. Gastown is the oldest neighborhood in the city and has some phenomenal Victorian architecture.
This area is the oldest commercial district in Vancouver and boasts some quant cobblestone streets as well as the famous Steam Clock which is the perfect spot to get a photograph.
One of the best ways to enjoy all that Gastown has to offer is by joining a Gastown Walking Food Tour . On this food tour, you will have 8 different stops for food and drinks and some history of the area.
To start this tour off, your guide will lead you along the cobbled streets to sample some local craft beer, Canadian poutine, Vancouver’s award-winning cheesecake, and lots of other mouth-watering treats!
This is a great way to explore this area and sample the foods that Vancouver is best known for.
Is Vancouver Worth Visiting?
Without a doubt, Vancouver is worth visiting. There is truly something for everyone here, from incredible nature & sightseeing, skiing and adventurous activities close by, and lots of yummy food and drinks.
Best Time To Visit Vancouver?
Luckily Vancouver is great all year round. There are great beaches and outdoor activities by the coast to enjoy during the Summer.
In the Winter, snowy mountains and ski resorts are only a short drive away. So it depends on your preference for a sunny or snowy weekend.
How Many Days In Vancouver Is Enough?
You can cover a lot in Vancouver in 2 days, however, we think the longer, the better. This way you can really make the most of Vancouver and the surrounding areas.
If you want to plan your Vancouver getaway, you can learn more by reading our guide to figuring out how many days in Vancouver is enough .
Where To Stay In Vancouver For 2 Days?
Vancouver is a big city with a huge variety of accommodations to choose from. We are sure you will find the perfect fit for your budget for your stay here.
Below we are some options for different price ranges for you to take a look at.
Best Budget Accommodation
A great budget option in Vancouver is the Victorian Hotel which is situated a 5-minute walk from Gastown.
This location is one of the best in the city when it comes to sightseeing and being immersed in the history of Vancouver. It is just a 5-minute walk from the Granville Skytrain.
Best Mid-range Accommodation
To suit a mid-range budget, we suggest choosing the Paradox Hotel Vancouver for your stay. This hotel is located in the financial district of Bangkok and is close to lots of restaurants and shopping options.
A bonus of staying in this hotel is the indoor pool and a spa & wellness center on site.
Best Luxury Accommodation
If you’re not on a budget, why not treat yourself to staying at the Rosewood Hotel ? This is an incredible 5-star hotel located right across the street from the Vancouver Art Gallery and surrounded by lots of great dining and shopping.
This hotel is just a 5-minute drive from Stanley Park, making it a great base to explore the city.
Final Thoughts On Vancouver Itinerary
Whether you’re traveling through Canada on a summer backpacking trip or planning your next trip to North America, Vancouver is well worth a visit.
With so much culture to explore and cuisine to taste, spending one or two days in Vancouver is bound to be a fantastic experience because there are enough things to do in Vancouver to keep you entertained.
However, be sure to follow an itinerary like ours to make the most of your short trip.
If you’re traveling to other destinations in Canada, consider renting a car for your Canadian adventures.
Traveling to Canada soon? Read one of the following guides:
- Montreal itinerary
- What to do in Vancouver in winter
- Easy hikes in Vancouver
- Is Vancouver safe
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Thanks for any advice!
Why don't you have a look through this website:
It looks geared for kids, but in fact almost all the activities are suitable for anyone. You probably could find interesting things to do on the mainland.
Here are some:
Sea to Sky Highway
*Stawamus Chief (you have mentioned)
*West Coast Railway Heritage Park
Deep Cove, Cates Park, Maplewood Flats Conservation Area - North Vancouver
Ladner - berry picking
Steveston - Gulf of George Cannery (depicting how they processed salmon right off the boats in the Fraser River) Nice little village too with Japanese history, as the Japanese were the fishermen in the past.
Van Dusen Gardens (instead of Butchart)
Vancouver Harbour Tour on the paddlewheeler
Lots to do in Vancouver. However, Victoria is very nice.
For a different kind of trip, why not check out the Gulf Islands instead. They also have parks and natural areas, as well as opportunities for sea kayaking. Check out Saltspring and Galiano islands.
Keep in mind that the ferry service between the Southern Gulf Islands and the mainland is limited, but you do have the option of picking up the more frequent ferries between the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island and then getting back on one of the main ferries to the mainland.
Another option would be to head up the Sunshine Coast and then back down the island as a bit of a tour. You might also enjoy Denman and Hornby Islands, close to Courtenay .
Great tips!! Thank you!
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Perfect 2 days in Vancouver Itinerary: With Insider Tips
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Vancouver is one of the bustling and vibrant cities in Canada . It is consistently named as one of the top five worldwide cities for livability and quality of life. Read to find out everything that you must do in 2 days in Vancouver Itinerary.
Located in the province of British Columbia , Vancouver boasts a lot of sunshine, rain, and very little snow! It is also one of the most ethnically diverse cities in Canada and one of the most densely populated cities in the whole of North America.
Vancouver is also located in close proximity with cities in the United States like Seattle, Washington (192 km), and Bellingham, Washington (82 km), which makes it for great option for day trips, picnics, or shopping.
We have visited Vancouver multiple times and in different seasons. For the purposes of this post, we have highlighted photos from February, which is off-season, and in that year’s visit, the city was covered in snow, which is unusual for Vancouver.
On another occasion, we visited Vancouver in August and the weather was fabulous. Since then we have made multiple road trips from Vancouver to Banff, and then to our home city of Edmonton….countless times!
2 days in Vancouver Itinerary – What to do in Vancouver in 2 days
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click one of them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Here are the top things to include in your 2 days in Vancouver Itinerary
Port of vancouver.
- Stanley Park – Vancouver Seawall – Girl in a Wet Suit – Totem Poles
Prospect Point and Lions Gate Bridge
- Chinatown and Sun yat-sen Gardens
Gastown Steam Clock
Capilano suspension bridge, downtown vancouver (free things to do in downtown vancouver) and the olympic cauldron, vancouver lookout, robson street & vancouver art gallery.
Vancouver 2 day Itinerary: Map & ways to reach Vancouver
Vancouver International Airport located on Sea Island in Richmond is one of the busiest airports in North America (Vancouver International Airport Grant McConachie Way). For Canada, it acts as an exchange center and port of entry for many immigrants.
From Vancouver port terminal you can take cruises to Alaska, the Mediterranean, etc and it is also the same way you can arrive in the city
Vancouver is well connected by road from all cities in Canada and the USA. Driving through the province of British Columbia you can witness the picturesque Canadian Rockies on a road trip.
More ideas on road trips from Vancouver to Banff , Seattle, and Victoria are below.
Day 1 Vancouver Itinerary ~ Visit Vancouver in one day
We arrived very early morning, via Air Canada from Edmonton, Alberta to Richmond, BC. Vancouver’s International Airport is located in Richmond. There are many Vancouver tourist attractions to choose from when you leave the airport.
Our first tourist sight was Canada Place/Port of Vancouver. To reach Canada Place, it’s about an hour by Vancouver Transit and about 30 minutes by car. We took the transit and the transit network is very good in Vancouver. The trip cost us $7.50 CAD per person.
Alternatively, you can also buy an all-day pass. Check out their website
You can see these iconic sails when you arrive at Canada Place. It is home to the Vancouver Convention Center, the Pan Pacific Vancouver Hotel, Vancouver’s World Trade Center, and FlyOver Canada. Many Vancouver sightseeing tours start at Canada Place (for tourists pick-ups and drop-offs).
This is also a great place for fancy dine-in and/or budget eating. We had our morning coffee at a cafe in Canada Place. Right across the Vancouver Convention Center, you can see the Port of Vancouver. It’s a treat to the eye, especially if you like sunsets and sunrises!
Because we were in town for 2 days, we decided to utilize the Hop-on and Hop-off services ($45 CAD per person for a 24 hour pass) from Canada Place.
Although not a guided tour, the hop-on and off tours took us around the main tourist spots in Vancouver. This way we were able to make the most of the day and also saved on the hassles of renting a car or paying for a taxi.
Vancouver doesn’t have a lot of freeways within the city. If you are looking to book hop-on and hop-off tours, consider booking them here. Book Vancouver hop on and off tour here
The Port of Vancouver is the third-largest port in North America. It is a cargo hub as well as a cruise terminus. If you are living or traveling to Western Canada, most likely all of your cruise ships to the Caribbean or Alaska will depart from here.
We took a short walk around the port and then boarded the bus for the Vancouver Sightseeing tour.
From Canada Place and the Port of Vancouver, we headed to Stanley Park.
Stanley Park – Vancouver Seawall – Girl in a Wet Suit – Totem Poles
Stanley Park is a popular urban park in the metro city of Vancouver, surrounded by water on all sides (Vancouver Harbor and the English Bay). This park is very organic, in the sense, that only a handful of structures and areas are man-made, the rest are Au natural.
It is over 1000 acres in area and is in fact larger than Central Park in New York City.
You can witness art and architecture in almost every part of the city and Stanley Park is no exception. That’s why this Park always features as “one of the world’s most popular parks”
Different structures are placed at the park in different locations, including the one below.
The tour bus drove us around the park and we also saw a statue of a girl in the bay, similar to the one in Copenhagen, Denmark. The statue is called – Girl in a Wet Suit.
There are Totem Poles located in the Park as well. They are located at Brockton Point, in the eastern corner of Stanley Park.
Significant efforts were put into constructing the near-century-old Vancouver Seawall , which thousands of residents and visitors to the park every day. It was initially created to prevent the erosion of the park’s foreshore. And now it provides breathtaking views of the far seas. It is pedestrian and bike-friendly.
Next on the drive was Prospect Point. We drove through dense forest to arrive at an observation point that let us view the city and this particular bridge called the Lions Gate Bridge. These areas were heavily forested in the past and access to view from here was almost non-existent.
Now you can see some “sneak-through” as you drive along, and that is why Prospect Point is important as it allows you to get an uninterrupted view of the city of Vancouver. The Prospect Point falls in the northernmost tip of Stanley Park – also a wonderful spot to spend summers.
From the Prospect Point, you will see a green-colored bridge. It is the Lions Gate Bridge of Vancouver. This bridge connects the city of Vancouver to north and west Vancouver. The Lions Gate Bridge refers to The Lions, a pair of mountain peaks north of Vancouver.
It is a designated National Historic Site of Canada. Very often, this bridge is considered an iconic symbol and landmark of Vancouver. Read about the Lions Gate Bridge, completing 80 years in 2018 here
Granville Island is a peninsula and shopping district, located across False Creek from Downtown Vancouver, under the south end of the Granville Street Bridge. It is a great place to eat and shop. You can easily spend a few hours here. A must-visit for families too.
We decided to pause our sightseeing tour for some finger-licking Fish and Chips on Granville Island for lunch. Seafood is very popular in Vancouver.
There is also a large Granville Island public market that sells fresh local produce, seafood, baked goods, and gourmet food. Book a 2 hour walking tour of Granville Tour here
Chinatown and Sun yat sen Gardens
After lunch, we hopped onto the bus and reached China Town. Vancouver has a huge Chinese community and the Sun yat Sen Gardens located in Chinatown should not be missed.
Vancouver’s Chinatown is the third largest in North America, after San Francisco and Victoria (in BC biggest one in Canada).
In the middle of downtown Vancouver, the Sun yat-sen gardens provide a very tranquil atmosphere, with greenery and symbols of Chinese heritage. The gardens were inspired and modeled after the private gardens in Suzhou, China.
After China Town, we got down at Gas Town for a stroll. It was evening when we arrived there and it started to rain. Vancouver looks pretty amazing in the rain too.
Along our stroll, we saw the Steam Clock. This clock is over 40 years old and whistles to tell the time. You can see the steam coming out from the top. It’s amazing to see such art when you are strolling and exploring a new place.
Vancouver also has a great coffee and cafe culture. So we decided to hang out at one of their local cafes before calling it a day. We spent 1-2 hours at JJ Bean Coffee shop.
After coffee and snacks, we walked into the heart of the city to check in to our hotel. We stayed at the GEC Granville Suites. The rooms were decent and clean. The cost of a night’s stay was around $88 CAD, which is a steal as it is a Downtown Vancouver hotel. You can check out the hotel and book here
Day 2 Vancouver Itinerary – Capilano Suspension Bridge (North Vancouver)
Our second day in Vancouver started pretty early and we went to Canada Place again this morning to enjoy some breakfast at the waterfront.
Our plan for today was to head to North Vancouver and explore the beautiful Capilano Suspension Bridge. This was one of our most wanted items on the Vancouver bucket list and we have seen so many amazing pictures of the Capilano bridge, that we had to visit it!
There are free shuttles available from Canada Place to take you to Capilano Suspension Bridge and they operate every 30 minutes. Take a look at their website here.
The Capilano Suspension Bridge was originally built in the late 1800s by a Scottish civil engineer named George Grant Mackay. Back then, the bridge was made up of ropes and a deck of cedar planks. The engineer didn’t like to socialize so he had his family home built in the vicinity and he used the bridge to cross the forest.
After his death, the bridge passed through many owners. And is currently owned by Nancy Stibbard. You can learn about the bridge’s early history from a welcome guide when you reach the park entrance.
There is an entry fee at the Capilano Suspension Bridge. On the day we arrived- a few of their tourist attractions were closed due to safety concerns (slippery surfaces due to rain and snow the day before).
Due to the closure, we were able to get the entrance tickets at a 30% discount. So its cost was about $39.99 CAD per person to get access to the bridge, totem poles, guide walk, cliff walk, etc.
Tree Tops Adventure , a popular tourist spot was closed during our visit. But we certainly were able to get a glimpse of it.
Cliff Walk allows you to take amazing pictures of the Bridge. During winter, the park is decorated with beautiful lights and is a must-visit. There are souvenir stores inside the park. Their coffee shop serves the amazing hot chocolate and it was perfect as it was a little chilly that day.
You can easily spend 2 – 4 hours at Capilano Bridge Park. Bus services are offered every 30 minutes to return to Canada Place.
Pro Tip: The Lynn Canyon Park is a good alternative to the Capilano Bridge Park. There are no entry fees to the park, and lots of hiking trails are available. The drive from Downtown Vancouver to Lynn Canyon is about 25 to 30 minutes.
If you have additional time and love to hike, the North Shore is the place to be in Vancouver. North Vancouver is known for hiking and skiing trails and you can enjoy a day at the Grouse Mountain or hike through the forested North Shore Mountains.
Plan to arrive in Downtown Vancouver by lunchtime. On weekdays, the downtown area is filled with food trucks. Vancouver is a foodie paradise so definitely don’t miss out on this.
There is a Chocolate Cafe in Downtown Vancouver that I would totally recommend you to visit. It is called Mink and it is located at the heart of downtown. There are a lot of creative structures along the way, leading you to the cafe (aka swings, statues, and stories)
There are many free things that you can do in downtown Vancouver. As mentioned on Day 1 you will be exploring Canada Place and Vancouver Port. There is an Olympic Cauldron located here as well.
The Olympic Cauldron is a massive Olympic torch established to commemorate the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
If you are looking to get a 360-degree picturesque view of Vancouver city, then head to the Vancouver Lookout located at the Harbor Center. It is a 553 foot-high panoramic observation deck and is located close to Canada Place. There is a fee of $17.50 CAD per adult entry. Get your tickets to the Vancouver lookout here.
There is a revolving restaurant located here as well – perfect for romantic dinners or brunch.
It is great to just stroll in the downtown area admiring all the skyscrapers.
After spending some time in the downtown area, we decided to explore Robson Street , a popular place for shoppers and fashionistas. This street is very far-stretched. It starts at the BC Place Stadium and runs past the Vancouver Library Square and goes up to the Lost Lagoon, in Stanley Park.
The street is lined with high-end retail stores, varied restaurants, coffee shops, and pubs. It is easy to get lost in this street and spend the entire evening here at a nice restaurant or pub.
If you have additional time on hand, include a visit to the Vancouver Art Gallery. It is located in downtown Vancouver, adjacent to Robson Square. This is the largest gallery in western Canada and it exhibits permanent and temporary displays and creations of First Nations artists and the art of the Asia Pacific region.
Other Things to do in Vancouver for 2 days
Depending on your interests and season of visit, you can add the following two attractions and activities to your Vancouver 2-day itinerary
Kitsilano Beach is a popular spot for both tourists and locals in Vancouver. Located in the neighborhood of Kitsilano, this beach offers stunning views of the ocean and mountains, as well as a variety of activities for you to enjoy.
From skimboarding, standup paddling, and playing volleyball, to soaking in the sun and enjoying a picnic, there are lots of cool things to do at Kitsilano Beach in the warmer months. The beach is lined with a scenic pathway that’s perfect for taking a leisurely stroll or going for a jog while enjoying beautiful views.
In addition to the beach itself, there are also several nearby attractions worth checking out such as the Kitsilano Pool. Located right next to the beach, this outdoor salt-water pool is open from the Victoria Day weekend to mid-September.
To make the most out of your visit to Kitsilano Beach, plan to arrive early. During peak season, the beach can get quite crowded. To secure a good spot and avoid long lines, it’s best to arrive early in the day.
Don’t forget to pack sunscreen and a hat: The sun can get quite strong at Kitsilano Beach, so make sure to protect yourself with sunscreen and a hat.
Whale Watching Tour in Vancouver
For those looking for a unique and exciting experience in Vancouver, a whale-watching tour is a must-do. With several tour companies offering trips from the city, you’ll have the opportunity to see these magnificent creatures up close in their natural habitat.
The most common types of whales that can be spotted on a whale-watching tour from Vancouver include orcas, humpback whales, gray whales (these migrate along the coast of Vancouver Island, making them a common sight on whale watching tours), and minke whales.
Book a half day whale watching tour such as this one. During a whale-watching tour from Vancouver, you can expect an experienced guide on board who will provide information about the different types of whales and their behaviors.
As you head out to sea, you’ll have stunning views of the city skyline and surrounding mountains. In addition to whales, you may also spot other marine life as well.
To ensure an enjoyable and memorable whale-watching tour in Vancouver, remember to dress warmly. Even on sunny days, the temperature can be cooler out at sea. It’s best to dress in layers and bring a jacket.
While most tours provide binoculars on board, you can always bring your own (and don’t forget your camera).
Vancouver Travel Tips: Essential Tips for 2 days in Vancouver Itinerary
You might be visiting Vancouver BC for a variety of reasons. This short itinerary is ideal if Vancouver is your stopover to other Canadian cities or if you are just in town for business. With that in mind, these are some handy tips for you to consider before arriving in Vancouver.
- Canada requires all visa-exempt countries to apply for eTA before arrival. ETA is an electronic travel authorization. More about it here .
- There is no need for eTA for Canadian Permanent Residents, Work permit holders, or Visitor visa holders in Canada
- Currency – Canadian Dollars are the national currency. Credit cards are widely accepted in Vancouver. You won’t have to exchange currencies as long as you have access to credit cards. Debit machines are available throughout the city.
- Vancouver is served by Vancouver International Airport is located on Sea Island in Richmond. It is the second busiest airport in Canada.
- For international flights, you will find great connectivity options from across the globe. Once you arrive at Vancouver Airport, downtown is located about 12 km away. And transit is the best way to get there.
- For domestic flights, with many low-cost airlines, it is very affordable to fly to Vancouver rather than drive. From Edmonton to Abbotsford, you can fly Swoop Airlines for as low as $99 CAD return. From Abbotsford, you can take a bus to reach Vancouver Downtown in 1.50- 2 hours. (1 hour if you drive)
Don’t forget to add travel insurance to your trip
Get a free quote for Safety Wing Travel Insurance
Ways to travel in vancouver.
It is super easy to explore Vancouver without a car. If you are staying in downtown Vancouver for 2 days, you can pretty much walk around the city center, and take public transportation to reach Capilano Suspension Bridge. Grouse Mountain or the airport.
- Capilano Suspension Bridge Park – From Downtown Vancouver, ride the free shuttle to CapBridge Park. Take the bus from Canada Place.
- Grouse Mountain – From Downtown Vancouver, ride the SeaBus to Lonsdale Quay, then take the #236 bus to Grouse Mountain (about a 25-minute ride).
- YVR Airport – YVR Airport Skytrain is the quickest way to get from Vancouver International Airport to downtown Vancouver, with a travel time of 25 minutes.
For any trips outside of Vancouver like Banff , Seattle, or Victoria, a road trip is a good option. However, there are trains and guided tours available to take you from Vancouver to other nearby areas.
Where to stay in Vancouver Canada?
There is no dearth of Airbnbs, hostels, and hotels in Vancouver BC. For a short 2 day trip or a weekend in Vancouver itinerary, consider hotels in Downtown Vancouver Canada. There is a wide range of luxurious to budget options available here. Here are some of our recommendations
- Located close to Downtown. Access to convenience stores outside the hotel
- This is an apartment hotel, so costs are low as compared to other downtown hotels
- The rooms are spacious and clean.
- Book your stay here
- Convenient location in Downtown and for sightseeing tours
- This hotel is pet-friendly and offers amazing views of the city, waterfront, and mountains.
- Book your stay here
- It was recently renovated to its 1920s grandeur. Beautiful interiors and friendly staff will make your stay memorable.
- Part of the hop-on and hop-off route – this hotel is stunning.
- You can enjoy a quiet evening by the bay shore and soak in its breathtaking views.
- This hotel is located only 3 kilometers away from Granville Island.
- It is a boutique-style hotel
- Perfect location by Robson Street, and close to the Stanley Park and BC Place
- The hotel has a restaurant (with views) and a pool area where you can relax
- Click to book your stay here
Book Hotels in Vancouver BC Canada here
When is the best time to visit Vancouver ?
Vancouver is welcoming at any time of the year. But warmer months are the best, that is from April to October. You can expect rain in Vancouver in winter and not so much snowfall, unlike other cities in Western Canada.
Packing Item to Carry – The number 1 item to carry in your packing list is an umbrella or a poncho, for your Vancouver itinerary. A light warm sweater is always a good item to keep as well.
Day Trips from Vancouver BC by road, water, or flying
Here are some of the trips that you can take from Vancouver
Travel from Vancouver to Seattle
Seattle Vancouver trip is one of the most popular add-on travel options from Canada to the USA. It takes about 2.50 hours by car to reach Seattle from Vancouver and can be easily done as a day trip.
There are lots to see in Seattle though. But if you are planning a day trip, consider starting early and reaching there by 09:00 am and utilizing a private tour ( book here ) or hop off and hop services ( book here ) in Seattle. In the late afternoon, drive back and spend a few hours at the Outlet mall, if you like shopping.
Travel from Vancouver to Victoria
Victoria is located on Vancouver Island. Vancouver to Victoria takes about 3 hours by road. It can be done as a day trip, but you will end up spending 6 hours on the road.
Find how you can reach Victoria from Vancouver in 5 different ways find here . Victoria is the capital city of the province of British Columbia and I would recommend visiting it if you have some time in your itinerary.
Read: 3 days in Victoria itinerary
Vancouver Round Trip Cruise
If you like cruises, then Vancouver is the place to be. Lots of cruise options to choose from and with flexible schedules and tours (number of days, luxury) variations
- Hawaii to Vancouver Cruise – Over 11 major cruise liners operate from Vancouver to Hawaii with different itineraries. This is one of the most popular cruises from Vancouver
- Alaska Cruise from Vancouver – Another popular cruise is for Alaska USA. This cruise covers the breathtaking waterway route including glaciers and frontier ports.
- Find Vancouver Cruise Schedule here
Traveling from Vancouver to Banff
One of the popular trips from Vancouver is to the stunning Banff National Park . You can embark on a road trip, which will take you through scenic routes and get you to Banff in about 8 to 9 hours.
You can make it a multi-day Canadian Rockies itinerary with stops in wine regions, and other parks in the two provinces.
Other trip ideas in Western Canada
- Explore Calgary and Banff along with Canmore
- Visit Edmonton in the wintertime here
Exploring Vancouver was one of our bucket list items for a long time. We are very glad we live near BC and are able to hop on a short flight, or long drive to explore Vancouver.
Vancouver is a really beautiful metro city with good weather, food, and life! A must-visit when you visit Canada.
Pin – Vancouver 2 Day Itinerary – Things to do in Vancouver in 2 days
Mayuri is the founder & editor of ToSomePlaceNew. An Indian-Canadian globetrotter, she has traveled to over 100 cities and 35+ countries. Mayuri has a graduate degree in History and is an MBA. She loves traveling the world, capturing historical nuances, and discussing that over a cup of coffee with her husband, Salil. She currently resides in Edmonton, Canada, and plots travel plans to Europe, the Americas, and beyond.
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Definitely on my Canada travel list 🙂
Absolutely! Thank you ‘3
Wow, incredible photos! I grew up in the Pacific Northwest U.S. and STILL haven’t been to Vancouver! I need to get there.
Thanks so much! Much love!
Wow! Vancouver is stunning! Great photos. I’ll be heading to Quebec Canada for the first time this year. But will definitely add Vancouver to the list. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you so much <3 I m sure you will enjoy Vancouver!
Vancouver looks absolutely amazing here with such picturesque landscapes everywhere you look – especially the impressive view from the Port of Vancouver and Stanley Park. I’ve never really actually considered Canada as a potential travel destination, but your post might have just put it back in the running!
Canada is beautiful and has lots to offer! I am glad this post helped you to put Canada back to your bucketlist. Let me know if I can help you plan in any way!
I’ll be in Vancouver in September exactly for 2 days. Thanks for sharing itinerary 🙂
Thats perfect! Happy Travels – hope you found this guide useful!
Looks chilly! I love all your pictures of Capilano Suspension Bridge in the snow. The Cliff tops and Tree tops adventure sounds great, but I can imagine it gets slippery with all the ice and snow so I’m not surprised it was closed. I really want to go to Vancouver sometime.
Thanks so much Nicola for reading this post! I hope you can visit Vancouver very soon!
Vancouver is beautiful. I would love to spend a few days there. The Capilano suspension bridge looks amazing! On my bucket list!
I love your photos! I have a lot of friends in Vancouver so I really wish I can visit one day.
Thank you so much. I hope you get to visit your friends and enjoy Vancouver
Thank you for some amazing insights into Vancouver! I’m planning on moving there next year so this has started off my research into my visit!
OMG! If you are moving there,you will never leave. Lots of opportunities in Vancouver, beautiful landscape and no snow! 🙂 Happy moving and hope you enjoy in Vancouver!
I neeed to make it to Vancouver one day! Ive heard so many good things about it and this post just adds to the list. Thanks for the share!!
Of course! Hope you can plan something soon for Vancouver!
Vancouver was amazing, I went two years ago and hit all the spots you did. So glad you loved it!!
Yay! Thanks for commenting hun!
I love the winter pictures! It’s nice to see itinerary list with a winter season picture, it helps you get an idea of what you will see when you visit.
Wow! I grew up in BC and it’s so crazy for me to see in blanketed in snow like that – a total anomaly and something that will make your trip even more special when you’re looking back on it!
That’s true. We visited in February and the 2 days we were there – it was so cold, with snow and freezing rain, I am sure I will revisit during summers some day.
Last time I went to Seattle, I didn’t realize how close Vancouver was. Otherwise, I would’ve crossed the border to visit this beautiful city!
Yea absolutely. You can actually do a day-long trip and come back. I am planning do that for Seattle when I visit Vancouver next! YAY!
Wow, that Capilano suspension bridge looks like it was built for Instagram and that girl in a wet suit statue sounds like it’s got an interesting backstory. BRB as I google for it x)
Thanks! Hope you found your answers! It does have resemblance to statue in Copenhagen!
I’d love to visit Vancouver someday…but maybe in the summer! This looks so cold, but beautiful.
Probably summer – I would agree too. We visited in February and in that year the weather was extremely cold. We had snow and freezing rain those 2 days.
I have always heard great things about Vancouver. Your post really made me want to plan a trip- Port of Vancouver looks absolutely gorgeous. I’ve also heard the best restaurants are in Vancouver, can’t wait to go!
Hope you get to visit Vancouver soon and enjoy some delicious coffee from their cafes!
I’ve seen lots of pictures of must-see places in Vancouver and from your 2 days visit there, seems like you covered everything. The Canada Place, Stanley Park, Lions Gate Bridge, Capilano Suspension Bridge, Olympic Cauldron, and even the steam clock. So I think you won’t be disappointed if you only have 2 days to spend in Vancouver.
Yea, I think 2 days are good to explore the city. But if you wish to travel to the mountains from Vancouver, you will need extra days.
I’ve visited Vancouver in the middle of summer but now I’m keen for a winter wonderland trip too! I have to say that Calipano Suspension Bridge looks particularly stunning during winter!
It is definitely stunning during winters. Hope you plan to visit soon!
When we were visiting Seattle, during breakfast in a hostel, my boyfriend met a guy who highly recommended going to Vancouver for a day trip. He came back to our room and told me we should totally do it… Then I told him we couldn’t because we didn’t have our passports! UGH. Anyway, your post really makes me want to go!!
You should make plans next time. I am sure you wont be disappointed <3
Awesome list! I live just outside Vancouver and it’s so fun to see my city show up on these lists. Glad to see you included Granville Island – that’s always my go to when people come to visit.
Thanks so much Riana for your kind words
Love your guide to Vancouver. It looks like such a great city to visit.
Great itinerary. Good writing!
Thank you so much!
Great post! I’d love to visit Vancouver one day. I have yet to even make it to Canada. I loved your photos too! 🙂
Thank you so much! You will love Canada – let us know if we can help out in any way for your trip.
Planning on a Canadian road next year for my birthday! Great post, saved for future use!
So amazing! Have a great trip and enjoy your birthday in the midst of Canadian Rockies
Thank you for taking the time to write a comprehensive list of things to do in Vancouver.
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'He was pretty hungry': Fisherman missing 2 weeks off Washington found alive
Sailors spotted a life raft about 46 miles off the west coast of vancouver island. inside was a missing fisherman who survived by eating raw salmon..
Hope had all but vanished for two fishermen missing off the Washington coast for two weeks when sailors made a miraculous discovery: One of them alive and adrift in a small lifeboat in the vast Pacific Ocean.
The fishermen left a harbor on Oct. 12 off the coast of Washington for what was to be a three-day excursion. Days after their boat failed to return, the U.S. Coast Guard launched a massive search that was called off Wednesday after rescuers failed to find them.
But the very next day, sailors spotted a life raft about 46 miles off the west coast of Vancouver Island, according to the Coast Guard.
"I saw what looked like a life raft in the distance and ran inside and put the binoculars on him and then he shot off a flare," Ryan Planes, who helped save the fisherman along with his uncle John, told KING-TV in Seattle .
"We pulled him on board," John told the station. 'He gave me a big hug ... It was emotional."
Santa Ana winds: Los Angeles firefighters battle brush fires in Southern California
Missing sailors never returned from 3-day trip
The two California fishermen set off from Grays Harbor in Westport on Oct. 12 aboard a 43-foot boat named the Evening with the intent of returning on Oct. 15.
But the sailors never docked again, and when one of the men's daughters realized her father wasn't aboard his flight home, she alerted the Coast Guard on Oct. 22. Two days later, the Pacific Northwest Coast Guard began searching for them Tuesday, the agency said on X .
However, within eight hours the agency said Wednesday it had called off the rescue operation after scouring 14,000 square miles of ocean.
"Our sincerest condolences go out to the family of the missing people during this difficult time," the Coast Guard said Wednesday on X.
The second fisherman remains missing, and the Coast Guard said it is still investigating.
Coast Guard news: Why 34 people killed in California boat fire won't be called 'victims' in captain's trial
Coast Guard says 'good Samaritans' found one fisherman
Salvation came for one of the missing mariners after two "good Samaritans" spotted his life raft Thursday, the Coast Guard said.
The Associated Press reported that the rescuers were in the Canada-based fishing vessel, the Ocean Sunset.
It's unclear how the rescuers found the fisherman floating in the lifeboat, which was located about 70 miles northwest of shore. A photo shared by the Coast Guard shows two men standing at the edge of a vessel approaching the covered raft, where the missing fisherman can be seen sitting up.
The Canadian Coast Guard worked with another Canadian rescue agency to get the man to shore.
The fisherman said he had been alone on the raft for 13 days and had to catch and eat a raw salmon in order to survive, one of the rescuers told KING-TV.
"We made him breakfast. He drank three bottles of water," the rescuer said. "He was pretty hungry, poor guy."
Eric Lagatta covers breaking and trending news for USA TODAY. Reach him at [email protected]
The Perfect 2 Day Vancouver Itinerary And City Guide (2023)
By: Author Lotte
Posted on Last updated: February 10, 2023
Vancouver is located in British Columbia and is surrounded by beautiful mountains as well as the Pacific Ocean ocean.
Often the starting point of a Canada (road) trip many people spend a few days in Vancouver. Any Vancouver itinerary should at least include a visit to Gastown, Granville Island, and Stanley Park.
That being said, there are so many things to do in Vancouver, you’ll be spoiled for choice!
This Vancouver 2-day itinerary will help you make the most of your Vancouver city trip, as well as answer all your Vancouver travel planning questions.
2 day Vancouver itinerary
Disclosure: Some links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, we may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you!). We’re very grateful when you use our links to make a purchase:-).
Vancouver 2 day itinerary: map and highlights
So what to see in Vancouver during your trip? I’ve marked all the highlights we visited during our time in Vancouver on the map below.
I also added my favorite places to eat and where to stay.
Click here for the interactive map .
The best things to see and do in Vancouver in 2 days
Vancouver itinerary day 1.
- Coffee at Tim Hortons
- Breakfast at Purebread
- Explore Gastown (incl. the Vancouver steam clock)
Admire the view from Canada Place
- Take the Aquabus
- Have lunch at Granville Island public market
Visit the Vancouver Art Gallery
- Enjoy dinner at Ramen Gojiro
Vancouver itinerary day 2
- Walk around Stanley Park (Totem poles, Lions Gate Bridge, Siwash rock, Lost Lagoon)
- Check out the A-maze-ing Laughter statues and the Inukshuk
- Grab lunch at Pholicious
- Explore Chinatown and the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Park
- Have dinner at St Regis Bar and Grill
- Watch the sunset at Kitsilano Beach Park
Interested in doing a working holiday in Canada ? Check out the Global Work & Travel Canada package and get a €100 discount with the coupon code PHENOMENALGLOBE.
Planning a trip to Vancouver
Is vancouver worth visiting.
Vancouver was our first stop in Canada as well and I’ll be honest: it wasn’t love at first sight.
When we arrived it was cold and the rain was pouring down from a dark-grey sky. We couldn’t even see the mountains north of the city…
Sloshing through the streets in our rain-soaked clothes wasn’t that much fun, so instead, we holed up in our cozy room for a Netflix marathon.
Luckily for us, the weather improved the next day and Vancouver had a chance to redeem itself. And redeem itself it did!
Vancouver is a great place for a city trip, it has a very walkable city center with interesting sites to visit.
There are lots of restaurants to choose from, whichever cuisine you feel like eating, you can find it in Vancouver.
In Gastown, there are many cute boutique stores and in Stanley Park, you can enjoy spectacular views over the bay. Read about all this and more Vancouver activities in the itinerary below.
How many days is enough for Vancouver?
There is plenty to see and do in this vibrant city so you can easily spend a couple of days here. That being said, most highlights in Vancouver can be visited in 2 days.
All the activities mentioned in this itinerary for Vancouver are within the city and can either be reached on foot or by public transport.
If you’ve got more time available in Vancouver, I’ve listed several (outdoor) activities to add to your itinerary in the last section of this post.
What is the best time to visit Vancouver?
Generally, the best time to visit Vancouver is between April and October . Average temperatures are between 10 and 20 degrees Celsius during these months and there are not so many rainy days.
We visited Vancouver both in June as well as October and during both visits, we had sunny days (20+ degrees Celsius) as well as a bit of rain.
As long as you bring a good raincoat you’ll be fine!
Is Vancouver an expensive city?
That depends. While visiting Vancouver isn’t cheap, there are lots of things you can do to stay within budget.
Most activities mentioned in this Vancouver trip itinerary are free. Grab a takeaway coffee and ‘portable’ breakfast or lunch instead of sitting down at a cute (but more expensive) restaurant.
Travel by public transportation and walk instead of taking an Uber.
Be creative when it comes to accommodation, stay a bit further from the downtown area to cut costs. Further down in this post you can find more tips for budget accommodation in Vancouver.
How to get around Vancouver?
A great way to get around downtown Vancouver is the Aquabus , which serves several routes in the city center. You can find more information (map with docks, fares, etc.) on the Aquabus website .
Aside from the Aquabus, you can also get around Vancouver by Skytrain . There are 3 lines, the most important one is the Canada line which connects the city center and Vancouver International Airport (YVR).
You can buy a DayPass or a single ticket for the Skytrain. A single ticket is valid for 90 minutes, you can transfer as many times as you want within that time.
Prices can be found here . You can also use these cards on the bus, though for this Vancouver travel itinerary you don’t need to take a bus.
To see the city’s most popular attractions in just a short amount of time, get a pass for the Vancouver hop-on hop-off bus .
It’s a great and easy way to do some Vancouver city sightseeing while also learning more about Vancouver’s history from the onboard commentary. Check availability here .
Do you need a car in Vancouver?
No, you don’t need a car to reach the most popular sights in Vancouver. You can either walk or use the public transit system as explained above.
Traffic in downtown Vancouver is always busy and there are so many traffic lights, driving here is no fun.
Believe me, we’ve driven around Vancouver a lot when we were getting our van ready for our cross-Canada road trip and I was often frustrated by the traffic jams.
That being said, if you plan to do a lot of Vancouver day trips (read more at the end of this post), a rental car could be convenient.
Especially for families, renting a car can be easier (and cheaper) than booking tour tickets for the whole family.
Check the best rates on Rentalcars.com
Where to stay in Vancouver
When we arrived in Canada we spent several days in the city to find the perfect van for our road trip. At the end of our trip, we returned to Vancouver to sell our car and spent another week in Vancouver.
Altogether, we spent quite a bit of time in the city and tried out several accommodation options. That’s why I can say from personal experience: visiting Vancouver can be done on any budget!
More information about the accommodation listed in the table below can be found further down in this post.
Note: Prices for these Vancouver accommodation options depend on the time of year and how far in advance you book. Therefore, the prices mentioned above are a rough indication of the price per night to help you compare the different options. Check ‘click here’ to see the latest prices and book ahead to get the best deal.
The perfect Vancouver itinerary: highlights day 1
Get coffee at tim hortons.
There is nothing more Canadian than Tim Hortons! Don’t believe me? Just watch this clip (and this one ) from How I Met Your Mother.
Their coffee is delicious and the perfect way to begin your first day of sightseeing around Vancouver.
Get breakfast at Purebread
Now that you’ve finished your coffee you may want some breakfast too. I cannot recommend Purebread enough, it’s a cute little bakery on West Hastings Street and everything they sell is delicious.
It doesn’t really matter what time of the day you go here, just go, you won’t regret it!
Stroll through the streets of Gastown
Great, now that you’ve got a full tummy and the necessary caffeine shot it’s time to get going! One of the oldest neighborhoods in Vancouver is Gastown.
In Gastown, you’ll find beautiful old houses, cute clothing boutiques shops, art galleries, souvenir shops and plenty of places to grab a bite if you are still hungry.
Water Street is Gastown’s most famous street, but the neighborhood covers the entire area between Richards East and Main Street.
Be sure to check out the Gastown steam clock or eat your way around this quirky neighborhood with this excellent Gastown food tour .
Despite this highly visible and cool clock it’s easy to lose track of time in this charming neighborhood! Read more about Gastown here .
To discover Vancouver’s city secrets, check out this 2-hour tour with a local.
Yup, Vancouver has it all:
- Beautiful mountains: it’s only a 90-minute scenic drive on the spectacular Sea to Sky highway to the snow-covered slopes of Whistler)
- An equally beautiful ocean: there are several beaches in the city and lots of excellent boat trips on offer.
From Canada Place, you can see both the mountains and the sea and ask yourself why you are not living here.
Looking for a fun Vancouver day trip? Book this excellent Vancouver North Shore tour including the famous Capilano Suspension Bridge and beautiful Grouse Mountain.
Hop on the Aqua Bus to Granville Island
The Aquabus fee from Hornby Street to Granville Island costs 3,50 CAD per person. It’s a fun way to see Vancouver from a different perspective, plus, it’s the quickest and easiest way to cross False Creek.
Instead of taking the Aquabus, you can also walk across the Granville bridge for a beautiful view of the city.
If you’d like to spend more time to explore the scenic waterways of Vancouver, hop aboard a zodiac boat on a 1.5-hour sightseeing cruise .
Have lunch at Granville Island Public Market
This 2 hour market tour with an off-duty chef gives you unique behind the scenes insights at Granville Island Public Market.
There are so many delicious things to eat at the famous Granville Island Public Market, it’s impossible to choose. Fresh fruits, a variety of locally cured meats and cheeses, artisan breads, bubble tea, a wide assortment of sweets and more, you can always find something to your liking on Granville Market.
Because Granville Island Public Market is held indoor it’s also a great activity for a rainy Vancouver day!
On the Granville Island website , you can find itineraries with suggested activities. You can choose from several itineraries, depending on how much time you plan to spend on the island.
If you are into art you must visit the Vancouver Art Gallery ! The gallery was founded in 1931 and is one of North America’s leading visual arts institutions.
The ticket price is $23 (Canadian Dollars obviously) per person.
Have dinner at Ramen Gojiro
I’m seriously addicted to Japanese food and was very happy to find this little restaurant. Each time we walked past this popular place to eat in Vancouver, there were always long lines outside.
It’s worth the wait though, my huge steaming bowl of ramen was absolutely delicious…
The best Vancouver itinerary: highlights day 2
Explore stanley park and the sea wall.
Stanley Park is a National Historic Site and beloved by all Vancouverites. If you have enough time (and energy), I highly recommend doing the 9-kilometer walk around the Stanley Park Seawall.
Along the way, there are many interesting stops, such as the Lion’s Gate Bridge to North Vancouver, the famous totem poles and Siwash Rock (pictured below).
Fun fact : Tripadvisor named Stanley Park ‘the top park in the entire world’.
Bottom line: if you are in Vancouver, you must visit Stanley Park! On this website , you can find a map of the Seawalk and popular spots to see along the way.
Alternatively, join this Stanley Park guided bike tour to learn more about the city’s green initiatives, historical past and olympic heritage.
Check out the A-maze-ing Laughter statues and Inukshuk
The A-maze-ing Laughter statue put a smile on anyone’s face, which happens to be the exact intention of the artist Yue Minjun.
He wanted to touch the heart of each visitor and it’s a-maze-ing to see how he more than succeeded in doing so. Just spend 15 minutes watching people visiting the statues, you’ll see what I mean.
Another beautiful sculpture is the Inukshuk on English Bay, which became famous as the symbol of the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010.
More Inukshuk are found in the (far) north of Canada, they are part of the culture of the Inuit and other Arctic peoples.
Grab a quick lunch at Pholicious
It’s probably because I’ve spent a lot of time in Southeast Asia , but I love the food from that region. Vietnamese may be my favorite cuisine, but it’s really difficult to choose…
Regardless, the Bánh mì sandwich from Pholicious was delicious! And very cheap too (only 4,50 CAD).
Visit Chinatown and the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Park
Vancouver’s Chinatown is the third-biggest Chinatown in North America, only New York, and San Francisco are bigger!
There are lots of Chinese shops and places to grab a quick snack (like Chinese pastries).
Within Chinatown, you’ll also find the famous Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Park, a classic Chinese Garden with a lovely pond and a pretty pagoda. Read more about the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden here .
Have dinner and a drink at St. Regis Bar & Grill
Adjacent to St. Regis Hotel is the St. Regis Bar and Grill , the perfect place to relax with a glass of wine or beer after walking around all day!
I loved the atmosphere, many people were very into the Canadian sports shown on the TV screens and it was fun to watch them cheer for (or shout at) their favorite team.
Besides the friendly vibe, the food is great too! We had the Cobb Salad and the Mushroom Swiss burger, the portions are very generous.
I was too full for dessert, though I would have loved to try the cheesecake or warm cookie skillet with an overdose of chocolate. Check out their menu here .
Watch the sunset from Kitsilano Beach Park
Did you know Vancouver has several beaches? In downtown Vancouver, you can visit Sunset Beach or English Bay Beach.
Just across the Burrard bridge, you will find Kitsilano Beach Park, the perfect place to watch the sunset!
Note: if you aren’t visiting during the summer months, you probably would want to do this before dinner. Otherwise you’ll miss the sunset;-).
Visiting Vancouver Island ? Check out the 10 best things to do in Co wichan Valley .
The best places to stay in Vancouver
Luxury hotel: the st. regis hotel.
Disclaimer: I was a guest of the St. Regis hotel in Vancouver. Nevertheless, all pictures and opinions are my own.
If you are looking to treat yourself to a nice hotel in Vancouver city center, the St. Regis hotel is your best choice!
We stayed here for 2 nights and it was the perfect way to end our 5 month trip around Canada and the U.S.A.
St. Regis is located in downtown Vancouver, so most of the sights are only a short walk from the hotel.
The Skytrain station (Vancouver City Centre, see more info about transport below) is only a 400 meter walk and it takes about 30 minutes to get to the airport (or from the airport to the hotel).
Our room at the St. Regis was beautiful, after living in a van for 5 months my husband and I almost got lost in our big suite! The bathroom alone was bigger than our entire little red house on wheels.
The bed was super comfy and WiFi very fast (each room has its own router). Breakfast was delicious (especially the omelet) and the staff is very helpful and friendly.
Room rates include breakfast and unlimited international calls (which was great since I spent hours on the phone with a terrible airline customer service support trying to sort out our flights to Bali ).
Check prices on Booking
Where to stay in Vancouver on a budget
If you are traveling Canada on a budget but don’t have a car, there are several options when it comes to finding budget accommodation in Vancouver:
- Airbnb: we stayed in a nice Airbnb in Richmond (when we hadn’t bought our van yet) and paid only 40 CAD per night. Unfortunately, this room is no longer listed because the host moved to a different place.
- Hostel : book a hostel in Vancouver
- Hotel: while it can be tricky to find a cheap hotel in Vancouver (that isn’t a dump), the Best Western Plus Sands usually has rooms available for €100 a night (which is definitely considered cheap for Vancouver).
There are some lovely 3-star hotels in Vancouver, such as the Burrard and Rosedale on Robson Suite Hotel .
Camping in your car or campervan
If you are on a budget and have a rental car or campervan to sleep in, you can stay in Vancouver for free! There are several overnight camping spots, you can find them via the (free) iOverlander app .
Not listed on the app is the IKEA parking lot in Richmond, but we did spent a night there. I’m not sure if it’s allowed but there weren’t any ‘no overnight parking’ signs so we decided to risk it (nobody bothered us or asked us to leave).
Also check out this post: Camping on Vancouver Island .
3-day Vancouver itinerary (or more)
Got more time to spend in Vancouver? Lucky you! There are many amazing Vancouver day trips that can easily be reached from the city.
Hike the Grouse Grind Trail or take the Skyride to the top of Grouse Mountain. You’ll be rewarded with some of the best views of Vancouver, the surrounding area, and the Pacific Ocean.
Book your Grouse Mountain admission ticket here.
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
Step into the rainforest and marvel at the towering evergreens, fragrant cedars, boardwalks, canyons, and ponds.
Cross the 137-meter-long suspension bridge and look down on the rushing water in the Capilano River 70 meters below. Click here to purchase your online ticket .
Join a whale-watching tour
There are few cities where it’s so easy to such spectacular scenery only a stone’s throw from downtown. Join a whale-watching tour and search for wildlife including orcas, seals, porpoises, and eagles.
The waters around Vancouver are renowned for attracting whales, offering an up to 90% success rate with sightings.
Click here to book your whale-watching tour online.
Other Vancouver activities
Still looking for more Vancouver things to do? Visit the Vancouver Aquarium, take a leisurely stroll in Queen Elizabeth Park, go shopping on Robson Street (one of Vancouver’s oldest commercial streets) or explore the Olympic Village.
Did you run out of time? No worries, that’ll give you a good reason to return to Vancouver for another action-packed trip!
Plan your Canada trip like a pro with these tools: ✈️ Find the best flight deals with Kiwi.com . ? Rent a campervan for your Canada road trip (or a car via Rentalcars.com ). ? Arrange your Canada working holiday with Global Work & Travel . ? Plan your journey with the Canada Lonely Planet . ?️ Find the best hotel deals on Booking.com . ? Join the best tours in Canada via Get Your Guide or Viator . ?️ Travel safely and get reliable travel insurance from Safety Wing .
Vancouver trip itinerary: in conclusion
That’s everything about our trip to Vancouver! If you have any questions, leave a comment below or send me an email .
Do you want to read more about traveling in Canada ? Read these posts as well:
- 3 day Victoria itinerary
- 25 charming small towns in Canada
- Things to do in Calgary
- Things to do in Nelson BC
- Things to do in Nanaimo
Tuesday 7th of December 2021
Your explanation of the sights near Vancouver is so detailed with beautiful photos. Thanks a lot. The world has incredible beauty...
Thursday 9th of December 2021
Thank you, that's noce to hear:-) Canada is one of my favorite countries, it's sooooo beautiful...
Safe travels! Lotte
Thursday 17th of June 2021
I'd like to visit Canada for the first time. What are your favorite cities in Canada?
Canada is a wonderful country! It's hard to choose as there are many lovely cities but if I have to pick two it would be Victoria and Winnipeg:-) Happy travels!
Monday 27th of November 2017
Mighty good. Nice to see info from people who have been there. Keep the good work going, 5-stars!
Tuesday 28th of November 2017
Thank you Rudy:-)
Wednesday 1st of November 2017
This is a fabulous guide Lotte with sensational images. I find it neat how Vancouver grew on you too. I found that to be the case with more than a few cities. As for Tim Horton's I almost grabbed a cup there in NYC recently. Gotta try it. I am heading in NYC again tomorrow for a Seinfeld show and then a week long house sit so I will have my chance. Thanks for the rocking share.
Thursday 2nd of November 2017
Thank you so much! I bought a Nikon D3300 (my first camera ever) and I'm so happy to hear you love the pictures:-). Hope you get to grab a cup of Tim's in New York! Enjoy the housesit, I love this way of traveling. You get to experience what it's like to live somewhere instead of just visiting. Also, have fun at the Seinfeld show!
Monday 30th of October 2017
Great, Lotte! Vancouver looks great - I´ve heard loads about its great music scene and it looks like the food and culture aspects are good too. Airbnb is a great way to get a local flavour of a place - and often feels more authentic than a hotel.
Tuesday 31st of October 2017
Thank you Mark! Unfortunately we didn't have time to explore the music scene (perhaps next time) but we did have a lot of fun in Vancouver:-). And yes, I love Airbnb too. (Almost) all hosts are happy to share local advice about their city and the places they recommend often end up being your favorite!
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.
There are many ways to travel to Vancouver Island, but most visitors will arrive by car or airline. Learn more about car rentals, ferry terminals, and airlines on our Getting Here page.
Travel Planning Resources
Know Before You Go
Visitor Information Centres
- Work with us
How to have an EPIC 10 Day Vancouver Island Road Trip!
Ready for the ultimate Vancouver Island road trip? In this guide we’re sharing a 10 day Vancouver Island road trip itinerary, plus helpful information for your adventure! During our big Journey to Alaska in 2022 one of the top spots we wanted to prioritize along the way was Vancouver Island, which we had visited very briefly back in 2017. While not directly on our route, we decided to take a two week detour to experience the island much more in depth than our previous visit. And it did NOT disappoint! In fact, it was our favorite place we visited on our way up to Alaska!
Watch our experience on Vancouver Island, including different cities and towns, unique beaches, gorgeous hikes, and more!
In this guide we’re sharing a 10 day Vancouver Island road trip itinerary to help you experience the diverse scenery that this island has to offer, plus information on how to get to the island, where to stay, what to bring, and more! We hope you fall in love with the island as much as we did! WARNING: This is a long guide, but we hope it provides everything you need to know to plan your own epic Vancouver Island road trip! We have a table of contents feature below if you’d like to skip ahead to any section. Looking for even more detail? We will be linking to other Vancouver Island guides and videos in this guide to further help with your planning.
Looking for more things to do on Vancouver Island and in Canada?
- 12+ FUN Things to do in Tofino on Vancouver Island (+ 3 day itinerary)
- The BEST things to do in Campbell River on Vancouver Island (+ 2 day itinerary)
- Sea to Sky Highway Road Trip: The Best Stops from Vancouver to Whistler (+Itineraries!)
- 3 Days in Vancouver
- Backpacking at Garibaldi Provincial Park
- 17 FUN things to do in Dawson City, Yukon
- Watch all of our Canada vlogs and read all of our Canada guides !
About Vancouver Island
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Vancouver Island is located on Canada’s Pacific coast in British Columbia, just west of Vancouver. If we had to describe Vancouver Island we’d say it’s as if you combined all of the best parts of the Pacific Northwest into a more condensed area. There are over 500 named mountain peaks, lakes, gorgeous coastline, tons of hiking trails, waterfalls, charming small towns, remote wilderness, wildlife, delicious seafood and coffee, and so much more, all in just under 12,400 square miles. The Kwakwaka’wakw, Nuu-chah-nulth, and Coast Salish First Nations have lived on the island for centuries, utilizing all of these natural resources. And today, these resources have turned the island into an outdoor playground, attracting nature lovers, surfers (it is home to the surf capital of Canada!), and those who just want to enjoy a laid back, scenic getaway.
Before embarking on your adventure, please review the Leave No Trace principles to ensure you leave every place better than you found it, so that others can enjoy these beautiful places for many years to come! These seven principles include planning ahead and preparing, hiking and camping on durable surfaces, disposing of waste properly (pack out what you pack in!), understanding campfire rules and always fully extinguishing your fires, respecting wildlife, and being considerate of other visitors.
Being an island, the only way to get to Vancouver Island is by ferry or plane and depending on where you plan to go, you may arrive and leave from different areas of the island. Below is a quick rundown of how to get to the island, whether you fly or take the ferry!
Flying into Vancouver Island will be your quickest option. The largest airport on Vancouver Island is the Victoria International Airport (YYJ) , which is located right in Victoria. The island also has two other medium sized airports, the Nanaimo Airport (YCD) and Comox Valley Airport (YQQ) . All of these airports primarily have nonstop flights to locations in Canada, with the Victoria International Airport offering flights to Seattle. So depending on where you’re coming from, you’ll very likely have a layover.
By Ferry (what we recommend!)
The most common way to get to Vancouver Island is by ferry, which is operated by BC Ferries . We LOVE riding the ferry! The views are incredible and being able to drive our van onto a boat is not only so cool to us, but also very convenient, because we can then drive our own vehicle all around the island. The ferries we have been on have all been nice inside, with food to purchase and much more space to spread out than an airplane. But if you’re like us, you may spend the whole time outside enjoying the views!
There are three routes from mainland British Columbia to Vancouver Island:
- Vancouver (Tsawwassen) to Victoria (Duke Point): 1 hour, 35 minute ride
- Vancouver (Horseshoe Bay) to Nanaimo (Departure Bay): 1 hour, 40 minute ride
- Vancouver (Tsawwassen) to Nanaimo (Duke Point): 2 hour ride
Any of these routes are a good option to get on the island, depending on where you’re going first. We’ll share what we recommend during the itinerary portion of this guide!
The cost of the ferry varies depending on the number of people in your party, if you’re bringing a vehicle (and its size), and other factors. To see the price for your situation, search for a route on BC Ferries website . For two of us in our oversized Sprinter van, we paid $250 round trip, but it is much cheaper if you are in a smaller vehicle.
Dogs are also allowed on the ferry, but must remain in your vehicle or in a designated pet area.
Visiting from the US?
Besides the BC ferries, you can also take the Black Ball Ferry from Port Angeles, Washington (on the Olympic Peninsula) to Victoria, which is a 1.5 hour ride, but Port Angeles is about a 2.5 hour drive from Seattle (and may require a ferry), so it’s about the same amount of time to just drive or fly up to Vancouver and take a ferry from there. Make sure to study up on what you can and cannot bring into Canada from the US. You can see all of the rules here . And if you’re bringing a pet, make sure you have a copy of their rabies vaccination and that you only bring dog food in its original packaging, which has to be less than 20 kg (44 lbs).
As for transportation while on Vancouver Island, you have a couple options. You can either drive your own car or rent a car , which is what we’d recommend. Or you can take the Vancouver Island Connector Bus (seasonal), which can take you from various destinations on the island. However, by taking this bus you’ll be much more limited on where you can go and when. So we’d highly suggest having a car!
Type of vehicle
Any vehicle will work just fine on Vancouver Island. A high clearance vehicle would be nice to have just to be safe, but our non 4×4 Sprinter Van was able to get to every spot on this guide just fine!
Rent a van!
A really fun way to experience Vancouver Island would be by campervan…we know from experience ! By being in a van, you’ll be able to have a consistent “home” every night, even if the location of your home changes. Plus, you’ll be able to stop and cook on longer drives, which is one of our favorite parts of van life. There are a handful of companies on the island who rent vans. Van rentals in Victoria GoCampers Cool Camper Rentals (they have a pickup option in Sidney as well) Base Camp Adventure Rentals Let’sGo Campers (they have a pickup option in Nanaimo as well) Van rentals in Nanaimo JUSTGO Camper Van RV Rentals Van rentals around the island Outdoorsy is sort of like Airbnb, but for camper vans and RVs! If one of the options above doesn’t work for you, check them out!
Although Vancouver Island is an island, it’s not exactly a tropical destination. The island is known for having a mild climate year round, with most of the sea level destinations having highs between 18-24ºC (65-75ºF) in the summer and lows between 0-4ºC (32º-40ºF) in the winter, with snow being a possibility in the lower elevations and a guarantee in higher elevations. Summertime on Vancouver Island, and in the Pacific Northwest in general, is heaven. With way cooler temperatures than most of the United States, plus abundant sunshine after an often gloomy and rainy winter and spring, nothing beats summer in the PNW in our opinion. This would be the prime time to visit Vancouver Island to enjoy everything it has to offer, with the best weather. However, summertime also brings crowds and higher prices. So for the best of both worlds, less crowds and still decent weather (although, be prepared for some rainy days!), we’d suggest visiting in late May, early June, or mid to late September. We visited Vancouver Island in late May and it was pretty perfect! Our first couple days were gloomy and rainy, but the rest of our time on the island had plenty of sunshine, with a few random sprinkles here and there.
Since this road trip itinerary covers quite a bit of ground, you will need to change lodging throughout the road trip. We will include suggestions of places to stay under each day of the itinerary!
Before you go, here are a few important things to know before hitting the road on your Vancouver Island road trip!
Book in advance
We highly recommend booking things in advance, such as ferries, campsites and other lodging, and anything else that requires a reservation. This will give you the most options and ensure you are able to do everything you want!
Some of the spots on this guide do require a fee to park and we will make sure to mention that, as well as how you can pay.
Some restaurants and businesses listed on this guide may close for the winter season. While this guide is definitely catered more towards the summer, we suggest checking the hours of the places you want to visit beforehand so you’re not disappointed!
Pets are mostly allowed
Minus some restaurants, coffee shops, and maybe a few other locations, Vancouver Island is a very dog friendly place! Our dog Kona was able to join us on many hikes, at the beach, and as we explored some towns. Dogs tend to be allowed on many beaches on Vancouver Island, but typically must remain on leash. Please follow this rule, as not all humans or other dogs (our pup Kona included) like having strange dogs run up to them.
Learn how we travel with a dog and what we do with Kona when she cannot join us on our adventures.
Cell Service can be limited
Cell service was hit or miss on Vancouver Island. In the cities, you’ll definitely have service, but there were times when driving on Vancouver Island that we didn’t have cell service, mostly around Strathcona Provincial Park Reserve, on the way to Tofino, and some other more remote areas. If traveling from the US, something else to keep in mind is that your cell phone provider may not provide the same amount of high speed service as in the US. We have Verizon for our phones and we only get 0.5 gb of high speed data and once that is used, the speed will drop dramatically. This would probably be fine for most people who aren’t working or relying on their phone for work, but for us 0.5 gb doesn’t last very long. One other interesting thing to note is that when you’re on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, you might pick up US cell towers and be able to use your normal amount of data. That was a pleasant surprise for that area of the island!
Know the tides
If you plan on visiting a lot of beaches, it will be important to know when the high and low tides are, so you can not only explore them as you’d like, but also safely! You can find tide times at the NOAA Tides and Currents predictions site .
If you’re visiting from the United States or another country, don’t forget your passport! For US Citizens, we highly recommend getting NEXUS , which makes crossing the border a breeze! Note: Most travel credit cards will cover the fee for NEXUS! See which travel credit cards we love .
If you’re doing any hiking, make sure to bring the appropriate hiking gear with you (see what all we take here !). We also always recommend having the 10 essentials on you!
You will definitely want to bring a camera with you to Vancouver Island! The best camera is the one you have at the moment, but if you’re curious what cameras and gear we use, check out our gear list . Since it may be rainy, you’ll want to also bring protection for your camera. We just use a good ‘ol shower cap on our camera to keep it dry, which works pretty well.
Black bears do live on the island, as do wolves and cougars (although these are more rare). When hiking in bear country we always carry bear spray with us. While black bears are not as aggressive as grizzlies, mama bears can be unpredictable, so we’d rather be safe than sorry. We didn’t encounter any bears on any hikes, but we did see two on the drive from Victoria to Jordan River, which was super exciting!
Good hiking shoes (+extra shoes)
With often wet and muddy trails, you’ll definitely want to bring some hiking shoes with good grip! You can see which shoes we use here . We’d also suggest bringing an extra pair of shoes (and socks) in case your shoes get muddy!
If visiting outside of the summer months, there is a high chance you’ll get rained on, so make sure to bring a rain jacket !
The weather on Vancouver Island can be cool in the mornings and evenings, with mild daytime temperatures that can feel a bit warmer when sunny, so you’ll want to pack some layers to ensure you’re always comfortable.
As we mentioned, cell service can be spotty in a few areas and on the trails, so we highly suggest downloading the offline AllTrails map for any hikes you plan on enjoying.
Want to get 30% off an AllTrails+ membership? Click this link or use our code aplusk30 (you must redeem this code on the website, not the app)! We use AllTrails+ on every single hike and it is the most helpful hiking tool out there! Some of the features we love are offline maps (so we can navigate even without cell service), wrong-turn alerts, and its 3D maps feature, so we can get a feel for trails before we hike.
There are many ways to experience Vancouver Island and many areas to choose from, but for this guide we’ll be focusing on what we personally experienced during our time on Vancouver Island, which we highly recommend for first timers to the area. There are many more areas to explore that we can’t wait to come back to check out!
For this Vancouver Island Road Trip we suggest starting in Victoria and then heading to Jordan River/Port Renfrew, Tofino, Campbell River, and ending in Nanaimo. This is actually a bit opposite of what we did when we visited Vancouver Island, but it’s the least amount of driving, which means you’ll have more time to explore!
Now that you know a bit more about the area, how to get there, and what to bring, it’s time to plan out your time on Vancouver Island! Below is our 10 day Vancouver Island road trip itinerary, following the route above, which can of course be adjusted to what you want to do, how much you want to do in a day, and how much time you have. But before we jump into some of the best things to do on Vancouver Island, here are some notes we wanted to make about this itinerary.
- We love jam packed adventures and typically need a vacation from our vacation. This guide is loaded with hikes and activities, with some early wake up calls, so it may not be super relaxing, but it will be a blast! Feel free to adjust it as needed to fit your travel style.
- On a similar note, we have included a variety of hikes and activities on this guide to make it doable for different activity levels and to give you options to choose from.
- We are also including some optional add ons if you have more time or are just looking for even more options!
- Some of these activities are dependent on the tides. Make sure to look at the tide charts beforehand and adjust as needed to ensure you visit places during the proper tide levels.
- Don’t have 10 days to spend on Vancouver Island? We’re including a few options to shorten the trip at the end of this itinerary!
Day 1: Arrive on Vancouver Island + Explore Victoria
Welcome to Vancouver Island! Day one will be a mix of travel and play, as you make your way to Vancouver Island and then explore the beautiful city of Victoria, which is not only the largest city on the island, but is also the second oldest city in Western Canada, and the capital of the entire province of British Columbia.
Watch our experience on the ferry to Vancouver Island and our experience exploring Victoria , including enjoying tea, hiking, and seeing the gorgeous buildings!
Travel Time: 2.5 hours
This includes a 1 hour, 35 minute ferry ride from Tsawwassen in Vancouver to Swartz Bay, plus 40 minute drive from the ferry terminal in Swartz Bay to Victoria.
Hop on the ferry! Since this road trip begins in Victoria, you’ll want to take the ferry from Tsawwassen in Vancouver to Swartz Bay. We suggest taking one of the earliest ferries, so you can ideally arrive in Victoria by 9:30 AM at the latest to have enough time to explore!
As soon as you get into Victoria, you’ll immediately notice the gorgeous buildings! The city has had a lot of British influence over the years, with the Hudson’s Bay Company establishing a fort here in 1843 and with the island becoming a British Crown Colony in 1849. And you can see this influence in its architecture! Spend some time walking around the harbor, including admiring the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia building and the Empress Hotel .
Enjoy some afternoon tea (well, in this case, morning tea!)! Due to British history in Victoria, tea has been steeped in its culture since the 1840s! We like going to Murchies’s Tea & Coffee for an affordable tea, but for a more elegant English tea experience, check out the Tea at the Empress , which is offered starting at 11 AM and reservations are highly recommended. Grab lunch at Red Fish Blue Fish , which is a very popular spot. Make sure to get the tacones, which are basically fish tacos, but in a cone shape! Their chowder is also amazing!
Head towards Chinatown to walk through Fan Tan Alley , the narrowest street in Canada! We love wandering around the streets in this area. There are so many cool, colorful buildings! Venture a tiny bit from downtown to Parachute Ice Cream ! This is an incredible ice cream shop with delicious, constantly changing flavors. We LOVED it!
Spend the rest of the day exploring Beacon Hill Park , which is a large park that goes from town down to the Strait of Juan De Fuca and has nice walking paths, coastal views, and tons of free roaming peacocks! Before white settlers moved into the area, this area was the native land of the Lekwungen People. And what is now Beacon Hill Park was an important area for them to harvest camas root, which was a staple in their diet, as well as traded with other First Nations. While in the park, we love just admiring the flowers, ponds, and walking to Finlayson Point , where you can see Washington’s Olympic Peninsula!
For dinner, there are many amazing places to eat in town! We love La Taqueria Pinche for delicious tacos! We also really enjoyed a nice Italian meal at Il Terrazzo .
Where to stay
Tonight you’ll want to stay in Victoria, so you can explore a bit more in the morning! Campgrounds: Goldstream Campground , Sooke River Campground (in Sooke, west of Victoria on the way to Jordan River/Port Renfrew) Hotels: Chateau Victoria Inn & Suites , Hotel Fairmont Empress , Victoria Regent Waterfront Hotel & Suites , Hotel Grand Pacific , Delta Hotels by Marriott Vacation Rentals: Oceanfront Penthouse w/Private Rooftop Patio , Unique Chinatown Loft , Bright Studio in Old Town District , Oceanside Getaway (pet-friendly) , Modern Living in Old Town
Day 2: Victoria + Drive to Jordan River/Port Renfrew
On day two on Vancouver Island you’ll explore a park of your choice near Victoria and then head west to the Jordan River and Port Renfrew area! Jordan River and Port Renfrew are two small beach towns along the Strait of Juan de Fuca and are home to the Juan de Fuca Trail, which is a 47 km (29 mile) wilderness trail that runs along the coastline and can be done as a backpacking trip or as multiple day hikes. And along this trail are tons of unique beaches!
Watch our time in the Jordan River and Port Renfrew area , where we checked out a bunch of unique beaches!
Travel Time: 1-1.5 hours
Depending on which activities you choose, the drive from downtown Victoria to Jordan River is a little over 1 hour drive.
Have breakfast at Jam Cafe in Victoria, which is a delicious spot with a wide variety of options! Make sure to get there right when they open, as it gets busy! We also love Hey Happy , which is a coffee shop that has pastries and breakfast items if you want something quicker.
For the first half of the day, you have a couple options:
- Visit Butchart Gardens , which is a famous garden north of Victoria that has been around for 100 years. We personally have never visited, as the cost is a bit steep ($39.50 CAD at its highest), but everyone we know of who has gone has loved it! It’s recommended to spend 4 hours here.
- Check out Niagara Falls at Goldstream Provincial Park ! This is a 47.5 meter (156 feet) tall waterfall that is tucked into a gorge and is stunning! You’ll want to park at the location linked above and then it’s just a quick walk to the waterfall. You’re able to walk down towards the base of it as well!
- Hike at East Sooke Regional Park . We recommend the Beechey Head Loop (5.5 km | 3.4 miles) or the East Sooke Coast and Interior Trail Loop (8.9 km | 5.5 miles).
- Go to Sooke Potholes Provincial Park , which has unique pools in the river rock!
After exploring some of the nature close to Victoria, head to Jordan River! Depending on the tides, we suggest arriving close to low tide so you can visit one of the amazing beaches in the area, like Sombrio Beach ! Sombrio Beach is a beautiful beach, but what makes it special is that there is a hidden waterfall!
To get to the waterfall, you’ll hike down to the beach, which takes 10 minutes, and then once at the beach, go left. You’ll follow the beach this direction, going around a large rock cliff that is on the sand (it’s best to go at a falling tide to avoid this). Shortly after this rocky section, you’ll notice a very small stream going down the sand. Look to your left and you should see where the stream meets the trees, which is where you’ll want to enter.
You’ll hike through streams to get to the waterfall (your feet may get wet!), which is tucked into a narrow gorge and is SO unique and cool! It reminded us of the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon and is such a magical place. We share a bit more of how to get to the waterfall in our YouTube video and this AllTrails Map is helpful to have downloaded to find the waterfall as well!
This evening you’ll want to stay in the Jordan River or Port Renfrew area, as it’ll make exploring more tomorrow a breeze! Campgrounds: The BEST developed camping option in the area is the Jordan River Regional Park ! This campground is right on the ocean (the road is right there as well, but it’s quiet at night) and it’s only $10 CAD (Nov-May) or $15 CAD (June-Oct) a night (cash only), which is a steal! It’s first-come, first-served, with only 15 drive in sites and 7 walk in sites, so try to arrive early! You can also camp ON the beach at many of the beaches! Sombrio Beach is a popular choice to do this and it costs $10 CAD per night (you can get the backcountry permit in advance here or pay cash at the trailhead). Just make sure you set up your tent far from the high tide line. Hotels: Fossil Bay Resort , Point No Point Resort Vacation Rentals: Ferngully Cabins , Jordan River Cabin , Jordan River Cedar House and Hot Tub , Mystic Beach Vacation Home , Wild Renfrew cottages
Day 3: Jordan River/Port Renfrew
Today you’ll continue exploring the Jordan River and Port Renfrew area, including more unique beaches, plus delicious local spots! Note: We are listing the itinerary for this day in order from east to west, in order to reduce backtracking while driving, but depending on the tides, you may have to switch it up to ensure you visit beaches at the best time!
Travel Time: 1.5 hours
The drive between Jordan River and Port Renfrew is about 45 minutes each way, so you’ll likely drive 1.5 hours round trip!
Enjoy breakfast at Shirley Delicious ! This cafe is in an A-frame, tucked in the woods and makes food that shirley is delicious! We enjoyed their corn fritters, breakfast sandwich, and caramel latte and everything was insanely good, plus the setting can’t be beat! Just down the road from Shirley Delicious is the Sheringham Point Lighthouse if you want to go for a quick stroll!
Go for a hike to Mystic Beach ! This is a 4 km (2.5 mile) hike through a peaceful forest (warning, there are a lot of roots on the trail) and along a cool bridge, which leads to Mystic Beach, a stunning beach that has THREE unique features.
The first unique feature is a wooden swing, which you can find by going to the right once at the water. It is a lot of fun to swing on this over the sand and water! Right next to the swing is a cave that you can go into! This cave is ONLY accessible at a low or falling tide, so please know the tides in advance.
The final (and our favorite) feature is a waterfall that cascades over the cliffside onto the beach and then into the ocean. We love waterfalls and seeing one ON a beach is something we don’t see often! This waterfall can be viewed at high tide, but you can only get close to it at low tide. So we’d suggest visiting this beach at low tide or falling tide to really take advantage of its fun features!
Next up, head to Botanical Beach in Port Renfrew! It’s just a 1 km/0.6 mile hike down to the beach , which is known for its tidepools. Make sure to visit at low tide so you can see them! We saw a variety of wildlife in the pools, like anemones, but unfortunately no starfish. Hopefully you’ll have better luck than us! After a day of exploring the beaches in the area, have dinner at Stoked Wood Fired Pizzeria & Market !
For day 3, we suggest staying in Jordan River or Port Renfrew at one of the lodging options we listed above!
Day 4: Drive to Tofino
It’s time to hit the road to Tofino! This will be a long day of driving, but we are listing some stops to make along the way to help you stretch your legs. You likely won’t have time for them all, but you’ll be doing a portion of this drive again on Day 7, so you can check out whatever you miss then!
Watch us explore some amazing stops on the way to Tofino, including some beautiful waterfalls!
Travel Time: 5 hours
This drive is about 5 hours from Jordan River, but closer to 6 from Port Renfrew.
Grab a quick coffee and breakfast at Cold Shoulder Cafe , which is such a cool coffee stand, and hit the road to Tofino! Along the drive to Tofino there are tons of things you can stop at! Here are some of our favorites!
- Englishman River Falls Provincial Park : This park has two waterfalls that are just a short walk from the parking area!
- Old Country Market- Goats on the Roof : This market not only has donuts, jerky, and other food items, but it also has goats on the roof! It’s definitely a touristy stop, but if you need a quick snack or just want to see the goats, make sure to swing by. You’ll start to notice their famous goat stickers all across the island!
- Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park : This park is also home to some beautiful waterfalls! Along this easy and short hike you’ll encounter a variety of different vantage points to view the river and falls!
- Cameron Lake : This lake has a stunning mountain backdrop and makes for a great spot to have a picnic or kayak!
- MacMillan Provincial Park (Cathedral Grove) : This park is home to some of the tallest trees in all of Canada and some of the oldest trees here are 800 years old, with the Big Tree being the tallest in the park at 72m (236 ft) tall and 9m (30 ft) in width!
As you get closer to Tofino, you may encounter some road closures . Highway 4 is experiencing closures at Kennedy Hill and the delays can be a bit long. We waited for quite some time on our way to Tofino, but it was worth it because as we went through the construction, we spotted a black bear. It was awesome! Once arriving in Tofino, head to dinner at Shed , Surfside Grill , or Wildside Grill and then relax after a big day of driving!
This evening you’ll want to stay in Tofino. Below are some options! Campgrounds: We stayed at Surf Grove while in Tofino and LOVED it! It is a nice wooded campground just steps from Cox Bay Beach with a store, laundromat, a fire lounge, crate barrel saunas, extremely nice restrooms and showers, surf rentals, and wifi! It’s not cheap, but the amenities and location make it worth it. Some other options include Wildpod Glamping , Green Point Campground , Bella Pacifica Campground , Crystal Cove Beach Resort , West Coast Campground Hotels: Best Western Plus Tin Wis Resort , Tofino Motel Harborview , Hotel Zed Tofino , Wickaninnish Inn , Ocean Village Resort Tofino , Pacific Sands Beach Resort Vacation Rentals: Waterfront Condo , Cannery Loft , Tofino Surf Cabin , 5 Star Executive Rental , Middle Beach Lodge
Day 5: Tofino
Today on your Vancouver Island road trip you’ll be exploring Tofino! Tofino is located on the west coast of Vancouver island on the tip of the Esowista Peninsula and what was once a small fishing village is now known for its pristine beaches, a unique mix of coastal, forest, and mountain scenery, and surfing. In fact, it’s nicknamed Canada’s surf capital! The town itself is pretty small and takes a bit of effort to get to, but has become a popular hot spot for Canadian and foreign tourists in the summertime, who want to hit the waves, hike the trails, and enjoy the beaches. And we can see why! It feels like a wild, remote place that while has become more developed over time, still maintains that authentic, smaller town, laid back feel. And with gorgeous views from the harbor, ample outdoor activities, a quaint downtown with shops, plus trendy local eateries, there is a little something for everyone in Tofino.
Watch our experience in Tofino, Vancouver Island , including different hikes, surfing, local foods, and more! And to learn even more about the area, check out our guide with 12+ FUN Things to do in Tofino !
Travel Time: < 1 hour
The only driving you’ll be doing today is to just get between the different trails and sights in Tofino!
Enjoy coffee and breakfast at Rhino Coffee House in downtown Tofino. Make sure to get donuts or a bronut, which is a breakfast sandwich on a donut!
Explore Pacific Rim National Park Reserve ’s Long Beach Unit, which boasts kilometers of beautiful coastline, temperate rainforests, and the beautiful, but wild Pacific Ocean. This park does have a fee to enter, which varies depending on your age group and where you plan to visit. You can find more information on the fees here ! Dogs are also allowed here (except Combers Beach from April 14 to October 1), but must be on a leash.
We especially suggest hiking the Nuu-chah-nulth and South Beach Trail (6.4 km | 4 miles), which takes you to three beaches, plus through the forest, plus hiking to the Canso Bomber Plane Crash (7.5 km | 4.7 miles), which is the site of a plane crash from 1945 (don’t worry, everyone lived!). We go into much more detail about these hikes in our Tofino guide !
Grab a late lunch at Toki Doki , which is Japanese street food served out of an ‘80s Airstream at Tofino Brewing Co . Make sure to get the Osaka style Okonomiyaki! While you’re there, grab a beer (if you drink) or if you’re like us, head to Licks for ice cream instead! Note: if you want to eat there, you will need to buy something from Tofino Brewing Co.
Explore the town of Tofino, including the House of Himwitsa First Nations Art Gallery and other shops!
Watch the sunset from Chesterman Beach , which is quite.possibly the most popular beach in the area. It is pretty large at 2.7 km and is popular for exploring tidepools at low tide, visiting the Carving Shed by the Wickaninnish Inn, taking a surf lesson or watching the surfers at the south end, and so much more! Unlike most beaches in the area, this one has FREE parking, but it does fill up! Tofino offers a shuttle from town that you can take if you’re unable to park. Have dinner at one of the spots we listed on day 4 that you haven’t tried yet!
For day 5, we suggest staying in Tofino at one of the lodging options we listed above!
Day 6: Tofino
Hike up to the Cox Bay Lookout (2.5 km | 1.6 miles), which was hands down our favorite view not just in Tofino, but on Vancouver Island! While the distance looks easy for this hike, there is a lot to know beforehand. First, this hike MUST be done during low tide or a falling tide, as the entrance to the “trail” is not accessible during high tide and you do not want to risk getting stuck. Finding the actual start of the trail is a challenge, but it doesn’t get easier from there, as it’s not a maintained trail and is very muddy and steep. It can be very confusing to know where to go, so we suggest downloading the AllTrails map in advance. You can see our exact route here .
With all that said, for those willing to tackle the challenge, it’s worth it! From the top you can see Cox Bay Beach, the various islands nearby, and tons of mountain peaks. It doesn’t get much better views wise than this! We share a lot more details about this hike on our Tofino guide , so please give it a read to ensure it’s the right fit for you and you’re prepared.
Enjoy lunch at Tacofino ! This is very likely the most popular spot to eat in Tofino, as evidenced by the very long line and wait times (even at around 2:30 PM we waited an hour), so we’d suggest getting there right before they open if you can. Waiting in line for food is never fun, but if you go there with the expectation of waiting and embracing it then you’ll be just fine! Trust us, it’s worth it! We ordered the Krispy Chicken Burrito, which had fried chicken karaage, guacamole, black chili mayo, cabbage, and pickled red onion and was loaded with different textures and flavors. We also got some Gringa tacos, which are basically a taco/quesadilla hybrid full of melty, cheesy goodness and it was top notch!
Spend the rest of the morning and early afternoon either surfing or have a beach day and check out the different beaches in the area. If you’d like to surf, some of the best beaches to do so are Long Beach , Wickaninnish Beach , Chesterman Beach , and Cox Bay Beach . If you don’t have a surfboard, there are tons of places to rent boards and wetsuits in town. Adam rented his from Pacific Surf Co , which is a cool little shop and the staff were super friendly and helpful. It was $50 CAD for a surfboard and wetsuit for 24 hours, which isn’t too bad! As for beaches to hang out at, Mackenzie Beach (calm waters that are great for kids and stand up paddle boarding), Long Beach , Cox Bay Beach , and Wickaninnish Beach are great! All of these do require some sort of fee to park, which can be paid with a credit card.
If you have time, we suggest going on a sunset hike on the Wild Pacific Trail Lighthouse Loop (2.9 km | 1.8 miles), which is located south of Tofino in Ucluelet and takes you to various coastal viewpoints, plus to the Amphitrite Lighthouse. This lighthouse was originally built in 1906 after a shipwreck of the Pass of Melfort, but was replaced in 1915 to better withstand hurricane force storms. It’s so adorable and unique! Have dinner at Wolf in the Fog or one of the spots we listed under day 5!
For day 6, we suggest staying in Tofino at one of the lodging options we listed above!
Optional Add On: Go on an excursion in Tofino! If you have additional time in Tofino, or just want more ideas of things to do, we highly suggest going on a wildlife tour or visiting Hot Springs Cove , which is a hot springs area that requires a boat and/or plane ride to get to!
Day 7: Drive to Campbell River
It’s time to head to your final destination on Vancouver Island, Campbell River! It’s a bit of a drive to get there, but similar to the drive to Tofino, there are things to do along the way.
Travel Time: 3.5 hours
Grab a quick breakfast in Tofino ( Tofitian Cafe is a good option!) and then hit the road! On the way to Campbell River you’ll pass many of the stops we recommended under day 4, so if you didn’t have enough time for some of them before, we suggest stopping at them during this drive. Once you get to Campbell River, grab a bite to eat at Beach Fire Brewing Company and then rest up for the last part of your Vancouver Island adventure!
For your final few nights, you’ll want to stay in Campbell River. Below are some options! Campgrounds: Quinsam Campground , Loveland Bay Provincial Park (where we stayed!) , Miller Creek Recreation Site , Burnt Beach Recreation Site (FREE), Dogwood Bay Recreation Site (FREE) Hotels: Brown’s Bay Resort , Dolphins Resort , Chateau Riverside Boutique Hotel , Comfort Inn & Suites Campbell River Vacation Rentals: Luxury Villa with hot tub and private beach access , Oceanside Cottage , Bright 3 Bedroom Home
Day 8: Campbell River
Campbell River is the third largest city on Vancouver Island and is located on the eastern side of the island along the Strait of Georgia, which is an inland waterway that separates mainland British Columbia from Vancouver Island. While you may not find epic waves here, like on the west coast of Vancouver Island, Campbell River is still a gorgeous waterfront city that is a major outdoor paradise, both on and off the water! Campbell River, plus the surrounding area, is home to 5 Provincial Parks, marine parks, hiking and biking trails, snow sports, wildlife viewing, fishing, paddling, and so much more. It is also referred to as the “Salmon Capital of the World” because the waters are home to all 5 species of salmon!
Watch us explore Campbell River , including seeing waterfalls, eating local food, and more! And to learn even more about the area, check out our guide with the best things to do in Campbell River !
Travel Time: < 30 minutes
The only driving you’ll be doing today is around town!
Start the morning at Elk Falls Provincial Park , which is home to a 25 meter (82 feet) tall roaring waterfall, suspension bridge, canyon, a large network of trails, and excellent year round salmon fishing. And what makes it even better is that it is a FREE park to visit! We suggest hiking this trail (1.8 km | 1.1 miles), which will take you down a bunch of steps to the main viewing platform, which directly overlooks the falls!
This will also take you to the Elk Falls Suspension Bridge! This bridge is 60m (197 ft) long and is one of the highest pedestrian bridges in all of Canada, stretching 60m above the canyon floor and river below it! After viewing the falls from here, we highly suggest heading back towards the direction you came and then going right at the first junction, for one final view of the falls, this time from the left side of them.
Grab brunch at The Crooked Spoon Cafe or Ideal Cafe in Campbell River. Head onto the Rotary Seawalk, which is a 6 km (3.4 miles) trail that traces the shore of Discovery Passage and runs parallel to Highway 19A. It’s a great path to walk or ride a bike and provides amazing views of the water, ships passing by, and wildlife. You can hop onto this pathway at Rotary Beach Park , as well as Frank James Park . While on the Seawalk, walk to FoggDukkers Coffee to get some coffee and admire the gorgeous view! Continue on the Rotary Seawalk afterwards for even more views.
For the rest of the day you have a lot of options in and around town!
- We suggest going to Discovery Fishing Pier , which is 600 feet long and is Canada’s first saltwater fishing pier. It provides spectacular views of the water, mountains, and town, plus was built for fishing! The pier has rod holders, bait stands, cleaning tables, and covered areas with picnic tables and benches. If you do not have fishing gear, you can rent it from a stand on the pier from May to October.
- You can also check out the Museum at Campbell River ($8/adult), Discovery Passage Aquarium ($8/adult), Quinsam River Salmon Hatchery (FREE), and Maritime Heritage Centre ($8).
- As you explore town, look for the Driftwood Creations , which are driftwood sculptures created by local artist Alex Witcombe. You can find a map here . Happy hunting!
- For the hikers, go for a hike on the Ripple Rock Trail (9.8 km | 6.1 miles), which is a bit north of town and has some amazing water views!
- You can also hop on the quick 10 minute ferry ride to Quadra Island and check out the Cape Mudge lighthouse , Rebecca Spit Provincial Park , hike to the top of Chinese Mountain (4.2 km | 2.6 miles), and learn about the Kwa’kwa’ka’wa’kw people’s culture and history at the Nuyumbalees Cultural Centre .
Have dinner at Dockside Fish & Chips (they close by 7 PM, so go early)! We loved their two piece combo with salmon (of course, since it’s the salmon capital afterall!) and red snapper with garlic parmesan fries. End the day with a sunset stroll at Dick Murphy Park !
For day 8, we suggest staying in Campbell River at one of the lodging options we listed above!
Day 9: Campbell River
Travel Time: 3 hours
For day 9, you will be driving a bit to explore more of the area around Campbell River.
Grab a coffee and a quick bite to eat at The Island Grind Coffee & Teahouse and head to Strathcona Provincial Park , which is the oldest provincial park in Canada (established in 1911!) and a massive one, with 250,000 hectares of wilderness. The park is dominated by mountain peaks, many of which are snow capped year round, as well as lakes, waterfalls, and so much more!
For your first stop in the park, head to Lower Myra Falls (1.6 km | 1 miles), a stunning waterfall with multiple tiers as it flows from different pools down the mountainside. While you can enjoy the view of the falls just from the end of the trail, if the conditions are safe, we’d suggest walking down some of the rocks to view more levels of the falls.
Kayak on the 23 km long Buttle Lake! We launched our kayak from the Karst Creek Boat Ramp (there are no kayak rentals). You can also enjoy a nice picnic near the water.
Continue chasing waterfalls with a stop at Lupin Falls (0.8 km | 0.5 miles) and Lady Falls (1 km | 0.6 miles). Head back to Campbell River and enjoy dinner at Session Taproom + Kitchen ! We tried the creatively named Tropic Like It’s Hot pizza, which is a jerk chicken pizza with a marinara base, pineapple and all kinds of other goodies on top. It was quite a unique and tasty flavor combo! They also have tons of other unique pizza flavors, salads, and other options, as well as rotating beers and ciders, cocktails, wine, or any other beverage you might fancy.
End the day with a beach campfire! Many of Campbell River’s beaches, including Ken Forde Park and Rotary Beach Park , allow campfires on the beach, but be sure to check local fire bans or restrictions beforehand, avoid private property, and always have your fire below the high tide line.
For day 9, we suggest staying in Campbell River at one of the lodging options we listed above!
Optional Add On: Go on a wildlife watching excursion in Campbell River OR go backpacking in Strathcona Provincial Park! If you have additional time in Campbell River or just want some other ideas, you can also go on a wildlife tour to see whales, sea lions, dolphins, bears, elk, eagles, and so much more! There are many tour companies in town that can take you out for whale watching and bear watching. Grizzly bear watching is best from mid August- mid October. You can also spend a night in the backcountry in Strathcona Provincial Park, which is the #1 thing we want to do on our next visit! We’d love to backpack to Landslide Lake (25 km | 15.6 miles, gains 1,129 m | 3,707 feet). It was too snowy in May, so make sure you plan for later in the summer.
Day 10: Head back to Vancouver
This includes a 1.5 hour drive from Campbell River to Nanaimo, plus under a 2 hour ferry ride to Horseshoe Bay, just north of Vancouver.
Depending on your ferry time, head out early to hit the road to Nanaimo! Make sure you get to Nanaimo a little early so you can try the city’s namesake dessert, a Nanaimo bar! This is an iconic Canadian treat that became popular after WWII and in 2006, it was declared Canada’s favorite confection. It has 3 layers and does not require baking. The bottom layer is a mix of wafer, nut, and shredded coconut, the middle is custard icing, and the top is chocolate ganache. We got ours from Bocca Café ! Head to the ferry terminal and enjoy the scenic ride back to Vancouver. We hope you enjoyed Vancouver Island!
Have less than 10 days on Vancouver Island?
If you don’t have 10 full days to spend on Vancouver Island, don’t fret! You can still experience a lot of what the island has to offer in less days, but you will not be able to visit all of the spots listed on this guide. Here are a few ways to shorten this itinerary, catered specifically to those who want to see as much as they can in a short period of time!
- Day 1: Arrive in Victoria and explore the city!
- Day 2: Take a day trip to Jordan River/Port Renfrew and then head back to Victoria.
- Day 3: Explore more of the Victoria area and catch the ferry back to Vancouver.
- Day 2: Explore Jordan River/Port Renfrew and stay the night.
- Day 3: Drive to Tofino or Campbell River.
- Day 4: Spend the day in Tofino or Campbell River.
- Day 5: Drive to Nanaimo to catch the ferry back to Vancouver.
- Day 2: Spend the first half of the day in Victoria and then head to Jordan River/Port Renfrew and stay the night.
- Day 3: Continue exploring Jordan River and Port Renfrew!
- Day 4: Drive to Tofino or Campbell River.
- Days 5-6: Explore Tofino or Campbell River.
- Day 7: Drive to Nanaimo to catch the ferry back to Vancouver.
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5 thoughts on “ how to have an epic 10 day vancouver island road trip ”.
Hi, Adam and Kathryn! Love your videos and this guide is incredible! I’ll be relying on it heavily for a trip we’re planning to Vancouver Island in September. One question I’m not sure you’ll know the answer to but just in case- the Nexus website is saying that it’ll take 12-14 months to process an application. In your experience, was that accurate or is there a chance it could be processed sooner? Our trip is in September so I’m trying to figure out if it’s worth trying (and paying). Again- totally understand if you don’t know the answer to this question, just thought I’d see what your experience was like. Thanks so much for the incredible content!
Hi Krista, thank you for watching! Wow, I had no idea they give that large of a timeframe. I want to say we got ours within weeks maximum, but that was also in 2018 and I believe (don’t quote me on this), that they shut down the program during COVID, so maybe they have huge backlogs now? But I know for sure it was not 12-14 months!
Got it- thanks for your response 🙂
Hi Adam and Kathryn,
We really enjoy all your videos, they are upbeat, fun and outdoorsy. I can only imagine all the time it takes to research, make and edit your videos, you guys are amazing! And we appreciate it! We are planning on going to Vancouver Island the end of August – Sept of this year. This is a last minute decision and I feel overwhelmed planning this trip. I will be heavily relying on your thorough information to guide me through. Can you recommend a good map of the Island? The campgrounds seem so expensive, do you know of any boon docking sites? Thank you!
Hi! Thank you for the kind words! For a map, do you mean to navigate? We use Google Maps and download for offline use and it works well! As for boon docking, we didn’t really boondock at all, as we couldn’t find many spots. The only spot we kind of boondocked at was in Jordan River, but it did have a fee. It was bare bones though.
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Best 2 Days in Vancouver: Perfect Weekend Itinerary
Spending 2 days in Vancouver is a great way to get your hand on the pulse of our city without going overboard.
With this Vancouver weekend itinerary you can take in the main attractions, have some great local food, and even slot in some epic outdoor escapes that make Vancouver famous.
Let’s draw up a 2 days in Vancouver itinerary like a local would!
2 Days in Vancouver Itinerary: Day One
Bill Reid Gallery
Any good two day Vancouver itinerary will start in downtown Vancouver .
Many of the best things to do in Vancouver are found on this dense peninsula – but if you’ve only got two days in Vancouver I’m suggesting starting with this epic Northwest Coast Art Museum .
The Bill Reid Gallery is a stunning intro to the history of indigenous cultures who called this land home long before contact – through the lens of one of the most brilliant artists these lands has ever produced.
ℹ️ Ready to book your two day Vancouver holiday? Check out the best hotels in Vancouver .
Robson Square & The Vancouver Art Gallery
Just a short walk from the gallery you’ll find this 1,300,000 sq foot square – it’s surrounded by some of the best shopping in Vancouver and it’s a great place to people watch.
At one end you’ll find the Vancouver Art Gallery : a repository for Vancouver’s best artists as well as one of the best exhibition galleries in Canada.
Soak in the city here. Grab a bite at one of the Vancouver food trucks in front of the art gallery. Get some souvenirs or go clothes shopping on Robson Street.
One of North America’s biggest urban parks, Stanley Park is more of an unspoiled old growth rain forest .
In Vancouver in summer it’s great to walk around the famous Vancouver Seawall to soak it all in:
- Prospect Point
- The Vancouver Aquarium
- Second Beach
- Brockton Point
- Siwash Rock
- Stanley Park Totem Poles
- Vancouver hidden gems like the Girl in a Wetsuit
For this weekend itinerary there’s also a stunning pitch and putt golf course and a seasonal railway ride if you’re visiting Vancouver with kids .
Want to go really deep? Book one of the best Stanley Park tours .
Granville Island is Vancouver’s cultural heart . It’s an old industrial area whose warehouses are now the home of artisans who make top end brooms, silks, hats, and even gin.
They’ve got some of the city’s top souvenir shops (which are actually galleries ) and the food market is home to all of Vancouver’s best local delicacies .
I usually walk out of here with maple candied salmon, maple syrup butter, a Nanaimo bar (a local dessert made with coconut and chocolate ganache), and a bunch of cheeses.
⚠️ Think you need longer already? Check out my Vancouver 7 day itinerary .
Assuming you’ve had an early start, getting here in the early evening leaves you plenty of time to check off the best things to do in Gastown .
This old neighbourhood famous for cobblestone streets and Vancouver’s best bars is the perfect place to explore if you’re looking for Vancouver history.
Grab a happy hour drink here at a place like Clough Club .
Loosened up a bit? The Lost Souls of Gastown tour does a better job than anybody else of teaching the history – via some tragic tales of murder, deception, and gold rush fever.
Finish it off at one of the best restaurants in Gastown – this area has some of the most cutting edge restaurants in town.
Related : Best Walking Tours in Vancouver
What to Do in 2 Days in Vancouver: Day Two
Capilano Suspension Bridge
On day two we’re switching gears from the culture of downtown to the nature of North Vancouver .
At Capilano Suspension Bridge you’ll find a majestic, 460 foot long swing bridge dangling 230 feet above the raging Capilano River.
The area is also home to the world’s largest private collection of totem poles .
They’ve also recently added the Cliff Walk (20 inch platforms jutting out of granite cliffs) and Treetops Adventure (a series of bridges allowing you to walk above the forest floor).
For the visit and trip expect around two hours in total.
Still in North Vancouver, it’s here that you can visit Vancouver’s outdoor playground .
Grouse Mountain , reached by a spectacular gondola ride offering views of the city and sea, offers a variety of epic outdoor activities:
- Grouse Mountain skiing in Vancouver in winter
- The Peak Chalet: restaurants, a patio bar, and gift shop
- Theatre in the Sky: theatre offering educational wildlife videos
- Wildlife Refuge: birds of prey, grizzly bears, and more
- Ziplining, hiking, mountain ropes adventure, lumberjack shows
- Snowshoeing, sliding, and Santa’s North Pole (during Vancouver Christmas )
You’ll spend 3-4 hours here to soak it all in.
Don’t feel like going up the mountain? I’ll suggest taking one of Vancouver’s best whale watching tours instead.
? Don’t have a car? You can get a combined Capilano Suspension Bridge + Grouse Mountain tour where you don’t have to lift a finger.
Dinner in Yaletown
When speaking of tourism in Vancouver, Yaletown is decidedly short on hotels but heavy on, well, everything hip.
This old warehouse district is now home to the best restaurants in Vancouver.
There are some amazing happy hours here to get you started. I recommend Hapa Izakaya or Tasty Indian Bistro .
From there you can slot in a great restaurant like Cioppino’s or Robba da Matti . For the full Vancouver experience though I suggest the epic Pacific seafood joint Blue Water Cafe .
A Night on the Town
OK, so there’s no need to go nuts on a Vancouver two day itinerary but a little fun never hurt did it?
I’m gonna suggest a few ideas to spend your last night in Vancouver:
- Going to one of Vancouver’s best casinos (I recommend Parq)
- Heading over to Commercial Drive for some craft beer or Italian amari
- Checking out Chinatown and grabbing drinks at Keefer Bar
Of course, there’s no shame wrapping up your Vancouver weekend itinerary early.
You could just head back to your hotel and call it a night – I won’t judge!
? Wanna explore Vancouver beer? Check out the best brewery tours in Vancouver .
2 Days in Vancouver Tips
If you’re spending two days in Vancouver it doesn’t have to be complicated.
That said, to make things operate a bit more smoothly, and learn/experience the city at a higher level I’m going to suggest:
- Finding the best area to stay in Vancouver (try and avoid any hotels along East Hastings Street)
- Timing your visit with Vancouver’s best festivals (most are spring/summer)
- Booking all your Vancouver attraction tickets in advance to avoid lines/sell outs
- Mixing in some top monthly events: June , July , August , September , October
- Booking one of the top Vancouver sightseeing tours
- Considering Vancouver’s best food tours
What to Do in Two Days in Vancouver FAQ
What to see in vancouver in two days.
You should pencil in some of the city’s major attractions: Grouse Mountain, Granville Island, the Capilano Suspension Bridge, Stanley Park, and Gastown. You may also want to blend in some museums like the Bill Reid Gallery and the Museum of Anthropology .
How to spend two days in Vancouver?
One day in Vancouver should be spent exploring the neighbourhoods of downtown. Gastown, Chinatown, and Yaletown are the best places to start. The second day should be dedicated to exploring more outside the city, with Capilano Suspension Bridge and Grouse Mountain being the best examples.
Is two days enough in Vancouver?
It should be enough to see the city’s top attractions, try some local food, and experience some of the great British Columbia outdoors. That said, it isn’t enough to get a true feel for the city and its many diverse neighbhourhoods.
Related : How Many Days in Vancouver?
Where to stay for a two day trip to Vancouver?
With limited time you should ensure you find a place to stay in the downtown core. This will allow you to explore some of the city’s top sights on foot if needed, and put you near the best bars and restaurants. Suggested areas include the Stadium District, Yaletown, and Gastown.
Related : Best Luxury Hotels in Vancouver
Related : Best Hotels Near Rogers Arena
Related : Best Hotels in Yaletown
Related : Best Hotels in Gastown
Still Wondering What to See in Vancouver in Two Days?
I can only show you how to visit Vancouver in two days using my own personal experience.
That said, if you have something different in mind just write me in the comments below! Whether it’s planning two days in Vancouver or anything else I’m here to help.
Enjoy your weekend in Vancouver itinerary?
I've lived in 5 countries and created content for travel websites like eDreams and Amex Essentials, but here I finally get to work my passion project - my hometown, Vancouver!
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- British Columbia
- Stories & Inspirations
The Most Epic Vancouver Island Road Trip Itinerary – Best Stops to Visit!
- December 5, 2021 December 30, 2022
Vancouver Island is a magical place located just off the coast of British Columbia. You can easily spend weeks here hiking through the rainforest, kayaking on the ocean, watching the sunset, or devouring all the delicious food that you’ll come across. In this post, I have put together an epic 8 day Vancouver Island road trip itinerary to inspire you.
Although one week is certainly not enough time to fully experience this magical island, it should be plenty of time to hit all the highlights. From charming towns to beautiful beaches and ocean views, there are seemingly endless places to explore.
This Vancouver Island road trip will leave a lasting impression and you will want to come back for more. Let’s dive right in!
What you need to know about Vancouver Island road trip
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- ✈️ Find the cheapest flights to Vancouver Island using Kiwi , Expedia , or Skyscanner
- 🏠 Use Booking.com or Expedia to find the best accommodations
- 🚍 Check out this 3-hour Whale Watching Tour (this one too) or this amazing 6-hour Whale Watching Boat Ride
- 🚗 Use RentalCars to find the best car deals and reserve your vehicle in advance
- 📄 Travel insurance will cover for your unexpected expenses. I never travel without World Nomads Travel Insurance
- 🧳 Wondering what to pack for Canada? Check out my 4-season packing list here
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Where is Vancouver Island?
Vancouver Island is situated off the west coast of British Columbia, Canada. With an area of 31,300 square kilometers (12,000 square miles), it is the largest island in the province. It would take you over 7 hours to drive from tip to toe so there is plenty to explore.
Since the island is so vast and diverse, a road trip is the best way to see all its highlights. You just can’t explore the entire thing in a one-week trip but hey, you can always come back for more!
Best time to visit Vancouver Island
Vancouver Island has one of the warmest climates in Canada. You should definitely visit in the summer to enjoy long sunny days and warm weather. This is ideal for those who are looking to do lots of hiking, camping, canoeing, or spending lots of time outdoors in general.
If you’re looking for a different experience, check out Vancouver Island in the off-season from October to May. You will get skip the crowds, enjoy the solitude surrounding, watch the most powerful storm raging across the Pacific Ocean, and have the chance to spot marine species migrating. Additionally, the temperature rarely drops below the freezing point here, even in January.
While I think the other seasons here have their own beauty and charm, I would recommend visiting the island in the summer if this is your first time here.
How many days do you need on Vancouver Island?
Most visitors spend anywhere from 3 to 7 days exploring the island. If you want to experience all of it, you will need a month if not more. Since most people do not normally get that much time off from work or school, I feel like this 8 day itinerary is perfect! You can always come back to check out a different part of the island or enjoy a different season.
Vancouver Island is not connected to the mainland by any bridges, so you can either take the seaplane or the ferry . Since you’ll be road tripping, taking the ferry allows you to bring your own car along. The other option is to rent a car from one of the cities on the island.
There are several ferry options to choose from. Depending on the route you pick, you will pass by the Salish Sea, the Howe Sound, or the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
- Port Angeles (Washington) to Victoria (British Columbia ) – If you coming from the US, then this is the most convenient route. The ride is only 90 minutes long and it drops you right in Victoria.
- Horseshoe Bay (Vancouver) to Nanaimo – Nanaimo is a great starting spot for your Vancouver Island road trip so this 2 hour ferry ride is a pretty nice option if you are planning to visit Campbell River or Tofino .
- Tsawwassen (mainland Canada) to Duke Point (near Nanaimo ) – This one also drops you off at Nanaimo, and Tsawwassen is just over the US-Canada border. The ride is 2 hours long.
- Anacortes (Washington) to Sidney (southeast Vancouver Island) – If you live in the Anacortes area of Washington then this route is for you. It is the longest ride with a 3 hour crossing time.
- Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay – this ferry takes you directly from Vancouver to the city of Victoria.
If you are traveling during the peak season from June to September, I highly recommend reserving your ferry spots in advance at BCFerries.com . There is nothing more disappointing than arriving at the ferry terminal and not being able to find a spot (speaking from experience here).
Generally, you need to pay around $50 for a regular-sized car . Prices are slightly higher for RVs and larger vehicles that are over 20 ft in length and 7 ft high. A ticket for each person is anywhere from $15 to $25, depending on which route you take.
The best way to get around Vancouver Island is definitely by car as public transportation around here is very limited. You can either bring your own car (and take the ferry), or rent one on the island.
There are lots of cars renting agencies in Victoria, as well as Nanaimo. You can reserve your vehicle in advance through either Expedia or RentalCars to save yourself some hassles.
Having said that, I think the best way to get around Vancouver Island is by renting a camper van. Why would you want to stay in an expensive hotel when you can spend time outdoor gazing at the night sky? A camper van is large enough to carry several people and all the necessary gear, but still compact enough to park in most parking spots.
With so many scenic campsites to choose from, you can’t really go wrong when it comes to camping. Outdoorsy is a great website to rent either an RV or a camper van.
So if you only have a week on this beautiful island, where should you go and what should you do? Below is a sample Vancouver Island road trip itinerary that I highly recommend. It covers all the highlights of the island, but it’s also really easy to personalize as you see fit. So let’s dive right in!
Victoria is the largest city on the island , and it is the perfect place to kick-start your road trip. Located right on the shore of the Pacific Ocean at the southern tip of the island, this picturesque city is a popular travel destination for both Canadians and international tourists.
I took the ferry from Tsawwassen (near Vancouver) to Swartz Bay , but there are other ferry options as mentioned above. I decided to begin my road trip in Victoria just because it is the capital of the province. I had to check it out.
Explore the Inner Habour
For your first stop, head right to the pretty downtown area of Victoria and visit the Inner Habour . Despite being a fairly small city, Victoria’s harbor is always busy and bustling. There are lots of benches so be sure to spend some time here taking in the fresh ocean breezes and watching seaplanes taking off every few minutes.
One of the places you have to see in the area is the beautiful Fairmont Empress , one of the oldest hotels in Canada. Even if you do not plan to spend a night, I would still recommend coming inside for a peek, or even making a reservation for its tea time. If the tea here is too pricey for you, then head to Venus Sophia Tea Room . It is a cheaper alternative with a very cute interior and an impressive tea selection.
Next, be sure to check out the British of Columbia Legislature building . Its architectural design is nothing short of spectacular. I also love all the beautiful gardens here as they are dotted with water fountains, statues, and totem poles (there’s a statue of Queen Victoria, for whom the city was named after).
Royal British of Columbia Museum
If you love museums, then you don’t want to miss this one. The Royal British of Columbia Museum is home to a vast collection of over 7 million artifacts . They range from natural specimens to historical archives, and everything in between.
This is a great place to learn all about the province’s natural and human history. Learn about the prehistoric animals that once called this place home, learn about the beautiful rainforests that cover much of the island, and learn about the Aboriginal people of British Columbia. I found everything here so fascinating; definitely a bucket list worthy attraction!
The floating community at Fisherman’s Whaft is only a 5-minute walk from the Inner Habour, and it’s pretty unique. This charming cluster of floating houses is a must-visit for anyone looking to fully experience Victoria. Here, you can find lots of gift shops, patio restaurants, and other attractions all connected by floating wooden boardwalks.
I recommend spending an hour or so wandering around, getting a taste of the freshest seafood, grabbing an ice cream cone , and if you’re lucky, you might be able to spot some otters or seals swimming in the water.
This neighborhood is known for its unique architecture and abundance of restaurants. Its highlights include the Gate of Harmonious Interest , the Fan Tan Alley , and the less popular but equally charming Dragon Alley .
Where to stay in Victoria
🏠 Fairmont Empress Hotel – this historic hotel overlooks Victoria’s beautiful Inner Harbour; it features extensive spa treatments, on-site restaurants, and elegantly decorated rooms. The Victorian architectural designs are also gorgeous to look at.
🏠 Harbour Breeze – a modern apartment seating area and table on a large balcony; great for couples who are traveling together.
🏠 Lotus Loft – excellent location and beautiful mountain views, what more can you ask for?
🏠 The Embassy Inn – a mid-range hotel that offers all the essential amenities; breakfast is included.
Driving time : 2 hours Distance : 110 km
So on day 2 of your Vancouver Island road trip, let’s hit the road and head over to the west coast of the island. Discover the rugged coastline of the island and all it has to offer, with some epic stops along the way!
Sooke is a little town located 30 minutes west of Victoria. Visitors come here to immerse themselves in the beautiful natural landscapes. If you’re a bird lover, then Whiffin Spit Park is the perfect place for you. It offers an easy hike with stunning views and lots of bird-sighting opportunities.
Next, head to the Sooke Potholes along the Sooke River to cool off in its cold water. These little natural pools are ideal for a quick dip on hot summer days. You can even try cliff jumping if you’re feeling more adventurous! These potholes tend to get pretty busy in the peak season so you might have to search around for a bit to find a quiet spot, but keep in mind, they are popular for a reason.
Then, head over to one of my favorite places on Vancouver Island, East Sooke Regional Park . It offers several scenic coastal trails to choose from with the most famous one being the East Sooke Coast Trail .
This one is simply spectacular from the beginning to the end with pounding waves, rugged shorelines, wildflower patches, windswept pines, thick cedar forests, and views of the snow-capped Olympic Mountains. The trail to Creyke Point is also a great option!
Read next : 14 Best Hikes on Vancouver Island for the Bucket List Read next : Vancouver to Banff Road Trip Itinerary – Best Stops to Visit!
From Sooke, drive up Highway 14 for 20 more minutes and you will arrive at the little community of Shirley (and I mean very little). Stop for a quick bite at Shirley Delicious or get some exceptional pizzas at Stoked Wood Fired Pizzeria and Market .
You can take the short trail out to Sheringham Lighthouse (built in 1912) and enjoy the stunning coastal views, or stroll along the pebble-lined French Beach . This is also a great location to catch some waves on a surfboard!
Jordan River – Mystic Beach
Halfway between Sooke and Port Renfrew is the spot where the Jordan River meets the Pacific Ocean . It is known for being an amazing surfing spot.
It’s a 30-minute walk through the old-growth rainforest (and cross a suspension bridge) to reach a short stretch of sand that is Mystic Beach . This is arguably the most beautiful beach in the area, and it’s hidden from most visitors too!
You can totally camp near for the night or just stop for a bit (plan for at least 2 hours). It’s a super scenic location with a waterfall cascading right out of the forest. It’s one of the most beautiful waterfalls on Vancouver Island .
Just nearby, China Beach is the trailhead of the famous Juan de Fuca Trail . It requires multiple days to finish so it’s not a hike for a typical visitor, but it is a Vancouver Island bucket list item for sure.
For even more surfing opportunities, picnic spots, and rainforest trails, consider stopping at Sombrio Beach . It even has a secret waterfall, waiting to be discovered by you!
Explore Port Renfrew
And you have arrived at the end of the road (Highway 14)! The tiny community of Port Renfrew is the farthest west location on the Pacific Marine Circle Route, situated on the south shore of Port San Juan.
It is known for its rugged and wild landscapes, as well as an abundance of scenic hiking trails. This is the perfect base for those who are looking for epic outdoor adventures.
Botanical Beach is definitely one of the places you have to check out. When the tides are low, you can walk between the numerous little tide pools to spot wildlife of all shapes and forms. The pools are so clear and still, you can see right to the bottom. You should step on bare rocks and leave nothing behind. Let’s all do our parts to keep these ecosystems thriving for years to come.
Stop in at The Renfrew Pub to hang out, grab a bite, or chug a beer. They have a patio facing the ocean!
Know before you go : even at low tide, never ever turn your back to the ocean. I have seen people getting swept off their feet and we don’t even want to think about the worst-case scenario.
Where to stay in Port Renfrew
🏠 Fish Tales Cottage – this cottage is the perfect luxurious getaway spot for couples and families; enjoy world-class fishing opportunities, beaches, forest hiking trails, and an abundance of wildlife (it has an outdoor deck facing the ocean!!)
🏠 Trailhead Resort – offers a selection of cozy cabins and suites
Driving time : 2 hours Distance : 140 km
It’s time to say goodbye to the west coast of the island (just for a short bit) and head northeast to the city of Nanaimo . Let’s get on the road, shall we?
Your Vancouver Island road trip is not complete without an excursion into the rainforest. This island is, after all, home to some of the oldest and tallest trees in the country ! Your first stop of the day is Avatar Grove , located just 20 minutes north of Port Renfrew.
The grove is divided into two sections – the Upper Grove and the Lower Grove . Both of them feature a series of easy trails/ boardwalks that take you through the old-growth temperate forest. The highlight of the grove was getting to see Canada’s Gnarliest Tree, located at the end of the Upper Grove. It is a massive cedar tree with a giant, odd-looking burl growing right out of its trunk.
Big Lonely Doug
Big Lonely Doug, as its name suggests, is a large Douglas fir tree standing by itself in the middle of a clear-cut forest. It is in fact, the second-largest Douglas fir in Canada at over 70 m high!
Although no one knows why this one was spared by the lumberjacks in the first place, Big Lonely Doug has since become a symbol of nature conservation in Canada. It is truly a sight to behold. I felt so tiny and humbled standing at its base, gazing up.
I highly recommend continuing on past Big Lonely Doug until you cross a small bridge. There’s a small path on the left that leads to Eden Grove Falls , which also features a very pretty and secluded swimming hole.
Know before you go : to reach Big Lonely Doug, you need to drive up a dirt logging road for half an hour. It is definitely recommended that you have a 4 wheel drive vehicle because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Fairy Lake Bonsai Tree
Now that you have seen some of the giants on the island, it’s time to scale things down a bit. The Fairy Lake Bonsai Tree is a tiny Douglas fir that grows on top of a much large, but submerged, Douglas fir stump. And the best part is, Fairy Lake is just off of the highway. You will literally need 10 minutes to check out this unique feat of nature.
Cowichan Valley is the renowned wine region of Vancouver Island, home to 14 different wineries. Due to its mild climate and fertile soil, this region is perfect for growing grapes unlike the rest of Canada. As you drive past Cowichan Valley, be sure to sample some locally made wines and grab food at one of the winery restaurants.
Driving time : 3 hours Distance : 210 km
The 3-hour drive from Nanaimo to Tofino along Highway 4 is one of the best and most scenic road trips on Vancouver Island. This stretch of highway has lots of nature walks and hiking trails, so lace up your boots and let’s hit the road!
Coombs Old Country Market – Goats on the Roof
Coombs Old Country Market is definitely not your typical farmer’s market. Sure, it does feature everything from artisan food items like donuts and ice creams to international restaurants, home products, and artworks. But the highlight has to be the goats wandering around on the market’s grassy rooftop.
This market is just a short drive from Nanaimo so it is the perfect spot to grab a delicious breakfast. You can easily spend several hours here checking out all that it has to offer.
Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park
Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park is conveniently located next to the highway, so there’s no reason not to stop by this beautiful oasis.
There is no shortage of beautiful waterfalls on Vancouver Island but Little Qualicum Falls has to be among the best. I highly recommend doing the 2 km main loop if it is your first time here. This trail takes you past the Upper Falls , Lower Falls , as well as several smaller cascades along the Little Qualicum River .
The trail is quite easy and should only take you an hour or so. Consider stopping by Cameron Lake nearby to explore its picnic area and beach. If you are feeling a bit more adventurous, you can try tackling Wesley Ridge to get aerial views of the entire valley.
The ancient Cathedral Grove is a must-stop roadside attraction. Similar to Avatar Grove, the Cathedral Grove is home to some of the biggest and oldest trees in Canada. You can find Douglas firs, Western Hemlocks, Bigleaf Maples, and Western Red Cedars amongst others.
You can hike the easy loops that meander through the old-growth temperate forest, very iconic to Vancouver Island. Walking through Cathedral Grove will make you feel like you’re in the land of giants. At least for me, it was surreal and beautiful.
The highlight of Cathedral Grove has to be The Big Tree . It is 80 m high, 9 m in circumference, and is estimated to be over 800 years old!!
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Check out my detailed guide on what to pack for a day hike here.
Hole In The Wall
Just as its name suggests, Hole in The Wall is basically a rock wall with a hole in it. It is located near Port Alberni and can be accessed via an old gravel road.
Although it is human-made (from an old pipeline), its beauty is captivating and its uniqueness is unmatched. If you don’t mind the cold, but crystal clear water, then go in for a quick dip in the swimming hole.
I know I have mentioned “going for a dip” several times in this article, but Sproat Lake is the ultimate swimming spot on Vancouver Island because it is often a few degrees warmer than the surrounding bodies of water.
Sproat Lake Provincial Campsite or Taylor Arms Provincial Park are the easiest spots to make a quick stop. If you have more time to spare, you can even camp, canoe, or go paddleboarding. This is a paradise for water sport lovers.
WestCoast WILD zip line
Are you looking to get your heart pumping? If so, then the WestCoast WILD Zipline might be perfect for you! Here, they offer six different thrilling zip lines that run across the steep canyon of the Winchee River . It’s a pretty cool experience that will leave an impression.
Taylor River Rest Area
Taylor River Rest Area is one of the island’s best-kept secrets. Although it is just off of Highway 4, it’s very easy to miss so you really have to look for it. The water of the Taylor River here is stunning! It has a green color that is so deep and vibrant it’s hard to believe that you’re not standing on a tropical island.
The rest area is equipped with a bathroom and some picnic benches so this is the perfect place to take a lunch break.
Ucluelet is around 40 km away from Tofino, located on the opposite end of the peninsula. It is just as cute and picturesque, but it is not as well known. You will get the same chill vibes and beautiful ocean views, but at a much lower price.
One of the best things to do in Ucluelet is hiking the Wild Pacific Trail , which winds along the rugged coastline across some stunning sceneries. If you don’t want to hike the entire trail, just do the 2.6 km long Lighthouse Loop , which is the most well-known section.
If you are in town during the salmon spawning season from mid-September to mid-October, definitely check out Thorton Creek Fish Hatchery . You can spot wild black bears feeding on the salmon safely from a viewing platform.
Tofino is a small oceanside town on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It is home to stretches of rocky shorelines, dramatic cliffs, lush rainforests, tons of marine life, and thriving surf culture. You can find lots of cute resorts and cabins dotting the shore, although they are usually on the more expensive side.
There are tons of amazing things to do in Tofino but let’s go through some of its highlights for a 2-day itinerary. Of all the places to visit on Vancouver Island, Tofino is hands down the best.
Some of my favorite moments in Tofino took place on the shores of Tofino’s beaches, whether it was to surf, play beach volleyball, have a picnic, or watch the stunning sunset. Keep in mind that the beaches will look very different between seasons, but each has its own unique charm.
Chesterman Beach is the local’s favorite. It is widely considered to be the best beach not only in Tofino but on all of Vancouver Island. If you are looking to get an introduction to surfing, then this is the place to be ( Mackenzie Beach nearby is also very pretty).
Cox Bays , on the contrary, is known for its rough waves and surf breaks, perfect for experienced surfers. Long Beach is the largest of them all and it is incredibly wide when the tide is low. It is home to long stretches of stunning landscapes so it’s best for those who are looking to spend time in nature.
Finally, Tonquin Beach is more hidden so it is often less busy. Come here to check out some beautiful hiking trails through the rainforests.
Know before you go : the water in the Pacific North West will never be as warm as a tropical beach, but swimming is still enjoyable on a hot summer day.
Hot Spring Cove
If you are looking for a once in a lifetime experience, venture out to Hot Spring Cove . Tucked in the rocky shores of Vancouver Island, these seven natural pools of geothermal water are sure to take your breath away!
This is a full-day excursion as you will have to take a boat tour (2 hr each way) or a plane ride (20 min each way) to get here. After arriving, you still have to hike for 30 minutes through the forest but it is so secluded, scenic, and beautiful.
Although this excursion is not easy on your pocket, I think this is the best way to spend your money in Tofino. The boat ride, the hike, and the dip in the magical springs all add up to an unforgettable experience.
Grab a taco at Tacofino
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.
Watch the sunset
Trust me, the sunset in Tofino is so beautiful you have to catch it while you’re there. As the day comes to an end and the sun gradually recedes into the horizon, the entire sky lights up. Streaks of orange, pink, and yellow are reflected in the water as ocean waves periodically crash into the rocky shore.
The best place to watch the sunset in my opinion is from Cox Bay Lookout . It is arguably home to some of the best views in Tofino! This is a short, but steep hike, so be prepared to get your hands dirty. Once at the top, enjoy the fresh ocean breezes as well as the panoramic views of the coast.
Alternatively, you can also head to Tonquin Beach or Long Beach . The sunset is very pretty from either one since they’re both on the west coast.
Read next : 19+ Best Things to do in Tofino – the Ultimate Visitor’s Guide
Where to stay in Tofino/ Ucluelet
🏠 Long Beach Lodge (Cox Bay) – This lovely resort is no doubt on the pricier side, but it does have all the luxury amenities. They offer a combination of lodges and cottages, making them suitable for all types of travelers.
🏠 Ocean Village Resort (Mackenzie Beach) – This waterfront resort is just a short walk away from the beach. Every room is fully equipped with a kitchen, making it convenient for travelers who want to prepare their own meals.
🏠 Shoreline Tofino (Downtown Tofino) – Excellent location, being steps away from downtown, Tonquin Beach, and Clayoquot Sound. Equipped with a sauna, hot tub, and every room has a patio with beautiful ocean views.
Day 2 in Tofino is for surfing, hiking, and sunset watching. And we’ll finish our stay here with a nice dinner at one of their many amazing restaurants too!
Tofino, the surf capital of Canada, is known for its cold water, rough waves, and stormy weather. No wonder why surfers around the world flock here each year to experience the world-class waves and vibrant surf culture.
Even if you’re a beginner, you will still enjoy taking lessons and catching waves on Tofino’s pretty beaches. I certainly did! Surfing is one of the best ways to connect with the locals here because people here seem to bond instantly over their love for surfing.
You can rent gear from any of the local surf shops in town and on the beaches. Cox Bay Beach , Chesterman Beach, and Long Beach are the most popular places to surf here. If you have never tried surfing before, do not worry. I was a bit intimidated at first too but there are plenty of shops that offer lessons and Canadians are some of the friendliest people around.
Go for a walk along the forest boardwalks
There are some really cool boardwalks in the area that you have to explore for yourself. They take you deep into the ancient forest of Vancouver Island, home to some pretty damn tall trees.
The Rainforest Trail is a great one to try as it is very accessible. It offers two separate loops, one on each side of the highway. The Schooner Cove boardwalk is another scenic one as it takes you right to a secret beach!
Hiking trails in this area tend to be on the shorter side, with the shorelines and rainforests being the dominant landscapes. Check out some other amazing trails on Vancouver Island here .
Have a nice dinner
Tofino’s landscapes sure are pretty, but its culinary scene will also blow you out of the water. You must try the incredible seafood they have here: prawns, halibuts, octopuses, oysters, etc. are all caught fresh from the ocean and reach your dining table within a few hours.
From expensive fine dining restaurants to casual food stands, there are so many places to grab a good bite. Here are some of my favorites…
- Shelter Restaurant – this patio restaurant is one of the oldest in Tofino. They put their own creative spins on fresh local ingredients and turn them into spectacular dishes. Consider trying the Salmon Surf Bowl – chef’s kiss.
- Tofitian – a cute coffeehouse close to the beaches.
- Big Daddy Fish’s Fry – fish and chips lovers, this is the place for you. Think hand-cut potato fries, fresh crispy halibut, cod, salmon, shrimps, scallops, and squids; there are so many options to choose from.
- Sobo Restaurant – this award-winning family restaurant is both rustic and elegant. They have a healthy, but bold, approach to transforming very simple ingredients.
- Kuma – Japanese comfort food? This place does it best.
Driving time : 3.5 hours Distance : 260 km
Campbell River is located on the northeastern coast and is a must-have destination on your Vancouver Island road trip itinerary.
Elk Falls Provincial Park
Elk Falls Provincial Park is one of the best places to visit in the Campbell River region, and rightly so. Being only a quick drive from town (only 15 minutes), this park is very popular with both locals and visitors alike.
Take the 2 km path through a thick forest to get to the wooden viewing platforms, where you can experience epic views of the 25 m Elk Falls . The waterfall is at its peak flow volume in the spring, when the snow is melting.
Then, make your way over to the 60 m long suspension bridge that spans the rocky canyon. If you happen to be visiting from September to November, keep your eyes out for salmons spawning in the river. You can also hike farther down the river to take more photos and get away from the crowds.
Chase waterfalls – Strathcona Provincial Park
Vancouver Island is the land of waterfalls so be sure to check out a few while you are here. And Strathcona Provincial Park is a great place to chase waterfalls because there are so many of them.
- Lupin Falls – is pretty popular as it only requires a 1 km hike to get to.
- Lady Falls – a short old-growth trail leads you to this 30 m high waterfall. It is both spectacular and easy to get to.
- Upper Myra Falls – a stunning 23 m high cascade that is nestled in a narrow gorge. Requires a 3.5 km of hiking (one way) but the views are so worth it.
- Lower Myra Falls – it is arguably even prettier than the upper falls, and the hike there is only 500 m long! There are numerous stacks of basalt and limestone rocks rising above pools of turquoise water nearby – a perfect place for a picnic!
- 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!)
- Della Falls – may not be the most well-known landmark, but at over 440 m high , it is the HIGHEST WATERFALL IN CANADA ! And this one is not for the faint of heart. You need to take water taxi (or paddle a canoe) to the trailhead and then hike fore 15 km from here. But nothing good comes easy right?
The Discovery Passage is home to an abundance of marine life including seals, sea lions, whales, and even dolphins. You can often spot them swimming as you walk or cycle along the passage, but consider taking a boat tour to get a closer look.
Where to stay in Campbell River
🏠 Comfort Inn & Suites – located on the West Coast waterfront, this hotel has everything to ensure a comfortable stay: an indoor pool, a hot tub, a fitness center, and daily hot breakfast. The staff is very friendly too!
It has been a long and eventful week, but your last day on Vancouver Island has arrived. Today, you’ll follow Highway 19 back to Nanaimo and Victoria along the eastern coast of the island. But like always, here are some cool stops you should check out along the way…
The Discovery Pier
Start off your last day on Vancouver Island by catching the sunrise from the Discovery Pier. It extends 40 m out from the shore and is 180 m long, offering unobstructed views of the Discovery Passage and Quadra Island . The sunrise is spectacular on a clear day, but I also like coming here early to have some quiet time and all the space all to myself.
Explore Nanaimo Bar Trail
So you have arrived in Nanaimo once again! This time, you cannot leave without trying their iconic dessert, Nanaimo bar . This coconut crusted, custard filled, and chocolate topped dessert bar is to die for. No one really knows where it originated from but it was mentioned for the first time in the Edith Adam’s Cookbook the 1950s.
To experience the many creative interpretations of this iconic treat, check out the Nanaimo Bar Trail . It is basically a self-guided tour that takes you through 34 Nanaimo bar experiences, from the traditional Nanaimo bar to Nanaimo bar tea latte to Nanaimo bar cinnamon bun and even a Nanaimo bar martini !
Measuring at 44 m high and 187, the Kinsol Trestle is one of the largest wooden railway crossing structures in the entire world. The best part is, you can walk or bike on it. It is totally safe!
The Kinsol Trestle can be easily accessed by taking a short trail from the parking lot. The structure itself is quite impressive, overlooking the Koksilah River and the valley below. I recommend following some of the winding roads to the east of Shawnigan Lake where you will find charming local shops, wineries, and even a distillery!
Your trestle adventure isn’t over yet because there is another impressive one down the road. Located in Goldstream Provincial Park just 30 minutes north of Victoria, the Goldstream Trestle (or Niagara Trestle) is definitely worth a quick stop.
The climb up the trestle is relatively short, but it is super steep. Be ready for a cardio workout and take breaks as necessary 🙂
Having been named as one of the world’s top gardens by National Geographic and CNN, the Butchart Gardens is certainly a bucket list worthy attraction. It was my last stop and it rounded off my Vancouver Island road trip nicely.
These gardens have been attracted visitors from all over the world for over a century. Their incredible diversity and captivating beauty will surprise you, offering a wide range of flowers and plants.
Swart Bay ferry terminal is only a 20-minute drive from the Butchard Gardens. You will arrive back in Canada’s mainland in no time. You can also take the ferry to Port Angeles and Anacortes , as mentioned above, or fly out from Victoria’s airport.
While you have hit many of the island’s highlights, there are so many other amazing places that aren’t on this road trip itinerary. Not ready to leave Vancouver Island? Here are some more suggestions in case you have an extra couple of days 🙂
This small town is located in the northern region of Vancouver Island. With lush rainforests all around and epic mountain ranges in the backdrop, Port Hardy is breathtakingly beautiful .
If you are looking for an adventurous trip, then hop onto a kayak and paddle to God’s Pocket Marine Provincial Park . Another cool place to check out is Cape Scott Provincial Park , which offers excellent camping opportunities.
Ladysmith is a quaint oceanside town with a lively twist, located between Nanaimo and Victoria. I had lots of fun strolling through its bustling main street ( 1st Avenue ), exploring all of its amazing boutique shops and eateries.
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
Pacific Rim National Park is a vast region on the west coast of Vancouver Island, just south of Tofino. This Canadian gem is characterized by rugged coastlines and thick, temperate rainforests. You will feel like you’re at the edge of the world, with nothing but the ocean in front of you.
This stunning park is the perfect place for adventure seekers, with numerous hiking, surfing, and paddling opportunities. It is made up of 3 separate sections:
Long Beach – is the most popular, accessible, and beginner-friendly region out of the 3. Surfing, hiking, storm watching, and wildlife spotting are all popular activities here. There is an abundance of short trails and boardwalks in this region to explore.
The West Coast Trail – this 75 km backpacking trail is one of the most exciting and daunting excursions out there. You have to climb steel ladders, wade through mud, cross raging rivers on hand-carts, and endure the unpredictable west coast weather. Seems pretty fun to me! I will return to complete it one day.
Broken Group Islands – with over 100 little islands dotting the blue water of the Pacific Ocean, this section of the park is a heaven for kayaking enthusiasts. Expect to come across magnificent forests, white sandy beaches, and lots of cool-looking rock formations!
Protection Island is a peaceful island retreat just off of the Nanaimo marina. You can take a very short ferry ride on the cutest boat. It docks right at the Dinghy Dock Pub , the only pub in Canada that’s floating.
In this section, I will share two more sample itineraries to inspire you. We are all busy people and it’s not always easy to take time off from school, work, or other commitments. So keep on reading to find the perfect road trip itinerary for you!
4 day Vancouver Island itinerary (Pacific Marine Circle)
Four days on Vancouver Island is just enough time for you to finish the Pacific Marine Circle loop and see all the highlights of the southern region of the island. You won’t get to explore all the places described above but that is ok, because you will definitely return for more.
I recommend stopping at the more accessible beaches and attractions so that you won’t have to spend lots of time driving.
- Day 1 – Victoria to Port Renfrew
- Day 2 – Port Renfrew to Duncan
- Day 3 – Duncan to Victoria
- Day 4 – Exploring Victoria’s downtown and nearby attractions
14 day Vancouver Island itinerary
I think that 14 days is just enough time to experience the entire island from tip to tip. You will have more time to hike and explore the more remote regions that most tourists never venture out to. Below is my suggested 14 day Vancouver Island road trip itinerary.
- Day 1: Victoria
- Day 2 – Victoria to Port Renfrew
- Day 3 – Explore Port Renfrew (Big Lonely Doug, Avatar Grove, Botanical Beach, etc)
- Day 4 – Port Renfrew to Nanaimo
- Day 5 – Explore Nanaimo
- Day 6 – Nanaimo to Tofino
- Day 7 – Explore Tofino’s beaches and Pacific Rim National Park
- Day 8 – Hot Spring Cove Drive from Tofino to Campbell River
- Day 9 – Explore Ucelet and drive to Campbell River
- Day 10 – Explore Campbell River area (Strathcona Provincial Park)
- Day 11 – Campbell River to Port Hardy
- Day 12 – Port Hardy to Cape Scott Provincial Park and San Josef Day 13 – San Josef to Campbell River (stop at Telegraph Cove)
- Day 14 – Campbell River to Victoria
Vancouver Island is truly a paradise for travelers, with its beautiful landscapes and friendly people. I hope this Vancouver Island road trip itinerary has inspired you to plan a trip here! Feel free to personalize it to your liking. Let me know your favorite stop(s) in the comment below.
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Man found adrift off Vancouver Island had been missing for two weeks
He was one of two men who left Oct. 12 from Grays Harbour in Westport, Washington, on a three-day trip
Author of the article:
A man rescued after being found adrift in a life raft 74 kilometres off the west coast of Vancouver Island had been missing for two weeks, says the U.S. Coast Guard, who called his rescue “nothing short of a miracle.”
He was one of two men who left Oct. 12 from Grays Harbour in Westport, Washington, about halfway down the Washington coast, on a three-day trip.
The two, who were on a 13-metre vessel, were reported missing on Oct. 22, a week after they were expected to return.
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The men were not from Washington, and Steve Strohmaier, a petty officer with the U.S. Coast Guard, speculated the delay in reporting them missing might have been due to the extra time it was expected for them to travel home.
The U.S. Coast Guard launched a search this week, but it was suspended after three days, having covered more than 36,000 square kilometres using helicopters, with infrared cameras, and a larger aircraft that was brought down from Alaska, said Strohmaier.
Just hours later, crew on the fishing vessel Ocean Sunset off the coast of Tofino spotted a life raft. The man on the raft turned out to be one of the two missing men.
“The fact that they were at least close enough in this vast ocean to see a life raft, and/or a flare, whatever it might have been, and then go alongside and find somebody alive in that life raft is just unbelievable,” Strohmaier said.
Strohmaier says when the Ocean Sunset reached the inflatable, covered life-raft, the unnamed man aboard was conscious and was in stable condition as he was picked up and taken to shore by Canadian Coast Guard responders. The man was taken to hospital in Tofino in stable condition, he said.
U.S. Coast Guard officials are hoping to speak with him to determine whether to renew the search for the other man, who remains missing.
With a file from The Canadian Press
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1) In your opinion, what is the most interesting/beautiful place on the Island for one day (except for Victoria) and why?
2) Can we (or should we) take a car on the ferry or is there buses on the island to go from one place to another?
3) Is it realistic to do Victoria and another destination in the same day? Or do we really need two days for that?
4)We're a couple in our early thirties and like easy hiking, biking, nice views, cafés, nice dining and just relax days. We are looking for a special place that would be different from what we've done earlier in the trip.
I had thought about Tofino and the Pacific Rim National Park or the Gulf Island but I may have overlooked some other great places. What's your opinion ? Please keep in my we would only have one or two days for this.
Thanks a lot in adavance for your insight!
1) There are a lot of interesting places on the Island - each with it's own claim to interesting.
3)No. Victoria is good for one day - maybe a drive to Sooke, but more days are needed for venturing further afield.
Tofino is much to far for your time frame. Period.
4) I'd have to think.
If you want to get out of town and see other funky and fabulous communities and if your time is worth anything to you, I would recommend taking your car on the ferry. BC ferries has midweek discount pricing..http://www.bcferries.com/
likely all the bus fare wouldn't be much less than ferry cost, and parking on the mainland side.
There are many great communities and if you have two days..maybe the circle route to Port Renfrew?
Fabulous views, short trails and the wild pacific. No need to drive all the way to tofino.
Or something totally different than the rockies: whale watching perhaps?
Enjoy your trip!
This topic has been closed to new posts due to inactivity.
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São Miguel Island: 2-Day Tour Including Lunches
Av. Infante Dom Henrique, 9500-769 Ponta Delgada, Portugal
TICKET PRICES STARTING FROM
Taxes and fees will be calculated at checkout
Explore the charms and corners of São Miguel with this two-day package designed for you and your comfort, so that you don't miss out on anything in this little paradise. We organize your complete guided tour including lunches, visit to the Ribeira dos Caldeirões Natural Park in the Northeast, tea and pineapple plantations, the best landscapes and attractions in Sete Cidades, Lagoa do Fogo, Furnas volcano and Nordeste. Our guides will answer all your questions with a welcoming smile, our flexibility in schedule or itinerary will allow you to relax and make the most of your vacation.
Posto de Turismo de Ponta Delgada
Lg. do Colégio, 9500-054 Ponta Delgada, Portugal
Largo 2 de Março
Largo 2 de Março, 9500 Ponta Delgada, Portugal
This activity ends back at the meeting point.
- Mobile or paper ticket accepted
- One per booking
- Visit and tasting of tea, Gorreana
- Tasting of traditional liqueurs
- Pick up and drop off in Ponta Delgada and surroundings
What's not Included
- Terra Nostra Park entrance
- Entrance Poça Dª Beija
- Personal or other purchases not mentioned in the tour
- Entrance to the stew area (Caldeiras das Furnas 3 per person)
- For a full refund, cancel at least 24 hours before the scheduled departure time.
- Infants and small children can ride in a pram or stroller
- Service animals allowed
- Public transportation options are available nearby
- Specialized infant seats are available
- Suitable for all physical fitness levels
Travel Like an Expert with AAA and Trip Canvas
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2-Night Vancouver Island Road Trip
- SAVE 20% or more on round-trip Victoria Clipper ferry when booking 2-nights or more in Victoria. Kids 11 and under are half-price adult fare!
- Relax at one of Vancouver Island’s award-winning oceanside resorts
- A breath of fresh air for outdoor enthusiasts, you will be within easy reach of Vancouver Island’s spectacular beaches, rainforests, gardens and wildlife!
- The chance to pamper yourself with a spa experience like no other or a rejuvenating soak in steaming hot tub
About this Trip
Choose your own adventure on a well-deserved escape to one of Vancouver Island’s award-winning seaside resorts. Pick up some wheels from the Budget Downtown car rental and cruise along Vancouver Island’s scenic backroads to the rainforest-filled Sooke, pastoral Saanich, beachy Parksville or wild and rugged Courtenay. Ripe with culturally distinct towns and outdoor adventures, Vancouver Island is a nature lover’s paradise!
Hop on the sleek, high-speed Victoria Clipper ferry in the morning for a short and tranquil cruise from downtown Seattle’s Pier 69 into the heart of downtown Victoria, BC. Upon arrival, pick up your rental car from Budget and cruise past lush forests, snow-capped peaks and glistening bays on a scenic drive Up Island.
Pay a visit to Sooke Harbour Resort & Marina in Sooke (45 minutes), Brentwood Bay Resort & Spa in Saanich (30 minutes), Tigh Na Mara Seaside Spa Resort in Parksville (2 hours) or Kingfisher Oceanside Resort & Spa in Courtenay (3 hours).
Delight in a full day to explore the stunning, ocean-carved paradise of Vancouver Island. Hike through lush rainforests, go for a dip in the ocean or treat yourself to a day of luxurious pampering at the spa. Looking for more things to do? Check out our picks for each region:
- Soar above the treetops at AdrenaLINE Zipline Adventure Tour .
- Sample delicious beverages at BC’s first meadery -Tugwell Creek Farm and Meadery.
- Explore 55-acres chock-full of colorful flowers at the beautiful Butchart Gardens .
- Shop the unique boutiques and at least six bookstores in the nearby town of Sidney.
- Discover Vancouver Island’s underground cave system at the Horne Lake Caves.
- Kick off your shoes and stroll along the sandy shores at the pristine Qualicum Beach.
- Cruise through Desolation Sound in search of wildlife on a 7 hour Big Animal Encounter Tour.
- Hop on a grizzly bear tour in Campbell River to catch sight of these elusive animals!
Start your day off right with a hearty breakfast, before making the scenic drive back to Victoria to return your rental car. Take advantage of your remaining time in Victoria to explore the city. Conclude your trip with a relaxing Victoria Clipper ferry cruise back into Seattle. To help fill your day, check out a few of our favorite activities:
- Tea at the Empress
- Shop the array of unique boutiques on Johnson Street
- Explore the city by foot, bike or bus
For more ideas, see our list of 150 things to do in Victoria & Vancouver Island .
Prices vary by season. Prices listed are minimum prices per adult. All applicable taxes included.
• Pricing in USD and may vary based on actual travel dates • Best available rates based on 7-day minimum advance purchase • Rates may be higher per segment of travel for Saturday departures from Seattle and Sunday departures from Victoria • Passport, Passport Card or EDL required when crossing an international border • A fuel surcharge, port and security fee may be added to all Victoria / Seattle fares • Restrictions apply, subject to change
Select one of these great Clipper hotel partners when booking your trip and SAVE on your Clipper ferry! Available hotels may vary while booking, based on travel dates.
Private: Brentwood Bay Resort & Spa
Private: Sooke Harbour Resort & Marina
Private: Kingfisher Oceanside Resort & Spa
Private: Tigh Na Mara Seaside Spa Resort
We've curated a list of tours and activities we love and know you'll love them too.
AdrenaLINE Zipline Adventure Tours
"Very easy and comfy way to get from Seattle to Vancouver Island."
- FitMomma, Atlanta, GA TripAdvisor
"Great trip! Very comfortable, excellent reservation service, excellent onboard service. Comfortable, smooth, relaxing ride… The 2 night package was a great value for the money."
- Nuno G. TripAdvisor
"Skilled professionals took all the worry out and I felt like my vacation started the moment I handed over my luggage. Thank you Victoria Clipper."
- Carl S., Renton, WA TripAdvisor
PP/DO incl tax
Vancouver Island Spas & Gardens Package
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2 Days In Vancouver Itinerary – How To Plan The Perfect Trip!
Vancouver sits nestled on the west cost of Canada, amidst coastal temperate rainforests, sandy beaches and magnificent mountains. As the biggest city in British Columbia , Vancouver is the perfect blend of city life and outdoor lifestyle. There is so much to explore in Vancouver, from natural wonders to a thriving food scene. If you’re looking to spend a couple days in the city and want to know how to make the most of your time, this 2 days in Vancouver itinerary hits the cities main spots!
Vancouver offers an array of activities for city lovers and outdoor enthusiasts (it’s no wonder I like the place so much!) There’s far more to do in this city than you might think but you can still squeeze in quite a bit during your 2 days in Vancouver.
Vancouver is the perfect place to adventure deeper and venture off the beaten path. One of the things I love about this city is that I can go hike a mountain in the morning and explore an art museum in the afternoon. There’s no reason not to love Vancouver!
If you are returning to this amazing city and are looking for other things to do in the city, I have included more activities at the bottom of this post for you to check out.
A City Girl Outside contains affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase through these links, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for reading!
Essential Links For Planning Your Trip To Vancouver
Top Vancouver Tours & Attractions:
- Vancouver City Highlights Tour
- Vancouver Hop on Hop off Sightseeing Tour
- Gastown Walking Food Tour
Top Rated Vancouver Hotels:
- Fairmont Pacific Rim
- Coast Coal Harbour Vancouver Hotel
- The Listel Hotel Vancouver
Don’t Forget to Pack: Packing Cubes / Travel Wallet / Vancouver Travel Guide
How To Get Around During Your 2 Days In Vancouver
Vancouver is a very pedestrian friendly city and many of the best sights are within walking distance of the downtown core. Vancouver also finally caught up to the rest of the world and now offers both Uber and Lyft (yayyy!!!).
You can also take advantage of the easy SkyTrain and bus systems. If you are spending a lot of time outside of the city centre, the SkyTrain is a great budget option. Compass cards are sold at every train station in the city. A compass day pass will give you unlimited access to all buses, all zones on the Sky Train and the sea bus. Check the website for current prices.
If you want to make the most of the city opt to take a Hop on-Hop off bus for 24 or 48 hours for all your Vancouver sightseeing. Walking is one of the best ways to get around Vancouver, familiarize yourself with the city with a self-guided walking tour of Vancouver.
Vancouver 2 Day Itinerary Overview
Before you start planning your trip to Vancouver you may be wondering things like what to do in Vancouver in 2 days? Or how many days in Vancouver is enough? This post details all you need to know when planning a 2 day trip to Vancouver.
Vancouver Itinerary Day 1
- Grab a morning coffee and pastry from Tim Hortons or 49th Parallel.
- Spend the morning exploring Grouse Mountain.
- Explore Canada Place & Coal Harbour.
- Bike around Stanley Park.
- Go Shopping at the Pacific Centre.
- Explore Historic Gas Town.
Vancouver Itinerary Day 2
- Capilano Suspension Bridge.
- Take a ride on a False Creek ferry.
- Have lunch at Granville Island.
- Spend the evening brewery hopping.
- Eat all the food at the Richmond Night Market.
Where To Stay In Vancouver
If you like to be close to and within walking distance of the main Vancouver attractions, then anywhere in Downtown Vancouver would be ideal. I really like the neighbourhood of Coal Harbour as it’s the best area to stay in Vancouver without a car. There are hotels for every budget but prices can get steep, book ahead to get your hotel of choice!
- Ultimate Luxury – Fairmont Pacific Rim : The ultimate experience in luxury, the Fairmont brand of hotels knows how to wow its guests. This modern hotel located in the heart of Canada Place boasts some of the most lavish guest rooms in downtown Vancouver.
- Mid-Range – Listel Hotel Vancouver : Located close to Coal Harbour, this artsy hotel offers stylish guest rooms with unique artwork in each. This boutique hotel is also pet friendly.
- Budget – Coast Coal Harbour Hotel : Coast hotels offers guests plush and comfortable rooms. The rooms are incredibly clean and come equipped with all the necessary amenities for a great stay.
Day One of Two Days in Vancouver
I always start a day in Vancouver with coffee. I have a few favourite coffee shops in Vancouver which include Parallel 49th, Bean Around The World Café, Honolulu Coffee, and of course a Tim Hortons. It’s hard to find a bad coffee in Vancouver. Grab a to-go coffee and pastry and head out for the day.
Spend The Morning Exploring Grouse Mountain
A trip to Vancouver would not be complete without having experienced the beautiful coastal mountains. The first stop on this Vancouver itinerary is Grouse Mountain . This is one of the top attractions in Vancouver and a great option if you are traveling with a family.
If spotting a bear during your weekend in Vancouver is on your bucket-list, Grouse Mountain is the place to do so. There is a Grizzly Bear sanctuary on Grouse Mountain where resident bears Grinder and Cooler hang out. After getting a glimpse of Grouse Mountains furry residents, it’s time to watch the Lumberjack show.
Before you head back down the gondola, make sure you check out the Beavertails cabin. What is a Beavertail you say? It’s one of the yummiest treats you can get in Canada. It is a fried pastry (kind of looks like the shape of a Beavertail) which is then covered in your choice of topping.
If you have decided to visit Vancouver without a car, Grouse Mountain offers a free shuttle from Canada Place. The return journey to Canada Place is also free.
Explore Canada Place & Coal Harbour
After returning back to Canada Place it’s time to explore Coal Harbour and the Vancouver Sea Wall.
Canada Place is a central hub of Vancouver and easily recognizable by its white iconic flags. It also houses the Vancouver Convention Center, Pan Pacific Hotel and the Fly Over Canada attraction. I really enjoy walking around Canada Place in the summer when the cruise ships are docked. It’s also great for the panoramic views of the North Shore mountains.
From Canada Place head West and enjoy a stroll along the Sea Wall to the Coal Harbour Neighbourhood. Coal Harbour is one of the best places to see in Vancouver and a great area to grab lunch or dinner. Here you can experience some of Vancouver’s best public art pieces including the Digital Orca and The Drop. Make sure you Catch a glimpse of the Olympic Torch while you are in Coal Harbour too.
Take a walk or bike through Stanley Park
Stanley Park is a Vancouver must see and without a doubt my favourite place in the city. For anyone visiting the Vancouver I highly recommend a visit.
A National Historic Site, Stanley Park is a part of Vancouver’s coastal temperate rainforest. Stanley Park is to Vancouver what Central Park is to New York. In fact it’s actually bigger than Central Park. Spanning an impressive 405 hectares, it’s possible to spend an entire day at Stanley Park.
While there is much to see and do in Stanley Park, I recommend researching this park ahead of time so you have a game plan. It is so easy to get lost in its beauty that you could be here all day. The Totem Poles are what draws most visitors to Stanley Park, and I must admit they are my favourite part of the park too. I always stare in awe at them. But there are many more sights to see along Stanley Park’s Sea Wall including Girl in a Wet Suit, SS Empress of Japan Figurehead and Siwash Rock.
Besides the historic landmarks in the park, the Vancouver Aquarium is housed in the park or stop by the Stanley Park Pavilion for a beer.
The most efficient way to get around Stanley Park is by renting a bike . You can also explore the park by walking or opt to take the horse drawn cart. If you only have a short trip to Vancouver, make sure you prioritize a visit to Stanley Park – you won’t regret it!
Retail Therapy at the Pacific Centre
After a long morning exploring mountains and rainforests, it’s time to hit up Vancouver’s best mall, the Pacific Centre. Shopping is one of the best things to do in Vancouver when it rains (or in my opinion, any time) and the Pacific Centre has all the stores you could need. If you want to bring home a unique Canadian souvenir for loved ones, head to Hudson’s Bay department store for their trademark “stripes” collection.
Explore Historic Gas Town
Gas Town is a tourist hotspot, but for good reason, you won’t find anywhere else like it in Vancouver. Since it is Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhood, it’s charming streets and Victorian buildings make you feel as though you’ve walked back in time.
The main attraction here is the Gas Town Steam Clock, an iconic Vancouver attraction. Built in 1977 the Gas Town Steam Clock is relatively young compared to its surrounding buildings. But it’s old world Victorian style means it fits in perfectly!
What makes this clock unique is that it is powered by a steam engine and every hour, on the hour, the whistle will blow. Built and designed in Vancouver by horologist Raymond Saunders, the Gas Town steam clock was the first of its kind.
Gas Town is home to a multitude of bars, restaurants and gift shops for all your souvenir needs. You’ll also find some of the best native art galleries here. Since Gas Town is home to a diverse range of eateries, the best way to experience it is through a walking food tour!
Sample The Dim Sum In China Town
Vancouver’s China Town is the biggest in Canada and one the best places to visit in Vancouver. This animated neighbourhood is the place to come for the best Dim Sum in Downtown Vancouver.
Switch out the hustle and bustle of the city with a tranquil oasis by visiting The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. It’s the perfect way to escape the concrete jungle.
Experience Your First Hockey Game
One of the most Canadian things to do in Vancouver is watch the Vancouver Canucks play at Rogers Arena. If there’s one place to watch the Hockey it’s right here in the great white north! If visiting in Winter, you’ll be able to catch games anywhere from October to April.
Day Two of Two Days in Vancouver
Capilano suspension bridge.
If you are searching for outdoor activities in Vancouver, look no further than Capilano Suspension Bridge. At 460ft long and sitting 230ft above the Capilano River, The Capilano Suspension Bridge is one of the best Vancouver tourist attractions. It was originally built in 1889 and brings in just over 1million visitors per year.
Although the Capilano Suspension Bridge is located on Vancouver’s North Shore, it is easily accessible via the free complimentary shuttle from Canada Place. This makes it great for those visiting Vancouver without a car.
Besides the main suspension bridge, there are several other attractions within the park including the Treetop Adventure, The Living Forest and the Cliff Walk. It’s also home to one of the largest privately owned collection of Totem Poles, which are displayed in the Kia’palano exhibit.
The park is beautiful both in the daytime and at night. In the Christmas season the forest comes alive with twinkly lights at the “Capilano Lights” event.
Capilano is beautiful no matter the time of year. Each time I have visited it has been busy, but I would recommend getting there for opening if you want to avid large crowds.
Ride the Aquabus to Granville Island
After getting dropped off at Canada Place, catch a bus or Uber to the Hornby Aquabus Terminal. The Aquabus boats can be seen sailing up and down False Creek all day long with their vivd colours brightening the waterways.
Granville Island is a short ferry ride from the Hornby Terminal but I think getting to experience riding on one of Vancouver’s water taxi’s is a unique thing to do in Vancouver.
Granville Island Public Market
Granville Island is located across False Creek under the Granville Island Bridge and a must do in Vancouver. The area Granville Island now sits on was once just a sandbar that was used as a fishing area by local First Nations people. In the late 70’s it was revived from its previous industrial state into Vancouver’s ultimate culinary destination.
Once you arrive at Granville Island, it’s time to explore. The biggest attraction on the island is the Granville Island Public Market, home to over 50 independent food vendors. Here you can find all kinds of cheeses, fresh produce, ice cream, fish and chips and more.
If it’s not obvious, I really like public markets. I often find that if there’s a public market in a city, there’s a high probability you’ll find some of the best food there. Granville Island Public Market is no exception!
End your time on Granville Island by sampling a cold beer from Granville Island Brewing Company. Their flights range in tastes from year-round staples to seasonal delights.
Go on a Brewery Hop
If you didn’t already know, Vancouver is home to a plethora of craft breweries. Since you have already started at Granville Island Brewing, you may as well continue the night trying out some other Vancouver Breweries.
Some of my favourites include 33 Acres Brewing Company, Faculty Brewing and Main Street Brewing. If you’re unsure which spots to hit first, take a Vancouver Brewery tour and discover some new brews. No Vancouver trip itinerary is complete without hitting up a craft brewery!
Eat All The Food at the Richmond Night Market
The Richmond Night Market is runs from mid-April to mid-October and is one of the best things to do in Vancouver at night. This event is incredibly popular with locals and it’s easy to see why. People flock here from all over the city to sample the amazing food, shop and enjoy live music.
The night market is I finally made it out to the Richmond Night Market in 2022 and I highly recommend making the trip out here.
Other Things To Do In Vancouver
Like most places, two days in Vancouver is a very short time to see everything the city has to offer. Plan your time accordingly and you’ll be able to see the cities top sights and attractions. Vancouver is an amazing place for food – so make the most of your time exploring it’s different culinary scenes. Get in touch with nature while you’re here, take in the amazing views of the mountains and soak in the fresh air.
Vancouver may be a small city but it’s packed full of activities. Here are a few more ideas for your trip:
- Vancouver Art Gallery
- Museum of Anthropology
- Queen Elizabeth Park
- Science World
- Vancouver Lookout
- Whale Watching
Where To Eat in Vancouver
Take advantage of Vancouver’s thriving food scene while you are in the city. You can find just about any cuisine in the city, below are just a few of my favourites.
- Japadog – Imagine eating a hotdog topped with seaweed, teryaki sauce, or kimchi! Sounds odd? Sounds yum! Japadog takes hotdogs to the next level, combining North America’s love of hotdogs with the founders home country cuisine of Japan.
- Medina Café – Snug spot for coffee, & an eclectic daytime menu including waffles with unique toppings.
- Tacofino – This chain of taco restaurants first started out in a food truck in Tofino on Vancouver Island. They have since expanded their operations all over Vancouver. I really recommend the fish tacos – so good!
- Glowbal – Global fare & lots of cocktails served in a glitzy, sprawling space with a long, sleek bar.
- Sushi – There are sushi restaurants all over Vancouver, I haven’t specified a particular restaurant and I have never had bad sushi anywhere in Vancouver.
Is Vancouver Worth Visiting?
Vancouver is absolutely worth visiting. This city is like no other. It may not have the big bright lights of New York City or the historical significance of London, but it does have it own character. This is modern city that has found its own identity. I love the laid back west-coast vibe of Vancouver and the fact that it is a smaller city and therefore less crowds!
Is Vancouver Expensive?
In terms of living in Vancouver, yes it is expensive, as most major cities are. However as a visitor I would say that it is no more expensive than any other city. This is all dependent on where you are coming from of course.
The only thing that I find quite expensive in Vancouver is accommodation. My biggest tip if you are wanting to visit is to book your hotel well ahead of time. Because Vancouver is a small city, there are only so many accommodation options, and the more budget options sell out fast.
Vancouver is also a great place to base yourself for any day trips. Day trips to Victoria and Whistler are very accessible from the city. If you’re staying longer than two days you might want to venture further afield.
When Is The Best Time To Visit Vancouver?
Vancouver is known for its rain, but that’s not to say it rains all the time (Just a lot of the time!) I like to think of Vancouver as the London of Canada, if you’re used to any kind of British weather, apply the same rules in Vancouver. I never left my house in England without an umbrella, and I don’t here in the Pacific Northwest either.
The summers in Vancouver can be really nice, blue skies and sunshine most of the time. As one of the best destinations for Cherry Blossoms, Vancouver is also great to visit in the spring.
The autumn/fall brings the rain but don’t let the weather stop you from visiting. Vancouver can be beautiful in the rain, especially at night when the city lights reflect off of the rain drops. So put on your sexiest raincoat and live a little!
Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain…
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Oh I used to live in Toronto. This made me miss going to the hockey games. I never made it to the west coast of ?? so I’m putting in on the bucket list.
It’s very different from Toronto, but still very Canadian, and beautiful landscapes!
Love this Vancouver guide! All the food looks so good! Stanley Park is definitely a must-do, I loved biking along the sea wall when I visited.
There’s nowhere else like Stanley Park!
Great guide for Vancouver. Stanley Park is also one of my favourite places in Vancouver, I love walking along the seawall. You have some really yummy sounding food on here, the Japadogs sound very unique!
I’m definitely a foodie! Experiencing food is a big part of travel for me haha
This looks so fabulous. I really love the idea of the company that provides the picnic in the park. That is so awesome. I am going to have to see if we have something like that near me.
I’ve never done it personally, but I really really want to! Coming from the UK we always picnic in the city parks in the summer, and this looks super cute! I found them on a Vancouver Food instagram
This looks like the perfect Vancouver Itinerary! I only had a day to spend in the city when I visited but looks like I waws able to cover almost everything you mentioned in this post!
That’s awesome Miranda! Glad you enjoyed Vancouver 🙂
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Vancouver (Tsawwassen) to Victoria (Swartz Bay)
Tsawwassen terminal is a 36 km drive from downtown Vancouver and is located at the southwest end of Highway 17 in Delta. Sailings departing from Tsawwassen provide service to Swartz Bay (Victoria), Duke Point (Nanaimo) and the Southern Gulf Islands. Visit the Tsawwassen Quay for shopping and a range of food and beverage options.
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