This Vancouver Island itinerary is a ‘teaser’ of the Wild West Coast where nature still has the upper hand and takes you on a mesmerizing journey from Victoria to Tofino and beyond — over mountains, through orchards and sky-high forests, by seashores and past fast-moving rivers. The West Coast of Vancouver Island is like no other landscape.
A car is the only way to experience the full diversity of what Vancouver Island has to offer in a short time.
Explore the city centre using our Victoria for First-Timers itinerary.
Enjoy some of the city’s key attractions outside of the Inner Harbour district such as Craigdorrach Castle, and Butchart Gardens. If you’ve been to Victoria before, why not go eagle-counting at Goldstream Provincial Park, or cycling along the Galloping Goose Trail, or make a day trip of hiking and tide-pool adventures along the Juan de Fuca Trail to Botanical Beach. The latter two suggestions are great family excursions.
The drive north from Victoria takes you over the vista-filled Malahat before descending into the Cowichan Valley, one of Canada’s fastest growing agri-tourism regions. Take your time meandering through the back roads and you’ll be rewarded with a range of small, quality wineries, orchards, specialty farms, and dairies. You get a good impression of the island’s Native culture in Duncan with its host of totem poles. Nearby Cowichan is home of the must-see Quw’utsun Cultural Centre, which illustrates the story of the Cowichan peoples, the original inhabitants of the Valley.
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From Duncan, continue north to Parksville and the junction with Highway 4, the start of the beautiful, windy, and mountainous drive west. Allow three hours to cross the island – longer if you stretch your legs in Cathedral Grove that you’ll pass through along the way. Rain or shine, Tofino and the Long Beach section of the Pacific Rim National Park make the journey worthwhile. Hiking through these rainforests is stunning, with many trails created as easy walks, as well as some for strenuous hikes. Whaling, surfing, wildlife viewing are first rate; and sea kayaking around the usually calm waters of Clayoquot Sound is easy and rewarding. There’s a wide range of inns and restaurants in Tofino, some of which of considered the finest on Vancouver Island.
Located within a 20-minute drive south of Tofino, Ucluelet is less touristy; some might even say a little rougher. It is home base to the impressive Wild Pacific Trail with easy-to-navigate boardwalks through forested terrain and solidly -packed pathways that follow the coastal drama. Ucluelet is nearest to the Broken Group Islands and you’ll find several boat charters and kayaking outfitters in the marina that run tours across the Pacific Ocean swells directly into this oasis of exceptionally calm waters.
Surrounded by six major golf courses, all within a few minutes drive of one another, this is tee-off central. For those not fond of the links, head for Rathtrevor Beach to beachcomb for sand dollars, or take time out to relax in British Columbia’s largest spa at Tigh-Na-Mara Resort. Either will leave you with around a two-hour drive to get back to Victoria – or take a ferry from Nanaimo back to the mainland.