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Vancouver Island tips?

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by deedeelocks, Feb 26, 2012.

  1. My boyfriend and I booked a cheap flight to Vancouver in May :cheer2: and this time I really want to visit Vancouver island.:D So I need some tourist guide help :)

    We planned to go to Nanaimo by ferry rent a car there. (because it seems that without a car you won't get that far) Then I will have my bf drive me where ever I want ;) (I don't know how to drive :p ), the question is where? Because Vancouver island is huge with plenty to see.

    We are mostly interested in the mountains/waterfalls/lakes/nature/beach/beautiful things and we planned to be on the island for about a week. I wasn't really planning on visiting Victoria, more like going on several short or day hikes in the nature... I was thinking of staying a few days on the east coast (I found a hostel in Courtenay?) and take a few hikes/daytrips from there, and then cross the entire island to Tofino and take a hot springs/whale watch tour there. Then go back to Nanaimo after 2 days or so.

    Thoughts? Does anyone have any tips what we must see? We are on a low budget though.

    Thanks!! :)
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2012
  2. KikiSashaFan

    KikiSashaFan Well-Known Member

    Ucluelet is generally less expensive than Tofino, but offers many of the same things. Long Beach and the Pacific Rim National Parks are beautiful.

    Englishman River falls is in Parksville, which isn't far from Naniamo and has fantastic hiking, and swimming for that matter, but May swimming is only for the very brave :p

    If you are in Parksville and feel like a fun break, I recommend Paradise Mini Golf. It's right on the ocean and it's such a beautiful course everyone seems to love it.

    If I think of anything else I'll let you know :) I lived on the Island until I was 24 and miss it a lot.
  3. acraven

    acraven Well-Known Member

  4. barbk

    barbk Well-Known Member

    The gardens were amazing, particularly if you arrive after 3 PM when a lot of the tour buses seem to leave. We were there through twilight and into early evening, and found it to be incredible, though neither of us are gardeners. Well worth the visit.

    We took the ferry over to Nanaimo -- I am still not quite sure why everyone rushed to the cafe on the ferry, but I'd guess at least half of the folks on board were in line there by the time we showed up. Maybe the Vancouverites can tell you what is special about food from that cafe? We had our car with us; not sure whether renting a car in Vancouver might be cheaper than on Nanaimo. The ferry we were on was really, really nice. Very different than the one we took from Victoria down to Port Angeles.

    From our exploration from Nanaimo on down to the south and west -- consider having some picnic food/drink with you -- you can go a while without encountering a place to eat.
  5. nyrak

    nyrak Active Member

    I've lived on the island my whole life....May should be a nice time to visit :)

    I second the opinion of visiting Butchart's Gardens, it is expensive, but worth it.

    Have you considered going whale watching? There are plenty of tour companies that go from Victoria, as well as many from the north island area. I took my Dad for his birthday a couple years ago and we both loved it.

    You could also visit Coombs (near Parksville) there's some fun shops & a cool market with goats on the roof :)

    It would be a shame to visit the island and not spend at least a day in Victoria...downtown Victoria is nice, walk along the harbour, visit the Provincial Legislature, the Royal B.C. museum, Beacon Hill Park, etc.

    There are some nice beaches on the island too, other posters have mentioned Tofino & Ucluelet, I've never been to either :( so I can't really comment....but there are some nice places in Sooke which is a much shorter drive from Victoria. There are several nice beaches within 1-1.5 hours of Victoria that are worth a visit.

    Any other questions? Please ask :dog:
  6. Japanfan

    Japanfan Well-Known Member

    In my experience, Vancouverites think of ferry food as dreadful. I've seen those lines too, though, and guess people plan to have their lunch or dinner on the ferry for the sake of convenience.

    deedeelocks - Tofino is an amazing place, up there among the beautiful spots in the world I would say. It's well worth a few days stay. You can spend several days just walking on the beach and it's especially nice to be on the beach at sunset. There are great hikes in the area as well and don't miss the restaurant at Wiccannish. The surf is particularly spectacular there. And the whale watching tour to the hot springs is fabulous as well.

    There are plenty of other pretty places on the Island but not compare to Tofino. If you go Victoria way, though, the Butchart Gardens are well worth as visit as other posters say - haven't been yet but really want to go.
  7. KikiSashaFan

    KikiSashaFan Well-Known Member

    The food on the ferries is insanely overpriced, but if you're looking to have a meal and are on one of the boats with a buffet, it's not a bad choice. The view is nice and the food is decent. It's almost worth the price just to get a seat by a window :lol:

    Definitely walk/bus on the ferry and rent a car on the Island. It's about 10 dollars to walk on, but another 50ish to bring a car.

    Butchart Gardens are beautiful, and definitely worth the trip to Victoria. If you do make it down there I would also reccomend the Inner Harbour and walking downtown, particularly along Government Street. If you aren't afraid of heights or water make the walk across Beacon Hill Park and down along the Breakwater.
  8. Taso

    Taso Well-Known Member

    You MUST go on a whale watch, must!!!! Even if you aren't interested in whales, the coastline of British Columbia is spectacularly gorgeous and best appreciated from the water :)
  9. JasperBoy

    JasperBoy Aging in a great place

    Just north of Nanaimo is Wild Play Element Park with bungee jumping, zip line etc. If that's your thing, it is a great place.

    I agree about Coombs, it is fun in a very kitschy way. Wild salmonburgers are terrific.

    Serious Coffee is the local brand. It is roasted, etc. on the island. Delicious.

    Butchart Gardens is very expensive and manicured. I prefer Abkhazi Gardens off Fairfield Rd on Victoria. Terrific in rhodo season, admission by donation, and viewable in an hour.
    There is an inexpensive teahouse and gift shop.

    As for the ferry food. The buffet is operated by White Spot, and many Vancouverites are addicted to their hamburgers. For those who take the ferry frequently, they often plan to use the time on the ferry to eat a meal. First-timers look at the scenery!

    If you plan to rent a car, make sure it is OK to take it to or from Vancouver Island. Some rentals do not allow this, and if you get into any difficulties you could pay a penalty.
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2012
  10. nyrak

    nyrak Active Member

    Victorians complain about ferry food too (in fact there used to be a restaurant on the highway on the way out to the terminal that had a sign saying caution ferry food ahead)....I think most people just eat for something to do on the ferry, it's a beautiful trip if you're not from here, but when you live on the island and have been on it hundreds of times, it's pretty boring.
  11. JasperBoy

    JasperBoy Aging in a great place

    Oh yeah. I forgot to mention Elk Falls outside of Campbell River. A great place to hike. And Campbell River is the salmon fishing capital of Canada.
  12. Artemis@BC

    Artemis@BC Well-Known Member

    Tofino / Ucluelet / Long Beach is amazing, not to be missed, particularly if you have a whole week on the Island. I'd plan on spending at least 1 night there, as it's quite a trek to get there.

    Don't think anyone else has mentioned this yet: stop off at Cathedral Grove on the way to or from the Long Beach area. You can do a quick 20 minute stop just to ooh and ah at the trees, or stay a bit longer for a hike. Even for someone like me who's lived among big trees all her life, it's amazing.

    While you're in the Courtenay/Comox area, try to get in some sea kayaking. It's one of the best areas for it because it's so sheltered -- tons of places have rentals and/or lessons.

    Another thing I've done once but would like to do again: Horne Lake Caves.

    And for something completely different: Little Qualicum Cheeseworks, between Qualicum Beach and Parksville (just off the Old Island Highway). The shop is on a working farm, and they also have a fruit winery going there too. Tons of samples!
  13. Thanks for all the tips everyone!! :D

    We for sure will be staying in the Tofino area for 2 or probably even 3 nights (and do a whale watch/hot springs tour) and we're thinking about doing a rafting trip on the east side for a day. (Nimpkish?) For the rest we're still a bit unsure but will take everything written here into account! thanks! :D
  14. JasperBoy

    JasperBoy Aging in a great place

    Be very careful when you park at Cathedral Grove. You have to cross the main highway, and the cars whizz by.

    I must admit that I find Cathedral Grove a bit sad since so many trees were blown down. Lots of devil's club, too.

    If you want a suggestion of where NOT to stay in Tofino, send me a PM. I won't post the name publicly. OTOH, you can't go wrong with Pacific Sands or Long Beach Lodge.
    A bit out of town, but right on the beach. Next land, Japan.
  15. Aaron W

    Aaron W Well-Known Member

    I'll echo the praise from several others regarding Butchart Gardens. I spent a wonderful late fall afternoon there and thoroughly enjoyed myself. The area had plenty of fall color to enjoy. I would assume it's absolutely beautiful in May with all of the fresh flowers in bloom.
  16. Japanfan

    Japanfan Well-Known Member

    It's a truly magical place in that it gives you a sense of how forests might be if humans had left them completely alone or lived with them in harmony.

    I was last there a few years ago and parts of it were closed off, probably due to the wind damage JasperBoy mentioned.

    Love kayaking!!

    Did that and loved it - though forgo the tour that involved rapelling.

    When you've got cheese, you're got choice. :)

    We'd make great travel companions, Artemis.
  17. pat c

    pat c Well-Known Member

  18. Artemis@BC

    Artemis@BC Well-Known Member

  19. Artemis@BC

    Artemis@BC Well-Known Member

    Coombs is great -- just don't try to go there on a summer weekend. Total madhouse.

    I keep hoping they'll install a web goatcam. :D
  20. flyingsit

    flyingsit Well-Known Member

    I second the vote for Tofino, and for Long Beach Lodge. We stayed there for a few nights last September and it was amazing. If you go there and want to do a whale-watch or the like, Jamie's Whaling Station is a great company. We did a half-day bear watching trip and loved it.
  21. JasperBoy

    JasperBoy Aging in a great place

    Looking back at your first message, deedeelocks, I see that you are travelling on a budget and interested in hostels.
    I am sorry to say that Pacific Sands and Long Beach Lodge are pricey. Here is a hostel that is $99 a night and in a terrific location. http://www.tbgf.org/ecolodge/index.php
    I have never stayed there, but know the Botanical Gardens well. An ecofreaks delight!
  22. thanks! In Tofino we'll probably go for this hostel though:

    We just need a bed, perhaps a shower somewhere... and it has a kitchen so we can cook our own cheap meals :D
  23. Artemis@BC

    Artemis@BC Well-Known Member

    ^ Too bad you can't replicate my "budget" stay ... at Long Beach Lodge. It was a couple of years ago during the playoffs, and they ran a promotion where, every time a Canuck scored a goal, you could enter to win a chance to get a night at the lodge for the dollar amount corresponding to the jersey number of the player who scored. Well, long story short, we got one night for $6 (thanks to Sami Salo), and another for $33 (thanks to Henrik Sedin). Amazing deal! The Lodge is really spectacular, and I wouldn't have been able to afford it otherwise.

    But really, the whole Tofino/Ucluelet/Long Beach area is spectacular no matter where you stay. I'm sure you'll love it.