A Vancouver Island itinerary: 2-3 weeks on the island

A Vancouver Island itinerary: 2-3 weeks on the island

23 November, 2019 32 By Amanda

Don’t travel to British Columbia and Vancouver without setting aside some time for Vancouver Island as well! This beautiful part of the second largest country in the world is definitely worth a visit – and you’ll at least need some weeks to see more than just the main cities. In this post, you’ll find my Vancouver Island itinerary we used ourselves for the 3 weeks we spent exploring the island while living vanlife in Canada.

Vancouver Island itinerary - sunset in Tofino
One of several amazing sunsets we got to experience during our 3 weeks on Vancouver Island!

Quick facts to know about Vancouver Island before you go

Where to go

A lot of people seem to focus on Victoria, Nanaimo and Tofino. Yes, they are all beautiful, but Vancouver Island has much more to offer – there are lots of hidden gems! This Vancouver Island itinerary is filled with all the “must-dos” on the island but also with a lot of hidden gems you probably haven’t even heard of before.

Remember, if you follow this Vancouver Island itinerary, you’ll visit a lot of small communities and villages. Some might even be without cell phone service, and some will not have gas stations, stores and so on – make sure you have everything you need and know where you’re going!

How to go to Vancouver Island

Ferry to Vancouver Island

While there are some different cities on the island that you could arrive at, both by ferry and plane, I’ll focus on going to Victoria since that’s where this itinerary starts!

The main cities on Vancouver Island that you can travel to by ferry are Victoria and Nanaimo. If you want to go to Victoria, you should be looking for a ferry with BC Ferries from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay. That’s where the ferry terminals are in Vancouver and Victoria, both 30-40 kilometres away from the city centres.

To book a ticket or to read more about the ferry to Vancouver Island, check out BC Ferries.

BC Ferries - Ferry to Vancouver Island
Taking the ferry to Vancouver Island is an easy and convenient way to start your journey!

Airport

Your second option is flying, which probably only is an option if you’re arriving at Vancouver Island from somewhere else – not Vancouver – or, maybe, if you’re extremely seasick. Victoria’s airport is called Victoria International Airport and it’s also located north of Victoria, just as the ferry terminal.

Getting around on Vancouver Island

While there are some bus services on Vancouver Island, you’ll need your own transport to reach all of the places I’m suggesting in this Vancouver Island itinerary.

When is the best time to visit Vancouver Island

The best time to visit Vancouver Island mostly depends on why you’re going there. If you want to enjoy warm weather, go on hikes, hang at the beach, have a swim in the ocean and get the opportunity to see whales, you probably want to go during the summer months.

However, those are the busiest months – if you still want nice weather but fewer tourists, consider going late spring or early autumn. The weather will most likely still be nice (you might not wanna swim in the ocean though!) and there are still good chances to see wildlife such as whales and, of course, bears – we saw plenty!

However, some people actually prefer to visit the island during the colder months, from November – March. During these months, you’ll have the chance to experience storm watching! What about getting cozy under a warm blanket with a cup of tea while watching the storming waves outside your window? I haven’t tried it myself, yet, but it sure sounds like something I would do! Interested? Read more about storm watching on Vancouver Island.

Fog Vancouver Island
The best time to visit Vancouver Island depends on what you’re interested in seeing!

My Vancouver Island itinerary for 2-3 amazing weeks on the island

Okay, now we’ve worked out how to get to Vancouver Island and when to go – let’s have a look at my Vancouver Island itinerary so you know where to go as well!

Day 1 – From the ferry terminal or airport to Victoria

Maybe you’ve brought your own car on the ferry, or maybe you’re renting one on the island. We travelled in our van, but if you want to rent a car you won’t find any rental companies at the ferry terminal – you’ll need to go to the airport.

It’s not far away from the ferry terminal, less than 10 kilometres, and if you don’t want to take a taxi to get there, there’s also public transport.

Whether you brought your own car or need to rent one, the first stop on your way down to Victoria is not far away – Sidney!

Sidney, Vancouver Island
Sidney on Vancouver Island is a pretty coastal community close to the ferry terminal in Swartz Bay and the first stop on this Vancouver Island itinerary.

Sidney

Make sure to not hurry down directly to Victoria – check out Sidney, a pretty coastal community, first!

Take a walk along the seaside, maybe have something to eat after your journey on the plane or ferry and check out some shops before returning to your car to continue down to Victoria.

Beacon Hill and Spiral Beach during your first evening in Victoria

Depending on when you arrive, you might not have too much left of the day. Since Fredrik and I lived in our campervan, we always cooked our own food, so I can’t recommend any restaurants for you. However, during our first evening in Victoria we went down to Beacon Hill and Spiral Beach where we had dinner by the water while watching the sunset – that is something I highly can recommend!

Victoria British Columbia - Vancouver Island itinerary
I loved watching the sunset in Victoria!

The world’s tallest free-standing totem pole

If you arrive earlier in Victoria, you’ll have the opportunity to spend even more time in the park. Make sure you don’t miss the world’s tallest free-standing totem pole while you’re there – it’s almost 39 metres tall!

World's Tallest Free-Standing Totem Pole in Victoria
You’ll find the world’s tallest free-standing totem pole in Beacon Hill Park, Victoria.

Day 2 – Victoria

The second day of your road trip on Vancouver Island will be completely spent in Victoria.

Downtown Victoria

After breakfast, head down to Victoria’s downtown. There are lots of cute streets, shops, cafes and nice architecture. Don’t forget to check out Victoria’s Chinatown as well!

British Columbia Parliament Buildings

When it’s time for lunch, find a restaurant or do what we did – bring a picnic and have lunch in front of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. It’s a really pretty building and you can spend quite some time strolling around it! Why not go on a free tour of the parliament buildings?

British Columbia Parliament Buildings
The British Columbia Parliament Buildings are stunning – why not have a picnic in the park with this view?

Fisherman’s Wharf Park

Walk along the harbour, maybe visit one of Victoria’s museums and when you’re ready for dinner, head over to Fisherman’s Wharf Park – it’s just 15 minutes by foot from the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. Check out the colourful houseboats (yes, people really do live here!) and decide what you’d like for dinner.

Victoria Harbour, house boats
At Fisherman’s wharf park in Victoria, you’ll find lots of delicious food and lots of colourful houseboats.

McNeill Bay

You can either sit by the harbour or order take-out and drive along the coast to McNeill Bay where you’ll find these cute chairs – the perfect place to watch the sunset at!

Blue and red chairs in Victoria
The blue and red chairs at McNeill Bay offer quite a pretty view.

Day 3 – Victoria to Sooke

It’s time to leave Victoria and go to Sooke to go hiking on Vancouver Island for the first time! It’s less than 40 kilometres away from Victoria, so you don’t need to do a lot of driving today, but be sure to not miss this hidden gem along the way – Spirit Bay.

Spirit Bay, Vancouver Island
Make sure to not miss Spirit Bay on your way to East Sooke Regional Park.

Spirit Bay

We just did a quick stop in Spirit Bay, but it’s such a pretty community! When we visited in 2019, there were still new houses being built and there seemed to be thoughts about opening several local shops – I can imagine there is even more to do in Spirit Bay within the next few years.

East Sooke Regional Park

Now you’re just a 10-minute drive away from East Sooke Regional Park, where you have several hiking options. We decided to do a shorter one this time, to beautiful Creyke Point. There’s also a beach here if you prefer beaches instead of hiking, or would like to combine them both!

East Sooke Regional Park
Hiking in East Sooke Regional Park will reward you with beautiful views like this one.

Sooke Potholes Provincial Park and Whiffin Spit

After our visit to East Sooke Regional Park, our plan was to go swimming at Sooke Potholes Provincial Park, but there were just too many people there for us to be able to relax and enjoy it, so we went to Sooke and walked along the Whiffin Spit instead, which I definitely can recommend – it’s a nice walk! However, Sooke Potholes Provincial Park can also be worth a visit. It’s a great place to go for a swim or to have a picnic if you don’t mind a crowd or manage to go here when there are not as many people around.

Day 4 – Sooke to Port Renfrew/Cowichan Lake

We started our day with a short stop for breakfast at China Beach, less than an hour away from Sooke. After that, we went on a hike through the forest to one of my favourite beaches on the island – Mystic Beach.

Mystic Beach

Not only is the beach amazing, but the hike through the forest is really fun as well – but bring good footwear, it can get muddy. The hike is around 2 kilometres each way through the forest and you’ll even cross a suspension bridge!

Suspension bridge on Vancouver Island
To get to Mystic Beach, you’ll have to cross this suspension bridge!

If you’re interested in staying overnight, you can actually camp at Mystic Beach! Mystic Beach is also one of the stops on the Juan de Fuca trail.

Mystic Beach - Vancouver Island itinerary
Mystic Beach on Vancouver Island is one of my favourite beaches on the island. You can even stay for the night!

Port Renfrew

If you don’t want to stay overnight, continue to Port Renfrew. Walk down to the water and don’t miss Botanical Beach Provincial Park, only 3 kilometres south of Port Renfrew.

Port Renfrew
Port Renfrew is your next stop on the road trip! There are several opportunities to go camping in Port Renfrew if you’d like to stay here for the night.

Botanical Beach Provincial Park

At the Botanical Beach Provincial Park, you’ll have the chance to have a very unique beach experience, especially at low tide! Walk on the sandstone and granite beach, among tide pools filled with colourful marine animals. Remember to watch your step and, of course, don’t touch any living organisms!

Avatar Grove and Big Lonely Doug

If you have a four-wheel drive and like trees, consider going to Avatar Grove and Big Lonely Doug, 15 kilometres north of Port Renfrew. Big Lonely Doug is the second largest Douglas-fir in Canada! We love our van but, unfortunately, it wasn’t able to take us to those hidden gems. Don’t worry if that’s the case for you as well, there will be more cool trees to check out on the island!

Go camping in Port Renfrew or Lake Cowichan

If you’re camping just as we did, there are some rather cheap campsites near Port Renfrew but also in Lake Cowichan, 80 kilometres further away, if you prefer to drive a bit longer this day. You can search for campsites on the official website of the Government of British Columbia.

Day 5 – Port Renfrew/Cowichan Lake – Nanaimo

On day 5, we drove to Duncan and decided to do a detour down south to the Kinsol Trestle, which took us a little less than 1 hour to drive in total. You can skip it and continue up the coast if you want to, but I definitely enjoyed exploring the trestle!

Kinsol Trestle

Kinsol Trestle is one of the world’s tallest free-standing rail trestle structures – it’s 44 metres high and 187 metres long. It’s approximately 100 years old and the last train crossed the trestle in 1979. After that, it was abandoned for a long time before it reopened in 2011 for walkers, cyclists and equestrians.

Kinsol Trestle on Vancouver Island
This is the Kinsol Trestle on Vancouver Island – open for hikers, cyclists and equestrians!

We started our day here and brought some breakfast – there are several picnic tables with a nice view of the trestle, and there’s also a beautiful river going under it. Keep your eyes open for wildlife as well – we had an owl flying right in front of us while we had breakfast!

Chemainus

When you’re done exploring the Kinsol Trestle, it’s time to drive up the coast. Don’t forget to stop in Chemainus – a charming small town filled with murals, you can stroll around for hours!

Murals in Chemainus
If you’re into murals, Chemainus is the place for you.

After Chemainus, we drove through Ladysmith and then all the way up to Nanaimo – which only is around 30 kilometres from Chemainus.

Nanaimo bars in Nanaimo

It should be afternoon already, so why not do my favourite thing in Nanaimo directly – try a Nanaimo bar! They’re delicious, I was unfortunately way too excited and finished mine before I had the chance to take a photo of it, but if you want to have a sneak peek, we bought ours from A Wee Cupcakery. If you’re like me and really into sweets, explore the Nanaimo Bar Trail – a self-guided tour between cafes to try out different Nanaimo bars!

Pipers Lagoon

When you’ve had enough sweets for the day and if the weather is on your side, make sure to head to Pipers Lagoon before the sun goes down. It’s beautifully situated right at the waterfront and it’s a great place for watching sunsets!

Day 6 – A full day in Nanaimo

After breakfast, stroll around downtown among murals, shops and pretty buildings.

Nanaimo, Vancouver Island
There are many beautiful and colourful houses in Nanaimo.

Cannon firing at the Bastion

Before noon, if you’re visiting during summer, be sure to make your way down to the Bastion which is down at the harbour. At the plaza right next to the Bastion, you’ll have the opportunity to listen to bagpipes and watch a cannon firing re-enactment at noon!

Cannon Firing Nanaimo
During summer, there’s a cannon firing re-enactment in Nanaimo.

Explore some of Nanaimo’s history

If you’re interested in Nanaimo’s history, don’t forget to visit the Bastion itself as well – this is Nanaimo’s oldest structure and it’s seen as a local icon. You can also walk up the street, to where Front Street meets Church Street, to look at the last standing Welsbach gas lamp in Nanaimo. It’s pretty cool to imagine that the whole city was filled with gas lamps like this one!

Gas Lamp Nanaimo
This is the last standing gas lamp in Nanaimo!

The harbour

Stroll around the harbour, maybe find a nice lunch spot and spend the rest of your day visiting museums, exploring one or several of the parks in Nanaimo or why not continue on the Nanaimo bar trail if you didn’t complete it yesterday!

Day 7 – A beautiful drive to Tofino

Ready for some amazing views? It’s time to go to one of the most popular spots on the island – Tofino!

There’s a lot to do on the way, so try to start your day early. It’s only 45 minutes to your first stop – Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park.

Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park

This is the perfect first stop if you’re into waterfalls, hiking, swimming or even fishing. There are even day-use areas and campsites in Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park if you want to stay overnight!

Cathedral Grove

Another popular stop on the way to Tofino is Cathedral Cove. Here’s your chance to see Douglas-fir trees, especially if you, just like us, never made it to Big Lonely Doug. Cathedral Grove has some of Canada’s tallest and oldest trees, but we actually skipped this one as well – unfortunately, several buses filled with tourists had just arrived and we struggled with finding somewhere to park. Instead, we visited a rainforest in Tofino – but if you have the chance, check out Cathedral Grove, it’s popular for a reason!

There are other stops to make along the way, but we were really excited about Tofino and wanted to make it there in time to be able to enjoy the afternoon. If you’re interested in more stops along the way, consider visiting Port Alberni and be ready to make quick stops on the side of the road on the way to Tofino in general – the scenery is amazing!

The Rainforest trail

Now you’re getting close to Tofino! We stayed at Green Point Campground in Pacific Rim National Park, which is less than 4 kilometres away from this beautiful Rainforest trail. It made a perfect stop before we could go to the campground to check-in. Also, there were way fewer people here than at Cathedral Grove – we walked on the trail hearing nothing but birds, it was wonderful!

Rainforest trail in Tofino
The Rainforest trail is located in the Pacific Rim National Park and offers two different routes among spectacular and majestic trees.

The Rainforest trail offers two different routes, one on each side of the highway. You’ll walk on a boardwalk and, although there are some stairs, it’s mostly an easy walk. Be prepared for majestic trees, moss and maybe some birdsong. If you still haven’t seen these giant trees, this Rainforest trail is a must!

Green Point Campground

Staying at Green Point Campground is great if you’re thinking about visiting both Tofino and Ucluelet, since it’s situated pretty much in the middle of them. It also has a stunning location with its own access to the beach! I can highly recommend watching the sunsets from here.

Remember: Since you’re in a national park, you’ll need to pay admission to enter both the Rainforest trail and Green Point Campground. There are several different options such as a daily fee, annual fee and purchasing a Parks Canada Discovery Pass, which is the one we had. Read more about the admission fee to Pacific Rim National Park to figure out what option works best for you.

Day 8, 9 and 10 – 3 days in Tofino and Ucluelet

3 days in Tofino and Ucluelet is the perfect amount of time if you’re travelling on a budget and don’t plan to do things such as whale watching (we saw whales, for free, on one of our hikes!) or taking a scenic seaplane flight. There are many things to do here, but we managed to do everything we wanted during our 3 days in Tofino without having to feel rushed!

3 days in Toifno - a Vancouver Island Itinerary
A walk along the water in Tofino will give you gorgeous views!

Downtown Tofino

Why not start your first day in Tofino by strolling around the town and along the water – it’s stunning! Enjoy cute shops and beautiful views of the ocean, just a few minutes of walking away from each other.

Tonquin Beach

When you’re done exploring downtown, it’s time for a hike to a beach – hiking on Vancouver Island and ending up on beaches is a great combination! The Tonquin trail starts at Tofino Community Hall and takes you through the forest to beaches and beautiful viewpoints. If the weather is nice, stay for the rest of the day and watch the sunset, it’s amazing from here. I’ll give you my usual tip – bring a picnic! Not only did we get to watch an amazing sunset, but we even saw whales!

Whale Watching in Tofino
We got to see an amazing sunset and whales – what a great evening!

On the next day, we decided to go to Ucluelet instead to explore something else than beaches – the shoreline here is more rocky and dramatic.

Wild Pacific Trail

Wild Pacific Trail
The Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet offers amazing views, like this one!

The Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet is definitely a must, it offers amazing views! We started at the Ancient Cedars Loop Trail and walked along the coastline with lots of stops at benches and beautiful viewpoints.

The Lighthouse Loop

We then turned back to our van and drove another 5 kilometres to do the Lighthouse Loop, which offers gorgeous views as well and, of course, a lighthouse!

Amphitrite Point Lighthouse in Ucluelet
This is the Amphitrite Point Lighthouse that you’ll find on the Lighthouse Loop.

Spend the rest of the day strolling around Ucluelet or dive back to Tofino if you prefer to spend more time there!

Radar Hill

Suddenly, it’s already time for your last day in Tofino! Start by going on probably your shortest hike on Vancouver Island – up to Radar Hill. To be honest, it’s not really a hike since it’s just a few hundred metres long, but it has a nice lookout at the top!

The crashed bomber plane

Then, it’s time for a longer and quite unusual hike – this trail leads to a crashed bomber plane.

Hike to the crashed bomber plane in Tofino
The crashed bomber plane has been here since 1945.

You’ll reach the start of the trail by parking your car at Radar Hill and walk along the side of the highway – be careful! When you get out on the highway from Radar Hill, turn right away from Tofino and count telephone poles. When you’ve reached the 15th one, you should see the start of the trail. Just after a few minutes of walking on the trail, you’ll reach an abandoned building. After this point, the trail becomes very muddy.

The plane you’re hiking to crash-landed in 1945 and, miraculously, everyone on board survived. When you get to a crater, or small pond, where the explosives from the plane were detonated after being removed from the plane, you’re soon able to see the plane through the trees.

Long Beach

After the hikes, we decided to relax on the beach. There are several beaches to choose between, but Long Beach is definitely worth a visit. If you’re staying at Green Point just as we did, you can even access Long Beach whenever you want as it’s right in front of the camping area!

Long Beach Vancouver Island
Long Beach is, you guessed it, long. There are many beaches on Vancouver Island, but this one is definitely worth a visit!

End your 3 days in Tofino at Long Beach or any of the other beaches in Tofino by watching the sunset and maybe even go for a swim if it’s not too cold!

Day 11 – Tofino to Parksville

You probably don’t want to, but it’s time to leave Tofino. Drive the same way back all the way to Parksville. If you skipped any stops on your way to Tofino, now is your chance to visit them.

We had several things planned for this day and day 12 that I would have loved to visit but, unfortunately, we got a flat tire. We had to go and get that fixed, which we couldn’t do until day 12 since it was Sunday and everything was closed – we were pretty stranded and missed the following 5 stops. Hopefully, you won’t come across this problem and will have plenty of time to visit these following places!

Goats On Roof

Goats On Roof in Coombs is a family-owned country market that has goats on the roof!

Adventure Golf in Parksville

Parksville is beautifully located by the water, but it’s also a great place to play a round of adventure golf at Riptide Lagoon Adventure Golf!

Spend the rest of the evening exploring Parksville and get ready to leave rather early to go up the coast the following day.

Day 12 – Parksville to Courtenay

Spider Lake Park

If you feel like visiting a lake after spending some time by the ocean, this is the place to go. It’s a great spot to bring some picnic and start your day by having breakfast at the beach or the picnic tables!

Horne Lake Caves

If you’re up for an adventure above or below ground, a visit to the Horne Lake Caves might be something for you! There are a lot of things to explore here, such as underground waterfalls and fossils, and several different tours to go on. Sounds pretty cool, right? Check out Horne Lake Caves website for more information!

Fanny Bay Sea Lions

After these two stops, we continued via Highway 19A which goes along the coast. We stopped in Fanny Bay with hopes of seeing Sea Lions. They’re usually at the dock, enjoying the sun, but we continued having bad luck – no sea lions this time!

Courtenay

We arrived in Courtenay early afternoon and after a quick stroll downtown, we decided to get back into our van to drive to Nymph Falls Park where we spent the rest of the afternoon.

Nymph Falls Nature Park

Nymph Falls Nature Park is only 10 minutes by car from Courtenay. Go on a hike through the forest and arrive at this beautiful waterfall!

Nymph Falls Nature Park
There’s a beautiful waterfall to explore in Nymph Falls Nature Park, right next to Courtenay.

Goose Spit Park and Fisherman’s Wharf Boardwalk

We decided to end our day by the water in Comox, which is only 5 kilometres east of Courtenay.

Here, you’ll find Goose Spit Park, which offers beautiful views, but also a nice boardwalk – Fisherman’s Wharf Boardwalk. While walking on the boardwalk among all the boats and beautiful views, we even managed to see several eagles!

Fisherman's Wharf Boardwalk in Comox
We saw several eagles while walking on the Fisherman’s Wharf Boardwalk.

Day 13 – hiking in Strathcona Park, then off to Campbell River

It’s time for another beautiful hike! There are many opportunities to go hiking on Vancouver Island, and we definitely never got tired of it – there is so much to explore!

Get up early, and if you’re planning on doing one of the longer hikes, bring snacks, lunch, plenty of water and nice hiking shoes.

Strathcona Park truly is a hidden gem on the island. We’re happy we found this place and added it to our Vancouver Island itinerary!

Paradise Meadow Loop Trail

There are several different trails to choose between. We chose the Paradise Meadow Loop Trail which was rather short, 3.5 kilometres, but offered beautiful views! We found this to be a very calm and peaceful hike, and we barely encountered any other hikers at all.

Paradise Meadows in Strathcona Park
A hike in Strathcona Park should be on your Vancouver Island itinerary – there are several stunning ones to explore!

You can easily spend your whole day in Strathcona Park, but we decided to continue up the coast to spend our afternoon in Campbell River.

Fisherman’s Wharf in Campbell River

We spent hours strolling around this part of Campbell River, there is so much to explore here! Not only is it nice to stroll around the harbour, but you’ll also find several murals and Robert V. Ostler Park, where you can sit down at a bench and enjoy the view.

Fisherman's Wharf Campbell River
The harbour and Fisherman’s Wharf in Campbell River is such a pretty place!

Day 14 – Campbell River to Woss

Elk Falls Provincial Park

Elk Falls Provincial Park is actually one of my favourite destinations in this Vancouver Island itinerary! Maybe it’s because we had great weather and pretty much had the whole park to ourselves, or simply because it’s a really cool place. Or, possibly, a combination of both!

We explored the Elk Falls Suspension Bridge and the stunning Elk Falls which is right beside it. There’s no need to pay to walk on a suspension bridge, which sometimes is the case at other destinations – this one is completely free to visit!

Elk Falls Suspension Bridge, Vancouver Island
No need to pay to walk on a suspension bridge – Elk Falls Suspension Bridge is free to visit, and you might even end up having it all to yourself!

Hiking the Ripple Rock trail

This is another unique hike on Vancouver Island. It doesn’t lead to a crashed bomber plane this time, but to a viewpoint looking over Ripple Rock, an underwater mountain. It’s a 4 kilometre moderate to difficult hike, each way, and it’ll give you a view of the narrow strait where many ships sunk because of Ripple Rock’s underwater peaks. Tragically, many people lost there lives over the years and, eventually, there was an explosion to get rid of the dangerous peaks. It was successful, and now you can see whirlpools where the remainders of Ripple Rock are.

Ripple Rock Trail
This is the viewpoint at the end of the Ripple Rock trail!

After hiking the Ripple Rock trail, we continued our journey to northern Vancouver Island. We decided to stay just outside of Woss for the night, you’ll find free camping suggestions at the bottom of this post, and explore this area for the rest of the day.

Nimpkish Valley Heritage Park.

Check out a majestic steam locomotive in Nimpkish Valley Heritage Park and visit the memorial gazebo that honours logging history in the area.

Woss Heritage Park
You’ll find this locomotive in Nimpkish Valley Heritage Park.

Woss Fire Lookout

We were really excited about hiking to the Woss Fire Lookout but, unfortunately, we had to turn around since our van couldn’t handle the road to the trailhead. It’s a very steep and rough road, not suitable for minivans like ours! If you have the chance though, and a vehicle that can handle the road, consider hiking to the Woss Fire Lookout. I’ve heard the views from there are stunning.

If you only have two weeks to spend on Vancouver Island, you might want to drive back to Nanaimo to catch a ferry to Vancouver or go to the airport this afternoon. However, if you have just one more day, you’ll make it to the last stops in this Vancouver Island itinerary!

Day 15 Woss – Port Hardy

It’s time to check out the last stops in my Vancouver Island itinerary, and we’ll start with one of my favourite ones on the island!

Little Huson Cave Park

Little Huson Caves Park is a hidden gem on Vancouver Island that you should try to visit! The road out here was rather rough and just manageable for our minivan, if it would have been any worse we would have had to turn around – but I’m really glad we didn’t!

Little Huson Cave Park
Little Huson Cave Park is a really cool place to visit – we even got it all to ourselves!

The Little Huson Cave Park is full of fantastic limestone and cave formations. It’s just a short hike from the parking lot and apart from the cool caves, you can also head down another trail just next to this one and go to this beautiful viewpoint!

Viewpoint Little Huson Cave Park
Close to the caves you’ll find this beautiful viewpoint.

Telegraph Cove

Next stop is Telegraph Cove – a picturesque community on the northern coast of Vancouver Island with around 20 inhabitants. There are cute shops, cafes and a beautiful harbour to explore! There’s also the opportunity to go on several tours, such as whale watching, but those type of tours are available all around the island. We didn’t go on any tours, but we still got to see whales from the shore in Tofino!

Telegraph Cove
Telegraph Cove is a hidden gem on Vancouver Island.

Port McNeill

Port McNeill is a small town, although big for being on this part of the island, and a great place to stretch your legs for a bit. If you’re travelling here on a Saturday during summer, don’t forget to check out the farmers’ and artisans’ market!

Storey’s Beach

Continue towards Port Hardy from Port McNeill. Make a short detour to Storey’s Beach and spend some time there if the weather is nice!

Port Hardy

Continue to Port Hardy. Stop at the visitor centre, visit it if you want to, and go for a stroll along the water towards the Cenotaph.

If you feel like you’ve seen enough, or if you don’t have much more time, you might start the trip back again this evening already – or rest and wait until tomorrow. We started to drive back this evening and stayed close to Woss again for free, but if you have an extra day (or even two) to spend here, you could go on some more adventure before going back down the coast!

Port Hardy on Vancouver Island
Port Hardy was the last stop in our Vancouver Island itinerary before we started heading south again.

Day 16 An extra day in the area or time to return back

If you decide to stay for one more day, which we, unfortunately, didn’t this time because of bad weather, consider these three options:

Cape Scott Provincial Park

This park looks like a beautiful hidden gem, located pretty much as far northwest you could travel on Vancouver Island. It’s perfect for hiking and nature lovers – don’t forget to visit San Josef Bay! Here’s a lot more information about Cape Scott Provincial Park, I really wish we could’ve made it, it looks amazing!

Hiking in northern Vancouver Island

There are several opportunities to go hiking without having to drive to Cape Scott Provincial Park. Here’s a list of hikes in Port Hardy and nearby towns and villages on the northern part of the island.

Explore nearby islands

If you feel like getting on a ferry to explore one or several of the nearby islands, drive back to Port McNeill. Take the ferry to Alert Bay to visit a centre for first nation culture or go to Sointula, a seaside town on Malcolm Island where Finnish settlers arrived at the end of the 19th century.

Day 16/17 to 21 – choose how you want to finish this Vancouver Island itinerary

For the last days, if you still have time to explore the island, I have two different suggestions depending on your situation. If you like camping, relaxing and travelling on a budget, I have some great tips on free campsites on Vancouver Island (and in this part of the island) for you!

If that doesn’t sound interesting to you, scroll down to The Gulf Islands below!

Free camping on Vancouver Island

We managed to find several beautiful places for free camping on Vancouver Island, and stayed there for the last part of our trip. One of them is BC Hydro’s camping at Strathcona Dam, which you’ll reach if you continue on the road to Elk Falls.

Free camping at Strathcona Dam

The campground at Strathcona Dam has it all – a beach, beautiful surroundings and clean and nice campsites. We couldn’t believe it was free! We visited during 2019 and saw a sign saying that the campsite will move in 2020 – make sure to check that the campsite at Strathcona Dam is open before you go.

Stratchona Dam
Strathcona Dam – a beautiful place for free camping on Vancouver Island!

If you make the drive to Strathcona Dam to stay for a few nights and need some day trips, consider visiting Lady Falls, Elk River Trail (we met a bear on this trail – remember to stay safe in bear country, always, not only on this trail!) and Lower Myra Falls.

Lady Falls, Stratchona Park
If you go to Strathcona Dam, don’t forget to visit Lady Falls.

A visit to the Lower Myra Falls will make a perfect day trip. You’ll reach this beautiful waterfall via a 1.2-kilometre loop which definitely is worth it – doesn’t it look stunning?

Myra Falls, Vancouver Island
One of my favourite waterfalls on Vancouver Island is the spectacular Lower Myra Falls.

Woss Lake Campground

Another place to camp for free on Vancouver Island is Woss Lake Campground, south of Woss. We visited this campsite during a busy weekend – unfortunately, it was already full by the time we got there. Instead, we drove to Nimpkish Lake Recreation Site where we found a spot.

Nimpkish Lake Recreation Site

Nimpkish Lake Recreation Site is conveniently located close to the highway but with beautiful views! This free campsite on Vancouver Island seemed very busy as well – we arrived early afternoon and got one of the last spots.

Marble River Campground

If you want to go camping in northern Vancouver Island and plan to visit Port Alice, this is a great campground to stay at for a few nights. We loved walking down to the beautiful river and you can even hear the water flowing from most of the campsites!

All of the campsites above has (when we visited in 2019) outhouses and Strathcona Dam and Marble River also have private picnic tables at your campsite. At Strathcona Dam, you’ll even have your own fireplace and there are several garbage bins.

The Gulf Islands – something to add to your Vancouver Island itinerary

If you’re not into camping, or maybe you’d like to camp for some days and then do something else, you should consider checking out the Gulf Islands!

We didn’t visit them this time but we’ve heard a lot about them, so they just had to make it to this Vancouver Island itinerary.

You can take the ferry to the Gulf Islands from different cities along the coast, depending on which one or ones you’d like to visit. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you which one is the best, but I recommend checking out this website to get more information about the different islands, what there is to do, how to get there and how to get around on the Gulf Islands.

That’s it, that’s my Vancouver Island itinerary! We had such an amazing time on the island and really hope, and think, you’ll have it as well. This Vancouver Island itinerary was initially made for a trip during warmer months, but you should be able to do most of the things during winter as well – although, be sure to check before you go! Also, if you’re visiting Vancouver Island during winter, you could visit the ski resorts on Vancouver Island!

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, you can shorten your trip by skipping certain things or parts of the island or make your visit longer by staying at the free campsites or explore any of the stops for a longer time than I’ve suggested. Who knows, by driving around the island you might even find some hidden gems on your own!

I hope you enjoyed this Vancouver Island itinerary and found it helpful. Have a fantastic time on the island!

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