Vancouver Island Suggestions
My wife and I are planning a trip to Vancouver Island in early September. We will probably have 5 days on the island. I am looking for suggestions on where to visit beyond Victoria, best spots for photography and suggestions on guides or tours to see wildlife.
Tofino and Ucluelet on the west coast for more drama - the real ocean as opposed to ocean water on the east side that does not get waves like the open Pacific.
Ten years ago when the wife and I did this we stayed at some bed and breakfasts which we enjoyed in those two towns.
I echo support for Tofino. There are whale tour boats that venture into the ocean to see whatever variety are there. I have kayaked the west coast extensively, but that is remote and difficult to access. Hot Springs Cove, with a legetimate hot springs, is a nice day trip out of Tofino. We took the ferry from Twassen to Campbell River. There is a park there with petrogliphs. The ferry trip through the US San Juans is very scenic. Salt Spring Island is also a quaint and scenic place. AAA has a resource book for British Columbia that lists B+B's as well as attractions. B+B's are great places to stay and the Inn Keepers know all of the local attractions.
Here are my suggestions since you are going to be in Victoria.
Tofino/Ucluelet are fine choices, however it's a 4.5hr drive from Victoria. Once there, you'll need at least a couple of days to enjoy what it has to offer. It will be busy and full of tourists.
Whale watching off Tofino is NOT the best spot to watch whales around the island. If you want to see Grey Whales you'll have a shot, but rarely are Orca seen and Humpbacks are hit and miss. Grey Whales are not that exciting to see. They are shallow water eaters and seeing a tail fluke is rare unless they are transiting in deeper water.
Very rare do people travel west on hwy. 14 to Sooke and Port Renfrew. Sooke is 40 minutes from downtown Victoria and has some awesome scenery and gets you into the "west coast" feel and starts to act like Tofino and area with the only thing really missing is the iconic sand beaches. There are some, but not like Tofino. Rugged, check!
I would do Whale watching from Victoria or Sooke. Chances of seeing Orca are 95% in the summer with a decent chance to see a humpback and grey whales too. Full of Bald Eagles and Harbour Seals and sea lions.
Juan de Fuca Marine trail about 25 minutes west of Sooke is AMAZING. Trail heads like China Beach and Mystic Beach. Jordan River and Sombrio beach are surfers preference on the south island to surf. Parkinson Creek/Beach near Port Renfrew and don't forget Botanical Beach on low tide to see some amazing tidal pools.
If you did the Pacific Marine Circle route you could go from Port Renfrew to Lake Cowichan and ultimately into the "valley" where you can find no less than 20+ local wineries. A great place for lunch or to sample. Turn south again and onto Cowichan Bay and enjoy the little seaside village. Don't forget to eat at Rock Cod Cafe for some awesome fish and chips.
People forget how large the island is. From Victoria Port Hardy will take you about 6-7 hours of drive time, the most northern part on the island. The northern part should be done with a weeks time with stops in Port Hardy. Cape Scott and Telegraph Cove. Zeballo's is magical and gorgeous. Enjoy Mt. Washington and take the gondolas up to the top of the mountains. We have snow in those mountains all year round.
Tofino/Ucluelet should be it's own trip for a week.
Middle island with Nanaimo/Parksville/Qualicum deserves it's own time as well.
South Island Victoria/Sidney/Sooke/Port Renfrew.
The Gulf Islands, Saturna/Saltspring/Galliano also need their own time.
But if you are looking at the south part only. Victoria - Port Renfew will not disappoint.
I can give you more info if you wish to email me about this area. You'll love it here.
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I should also say the south island can give you these wildlife shots..
3. Grey Whale
4. Harbour Seals
5. Sea Lions
6. Black Bear
7. Cougar rare, but possible, they are around in good numbers
8. Elk * Port Renfew
9. Wolf rare, but they are being seen more around Port Renfrew
10. Bald Eagles
Don't forget to hike East Sooke Regional Park too. Between Sooke and Victoria. Whales can be seen from shores. Cougar are spotted regularly (note, I've lived here for 10 years and haven't seen one, but friends have)
Goldstream Park is a great rainforest as well you might enjoy Butchart Gardens in Victoria
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My wife and I have only been to Vancouver Island once, years ago. We stayed in Parksville and Victoria. The place we both want to go back to and stay is Tofino. Don't get me wrong, we enjoyed the beach in Parksville and the atmosphere in Victoria. It is just we really liked the area around Tofino. The big trees and the ocean are just beautiful.
One thing I would push if you are staying in Victoria is to go to Butchart Gardens. It may be the wrong season though. But it was incredible in June. Also, have some tea at Murchies in downtown Victoria. I'm still ordering tea from them after many years. The No.10 tea is the best I have ever had.