Sample Tours: West Coast

Vancouver Island Experience

Enjoy 8-10 days exploring the diverse landscape and culture of beautiful Vancouver Island.  From rainforests to marshes, beaches to mountains, oceans, rivers and lakes, Vancouver Island is one of the world's premier locations for whale watching, birding and fishing.  Your CanaDream motorhome is the perfect way to experience it all.

Duration:   8-10 Days
Total Distance: 848 km/530 mi

Small Vancouver Island Experience Map  view larger map
Victoria, BC - Stock Photo
Day 1 - Depart from Vancouver to Victoria - 69 km/43 mi
Please phone our station at 604-940-2171 after 08:00 this morning to arrange the transfer from your hotel to our station. Vehicle pickup times are generally between 13:00 and 16:00 but your exact time will be given to you when you phone. Detailed vehicle instruction will be provided. Do your grocery shopping and head out.  full details

The Tsawwassen Ferry to Swartz Bay is the best choice for reaching Victoria quickly. The ferry ride is about two hours long. If the weather is fair, there is nothing better than to stand out on deck while navigating the narrow passages between the Gulf Islands. You enter a very narrow channel with a close view of Galiano Island on the north and Mayne Island on the south side, coming out on the south-west side of Salt Spring Island and winding your way toward Swartz Bay.  As you approach the Bay, the island on the south side of the ferry is Pender Island. The islands offer a slower pace of life. There are small farms, acreages, and summer cottages. As well, many well-known artists make the Gulf Islands their home. 20 minutes from the Swartz Bay Terminal is Beachcomber RV, our recommended campground for tonight.   This is a good place to stay if you are planning to visit Butchart Gardens or the Victoria Butterfly Gardens in Brentwood Bay on the morning of Day 2.

CanaDream Club Partners on today's itinerary
Beachcomber RV

Whale Watching - Stock Photo
Day 2 - Full day in Victoria
Start your day by visiting Butchart Gardens, a short drive from your campground.  While in the area, Victoria Butterfly Gardens offers your only opportunity to experience the warmth, beauty and romance of a tropical jungle without going to the tropics.full details

Stroll through this indoor tropical wonderland, where Caribbean flamingos walk through the streams and ponds among the beautifully coloured koi, goldfish, Australian whistling tree ducks and red-eared slider turtles. Wander through lush jungles of plants native to tropical rainforest environments. Stroll along the trails past organic vanilla beans growing on the vine, papaya trees, pineapple, coffee beans, ginger and many other foods of the world growing in our organic soil. 

The jungle is rich with its diversity of animals. It boasts 2 chameleons, 6 varieties of poison dart frogs, 4 varieties of Geckos, two different types of tortoises, 30 different varieties of tropical birds and that’s not all! All this within  5 minutes from the “world famous” Butchart Gardens.

Drive into Victoria and spend the next two days wandering in old downtown and the waterfront.  See the Parliament Buildings and have high tea at the Empress Hotel.  Close by is the Royal BC Museum and IMAX Theatre.  If you enjoy historic houses, take an easy eight-minute drive from Victoria's inner harbour, up Fort Street, right on Joan Cresent to visit Craigdarroch Castle

Alternatively you can walk there from the inner harbour, up Fort Street, along Antique Row - stopping at various interesting shops and sights.  Turn right on Joan Crescent and it's a two-minute walk to the entrance.  Craigdarroch Castle was built between 1887 and 1890 for Robert Dunsmuir, a Scottish immigrant who made his fortune from Vancouver Island coal. This Victorian mansion, overlooking the City of Victoria, announced to the world that he was the richest and most important man in Western Canada. 

Victoria is also famous for whale watching - a number of CanaDream Club partners operate 3 hour trips from the Inner Harbour. 

CanaDream Club Attraction Partners in Victoria:
Springtide Victoria Whale Tours                                                              
Orca Spirit Adventures
Five Star Whale Watching
Victoria Butterfly Gardens
Craigdarroch Castle 

CanaDream Club Campground Partners in the Victoria area:   

Weir's Beach RV Resort  
Pedder Bay RV Resort & Marina
Fort Victoria RV Park



Goldstream Provincial Park - Stock Photo
Day 3 - Victoria to Malahat - 27 km/17 mi
Spend another day exploring Victoria and all it has to offer.  You may like to leave your RV behind today and explore by bike.  Cycle Treks Victoria offers a number of single day guided and unguided bike trips worth looking into.full details

Later today, take the 30 kilometre journey up the Island Highway to Malahat and stay with one of our two campground partners in the area where you can relax, build a campfire and reflect on the day's activities.   We recommend you book these campgrounds in advance, particularly during July and August.   A stay here will enable you to have a leisurely start to Day 4, away from the traffic of Victoria.

CanaDream Club campground partners on today's route:

Malahat Mountain Meadows RV Park
Cedar Springs Ranch


Nanaimo Harbour - Stock Photo
Day 4 - Malahat to Nanaimo - 91 km/57 mi
Expect the unexpected on your drive north to Nanaimo. There is such a variety of scenery with every bend in the road, from thick forest, to small towns, and spectacular views of the Gulf Islands that are sprinkled throughout the Strait of Georgia.full details

On your way up the Trans Canada Highway, Bamberton Provincial Park is a worthwhile stop for a scenic break. Duncan, nestled in the Cowichan Valley, is also an interesting stop. The Lumber Mill Museum is worth a look. Duncan is known as the “City of Totems”.  In the downtown area, you will find a historic totem pole walking tour. This island town also gives you access to mountain biking and hiking trails, and scuba diving, canoeing, kayaking and fishing. Oh, what to do?

Part way up the west side of the island, you will come to a town named Chemainus. This is a pretty little seaside town with different murals painted on the sides of many downtown buildings. These murals depict the town’s corporate history and community spirit.

CanaDream Club campground partners on today's route are
Country Maples RV Resort (Holiday Trails) north of Chemainus
Paradise Seaside Resort RV Park, approx 35km north of Nanaimo
Qualicum Bay Resort - approx 1 hour north of Nanaimo
Mountainaire  Campground & RV Park - approx 20 minutes south of Nanaimo
Cedar Grove RV Park -  approx 1 hour north of Nanaimo

Cathedral Grove - Stock Photo
Day 5 - Nanaimo to Tofino/Ucluelet - 170 km/129 mi
Branching off the Trans Canada Highway onto Highway 4, just north of Nanaimo, you will be on your way to Port Alberni and Tofino.  For another scenic break, you may want to stop in either Little Qualicum Falls, McMillan or Sproat Lake Provincial Parks. These provincial parks are further inland and have a different feel from those that border the ocean front.  full details
You are getting into mountainous and forested terrain at this point and there is more wildlife viewing potential. Begin looking for cougar tracks here. It is not recommended to walk too far on your own; traveling in larger groups is advisable. Vancouver Island has a high concentration of cougar populations, although confrontations are very rare.  Stop in Coombes to see the goats that graze on the roof of a local establishment, and stop at Cathedral Grove, near Port Alberni.  Walk among huge old-growth rain forest with trees up to two to three metres thick.

From Port Alberni to Tofino, the highway narrows. Traffic usually slows down somewhat through this section to accommodate the winding, mountainous terrain. For this reason, it is wise to build extra time into your schedule to make your drive less pressured.

Tofino is on the northern edge of Pacific Rim National Park, and is the northern end of the well-known West Coast Trail. This is a backpacking trail that usually takes five or six days to complete and requires climbing up and down ladders that hang from cliffs, walking over large fallen logs and crossing expansive rock flats and beaches while the tide is out. It is an isolated but very popular hike, thereby requiring reservations to embark on the route.
Beach scene in Tofino, BC - Stock Photo
Day 6 - Full day in Tofino/Ucluelet
What an incredible playground! From all the possible activities, here are a few suggestions to tantalize and inspire you. full details

Whale watching tours are one possibility that cover much of the calendar year. Remote Passages Marine Excursions are one of the companies offering such an experience. Their whale watching trip has earned Canadian Signature Experience status. All companies take you out in zodiacs or in larger power boats, cutting the motor when they are close and never getting too close to infringe on whale movements. These companies also take passengers out in summer to watch for bears that forage along the beaches when the tide is out. There are a few sea-kayaking companies that offer lessons and day trips, as well as longer tours. There have been many people who have seen a whale spout very close to their kayak. That is one way to have a memorable holiday. Also, Tla-ook Cultural Adventures of Tofino offer ocean-going canoe trips. These trips vary in length from 2½ hours to six hours.  These trips offer storytelling, knowledge-sharing about plant life and survival skills, and a day out on the water. The trip ends with a traditional salmon barbecue on a beach on Echachist Island .

If sport fishing is more to your liking, there are boat charter companies that will take you out to the salmon and halibut grounds for a few hours or a full day. These charters are geared to groups of four or more. These are just a few of the aquatic possibilities.

Passionate about playing golf? - try playing a round at Long Beach Golf Course overlooking the ocean. The third hole may catch you out, as the fairway looks completely straight, but it actually has a very gentle curve. It seems that if you miss, your ball will be in the Pacific. For this reason, it is one of the most challenging fairways on the island. With all these activities to choose from, it seems that you could have a busy day here.  You may well decide to spend a day or two more in this beautiful part of Vancouver Island so you don't have to choose one activity over another.

CanaDream Club attraction partners in Tofino / Ucluelet

Remote Passages Marine Excursions
Ocean Outfitters
West Coast Aquatic Safaris
Jamie's Whaling Station
The Whale Centre

Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island - Stock Photo
Day 7 - Tofino to Courtenay - 360 km/224 mi
Leave Tofino and head back towards Qualicum Beach.  Take the Oceanside Route - 19A - from Parksville, en route to Courtenay. The Oceanside Route follows the coastline from the Nanoose Bay area all the way to Campbell River but we'll be travelling only a portion of it.   full details
Enjoy the sights of Parksville and Qualicum Beach and the Lighthouse Country communities of Qualicum Bay, Bowser and Deep Bay.  Follow the Oceanside Route through the charming communities of Fanny Bay, Buckley Bay and Union Bay before reaching your overnight destination at Courtenay.  Parks, beaches, golf courses, and dozens of attractions are located along the Oceanside Route, making it one of the Island's most popular driving tours.  Stop for world famous oysters in Fanny Bay!  

Campground partners on today's route are
Qualicum Bay Resort - Qualicum Bay
Cedar Grove RV Park - Qualicum Beach
PineRidge RV Park and Farm Market - Qualicum Beach
Horseshoe Bay, West Vancouver - Stock Photo
Days 8 and 9 - Courtenay/Comox to Vancouver via Horseshoe Bay – 224 km/139 mi
While it's possible to get all the way from Comox to Vancouver in one day, the trip involves three ferry crossings and we recommend you take your time and spread the journey over two days.
Take the BC Ferries mid-morning sailing from Comox to Powell River on the Sunshine Coast.   
full details

Prior to any European settlement in the area, it was inhabited by many Native American peoples and was used as a landing spot for gold prospectors coming from Vancouver Island who were threading their way to the Fraser River to find quick fortune before the creation of the Cariboo Road. 

The Powell River area is the traditional home to the Tla'Amin nation of the Coast Salish people, who still reside there to this day in their traditional village of Sliammon.

From Powell River, drive south to Saltery Bay where another ferry will take you over to Earls Cove.  Plan to arrive in Saltery Bay for the mid-afternoon sailing.  The road hugs the coast in many places and there are good spots to stop for photographs and to admire the scenery.  If you've decided to break this stretch into a two day journey, we recommend you stay at one of the many campgrounds along Highway 101 between Earls Cove and Gibsons.  You may even like this area so much that you decide to extend your journey another day.  Should you decide to do so, we recommend a boat cruise with Sunshine Coast Tours into the Princess Louisa Inlet from the Backeddy Marina in Egmont.

The road ends at Langdale where you will need to board another BC ferry to take you to Horseshoe Bay.   If you have time, stop in Horseshoe Bay and take  a 2 hour high speed eco tour at Sewell's Marina. This tour, in a zodiac, will find you racing beside steep cliffs, watching seals at play, observing a variety of marine birds and peeking into sea caves.  Make your way back from here by road to your campground for the night. CanaDream Club partner campgrounds in Vancouver are Burnaby Cariboo RV Park (discount vouchers are available from our Vancouver station), Peace Arch RV Park, Pacific Border RV Park and Capilano River RV Park.

CanaDream Club attraction partners on today's route are:
Sunshine Coast Tours
Sewell's Marina

CanaDream Club campground partners on today's route are:
Garnet Rock Oceanside Resort
Bayside Campground
Peace Arch RV Park
Pacific Border RV Park
Burnaby Cariboo RV Park
Capilano River RV Park

Vancouver Skyline from Harbour - Stock Photo
Day 10 - Vancouver and Beyond
Drop off your RV at CanaDream in Delta today or continue on the next leg of your journey.  If you're heading towards the Rockies, we suggest you drive to Whistler and follow our "From the West to the Rockies and Back" tour starting at Day 6.  full details

This tour will take you to Sun Peaks and Jasper, before heading south over the Icefields Parkway to Lake Louise and Banff.  From Banff, you'll return to Vancouver through the beautiful Okanagan Valley region.

If you're planning to stay in the Vancouver region for a few days to see the sights, please refer to your CanaDream Club brochure for details of discounts available in the area.  

BC Ferry - Stock Photo
Helpful Hints
The following additional information may be of assistance to you when planning your Vancouver Island Experience Tour. full details
If you follow the route on this itinerary it will involve four ferry crossings with BC ferries.  You may like to check with BC Ferries as to whether there are any savings provided for multi-crossing purchases.  Visit www.ferries.com/promotions for more information.