For a true Pacific Northwest experience, it doesn’t get much better than a Vancouver Island road trip offering the ultimate mixture of rugged wilderness, luscious forests, abundant wildlife, artisan eateries, and cozy cabins… are you excited yet? Each season has its own dramatic flair, and you can find something to cater to any taste.
I’ve lived on Vancouver Island for several years and have spent my time hiking, studying wildlife, and seeking out the best-brewed local pint. I feel I’ve only scratched the surface of what’s on offer, and I’m stoked to design this epic road trip itinerary for you to enjoy!
I’ll focus on the southern half of the island as there’s so much to do, starting in Victoria and then up and round to Tofino on the wild west coast.
I’ll provide some of my favorite places to stop along the way including great trails, quirky cafes, and anything that’s a “must-see”. If you do enjoy extremes and have time to head all the way up north, I’ll include some recommendations in the last section.
Ready to plan your next road trip? Let’s go!
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How Many Days Do You Need on Vancouver Island?
If Tofino is the only stop on your list, you can breeze it up and back from Victoria in about 12 hours, but where’s the fun in that?
I’d recommend a minimum of 5 days for a road trip from Victoria to Tofino and back to give you the opportunity to experience the variety that Vancouver Island has to offer, and take the journey in fun-size bites.
5 Days: This itinerary will give you a full day and two nights exploring Tofino and Ucluelet, with plenty of opportunities to stop off at key towns, beautiful vistas, and epic trails along the way.
7 Days: With a little longer, we’ll add in some time in the Gulf Islands (Salt Spring in particular) and an extended stay around Port Alberni, which is nestled in the Vancouver Island Ranges en route to the wild west coast.
10+ Days: In my humble opinion, the more time you can spend on the island, the better! We’ll add in a loop that includes northern Vancouver Island from Victoria round to Lake Cowichan; visit the up-and-coming Comox Valley for breweries and trails galore, or keep going north to Campbell River and head out on a whale and bear excursion.
Where to Start & End Your Road Trip
The best start and endpoint for a Vancouver Island road trip is the city of Victoria.
Victoria is the capital of British Columbia and neatly located in the south; a great staging post for your adventure northwards.
Arriving By Air
The most direct route to Victoria is by air. Victoria Airport (YYJ) is close to the city and has many car rental companies in-house.
You can fly direct from Vancouver and Seattle, with a flight time of 30-45 minutes. Most flights from other US cities connect through Seattle, making Victoria a very accessible place.
Click here for a list of airlines and airports with direct flights.
Arriving By Ferry
If you are a van-lifer or would rather bring your own vehicle, you can also get to Victoria by several different ferry routes.
From Tsawwassen, BC: From Vancouver’s southern ferry terminal, ride with BC Ferries to Swartz Bay. The journey is 95 minutes and weaves through a beautiful network of islands before arriving at Sidney, 30-minutes north of Victoria.
The fare is $62 (CAD) for a vehicle and $18 for each passenger. There are sailings every two hours during the day, and online reservations are highly recommended.
Remember that prices for everything in BC are quoted pre-tax, and in general things are about 12% more expensive than you see!
From Port Angeles, WA: Take the Black Ball Ferry to downtown Victoria. The ferry ride lasts 90 minutes with spectacular views of the Olympic Mountains. It costs $70 (USD) for a vehicle plus driver, and $21 for additional passengers.
You can reserve in advance for a small fee (deducted from your ticket price) which I would recommend during busy seasons. In the winter there are two sailings a day; three during spring and fall; four during peak summer.
The Road Trip Route
Driving around Vancouver Island is pleasantly easy, with a network of well-serviced highways to take you to all the major spots.
With 7 days or fewer: Head north out of Victoria on Highway 1, merging with Highway 19 west at Nanaimo, before cutting in towards Port Alberni on Highway 4. This last stretch takes you all the way to the west coast, where you’ll end up in Tofino, and is one of the most picturesque routes I’ve ever done. Period.
This route is around 400 miles round-trip.
With 10 days or more: Head west out of Victoria along highway 14 which hugs the coast, passing Sooke and Port Renfrew. You’ll then bear north up to Lake Cowichan, before returning back east and joining Highway 1 at Duncan. This loop is known as the Pacific Marine Circle Route. After that, the rest of the route is the same, heading to Highway 19 and eventually Highway 4 out west.
This route is around 450 miles round-trip.
If you want to visit the Comox Valley or Campbell River (or even further north!) then keep going northwest on Highway 19, ignoring the turn off onto Highway 4 until your return.
This extension adds about 150 miles from the turn-off to Highway 4 to Campbell River and back.
Important! There has been ongoing construction along Highway 4 at Kennedy Hill for several years, involving unavoidable road closures and single-lane traffic. In 2022, they estimate no more daytime closures but I would advise checking real-time updates at Drive BC. In 2021 we got stuck for three hours and, when released, passed 8 kilometers of cars lined up waiting to get to Tofino… eek!
The Best Stops to Make on a Vancouver Island Road Trip (Victoria to Tofino)
Now comes the hard part! When driving from Victoria to Tofino, you’ll encounter an almost endless list of things to do.
I’ve whittled it down to my top few for you to peruse.
Naturally, you’ll pick and choose your favorites and decide how long you’d like to spend in each place, but I hope this guide is a useful starting point.
Below this shorter list of stops, I’ve also included two important pieces of planning information.
First is a sample day-by-day itinerary to help you think about how to organize your time (I’ve done 5 and 7 days).
Second is for the lucky ones with even more time – I’ve also included a list of several additions you can make if you have 10 days or more on Vancouver Island.
I generally prefer the company of trees, but if I had to choose a city to settle down in it would be Victoria.
It has every amenity you could want, with a diverse range of great places to eat, cool bars and breweries, a beautiful waterfront, and access to some spectacular trails. It is a hive of activity, yet somehow retains a more chilled vibe unlike its larger cousin, Vancouver.
Stroll through the world-famous Butchart Gardens. Even if you’re not that into flowers, you’ll be impressed by these prestigious gardens. This is probably Victoria’s top attraction and worth every penny, with nearly 1,000 varieties of plants laid out in the most breathtaking display.
Afternoon Tea at the Empress Hotel. If you’ve ever wanted to feel like the Queen of England, here’s your chance. The decorated hotel lies on the waterfront, and you can book yourself in for an afternoon of assorted tiny cakes, fancy chinaware, and an excuse to drink champagne before 5:00 pm.
The Dallas Road Waterfront Trail is my favorite place for a city stroll. It’s a walkway over 4 miles long, with panoramic views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Olympic Mountains beyond. The trail borders Beacon Hill Park, another Victoria icon with beautiful gardens, ponds, and lagoons, and some prominent forest ecosystems like the rare Garry Oak.
Soar up and over the city with a floatplane tour. Harbor Air offers 30-minute seaplane rides right from the main harbor. Watch Vancouver Island stretch out before you and marvel at the sights of Mount Baker, the Cascades, and the Olympic Range in the distance. For a little over $100 it is well worth the price, unless you’re afraid of heights and/or planes. In which case… more tea?
There are so many delicious places to eat and drink in Victoria.
- From spring to fall, Red Fish Blue Fish is the best place to get seafood. Quick and cheery take-out service right on the waterfront, doesn’t get better than that!
- Murchie’s is the iconic tea & coffee house located downtown. With chintzy chairs and a myriad of flavors on offer, it’s the perfect spot to hang out after perusing the local stores and market stalls.
- The Irish Times Pub has become a favorite of mine, offering everything you’d want from a rowdy local establishment! There’s lots of outdoor seating on a sunny day, or cozy in for a night of live music and stand-up on one of their many busy nights.
Salt Spring Island
Distance from Victoria: 90 minutes (including ferry) / 33 miles
Salt Spring Island is a true gem and conveniently close to your Vancouver Island road trip route. Getting there involves a short ferry hop from Swartz Bay to Fulford Harbor.
The island is home to more artists, wellness retreats, and local crafts than you could shake a stick at. I’ve been a few times and always discover something new, despite the island being small enough to drive across in under 45 minutes.
Stop for a tipple at local cidery Salt Spring Wild Cider. I’m more of a pale ale gal, but I love the unique flavors of cider offered by this place. You can turn up for a visit to the impressive cider house and have a flight of delicious homemade ciders. The house and grounds are beautiful – the perfect spot to sit on a sunny day and enjoy some local craft.
The Salt Spring Studio Tour is a fantastic free resource offering self-guided tours around the island’s many artist studios and shops. You can find everything from handmade soaps and candles, to exquisite local cheeses, glass-blowing, woodcraft, and jewelry; even a lavender farm! As you’re driving, follow the blue and white signs with the sheep to stay on the tour.
Salt Spring is home to some great trails and picturesque beaches. There’s something to suit every pair of feet. For a relaxing afternoon in the sun, head to Beddis Beach for a swim and a snooze. For the more adventurous folk, scramble up Mount Erskine – Salt Spring’s highest peak – for incredible views of the Gulf Islands and myriad interconnecting channels of the Salish Sea.
Calling all cheese-lovers: Salt Spring Island Cheese may just be your next favorite thing. This family-run cheesemaker offers some of the best goat’s cheese I’ve ever tasted. And I’ve eaten a lot. Really. You can visit their farm and watch the cheese being made while nibbling on a sample of their latest creations. Each wheel looks like a work of art and, when you think about it, what road trip is complete without regular cheese breaks?
As you’d expect, Salt Spring Island is home to many coffee shops, breweries, and quaint cafes for your perusal. Switchboard Cafe is a favorite, hosting over 20 types of coffees and teas, alongside some fabulous bakery bites. They have loads of vegan, gluten free, and plant-based options and are right in the heart of Ganges, the island’s main town. Salt Spring Brewing is another gem, with a gorgeous forest cafe and plenty of pints to pick from.
Distance from Victoria: 90 minutes / 69 miles
Nanaimo was my first ever stopping place on Vancouver Island.
As I arrived on the ferry, I was blown away by the network of islands and lush mountains in the distance.
It’s famous for the Nanaimo Bar, an outrageously tasty sweet treat – but more on that a bit later.
As a British Columbian coastal city, you can expect beautiful vistas, busy harbors, and plenty of activities to keep you entertained.
One of the best places to experience the city is the Harbourfront Walkway which extends north from downtown. It’s a great place to stretch your legs and pick up some food from one of the many stalls. Watch fishermen casting their lines, and a neverending string of seaplanes and boats coming and going.
For a relaxing walk, head to Neck Point Park just north of the city. The trails wind through Garry Oak groves and host several iconic pebble beaches, great spots to sit and watch for orcas, humpbacks, sea lions, and otters. If you’re road-tripping in the winter, then January is a great time to see the herring spawn. These beaches come alive with roe – and everything that feasts on it!
Okay, I presume you’re all here for the Nanaimo Bar, right? Nanaimo Bars are layers of chocolatey, creamy goodness. So good, in fact, that you can buy them almost anywhere in this city and there’s even a self-guided trail for you to follow and choose the tastiest!
Note: for your health, it’s not recommended to hit up all 30+ places on the same day.
Hop over to Saysutshun (Newcastle Island), part of the Snuneymuxw First Nation Traditional Territory. This beautiful island has a network of trails spanning 15 miles and plenty of information about the history, culture, and traditional medicine of the Coast Salish.
There is a 15-minute ferry ride which leaves every half hour from Maffeo Sutton Park.
Grab a delicious seafood lunch or sandwich at the Lighthouse Bistro. The restaurant sits at the water’s edge and has an amazing view out over the harbor. The fish and chips are as good as you’d expect from a coastal town, and there are plenty of kid-friendly options.
Distance from Victoria: 2 hours / 96 miles to the start of the highway
The 100-mile stretch between Coombs and the west coast (BC Highway 4) is full of great stopping places. There’s the town of Port Alberni, several large lakes, impressive rivers and, of course, towering forests of old growth all around.
I’d definitely recommend a stop or two along this breathtaking stretch of road on your way to and from Tofino/ Ucluelet.
Possibly one of the best places on Vancouver Island, the Coombs Old Country Market is an absolute must. There are goats on the roof!
This family-run market has evolved over the years and now features lines of stalls, tasty restaurants, artisan crafts, and a family of goats living on the grass roof. It is a great place to load up for the final leg of your road trip out west. Did I mention there were goats…? Goats on the roof!
A great spot to stretch your legs, get out at Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Provincial Park. Here, you’ll find some huge Douglas Firs; some of which are over 800 years old. The park borders Cameron Lake and the highway actually winds through it, so if you don’t feel inclined to stop you can still experience the majestic trees.
Stop in at Port Alberni to stock up on essentials before you head to the coast. This historic salmon town contains all the larger food stores you’d want to hit up if you’re planning a cheaper night or two in Tofino. Nearby Sproat Lake has a lovely day-use area ideal for a rest-stop and making up some road-trip sandwiches!
The Brigade Lake Trail is a great option for a road-trip as the trailhead is very close to the highway. This 6-mile out-and-back leads you up past giant Douglas Firs and Hemlocks, before breaking out into a beautiful lakeside view. Remember to pack your bear spray and be wary of mountain lions – you’re truly in the wilderness now!
Two of my favorite spots to stop along Highway 4 are the Giant Cedar Trail and Kennedy River rest-stop. The trail is short but fully-immersed in beautiful cedar canopy, and the river rest-stop overlooks giant stepping stones and fast-flowing whitewater. I’d recommend doing one on your way out, and the other on your way back.
A great option for families (or those of us still young at heart!) is the West Coast Wild Zipline. This 2-hour excursion takes whizzing down six ziplines which span the Kennedy River Canyon. The guides lead you safely down all lines, and teach you about the history and culture of the Tla-o-qui-aht people who have lived around the canyon for many generations.
Distance from Victoria: 4 hours / 182 miles
Often lovingly referred to as ‘Ukee’, Ucluelet’s popularity is rapidly rising. Neighboring Tofino, this harbor town offers so much in the way of outdoor adventures, jagged coastline, and plenty of cool places to grab a bite to eat.
One of my favorite parts of town is the Ucluelet Lighthouse Loop. It’s a very easy 1.5-mile trail, bordering spectacular coastline and evergreen forest.
Head to the Amphitrite Point lighthouse for beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and keep an eye out for migrating whales during the springtime (which is an excellent time for whale watching).
On the other side of town, the half-mile Ancient Cedars Loop is a real walk through time, immersed in huge old-growth cedars and thick forest.
Foggy Bean Coffee Bar is the perfect place for a local cuppa. They have their own selection of beans, roasted on-site, and knowledgeable baristas who’ll help you find your ideal roast. You can also buy a bag or two to takeaway, bringing Ukee vibes to your morning wherever you go!
For dinner, I loved the outdoor patio and tasty selection of seafood at Heartwood Kitchen. Mussels with coconut, garlic, and ginger? Uhh, yes, please!
If it’s a wet day or you just love learning, head to the Ucluelet Aquarium located right on the harborfront. They run a huge range of projects from local cleanups, citizen science initiatives, catch-and-release for vulnerable wildlife, and scientific research.
It’s a fun, interactive place perfect for the whole family.
As you’d expect, there are some amazing beaches close to Ucluelet, which gaze out over the rolling Pacific Ocean.
Half Moon Bay & Florencia Bay are two great spots, accessible via a small trail. The former is small and cozy, while the latter is a longer stretch popular with runners, dog-walkers, and surfers.
Heading out of town, turn left onto Willowbrae Road and park at the head of the Willowbrae Trail. This route features over 100 steps down, and at the fork, you can bear left to Half Moon or right to Florencia.
A little further along, Wickaninnish Beach is the southern end of a huge expanse of sandy shore and is an epic spot for storms and dramatic breakers.
Distance from Victoria: 4.5 hours / 198 miles
On to the main attraction: Tofino! Here lies the gateway to the wild west coast, and a short stroll around town is enough to see why it’s a people’s favorite year-round.
Endless opportunities for wildlife, hiking, surfing, eating, watersports – the list really is endless. My first experience of Tofino was on a bluebird September day and it was truly spectacular. I am always excited to return!
Meet the local inhabitants on a wildlife watching tour. No stay in Tofino would be complete without heading out on the water to see the local whales and pelagic birds or visiting nearby inlets to look for resident bears.
Summer is the best time for orcas and humpbacks, while spring through fall offers a good chance of seeing black bears as they hunt for food.
Head out on the water on a sea kayaking tour. Whether you’re a whitewater pro or a total novice, there’s nothing like cruising through the channels and hidden passageways of Vancouver Island’s west coast. Expect to meet seals and sea lions, a huge variety of seabirds, and maybe even some larger blubbery mammals if you’re lucky! Tofino Sea Kayaking offers guided day trips and kayak rentals, and hosts weary kayakers at the on-site Paddler’s Inn.
The Lone Cone Trail has become something of an icon to Vancouver Island hikers. It is only accessible by water taxi and is quite the challenging route. The trail is short but steep, and becomes quite treacherous in poor weather conditions! It is a 3.5-mile out-and-back with shy of 2,400 feet of elevation. The views over Tofino, Vancouver Island, and the vast Pacific Ocean make the scramble totally worth it.
The white sand beaches of Tofino attract thousands of people each season, and for good reason. This place is a surfer’s paradise, with the powerful Pacific Ocean sending epic wave after wave.
Even if surfing isn’t your jam, this part of the coast hosts some of the most idyllic shores to stroll, swim, and marvel at the rugged scene before you.
- Chesterman Beach – This ‘w’ shaped beach is the perfect place to peruse around the tide pools and stroll along the sandy shores. At low tide, walk out to Frank Island along the sandspit for beautiful views of the entire beach; just don’t get stuck!
- Cox Bay Beach – This is a hugely popular surf spot, and is the best place to learn to surf, bring your own board, or just watch the skill unfold! There are some neat caves at the north end which you can explore at low tide.
- Tonquin Beach – Tonquin beach (and nearby Third Beach) involve a lovely hike through forested trails and are typically a little quieter because of this. Perfect for dog walks and swims.
- Long Beach – Perhaps not such an inventive name, this beach is long. I mean, really long. At 10 miles, in fact, it is Vancouver Island’s longest beach. It’s an epic spot for winter storm-watching and clambering through mountains of driftwood piled up on the shores.
No coastal town would be complete without local breweries and delicious food. Tofino is jam-packed with palette-teasing treats and almost every type of cuisine you could hope for. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Tofino Brewing is probably one of the most prolific Vancouver Island beers, and you can visit their taphouse just off the highway into Tofino. They have a huge range of pales, stouts, lagers, sours, and more all brewed onsite.
- Wolf in the Fog is a classy seafood restaurant and bar serving food that is, quite honestly, to die for. If your budget permits only one ‘fancy dinner’ – make it this one!
- Shed is a go-to for cheerful eats, serving your classic burgers, superfood bowls, and drinks. Grab a take-out or dine-in on a first-come-first-served basis in this chilled social hub.
- Bravocados is another people’s favorite, with their all-vegan menu of hearty comfort food. Expect plant-based chicken wings, non-eggs benny, and plenty of kale!
- The Pointe at Wickaninnish Inn is a fantastic option for a romantic date, or those who just want something classy. Expect exquisite seafood and game with an incredible view over Wickaninnish Beach. Reservations advised!
What to Do with More Time on Vancouver Island?
With more than 7 days, you can pack in some exciting stops east of Victoria and up to the north island.
This list makes some great additions to an extended Vancouver Island itinerary so give yourself as many days as you can – there’s so much on offer!
Campbell River is the gateway to north Vancouver Island and offers incredible wildlife opportunities.
From here, you can join a bear watching tour to see grizzly bears in the many inlets with Homalco, tour around the Georgia Strait and local islands looking for orcas and humpbacks, and head out on some incredible trails in nearby Elk Falls Provincial Park.
Make sure to check out Weiwaikum House of Treasures to see a huge collection of First Nations art, jewelry, clothing, and more.
Easily one of my favorite strips on Vancouver Island, the Comox Valley is an outdoor paradise and hive of activity.
If you’re road-tripping in winter and down to ski, head up to Mount Washington Alpine Resort for some epic slopes and jaw-dropping views of the surrounding snowy peaks and valleys, right down to the ocean.
The valley is becoming more and more popular with younger folks, giving the place a great energy. Expect loads of local breweries, tap houses, and neat spots to grab a bite.
Sooke / Jordan River
Only an hour away from Victoria, Sooke offers some of the best hiking and beaches on Vancouver Island. There are so many great trails in Sooke Potholes Provincial Park and the East Sooke Regional Park.
For an unforgettable full day hike, check out the Coast Trail. Not for the faint of heart (or knee…)!
Jordan River is another great spot and is popular among surfers. A somewhat lesser cousin to the epic beaches of Tofino, but you can still find some great waves at the Jordan River Beach, and all the way up the coast to Sombrio Beach.
Camping is very common and accessible along this route. From Victoria, make sure to stop off at Shirley Delicious, a quirky roadside cafe and shop with very fun staff!
With 10+ days on your road trip, definitely head out west to Port Renfrew and circle north to Lake Cowichan on the Pacific Marine Circle Route.
This route takes you down some back roads with truly beautiful landscapes. Port Renfrew itself is a well-known fishing town, and here you can head out on a fishing tour or rent a boat yourself.
Don’t miss Botanical Beach at low tide, when hundreds of little tide pools become exposed. Camping is available at French Beach, and with enough time you could even complete the multi-day Juan de Fuca Trail, one of the island’s most revered!
North Vancouver Island
Wait… there’s more? Often missed on Vancouver Island itineraries – mostly because it’s really far north – the northern reaches of the island hold so many treasures.
Telegraph Cove is a historic boardwalk town, which has become a launching hub for whales and bear viewing. Head out on a boat or kayak into the famous Johnstone Strait, with very good chances of seeing both orcas and humpbacks over the summer.
From Port McNeill, ride the ferry to the historic First Nations town of Alert Bay or to quirky Sointula on Malcolm Island. Here, you can head to Bere Point Park for a chance to see orcas rubbing on the smooth stones close to shore.
All the way north lies Port Hardy, a town with beautiful beaches and access to the fabled multi-day North Coast Trail.
Vancouver Island Itinerary Ideas for 5 and 7 Days
Now that you’ve read the highlights, let’s put it all together for an unforgettable road trip from Victoria to Tofino. I’ve designed a 5-day and 7-day itinerary, and given you even more stopping points if you have longer to play with.
Vancouver Island In 5 Days
With just 5 days, we’ll prioritize Tofino & Ucluelet, making sure to stop off at great places along the way. You’ll still get your fill of beautiful beaches and Vancouver Island wilderness on this whistle-stop tour!
Here’s a summary:
- Day 1: Arrive & Sleep in Victoria
- Day 2: Drive from Victoria to Tofino
- Day 3: Explore Tofino & Ucluelet
- Day 4: Explore Tofino & Drive Back to Victoria
- Day 5: Victoria & Fly Home
Day 1: Arrive & Sleep in Victoria
After a long flight or a ferry, there’s nothing better than to check-in to a cozy room and freshen up. The charming Abigail’s Hotel is full of character and situated on the edge of downtown.
Alternatively, if you’re road-trippin’ in your camper then pull up to a sweet spot at nearby Goldstream Provincial Park and take an evening stroll down one of the many trails – just remember to make a camping reservation in advance.
Day 2: Drive Victoria to Tofino
Get up early for a long day on the road, with almost 200 miles of road ahead of you, and head to Bean Around the World to fill up your flasks.
Head straight to downtown Nanaimo, It’s a great chance to stock up on the coveted Nanaimo Bars and take a walk along the harborfront.
Then get back on the road and head northwest along Highway 19 and turn off down picturesque Highway 4. Take a break at the Kennedy River Rest-Stop and enjoy the whooshing river.
Day 3: Explore Tofino & Ucluelet
After a good snooze, start your day with a caffeine boost at Rhino Coffee House before heading out to Ucluelet. The drive is only 30 minutes, and you’re going to beach-hop all the way back!
Once in Ukee, start with the gorgeous Lighthouse Loop.
Next, get ready to soak up some oceany goodness at the Ucluelet Aquarium, or take a walk around the harborfront on a nice day. Pop in to Foggy Bean Coffee Bar for a top-up of coffee and a bite to eat, then head to Half Moon Bay & Florencia Bay along the peaceful Willowbrae trail.
On your way back to Tofino, pull in at Long Beach, Cox Bay or Chesterman (or all three!) for a chance to see some epic surfing and wild Pacific waves.
I’d say you’ve just about earned your dinner by now! Treat yourself to some of the finest seafood at Wolf in the Fog before a dusky stroll around the waterfront.
Day 4: Explore Tofino and Drive Back to Victoria
If you love early morning walks, head down the trail to Tonquin Beach right near downtown Tofino.
Before you start your journey back, grab some lunch at the Driftwood Cafe. This beautiful cafe overlooks Chesterman Beach; watch out over the rolling waves one last time as you enjoy a tasty selection of pastries, sandwiches, smoothies, and more.
Wave goodbye to the west coast, and head along the beautiful Highway 4 once more. Stop in at the Coombs Country Market and marvel at the rooftop goats or grab some gifts for people back home.
You’ll arrive in Victoria in time for a later dinner, dine-in or order a take-out from Curry Club – a personal favorite of mine!
Day 5: Victoria & Head Home
Then, you’ll head to Beacon Hill Park to wander through an old Garry Oak ecosystem and wildflower patches, before strolling along the Dallas Road Waterfront Trail all the way back to downtown. Keep an eye out for whales along the way!
Finish your walk at Red Fish Blue Fish for some of the best fish n’ chips in the city, before packing up at heading to your plane/ ferry.
If you have the time, stop in at Butchart Gardens for a couple of hours just outside of the city, and soak up all the mesmerizing smells of a myriad of flower displays.
Vancouver Island In 7 Days
In 7 days, you can see so many highlights with a well-planned Vancouver Island road-trip itinerary. Your schedule is bursting with great hikes, tasty treats, and some of the best vistas imaginable.
Here’s a summary:
- Day 1: Arrive & Sleep in Victoria
- Day 2: Ferry from Victoria to Salt Spring Island
- Day 3: Salt Spring Island to Port Alberni
- Day 4: Port Alberni to Tofino
- Day 5: Tofino & Ucluelet
- Day 6: Tofino in AM, Drive to Victoria
- Day 7: Victoria & Fly Home
Day 1: Arrive & Sleep in Victoria
Once you get to Victoria, check-in to your charming Edwardian suite at Marketa’s Bed & Breakfast.
Day 2: Victoria to Salt Spring Island
The road-trip begins! Get out early and drive up to Swartz Bay to catch the ferry. You’re going to Salt Spring Island!
The ferry is only 30-minutes, so you have all day to explore.
Head to the Switchboard Cafe for expertly-roasted coffee and delicious breakfast bites, before heading out on a self-guided studio tour. Choose Your Own Adventure here, with over 20 artists and studios to visit. Lavender farms, woodworkers, candlemakers, brewmasters – there really are so many talented makers to see.
Make sure to stop at the delectable Salt Spring Island Cheese for lunch on their outdoor patio.
For dinner, I’d recommend the Rock Salt Restaurant with mouthwatering burgers, bowls, and seafood with a 180-degree ocean vista.
Day 3: Salt Spring Island to Port Alberni
Start the day at Vesuvius Cafe, while you await the next ferry back to Crofton on Vancouver Island. It’s only a 40-minute drive up to Nanaimo, and you’ll head straight to Maffeo Sutton Park for another short ferry hop over to Saysutshun (Newcastle Island).
Spend a few hours meandering through the 14-mile network of trails, stopping off at one of the many pebble beaches for a snack and a chance to see marine mammals.
Hop back to Nanaimo, and grab a late lunch at the waterfront Lighthouse Bistro.
Fully satiated, you’ll get back on the road and head to Port Alberni, making sure to stop off at the Coombs Country Market on the way. Stock up on artisan crafts and tasty treats for your road-trip and don’t forget to look up – there are goats on the roof!
Check-in to one of the many local campsites, or the amazing Swept-Away Inn. You can spend the night on a fully-renovated wooden tug boat! Eat dinner on deck at their restaurant as you watch the moonrise over the island mountains.
Day 4: Port Alberni to Tofino
With only 2 hours of driving today, you can afford to take your time along the scenic Highway 4 to Tofino.
ou’ll want to enjoy your well-earned lunch at the Kennedy River Rest Stop, which is easily one of the most beautiful spots along the river.
Then it’s onwards to Tofino!
Just before you enter the town, stop in at the Tofino Brewing taphouse for an afternoon tipple. You’ll definitely want to stock up on their delicious craft for the next few days!
Tofino Hostel is a great place to stay, with dorm rooms or private ocean-view suits available.
Treat yourself to some delicious (and deceptive!) vegan chicken wings at Bravocados for dinner, before enjoying an evening stroll around this quaint and quirky surfing town.
Day 5: Tofino & Ucluelet
The trail is quite the scramble but you’ll see why it’s worth it when you get to the top! Soak up the panoramic views and salty Pacific air before heading back for the 12:00 or 12:50 pm ferry.
You’ve certainly earned your lunch, so stuff yourself silly with some comfort food at one of the locals’ favorite: Shed.
Drive over to Ucluelet for the afternoon, stopping off at Chesterman Beach or Cox Bay Beach along the way.
As the evening settles in, head to Wickaninnish Beach for a stroll before tucking in to some of the finest dining on offer in Tofino at The Pointe Restaurant. Indulge in a cocktail as you watch a vibrant sunset, bringing your evening to a close.
Day 6: Tofino AM & Drive to Victoria
Grab a lunch to-go at Tacofino Tofino before you set off along Highway 4 once more. Make sure to hop out at the short Giant Cedar Trail en route to stretch your legs and marvel at the giant old forest.
You’ll arrive in Victoria around the early evening with plenty of time to check-in again to your favorite B&B or campsite before dinner.
After a long day on the road, head to Brickyard Pizza for some delicious wood-fired pizza and a local beer.
Day 7: Victoria & Head Home
For lunch, stroll to Red Fish Blue Fish for delicious local-caught fish ‘n’ chips before your journey back.
If you have a little more time, treat yourself to Afternoon Tea at the Empress Hotel instead. Ooh, you fancy!
En route to your ferry or flight, stop in at Butchart Gardens for an hour or so to marvel at the rows upon rows of exotic flower displays.
The Best Time to Visit Vancouver Island
To be honest, there is no bad time to visit Vancouver Island! Each season offers something different, and you can be sure to have a fulfilling adventure whenever you choose to go.
Summer is full of blue skies, warmer days, and all of the activities you could possibly want to do. Naturally, this time of year will always be busier so do take that into account if you are looking for more alone time in wild spaces. If you love food, festivals, and a constant buzz of activity then the summer will suit you well.
Spring and fall are always my favorite times to go anywhere in British Columbia. With gorgeous cherry blossoms in spring and vibrant fall colors, you certainly won’t be lacking in beauty and typically things will be a little less busy. The weather can be turbulent so pack for the whole range: wet weather gear, microspikes for altitude hikes, shorts, and t-shirts for the bluebird days!
Winter on Vancouver Island is quite the experience. If you’re into snow sports then Strathcona Provincial Park will be your dream, with plenty of maintained slopes and backcountry opportunities. Surfing is popular along the wild, rugged beaches and there are plenty of rental cabins for you to cozy into with a hot tea and log fire, as storms rage outside.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these epic Vancouver Island road-trip itineraries and that you’ve now got some great ideas to craft your own adventure.
The island holds far more beauty and wilderness than could ever be explored in a single trip, so you’ll just have to do it all again someday!
More to Explore in British Columbia
Want to explore the best that British Columbia has to offer? We’ve got plenty of detailed travel guides to help you explore!
Vancouver BC Travel Guides:
- How to Spend a Perfect Weekend in Vancouver, B.C.
- Where to Stay in Vancouver, B.C.: A Complete Neighborhood Guide
- 14 Incredible Day Trips from Vancouver, B.C.
- 12 Great Weekend Getaways from Vancouver B.C. to Plan Now
- 15 Unbelievable Hikes near Vancouver, B.C. (Hiking Guide)
Vancouver Island Travel Guides