Vancouver Island is home to rugged, nearly inaccessible rainforests and wilderness coastlines; the island also offers very sophisticated dining and lodging, often in the remote backcountry itself. This is the allure of exploring coastal British Columbia: After a challenging day sea-kayaking remote archipelagoes or hiking old-growth forest, you return to three-star lodging and dining.
Day 1: The Gulf Islands
Begin your journey in Vancouver, driving to the ferry terminal at Tsawwassen to cross to the Gulf Islands. BC Ferries links to five of these charmingly rural islands, and which island you choose will depend on your interests and inclinations. We recommend Salt Spring Island for its broad range of facilities and multiple ferry routes.
Day 2: Duncan & the Cowichan Valley
Catch the morning BC Ferries run to Vancouver Island (from Salt Spring Island, take the Vesuvius/Crofton ferry) and travel north to Duncan and the Cowichan Valley. This beautiful agricultural area is home to excellent wineries and organic farms and dairies. Just outside Duncan, the Quw'utsun' Cultural Centre preserves native Cowichan traditional ways of life, and downtown Duncan is studded with totem poles.
Days 3, 4 & 5: Tofino
From Duncan, drive north to Parksville and the junction with Hwy. 4. This road to Tofino and Vancouver Island's wild west coast is long and windy, so allow 3 hours to make the journey from Parksville. However, Tofino and the Long Beach portion of the Pacific Rim National Park are certainly worth the journey. Outfitters make it simple to get out onto calm and isolated bays on sea kayaks -- a popular trip crosses a sound to visit a natural hot springs. Rainforest hikes, deep-sea fishing trips, ocean wildlife-viewing tours, and lingering on the splendid sandy beaches are other options.
The B&Bs and lodges in Tofino are first-rate. Many are nestled above remote beaches at the edge of the forest; others cling to rocky headlands. Some of Vancouver Island's most notable restaurants are here, and the local seafood is exquisite.
Day 6: Courtenay
Cross back to the east side of Vancouver Island from Tofino, but turn north at Parksville and drive up Hwy. 19 to the twin cities of Courtenay and Comox. If you have kids in tow, consider signing them up for a fossil dig tour with the local museum; golfers might play a round on the excellent local course, while the eco-minded will relish a sunset kayak tour on the wildlife-rich Courtenay River estuary.
Day 7: Returning to Vancouver
The following day, cross from Comox via BC Ferries to the mainland and Powell River, and journey to Vancouver along the scenic Sunshine Coast.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.