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More questions re Seattle to Vancouver Island/BC itinerary

Atlanta, Georgia
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More questions re Seattle to Vancouver Island/BC itinerary

We are still trying to define our trip to BC in mid-August. We are two 50-ish couples, with interests more in day hikes and scenery than shopping, wineries, etc. We are flying into Seattle late evening, staying there overnight, then have 7.5 days to get to and see/experience what we can in western BC/Vancouver Island. Our thoughts were initially to include Whistler, a mid/east coast part of Vancouver Island and someplace on the west coast (Tofino, Ucluelet ?) as 3 bases but unsure of the logistics to do so. We have been to Victoria before, and though a very neat place, wish to devote our attention to other areas on this trip. Though the sunshine coast sounds great and we would love some great weather, it has been suggested that with limited time, we'd be better off to concentrate on Vancouver Is. itself. With 2 ferry crossings up the coast, it might take a lot of travel time.

One scenario suggested was Seattle to Whistler via Vancouver the 1st day, with a hike on the way up. After 1 day, 2 nights in Whistler, off to Vancouver Is. via ferry at Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo visiting somewhere on the east coast for 2 nights. Then after a stop at Cathedral Grove enroute, two/three nights in Tofino/Uclulet. We would return via the ferry to Tsawwassen and back to Seattle. Our question with this was whether it might be touristy/crowded.

An alternate itinerary would be to eliminate Whistler (would miss the views) and go from Seattle to Vancouver Island via ferry then head to northern part of the island with several nights there, then Tofino/Ucluelet and back to Seattle. Strathcona Park sounds like a great place for some day hikes and views. Perhaps this would be slightly more off-the beaten path?

Alternatives would be Port Renfrew instead of Tofino on the west and doing the drive from there to Cowichan(Sp?) Valley, or Port Alberni and a day trip on the boat to the coast and back for one day.

There are so many things to do and places to see, it's very hard making any decisions. If anyone has done a 7-8 day trip and can recommend anything, that would be great. We know we face some driving (and ferry time, though we enjoy the views from the ferries), we don't want to spend all the time in cars. We figure 3 places to base ourselves would probably max out our packing and unpacking tolerance.

One issue is that we will be in a car and have to look at ferry crossings and expenses. We thought of taking the train from Seattle to Vancouver and renting a car there, or the Clipper from Seattle to Vancouver Island and renting there, but after pricing for 4 of us, the car from day one in Seattle seems the least expensive option.

Also, Does anyone know if the preparations in Whistler for the upcoming Olympics are making it a little "busy" to visit this summer?

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

West Grey, Ontario
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1. Re: More questions re Seattle to Vancouver Island/BC itinerary

Hi philsbert;

There are some car rental companies that will not permit their cars out of the state or out of the country, or charge a premium if they do. Most of the larger rental companies will allow cross border travel.

Ensure that the car rental company notes on the rental agreement that they authorize you to take the car into Canada. You may be asked by Customs when entering Canada, or when re-entering the US, for this documentation.

Just a reminder…You now require one of the following to cross the border by LAND;

• U.S. Passport

• U.S. Passport Card

• Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL)

• Trusted Traveler Program Card

If flying into or out of the US you MUST have a passport.


For more details, read the “Crossing the Border” Traveler Article here on TA.


Best Regards

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2. Re: More questions re Seattle to Vancouver Island/BC itinerary

Both Whistler and Tofino are indeed "touristy". Both are trendy, expensive and with the nature of their respective scenery, typical tourist traps. IMHO.

Strathcona Park is definitley not a tourist trap, and there is some wonderful hiking there. Mount Washington has great hiking. Have you considered a circle - Vancouver to Powell River (sunshine coast) to Comox to Tofino then back to Vancouver. See www.bcferries.bc.ca for circle pass rates.

I'd stick with Tofino because of it's west coast uniqueness, but perhaps skip Whistler. There is fabulous scenery everywhere in BC!

Port Moody, Canada
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3. Re: More questions re Seattle to Vancouver Island/BC itinerary

If you are interested in fewer people and more scenery then I would do option 2,, check postings this forum by kingfisherkayaking..look at Port McNeill area or Telegraph Cove for great wildlife, outdoors.

While it may be cheaper to rent and drive from Seattle one factor is time.. you will be spending considerable time getting to either the Port Angeles or Anacortes ferries and also they have limited schedules. WSith only 7.5 days you will use almost 2of them just getting to and from the island... which is the main advantage of taking the clipper.. it will get you to the island much quicker and then you can rent and return car in Victoria.

Re: Whistler.. if queries on this forum are any indication, everyone and his uncle wants to visit Whistler this summer to say they have "been there" before the Olympics. While there are many Whistler fans on the forum it's not my idea of "wilderness", there are lots fo people and it is touristy...after all it's a resort destination which is all about tourism.

Sechelt, BC
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4. Re: More questions re Seattle to Vancouver Island/BC itinerary

Somethings to keep in mind as you consider your transportation options:

Crossing the border by car can take anywhere from 30 minutes to over 3 hours. If you are travelling on a weekend the travel times will be atleast a couple hours. Usually the longer border waits are going in to the US on Fridays and coming in to Canada on Sundays. The long waits at the border are especially true if there is a long weekend in the US or Canada.

To take your car on a BC Ferry to Vancouver Island costs approximately $200 CDN round trip. The Victoria Clipper is approx. $420 US. So for approx. $200US this is a way to avoid the long border lineups.

In addition there are often ferry lineups heading over to Vancouver Island on BC Ferries. This is especially true on the weekends. BC Ferries does take reservations but this is an additional $17.50 each way.

Also just a point people often forget you can take the ferry from Tsawassen to Nanaimo.

If you take the train you avoid the border lineups but you would still need to contend with the ferry lineups. In addition you would be paying for the train, car rental, and ferry. I would think this is your most expensive option.

If you do skip Whistler I don't think you would regret it. It would give you a greater chance to further explore Vancouver Island. With some of your suggested activities I think you will find more than enough to keep you busy on Vancouver Island.

As you mentioned hiking I would suggest a trip to Meares Island - located east of Tofino. You can either take a boat or kayak there. The view from the top is amazing - though it is a several hour hike.

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5. Re: More questions re Seattle to Vancouver Island/BC itinerary


Being a great Whistler fan I have to defend this "tourist trap",

Yes it is not remote wilderness (but not seen as many bears here as anywhere else in Canada), it is not secluded, but yes, it is a big playground throughout the year. With so many activities going on, so many things to do for all kinds of people, ages and abilities and with the scenery, which might not be spectacular if you live in Canada, but still is for people from around the world. It is not without a reason Wistler attracts so many people and have lots of people who are coming back year after year or who choose to come and live there for 1 year, 2 year or stay the remainder of their lives.

Tofino as the other "tourist trap", is a unique place in Canada and with more and more people travelling and with forums like this, you get people attracted to certain places. Why has Tofino become so attractive and Port Renfrew not at all ???

Now back to your trip.

Having only such a short timeframe I would suggest staying on Vancouver Island would allow you to enjoy your trip the most and allows you time to do some hikes, wander around, stroll along the beaches.

I am thinking of 2 nights Tofino, 2 nights Campbell River area and 2 nights Cowichan area.

Tofino, not the village, but the nature around and Pacific Rim Nat.park, is a must see, tourist trap or not, like you need to see Statue of Liberty in NYC. Very nice hikes along the coast, also don't forget Ucluelett and maybe a whale watch tours (grey whales).

As for Campbell River area, this is good gateway to Strachona Park and good place to do a Whale watch tours (orca's) . Tours are more expensive, but boats smaller (12-15 people) and tours take all day.

Campbell is further down south as compared to Telegraph Cove, so they need more sailing before reaching whales, but being out on the water is also a great way of seeing scenery instead of driving all the way to Telegraph Cove. You might also be lucky and find whales who travelled down south, you still will be out on the water all day.

A daytrip to Quadra Island is a 10 minute ferry ride, we fell in love with the island and had to hurry back for last ferry. Very nice hikes, beaches, kayaking, wildlife tours.

Cowichan area mentioned as something different and off the main tourist routes and alternative for Victoria where you have already been.

Your route could be from Seattle to Port Angeles, across to Victoria, stay Cowichan area, drive along Cowichan Lake to Port Alberni (partly logging roads, officially not allowed on by car rental companies), to Tofino, Tofino to Campbell River (along main road) and back down to Victoria and across to Port Angeles.

As VI has not too many main roads, you can't avoid driving back and forth certain parts.

As to being busy: This is high season so yes you can expect lots of other people vacationing as well !

Have fun !

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6. Re: More questions re Seattle to Vancouver Island/BC itinerary

Yes it is not remote wilderness (but not seen as many bears here as anywhere else in Canada),

I wonder if this is propriate english.

What I meant is that all black bears I have seen in Canada was in Whistler and not elsewhere.

So even being called not wilderness, you have a fair change of bumping into a black bear in Whistler.

Vancouver, Canada
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7. Re: More questions re Seattle to Vancouver Island/BC itinerary

Tofino is hardly a tourist trap - it's just more popular now than it's ever been in its history. Again, it's not the town that you're going to visit, it's the Pacific Rim National Park and Clayoquot Sound - the wilderness, the old growth temperate rainforests, the rugged stretches of coastline. Calling it a tourist trap is like calling Banff and Jasper National Parks a tourist trap!

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8. Re: More questions re Seattle to Vancouver Island/BC itinerary

My two cents is that if you're going to go to Tofino (and you should, it's gorgeous and unique), go for *at least* 3 nights.

It's about as far from a "tourist trap" as I can imagine--I was shocked to see it described that way. Yes, it's popular with travelers from all over the world but that alone doesn't make a place a tourist trap.

Atlanta, Georgia
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9. Re: More questions re Seattle to Vancouver Island/BC itinerary

Thanks so much for all the suggestions. I would so like to see Whistler someday, but may have to forego it on this trip, more because of logistics than anything else. As pointed out, it may be more time conservative to go to Vancouver Is. from Seattle (Clipper) or Anacortes or Port Angeles than to go up to Whistler. We will have to do some pricing of the various ferry routes to get to the island. As I mentioned, the logistics are quite complex considering rent car here or there, price of ferries on foot vs. taking a car, waiting times, etc. Whew!

One of our big interests is possibly seeing wildlife (orcas, bears at a distance, etc.)

I know this is the tourist season, but as I've found at so many places...even Banff and Lake Louise...often the "1000 foot rule" comes into play. We go to see the scenery and wilderness, and once we are "1000 feet" from the main drag, the numbers of tourists drop away. We very much enjoyed our visit to Banff/Jasper/Yoho and we went in prime season. On many hikes we came across very few others.

Other questions:

Is the supply boat trip from Port Alberni to the coast and back time-worthwhile on a short 1-week trip like this?

Any more comments re Port Renfrew vs. Tofino as potential west coast visit spot?

Do the mountainous areas on Vancouver Island have snow covered peaks/glaciers?

Staying in Telegraph Cove vs. Campbell River?

Driving from Seattle to Tsawassen to take ferry to Nanaimo vs. driving to Port Angeles and taking the ferry to Victoria?

If we rented a car on Vancouver Island instead of Seattle, we would have to take the Clipper to get from Seattle to Victoria, correct?

Thanks for all the help!

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10. Re: More questions re Seattle to Vancouver Island/BC itinerary


I am very glad to read more people were not too happy about Whistler and Tofino being called tourist traps.

I had never heard about "1000 foot rule" but will add that one to my vocabulary and yes that is basically what we find, even in "tourist trap" Whistler.

I agree on leaving Whistler to another trip, you can't do it all in just 1 week and there needs to be something left.........:)

Regarding your new questions:

We were in Port Renfrew about 5 years ago. was not a lot going on, don't know how much it has develloped in past years ? We stayed at campsite along Juan de Fuca trail half way between Port Renfrew and Sooke and what I remember was that shore along Tofino-Ucluelett part was more impressive, nicer sandy beaches with lots of tidal pools full with sealife and amazing rainforest, you park your car, walk through rainforest, all of a sudden ending on a sandy beach.

I would say go for Tofino and try to be there at least 2 full days.

Maybe an itinerary could be:

start Victoria, drive along Juan de Fuca to Port Renfrew, so you at least get to see it, go up north to Lake Cowichan, through Duncan to Nanaimo, Port Alberni to Tofino, back, further up north to Campbell or Telegraphe and back to Nanaimo to cross back to mainland.

BC Ferries also have itineraries on website.


I would say it is about 3 hour drive from Seattle to Tsawassen, which offcourse may vary depending traffic and border crossing time.

I don't know about driving time Seattle to Port Angeles.

Yes you are correct, if you are going over by foot it would be most easiest to walk on Clipper ferry downtown Seattle.

Have fun !