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Help with September itinerary?

Whitehorse, Canada
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232 posts
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Help with September itinerary?

Hi all,

My husband and I are headed to Vancouver Island for the first time this September. We are visiting friends for a few days in Ladysmith/Nanaimo, but plan to take the rest of the week to explore on our own and make it into a mini-vacation. Hoping you can help me with the must-do/must-see for our first visit. So far, our itinerary looks a bit like this:

Sunday, Sept 18: Arrive in Victoria at 11am. Spend the rest of the day in Victoria (what are the must-dos for this day?) Hotel will potentially be the Best Western Inner Harbour (we have a free night at a Best Western that we can use)

Monday: Rent a car, leave Victoria. Where to? TBC

Tuesday: TBC

Wednesday: Plan to arrive in Ladysmith late afternoon / early evening

Thursday: Ladysmith / Nanaimo to visit friends

Friday: Plan to head back to Victoria mid-late afternoon, to be there around dinner time. Overnight at the Best Western again? Or different hotel in different area?

Saturday: Fly out of Victoria airport at 11:30am

As you can see above, we plan on spending 2 nights in Victoria, one at the front end of our trip and one at the back end...and we think that's probably enough. As you can see, the Monday, Tuesday, and part of Wednesday are all up in the air. We'd like to visit other parts of the island while we're there. Everyone we've talked to so far keeps saying that Tofino/Ucluelet are must-sees...but we're open to other suggestions too.

Hoping for some great suggestions that will help us fill in some of the blanks in our itinerary!

Some things we might be interested in...my husband would love to try zip-lining, and I would love to try kayaking (although I can't swim, and I have never tried it before, so it would have to be somewhere fairly shallow for me to feel comfortable).

Thanks in advance for your help and suggestions!

Vancouver, Canada
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1. Re: Help with September itinerary?

On your hotel choice, we've stayed at the Best Western Inner Harbour and really liked it. It's located in an area called James Bay (mixed hotel and residential) which is about 10 minutes on foot from the beginning of the downtown area. It's quite a nice walk along the Inner Harbour past the Parliament Buildings and the Empress Hotel. When we stayed there, the rate came with the usual BW extended continental breakfast which was very convenient.

On Tofino, here is why so many people recommend going over there -

http://www.tofino-bc.com/

www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/bc/pacificrim/visit.aspx

An alternative, which explores southern Vancouver Island is the Pacific Circle Marine Tour -

http://www.pacificmarinecircleroute.com/

Port Moody, Canada
Destination Expert
for Vancouver, British Columbia
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2. Re: Help with September itinerary?

If you really wanted to go to Tofino I'd skip your first night in Victoria and hea dup there right away. it's about a 5 hour drive. You'd arrive Tofino Sunday nioght and have ll day Monday and Tuesday there.. then Wed head for Ladysmith as planned. The drive into/out of Tofino Uclulet is on a narrow winding road and can't be rushed. Most here will recommend that you give Tofino Pacific Rim area three full nights so as to make the journey there worth while. You will probably be fine with one full day in Victoria.

The alternative Pacific Marine Circle route is also well worth doing if you want to keep your 2 full Victoria days. Some wonderful beaches, westcoast scenery and hiking here as well. Once in Nanaimo you may also end up visitng some of the area parks with your friends.

I beleive there is some kayaking out of Tofino.. search kayak on the forum for past threads..

Edited: 13 August 2011, 20:47
Whitehorse, Canada
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232 posts
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3. Re: Help with September itinerary?

Thanks for the info!

I'm starting to think that the drive to Tofino/Ucluelet is going to be too much driving in such a short period of time. My hubby says the drive is doable, and that he wouldn't mind going to the west side of the island, but it doesn't seem to be a "must do" for him. His thoughts are that he just wants to see several different places on the island, and he doesn't really care where we go. So, we might stick to the east side of the island for this first trip...and try to do the Pacific Marine Circle route.

If we stick to the East side, is it worth going as far as Courtney/Comox? Or should we just stick to Nanaimo/Parksville/Qualicum Beach area? I was also looking at possibly doing a little excursion out to Gabriola Island and perhaps kayaking around there, so we could see the Malaspina Galleries, or trying Newcastle Island...

Canada
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for Vancouver Island
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4. Re: Help with September itinerary?

If you do the Circle route and then go as far north as Parksville/Qualicum I think would be a nice trip. There would be no real "need" to go as far as Courtenay.

Vancouver, Canada
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5. Re: Help with September itinerary?

Just returned from 10 days on the island and just reconfirmed why it is such a terrific destination. The Cowichan Valley is in my sights for the next trip, and everyone I spoke to told me how lovely it is there.

My first thought when reading your plans was the Pacific Marine Circle Route. I have only been as far as Port Renfrew, but that section of coast is lovely and provides a stunning shoreline that makes a fair stand in for the Tofino/Long Beach area if you don't have time to get up to that part of the island (which absolutely deserves its wonderful reputation).

My other thought was to go out to Saltspring Island - get on the island from Swartz Bay and then off at the Vesuvius-Crofton crossing, and then perhaps head into the Cowichan. There is some spectacular kayaking around the Southern Gulf Islands - those calm, inland waters are perfect for beginners. Swimming isn't necessary, just wear a good PFD (personal floatation device) and keep calm if you do go over. I actually find kayaks extremely stable, more so than a canoe. Because you are sitting so low, its like an extension of your legs and I find it very easy to counter-balance any waves or turbulence in the water. I encourage you to try it, I think you'll be surprised at how stable it is once you get going. People who do tip, do it getting in and out of the boat, so just take your time on that part and listen to your guide's instructions.

Ottawa
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6. Re: Help with September itinerary?

Would these suggestions for places to go also be valid for the first half of November, or would it be too cold and wet to enjoy the trip? My wife and i have a week to spend after visiting family in Vancouver and would like to visit the island. We are not expecting beach weather but don't want to spend our time huddled in the car or looking out of hotel windows. Advice and suggestions would be much appreciated.

Whitehorse, Canada
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232 posts
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7. Re: Help with September itinerary?

Salt Spring Island has been recommended by a friend as well. Hmmm! What is there to do on Salt Spring Island, aside from a day kayak trip? Are the lines for the ferry long in September? We'd want to take our rental car with us, so we'd have a way to get around...but wouldn't want to spend hours waiting in line to go across and back. Sounds like it could be a fun over-nighter though!

Vancouver, Canada
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for Vancouver
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8. Re: Help with September itinerary?

@bigapplelover ~

If you click on the blue print Saltspring Island at the beginning of your post you will be taken to the SI Page. In the left sidebar you will be able to explore "Things to Do." It's a quiet island, lots of artisans, street lights few and far between. V67 will be able to give you excellent info.

@eyendall ~

November is historically rainy here. You can see the month by month weather stats here:

www.weatherbase.com/weather/weather.php3…

Vancouver, Canada
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9. Re: Help with September itinerary?

Saltspring, along with the rest of the GI is very sleepy and quiet. Here's their tourism site:

http://saltspringtourism.com/

I would definitely make it an overnight trip, although a day trip would be reasonable. Ferry reservations are possible, but I believe when you are coming from the Swartz Bay side, its not too bad. General rule is to show up about 60 minutes before your sailing, unless you are traveling Friday or Sunday evening.

Re other poster -- the Gulf Islands are in a 'rain shadow' micro-climate, which makes them an ideal shoulder season destination. If its going to be nice weather anywhere, then the gulf islands are your best bet. However, for a November trip, I'd want to choose a location with some inside activities, like museums and theatre, just to make sure I have something to do if the weather is foul. November is probably our worst month - cold, wet, miserable, but the ski hills aren't open yet either. Doesn't mean we don't get nice weather in Nov, and when it is nice, its stunning (crisp, with snow on the peaks), but you can't really count on it. Tofino is getting to be a popular place to go for storm watching on the beach during the winter.

Vancouver, Canada
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for Vancouver
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10. Re: Help with September itinerary?

I spent a few days on Salt Spring many summers ago, and I found it to be a lot more developed/suburban than I anticipated. I also found it very challenging to find a nice beach. So if you're seeking undeveloped nature or beautiful sandy beaches, it's the wrong destination.

Salt Spring's a big rural island with a lot of nice houses, B&B's, hobby farms, pottery studios, artisans, cheese farms, a winery (or perhaps two)... interspersed with forested parks and lakes. People who live on Salt Spring do so for the bohemian/eco-friendly/nature-loving lifestyle... and I love Salt Spring for that. The artisans and community is a big part of the appeal of visiting, but if you're seeking seclusion, it's the wrong island.

My favourite Gulf Island is Galiano - lots of forested parks, sandy beaches, caves, and beautiful vistas. There are artisans here too and a little village (Studies Bay)... but it feels much more remote and wild.

BTW - I thought I'd also mention that Tofino/Ucluelet can't be replicated on the east side of Vancouver Island. You won't find the ancient rainforests or the wild coastline on the east side that you do on the west coast. Just be aware of this. The east coast of the island is developed with cities, towns, highways, second/third growth forest... the west coast lacks the development and the forests are awe-inspiring in a way that you won't experience on the east coast.

Edited: 17 August 2011, 00:47
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