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Trip Report - Six nights on Vancouver Island, June 2014

Wednesbury, UK
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Trip Report - Six nights on Vancouver Island, June 2014

hi all.

We spent six nights travelling from Victoria to Pacific Rim NP, Telegraph Cove and finally Port Hardy as part of a longer trip from Seattle to Southwest Alaska, via the Inside Passage and back down the Stewart/Cassiar Highway.

The whole trip Trip Report is (or will be once we complete the trip) on the Road Trip forum here:

tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTopic-g1-i12567-k75039…

And on our own website blog with photographs, video, and links here:

wmtravellers.com/trip-reports/…

The Vancouver Island section alone is posted below.

3 nights Tofino.

1 night Campbell River.

2 nights Telegraph Cove.

Wednesbury, UK
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1. Re: Trip Report - Six nights on Vancouver Island, June 2014

6 nights on Vancouver Island, June 2014.

Day 1. Port Angeles to Vancouver Island and Tofino.

After the flight to and drive from Seattle the day before, as per usual on our west coast trips, we were awake nearer to midnight than midday, so we spent a couple of hours blogging and stuff, before we started to get ready. I loaded the car, a fine workout in itself given the amount of stuff we are lugging around, and it must have been the envy of all the early morning joggers milling around the car park.

We drove the short distance to the queue for the 08.15 sailing of the MV Coho to Victoria, and after a snack breakfast from a coffee shop as we waited in line, we checked in, paid the remaining US$77.50 fare and drove aboard.

The MV Coho set sail on time, and we enjoyed the start to yet another glorious sunny spring day, this can't be the PNW our waterproofs have come to know and love? Maybe it's just getting the average daily rainfall across our trips down to match the official one!

The crossing was smooth, and we watched the mountain peaks of Olympic NP receded in the distance as we approached Victoria, but saw no whales. The ferry docked on time after the 21 mile, 90 minute crossing and we disembarked, passing quickly through immigration and customs.

Victoria harbour is slap bang in the city, so we had a busy Sunday morning drive out, and this continued as we headed north on the Trans-Canada Hwy 1. This area of Vancouver a Island is the most populated, and it looked like they were all enjoying the sunshine.

We have briefly visited this area of the east coast of VI before so skipped stopping in any of the towns, apart from at each and every stop light and Bamberton Provincial Park, before joining the BC19 around Nanaimo, and following this to Parksville, where we joined BC 4 to head west to the Pacific Rim NP area.

I had thought of routing via Sooke and Port Renfrew, to the south west of the Island, but at around 8 hours base drive plus stops, decided to keep that idea to myself! ; ).

At this point the traffic started to thin as the scenery started to improve to my eyes anyway. We stopped at Little Qualicum Falls PP, and took the thirty minute loop trail around the falls and forest. Then we continued to Port Alberni, leaving Cathedral Grove and other popular sites to our mid-week return to the eastern coast.

At Port Alberni, we stopped for lunch (which also turned out to be dinner) at the Bare Bones F&C shop. It is based inside a former church and gets good reviews. Well the reviews were right, and the fish in particular was excellent, the IPA I had with it not bad either. The portions were big and neither of us finished it all, costing C$45, including tip.

We then made a bee line for Tofino, following the winding Pacific Rim Highway as it passed through wonderful mountain scenery of snow capped peaks, clear blue streams and verdant pine forests.

Eventually, we reached Tofino and our hotel for the next three nights at MacKenzie Beach, on land belonging to the Tia-o-qui-aht First Nation, who gave us a warm welcome.

The 200 miles, 320km, from Victoria had taken about 6 hours and we arrived around 4pm. We then unpacked, blogged, edited photos before deciding we were too full still for dinner so took a beach stroll to time with the start of sunset at around 9pm.

After a whisky for me and a wild cherry diet for Liz on the balcony to watch the last of the sun go down, we called it a day to try and reduce our sleep deficit, and get ready for more time out of the car tomorrow.

Day 2. Walks and Trails in Pacific Rim NP.

Different day, and a slightly different early morning routine. No packing to do, but still up at a very early hour, so used the time for more blog and internet based activity.

Today was a day that rather than end up with a numb derrière from too much time in the car, it would be legs that would be aching as a result of the planned activities.

We decided to have breakfast at the hotel, so took a walk on the beach to work up an appetite before the Beach Bistro opened at 8am. Very late compared to many but I suppose they don't get too many business travellers? It's not a buffet style but cooked to order anyway.

A small but friendly terrier kept running up to me, insisting that I throw his slobber soaked tennis ball for him to chase, but he always forgot to drop it for me and his owner called him back every time. Whilst it was not raining (hooray!), the morning was misty, lifting to leave a grey sky of low cloud and cool temperatures.

Breakfast was good, omelette for Liz, posh bacon and egg sandwich for me, toasted ciabatta and all that kind of thing, and we then got the camera gear and jumped into Olaf. Yes, Liz has named this white car after a Disney film character.

We drove back south along the Pacific Rim Highway, through the National Park to Ucluelet, 40 minutes and 24 miles, 38 km away to start the day with some of the Wild Pacific Trail. This is maintained through a non profit charity to which you can make donations at the parking lots, and you can see evidence of it's upkeep all along it.

Anyway, we started with the 2.6km Amphitrite Lighthouse loop which winds through mossy forest to give views out over the rugged coastline, where many ships have met an end on the rocks around Barkley Sound. At the Lighthouse we stopped for a moment for a few shots and Liz spotted our first wildlife of the day, what we thought after checking was a Mink (but it may have been a Fisher), but whichever, it was first one I have ever seen and a lot bigger than I expected, if it was a Mink. A bit more confirmatory research need when we get home.

The loop took about an hour, and then we took a drive through Ucluelet (not overly touristy, lots of new property being built ), before stopping at the Ancient Cedars loop, the latest addition to the WPT. This loop gives you close up views of yes, you guessed it, big old Cedar trees, but also more coastline. We spotted a pair of Bald Eagles, but I struggled to get good shots given the angle and back lighting on the grey sky.

We headed back north, stopping to get a Park Pass for just short of C$19.60, which would cover till 4pm next day for the two of us. You need this to park in the Pacific Rim NP, but not to drive through and parking areas have a credit card payment stations.

We then went to the Kwisitis Visitors Centre and took a walk on Wickaninnish Beach, a broad windswept band of sand popular with surfers, then continued to hike through the rainforest, including on wooden boardwalks and long flights of steep timber stairs down to South Beach. Liz was a bit disappointed with the lack of starfish in the rock pools we stopped to look at.

By this time the sun had burnt off the cloud and again we had glorious blue sky and hot sunlight glinting off the surf as we strolled on the sand.

On the way back to the main road, I stopped and quickly walked the Bog Trail boardwalk, an 800m loop through ancient stunted Sitka spruce and mossy dry bog. Heard a lot of birds but saw very few and photographed exactly zero of them.

Back in the car, we decided to head into Tofino town for a look round. Time had flown by and it was just before 3pm when we arrived. Parking is free, but the town has a lot of different timed restrictions, so we found a 4 hour space ( there are also 1 and 8 hour limits we noticed). The town is a lot more tourist centric than Ucluelet but still not overly so and retains a nice mix.

I went to an ATM, we walked down to the harbour area, and decided on the Sea Shanty for a late lunch stop, as it had good views over Clayocuot Sound. So we watched while kayakers, float planes, tourist boats, working vessels and a local Blade Eagle went about their business, whilst we had a good lunch and some great craft beer from the local Tofino Brewery.

We picked up a few info leaflets and after checking the location of the water taxi office, headed back to the hotel to rest our tired legs and relax watching the views over MacKenzie beach, and write up the day on the blog.

In all we had only driven 101km, so sbout 63 miles today, but my legs felt like I'd walked it all too!

Day 3. Day around Tofino,

Today was going to be an activity centred on Tofino, so we had another slow get ready, spent an hour before breakfast walking the whole of MacKenzie beach.

Breakfast at the hotel was again very good, and then we set off on Liz's choice, of the following options, I had established for the day.

A. A Whale watch.

B. A self guided trip to Vargas Island with a chance of seeing some wolves, maybe a black bear, and almost zero chance go seeing a cougar, on a hike to Ahous Bay.

C. A trip to see Black Bears, with virtually 100% certainty.

Anyone who knows her, or reads our website blog will have no problems guessing which she chose. So off looking for Black Bears it was.

The trip correspond with low tide, as this exposes the beach rock and shell fish, so it would be around 11 am today.

We packed the camera gear, took our dry bags for any spray as we would be in an open boat and set off into Tofino.

We arrived at The Whale Centre offices just as they opened at 9am. Yes, they had a tour at 10.30 and yes they had 4 spaces left. We paid our fare and then walked around town and the harbour looking for otters on the docks, but found none.

At 10.10 we reported for duty, signed our lives away on the disclaimer, and suited up in our bright red survival suits, and then marched down to the boat, a 24 foot Boston Whaler which now had a full complement.

Captain Howie gave us a briefing and we took our seats and we set off, headed east along Fortune Channel.

Soon we saw a male and pulled into shore to get some shots, whilst Howie looked along the tree line. Almost as he saw them, Liz, with our binocs, said 'cubs!'

And there in a tree, with Mom digging for clams along the shore were two gorgeous two month old cubs. We slowly moved into position, the only boat in the vicinity, and waited as we watched Momma bear. The cubs were sleeping, but every so often they would peek to check on her.

They soon properly woke up, joined Mom, and we were treated to a fabulous 15 minutes as she first nursed them, and then led the little bruins along the rocky beach just yards from us, the cubs jumping over rocks and running to keep up. Only one other boat made it to us before she led them up a rock and into the dense woodland.

Not caring if we saw anything more, job done, we then went to watch three males, one a big older boy and two younger bears, turn the beach rocks like they were made of paper, as they dug for clams and crabs.

All too soon, and after a total of 8 Black Bears, our two hours was up, and we headed back to port, but not before stopping for a couple of Bald Eagles and a large group of a harbour seals who made a 'splash for it' as we approached.

Back at the harbour we thanked Howie and then made our way back into Pacific Rim NP to do a couple of things we missed yesterday.

One was the Rainforest loop, a 1.1km boardwalk through huge cedar trees on lichen covered walkways and stairs, the next was the steep walk down to Combers Beach, another huge windswept expanse of sand and on to the sea edge, to see the group of Stellar Sea Lions out on the rocks about 100m from the tide line.

Back up the slope to Olaf and back to the Tin Wis, to download the 1100, yes that is not a typo, 1100 shots that I had taken over the morning.

Liz made an awesome choice but next time we are here, I think I'll give the cougar it's chance. However, I'll check the current park warnings about the wolves on Vargas Island as they appear to be becoming habituated to human contact, with the odd unfortunate result, so bear spray might be a required accessory, or trying to form a larger group?

Day 4. Tofino to Campbell River on the coastal route.

Car packed and off by 06.30 am into the sea mist and a light mizzle. We don't count that as rain.

Just after we turned towards Port Alberni on the BC4, we disturbed two black bears alongside the road. I hit the brakes as one looked to be running into the road, but he turned and ran headfirst into a tree instead!

It was not a safe place to stop so we drove on alongside Kennedy Lake. As we climbed higher into the low cloud and misty light drizzle, but once we reached Sutton Pass summit, the clouds broke and we moved into brighter sunshine, leaving the cloud on the western side.

We took a short stop at Taylor River rest area, then headed to Sproat Lake, where we called into the Coulson Flying Tankers Fire Base to take a look at the Martin Mars Water Bombers.

The base was closed to tourists but I got a few shots of a mule deer before moving to Sproat Lake park to get a better view along the shore of the one I assume was retired last year, still in the base.

We then headed into Port Alberni and stopped for breakfast at about 9 am. We decided on the Boomerang Cafe as it seemed sort of apt as we were on our way back and it's opposite the Bare Bones.

Once we had refilled ourselves, massive portions again, we got back in Olaf and we continued to Cathedral Grove where I speed walked around the southern loop trail. I've seen a lot of big trees in North America so the novelty is a bit worn out for me, but if you have not, it's well worth the stop.

Then the really touristy stop of the day, to see the Goats on the Roof at Coombs Country Market. Liz stayed in the car, and told me I was a total tourist. Ah well, the goat who posed for me looked happy enough.

We continued into Parksville and picked up the BC 19A coastal route, which we would follow all the way to Campbell River. We passed through Qualicum Beach and Qualicum Bay and Courtney (busy town) where we gassed up at a Husky Station with cheapest gas we have seen on VI.

We then continued to Campbell River, arriving at our, the BW Austrian Chalets hotel at around 1 pm.

We last stopped in Campbell River eight years ago, before flying to Knight Inlet, and recognised much of it although it looked a lot busier than I remembered in late September.

Our room was not ready at the Austrian Chalets, so back in the car and we headed west again on the BC 28 towards Gold River and Strathcona Provincial Park.

In Strathcona, after a photo stop at Elk Portal, and a drive round Campbell Lake, we took the short but steep hike up to Lady Falls. Worth the effort and we enjoyed the fine spray mist on what was now a warm afternoon.

On the return journey, we stopped at Elk Falls PP, just outside Campbell River. We walked down to the edge of the falls, peered over the edge on our fronts, and then marvelled at the 1940's civil engineering feat of the timber penstock tubes, and the details of the proposed tunnel that will replace them, on the way back.

Then back to the hotel, checked in, and dinner at Freddie's Pub. We remembered the pub from last time, including the large Double Diamond mirror, but not the massive portions. Whilst the food will not win any awards, if it's quantity your after then that place will take done beating.

Not even getting to base camp of my Nacho Mountain, and the Chicken Teriyaki burger being awarded an Ippon, (I defeated the beer however) retreated to the room to write the blog.

Day 5. Campbell River to Telegraph Cove.

Today would just be about a 150 mile leg further north up the Island, so we had no rush and took a lie surly free breakfast at the hotel, before leaving and taking an easy drive up BC 19.

First stop was for a short walk through the woods to Roberts Lake, but although the day was clear and sunny again, the wind blowing across the lake was bitterly cold so we did not hang around too long.

Next up was Dalrymple Creek Nature Trail, another short loop trail through the woods to another babbling creek.

We drove on along the 19, traffic thinning out to a few pick ups, cars, and logging trucks as we passed deep blue lakes, high peaks with the last of the winter snow still clinging to them and woodland so dense it looked like a green curtain at the edge of the highway.

We were going to stop briefly in the town of Woss. We had read there was a restaurant called Woss Vegas, and we send a Vegas friend of ours shots of Vegas related things not actually in Nevada.

But after following the sign, to a housing estate, we came to the conclusion that maybe the owner was down on their luck, lost all their money and closed up, or maybe the odds on finding it are the same as a jackpot hit on Megabucks?

Our final stop was Sayward, where we crossed the single lane bridge (controlled by traffic lights) into the small village. Clearly the town is built to support the logging industry, and we stopped for a few pictures of Kelsey Bay.

There wasn’t much to the village and in a blink we had driven its full length. We did stop for a couple of pictures though, as we headed back to the 19.

We arrived in Telegraph Cove just before 12:30pm and checked-in to our room for our two night stay. Our lodgings, Dockside 29, looks out over the historic dockside buildings across the cove. Really a delightful place, with a general store, a café and restaurant and few other little local businesses, and a history running back to 1912 and the establishment of a telegraph line, hence the name,from Campbell River. Tourism basically dates back to the 80's here with commercial whale watching.

Liz now has the bear bug back, so first call was to see if we could get ourselves onto tomorrow's Tide Rip bear viewing tour to Knight Inlet. We strolled across the docks and through the door of the place to find Daryl the very lady who recommended the tour to us! Daryl was one of our skippers at Spirit Bear Lodge last year.

Whilst we recognised her of course, she needed a bit of reminding, but the mention of the Australian Mutineer ( you need to read our Spirit Bear blog to understand that) jogged her memory! The tour was full, but fortunately for us, two of the people on the trip were freebies (other guides) so Daryl 'threw' them off the list and stuck us on!

Happy, we went for a light lunch at the Seahorse Café and sat on the dock, then we went for a stroll around the other side of the cove and just as we got to the furthest point of the dock a couple stopped and 'warned' us they had just seen a bear.

I had a look at the path way, it looked open enough with good visibility, and decided this was an invitation to go look for the bear rather than try to avoid it. So we headed along a gravel pathway, through a small wood to an area where several plots were being prepared for sale for housing.

We carried on chatting as we walked and then both spotted a bald eagle, no big lens with us, so we needed to try to get as close as we could to get any kind of a decent shot.

I went down onto one of the land plots and took a couple of shots and as I turned to come back saw the bear about twenty feet away eating in a patch of Broom bushes ( which are an invader everywhere on VI).

I said 'hello' to the bear, and calmly chatted to it, whilst walking back to let it know I was no threat and give it plenty of room to move on.

We both watched as it slowly walked towards us a little, then turned down onto a grassed area below us, where it did the decent thing and stayed long enough for us to get some pictures and video.

We then our way back, exploring all the way to the other side of the docks, visiting the whale museum before returning to our room for a blog catch-up. Then had dinner at the Killer Whale Restaurant, the portions were so big they could easily feed a whale or two!

Then spent the rest of the evening watching for otters (no luck) and getting our kit together for tomorrow's trip.

Today’s mileage was 152 miles.

Day 6. Return to Knight Inlet.

We woke, and did a bit of early morning wildlife spotting from our room, black bear, otter ( I'm not sure, pictures are not conclusive), bald eagle, then got ready for today's return to a previous haunt of ours.

We gathered on the dockside at 06.45 to board our all day trip on the Kermode to hopefully see some Grizzly (Brown) bears along Glendale Cove and the Glendale River estuary.

Captain Lindsey, son of the owner, gave us the usual safety briefing, and we set off with a full complement of 13, including the captain. Most were Canadians, but there was three Brits including us two and a couple from New Zealand. Unfortunately, their cousin in Edmonton had given them duff info (moral, do your own research) about the timing of the salmon run here, so whilst they would most probably see bears it was not the kind of sightings they were hoping for.

The trip out took around two hours, and under cloudy skies and on a smooth sea we spotted a few Dalls Porpoise and White-Sided Pacific Dolphins. We had checked the local Whale watching trip logs and this was about all they were seeing at present since the last week in May. We did spot a distant black bear on a beach, but kept on to try and meet high tide in Glendale Cove.

We turned out of the long Knight Inlet, into the more sheltered Glendale Cove and pulled up to Tide Rips floating dock. This is directly across from Knight Inlet Lodge, where we stayed for two nights in September 2006 and watched Grizzlies feast on the last of the Fall salmon run.

We transferred onto the shallow draft skiff that Tide Rip use, and took advantage of the high tide to get up into the Glendale River. We saw a few bears, and a deer and fawn, before coming back to concentrate on a sow and two yearling cubs, and a big male opposite the dock.

We spent the large majority of our time with these and a few others that would wander into the area before moving away. We noticed the Knight Inlet Lodge were taking a lot of day trippers, arriving by float plane from Campbell River, who we then shuttled out and back at a regular pace.

We headed back to the dock for a good serve/construct yourself lunch of salad and cold meats for sandwiches and wraps, before going back to see the sow and cubs. As the tide had receded they had now stopped eating sedge grass and were combing the shoreline after shellfish.

Then, the cubs really pestered mom, and she let both suckle right in front of us, rolling onto her back and laying there quite content and unconcerned ( given all the cameras pointed at her ) as the cubs drank, the milk staining her belly and the cubs snouts. A wonderful and amazing wildlife experience!

We got some great photos, video and just watched for while, with all our companions wearing beaming smiles. We then started our return journey, as I reminded myself how stunning the scenery was, stopping to see a couple of black bears (which we spotted one of, Lindsey the other) on the shoreline, and a few more porpoises and harbour seals.

We docked back at Telegraph Cove at about 4.30pm, after 11 Grizzlies, and 3 black bears. A fine total, and we thanked Lindsey for his efforts in the usual manner for trip guides.

Another good dinner in the Killer Whale Cafe followed, and then I did some laundry, and so exciting end to the very exciting day day eh!

Liz decided she was too tired to blog, but after I had taken over 800 shots which she edited and picked some for a quick blog post, that was not surprising.

Last day on the Island tomorrow as we start first leg ferry trip north towards Alaska.

Day 7. Telegraph Cove to Port Hardy and BC ferry to Prince Rupert.

Today was another short driving day, so no rush to get ready, but we needed to remember to pack an overnight bag for our night on the ferry to come.

After a wildlife sighting free breakfast at the Seahorse Café, we loaded the car, checked out and set off back towards the 19 to continue north, on the way stopping to look at the log-trains which service Beaver Cove logging facility, where I was greeted by a deer who posed for a few shots.

The problems I have been having (autofocus playing up) with our landscape camera were starting to get more frequent, (tip, don’t change lenses near a volcano!) and despite cleaning the lens contacts, things were not improving. Hoping I can juggle and cajole it through the rest of the trip : (. ).

We continued to Port McNeil, where I went to an ATM. After a quick look round, as as there is not much to Port McNeil, which looks like a working port, we continued north, then turned west onto the BC30 to drive to Port Alice, about 30km west.

This area and road is called ‘Bear Alley’ locally and sure enough no sooner had we joined the 30 than a young Black Bear crossed the road in front of us. We cautiously drove on until we stopped at Marble River Provincial Park. Liz sent me out to walk a little of the Marble River Trail on my own, watching for and singing badly to, any bears, but after struggling to get good views of the river, I returned after about 0.5km. We were the only people around, no one camping in the sites.

On then to Port Alice, where we stopped along Rumble Beach and took a few shots of the marina, then back towards the 19, stopping at Alice Lake and, shock, horror, deciding not to drive a logging road after looking at the state of the first section and the tyres on our car. The car is new, so they have lots of tread, but they ain't heavy duty.

We then continued into Port Hardy town, where we gassed up and took lunch at the Sporty Bar (not recommended), with views across Queen Charlotte Strait to Bear Cove where the BC ferry terminal is, east of town.

We still had time to kill before check in time for the 6pm sailing to Prince Rupert, so decided to drive to Coal Harbour for a look see, which is another small coastal community with a history of mining, and whaling.

As we returned to Port Hardy again, our luck with the weather finally broke, and we saw our first real rain of the trip with a steady drizzle soaking the ferry terminal as we arrived to check in.

Boarding started at 3.30pm, and the Northern Adventure loads and unloads from the rear, so the port staff were busy backing trailers onto the vehicle deck, before we were allowed on. Cars have to drive on, then conduct a three point turn unless small, in the bow area, to face the rear doors for unloading.

We checked into our cabin, small but well set out and fine for two in a four berth, then toured the ship for orientation and watched the rest of the loading. That included all RVs being reversed down the ramp and onto the ship, a skill test for any new rental drivers I’m sure!

We set sail bang on 6pm, the rain letting up for a while, before the cloud closed in again as we turn north, making for dramatic misty views if not good photos, and turned in as darkness arrived around 10pm.

We awoke around 1pm as we docked for the first stop at Bella Bella. Not much to see in the darkness of a town we saw last September, but I took a photo or two anyway, then went back to bed.

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2. Re: Trip Report - Six nights on Vancouver Island, June 2014

Brilliant! So is the blog. Thanks for posting Valiants. It's in the TR Collection now.

3. Re: Trip Report - Six nights on Vancouver Island, June 2014

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