Posted by: santiamtocoast | October 2, 2010

Out of the Region: My British Columbia Roadtrip


Originally uploaded by druttan

About two weeks ago, Jim and I got back from an amazing week-and-a-half road trip to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. We drove from Waldport to Bellingham, then to Vancouver, where we spent a day and a night before boarding the ferry (BC Ferries were beautiful, and I’m told nicer than the American ferries) the next morning to Victoria.

We spent a few days in Victoria walking around Inner Harbour, checking out the Royal BC Museum and doing a little shopping, sight-seeing and movie watching. I really liked Victoria; it’s a charming urban center with a small-town character and a unique British flair. The marina setting is really picturesque.

From there we were rained out of our intention to see Butchart Gardens so we continued on up to Nanaimo, birthplace of Diana Krall and a sprawling, suburban example of retirement’s effect on the island (a writer once said of Victoria but it’s true of the rest of the island, “Victoria is where old people go to visit their parents…), and spent the night in Parksville. Then we were on to the West Coast and the Pacific Rim National Park and Reserve.

We stayed in Ucluelet for two nights, where lodging is cheaper than in neighboring and more upscale Tofino. We enjoyed hiking rainforest trails in Pacific Rim, taking walks around the ports of both towns, shopping (browsing, actually) in Tofino, watching the whale-watching cruises and seaplane and kayak tours depart from the docks. Tofino’s location is breathtaking — a little bit of town and expansive views of the bay.

It’s gorgeous up there — remote, rugged and beautiful. The boardwalk hikes through the rainforest are very unique — I don’t think I’ve ever done anything like that before. The West Coast reminded me quite a bit of the Oregon Coast, but to the power of 10!

On the way back, we checked out Butchart Gardens, which is Disneyland for flower lovers and filled with the kinds of photographers who take nothing but close-up photos of flowers … but very impressive. I especially liked the Japanese and Italian gardens. We also took in “low tea” at Murchie’s — a pot of tea and a lemon tart — cheaper than high tea at Fairmont Empress and without the enforced “resort casual” dress code!

Overall, it was a fun trip, a great escape and Vancouver Island is a place of wild beauty. We had a good mix of urban and rural and paced ourselves well. We enjoyed eating local as much as we could, picking up BC-produced artisan cheeses at grocery stores for picnic lunches, for example. We also loved British Columbia beer. There are some truly excellent brewpubs in BC. I definitely hope to be back one day to catch a few things we didn’t get to see this time, like Saltspring Island and other hikes.

Here’s a few highlights of the trip:


Lift: Bar, View, Grill – Amazing upscale dining experience with a beautiful marina view. The presentation of the food was excellent and everything

Vancouver Aquarium – It’s not off the beaten track, but it’s an excellent aquarium with beluga whales, dolphin shows, sea lions and sea otters and a variety of other marine life.
Stanley Park – Expansive city park with 1,000 acres in the heart of Vancouver. Plenty of views of the city, picnic spots and urban walking and bicycling trails.
Gastown Steam-powered Clock – It’s a tourist trap but it’s a fun, unique stop that is free to see. Personally, I prefer tourist traps like this to say, wax museums. The Victorian-looking clock chimes on the hour and whistles every 15 minutes with a gush of steam.


Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub – 308 Catherine St., Victoria – a Victoria staple, Spinnakers was one of North America’s first true brewpubs and microbreweries, so it’s been doing it right for a long time. Excellent craft beers and farm-fresh fare.
Milestones Grill and Bar – 812 Wharf Street – There are several Milestones restaurants in Canada; the one in Victoria is at a great location within the Inner Harbour area with a fantastic view. I particularly enjoyed my appetizer, a baked goat cheese and slow-roasted garlic flatbread plate, served with warm naan bread and crisp Ciabatta toasts.

Royal BC Museum – Fantastic museum that’s been its this kind of thing right before it was popular in the rest of the museum world. I especially enjoyed the First Nations history/culture section, particularly the emphasis on art. The life-size dioramas of BC history were also well done.


Common Loaf Bake Shop – 180 First St., Tofino, BC – Quirky, independent coffee shop with excellent hand-made bread and good coffee.

Pacific Rim National Park and Reserve – I hiked Schooner’s Cove Trail (breathtaking rainforest boardwalk leading into quiet beach); Rainforest Trail (great example of boardwalk rainforest hiking); Bog Trail (it’s like another world, stepping into this mystical peat bog on a foggy day); and enjoyed Wickaninnish Beach (though since it is near an upscale resort of the same name, you mostly see well-dressed visitors stopping briefly to take photos here).

Mermaid Tales Bookshop – It looks like a touristy place from the outside, but step inside to a quality bookstore with a selection of tasteful kites and gifts. The book selection is small but high-quality and literary. The kind of place where I could walk out with armfuls of books if I didn’t exercise restraint!

Here’s my photo gallery.


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