Our time on the island was nothing short of spectacular; full of incredible scenery, new friends, and great food, we would highly recommend this itinerary to anyone!
My love for Vancouver Island is well-known to The Luxury Wanderer’s regular readers. On June 14, 2021, British Columbia eased travel restrictions and began to allow recreational travel within the province.
Cathy and I immediately decided to take a ten-day spring break trip to Vancouver Island, hitting all our favourite spots, and exploring some new locations as well. Read on to find out how we divided our days to make the most of our time on scenic and serene Vancouver Island.
We took the Big White BC ferry from Tsawwassen to Nanaimo; check-in was uneventful as we had made reservations in advance. These days BC Ferries still have limited dining options onboard and masks remain mandatory.
We spent our first night at Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort in Parksville, where check-in was easy and efficient, (although we were directed on the map to the wrong unit number, we finally found our suite and settled in for our first night). The suites are spacious and cozy, although they do show their age and are in need of renovation.
The views from our luxury suite were nothing short of spectacular—par for the course on the island!
On day two we woke at Tigh-Na-Mara and enjoyed a leisurely in-room breakfast. We then proceeded through Parksville to the Coombs Old Country Market, better known as Goats on the Roof. They have produce from all over the world, as well as pastries, and of course, goats grazing on the roof. We decided to grab a snack there to take for the journey to Wickaninnish.
The travel time from Parksville to the Wickaninnish Inn was approximately two and a half hours at the time of writing, as there is construction and road work that caused between 30 minute and two hour delays along Highway four, so be prepared for this! After checking out Goats on the Roof, we stopped at a gorgeous park with beautiful scenic views and a perfect picnic area to enjoy lunch before travelling through Port Alberni to the Wickaninnish Inn.
Check-in was prompt, polite and efficient, and bags were transported to our suite on the second floor overlooking Chesterman Beach. The furnishings are luxurious and live up to the very high standard set by Wickaninnish Inn over the 25 years of its existence. On arrival, there was a small welcome gift of some First Nations art as well as a small carafe of port for Cathy and I to enjoy.
The suite literally overlooks the bay and there are free bicycles for guests to use on a first come first serve basis, which are also allowed on the beach.
We had dinner reservations at the Pointe Restaurant for this evening, and I would highly recommend this unique and upscale establishment. It is fine dining, and the chef, who recently joined the hotel from Olo in Victoria, is renowned for farm-to-table cuisine. It was truly a spectacular experience, and the views from the point of the expanse of the ocean are also breathtaking.
On day three we woke rather leisurely and decided not to have a huge breakfast, which can be obtained at any of the local fairs or the Pointe restaurant. Instead we opted to enjoy the gorgeous scenery that Chesterman beach, with its 2.7 kilometres of length, wakes you with.
We then hopped in the car and drove ten minutes into Tofino. Tofino is an eclectic mix of surfers, and those rather stuck in the 1970s who we used to call hippies! This makes for a really interesting mix of cultures, and great people watching.
While the town provides plenty of tourist activities like whale watching (and even bear watching!), we decided to stroll around, which took in total about an hour and a half, including time spent doing a little window shopping.
If you’re hungry, there is the ubiquitous Shed restaurant. Shed caters to beachcomber-types as well as those seeking basic but filling fare.
Having had our fill of Tofino, we headed back to the hotel and decided to walk along Chesterman beach, all the way to the end and back. It’s great for watching people surf (and learning how to surf) but also for watching the wildlife, as you spot the occasional eagle perched in the tree.
On the evening of the third day we ate at Wolf in the Fog in downtown Tofino, where reservations are highly recommended. This place is popular, and for good reason!
Its rustic setting is in line with the scenery and the natural splendor of Tofino. The bar is nothing short of spectacular, and the food is absolutely the best in the town.
On day four, we took the 15-minute drive into the BC parks for a rainforest walk. There’s route A and route B. Both are interesting, and you’ll need to buy a permit from the vending machine in order to comply with the parks fee system. Each route takes a self-guided tour into the rainforest along carefully constructed walkways and gets you up close and in touch with the fauna and flora of the region. Route A is roughly one kilometre long, and route B, which is on the other side of the highway, is about 1.1 kilometres with many more stairs to climb.
Upon return, we had booked a spa treatment massage for two in the Ancient Cedars Spa. Our treatment took place in a little cabin overlooking the beach with windows that could open and so it was just us, our masseuses, the sun and the beach; it was the perfect and most relaxing way imaginable to finish off the day.
On day five, drive the 20 or so minutes to Ucluelet. This small town has quite a bit to offer, but the first stop should be the Barkley Cafe, as they do awesome breakfast sandwiches and make real organic coffee.
After strolling down to the harbour, I would suggest that you take the Lighthouse Trail. In the summer months, the seas will be calm but in the winter, one can expect spectacular wave shots—perfect for avid photographers.
Dinner at the Schooner Restaurant is a must; they only serve dinner, and are only open from 5pm to 9pm, but the seafood is probably the best we’ve ever eaten!
On day six we began our drive back towards the west side of the island, and back toward Tigh-Na-Mara. En route I suggest you pull off in Port Alberni and don’t head directly to the town centre, but toward the wharf. Stretch your legs and savor some of the local foods, and more importantly, take a moment to breathe in the breathtaking scenery that this small town has to offer.
After our first stay at Tigh-Na-Mara we filled out the customer survey form, noting that the rooms were in need of some renovations. The resort responded by offering us a studio on the ground floor, which was half the size of what we actually booked and paid for. After declining, we were given the same room we had previously occupied, however this time there was some leftover food on the patio from a previous guest, and a stopper in the bathroom that was not working. Personally, we felt that the service and overall experience at Tigh-Na-Mara was a miss.
Take a drive north from Parksville and head to the classy Qualicum beach. Stop in the nearby village to enjoy light lunch fare at Gary’s Bistro, which features classic truck and car memorabilia. If coffee is your thing, try the French Press Coffee Roasters, which features delicious and award-winning brews. If you’re feeling energetic, walk the three kilometres down to the beach from the city from the town centre. If not, just grab the car, head down towards the beach and stroll the promenade.
If, like us, you’re a little more ambitious and exploratory, stay on the lower coast road and keep driving north all the way through Courtenay to Comox. Grab an ice cream at the marina and admire the views. The drive back to Parksville takes about 40 minutes on the highway.
The drive from Qualicum Beach to Victoria takes about two hours and 20 minutes on a normal day. I suggest taking a leisurely slower drive down the highway and stopping off in the sleepy town of Duncan. We found an awesome snack/coffee restaurant for lunch called the Tin Cup Coffee and Espresso Bar, which was recently renovated and is a total hidden gem.
On arrival in Victoria we checked into the Oak Bay Beach Hotel, which is about 15 minutes outside of Victoria’s town centre, but is an oasis and spectacularly maintained with extremely friendly staff. We had booked a suite with ocean views, and were looking forward to spending the next three days here, browsing and enjoying the sights, shopping and dining experiences.
Spend day nine exploring downtown Victoria. It’s about a 15-minute drive from Oak Bay, or a short walk if you’ve elected to choose one of the hotels like the Fairmont, that are based downtown.
Victoria has some good shopping, and some great casual, as well as fine dining options. We strolled the streets, and some of the back alleys, because there are many unique finds in terms of small boutiques. We ultimately ended up at one of my favorite haunts—Ditch Vinyl Records on Fort Street. If, like me, you’re of the vinyl generation, you will certainly enjoy browsing this well-organized store with great collectibles both new and used.
Dinner was back in Oak Bay at Marina Restaurant, which is part of the Oak Bay Yacht Club, but is open to the public, and was a fantastic experience.
On your final day on the Island, consider taking the roughly 40-minute drive east to East Sooke Regional Park. Look for the signposts as it can be tricky to find. Once there, take the lower trail down to a small but exquisite beach with views of the Washington Olympic Peninsula. Yes, Seattle is just the other side of those mountains!
For the more adventurous, take the Coastal Trail, although I must warn you, it is a hike more than a trail, towards the point. At that point, turn inland to take the forest walk all the way back to the parking lot. The round trip is about four and a half kilometres, and is quite taxing in terms of ruggedness, so make sure you wear sturdy boots or sneakers that protect your ankles, because some of the tree roots will make the terrain challenging.
On our last night, we ate in downtown Victoria at the Saveur Restaurant, which is only open on weekends. The chef does everything fresh farm-to-table and reservations come highly recommended, as this is a very small and intimate venue.
After dinner, take a drive to the peak of Mount Douglas, which has stunning 360-degree perspectives of the whole Saanich Peninsula, and the view is breathtaking. There are trails there too, but after dinner we don’t typically like to hike, preferring instead to casually stroll.
This marked the end of our time on the island, which was nothing short of spectacular; full of incredible scenery, new friends, and great food, we would highly recommend this itinerary to anyone!
For Andrew, travel is so much more than just learning history or taking photos. Rather, the value of travel is witnessing a lifestyle, bonding with locals, and gaining rich cultural experiences. That’s why he founded the Luxury Wanderer; a place to share itineraries, offer advice, swap stories, and foster a like-minded community of curious travellers.