Four days on Vancouver Island, what to do?

My girlfriend and I will be spending a long weekend in mid-October in Vancourver Island. We arrive on Thursday morning on the ferry from Seattle and fly out Sunday evening.

What would you suggest we do?

Some thing about us.

  1. We’re mid to late 40’s in age, so the “hot new bar” doesnt’ matter.

  2. But if you know a great pub or winery, we both like to drink.

  3. Museums. Eh. Boring.

  4. Outdoor activities are cool. Are there any sea kayaking activities available that time of year?

IF you had three days for a visitor to drive/visit the island that time of year, what would you suggest for a road trip?



Mid October? Bring umbrellas.

I usually not a fan of museums either, but this place impressed me:

Swans Brewpub. The service sucks, but the beer is awesome.

The Sooke Harbour House has a good wine selection.

I love that museum. But if you’re not museum people, you’re not museum people.
If you’re willing to do the drive out there - Tofino, is one of my favorite places in the world (not that I’ve been all that many places, but still) and storm watching season starts in October. I know they surf there year round, so I’m pretty willing to bet they kayak, too.

Great ideas all, thank you.
Manduck, we’re already planning on bringing all our Gore-tex

It’s on “Whiffen Spit” beach? My 15 year-old id so wants a t-shirt that says,
“Whiffen Spit Beach.”

You might want to check out Butchart Gardens. According to their website, October is when they have peak foliage.

If whale watching is your thing, you can get good whale watching tours in Victoria. There are kinds where you wear orange jumpsuits and go out in a zodiac and ones where you wear normal clothes and go out in a boat that includes a sheltered area. I went out on the latter last June, and it was spectacular.

If you like to shop, there is shopping to be had in Victoria. I’ve purchased several pieces of jewellry at a store called Artina’s. Just up the street from there is an amazing bookstore. If you’re interested in antiques, there are several stores in the downtown area.

On the Victoria harbour, you may want to check out the Empress Hotel. It’s famed for its high teas. Personally, I’ve not done it, but it is something of a rite.

You can go for a really nice long walk along the harbour. It’s very pretty. There are also tiny boats that act are water taxis that will drop you off at different points along the harbour. They are a cheap and fun way to get a different vantage point on the city.

Don’t go to Sooke. If your vehicle breaks down while you’re there, you will be waiting hours for a tow truck to arrive. There is one tow truck in Sooke and very spotty cell coverage. The further north you go on the Sooke side, the more your chances of getting stuck increase. I think it’s called Miracle Beach because it’s a miracle if the tow truck ever gets there.

If you go north from Victoria you can turn off the highway just past Mill Bay and check out Serious Coffee which is bar none the best coffee on Vancouver Island. While you’re in the area, you can turn right off the highway (if you’re headed north) and explore all the farmland and some very cool waterfront residential areas. Don’t sweat getting lost as you can’t really get that far from the highway. I would definitely check out Cowichan Bay and the surrounding area. Very scenic. You can go all the way north to Ladysmith without getting back on Highway 1.

Chemainus is very scenic if you like murals. It’s a nice little town to walk around in. Very touristy.

Ladysmith has a scenic downtown but don’t give the town any more than the five minutes it takes to drive through it.

Nanaimo (where I am) is a butt ugly city, especially if you come into town from the south end. The downtown is currently all torn up for a very expensive and politically questionable conference center that is being built right now. Also, the Salvation Army just opened up a New Hope Center which has quickly earned the name “No Hope” Center for all the down and out drug addicts who hang around there and hassle the locals. Avoid Port Place mall as there is absolutely nothing in it that you can’t find in a nicer part of town. Downtown is where you can find the Cambie, Nanaimo’s own open air drug market. Don’t go there unless you’re feeling really brave; people get mugged in there regularly. The Old City Quarter is nice and has the Oxy pub which apparently has really good food. If you plan to stop there let me know and I’ll come say hi since I live about a block away from there. The waterfront is nice but can be pretty sketchy. If you go further north in Nanaimo you’ll find Woodgrove Mall, which is absolutely huge and should take care of all your shopping needs.

North of Nanaimo gets you very little return on investment once you pass Parksville. But Parksville itself is really nice. Just because driving there because the median age in Parksville is about 125 and all these senior citizens have driver’s licenses that will be pulled out of their cold dead hands only after the EMTs have pulled their mangled bodies out of their vehicles which have impacted random solid objects.

Near Parksville, go to Little Mountain, if you can find it. I’d offer directions but I only know where it is and not how to get to it. It is exactly as it sounds: a little mountain that you can’t even see from the highway. But you won’t believe the view from the top. Bring chairs. Don’t bring drinks- there’s no safety rail and it’s a long way down.

I’ll post more suggestions later.

I’ll suggest Coombs, it’s about 15 minutes from Parksville, 30 minutes from the Nanaimo ferry terminal.

Here is the website:

They are famous for having goats living on the roof. I went last year with Stainz and they had a lot of cool little shops and a kick-ass market with some really funky breads and pastries.

I’ll also second Toffino and Ucluelet, but it’s a hell of a drive if you’re only there for 3 days. I would stick around Parksbville, Northern Nanaimo and Victoria.


Good suggestions all, thank you.