Self-Drive Tour, 10 days, 1107 kilometres (691 miles)
This journey offers a spectacular selection of what Vancouver Island has to offer, from coastal drives, ancient trees to stunning lakes flanked by huge mountain ridges. Wildlife is in abundance. This tour is a great option for travelers looking to explore the wilder-side of Vancouver Island. All of our itineraries are fully tailor-made so speak to one of the FarOut Team if you would like to use this as the foundation of your adventure!
Victoria to Port Renfrew
111km – 1 hr 55 mins
Begin your journey in Victoria, BC’s capital city and home to FarOut Wilderness. Conduct your vehicle handover with one of the FarOut Team members and head north via Highway 1, and then travel west along Highway 14 to Sooke.
En-route, make some time to stop at East Sooke Regional Park for a short coastal hike with stunning views. This is a great spot for bird watching so bring your camera and binoculars! Alternatively, at Sooke Potholes Provincial Park you can explore the geological marvels carved deep into the sandstone bedrock from the last ice age. Fishing enthusiasts can enjoy catch and release fishing along the Sooke River. The park is an ideal place to watch the annual salmon-spawning run in the fall. Visit the Sooke Region Museum and plan to dine at Sooke Harbour House, an award-winning west coast restaurant that only uses local ingredients.
However, don’t leave it too late to start your journey up to Port Renfrew, home of both the Juan de Fuca marine Trail and the historic West Coast Trail as there is a lot to see along the way! China Beach is a great stopping point, it is a short walk down to the beach and you can easily hike a section of the Juan de Fuca trail from here. You can also choose to stop at Jordan River Provincial Park, a mixed coastal forest park located along the Juan de Fuca Strait. For the surfers among you, you can get some good waves at Jordan River (seasonal).
There are a couple of options for camping, at either French Beach or in Port Renfrew. French Beach Provincial Park offers a wide swath of lawn fronts and a pea-gravel beach where you can easily picnic, swim and watch for wildlife whereas Port Renfrew offers beach camping with stunning views.
Port Renfrew to Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park
71km – 1 hr 15 mins
After a delicious camp breakfast prepared using our fully customized camping kitchen it will be time to start exploring! If you prefer fishing then Port Renfrew is a great base to book a trip for salt or freshwater trips, available year round. Once you have had your fill of Port Renfrew it’s time to hit the road, make sure you pack a flask and some snacks as there are some great little stops along the way.
This morning you will say goodbye to the paved roads, its logging roads from here on in. On the way to Carmanah we highly recommend stops at:
- Avatar Grove: our favorite, an old growth protected forest just outside Port Renfrew.
- Big Lonely Doug: a lonely sitka spruce tree that definitely stands out!
- Nitnat Viewpoint: as you drive from Nitnat Lake to Carmanah you will start to clumb up the mountain, keep an eye out for a clearing in the trees on your left-hand side, there is a lovely view overlooking the lake.
Once you arrive at Carmanah there are two relatively easy hikes you can do, both are focal-point hikes. Both hikes start with a descent into the valley. After about 1 km and after passing the Coastal Giant you reach a fork, left takes you to the Three Sisters and right takes you to Heaven Tree and Stohlmans Grove.
There are a number of options for camping but we recommend one of our tried and tested wilderness spots for tonight!
Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park to Tofino
230km – 4 hr 30 mins
After a leisurely morning hike and that second pot of coffee it will be time to pack down camp – which takes less than 15 minutes with a toddler so we figure you can probably achieve it in 10 if you try! Today you will be hitting the road and heading up to Tofino. The town was traditionally a logging and fishing town, it’s a great place to re-stock, find a lush hot shower and treat yourself to dinner out.
Port Alberni is definitely worth a stop along the way, Bare Bones Fish and Chips is a great lunch stop and if you fancy a wander the Port Alberni Maritime Museum / Alberni Valley Museum allows you to delve into the history of the area. Also along the way you will pass Sproat Lake Provincial Park and Stamp River Provincial Park, both are great for a leg-stretch.
When you arrive in Tofino we recommend getting the re-stock done first, Save-On-Foods is great for groceries, Canadian Tire is great for gas and camping supplies and Walmart, well, is Walmart! There are ample campsite options for tonight and you may decide to book a site for a couple of nights, giving you the full day tomorrow with the vehicle stationary.
Tofino & Ucluelet
Local travel only
Today it’s time to take it all in, Tofino and Ucluelet have a lot to offer, so you can pack as much or as little into your day as you please!
Tofino is situated on the traditional territory of the Tla-o-qui-aht First nation, it is surrounded by the vast, breathtaking expanse of the UNESCO Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Region – a region that is cherished for its profound biodiversity and environmental culture. The quiet inlets, the old growth rainforest and the rolling waves embody the vibrancy of this place, there is a fantastic food scene and the village is rich with arts and culture.
Tofino also has a host of activities to keep you busy, here are a handful of options:
- Wildlife Viewing & Hot Springs Cove: Spend the day boating, see black bears, whales and birds, or take a trip to Hot Springs Cove.
- Beaches: With so many to choose from, you really will be spoilt for choice.
- Kayaking: take a tour of the Clayoquot Sound, explore the inner islands and relax with a packed lunch.
- Surfing and SUPs: with 35kms of beaches and an exposed coast, surfers of all skill levels have access to great surf.
- Biking, Hiking & Trails: If you’re up for a challenge then a hike up Lone Cone or some beach biking on Chesterman Beach (check the tide guide) is for you!.If it’s a relaxing amble you are after then walks in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve or a beach hopping bike ride is for you.
- Fishing: There are a multitude of sustainable fishing options on a nearly year-round basis.
After a day of activities it will be time to find a nice spot for dinner, our firm favorites are:
- Shelter: A great patio with amazing Caesars, the staff are super friendly and very accommodating with children
- Tacofino: Eat at the original tacofino food truck, the fish tacos with a hint of wasabi never disappoint
- Shed: if you are in need of a burger or a pizza then this is the place for you
Ucluelet is a laid back fishing village that is surrounded by the pacific Rim National Park Reserve. It has been named one of BC’s top ten small towns and like its neighbour, offers an endless range of outdoor activities. Affectionately known as Ukee, the streets are lined with appealing restaurants, B&Bs and artisan shops while the surrounding area offers opportunities for wildlife viewing, hiking, biking, kayaking, surfing and more. Watch Discover Ucuelet’s showcase video to see for yourself!
Ucluelet also has a host of activities to keep you busy, here are a handful of options:
- Hiking on the Wild Pacific Trail: Spend the day wandering this free, family friendly and accessible trail.
- Beaches: Discover the unique beaches of Ucluelet and the southern peninsula, they are great for hiking, beachcombing and picnics.
- Arts & Culture: The cedar house gallery speicalizes in carvings, masks, totem poles, jewelry, limited edition prints and books. Its well worth a stop!
- The Ucluelet Aquarium: This eco-friendly catch and release Aquarium will get you – and the kids – up close and personal with an amazing array of local marine life.
After a day of activities it will be time to find a nice spot for dinner, our firm favorites in Ucluelet are:
- The Raven Lady: If you like Oysters, go there now
- Cedar Grill: A really friendly restaurant that offer a variety of Canadian fare
- Jiggers: If fish and chips are your thing then you definitely need to try jiggers!
With so much to see, do and experience, let us know if you want more time in Tofino and Ucluelet!
Tofino to Cumberland
186 km – 3 hr 31 mins
Today it’s time to take a drive over to the Comox Valley, there are a couple of routes you can take – one more adventurous than the other. Do make sure that you leave time to explore Courtenay and Cumberland though.
This is the largest community in the Comox Valley and is situated within the traditional lands of the K’omoks First Nation. Courtenay is a culturally diverse community with breathtaking scenery at its doorstep. With beaches, rivers and lakes and world class golfing, there are ample recreation and sporting opportunities. If Courtenay is your choice we recommend that you take in the history of the Comox Valley by visiting the District Museum, enjoy the views from the water in a sea kayak or canoe and enjoy an afternoon’s picnic at either Stotan or Nymph Falls.
This vibrant community is nestled in the foothills of the Beaufort Mountains. This small village has seen a recent revival from its mining days, it is rich in trails, arts and culture. If mountain biking is your thing then there are a couple of rental shops and more than 80 kilometers of Vancouver Island’s most legendary single-track. There really is something for every mountain biker in the family. If Cumberland is your choice then we recommend sampling a donut from Cumberland bakery and a cold crisp beverage from the Cumberland Brewing Company.
After a busy day of exploring, take the short drive up to Cumberland Lake Park Campground. This campground is right on the lake and offers a great swimming area. Around the camp fire you can decide on tomorrow’s morning adventure; the hiking, mountain bike trails, rock climbing and beach are all easily accessible so there really is something for everyone.
Cumberland to Campbell River
90km – 1 hr 12 mins
Today you are heading north of Campbell River and its time to get back onto the logging roads! Between Sayward and Campbell River is the Sayward Valley, which contains a series of lakes and rivers, it is the home of the Sayward Valley Canoe Loop.
During the day, you will leave Highway 19 and take the interconnected logging roads that wind around the lakes and allow you to journey through the Snowden Demonstration Forest.
There are a number of camping options but our favorites are:
- Cedar Lake Site: this site only comprises of three pitches, and all three are lakeside. Each site is well shaded and offers stunning views of Cedar Lake.
- Brewster Lake: we love this site for the beach, like most of the best hidden rec sites, you cannot reserve a pitch so we recommend that you get here early. On a warm summer’s day the lake and beach are a perfect hangout. The site has a combination of shaded woodland campsites and waterfront sites for you to choose from. There are over 30 pitches.
- Armor Lake: this site has five pitches and offers fantastic lakeside camping. Whichever site you choose its probably best to get to camp early today to secure your spot.
Local travel only
Today it’s time to take it all in, Campbell River has a lot to offer, especially when it comes to wildlife so we highly recommend that be the focus of the day! Many of the experiences are seasonal so here are a few options depending on when you’re travelling with us.
- Whale Watching (April – October) – Campbell river is a hub for whale watching enthusiasts. Experience everything from whales, dolphins and sealions, to bears and eagles. We work with a number of experienced and knowledgeable local tour operators and will happily assist you with the booking and logistics of your tour!
- Bear Viewing (Mid August – October) – Experienced local tour operators can take you to remote inlets on the mainland to view grizzly bears in their natural habitat. You will be able to watch from viewing platforms as bears fish for salmon in the river and forage along the shores for food. The coastal scenery and wildlife viewing opportunities are truly a once in a lifetime experience! We strongly recommend you book this activity in advance as tour operators book up quickly!
- Fall Salmon Run (Late August – Early November) – In the early fall the salmon begin their journey up the Campbell and Quinsam Rivers to spawn. This natural phenomenon is truly an amazing sight. We can help you out with some great river spots!
After a day of activities it will be time to find a nice spot for dinner, our firm favorites are:
- Riptide Marine Pub: A warm and cozy oceanside pub with delicious food and exceptionally friendly staff!Ox Chophouse: For a find dining experience treat yourselves to an experience at the Ox Chophouse, they are focused on sourcing local ingredients and have a fantastic seasonal menu.
- Beach Fire Brewing and Nosh House: They pride themselves on making everything from scratch – with all of their beers being made in house!
Campbell River to Strathcona Provincial Park
74km – 1 hr 12 mins
Today it’s time to take the very scenic drive from Campbell River to Strathcona Provincial Park, there are a few great view points along the way, well worth a stop so give yourself some time.
Strathcona is the largest provincial park on the island and the oldest park in BC. Here mountain peaks dominate the skyline, fresh water lakes populate the valleys, the mountain tops are snow covered until June and there are great opportunities for fishing (in-season), hiking and climbing. Auger Point is a great spot for a lunchtime picnic and provides stunning views of Buttle Lake and the surrounding mountains from the pebble beach. Myra Falls are also well worth a visit, they are visible from the far side of Buttle Lake and are great to see up close and personal. For those that don’t mind cold water there are opportunities to get your feet wet at the falls!
You have a number of camping options in Strathcona but one of our favorites is Ralph River Campground. It is much quieter than the neighboring Buttle Lake Campground and some of the pitches have direct river / beach access.
Strathcona Provincial Park
Local travel only
Today we highly recommend grabbing your hiking boots, making a cracking picnic with a flask of coffee and heading out on a proper day hike. To make life a bit easier, we also recommend staying at the same campground for the second night, that way you can leave some of the gear set-up for when you get back.
One of our favorite hikes, despite its challenging elevation, is the Bedwell Lake Trail. The trail head is approximately 6km from the paved road, close to Myra Falls and there is a beautiful forest to wander through at the foothills of the trail. The hike has some pretty steep sections but the trail is very well maintained and definitely worth it. We recommend that you give yourself the full day as there is nothing worse than not having enough time at Bedwell Lake to just take it all in. For this hike we recommend that you take appropriate clothing and equipment, when we were there in early June there was still snow at the higher elevations!
If you have left a member of your party at base then we highly recommend that you twist their arm into making the rest of you a slow-cooked stew for which we a have a recipe on our blog!
Strathcona Provincial Park to Victoria
90km – 1 hr 17 mins
Today it’s time to take a slow and scenic route back to Victoria, there are lots of treats along the way so pick a couple and give yourself some time.
- Kinsol Trestle: Take in the spectacular views of the canyons and gorges from the restored 66-mile Holt Creek railway on The Great Trail. Kinsol Trestle is a 12 storey wooden railway bridge that was built in 1920s.
- Duncan: Take a self-guided Totum Tour Walk and visit the traditional buildings at the Quw’utsun’ Cultural Centre. Duncan is also home to the BC Forest Discovery Centre, which showcases BC’s logging and steam-related history. Take a relaxing train ride on a historic locomotive as it winds its way over a wooden trestle.
- South Cowichan Wine Tour: Spend the afternoon sampling various wines in tasting rooms and shops, or take a guided tour of the wine-making facilities and vineyards.
- Mill Bay Ferry: Board a BC Ferry at Mill Bay to get you across to Brentwood Bay, this 25 minute ride is dubbed @vancouver’s most beautiful shortcut@ and will allow you to complete your trip with a visit to the famous Butchart Gardens which are located in Brentwood Bay. If you didnt leave enough time for the gardens, be sure to stop in for a drink at the Brentwood Bay Pub, which has a lovely patio!
At the end of the day it will be time to meet a member of the FarOut Wilderness team to hand over your vehicle.
CHAT WITH US TO PLAN YOUR TRIP
Does this Vancouver Island Adventure sound like your kind of trip? We’re here to help you plan your adventure. Book a call with one of our team members here, and we’ll help you map out an epic road trip you’ll never forget.