4 days in BC

Old Jul 15th, 2004, 09:17 AM
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4 days in BC

Hello all,

My son (4 years old), my husband and I will be in Vancouver (staying at the Four Points Sheraton in Richmond - any inside info on the hotel?) for 4 days. We plan to do the following:

Day 1: spend the day exploring Vancouver city;

Day 2: catch an early ferry to Nanaimo, take the Via Rail train up roundtrip to Courtenay, drive back from Nanaimo to Victoria, spend the early afternoon and evening there and head back to Vancouver on the ferry (I've checked the timings, they all seem to work together - any thoughts on the punctuality of the ferries and the trains?);

Day 3: drive up to Whistler (see Grouse Mountain and the Capilano bridge on the way);

Day 4: we have to drive back to Seattle to catch a 4 pm flight to SF.

We are not too interested in museums and the like, just interested in soaking up nature and the sights. We'll have a car.

I love this plan on paper. We may be harried a bit, but what do you think? Would gladly welcome any recommendations.

Thanks!
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Old Jul 15th, 2004, 09:28 AM
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This might be a little bit hectic and I'm energetic. Why don't you just do either Victoria or Whistler, instead of both? Then you can allow for unplanned problems like ferry delays, crowded sights, traffic, and undesirable weather.
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Old Jul 15th, 2004, 09:32 AM
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Thanks Gail! Will definitely consider that. Does anyone have any thoughts on the Via rail trip from Nanaimo to Courtenay and back. We are mainly do that ride for the sights. Since we have a car, will we be better off driving around the island ourselves? Thanks.
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Old Jul 15th, 2004, 09:39 AM
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If you are determined to "do" Vancouver Island in one day, make sure that you have reservations for the ferries and plan to arrive at the time that they stipulate. The ferries are usually punctual, but often there are huge lineups in the summertime.
The ferry rides themselves are about 1.5 hours (each way), but don't forget to add the amount of time you will spend lining up and getting on and off the ferry (I would estimate at least another 50 minutes to an hour per each ferry ride, often it's even longer than that).

It might be less hectic if you limited yourself to just one island activity (e.g. - visit Victoria), instead of using most of your time for travelling between places.
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Old Jul 15th, 2004, 11:10 AM
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I wouldn't try to do so much when you go to Vancouver Island. The ferries, even with a reservation, take up a lot of time. Personally, I would reserve an "odd hour" ferry from Tsawassen (closer to Richmond) to get to Swartz Bay (Victoria). The odd hour ferry is much bigger, much nicer and you will enjoy the trip. So, that is 7 am or 9 am. If you take the 9 am, you'll be in Victoria by 11:15 ish. You could then explore the inner harbor and Bastian Square, take a tour on the "litte ferries", have lunch etc. Be sure to walk or drive down through the James Bay neighborhood to Dallas Rd. to see the wonderful view of the Olympic Mountains in Washington. Your son would love to go down to the water and explore the tidal area. There is lots of parking just past Ogden Point (another great walk) Later in the afternoon you could head up the highway towards Nanaimo, stopping at the various sites. Duncan is a great town to wander in, with it's murals and coffee shops and cute shopping strip. Then take the Nanaimo ferry to Horshoebay and drive back to Richmond via the Lions Gate Bridge. This is a very long day as it is! It is worth it to reserve the ferry, especially on the weekends.
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Old Jul 15th, 2004, 11:24 AM
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I never thought of the train trip as particularly scenic so I would skip taking it to Courtenay. At the south end of the Malahat, the most picturesque part of the drive between Nanaimo and Victoria, is Goldstream Park (which I have not visited since the gov't started charging for parking!) where people go to watch salmon spawn in the fall. There have been a number of horrendous accidents on the undivided highway around there recently so be particularly careful.

With your hurried schedule, I don't know that the drive from Nanaimo to Victoria will add a lot to your experience. The scenery along Howe Sound north of Vancouver is, in my opinion, far more spectacular than anything you will see there.

If you go to Victoria, be sure to drive along the waterfront.
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Old Jul 15th, 2004, 11:29 AM
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dar,
Since you mentioned murals, were you thinking of Chemainus? I can't think of any cute shopping strip in dreary Duncan.
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Old Jul 15th, 2004, 11:43 AM
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Thanks Borealis, April and dar. A 9 am ferry to Victoria and driving around the island and then taking the ferry back from Nanaimo does sound more appealing than scurrying around from one terminal to another.

Will let you know how the trip panned out!

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Old Jul 15th, 2004, 02:45 PM
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First of all the hotel in Richmond (a fairly new one) is right across from a not-very-good mall. There are lots of Asian resturants in the area, but aside from that it really is not an appealing location at all, and you'll have about a 40 minute drive in to downtown Vancouver where most of the sights are.
Second, coming back from Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay is fine, but it could be an arduous drive back to Richmond. You could run into a lane reversal on the Lions' Gate bridge and since you will have to drive southward through downtown and then down to Richmond the going-home traffic could be heavy. Landing at Horseshoe Bay makes great sense if one is driving north to Whistler but if not you might just want to return to Tsawwassen. Time it so it's later in the day and it will be a lot better.
Or after your Day 2 on the Island, ferry back to Horseshoe Bay if you still go to Nanaimo, and stay on the North Shore that night. Go to Whistler on day 3 as planned (or just do north shore activities), then come back to Richmond for night #3 and drive to Seattle day 4.
You are, as people have noted, trying to fit an awful lot into a very short time. Your transportation will be pretty time-consuming in and of itself. The actual sailing time is only a portion of the ferry "experience". BTW there were some ferry sailing cancellations just the other day, due to a ship becoming suddenly "out of order". It doesn't happen often, but it can happen. Make sure you have reservations and hope for the best.
All that said, I always strongly encourage visitors to see both Vancouver and at least a part of the Island when they come here. Have a good trip.
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Old Jul 16th, 2004, 02:13 PM
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Correction... April is right, it is Chemainus, not Duncan that is a cute stop. And I would definitely play it by ear, and skip going to Nanaimo if you are enjoying your time in Victoria. You can reserve a ferry up to 21/2 hours before it leaves, giving you flexibility...and it's best to travel ferries on a Tues, Wed or Thurs. I agree the trip to Whistler is much more interesting than the trip to Nanaimo..you can stop at Shannon Falls, and Brandywine falls (a different type..this one is a hanging fall). Whistler itself is a whole day, I wouldn't go up Grouse mountain, it's a waste of time if you are going to Whistler. Take the tram up to the top of the mountain at Whistler..it's pretty cool!!!
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Old Jul 16th, 2004, 04:48 PM
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Your 4 year old son may not like to be continually on the go. I'd skip going to Nanaimo and taking the train. It's not that exciting and there's no engine to excite a little boy. He'd probably like the ferry to Victoria instead and there are some neat things in Victoria that he might like. Small World is good. The Royal British Columbia Museum has some interesting kids things. It is not your normal museum and I'm sure even a museum hater would love this one. He'd probably like the horse and buggy ride around Victoria also. I'd skip Whistler but certainly take the tram up and do Grouse Mountain. Again there are things up there your son would probably enjoy.
I've stayed at the 4 Point in Richmond and found it quite fine. It's not luxury but the prices in the restaurant are good and the staff are some of the friendliest and nicest I've encountered anywhere. I even wrote the hotel to say so and it takes a lot to make me happy.
As far as Richmond goes your son might also like to visit Ikea and play in the ball pool. If you like shopping then there's a big mall across the street from the hotel.
In Vancouver you might like to visit Granville Island. Kids things there as well as for adults. Take the little boats across from Kitsilano to Granville Island. That's a fun way to get there!
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Old Jul 16th, 2004, 09:45 PM
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If you go to Victoria, the 2 biggies are Butchart Gardens and the BC Provincial Museum. Right now, the museum is featuring Egyptian artifacts brought over for a special exhibit from the British Museum. We just got back, and I will be the first to tell you that 2 hours will be required to view the Egyptian portion of the various exhibits. This exhibition is a special opportunity for people to see some of the sculpture and artifacts from the royala tombs.
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Old Jul 17th, 2004, 07:02 AM
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Bob, you found the exhibit was worthwhile then? Sorry, this is off-topic but sometimes these traveling exhibits disappoint.
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Old Jul 18th, 2004, 03:50 AM
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Thank you all. I am so glad I asked my questions here. You've been generous with your thoughts and recommendations. Regards.
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