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Trip Report: Vancouver/Gulf Islands Sailing/Tofino/Victoria

Trip Report: Vancouver/Gulf Islands Sailing/Tofino/Victoria

Jun 28th, 2005, 06:30 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 250
Trip Report: Vancouver/Gulf Islands Sailing/Tofino/Victoria

Just returned from an amazing two week stay in BC. Trip was planned around a confernce my SO attended in Victoria. Wish we had more time. It's always hard to balance wanting to get to know one place well, with wanting to see more of the whole area. Here's a trip report - hope this will help others in their trip planning.

- loved the city and were saddened that we only had 2 days to explore. The way the mountains meet the shore is spectacular. One day we rented bikes and rode all around the city and environs. We were so impressed with that Vancouver has taken such care to ensure that bike/pedestrian paths are available. The parks were magnificent - loved Stanley Park and the quarry gardens at Queen Elizabeth's park.

We stayed at the Marriott Pinnacle downtown. We got a great deal on Priceline - $76 US . Room wasn't ready when we arrived (a Saturday -lots of cruise ship room turnovers) but after a 3 hour walk in Stanley Park - arrived to get an upgraded room with a view. The hotel was fine for our 2 day stay - though I think if I were to stay longer, I'd prefer something closer to Stanely Park -like the Bayhore.

Salt Spring Island
Next we took the ferry to Salt Spring Island, which was an overnight stop on the way to meet up for our 3 day sailing charter of the Gulf Islands. We stayed at the Old Farmhouse B&B - pleased with our stay - especially our moring walk around the grounds and the ovewheliming gourmet breakfast. We didn't have a lot of time on the island, but really enjoyed our drive to the top of Mount Maxwell. For a while there, we weren't sure our rental Corolla would make it, but the view was well worth the "climb". Had an excellent dinner at the Artist's Bistro - some of the best mussels I've ever had.

Gulf Island Sail/Kayak
We are recreational kayakers, but not campers, so tried hard to find a kayak trip to suit our needs. We decided to do our first ever sail charter/"mothership kayaking" with Bill Elford of Sea Otter Kayaking. We had a wonderful time sailing around the Southern Gulf Islands on the Coprinus. Bill is an interesting captain who know the area really well and is an excellent cook too. We got in some great kaykaing around DeCourcy, Ruxton, Thetis and Kuper Islands -we saw beautiful scenery and wildlife- so many Bald Eagles that we lost count. The cliffs on DeCourcy were particulary impressive, as was watching a seagull struggling to eat a purple starfish.

Our next adventure had us off to Tofino. We took the ferry to Crofton, stopped briefly in Chemainus to see the murals and began the drive north/west. The overall distance to Tofino isn't that great, but this is a pretty long drive - the roads get failry small and twisty as you go over the mountains. We stopped at Cathedral Grove to view the old growth trees - highly recommend this as a stop.

In Tofino we stayed at the Long Beach Lodge which we enjoyed. Our room over looked the ocean, had a soaker tub and a fireplce. I'm sure it seemed that much grander after our quarters on the boat, but we really loved it. The views of the ocean were amazing.

We went on the Hot Spring Cove tour with Remote Passages and really enjoyed it. The seas were really rough that day, but our driver/guide was the best I've ever encountered - he got us to some amazing spots to see humpback whales, seals, eagles and gray whlaes feeding at the surface. then we were off the boat to walk the 2km boardwalk through the old growth trees to get to the hot springs. It was well worth the trek over the rocks to get to the spring.

We also did the 4 hour Meares Island Kayaking tour with Remote Passages which didn't enjoy as much. The kaykaing group was large, and we didn't really get to kayak very far. The boardwalk on Mearse is hand cut - so its not as easy walking as at the Hot Springs - I had trouble with slipping in the rental aqua shoes. I wish I had known, as I would have worn my own. The trees were very impressive one is ~1200 years old.

We got in some great walks/hikes at the Pacfic Rim National Park. Loved the fact that a "day" is 24 hours, so we ony had to pay once. Also enjoyed a walk along the Wild Pacific trail in Ucluelet. The whole area reminded me of summer trips to Maine, but this walk in particular felt like the rocky coast of the Marginial Way in Ogunquit.

We had 4 days in Victoria due to the conference. Our room at the Harbor Towers hotel was kind of a let down after the views at Long Beach, but it was clean (and half the price). Vicoria's a beautiful city - walks around the perimiter of the city yielded great views of the Georgia Strait and Olympic mountains. Did a lot of shopping here - lots of funky stores in Market Square.

We did a short kayak in the inner harbour - but there's lots of boat/plane/ferry traffic here so we headed up to the gorge, which was nice for an afternoon on the water - but definitely felt like city kaykaing - the drone of construction couldn't be avoided.

We stopped at Butchart Gardens on our way back to Swartz Bay ferry. The garden were beautiful and well manicured, but we were somewhat overwhelemed by the crowds. Had a lovely "ladies who lunch" tea/sandwiches in the dining room that capped of our stay. Then it was off to Richmond.

We had an early morning flight out of Vancouver, so opted to sepnd our last night at the Airport Marriott in Richmond. We were pleasantly surpised to learn that Richmond has a fishing village - Stephenson wiht a pier, shops, restuarants and bike trails that border the Strait up to the airport. So we drove to the dock and rented bikes for our last afternoon. The marshland along the strait yielded some of the best birding of our trip - amazing to see such life (eagles, egrets, herons, purple martins) so close to the airport.

We really had a great time, but wish we had more time to explore Vancouver - well guess that gives us a reason to come back soon.

Air Travel - flew Air Canada from Philadelphia. Good news was that we were able to use up USair FF miles. Bad news was transferring planes in Toronto. Air Canada shculeduled us wiht just over an hour betwwen flights. Transfering terminals and clearing custmms in that time frame is really rushed. On the way home, we just made the plane, but our bags didn't - bags ended up delayed 48 hours. We were thankful this was on the way home and not on our way out.
Rumrita1 is offline  
Jun 28th, 2005, 09:17 AM
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Glad to hear you had such a great time in our part of the world (I live in Vancouver).
Vorkuta is offline  
Jun 28th, 2005, 09:28 AM
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Great trip report, Rumrita1! Just one little correction - the fishing village is called Steveston, not Stephenson. Easy mistake to make. We stopped there a couple of years ago and really enjoyed the pier where all the fishing boats come in.
Meesthare is offline  
Jun 28th, 2005, 09:32 AM
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Wonderful trip report - interesting and informative!!

So glad that you liked my favorite part of Canada!!!
Borealis is offline  
Jun 28th, 2005, 10:17 AM
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Just thought I would add to your great post. If anyone goes to Steveston and is looking for great seafood - the Steveston Seafood House is fantastic. They have an appetizer platter that is out of this world. It is an absolute must.
traveller69 is offline  
Jun 29th, 2005, 04:31 AM
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Thanks for the correction on Steveston - we did eat at the Seafood House where I had my first Dungeness crab -tasty.

Sorry for all the typos - thought I had corrected these - but my edits didn't save
Rumrita1 is offline  
Jun 29th, 2005, 05:14 AM
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Thanks for a great trip report. Couple questions - how many hours was the tour to the Hot Springs and what did it cost? did u have reservations for your ferry crossing to and from Salt Spring? If not how far in advance did you arrive at the ferry terminal? Appreciate your responses.
Jun 29th, 2005, 06:25 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2004
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The Hot Springs tour was about 7 hours and cost $110 CAD. We were not in a zodiac, but the glass enclosed boat. The day we were out was pretty rough, I definitley would not have wanted to be in the zodiac on the day we went. http://remotepassages.com/zodiac.html#springs

As for ferries to Salt Spring, we didn't make any reservations (keep in mind that we were traveling mid-week in June). We had the schedules and tried to show up about a half hour before departure. This almost always worked. The only time it didn't was when we tried to get the 1:00 pm ferry from Tswassen to Swartz Bay with a "through fare" to Salt Spring. Appears that since there is no noon ferry the 1 pm books up fast, so we had to wait for the 2pm sailing. Turned out ok for us - we saw orcas on the ferry to Swartz!

I think now that summer season in effect - there are more ferries - but also more crowds. When do you plan to travel? Locals on this board will probably be able to help you better, especially if you are travelling in peak season. I doubt that you can get away with no reservations to Salt Spring on a summer weekend.
Rumrita1 is offline  
Jun 30th, 2005, 04:13 AM
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Rumrita1-Thanks for the info. We will be going from Crofton to Salt Spring on a Friday in August--I'm sure a very busy time. I queried this board previously about ferry reservations and got a mixed bag -- some said definitely make reservations and others said it shouldn't be a problem if you arrive early. We'll be driving from Tofino to Crofton and would much prefer to be flexible in terms of when we leave and the drive itself. On the other hand, I'd hate to be stuck for several hours at the ferry terminal. I checked the schedule and the ferries run very frequently hmmmm...decisions!
We'll be in Tofino for only 2 full days. Would you reccomend the Hot Springs Cove tour as a must do? Again, appreciate your response.
Jun 30th, 2005, 09:26 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2004
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I have tough time with "must dos", but will say that Hot Springs was one of the highlights of our trip to Tofino. We too only had two full days. The Hot Springs trip left about 12:30 - so we had time in the morning to walk the beach and checkout town, which is pretty small. As we were in BC in June, days were long and we took advantage of that. We usually didn't eat dinner 'til 9 - so we were able to fit a lot into a day.

I certainly understand your dilemma re: ferry reservations. We didn't reserve for the same reasons you cite. Good luck.
Rumrita1 is offline  
Jun 30th, 2005, 01:58 PM
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The ferry from Crofton to Vesuvius (on Salt Spring) is very quick and not anywhere nearly as crowded and complicated as the ones from Swartz Bay (in Victoria) or Tsawwassen (in Vancouver). They're very frequent, and you can actually watch the ferry go back and forth. Generally you don't need reservations on that one unless you've got an enormous vehicle - we did it once on a chartered bus and they did have to reserve a spot because the bus takes up so much room. If you cross there, which is the simplest way to do it if you're coming south from Nanaimo, you shouldn't have any problems at all, especially if you arrive half an hour or so before the sailing. If your timing works out you might want to plan to have lunch at the Vesuvius pub, which is right near the ferry dock on Salt Spring. YOu can see it from the ferry. They have wonderful salads and honestly - and I have no idea how they do this - the best french fries we've ever eaten. I would definitely check the ferry schedule because there are times when the ferries are less frequent and you might have to sit around for an hour or so, but that's only happened to us once in all the years we've been going there, and even that wasn't so terrible. The reason it's a less popular crossing is that Crofton is so far north of Victoria that it pretty much only serves traffic that's come from "up-island," rather than from Victoria itself. The down side, if there is one, is that you're within sight (and smell) of the Crofton Mill while you're waiting. But we have never found that to be a problem.
Meesthare is offline  
Jun 30th, 2005, 04:35 PM
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Meesthare - appreciate the helpful info. I think we'll skip makng a reservations from Crofton to Vesuvius. Any idea about the need for reservations on the ferry from Salt Spring to Swartz Bay on a Monday in August. The crossings are less frequent, about every 2 hours, than the ones from Crofton over to Salt Spring.
Jun 30th, 2005, 06:16 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I've never bothered with a reservation for that trip either. That ferry leaves from Fulford Harbour, and takes about 35 minutes or so to cross. Incidentally, you don't have to purchase tickets to leave Salt Spring; you only have to pay to get there. So there's no lineup to buy tickets; you just get there and park your car in the lineup. The ferry from Fulford is also a lot smaller than the big ones that go back and forth to Tsawwassen. What most people do is get there reasonably early, put your car in the lineup, and then wander around Fulford for a while. There are a couple of interesting little shops, and some places to get ice cream or a snack and just sit and watch the boats come and go. You'll see the ferry arriving and there's lots of time to get back to your car. Don't worry if you notice that the lineup extends past the toll booth a little bit; you'll still get on. The first couple of trips in the morning on weekdays tend to be more crowded than the others. Of course another possibility is to cross at Vesuvius and drive down into Victoria from Crofton. The drive through the Malahat is lovely, especially if the weather is good, which it usually is at that time. That will add a bit of travel time but sometimes we do that just for fun because we do enjoy the drive, provided there isn't a whole lot of construction going on on the highway which tends to slow things down. I don't think it matters much which way you go if you're not desperate about saving time.
Meesthare is offline  
Jul 1st, 2005, 05:14 AM
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Appreciate all the info. Good to know about the nice drive for the other ferry crossing route as a possiblity. Always like to have options! thanks to all
Jul 1st, 2005, 07:19 AM
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wow, great report, and thank you - I am drafting you - leaving in a few hours...
flygirl is offline  

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