Vancouver Island, BC

Old Feb 15th, 2022, 10:53 AM
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Vancouver Island, BC

I will be in Seattle in late August and I would love to visit Vancouver Island, BC while I'm nearby. I have 6-7 days. Everything I'm reading says Victoria is must-see. I love to photograph and learn about wildlife on tours (birds, whales, bears, etc.). Seeing animals in their natural habitats brings me so much joy. What are your recommendations in the area? Tour companies, lodging, restaurants? I will probably save Mt. Rainier and Vancouver for another trip when I have more time, but I was thinking of a quick day hike at Olympic National Park on the way up there.

This will sound silly, but I love good-smelling forests. I went crazy for Zion National Park (the Ponderosa Pines). I'm really curious as to what Olympic and Vancouver Island destinations will smell like.

Appreciate your recommendations!
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Old Feb 15th, 2022, 07:20 PM
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Fairmont Empress in Victoria is probably the most famous hotel in the area. Beautiful area with scenic views of the harbor and many restaurants nearby. I think they also just went through a bit of a renovation.

I didn't try but I saw a few companies on the harbor offering Whale and Orca tours.

The Malahat Skywalk is pretty interesting structure they built in the middle of the forrest.
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Old Feb 16th, 2022, 10:58 AM
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Nature? Wildlife? Good-smelling forests? Scrap Victoria and head straight to Pacific Rim National Park on Vancouver Island's west coast and spend all your time there, staying in one of the many oceanfront resorts in the tiny towns of Ucluelet and Tofino. One week there isn't too much. Look up Ocean Village Resort, Long Beach Lodge Resort, or the Blackrock Oceanfront Resort. It's not cheap, but it's worth it.

And don't get me wrong - Victoria's lovely as a city. It's small, charming, historic, walkable. Excellent restaurants, bookstores, and breweries (Ile Sauvage and Driftwood are favourites). It's also a major whale watching port.

Victoria attracts a lot of American tourists who, I argue, have never left the USA, come to the city wide-eyed at all the English colonial architecture downtown and claim, "This is so English!" However, culturally, Victoria's the same as Seattle - a contemporary, west coast, outdoorsy, beer-loving, coffee-loving North American city, just like Vancouver and Portland too. While the pandemic has taken a huge toll on Victoria's tourism industry, there are still relics of that kind of tourism which hams up the English colonial history. I imagine now with border restrictions easing, the city will once more be the major tourist destination for American tourists again.

But I don't think that's why you're coming to Vancouver Island. So you can take with a grain of salt all the people who say you have to go there. It's the biggest city on Vancouver Island, but for nature, forests, and wildlife, there are better destinations. Anyway, look up the Tourism Tofino and Tourism Ucluelet websites to begin your research there. Lots of wildlife tours there as well. As a fellow nature nerd, that's THE place to go.

Last edited by BC_Robyn; Feb 16th, 2022 at 11:54 AM.
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Old Feb 17th, 2022, 09:27 PM
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Gosh both sound lovely. Can you split your time between some old world charm and Mother Nature?
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Old Feb 18th, 2022, 04:28 AM
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Thank you so much, Cheryl! Your reply is much appreciated.
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Old Feb 18th, 2022, 04:29 AM
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Thank you so much! I have booked some whale watching tours in Tofino. That sounds more up my alley. I had never heard of Tofino, but am already counting down the days. Your reply is much appreciated!
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Old Feb 18th, 2022, 04:30 AM
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Thank you so much, Irice! I will try to do a day in Victoria, too. As I do a lot of floral photography, I heard Butchart Gardens is a must-stop. But I am very excited about Tofino!
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Old Feb 22nd, 2022, 10:42 PM
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Where does one fly into Victoria and Vancouver Island from LA? Is there more than one airport up there?

Also, do you need a car to travel out to Vancouver Island?
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Old Feb 23rd, 2022, 10:28 AM
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BC Robyn has nailed it above. Tofino and Ukee (Ucluelet) are more in tune with your stated interests, Jamie. Pacific Rim Park is an excellent place to hike around, with a camera. For those seeking nature, Victoria would be disappointing. One comparison might be if someone seeking nature in Ontario were to choose Niagara-on-the lake over Algonquin Park.
My wife and I are serious shutterbugs too---you may want to check out our Vancouver Island Photo Essay from a while back (below). We also wrote a lengthy separate TR here, in which there are many logistical details.
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Vancouver Island west coast Photo Essay
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Old Feb 26th, 2022, 08:12 AM
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lrice, there are many small regional airports (and helipads and float plane terminals) on Vancouver Island, but the largest airport for US arrivals would be Victoria International Airport. I don't live in Victoria nor do I fly there, so never had to use that airport, so don't know if you can fly directly there from LA, but you can fly direct from LA to Vancouver and then transfer to a plane to Victoria.

What do you mean by "do you need a car to travel out to Vancouver Island"? Vancouver Island isn't tiny like Santa Catalina Island, it's as large as Baja California. You'd want a car to get around. There are no bridges connecting Vancouver Island to the mainland or it would be a 30 mile long bridge! You either fly there or you drive your car on a ferry and the ferry takes you there. There is public transit but it's pretty limited on Vancouver Island outside of the cities.

Once on Vancouver Island, the island is huge. There are freeways and highways and cities and towns and airports and malls and so on. Suburban sprawl with fast food chains and big box stores. Farmland. Wilderness areas. Unpopulated areas. Touristy areas. Non-touristy areas. Industrial areas. National parks, provincial parks, etc. Beaches, mountains, etc. There's one main highway connecting the communities along the east side of the island, with some highways forking out to the wild west coast of the island, which is more undeveloped and is famous for its old growth rainforests and stunning beaches. Victoria's the largest city. But Victoria is just one tiny part of the island at the very south end. It takes 5 hours to drive from Victoria to Tofino on the west coast, for example. It takes 6 hours or so to drive from the south end of the island to the north end of the island. Usually if you want to explore the island, you'd want 2 weeks at the very minimum to see various regions. Each region of the island has its own look and feel.

You may wish to browse the Tourism Vancouver Island website as they always have good info about getting around and road trip ideas, and info on how to get there: https://vancouverisland.travel/

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Old Feb 26th, 2022, 08:28 AM
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Jamieward3039, whale watching is actually supposed to be better in Victoria than Tofino. Tofino, however, has the incredible wilderness, beaches, forests, and has bear-watching tours. Do both if you're able!

There are a lot of gardens in Victoria - Butchart is the most famous, but if you're into flower photography, just stroll around the Inner Harbour area too: https://www.tourismvictoria.com/see-...s/garden-parks
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Old Feb 27th, 2022, 04:14 AM
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Irice—On Vancouver Island right now without a car, visiting a friend in greater Victoria (Esquimalt). I flew into YVR (Vancouver airport) and took a ferry from just south of YVR (from Tsawwassen) across to Vancouver Island. While not ideal as it then required a stay at a hotel near the airport and some mucking around with buses, the savings were so substantial for flying into Vancouver on my limited travel window that it made sense. A possibility to consider if flight prices are exorbitant to Victoria at the time of your travel (as they were for this Spring Break week), and I must say that despite the extra wear and tear, it all seemed worthwhile yesterday as the ferry across the Georgia Strait ($17.50) is such a beauty!
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Old Feb 27th, 2022, 08:13 PM
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jamieward—I did want to tell you that as I walked through Beacon Hill Park in Victoria today by the Juan de Fuca Strait, the air was deliciously redolent with tree smell (pine?) in a way that struck me as unusual and delightful coming from eastern Canada. Given your query about the smells, I think you might be quite happy with that aspect of visiting this part of the Pacific Northwest!
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Old Feb 28th, 2022, 09:59 AM
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Daniel, my guess is you were smelling the Douglas fir and cedars. Douglas fir is technically a pine.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2022, 10:45 AM
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Thank you @zebec for sharing your amazing photos!!! love, love, love
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Old Mar 2nd, 2022, 10:49 AM
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Thanks, everyone for the lovely comments! I'm new to these message boards and am probably replying incorrectly. We will try to do 3 days in Tofino (always wish I had more time, but we have limited vacation leave in our jobs), and will likely do 1 day in Victoria. Wish I could travel around for months at a time! Someday!
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Old Mar 5th, 2022, 02:57 PM
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That's about the schedule we had to adhere to in our visits as well, thanks to limited work vacation. Don't worry, you will have a marvelous time. We made it a habit to stop at Coombs to see the goats on the roof at the Coombs Old Country Market, enroute to Tofino. You can pick up some yummies and have a bit of a picnic lunch on your drive (old style, eating while standing by the car looking at the scenery, if nothing else). You can get a bite to eat there as well. Worth a stop for food, shopping, and by all means those goats.

Here's a bit about it:
https://oldcountrymarket.com/
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Old Mar 8th, 2022, 05:04 PM
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Thanks All! I don't want to hijack Jamie's thread

It looks like we could go to Seattle for 3 nights, take the ferry to Victoria on Day 4. Then spend nights 4 - 6 in Victoria and fly home from Victoria International on Alaska Air. That could be a plan!
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Old Mar 10th, 2022, 03:51 PM
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The Lt. Govenors home in Victoria has lovely gardens and I believe they are free. Apparently they have a tearoom as well but I have not been to that.
I usually go to the White Heather for tea. However I think it has changed hands so things may have changed.
We usually stay at the Surf Motel. It’s like a vintage motel but it is across the street from ocean so you will see ships going past your window. There is also a paved walking path that takes you to Beacon Hill Park and beyond. And we walk down to the Inner Harbor from there too. There is free parking if you do have a car. It’s probably not for everyone but we like it.
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Old Mar 11th, 2022, 09:29 AM
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@sludick, ohmygoodness, yes. I had seen a YouTube video about the goats! What a great idea! If I were more ambitious and business-minded, I might start something like that here in my home state of Kentucky. Ha! Coombs will be a definite must-stop!
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