Xmas trip Nanaimo/Tofino/Victoria

Old Dec 7th, 2008, 06:42 PM
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Xmas trip Nanaimo/Tofino/Victoria

We are late in planning our Xmas trip - we go away every year but this season has been fraught with troubles of one sort or another.

Anyway - we were thinking of spending Xmas to New Years in Victoria/Nanaimo/Tofino for about a week. DH thinks Victoria would be nice but i've heard form friends it's overbuilt and not that lovely. If we had a week once we get to Vancouver, would it make sense ot spend 3-4 days in Tofino and hten ???

Any ideas would be helpful. I know this is late and a lame post but we're just looking for some respite from a difficult autumn...

We are middle aged, like nature but not extreme hikes esp in winter but like the cold weather that we don't get much of here .

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Old Dec 7th, 2008, 07:48 PM
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I currently live in Nanaimo, and it has a mild, rainy sort of climate in the winter. It has a lovely harbour, great arts and theatre, some great dining options and some nice boutique hotels, such as the Dorchester.

Tofino is lovely, and during the winter months you can get some really resonable rates at many of the finer hotels. I would reccommend the Wickaninnish or the Long Beach Lodge. There are other places to stay if you are more budget conscious, but many of the places provide a nice "lodgey" atmosphere with cozy fireplaces, hot tubs and comfortable rooms. Stormwatching is a big draw in the winter, and watching the waves crash against the rocks on a really tempestuous day is quite stunning; makes for some great photos.

I also enjoy Victoria in the winter, and there are some fun activities to do in town, including the winter wonderland at Butchart Gardens where you can enjoy some outdoor ice skating. There is also Handel's Messiah, Cinderella, the Nutcracker, and the big BC 150 exhibits at the Royal BC Museum.

Any of the places you are thinking of going offer something different, but each one is worth the trip.

For more information about Nanaimo, Tofino, Victoria and other destinations on Vancovuer Island, visit my blog at www.explorevancouverisland.ca
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Old Dec 7th, 2008, 09:16 PM
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I spent Christmas in Tofino 2 years ago--we rented a house on Chesterman Beach for 5 days and it was great. Walking on the beach, even in the wind and rain, was exhilerating and fun. We cooked in most nights, but Christmas Eve dinner at the Pointe restaurant at the Wick was a highlight of our trip.

I think Victoria would be worth a day or two if only for the holiday lights and decorations.
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Old Dec 8th, 2008, 08:45 AM
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Thanks for the great responses! Now a followup - I didn't really look at the map before I asked the question so I didn't have a good sense of the geography.

If we do two out of 3 - Victoria /Nanaimo or Victoria/Tofino - which might offer the most distinctive trip? Or does one pair offer something special the other wouldn't?

Thanks so much -

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Old Dec 8th, 2008, 11:07 AM
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Victoria and Tofino without a doubt.

Victoria has some fantastic attractions, and no, I would not say that it's overbuilt. I mean, it's all in context, right? Victoria is city, not a village, so if you're seeking a lonely forgotten fishing village, Victoria isn't like that. Yet, compared to large cities like Vancouver or Seattle, Victoria seems almost sleepy.

Victoria is indeed a very charming city as it has a lot of Victorian architecture, and I would say that it's quite lovely... but again, if you're seeking a bustling metropolis, it's not that either. The Royal BC Museum, the BC Parliament buildings, Emily Carr House, Fort Street, and the seaside from Dallas Road at Beacon Hill Park are my favourite parts of Victoria. Since it's such a small city, you can access all these places on foot.

Tofino is a 5 hour drive away from Victoria in a different climate zone. Unlike Victoria, which is a city is tens of thousands, Tofino is a village surrounded by wild, rugged coastline, beaches, and old growth temperate rainforest. It's where you go for your wilderness fix. The rainforest trails in the Pacific Rim National Park are the most spectacular.

Most of "Tofino"'s attractions aren't even located in the village, but are located along the 40km stretch of coastline between the villages of Tofino and Ucluelet. You'd want a car for that region.
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Old Dec 8th, 2008, 11:46 AM
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I live in Ladysmith which is just south of Nanaimo. If you stay in Nanaimo you should try to come down to Ladysmith one evening to see our Christmas lights they are amazing!

Victoria is beautiful and if you are into storms and huge waves I hear Tofino is the place to be.

Whatever you choose to do if you have time to take the train north from Victoria it offers great views. I was just on the train and the scenery is amazing.

If you do go to Victoria there is an amazing amount of stuff to do. We have done the double decker bus just outside of the Empress Hotel and it was a great tour and I learned a lot about Victoria I did not know (despite living on the Island). Also, there is a walking tour of Chinatown (that is free!) and it had a lot of information about the Chinese in British Columbia. (If you want the info let me know and I will try and track it down). Victoria also has the Museum and the IMAX movie which is always fun and if you do go to Victoria you can't miss having High Tea at the Empress, it is expensive but you are on vacation.

I hope you have a great vacation!
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Old Dec 9th, 2008, 12:54 PM
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Thanks for the helpful responses- I'll let you know what we decide!
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Old Dec 9th, 2008, 01:31 PM
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I'd definitely vote for Victoria/Tofino if you're doing a 2 out of 3. That way you'll get the most variety. Victoria is a lovely little city and will be very pretty around Christmas. The natural beauty of Tofino is amazing. It would be a shame to travel on the Island and miss it.
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Old Dec 10th, 2008, 09:19 AM
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This would likely not be a problem during your visit - but it might be. The Malahat - the section of the highway between Victoria and Nanaimo - can be treacherous in bad wintry weather. Right now it's bare; we don't have any snow or ice and that might well be the case when you're here. But the further north ("up-island" as locals call it) you go, the greater the possibility that you might encounter bad weather. The Malahat is a beautiful scenic drive throught mountains, but if it's shrouded in fog or icy, you need to allow lots of extra travel time.
Downtown Victoria is lovely these days! I'm not sure what your friends mean when they say it's overbuilt. There aren't a lot of towering condos obscuring the views, or anything like that.
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Old Dec 10th, 2008, 01:06 PM
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My guess is that the only way people can claim Victoria's overbuilt would be if they were looking for a secluded wilderness holiday on Vancouver Island. Otherwise, I agree, it's a weird statement, especially considering that Victoria's a small city as far as cities go, and it's practically skyscraper free.
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Old Dec 10th, 2008, 02:18 PM
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LOL.....now, I must admit that it has been almost 2 years since I was last in Nanaimo, but has it changed a great deal since then?

I can't imagine anyone seriously considering Nanaimo as a tourist destination -especially with all of the wonderful alternatives available on Vancouver Island.

cheers

Jerry
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Old Dec 10th, 2008, 03:13 PM
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We're actually going to Victoria between Christmas and New Years. Victoria is very different in winter than in summer. It is crowded in summer and touristy. In winter, it is neither.

Last time we went in December, the weather was good enough to bicycle along the sea wall. There aren't as many touristy things going on after Christmas, but there are lots of thigns to do. We went to Buchardt Gdns at night and saw the "Twelve Days of Christmas" lights. "A Christmas Carol" was playing at the Emily Carr House, but we missed it. Instead, we got to see a wonderful story telling of one of her stories, read by someone dressed as her. We also went to Craigdarroch Castle, where there was beautiful period Christmas music sung by a small group. Plus there's the great BC Museum to visit. Also, we visited the Oak Bay area, a sort of alternative shopping area - much more villagy than the downtown. There are teas to go to, great restaurants. You can get spa services, go to the Y to swim, go for walks on the water. I prefer Victoria in winter to Victoria in high season and the prices are way better at the hotels.

As for Nanaimo, not so much to do. It has a nice waterfront park but this isn't a great time of year to enjoy it. The old town is being redone but is very small. There's a little history museum. It's more of a working town than a tourist destination.

Tofino is great but a bit hard to get to. I wonder if there isn't another out-of-the way seaside option that is just around west from Victoria where you don't have to cross the mountains.
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Old Dec 10th, 2008, 03:17 PM
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Orcas, there is. It's the region people refer to as "Sooke" although I'd even take it further west and suggest the Juan de Fuca Provincial Park. While it lacks the grandeur of stepping out on a beach in Tofino, the temperate rainforest is similar!

Here are some photos and writing about the time I spent there in July of 2007:

http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/1b080/dcb2f/

http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/1b080/dcb2f/4/
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Old Dec 10th, 2008, 04:08 PM
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"I can't imagine anyone seriously considering Nanaimo as a tourist destination -especially with all of the wonderful alternatives available on Vancouver Island."
Quite agree-Nanaimo is the one out of three that you should give a miss.
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Old Dec 10th, 2008, 06:40 PM
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Nice, Carmanah! I looked at the BC Parks website for the Juan de Fuca pk. There are some lovely b&b's there. Maybe next time we go we'll mix it up. Honestly, getting to Tofino from Seattle is very time-consuming.
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Old Dec 10th, 2008, 08:21 PM
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Sooke is beautiful - we live there! I drive into Victoria to go to work several days a week and I marvel at how lovely the drive is, even when it's wet and rainy. Walking out on Whiffin Spit is glorious, especially on those days when there is some sunshine. There's a big Christmas tree on the Spit that everyone decorates with whatever they like - shoes, kitchen gadgets, Christmas ornaments, whatever - I'm just waiting for the light to be perfect so that we can photograph it for our family back East.
There are views to be admired, pleasant B&Bs to stay in, and we're not so far from Victoria - it's easy to enjoy both.
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Old Dec 10th, 2008, 08:44 PM
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Meetshare, Would it be a nice place for a day trip from Victoria? If so, where would be a good place to eat? What sorts of activities - cute stores? Pretty walks?

We haven't decided whether to take the Clipper from Seattle or drive to Pt. Angeles and take our car. If we go to Sooke, we'd need a car.

(I've noticed the Sooke Harbor House before but the accomodations are out of our price range. I hear the restaurant is good. We don't need expensive, though. Just yummy.)
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Old Dec 11th, 2008, 07:20 AM
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There are lots of nice places to eat in Sooke, although the top three "fine dining" establishments - Point No Point, Markus, and Sooke Harbour House - are closed in January. Anyway - that wasn't your question!
You might want to try Chemainus, about an hour up-island from Victoria, for a day trip. And definitely Butchart Gardens is gorgeous at this time of year; you could spend most of a day there.
I don't know if it's accessible online - might be worth a try - but the current issue of "Westworld" which is the BCAA monthly publication, has a great article on day trips from Victoria at Christmas time. See if you can access it, and if you can't, post back here and I'll try to offer a concise description of what they suggest.
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Old Dec 11th, 2008, 12:13 PM
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Could not find an issue of Westworld on line.

We have been to Chemainus before and seen the murals and little shops. We've actually been to several of the Gulf Islands and really enjoy them.

We've been up to Sidney and Sidney Spit, which is amazing, but a summer destination, and to Tofino in summer. Been to Nanaimo and Parksville (summer destinations, in my mind) and seen the goats on a roof. What a blast!

We haven't been on Vancouver Island north of Parksville, but we don't want to be driving too far this trip as we won't have that much time. One day, I'd like to go far north on the island.

We're more interested in interesting things close to Victoria this trip, which is why the Sooke area interests me. It's a bit of the wild, which I think mixes well with the city.

I'm thinking we'll drive. The Clipper is a lot more expensive and the drive to Port Angeles is pleasant. Plus it will be nice to have the car and it's easier to carry anything we might purchase.
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Old Dec 11th, 2008, 02:30 PM
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I actually did manage to access it online - try googling "BCAA Westworld." The current issue is readable and the article about day trips from Victoria is quite detailed and helpful. Let me know if you're continuing to have difficulty and I'll try to post the link (if I can figure out how!).
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