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Four Days on Vancouver Island not long enough

While we all sit at home and continue to look for ways to not be bummed out by the news, I've decided to look back at some of my favorite places I've been in the past few years. Maybe you can find inspiration for your next trip, or just kill a couple minutes looking at pictures from mine.

Back in 2017, I received two National Parks passes for Christmas - my mother and boyfriend apparently had the same idea that year. By the fall of 2018, after working a series of odd jobs, I was more than ready to leave my hometown in Ohio, and decided to put those Parks passes to good use. So my boyfriend and I spent October through December living on the road, scouting cities looking for our next home, and, of course, seeing the sights along the way.

Heading up to Vancouver Island was a last minute decision. With no prior research, I knew nothing about where we were headed until we boarded the ferry from mainland Vancouver to Nanaimo - a small town on the southeast side of the island. We spent that ferry ride looking through the available pamphlets and magazines, deciding where we wanted to go once we landed.

First, we drove an hour and a half North up to the Campbell River area and spent a very soggy night camping. It was the kind of night where we gave up and went to bed around 8:00 pm just to get out of the rain. After rolling up a soaking tent in the morning, we checked out Elk Falls, and the sketchy (in my opinion) suspension bridge, then made our way across the island toward Tofino.

There aren't many cross-island routes, so driving on the island can be a slow process. The one road to Tofino, the Pacific Rim Highway, was under some serious construction, which turned a 3.5 hour ride into 6 hours. Though it was long, the drive was beautiful. We realized that once you leave the more developed eastern coast, the island gets truly wild. The foggy road weaved between mountains, through dense forests, and past countless waterfalls, all in torrential rain.

Once we got into Tofino, the rain was so dense that we had no idea we were driving about 100 feet from the ocean. That night, we slogged through ankle-deep water in the roads to get fresh mussels and chowder from Shelter, one of the nicer restaurants in the area. Food-wise, I think we only ate seafood during our few days in Tofino. On our second day, we picked up a dozen oysters at The Hatch Waterfront Pub, then a few beers later (oyster stouts), went for some fish and chips at the outdoor Surfside Grill and dined in a tiki hut.

We got lucky when we decided to stay at the Ecolodge. I'm sure it was just the cheapest shelter we could find at the time, but I'd recommend it to anyone visiting Tofino. It was a cross between a hostel and BnB -- private rooms and free breakfast, with a shared kitchen and bathrooms. The following day, once the weather calmed down, we found out it's situated on a lovely botanical garden with art installations throughout.

On our one clear day in Tofino, we explored the Pacific Rim National Park, stopping at Long Beach to watch the surfers. We later ventured further south toward Ucluelet, another tiny village nearby, and walked the Rainforest Trail, which alternated between rugged coast line and dense vegetation. Last, we took a quick tour of Ucluelet, stopping at The Wreckage for coffee.

Our last day on Vancouver Island was spent in Victoria, BC. We attempted to board the first ferry to Port Angeles, WA in the morning, but a car issue set us back a few hours. Turns out the ferry captain will kick you off if your fuel line is leaking. Once we found a kind mechanic willing to do a rush job for pretty cheap, we boarded the sunset-hour ferry ride, which ended up being one of my favorite parts of the entire three-month trip.

The ferry ride was slow, very cold, and beautiful. At one point, someone shouted "whale!", and for the rest of the ride, the adults on board were excitedly pressed up against the windows looking for signs of blowholes or tails. It was a very cool experience to cross the Salish Sea, slowly approaching the misty Olympic Mountains and watching for the occasional spout from whales swimming nearby.

I hope to go back to Vancouver Island at some point, hopefully next time in the summer. For now, I'm just missing the luxury of leaving home, and showing up on an island without a plan.

General tips:

Bring a car - Things are pretty spread out on the island, and the coolest places are a few hours drive from the nearest ferry stops.

Stay a week - Looking back, I wish we had more time to explore. If the weather were a bit better, checking out Clayoquot Plateau Provincial Park was on the list. The island has seemingly endless lakes, mountains, forests, and parks to explore, so plan on taking the time to see it.

Go for the central island/west coast - the South/east sides of the island are pretty developed, so I'd recommend venturing inward to find the remote parts.

Try visiting in the summer - While our stay in November was great, it would be easier to actually enjoy the outdoors if you visit in the non-rainy season.

Check your fuel lines - Just in case.


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