Thinking of taking a road trip from Vancouver to Tofino? Curious about cool places to stop along the way? Read on! My husband and I poured over travel blogs, official tourism websites and asked friends and family before our trip and here are our top 10 picks for places to stop along the way from Victoria to Tofino.
1. Fisherman’s Wharf Victoria:
We wanted to take the scenic route to Tofino, so we sailed from Tsawassen Ferry Terminal to Victoria, BC. We heard from a friend about a fun place to at the downtown Victoria inner harbor where you can feed harbor seals. Fisherman’s Wharf is a pier of floating restaurants, house boats, eco tour operators and home to friendly harbor seals. You can buy a plate of fish from Barb’s Fish and Chips and feed the seals while they splash and bark to try to get your attention. This is also a great place for lunch, ice cream or to watch the huge cruise ships at the nearby terminal.
2. Downtown Victoria:
We continued through downtown Victoria, which we had both seen before, but if it is your first time some great places to check out are the Parliament Buildings, The Royal British Columbia Museum, The Empress Victoria and Beacon Hill Park. You could also drive through the beautiful University of Victoria Campus, established in 1903, where you have a good chance to see a deer. From Victoria we drove onward past Nanaimo to our hotel in Parksville.
3. Old Country Market, Coombs, BC:
Also known as Goats on the Roof – you absolutely must stop by this gem! A large market including a restaurant, deli, bakery, produce, snacks and an eclectic collection of toys, gifts and home décor item. The coolest part is from Victoria Day onward until the Fall they have goats living on the grass covered roof in little houses. We picked up some yummy smoked salmon from here, as well as gifts for our nieces and nephews. Next door are some other interesting shops and it is a tourist and local hub and can get quite busy.
4. Qualicum Beach:
We ended our first night with a fire on the beach at Qualicum Beach. There was plenty of driftwood to use and you could see the ocean and the stars from the beach.
5. Morningstar Farm:
Morningstar Farm is another must stop on your trip from Vancouver to Tofino. There is lots of free fun at this family friendly, farm. A cheese and wine farm with a host of animals that you can visit with. I pet bunnies, fed goats and baby cows, met elegant horses and enjoyed some neat photo ops on their farm machinery. There is a trail from the farm around a nearby lake and bog and a beautiful view of the mountains. Fresh cheese, wine, local honey and jams and various treats can be found inside the farm store, including samples!
6. Little Qualicum Provincial Park:
A short, moderate hike brings you to beautiful views of a lively waterfall. Also in the park is the pristine Cameron Lake, a nice spot to stop and stretch your legs and enjoy views of Mount Arrowsmith and Mount Wesley.
7. Cathedral Grove:
Take a short walk in an Old Growth forest of giant Douglas Fir Trees. The trees in this forest are between 300 and 800 years old. Follow the signs for a guided loop to an 800 year old tree that is taller than the leaning tower of Pisa. This is a lovely shady stop along the way and being among these green giants is a truly humbling experience. Parking can be a bit hard at times at Cathedral Grove.
8. Port Alberni:
Forgot to pack something for your trip or really craving a double double, Port Alberni has a Walmart, Tim Hortons and some decent restaurants. It’s also a good place to stop and stretch your legs.
9. Sproat Lake Provincial Park:
Home of the beautiful Sproat Lake, a popular swimming, boating, camping, and fishing destination, this lake has rich cultural and historical significance as well. Prehistoric petroglyphs can be seen depicting mystical lake creatures and this like is also home to the last Martin Mars type waterbombers, giant planes used to carry water to fight forest fires.
10. Wally Creek Pull out:
We heard about Wally Creek pullout from a travel blog, an unmarked paved pull out on the way to Tofino. It features large smooth rock surfaces, a rushing creek and pools to dip your feet into. There are no markings for this little pull out, you’ll just have to keep an eye out for a small paved shoulder on the right side of the road, about 60 kilometers after Port Alberni.
There’s a saying that reality is for those who can’t handle Star Trek. Just remember… I’m always watching you.