The Ultimate Guide to Vancouver Island

Your Next Travel Itinerary – SOrted

Trip planning can be both incredibly exciting and overwhelming at the same time. So many opinions, so many suggestions, and the desire to do EVERYTHING. What are the tourist traps to avoid? Where are the hidden gems? How long do I need at each stop? Well, we’re here to help.

As long-time hospitality experts from Vancouver and Vancouver Island, we’ve created some sample itineraries to give you inspiration and ideas for your next trip to British Columbia. For the road trip warrior to the airmiles collector, we’ve thought of it all.

Airplane Photo

The Flight Plan

If you’re looking to spend as little time on travel as possible, this is the itinerary for you. Vancouver will be your first stop on the way to Nimmo Bay. It’s British Columbia’s largest city, known for the stunning views, the laidback atmosphere, and a mouth-wateringly diverse food scene.

1. Vancouver (3-nights)

Stay in the heart of Downtown Vancouver, right on the harbour. Our favourites are the Fairmont Pacific Rim for classic luxury, or the Loden Hotel, a smaller boutique oasis. You can’t go wrong with a visit to Jam Café, it’s a Vancouver favourite and you get the perfect brunch that satisfies everyone’s cravings. The seafood options in the city are to die for. Fanny Bay Oyster Bar is a cool and cozy space offering up a huge selection of fresh oysters on a daily basis, or visit the long-standing king of surf and turf, Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House. If you’re looking to freshen it up, The Acorn is our pick for fine-dining vegetarian and vegan food.

What to Do

With two full days, you’ve got enough time to explore a few different areas of the city. It’s worthwhile to take a trip to Granville Island, a great destination for exploring the market, catching a show at the theatre, or wandering the beautiful art galleries. You should absolutely take some time to travel to North Vancouver for an afternoon in the forest at the Capilano Suspension bridge. This 450-ft bridge soars over the canyon and has been a feature in the city since 1889.

2. Tofino (3-nights)

The next leg of your adventure will take you to Tofino, on the west coast of Vancouver Island. You’ll hop on a quick 45-minute Pacific Coastal Airlines flight from YVR to the oceanside town. This incredible town is legendary on the West Coast. This beachy, surf mecca, is the perfect stop on your way to Nimmo Bay. When you arrive, we recommend that you check into the Wickaninnish Inn. This boutique hotel sits on a rock outcrop, surrounded by forest and the sea., while offering pure comfort and elegance.

What to Do

The food scene is small but mighty. Inspired by nature in their own backyard, you must have a meal at Wolf In the Fog. The freshness of the ingredients will be highlighted throughout every course. For a refreshing brew at the end of an adventurous day, you can’t go wrong with a stop at Tofino Brewing Co. Before you head off for a day of adventures, you’ll want to visit the Savary Island Pie Company. They’ve got all-day breakfast, unctuous baked goods, and perfect cups of coffee.

As we mentioned, Tofino is BC’s surfing epicenter. So, whether you step out of your comfort zone and take a lesson for the first time, or you’re an old pro, we recommend you play in the waves. For a lower adrenaline option, take a stunning sunset flight to Hot Springs Cove with our friends at Atleo Air and experience the luxury of thermal pools in the rainforest. . Or, take one of your days to indulge in relaxation on the beach. With no shortage of beaches, there are a multitude of perfect spots to set up on the sand. Finally, we’d be remiss to not include a stop to our long-time friend and world-class photographer Jeremy Koreski’s gallery.

On your fourth afternoon in Tofino, you’ll take off on a private floatplane charter that takes you straight to Nimmo Bay for your 3, 4 or 7-night stay. The flight will leave you absolutely speechless.

The Road Trip

If cruisy car rides with the music turned up, winding through forests, mountains, and delightful small towns sounds like magic to you, read on.  

Enjoy a road-trip around Vancouver Island before ending up at Nimmo Bay. You can expect some stunning routes, gorgeous sites to stop at and some full days! As road-trip lovers, the Nimmo Bay team is here to help you make the most of your time on the road and to offer some top tips to help you see the best of BC.

Your first stop on this epic road trip will be Victoria, the capital of British Columbia. This vibrant, artsy city anchors the south of the island.

1. Victoria (3-nights)

There are some fantastic hotel options in the city when you’re looking for a place to stay. We highly recommend considering the Fairmont Empress in downtown Victoria if you’re looking to stay in a breathtaking coastal castle. Or, if you prefer something a bit more removed from the hustle and bustle of downtown, the Oak Bay Beach Hotel is a great option. As an added bonus, it has Victoria’s best oceanfront spa.

What to Do

If you love classic Italian food, you must go to Zambris for dinner on one of your 3-nights. For a quick on-the-go lunch option, we suggest stopping at Bǎo in Chinatown. You know it’s good when there’s almost always a line to get these delicious Taiwanese steam buns.

If you happen to have a rainy day amongst your time in the city, the Royal BC Museum is a must for kids and adults alike. There’s a Stonehenge exhibit on its way to the museum for the rest of 2024. For a local secret, take a 1-hour drive to Mystic Beach and hike a bit of the Juan de Fuca trail to a gorgeous little waterfall.

2. Qualicum Beach (3-nights)

Your next stop has you visiting the middle of Vancouver Island. From Victoria, it takes about 2 hours to drive to Qualicum Beach. This charming town will offer you a few quiet days on the coast, out of the business of the city.

As you wind your way up the coast, we have a recommendation to help break up the drive. If wine is your thing, about an hour into the ride from Victoria to Qualicum, you’ll pass through Mill Bay, in the Cowichan Valley. The warmth and richness of the soil in this region has made it a place where internationally acclaimed wineries can flourish. Visit Unsworth Vineyards for a tasting and seasonally inspired lunch at their restaurant. Follow it up with Averill Creek Winery a little further up the road.

Once you’re in Qualicum Beach, make your homebase for the next 3-nights the Crown Mansion Boutique Hotel. This historical 6-acre property is the ultimate luxury with villas adorning the grounds and fully renovated hotel rooms that still reflect their original 1914 charm. When looking for a bite to eat, try out Q Burger, for award winning hamburgers, or visit the local brewery, Fern + Cedar. It’s a marriage of brewery and modern restaurant with gastro-pub fare.

What to Do

If you’re looking for a fun stop and shop, you have got to make a stop at the Old Country Market, in Coombs. You’ll know you’re at the right place when you see the famous goats, Minyon and Pip, standing on top of the grass roof. To get outside and appreciate the beauty of the landscape, Little Qualicum Falls offers an easy and short hike with incredible payoff. If you keep driving down highway 4, you’ll reach Port Alberni and Sproat Lake. If it’s a hot day, this is the spot for a wonderfully cool swim. Overall, you’re in such a central location in Qualicum Beach. It makes quick trips effortless, and an hour in the car will get you to so many incredible places.

3. Port Hardy

Your next and final destination before arriving at Nimmo Bay is Port Hardy, the northern gateway to the Great Bear Rainforest. You’ll have a 3.5-hour drive ahead of you when you leave from Qualicum Beach. You’ll lose cell service as you pass through the stunning mountains of the north island. Driving along this quiet highway is truly one of the most peaceful drives you’ll experience. You’ll arrive at the Port Hardy airport and prepare to board your float plane and fly high over the rainforest to reach the resort.

There isn’t a wrong answer when planning your trip around British Columbia, but these are some of our very best suggestions to help you along the way.

The Rest of BC

If you’re looking to explore more of BC, our friends at HelloBC have some additional suggestions for getaways to wine country, the sunshine coast, and the sea to sky corridor.

Words: Alexandra Janes

Photos: Jeremy Koreski

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