Post Summary: The Perfect Campbell River Itinerary (All The Best Things To Do!)
Have you ever wanted to plan a vacation where you can just do it all?
We’re talking snowshoeing up the mountain in the morning, and then paddle-boarding on the water by sunset. Maybe you want a little adventure, but also delicious restaurants and cafes nearby.
What if I told you a place like this actually exists, where you can enjoy all the flavors of Vancouver Island and MORE? We were blown away when we discovered the abundance of activities in Campbell River, British Columbia.
If you can’t decide what to do on your Vancouver Island road trip, forget the choices and have them all in Canada’s Salmon Capital of the World.
We’re sharing exactly what you should do for a 3-day Campbell River itinerary, with adventurous spots to explore and the best restaurants and cafes in town! Let’s get started.
This post is sponsored by Destination Campbell River. All opinions and writing are our own.
Where Is Campbell River, BC?
Campbell River is located on the east coast of Vancouver Island, about a 1.5-hour drive north of Nanaimo, BC. It’s most famous for its aquaculture and industries around marine life like fishing, whale watching, and tourism!
Surrounded by 5 provincial parks in all directions (Strathcona, Miracle Beach, Mohun Lake, Loveland Bay, and Elk Falls) there are literally endless opportunities to get outside and enjoy this North Central Island’s coastal region.
How To Get To Campbell River
The easiest way to get to Campbell River is to take the ferry from Horseshoe Bay in Vancouver, BC to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.
Expect to pay around $90 CAD for 1 car and two passengers to cross the Straight of Georgia to your destination. You can check the latest departure times and current fares at BC Ferries for more information on specific routes.
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Where To Stay in Campbell River
Many Campbell River hotels and resorts are situated along the water or tucked away in the forest nearby for a relaxing escape.
Dolphin’s Resort began as a world-famous fishing resort in the late 1940s. Visitors from all over the world would come to this stunning waterfront location to take guided fishing tours around Campbell River.
We stayed at the Beach House in Dolphin’s Resort – a renovated studio house that sleeps two! We were RIGHT on the beach, with unobstructed views of the water. It had a full king bed, full kitchen, fireplace, and even a private hot tub out on the deck!
There are many amazing places to stay in Campbell River!
When Is The Best Time To Visit Campbell River?
There is no bad time to visit Campbell River, but you will find that most businesses and private campsites are open in the summer months.
However, visitors can expect some unique and amazing things to do in Campbell River in the winter months as well. A famous Campbell River combination is skiing in the morning and being out at sea by the evening! You’ll also find that winter here brings a lot of peace and quiet – perfect for a romantic getaway or tranquil retreat.
With the mild climate and close proximity to the water, this area has activities that will keep any explorer busy, no matter the time of year they visit Campbell River!
Things To Do In Campbell River in Vancouver Island In The Winter
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Campbell River Itinerary Day 1
Explore The Waterfalls Around Campbell River
Looking for a little adventure? Discover the many amazing waterfalls near Campbell River, just a short drive away in Strathcona Provincial Park. To narrow down your waterfall selection (you’d practically have to live here to see them all!), here are some easy-to-reach ones for your weekend trip in Campbell River.
Lupin Falls: The short 800-meter trail brings you to a 30-meter tall waterfall that is framed beautifully by the mossy forest. With the trailhead being directly off the highway, it’s a great trail to take when starting your waterfall tour.
Lower Myra Falls: The 1-kilometer trail to Lower Myra Falls (pictured below) brings you to a series of levels to explore, all with cascading crystal clear water. Come to explore the falls, and then bring a picnic to enjoy on the shores of Buttle Lake.
Lady Falls: Lady Falls, located just off of Highway 28, is veiling plunge waterfall. The short 900-meter hike to the overlook is covered in a canopy of cedar trees. You’ll have a great excuse to stretch your legs and enjoy this mossy, old-growth forest on the way to the viewing platform!
Take a Sunset Trip To Elk Falls Provincial Park
One of the most popular things to do during a Campbell River itinerary is to visit the Elk Falls Suspension Bridge. Located just a short drive west from town (we’re talking just 10 minutes in the car!), the hike to the bridge is perfect for the whole family.
The short 2 kilometers out-and-back main trail brings you to a stunning suspension bridge over the mighty Elk Falls, a 25-meter tall waterfall that drops into the river below.
Enjoy this peaceful old-growth forest and the many viewpoints of the waterfall. You can snap photos from the newly renovated lower viewing deck, or take pictures standing on the swinging bridge itself!
Not ready to leave Elk Falls Provincial Park? With over 6 kilometers of trails that wind through the old-growth forest of Vancouver Island, you can easily spend an entire day here!
Have Dinner at The Anglers Dining Room at the Dolphins Resort
For exceptional West Coast flavors in a laid back setting, the Anglers Dining Room at the Dolphins Resort is an excellent option for dinner in Campbell River.
Situated in a historic wood lodge near the waterfront, the dining experience feels like you are an honored guest at a dear friend’s cabin retreat.
With seasonally fresh seafood and local ingredients, much care is taken in creating a sustainable experience that supports local producers and growers. Even their beer and wine selections are from neighboring communities!
Dinner reservations are highly recommended. The kitchen is open daily from 5:00 pm to a final seating at 8:00 pm for a consciously intimate experience.
Campbell River Itinerary Day 2
Watch the Sunrise At Dolphins Resort
Campbell River is located on the east side of Vancouver Island, which means the town is greeted with the morning sun as it rises over mainland British Columbia! We couldn’t help but enjoy it from our view at the Beach House at the Dolphins Resort.
We think it’s definitely worth it to wake up early at least one day during your Campbell River itinerary. If you’re looking for your own special spot to watch the sunrise, here are some of our suggestions:
- Saratoga Beach: Watch the sunrise over the mainland mountains!
- FoggDukkers Coffee: Come bright and early at opening time (6:00 am) to take advantage of their outdoor seating and watch the colors light up in the sky (while you sip your coffee of course!).
- Dick Murphy Park for an easy morning stroll in town.
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Take A Walk On Discovery Pier
Beginners, hobbyists, and professionals alike can enjoy the many opportunities found at the Discovery Fishing Pier.
Located in the heart of downtown Campbell River, this historic pier is 180-meters long with plenty of amazing views of Discovery Passage. With rod holders, fish cleaning tables, and benches built right into the pier, fishing is not only a fun option but it’s ENCOURAGED!
Don’t have your own gear? There is a concession stand (open May through October) that sells bait and rods to make the experience as easy and fun as possible. You can obtain a license online at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, or a local tackle shop!
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Don’t forget to stop by the Discovery Passage Aquarium too! It’s located at the entrance of Discover Pier and shares the same public parking lot. This hands-on experience is fun for kids and adults alike, with living displays you can see, touch, and feel real aquatic specimen from nearby.
*Discovery Passage Aquarium is open spring season through fall and closed in the winter. Call ahead to see if the Aquarium will be open during your Campbell River itinerary!
Go Snowshoeing On Mount Washington
Located just a 1-hour’s drive from Campbell River, Mount Washington Alpine Resort is an excellent way to enjoy the snow and mountains during the winter season. The resort boasts an impressive ski run, several trails for nordic skiers, and plenty of backcountry options for snowshoers and snowmobilers, too!
Rent some snowshoes in the lodge and explore Strathcona Provincial Park’s many trail routes in the Forbidden Plateau Area. Many weave through the open meadows and snow-covered trees for a fun, sub-alpine experience. Paradise Loop Trail is an easy 4.2-kilometer trail, but for a longer day-hike, we suggest checking out the 6.8-kilometer loop hike to Lake Helen Mackenzie and Battleship Lake.
Don’t forget to stop by the lodge and warm up with a snack and a hot drink before you drive back to Campbell River! We spent some time eating poutine and warming up on their sun-soaked back porch. It was the perfect ending to the day on Mount Washington.
Partake in Some Local Beachside Brews
After a fun day spent outside, it’s time to come back to Campbell River and enjoy some local eats. We ate dinner at Beach Fire Brewing & Nosh House, which is known for its craft beer and shareable plates.
Their giant wooden community tables and cozy corners give this brewhouse a feeling of camaraderie and togetherness. Stop by every week on Small Batch Tuesday to try their fun, weird, and always interesting brews. Berty tried a Jalapeño Mango Ale, which leaves a kick in your mouth!
Campbell River Itinerary Day 3
Get Fueled Up For The Day’s Adventures
Breakfast is one of our favorite meals, and there are so many great options in Campbell River to choose from! Here are some places we recommend trying out!
Ideal Cafe – Originally a truck stop, this classic diner has what you need for a hearty breakfast before a day full of fun and adventure.
Java Shack – Soak in the sunshine from the patio in the morning while you wait for the ferry to Quadra Island.
FoggDukkers – Take your latte outside and sip it by the water at their oceanfront location. Outdoor seating is encouraged because that’s where you can have beach fires to kick back and relax!
Take A Helicopter Ride To See Campbell River From Above
Get ready for the ride of your life, because Campbell River is full of amazing coastal views, towering mountains, and forest land that stretches for miles. You’ll have a newfound appreciation for the area by witnessing the diverse landscape from above!
Our tour with 49 North Helicopters took us into Strathcona Provincial Park where we were able to land on top of a mountain to photograph the area on foot! It was an incredible experience to see Vancouver Island from this perspective.
Want to take amazing pictures on your trip? We wrote an amazing list of 20 aerial photography tips on the B&H blog here!
Other Amazing Activities In Strathcona Provincial Park
Strathcona Provincial Park is the oldest provincial park in British Columbia, Canada – established in 1911!
The park spans 2,458 square kilometers (950 square miles) which is a pretty big area to cover, especially considering it’s on an island! This park boasts the highest waterfall in Canada (Della Falls), three different watersheds, and some of the highest mountain peaks on Vancouver Island.
There are year-round activities to do in Campbell River here at Strathcona Provincial Park, but the most popular activities include swimming, canoeing, kayaking, and fishing in its many beautiful lakes.
Hiking Trails In Campbell River
Along with all the amazing activities to do in Campbell River proper, there are seemingly endless opportunities to explore the outdoors. Just an hour’s drive in any direction will bring you to snow-capped mountains, powerful waterfalls, rainforest trails, and so much more!
Here are some recommended Campbell River hiking trails:
Ripple Rock Trail: This 8-kilometer out-and-back trail is absolutely worth the views at the top! Come on this dog-friendly trail to see views of Menzies Bay and the Seymour Narrows – some of the best views in Campbell River.
Tyee Spit: With views of Quadra Island along the Discover Passage, this peaceful 3-km walk in Dick Murphy Park is perfect for a morning walk in town. Come during the summer months to watch rowboats dot the water as fisherman attempt to catch the traditional Tyee fish, a 30-lb+ salmon!
The Rail Trail in Beaver Lodge Forest Lands: Just southwest of Campbell River is this series of trails that range from easy to moderate. Wheelchair-accessible sections, dog-friendly areas, and wide trails make this an inclusive spot for a wide range of outdoor explorers.