Post Summary: The Ultimate 1-Week Vancouver Island Road Trip Itinerary
Looking for your next big road trip in the Pacific Northwest?
If you’re looking for even more things to do in the Pacific Northwest, you’ve got to plan a Vancouver Island road trip! Full of lush green forests, secret beaches, and lots of adventure, we’re here to share everything we know about this amazing location.
In this post, we’re putting together an epic 1-week Vancouver Island itinerary for you, including ways to extend your trip for even more adventure!
Are you ready?
Because this island is going to blow your mind!
Vancouver Island Road Trip: PRE-TRIP PLANNING
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Wait, Where is Vancouver Island?
Vancouver Island is located in British Columbia, Canada. British Columbia sits on the west coast of Canada, and Vancouver Island is the largest island in that province. With 12,079 square miles to explore, it would take you 7 hours in the car to drive from end to end.
Planning our Vancouver Island road trip, we naively thought we could see the entire thing in a mere two weeks. Oh, how wrong we were!
To give Vancouver Island the time and exploration it deserves, one would need to spend at least a month on BC or come back for repeat trips to see different parts of the island.
Now, we totally get that most people don’t have that kind of free time. Therefore, this post is going to be the ideal itinerary to see the highlights of visiting Vancouver Island in ONE WEEK, and hopefully, it will light that spark to make a return trip ASAP!
The Best Way To Travel Around Vancouver Island
The best way to travel around Vancouver Island is by car. However, in order to bring a car to the island, you’ll need to travel by ferry (more on that below).
Since this post is a road trip itinerary, we recommend bringing (or renting!) a vehicle that has everything you need. Here are a few of our favorite options for getting around Vancouver Island:
Renting a Camper Van
If you are traveling to Vancouver Island in the summer, we can’t emphasize how much we recommend camping! There are so many amazing campsites on Vancouver Island, some even right next to the ocean! Our favorite way to rent recreational vehicles is from Outdoorsy.
Renting a converted van would mean you have the freeing mobility to be cooking breakfast under a forested canopy in the morning, and watching the sunset through your open doors after a long surf session by evening!
Bringing a Regular Car
Another really great option for traveling around Vancouver Island would be with a regular-sized car. One large enough to carry your gear, of course, but this gives you options to easily fit in hotel parking lots, down small roads, and still have the option of car camping, too!
How To Get To Vancouver Island
Since this IS an island, you’ll need to take a ferry to reach Vancouver Island.
If you haven’t been on a ferry before, it’s basically a really large boat that you can drive your car onto, like a water taxi that takes you across the water. Depending on the route you choose, you will sail through the Howe Sound, the Salish Sea, or the Strait of Juan de Fuca and pass spots like Bowen Island and Newcastle Island Park. There are multiple routes to take – here’s a breakdown below:
- Horseshoe Bay (North Vancouver) to Nanaimo: This is the best route to take if you are hoping to explore places like Campbell River or Tofino.
- Port Angeles, WA to Victoria: This is convenient for people who live in Washington and Oregon, and it drops you off right in the middle of Victoria!
- Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay: This is the most direct ferry route for people who live in Vancouver and want to reach the metro areas of Vancouver Island.
Expect they ferry costs to be around $90 total for two people. Bringing a car onto the ferry costs around $50 for normal cars (less than 20 feet in length and 7 feet high) and a little bit more in price for RVs and larger vehicles, and each person will be around $15-$20.
If you are traveling to Vancouver Island during the busy season (May – September) we recommend reserving your ferry spots at the BC ferries website. If you are traveling to Vancouver Island in the off-season, there is likely to be a spot on the ferry, and you can pay for your ticket upon arrival.
When Is The Best Time To Visit Vancouver Island?
Honestly, there isn’t a bad time to visit Vancouver Island. The changing seasons bring a variety of awesome activities, and it all depends on what you want to include in your one-week Vancouver Island itinerary.
Here’s a breakdown of the seasons and their highlights to help you make your decision:
- Winter in Vancouver Island: Fewest crowds, storm watching in Tofino, and opportunities to do snow sports in Strathcona Provincial Park.
- Spring in Vancouver Island: Gorgeous blooming cherry blossoms in Victoria, waterfalls at their fullest, many hiking opportunities.
- Summer in Vancouver Island: Sunny days, Butchart Gardens (Victoria) in full bloom, lots of camping opportunities.
- Autumn in Vancouver Island: Witness the salmon run, visit island wineries, enjoy the many harvest festivals on the island.
Vancouver Island Road Trip: DAY BY DAY BREAKDOWN
So how should you break down the days on your 1-week Vancouver road trip itinerary? Below, we’re giving you our recommendations, as well as extra places to consider exploring if you have a bit of extra time!
Day 1: Explore Victoria, BC
Your Vancouver Island Road Trip route is going to begin on a ferry. As explained above, there are several ways to get here, but Berty and I chose to take the Black Ball Ferry Line from Port Angeles, Washington, which docks you right in the heart of downtown Victoria.
The ferry ride was an adventure all its own! We got some major Wes Anderson vibes with the boat’s accidentally retro color palette and frozen-in-time furniture.
Royal British Columbia Museum
The Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria is a perfect place to learn about BC’s natural and human history. Berty and I wanted to make this one of the first stops on our Vancouver Island road trip because we wanted to gain a deeper appreciation for the land before we discovered any further.
The museum is separated into three parts – The Natural History, Becoming BC, and the First People’s Gallery. Each one shares a unique story about British Columbia and what makes this area special. We especially loved learning about the First Nations’ languages, the temperate rainforest, and different natural conservative efforts going on in BC today!
We only had 24 hours in Victoria, so we weren’t able to explore it as much as we would have liked. Keep returning to this post, because when we make a return trip to Vancouver Island (and we want to very soon!) we’ll update this post with more things to do in Victoria, BC!
Day 2: Victoria To Port Renfrew
Driving Distance: 2-hours, 110 kilometers
To continue your Vancouver Island road trip, grab some coffee at a local roaster in Victoria and hit the road driving to the west coast of the island. Today will include places like Sooke (with amazing cliffside views and trails), Jordan River (lush rainforest hikes), and delicious small town treats!
Sooke is an adventurous town, just 30 minutes west of Victoria, BC. Many come here to enjoy the surrounding nature, which includes the popular Whiffin Spit Park (popular for bird watching) and the Sooke Potholes.
Looking to try a multi-day backpacking trip on the Juan de Fuca Trail or the West Coast Trail? Sooke is the perfect base to get prepped before your big backpacking trip. You can find tons of resources, as well as many delicious restaurants to prep you for the big trail ahead.
One of our favorite stops in Sooke was East Sooke Regional Park. Here, you can take their many coastal trails to discover secret coves (perfect for a picnic!) and incredible views of the Salish Sea. Our favorite trail was to Creyke Point (pictured above!) for its scenic cliffs and great sunset spots.
Known for its epic surfing locations, Jordan River is smack in the middle of Port Renfrew and Sooke, making it a great stop during your Vancouver Island Road Trip.
Here, you have quick access to famous beaches like China Beach and Mystic Beach, and the town also serves as the beginning of the Juan de Fuca Trail. This is also where we stayed at this gorgeous rainforest cabin, and listened to the rain as we drifted to sleep.
For even more surfing opportunities, rainforest trails, and even a secret waterfall, consider hiking to Sombrio Beach. This trail will bring you to a slot canyon covered in bright green moss, perfect for those Indiana Jones discovery moments on Vancouver Island!
Shirley, Vancouver Island
Shirley is a small community nestled between Sooke and Jordan River, along Highway 14 (The Pacific Marine Circle Route).
Here you can stop in to grab a bite to eat at the exceptional Shirley Delicious restaurant and maybe even time your visit for the annual craft fairs around Christmas and springtime. Outdoor attractions nearby Shirley include the Sheringham Point Lighthouse Park, and French Beach, where we saw plenty of winter surfers catching waves!
A little bit more about Sheringham Point Lighthouse – established in 1912, it saved numerous lives on the dangerous waves offshore (this area is known a the Graveyard of the Pacific) and was designated a historic site for visitors to enjoy year-round!
Day 3: Exploring Port Renfrew
Driving Distance: Around Port Renfrew (<50 miles)
Port Renfrew is the farthest west location on the Pacific Marine Circle Route, and also at the end of Highway 14.
This town is wildly popular for hiking, whether it be along the sea’s edge, or deep in the rainforests of Vancouver Island. From the glassy tide pools of Botanical Beach to the gnarly giants of the Avatar Grove, Port Renfrew is the perfect location to stay if you’re seeking outdoor adventure.
Here are some attractions to consider along this part of your Vancouver Island Road Trip:
Big Lonely Doug
Standing in the middle of a clear cut forest towers Big Lonely Doug, a 70 meter tall Douglas fir tree. No one knows why this tree was spared and the others not, but it is a beautiful sight to come and see with your own eyes. We were surprised at how truly huge this tree was, we definitely felt like tiny ants at its base!
Driving Note: To reach Big Lonely Doug, you’ll need to take a gravel/dirt logging road for about a 45-minute drive. We recommend having a 4-wheel drive vehicle and/or a skilled driver to navigate those giant potholes and steep stretches!
Looking to explore deep in the rainforest on Vancouver Island? Avatar Grove is located just a short drive north of Port Renfrew, and it boasts some of the largest trees in the county! Carefully cared for by the Ancient Forest Alliance, there are two sections to Avatar Grove – the Upper Grove and Lower Grove.
Each has a series of boardwalks to weave you through the forest to explore the numerous attractions along the way. One of the highlights of the trail is seeing Canada’s Gnarliest Tree (located at the end of the Upper Grove), which is a giant tree with huge burl growths attached to it.
Avatar Grove is easy to reach from Port Renfrew, and along the same route as Big Lonely Doug. Plan to see them together to save time!
Mystic Beach is one of the most popular beaches to visit in this part of Vancouver Island. Serving as one terminus of the Juan de Fuca Trail, you will see backpackers enter here for their long 47-kilometer journey as well as day hikers coming to watch the sunset.
The journey is just as fun as the destination! Along the way, you will find yourself walking across a suspension bridge, crossing streams, and climbing over tree roots to reach the beach. Once you arrive, turn to your left to discover the waterfall cascading over the sandstone cliffs into the ocean!
If you love the sea, Botanical Beach is an essential stop on your Vancouver Island Road Trip! This beach in British Columbia has some of the richest and most diverse tide pools in the area. Most of them are so clear and so deep that it looks like you are peeking into a mini aquarium at your feet!
We highly recommend visiting during low tide so you can experience the tide pools in their entirety.
Tide pool etiquette rules are required to keep this place alive and thriving, so do your part by stepping only on bare rocks and putting things back where you found them. Finally, never turn your back to the ocean (even at low tide!) and stay safe out there!
Day 4: Driving From Port Renfrew To Tofino
Driving Distance: 5 hours, 340 kilometers
To continue your Vancouver Island Road Trip, you’ll have to begin the journey from Port Renfrew to Tofino. There are many stops along the way so we’ll briefly touch on those below, but we also wanted to mention some of our favorite road trip posts to keep you busy on the drive!
These road trip planner apps help us find everything from the fastest routes to the cheapest gas stations. We use these road trip apps all the time to make our lives a little bit easier during long road trips, and we hope you find your new favorites, too!
Want to get to know your group better? We’ve compiled the perfect mix of serious and funny road trip questions, perfect for long drives and great conversations. You can even download the list for offline use here!
Vancouver Island Road Trip Stops From Port Renfrew to Tofino
- Bonsai Fir Tree – A little fir tree is determined to grow in the middle of Fairy Lake atop a log sticking out of the water. It’s a cool sight!
- Lizard Lake – Take a late breakfast or lunch break on Lizard Lake’s huge dock.
- Cathedral Grove – Similar to Avatar Grove, this protected area of Macmillan Provincial Park has short boardwalk trails on either side of Highway 4 to walk among the giants and stretch your legs.
Day 5-6: Explore Around Tofino
Driving Distance: Around Tofino
Tofino is a west coast town on Vancouver Island, known for its surf culture and relaxing ocean vibe. Many people come here for long weekend getaways, so you’ll find plenty of gorgeous Tofino resorts and cabins dotting the ocean’s shore.
There’s a lot of seriously amazing things to do in Tofino, but we’re sharing the highlights of our Vancouver Island Road Trip below, perfect for 2-3 days in Tofino. We think that if you spend a few days here, you can achieve everything on this list below!
Walk The Beaches In Tofino
Some of our favorite times of the day were spent wandering the shores of beautiful beaches in Tofino. Depending on the time of year you take your road trip on Vancouver Island, the beaches can look very different, each season with its own unique vibe!
Come to Cox Bay to watch experienced surfers catch the waves. If it’s raining, hideaway in Long Beach Resort‘s window-filled lounge and watch them from the sofa!
Chesterman Beach is perfect for beginning surfers and Mackenzie Beach is great for people who want to try Stand Up Paddle Boarding. Don’t forget to check out Tonquin Beach for some quick and easy beach trails in town, too!
There are so many beaches in Tofino to explore – we recommend stopping by the Tofino Visitor Centre to ask for suggestions. They can let you know which beach is best for you and your desired activities.
Visit Hot Springs Cove
Hot Springs Cove is a once in a lifetime adventure to a geothermal pool tucked away on the rocky shores of Vancouver Island! To reach these PNW hot springs, you’ll need to book a boat tour or floatplane departing from Tofino.
Plan for a full-day trip to these hot springs in BC. Regular tours leave around 9:00 am and return around 4:00 pm. For more information (and tricks to potentially get it all to yourself!) click here for all our best tips on visiting Hot Springs Cove.
Hike To Cox Bay Lookout
Cox Bay Lookout is arguably home to some of the best views in Tofino!
This short but steep hike is located at the southernmost point of Cox Bay. Find the inconspicuous trailhead along a creek’s end, and climb up the root-entangled trail for about 20 minutes.
It’s a steep climb, so leave your pups at home and prepare to get your hands dirty! There are hot pink trail markers wrapped around tree trunks to help guide your way if you get lost.
Once at the top, enjoy expansive views of the Clayoquot Sound and the town of Tofino in the distance. On a clear day, this is an incredible spot to watch the sunset!
Eat At Delicious Restaurants in Tofino
Tofino is one of the best places to visit on Vancouver Island and to top it all off, they have some of the best restaurants, too!
Some of our personal favorites included Tacofino (an iconic taco food truck with outdoor seating) and Rhino Coffee and Donuts. However, there are so many more restaurants in Tofino that we loved, here are just some of them below…
- Tacofino – Outdoor seating with huge burritos and local ingredients.
- Tofitian – Convenient coffeehouse next to several beaches.
- Rhino Coffee and Donuts – Great coffee, but even better donuts and breakfast sandwiches.
- Kuma – Amazing Japanese comfort food like hearty ramen with vegan options as well.
- Shelter Restaurant – Excellent date night option with amazing moody ambiance and fresh local eats.
Want to Stay Longer In The Tofino Area? Discover Epic Things To Do In Pacific Rim National Park (Tofino / Ucluelet)
Day 6: Tofino To Campbell River
Driving Distance: 3.5 hours, 270 kilometers
Campbell River is located on the north-eastern side of Vancouver Island, along the edge of the Discovery Passage waterway. Known for its iconic Tyee fishing spots and abundant outdoor activities this is a great spot for nature lovers of all ages.
Stay awhile in Campbell River for their unique local eateries like Beach Fire Brewing (with crazy Tuesday experimental brews!) and carefully sourced Pacific Northwest ingredients at the famous Anglers Restaurant.
They are also known for being close to nature, which means you can grab brunch in town and be out on the trails just a half-hour later!
No matter how many days you choose to stay, Campbell River is a must-stop destination on your Vancouver Island trip! Here’s what we suggest doing while you’re here…
Elk Falls Provincial Park
Visiting Elk Falls is one of the most popular activities in Campbell River, BC. Located just a quick drive from town (we’re talking only 10 minutes!) Elk Falls provides a fun opportunity for the whole family to get outside.
With just a 2-kilometer trail you can experience epic views of Elk Falls from the platforms, as well as walk across the suspension bridge to view the powerful 25-meter drop.
Come for the short trail to the falls, or stick around longer to take an extended hike (6 kilometers) farther down the river for more magical river views.
Take The Trail To Myra Falls (+ Other Waterfalls Near Campbell River)
Another amazing activity to do along your Vancouver Island Road Trip is to discover the many nearby waterfalls in Strathcona Provincial Park. One of the easiest waterfalls to reach is Myra Falls, a 1-kilometer out-and-back trail with a killer view of this multi-tiered falls.
Come to the two viewpoints (upper and lower) and explore around the rocks to discover even more places to view the falls from up close! Don’t forget to pack a picnic to share along the shores of Buttle Lake, the endpoint of Myra Falls.
Love chasing waterfalls? Here are some other waterfalls on Vancouver Island to explore!
- Lupin Falls: A tall 30-meter drop viewable from a short forest trail.
- Lady Falls: Old-growth trail leads to a viewing platform to feel the mist from this powerful Vancouver Island waterfall.
- Niagara Falls: Near Victoria, BC, this waterfall requires just a quick walk from the parking lot. Continue farther up the trail to visit Niagara Trestle, too (scroll down for more info on that!).
Relax At Dolphins Resort
After a long day of driving and exploring along your Vancouver Island Road Trip, it’s time for the ultimate evening of relaxation at Dolphins Resort! This unique resort in Campbell River offers the luxury of oceanside views combined with the feeling of being tucked away in the woods.
Berty and I stayed at their room called the Beach House, which is a converted studio with unobstructed views of the water, specifically over Discovery Passage. It was an incredible place to watch the sunrise, as well as feel rejuvenated and restored for a new day of adventure ahead!
Day 7: End Your Vancouver Island Road Trip From Campbell River To Victoria
Driving Distance: 3 hours, 265 kilometers
Your Vancouver Island Road Trip has come to an end, but that doesn’t mean the adventure stops on your way back! Driving from Campbell River back to Victoria, BC, here are some stops you should check out on your drive…
Sunrise at the Discovery Pier
Before leaving Campbell River, make sure to watch the sunrise from Discovery Pier. This historic pier is 180-meters long, with plenty of unobstructed views of Discovery Passage and Quadra Island across the water.
Grab some coffee at the Java Shack beforehand, and take a walking tour of the pier before you start your trip south to Victoria.
The Niagara Trestle (also referred to as the Goldstream Trestle) is located in Goldstream Provincial Park, just 30 minutes north of Victoria. The hike to the trestle is short but extremely steep, so be prepared to take plenty of breaks on the way up.
The actual trestle itself is on private property, so respect the area and please do not walk along/across the top that’s suspended above the river. Feel free to take photos from the sides, though! On the way back to the car, make sure to stop by Niagara Falls – it’s the most powerful in the springtime!
Here are some other similar attractions to check out along the way:
The Kinsol Trestle: The Kinsol Trestle, located in Cowichan Valley, has been converted into a walking bridge towering 44 meters above the Koksilah River below. Come to stretch your legs during your Vancouver Island Road Trip!
Todd Creek Trestle: Located in the Sooke Potholes Provincial Park, this wooden trestle in Vancouver Island is a fun stop along your route.
Want To Extend Your Vancouver Island Road Trip?
Not ready to leave Vancouver Island? There are so many places to explore on the island that you won’t be able to see everything in just one trip (which is fine because we’re already itching to come back!)!
If you want to even further customize your trip or take some side trips along the way, here are more suggestions for making your Vancouver Island Road Trip unique to you!
Port Hardy and San Josef
Ready to explore the northern Vancouver Island? Cape Scott Provincial Park and Port Hardy are some of the most remote communities and parks you can visit on the Island, which brings a lot more opportunity to see wildlife and more space to yourself.
Don’t forget to check out Telegraph Cove near Port McNeill, a picturesque village on the edge of the water.
West Coast Trail
The backpacking trip of all backpacking trips is hands down on The West Coast Trail. This 5-7 day backpacking trip is 75-kilometers along the coast in the Pacific Rim National Park. Permits are required, children are not allowed, and you are strongly encouraged to be an experienced backpacker.
From hand-carts across raging rivers, root-crossed trails, several ladders, and more, this is one of the most exciting and daunting backpacking trips out there.
Thirty minutes south of Tofino is the opposite side of the peninsula – a small town called Ucluelet. It’s worth an extended visit all its own! You’ll get the same climate and vibe as in Tofino, however, it’s home to the Wild Pacific Trail, awesome camping opportunities, and dramatic swells along the rocky ocean shores.
Ucluelet is more affordable than Tofino, but you’ll have that extra 30-minute drive into town. Expect amazing views of craggy shores and views of the Broken Group Islands to the south, and one of the longest beaches in the area, aptly named Long Beach for lots of different activity choices.
Sooke is a town on the southern coast of Vancouver Island, just 40 minutes from Victoria, BC. Here, you can experience unspoiled beaches, several hiking trails, East Sooke Provincial Park, The Sooke Potholes, and Roche Cove Park (to name a few favorites!).
This is a great stop along the Pacific Marine Circle Route if you’re looking to make Victoria a home base with smaller day trips around the area.
Pacific Marine Circle Route (Condensed Vancouver Island Road Trip)
Don’t have an entire week for your Vancouver Island road trip? Or maybe you don’t want to spend long hours in the car? Try taking the Pacific Marine Circle Route, which connects Victoria, Sooke, Port Renfrew, Lake Cowichan, Duncan and then back to Victoria.
This condensed version of a Vancouver Island Road Trip can be accomplished in 2-3 days, or you can spend an entire week just on this route, spending a lot of time in each area!
Vancouver Island Road Trip Itinerary Examples (5 Days, 1 Week, 2 Weeks)
Wondering if you can see all these iconic landmarks in just a one week Vancouver Island Road Trip?
To accommodate different trip lengths, we’re sharing some more example itineraries for a shorter 5 days in Vancouver Island and longer 2 weeks in Vancouver. Read below to find your perfect itinerary!
Note: For the sake of convenience, we’re starting these Vancouver Island itineraries in Victoria, BC. If you’d like to start in Nanaimo or another place, just accommodate for your starting location!
Five Day Vancouver Island Itinerary (Pacific Marine Circle Route)
Highlights: Quick access beaches, short hikes, easy-to-reach locations just off the highway.
Five days in Vancouver Island is a perfect way to see all the highlights on a quick Vancouver Island road trip. With a five day Vancouver Island itinerary, you will have lots of time to explore the island’s most easily accessible beaches and attractions.
Prepare either for lots of time spent in the car, OR prioritizing a few places and saving some Vancouver Island destinations for another trip. Five days is a perfect amount of time to explore a smaller section of the island like the Pacific Marine Circle Route. This means saving the rest of the island for another trip, which isn’t a bad idea!
No matter what you choose, there are tons of beautiful places to visit on Vancouver Island and you won’t be disappointed!
- Day 1: Victoria, BC to Port Renfrew, BC
- Day 2: Port Renfrew to Lake Cowichan, BC
- Day 3: Lake Cowichan to Duncan, BC
- Day 4: Duncan, BC to Victoria, BC
- Day 5: Overnight in Victoria and spend the day exploring downtown!
Two-Week Vancouver Island Itinerary
Highlights: More time in each destination, longer hikes, less-visited destinations.
We think two weeks is the ideal amount of time to spend on a Vancouver Island Road Trip. During this time, you can do everything a 5-day trip would experience and MORE. You will have more time to take longer hikes and reach farther places, exploring more parts of the island!
This will give you a deeper look into the hidden gems of Vancouver Island, and allow you to see places not many others get to experience!
Here’s how we suggest you break down your days on a two-week Vancouver Island Road Trip:
- Day 1: Victoria, BC to Port Renfrew (see Sooke along the way)
- Day 2: Explore Port Renfrew (Big Lonely Doug, Avatar Grove, Botanical Beach, etc)
- Day 3: Drive from Port Renfrew to Tofino
- Day 4: Explore Tofino Beaches
- Day 5: Visit Hot Springs Cove, Tofino
- Day 6: Explore Tofino and Ucluelet (Pacific Rim National Park)
- Day 7: Drive from Tofino to Campbell River
- Day 8: Explore Campbell River Area
- Day 9: Explore Campbell River
- Day 10: Drive to Port Hardy
- Day 11: Camp in Cape Scott Provincial Park
Day 12: Drive back down to Campbell River (stop at Telegraph Cove)
- Day 13: Campbell River to Victoria, BC
- Day 14: Explore Downtown Victoria, BC and return home!
Want a printable Vancouver Island itinerary? Sign up below and get your free downloadable copy!
Vancouver Island Road Trip Map (Downloadable!)
Below, you can find a map of Vancouver Island, the best spots to visit, and our favorite stops on a road trip itinerary! Save this map by clicking the top left corner to refer back to it later!