Introducing the best of the west – Vancouver Island

There’s nothing quite like Canada’s southwest coast, with snow-capped mountains on the city skylines, top-notch hiking and watersports, and that fresh, crisp British Columbia air. See its best on this six-day adventure across Vancouver Island. Cruise over the Strait of Georgia and enter a world of possibilities – stroll the harbour and old quarter of Nanaimo, bask in the seaside paradise of Tofino, delve into the up and coming food and drink scene in pristine Victoria, and explore some of the world’s best waters for whale-watching.

Vancouver, Canada
Vancouver, Canada
Physical rating
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 13

Why you'll love this trip

  • The beauty of this trip is that it covers the best of southern Vancouver Island in a fairly short space of time. It’s also the perfect addition to the longer Canadian Rockies trip (SSOR)

  • Best surf town, best beach town of 2016… the list goes on for Tofino. Spend two nights here and discover why this is one of North America’s most talked about coastal destinations

  • Whale-watchers find themselves in heaven. Vancouver Island is a great viewing point on whales’ migration route as they head north to Alaska for the summer, and down to Mexico for the winter. Sometimes they’re even seen from the ferry to and from Vancouver

  • Compact Victoria is perfect for exploring on foot, and its young population is reflected in the thriving bar and dining scene. This is a great place to celebrate the end of your trip

Is this trip right for you?

  • This trip covers a lot of ground, as Vancouver Island is deceptively large. Be prepared for some long days of driving. And keep in mind that space in your van is limited, especially when it’s full. But then this is all part of the adventure, and you might even make some long-term friends.

  • The weather in this region can be unpredictable. It’s best to wear layers at all times of the year in case conditions change during the day. At night the temperature can really drop, so bring your warm clothes. Camping can be especially cold at the start and end of the season. Even in the warmer months the temperature can be low in the mountains.

  • While this trip doesn't require a high level of fitness, it’s essential to be at least moderately fit if you want to partake in all activities. Some of the best scenery is found on hikes.

  • This is a participatory trip. That’s a fancy way of saying you’re not just along for the ride – you’re part of a team! You know the phrase ‘the more you put in, the more you get out’. Well that’s extra true on this trip. Be prepared to roll up your sleeves and help out with camp activities like food prep and washing up. It’s all about giving your new travel mates a hand – everyone knows there’s nothing worse than trying to put up a tent on your own!

  • That teamwork extends to our optional food kitty of approximately CA$90 per week, run to cover the cost of meals. This kitty saves you worrying about stuff like where to get food or what exactly sales tax is, and actually helps keep your costs down. Instead of paying individually as you go, it means we can bulk purchase items and cook our own food – though there’s always the chance to use it for the occasional pizza night! The kitty is optional and for your convenience, so if you've got specific dietary requirements you can opt out and purchase (and cook) your own food.


Welcome to Vancouver, Canada. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. Please ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you're going to be late, please inform the reception as soon as possible. Your leader will be collecting your insurance details, food kitty contribution and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details ready to provide. If you arrive early into Vancouver, why not take a walk around the city's historic Gastown site or wander through Stanley Park.
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Ferry across the Strait of Georgia to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island (approximately 2 hours). Make your own discoveries this afternoon in free time. Perhaps stroll the harbourfront walkway and Old City Quarter, learn what a Nanaimo bar is (it's delicious – and there's even a trail you can take so you can taste multiple variations), take a hike or hire a kayak in Newcastle Island Marine Provincial Park or learn about the Island's culture at the Nanaimo Museum.
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Drive across the centre of Vancouver Island to Tofino (approximately 2–3 hours, not including stops). Stop at Cathedral Grove for a walk in one of the most accessible stands of giant Douglas fir trees on Vancouver Island. Here visitors can stroll through a network of trails under the shadow of towering ancient Douglas fir trees, majestic pillars untouched by the modern world, some of them more than 800 years old. Continue onto Tofino. Tofino was named the best surf town in North America in Outside Magazine's 2010 Editors' Choice awards. It's also a great spot for storm watching and for outdoor adventure activities such as kayaking, whale watching and hiking.
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
With a free day, there are many optional activities. Perhaps take a kayak out on Clayoquot Sound, relax on the beach or take a stroll and go tide pooling. Alternatively, sign up for a whale watching tour. Tofino lies along the route of the annual grey whale migration. Each year up to 20,000 grey whales leave the waters of the Baja Peninsula and head north to the nutrient-rich feeding grounds of Alaska and the Bering Sea. This 20,000 kilometre round trip is thought to be the longest migration of any creature in the world. Whale-watching trips can often be combined with wildlife viewing and hot springs tours; bear watching trips by boat in the calm waters of Clayoquot Sound near Tofino is another popular option.
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Tofino - Zodiac whale watching adventure - CAD120
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Drive to Victoria, the capital of British Columbia (approximately 4 hours). With its landscaped gardens and preserved historical buildings, it is one of the most British-influenced cities in North America. However, with a recent injection of hip bars, shops, restaurants and young residents, the city is evolving into something more cosmopolitan. The afternoon is free for you to explore Victoria. Perhaps rent a kayak at the harbour, indulge in a spot of whale watching, take a tour out to Butchart Gardens, or check out the excellent Royal BC Museum to learn about the natural and human history of the area. In the evening, kick back with the young locals in a bar or restaurant in town.
  • Hostel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Victoria BC - Butchart Gardens - CAD34
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
In the afternoon, board the ferry and cruise back to Vancouver (approximately 1.5 hours). The trip finishes upon arrival at your hotel. There are no further activities planned for today. If you decide to fly out this day, it's best not to book a flight for before 8 pm; this will give you enough time to catch a shuttle from the hotel to the airport and be there two hours before departure.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.


No meals are included on this tour


Ferry, Private vehicle


Camping (with facilities) (3 nights), Hostel (1 night), Hotel (1 night)

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Important notes

1. This trip finishes on arrival into Vancouver in the afternoon on day 6.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.


Our Highlights of Vancouver Island trips score an average of 4.5 out of 5 based on 10 reviews in the last year.

Highlights of Vancouver Island, September 2018

Fiona Steele

Highlights of Vancouver Island, August 2018

Caitriona Geraghty