Vancouver, Vancouver island and Seattle

Old Mar 23rd, 2022, 08:25 PM
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Vancouver, Vancouver island and Seattle

We are an active and nature-loving, senior couple hoping to travel from Australia to Vancouver in May. We have about three weeks in total and would like to hire a car and travel from Vancouver to Vancouver Island (via a ferry), stay on the island for about a week (preferably split between two locations), take another ferry to Seattle (stay there for 4-5 days to explore Puget sound - or split our time between Seattle and somewhere on the Sound?) and then drive back from Seattle to Vancouver for our outbound flight. Does this seem manageable? Can you recommend some towns to stay on the island and elsewhere ? Any advice gratefully accepted! Covid has meant we are a bit out of touch with holiday planning! Many thanks
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Old Mar 25th, 2022, 11:19 AM
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Daphne, I'm sure that locals with more experience will answer the majority of your queries here. But I'll just say that splitting your isle stay between two locales seems a great idea: maybe Tofino & Ucluelet (aka Ukee)?
As for Vancouver city, I'm forever trotting out its fabulously-located YWCA as an especially great-value lodging in an otherwise expensive city. My wife and I were satisfied with their well-priced triples.
Hope all goes well.
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Old Mar 25th, 2022, 04:26 PM
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Tofino and Ucluelet is a great idea, but no need to stay in both places as they are just a 40 minute drive from one another, so generally, you'd stay in either Tofino OR Ucluelet and use that as a home base for exploring the lush, primeval rainforests and beaches of Pacific Rim National Park, which is located between the two towns. The towns are really just small little villages, but the purpose of staying on that west coast of Vancouver Island is for Pacific Rim National Park. I liken it to the New Zealand, Maui and Java - that kind of ecosystem, lush, overgrown, primeval rainforested mountains on the open ocean that feels like you stepped back in time, with massive waves crashing into the shore. But pick Ucluelet or Tofino - you'll naturally visit both. Suggestion is to look up what accommodations are in your budget and are available. If it looks good, book it. Start researching Black Rock Oceanfront Resort, Long Beach Lodge Resort, Ocean Village Resort, or the Tin Wis Resort. This is the most in-demand part of Vancouver Island these days and the word has got out and it's no longer locals visiting, it's international tourists. Demand is huge, but it doesn't feel crowded, the accommodations just get booked up in advance.

For a secondary location for Vancouver Island, I'd choose Victoria if you've never been. If Vancouver Island is Tasmania, Victoria is Hobart. Victoria is a lovely, charming, small historic city steeped in English colonial architecture and history, except it truly is a vibrant cultural hub of west coast Canadian culture - diverse restaurants featuring local wild seafood and local ingredients, craft breweries, quirky shops, great museums and attractions, lots of gardens, and historic sites, plus wildernes nearby. And you can explore from Victoria west to Sooke (more enchanting rainforest waterfront - places like East Sooke Park and the Sooke Potholes and Juan du Fuca Provincial Park) and up the Saanich Peninsula (gentle farmlands, gardens like Butchart Gardens, wineries, cideries and distilleries and small waterfront towns like Sidney and Brentwood Bay) and up to the Cowichan Valley (excellent wineries/cideries, farmers markets, parks, rivers, and such). The wineries there rival what I've experienced in SA. Or if you prefer more mountain wilderness, stay in Campbell River or Courtenay to visit Strathcona Provincial Park. Lots of Indigneous culture up that way too, especially around Comox Valley.

One week on Vancouver Island will be like one week in Tasmania, so choose wisely - you won't see it all in one week.

https://vancouverisland.travel/ is the official website for Tourism Vancouver Island.

Last edited by BC_Robyn; Mar 25th, 2022 at 04:31 PM.
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Old Mar 25th, 2022, 05:42 PM
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Another idea is to scrap Seattle entirely and focus your efforts on Vancouver, Vancouver Island, and link it back to Vancouver via the Sunshine Coast.

General idea of the itinerary would be:

Arrive in Vancouver. Spend 5 days in Vancouver acclimatizing. So much wilderness and outdoorsy adventure immediately within Vancouver so can easily spend 5 days and still be scraping the surface.

One day for Granville Island (a vibrant waterfront market area) and Stanley Park (1000 acres of rainforest wilderness, gardens, trails, beaches, panoramic views, and waterfront walkways).

One or two days for the North Shore (Lynn Canyon, Lighthouse Park, Capilano Canyon, Capilano Suspension Bridge, Grouse Mountain, kayaking Deep Cove, night market on Saturday at Shipyards Market, a short brewery crawl for the local breweries, etc.).

One day along the west side of Vancouver at UBC campus for Pacific Spirit Park (rainforest wilderness and beaches), UBC Botanical Garden (look up the Greenheart Walkway), the Nitobe Japanese Garden, the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, and the Museum of Anthropology - a must for learning about Indigenous cultures in western Canada as well as the world.

Another day exploring the quirky neighbourhoods of Vancouver: explore downtown's Gastown, Yaletown, or the West End, or head to East Van's hipster-y Mount Pleasant (fantastic independent boutiques, cafes, restaurants and craft breweries), or bohemian Commercial Drive which has an artsy countercultural edge, or take in the spring flowers at VanDusen Botanical Garden or Queen Elizabeth Park. Or take in the restaurants, pubs, shops and cafes of the beachfront neighbourhood of Kitsilano. Watch the sunset from the beach with everyone else in the city - it's where the city comes alive by evening.

Spend another day out in Steveston for fishing village heritage sites, waterfront restaurants, Japanese boatbuilding heritage, maybe even a 5-hour whale watching trip with Vancouver Whale Watch.

Perhaps a day trip up to Squamish for the Sea to Sky Gondola, stopping off at Whytecliff Park, and Shannon Falls along the way.

Or an overnight in Whistler and take in the cultural sites (as the mountains will still be snowbound). Audain Art Museum of stunning and the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre is a real treat. There will views of snowcapped mountains and glaciers and island-studded fjords along the drive there.

Okay, already this is more than 5 days!

Then, head to Vancouver Island. Go to Victoria/Sooke for 3-4 days. Go to Tofino/Ucluelet for 4-5 days. Perhaps even venture to one of the many islands off the east coast of Vancouver Island like the Gulf Islands (Galiano, Salt Spring, Mayne, Saturna, Pender, etc.) - the islands are sleepy places but worthy of several days of downtime, nature walks, and so on. Salt Spring is the famous hippy cultural oasis with goat cheese farms, wineries, woodworkers, leathermarkers, soap makers, folk music festivals, and so on. Galiano's more of a nature lover's island with white shell midden beaches, sandstone caves, and old groves of rainforest.

Or ignore the Gulf Islands all together. From the east coast of Vancouver Island, head up to the Comox Valley, a short drive north of the city of Nanaimo for several days. Consider some alpine hikes in Strathcona Provincial Park, the oldest provincial park in British Columbia. Take in the Indigenous culture in Comox (look up Ihos Gallery). Yuo could even head up the highway to Campbell River, which is the gateway to Strathcona Park, or take a ferry to Quadra Island or Cortes Island (homes of ecowarrior legends David Suzuki and Paul Stamets) for real west coast off-the-grid eco-hippy living lifestyles. Or not. But these are all lesser-visited outdoorsy communities that you'll otherwise be skipping by if you hastily head off to Seattle, is my point. No need to head to Seattle for Puget Sound given you'll have so many similar experiences right there from Vancouver Island. It's just less famous so you may not even realize it's there.

Then from Comox, take the ferry over back to the mainland to Powell River, which in itself is an interesting little town with a lot of spirit and beautiful heritage buildings. A short drive north of Powell River is the tiny seaside village of Lund, where you can take guided kayak trips or multi-day sailing journeys through Desolation Sound. A real boating Mecca. The Powell River "Upper Sunshine Coast" area is home to a famous hut-to-hut hiking trail called the Sunshine Coast Trail. Then Powell River, you take another scenic ferry through the ocean inlets to the lower Sunshine Coast (Egmont, Madeira Park, Sechelt, Roberts Creek, Gibsons) for several days. Spend some days exploring the Sunshine Coast: https://sunshinecoastcanada.com/ - lots of fjords (ocean inlets), rainforest, and little sleepy fishing/hippie villages mixed with quirky restaurants, breweries, cideries and such. Look up Skookumchuk Narrows, Smuggler Cove, Mount Daniel, and Cliff Gilker Park for some of the nature and outdoorsy areas. The Sunshine Coast in itself is worthy of a week.

Then, ferry back from the Sunshine Coast to Vancouver to complete the trip.

BCFerries.com would be the main transportation linking you between Vancouver and Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, and the Sunshine Coast, and back to Vancouver.

A simplified version of the above would be:

Vancouver
Victoria
Tofino
Comox
Sunshine Coast
Vancouver

Easily done in 3 weeks.

Last edited by BC_Robyn; Mar 25th, 2022 at 06:12 PM.
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Old Mar 26th, 2022, 11:32 PM
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Thanks very much
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Old Mar 26th, 2022, 11:33 PM
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Thanks very much to all three of you for pointing us in the right direction It is most appreciated. Thanks BC Robyn for all that great detail - we will certainly digest it all!
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Old Mar 27th, 2022, 10:17 AM
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Originally Posted by BC_Robyn View Post
If Vancouver Island is Tasmania, Victoria is Hobart. ...

One week on Vancouver Island will be like one week in Tasmania, so choose wisely - you won't see it all in one week.
That is absurd.

Tasmania is more than double the size of Vancouver Island, while Hobart is 600km from Melbourne while Victoria is 90km from Vancouver.

Victoria and Fernie(, BC) are a closer distance match to Hobart/Tasmania as compared with the rest of Australia.

But speaking of (or in this case, to people from) down under, somebody coming from so far across the globe shouldn't be told to "scrap Seattle entirely" in favor of remote outposts on an island half the size of Tasmania. That would be the equivalent of us going to Melbourne and being told to "scrap Sydney in favor of the Tasmanian outback".


There is exactly nothing on Vancouver Island which would warrant such travelers scrapping Seattle after coming from so far away.

Although the interest in Vancouver Island will place them suitably to take the "black ball ferry" to Port Angeles and see Hurricane Ridge before selecting a path (coast or inland) for a round-about drive toward Seattle with plenty of nature to see. (such a path would be sufficient to take-in Mount Rainier) (*while indeed BC has higher mountain peaks, they're both more than double Hobart-Melbourne distance from Victoria {BC}, while Mount Rainier is less than 100 miles away, and still among the most prominent peaks in North America)

As Crossing the water by ferry can be a bit of an aggravation, (otherwise everybody would go to Victoria, BC), the indirect path of Vancouver to Vancouver Island to Port Angeles and then eventually circling back to Vancouver by car would keep the ferry travel to a workable minimum.

Ultimately, the OP will need to pick and choose and narrow their path, and from that the people here at Fodors can help slide everything into a perfect fit. There is plenty in the area to fill-up 3 weeks, and I too agree that there is tons to see in B.C. alone. And of course another Fodors forum would be the right place for specifics on the U.S. side.


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Old Mar 29th, 2022, 11:39 AM
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I hear you NorthwestMale. My point wasn't to suggest that Vancouver Island is perfectly and literally identical to Tasmania, but that to showcase that most people don't realize just how large and diverse Vancouver Island is - it is not, for example, like going to NYC's Staten Island or the Isle of Man in the UK or Kangaroo Island in SA. It's actually quite a large mountainous island and most first-time visitors only see a tiny fraction of it, and only focus on the most famous of locations. Some people only focus on the famous places they've heard about. My point was that there is a lot that exists outside the famous places worth considering as an option. It's not to suggest that Seattle and Puget Sound aren't worth visiting, but that, you could easily turn this into two separate trips, and that there's a lot more going on than most first-time visitors recognize.

Even myself, a lifelong local to Vancouver now living on the Sunshine Coast - I've spent a few visits to Vancouver Island over the past 3-4 years and have been spending quality time getting to know entirely new-to-me areas (the Cowichan Valley, the Comox Valley, Sooke), and I've had such an incredible time there, I can't help but share the love.

Finally, NorthwestMale, if I recall, you haven't been to Vancouver Island in several decades, right? You might be pleasantly surprised by Victoria - it has evolved so much in the past decade and a half. It's fun now. Never used to be. The breweries, restaurants and cafe scene is phenomenal. The winery scene in the Cowichan Valley parallels the best elsewhere in the world. Time for another visit.

Last edited by BC_Robyn; Mar 29th, 2022 at 11:45 AM.
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Old Mar 29th, 2022, 01:28 PM
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I agree with BC-Robyn. I think I would go to Vancouver Island, Vancouver, and Whistler. Some rental car agencies won’t let you take the car over the border to the USA.
also make sure to make a reservation for the BC ferry for your car. Especially if you will be travelling over the Victoria Day May long weekend. Otherwise you could have several ferry waits.
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Old Mar 29th, 2022, 11:42 PM
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Thanks again to everyone! We certainly will book the ferry Barb! I think we have now opted to stay just on VI - Covid also complicates the in and out of Seattle during these strange times - easier to stick with one country!
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Old Mar 31st, 2022, 09:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Daphne21 View Post
I think we have now opted to stay just on VI -

Halfway across the world to spend 3 weeks on an island half the size of Tasmania ???


*** and the reference to rental car agencies applies most to people who are renting a vehicle in another country and wanting to drive it back to their own country (which is the sticking point about cross-border rental cars between U.S. and Canada). Someone from Australia won't have those issues.


Oddly, visions I recall of Vancouver Island nightlight DO include very unique restaurant settings which hinted of a different sort of "community" feel than I was used to.

I still prefer the old school walk up to the Castle, and the gawking at the day scenes near the Empress.


Lastly, if coming from... say, Winnipeg... one's itinerary would be understandably different, given the chance that they might return for another opportunity in the near future.


But when coming from so far away, it makes sense that it be more all-inclusive.


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Old Apr 5th, 2022, 07:41 AM
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As with all travelling there are always so many things to see and do. I live in Vancouver so here are my 2 cents worth:
Greater Vancouver - Granville Island, Stanley park, Grouse Mountain, Squamish Sea to Sky Gondola (whistler is 45 mins further if you have the time)
Vancouver Island - Victoria (tofino/ ucuelet are 4 1/2 hours further if you have the time)
Ferry from Vancouver Island (Sidney) to Anacortes by ferry - 3 hours. Drive down through Widby Island and take the Clinton to Mukiteo ferry back to the mainland
Drive to Seattle - Pike Place etc..
Drive back up to Vancouver via the Chuckanut Drive
This is a good outline for you to fill in the rest. Have a wonderful trip!
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Old Apr 12th, 2022, 09:33 AM
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if you do decide to cross into the US, be sure you are fully versed on the rules for coming and going. including using the ArriveCan app and filling in all the required information.
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Old Apr 12th, 2022, 01:16 PM
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Je repete---are you the same Mel Profit who once played football for the Argos?
I am done. the repeat question
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Old Apr 13th, 2022, 02:11 PM
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nope that would not be me. love the CFL though. can't wait until they begin.
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Old Apr 15th, 2022, 01:08 PM
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Stella51-Anacortes/Sydney Washington State ferry has not been running since the start of the pandemic with no return date in sight. may not run in '22
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