Being from the west coast and only visiting once every decade, we have made a science of showing the people we bring with us the best spots along the coast on the island and the main land. If you love travel and want to learn some amazing spots to visit in British Columbia keep reading!
MacMillan Provincial Park
This park has 800 year old trees and they are massive. When you think of British Columbia most people assimilate it with beautiful nature- big trees, mountains and crystal clear lakes. This provincial park is on the island in port Alberni and is absolutely beautiful. The drive to it takes you pst Cameron lake which is at the bottom of the mountain and is the cleanest water you will ever see. It is super scenic along the way going through the winding roads and beautiful mountain views. The park itself is free, and the walk is absolutely stunning. It can be anywhere from 2 km to 5 km of a trek and it is definitely with a visit.
Goats on the Roof
This quaint little spot is in a small town called Coombs on Vancouver island. It has the cutest little shops and there are literally, goats on the roof. It is a great spot to stop for a bite to eat and do a little shopping and it is on the way to Macmillan provincial park so you can break up your drive.
The food here is well priced and it is delicious. It has indoor and outdoor seating so you can eat with the goats outside.
Parking is a little tricky. Your best bet is to park on the road and walk down to it, the lot is quite small and tight with all the tourists walking around.
Nanaimo harbour front
This area has great ice cream shops and it is amazing watching the sea planes take off. Hours can be spent wandering around down here. Trollers fish and chips is also down here, and it is one of the best fish and chip places to go in bc. It is expensive, but definitely worth it.
If you’re walking along the pier down at the harbour, look around the docks, sea otters are common down here and you can see 10 in a day or more if you’re lucky. The harbour seals also spend a lot of time down here and are commonly seen. If you’re extremely lucky, the orcas and humpbacks travel through the harbour to get through the channel as well!
Now, this is a small town north on Vancouver island and it was the first “Muriel town” it has amazing Muriel’s on all of the buildings down here and it has more super touristy shops to wander through. Also, if you can find Hansel and gretels candy shop there is a small ally way beside it that brings you to a cute photo spot in a little garden with some ice cream shops.
Newcastle island is located right across the harbour from Nanaimo harbour. For $8 Canadian you can travel over to the island for as long as you please. Be aware there are cougars on the island so be cautious going into the forest.
There are 1-3 hour bike and kayak rentals right when you get of the ferry, which only takes 15 minutes to get to new castle island. If the tide is in, kayaking is a great time to go through the harbour. However, if you get there when the tide is going out, it would be better to go through the island on a bike and hang out on the beaches instead. Once it starts going out it doesnt stop for a while and people get stranded with the kayaks quite often.
Also, if you have never kayaked the ocean, be very cautious. The rip tides and possibility of whales can cause some issues if you aren’t used to the currents!
This is by far the personal favourite for things to do on Vancouver island. It was always a dream to go. This company is newer and is defiantly with the money. For $144 CAD they take you out on an open zodiac for 4-5 hours from the Nanaimo harbour along the San Juan islands and out to Vancouver to see the whales! You spend an hour viewing the whales and then if you are lucky, a little bit more time if you see more than one group. We were very lucky on our tour as we saw 4 transient orcas, a mother humpback whale and her calf as well as harbour seals. It was definitely a once in a life time trip. They provide you with exposure suits and recommend closed toed shoes. They also provide ski goggles. We didn’t think the ski goggles were necessary but when you are travelling 60 miles an hour on open ocean, they pay off!
Wearing warm layers is also a good idea. It does get cold even with the exposure suits!
The 3:30 tour is more likely to see the whales as they seem to be more active at this time, and seeing the sunset is absolutely beautiful coming back into Nanaimo harbour. Grey whales and white spinner dolphins can be seen in May as well.
Stay tuned for the mainland experiences and the top things to do in North Vancouver!
What is your favourite thing to do on Vancouver island ?!