Just yesterday I watched the video my sister-in-law created on ten days of our driving through Vancouver Island. Some moments already dared to escape my memory, thus it was a necessary refreshment before I would write down the itinerary that hopefully would be helpful to other travellers. Watching that video made me wonder whether I would change anything in our routes, and I did not find such a desire in my mind. Other than I wished to spend a longer time at the Mystic Beach, our plans were according to the time table, and conveniently we could explore and relax at the same time. So, here we start. As our accommodation was at Cowichan Bay, I certainly can not speak of this itinerary convenience for those who stay on the other side of the island. Yet, there are major destinations that could be explored wherever it is you are staying at.
Day 1: Cowichan Bay.
Not much to say there. We drove from Edmonton to Vancouver, took a ferry and arrived at Cowichan Bay with one desire - the rest. Thus the first day was of taking showers, spending hours in complete idleness on the bay watching boats and drinking coffee. We also explored the historic fisherman village (that contains one street of boutiques, restaurants and heritage places) but, it did not require much of our energy.
Even if you don't stay at Cowichan Bay, the place worth visit for its history and its simple nautic beauty. There are two places I wish to highlight that deserve much attention: Drumroaster Coffee House and West Coast Perfumery.
Day 2: Victoria City.
I do not think I’ve seen a guide or an article that would not suggest spending the whole day in the capital city of British Columbia. The city has that fleur of British cultural influence; it is full of blooming gardens, historic architecture, and appealing books and coffee shops. While it is not a big city that offers much to see, one day spent there should be more than enough.
We started at Fisherman's Wharf. The place was established in 1948 and offers docs to wander around, seafood fast food kiosks, colourful tiny houses of fisherman and water taxies. From there, after savouring fish, chips and baked oysters at Barb's Fish & Chips, we proceeded to the Legislature grounds, down to the Harbour, and from there on went into the downtown.
Perhaps the most famous, and, for the reason, place in Victoria is the Empress Hotel. The hotel built in 1908 is a grand creation of Chateauesque-style. You certainly can plan on dining at the hotel restaurant, or try their afternoon tea, or you can simply admire the building and the garden around it from the outside.
After we took our parts in admiring the hotel, we walked into the busy streets of downtown and while their many places to stop by, to eat, to discover I want to mention the Bastion book shop and Milano coffee shop.
Day 3: Mystic Beach.
We spent the morning exploring one of the local vineyards, and later on, drove to Mystic Beach. However, I suggest breaking those two activities for separate days. Mystic Beach includes a short hike through the forest that leads to the open Pacific Ocean view. The place surrounded by grand forest and cliffs from the back and ocean to the horizon from the front is truly unique. It is mysterious, intriguing, and the weather changes there unexpectedly fast. Have a windbreaker with you, comfortable boots, a blanket and picnic essentials. Many people camp by the beach; that is another option of how to spend longer than a day there.
Day 4: Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park and Englishman River Falls Provincial Park.
Those two places are not far from each other, thus can be visited in one day. The first one is the best to be explored during the low tide; we spent an hour just wandering around, picking up seashells. And the second place is a truly magnificent forest along with a grand waterfall.
Day 5: Tofino.
Again, doesn't matter from which side of the island you are coming from, Tofino requires one whole day of your attention. While the city itself is tiny and will take about an hour to walk around, Long, Chesterman, and Cox Bay beaches deserve the day of swimming, surfing, starring at the water, and simply admiring.
There is also a rainforest just outside of Tofino that we visited on our way back, and I was left astonished by moss-covered ancient trees, greenery, clear air and whole enchanting appearance of the forest.
Day 6: Goldstream Provincial Park and Sooke Potholes.
Goldstream waterfall includes an hour or about so hike, a rather pleasant one, I must say, and the reward is a little pool in front of the waterfall. Go there in an early hour if you want to swim and admire the energy of the place; otherwise, it is crowded with tourists.
It doesn't matter if you are a cliff jumper or sleeping-on-the-beach person, Sooke river is fascinating and unrestrained. The place is completely wild, there are no amenities of comfort and civilization, however, it is the place where you feel like swimming in one of Narnia's rivers.
As the rest of the week, we simply relaxed by the dock, spent a day on the beach by the Cowichan Lake; I won’t describe it as a suggestion for your vacation. Many of the suggested places could be broken into two days visit. And some can be repeated. One of those days, we returned to Victoria to celebrate my husband’s birthday and had a pleasant time seeing the city in the light of sunset, and after dinner in the street night lights. I find the island vacation was both: overwhelming with the goodness of beauty, muscle pain from hiking and walking, but also with quiet admiration be it in the hours of the evening when golden light played on boats in the marina or hours of travelling on the serpentine road from Cowichan Bay to the open ocean.