Vancouver Island is a 1.5 hour ferry ride away from the mainland. Not very far away but we imagined it would be totally different from southern British Columbia, which is densely populated and very different from central BC. But no, the area around Victoria is just as populated and traffic just as heavy.
Victoria itself is also much bigger than we thought (looks like we didn’t study well our guide book). It’s a pleasant city but I have to say I didn’t like it as much as Vancouver. We didn’t do much in terms of sightseeing; since I took something against motion sickness for the ferry ride (although there was no need since the ride was very smooth), I was completely useless for the rest of the day.
Goldstream Provincial Park
From Victoria we first went to Goldstream Provincial Park, not to see the Niagara Falls (no kidding, there’s a waterfall called Niagara in the park and it’s almost as high as its famous namesake), but to walk on the (almost equally famous) railway trestle. Apparently, the railway is still in use and there are trains several times a day. However, no one seems to care, there’s no sign and people walk back and forth over the bridge. But beware, it’s not a walk for people suffering from vertigo! For everyone else, it’s awesome, you’re so high over the creek below and on both sides of the bridge the railway disappears into thick forest.
The West Coast
Once you leave the area around Victoria and head northwest toward Port Renfrew, there’s almost no traffic anymore. The beaches, like French Beach, are gorgeous. You can wander along the shore, look for beautiful pebbles and shells, and relax on huge driftwood logs, soaking up the spring sun. Or you go for a hike in Juan de Fuca Provincial Park, which protects a long stretch of coast line.
Ucluelet & Tofino
Initially, we wanted to go all the way to the north of the island but, as it turned out, the island was a bit bigger than we thought. So we skipped the north (always leave something for the next visit) and headed west to Ucluelet and Tofino. Both towns are quite touristy but nevertheless very nice places (especially smaller Ucluelet). Here too, there weren’t many tourists at this time of the year so we had no trouble finding accommodation.
Wild Pacific Trail
At the southern tip of Ucluelet peninsula the Wild Pacific Trail, a short but fantastic hiking trail, leads along the Pacific coast through coastal rainforest. It offers spectacular views of the rugged rocky coast and the waves crashing on the rocks. Even though the trail is less than five kilometers long, the first time it took us over two hours to complete it. We got so engrossed with the amazing views from the various view points and the crabs and shells and the sea anemones among the rocks down at the beach.
In the evening we walked the trail a second time to find a good spot from where to watch the sunset. We did find one, and the sunset was amazing but walking back through the very dark and thick forest was a bit scary – Vancouver Island has one of the densest bear populations in the world. And we still don’t have any bear spray. Oh, and there are cougars too. I’d love to see one. Someday. Not at night.
Pacific Rim National Park
Pacific Rim National Park lies between Ucluelet and Tofino and has some wonderful beaches and beautiful forest trails. At the time of our visit, however, parts of the park were closed due to maintenance. Doesn’t matter, anyway you couldn’t walk it all in one day and even if you could – why do it? The beaches are so beautiful, you can spend hours there, watching the tide come and go and walking to small stony islands when its low, observing bald eagles and trying to spot some whales. No, we didn’t see any. But we saw several bald eagles which, in my opinion, are just as great as whales.
Chesterman Beach & Cox Beach
The second evening we went to Tofino to watch the sunset from there. In order to find the perfect spot we first went to Chesterman beach. That’s about the biggest beach I’ve ever seen. At low tide, you can walk to Frank Island, but unfortunately, the island is private and there are “no trespassing” signs everywhere. Anyway, we didn’t want to hang around too long and risk being cut off from the beach by the rising tide.
Chesterman beach was great but it wasn’t the spot for sunset so we headed to Cox beach. Despite the hour (and the temperature), a lot of people were still out surfing. Tofino is one of the most popular places to surf in Canada. Some even without a wet suit. I was stunned. I guess I wouldn’t even go into the sea here in summer. But I admit that I also have a different perception of cold than most people.
It was pure coincidence that we went to Canada, just because the flight from Mexico to Hong Kong would go through Vancouver. We’re so glad we decided to stay two weeks in Canada, it was fantastic and we’ll definitely be back, hopefully soon! Two weeks are way too short for such a huge and beautiful country that has so much to offer, especially if you love nature and being outdoors.
The last two days we spent in Vancouver, enjoying the beautiful spring weather and eating some really delicious food (Ethiopian at Axum restaurant and a fusion of Iranian, Canadian, and Mexican food at Caveman Cafe).