Road trips are a great way to explore Vancouver Island, mainly because there is so much to see along the way. Although travelling from Victoria to Nanaimo is a relatively short journey (1.5 – 2 hours), if you drive straight through you are missing out on some spectacular sights along the way.
This is why I’ve put together an itinerary of an extensive road trip from Victoria to Nanaimo. Whether you are visiting us for the first time or the 100th (or possibly even a local), I highly recommend taking your time to ensure you make the most of this route. You never know what you might discover.
Days 1 – 3 – Victoria
Victoria is one of those cities you can spend a week in and still not see everything. But in order to ensure you hit the highlights, I recommend at least three days – especially if it’s your first visit.
Top Attractions in Victoria
- Royal BC Museum – a natural and human history museum presented through three different galleries, located in the heart of the city.
- The Butchart Gardens – a top tourist destination just outside of Victoria.
- Victoria Bug Zoo – home to some of the world’s rarest insects, arachnids and other creepy-crawlies.
- Beacon Hill Park – a 200 acre beautifully landscaped park with wild peacocks and a petting zoo.
- Miniature World – tiny themed dioramas and displays representing historical times and fictional worlds.
Recommended accommodations in Victoria
- The Fairmont Empress – even if this hotel is over your budget, make sure to take a stroll through the lobby and main hallways. And if you have the time, I highly recommend high tea.
- Delta Victoria
- Hotel Grand Pacific
If you are looking for other accommodation options for Victoria feel free to use this handy tool:
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From Victoria make your way towards the Cowichan Valley. Driving north along Highway 1 you will pass through old growth forests, quaint towns and experience breathtaking views of the sea and the Gulf Islands. A notable spot along the Malahat is Goldstream Provincial Park.
Days 3 & 4 – the Cowichan Valley
Highlights of the Cowichan Valley
- The Kinsol Trestle – one of the tallest free-standing and most spectacular timber rail trestle structures in the world.
- BC Forest Discovery Centre – chronicles the history of logging in BC.
- Pacific Northwest Raptor Centre – located in Duncan this bird exhibit has fantastic flying demonstrations.
- Duncan is also home to over 40 beautifully carved totem poles throughout the city and is a notable spot to visit.
- Cowichan Lake & River – if you are here in the summer months I highly recommend tubing down the Cowichan River.
- Chemainus – a charming seaside town that is an absolute must see.
Recommended accommodations in the Cowichan Valley
Days 4 & 5 Nanaimo
From Chemainus continue to head north towards Nanaimo. If time allows a notable spot to stop for a few hours is Transfer Beach in Ladysmith.
- Visit the Yellow Point area
- Wild Play Element Parks – for the thrill seeker!
- Westwood Lake Park – one of Nanaimo’s best-loved parks
- Romper Room – for some fantastic indoor rock climbing
- Have lunch at the Dingy Dock Pub and Restaurant (kid friendly) – Canada’s only floating pub
- Newcastle Island – a great place to swim, walk and/or kayak
- Take the ferry across to Gabriola Island – one of the Gulf Islands in the Strait of Georgia
Recommended accommodations in Nanaimo
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To conclude your trip BC Ferries has two ports in Nanaimo. The Duke Point terminal will take you back to Tsawwassen (which is the same port you would have travelled from to get to Victoria), or the Departure Bay ferry, which takes you to Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver.
Have I missed one of your favourite spots?
Please leave a comment below if you feel I should have included another must-see attraction or destination for this extensive road trip from Victoria to Nanaimo.
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