Top 3 Destinations: West Vancouver Island
The beautiful and rugged west coast of Vancouver Island is just a 2.5 hour drive from the BC Ferries Terminal in Nanaimo, taking you through some of the most varied terrain, and what just may be one of the narrowest highways, in Canada.
Along the way you'll see an old growth forest (Cathedral Grove) that is home to Douglas Fir trees that are close to 1000 years old, beautiful lakes (Sprout and Kennedy), snow-capped mountains, and crystal clear rivers. The journey is spectacular and makes the time fly by on your way to the other side of the island.
When you arrive on the west coast, you'll be greeted by two friendly towns: Ucluelet and Tofino. Here are the top three destinations you'll want to visit while you're there ...
Destination One: The Wild Pacific Trail (Lighthouse Loop)
We've visited this 2.6km loop trail several times and it continues to be one of our favourite coastal hiking spots on Vancouver Island. The path follows the edge of the ocean, over-looking the rocky shorelines and reefs that have caused many shipwrecks over the past century. Whether it's a sunny day or on a day for storm-watching, the scenery does not disappoint.
The historic lighthouse is a family friendly photo-spot along the trail and make sure to keep your eyes open for the He-Tin-Kis Beach access, which takes you down a short set of stairs to a quiet beach you'll not want to miss.
Destination Two: Halfmoon Bay
Our second stop was a picturesque beach near the town of Ucluelet called Halfmoon Bay, which perfectly describes the shape of the sandy shores. We arrived as the tide was coming in, the waves were crashing on the rocky edges of the bay and the white foam from the waters looked like a veil laid out over the sand. It was here that we took a few photos and mis-judged the rising waters, leaving one of us soaked to the knees for the rest of our afternoon of exploring! (see our adventure video above).
As amazing as Halfmoon Bay is, the journey to it is equally as impressive. The trek to the water takes nearly 30 minutes and winds along classic Vancouver Island forest trails. However, what makes this hike memorable are the many raised, wooden paths and rugged staircases along the way, not to mention the lookouts that provide a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean near the conclusion of the trail. This is a journey best enjoyed with a camera in hand!
Destination Three: Pacific Rim National Park
Any visit to the west coast of the island must include stops at the numerous beaches that make up the Pacific Rim Park. You'll want to be sure to bring along your Canada Parks Pass for access to all of the beaches, forest trails and the park's Interpretive Center.
If you are interested in surfing, there are a number of companies in the area that rent equipment and also offer surf lessons to visitors. If not, walking the long beaches to watch the waves and those in the water is equally exciting.
You'll also want to consider stopping at Radar Hill (the former location of an old radar station during the Cold War that has since been dismantled) and the Rainforest Trail (a beautiful forest walk amongst giant cedar trees).
While exploring the Island's west coast, we stayed at the Wild Shores Guest House, which boasts a rustic log and timber construction, a beautiful ocean view and is just a one minute walk from the Wild Pacific Trail. Halfmoon Bay is located 2 km from the Ucluelet - Tofino Junction toward the south, while the Pacific Rim National Park is located to the north of the Junction.