HOME > Chowhound > B.C. (inc. Vancouver) >


Vancouver Island

  • p

What an interesting board--I have spent hours browsing through the messages and taking pages of notes... My husband and I (from Minnesota) will be visiting BC, Vancouver and Vancouver Island this August and have no clue what we want to do, where we want to stay and where to dine on the island(s). Any suggestions? Our itinerary already includes "C". We're open to just about anything. We LOVE seafood as we can never get anything decent here. Two years ago we visited Nova Scotia and ate seafood like there was no tomorrow. What a blast! Any thoughts on traveling all the way up to Port McNeill to do some orca/bear watching? Are there decent places to stay/dine up there?

Any advice will be appreciated.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Pamela:

    I'll start with one of your concluding quaeres first.

    We were up in the Port McNeill/Telegraph Cove area quite a few years ago having taken the ferry from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy. We did not go orca watching and now wish that we had. Robson Bight is apparently a special place to visit.

    However, you do have a long car ride ahead of you depending upon whether you are leaving from Victoria or Nanaimo.

    Cannot recommend food and dining as we stayed in a B. & B. in Port Hardy. The area certainly filled up quickly with ferry traffic with some people arriving to take the ferry the next a.m. and others disembarking in the late evening/early a.m..

    I'll leave the Vancouver, Parksville, Qualicum and Campbell River recommendations to the others more familiar with those areas.

    Victoria and its surrounding area has much to offer. Whale watching, a good museum, art galleries, wine tasting, beaches and great dining.

    If you have the time, no trip to the West Coast is complete without taking the drive across the Island through Port Alberni en route to Pacific Rim National Park and the towns of Ucluelet and Tofino at its opposite ends.

    Awe inspiring beaches and surf. Lots of places to stay but you need to book now as August is prime vacation season. We have stayed at many of the spots in Tofino as we head out there annually in the fall.

    Given your interest in seafood, I expect that you will have a grand time on the coast and on the Island.

    If you have any specific questions or need recommendations for food and lodging I am sure that other posts will be answered.

    Enjoy your trip.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Bob Mac
      Pamela Hagen

      Thank you for responding. I was just looking at the Ucluelet and Tofino area. Do you have any recommendations regarding accommodations and/or restaurants?

      You had stated that we have a long ride ahead of us to visit Port McNeill. What's long (in hours)? Since we're not familiar with the island it's hard to determine when looking at kms alone. Even ferry crossings will be new to us. We'll be in the area for a couple of weeks and are open to travel.

      1. re: Pamela Hagen


        Port McNeil I think is about 2 hrs north of Campbell River. I will have to rely on the B.C. Chowhounds to tell you how many hrs north of Nanaimo or Victoria Campbell River is.

        There have been improvements in the Island highway system so my times would likely be off.

        I think it took us 1.5 to 2.0 hrs to get from Victoria to Nanaimo depending upon traffic and weather.

        The ferry crossing to either Nanaimo or Schwartz Bay from Horseshoe Bay or Tsawwassen is about an 1.5 hrs. A little longer from Tsawwassen to Duke Point, 2.0 hrs.

        It takes about 2.5 to 3.0 hrs to get from Nanaimo to Tofino. Easy drive to Port Alberni [do stop at Cathedral Grove, Sproat Lake, Qualicum Falls and the like but it will add time to your trip]but thereafter the driving slows down as you go up and down the mountains.

        Here is a pretty good link to the Tofino area:

        We have stayed at the Weigh West, Pacific Sands, Wickannish Inn [www.wickinn.com], Ocean Village, Orca [now Clayoquot-Orca] Lodge and have checked out most of the others including the Middle Beach, Long Beach Lodge, etc. If you narrow down your search I would be pleased to comment.

        Good dining to be had at the Wick [I would suggest lunch over dinner], Shelter [word of mouth as we did not get in last year], Cafe Pamplona and the Rain Coast Cafe in Tofino.

        The Tauca Lea resort off seaplane depot rd. in Ucluelet looked good but when we travel [the Fall] they were only open in the evening.

        1. re: Bob Mac
          viola da gamba

          The time estimates aren't bad!! But beware - there's currently construction going on near Cathedral Grove (on the way to Port Alberni & unavoidable) so add up to 2 hours to the trip if you can't be through the area before 9:00am :(. Last time we drove to Port Hardy from Nanaimo it was about 6 hours - beautiful drive, but long - plan on taking a day, particularly if you have ferry connections to make! Check out the BC Ferries website - www.bcferries.com - they have time estimates on all of the ferries which should help in time estimates.

        2. re: Pamela Hagen

          I dropped by Long Beach Lodge and checked it out. Looks nice. Tofino is a nice town. Try www.tripadvisor.com and check out the places you want to go for rooms and restaurants.


          I think it's about 4 hours by car from Victoria to Tofino. Great drive though. Good luck.

      2. The Gingerbread cottage in Victoria has the most AMAZING 4 course breakfasts I have ever eaten - procuitto and porcini omelettes, bbq salmon, eggs benny that are to die for - all made to order. I dream of another trip there just for the hollandaise. I know that she is easily accessible thru the internet - I think it is vanessas.ca. The location is also good, close to the seawall and downtown.

        Barb :o)

        1. The Gingerbread cottage in Victoria has the most AMAZING 4 course breakfasts I have ever eaten - procuitto and porcini omelettes, bbq salmon, eggs benny that are to die for - all made to order. I dream of another trip there just for the hollandaise. I know that she is easily accessible thru the internet - I think it is vanessas.ca. The location is also good, close to the seawall and downtown.

          Barb :o)

          1. I visited Vancouver Island in August, 2003 and stayed at The Aerie, Wickininnish Inn and Sooke Harbor House. The food was delicious at all three and the scenery was out of the world. I had dinner at The Empress also. Canada is one of my favorite places. Good luck.





            I highly recommend all 4 places. Another great place to visit in Canada is Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper. I had a wonderful trip there and really enjoyed the food everywhere I went. The Jasper Park Lodge near Jasper and The Post Hotel at Lake Louise were wonderful. The food at The Post Hotel is really outstanding. It has a Wine Spectator Grand Award.





            I really enjoyed the food, people, scenery and atmostphere in Canada. The drive from Banff to Jasper is outstanding. The restaurant at The Wickininish Inn overlooks the Pacific with big waves and Sooke Harbor House is on the Pacific as well. The Aerie is high in the mountains and the view is excellent. Good luck.

            1. I am a Relais and Chateux fan and I enjoy all their inns. Have you been to Canoe Bay near Chetek, WI? I just returned from Woodlands and Planters Inn in SC and Fearrington House in NC. The food was excellent there and I often plan a trip to Canoe Bay. Thanks.

              1. I just returned from a two-week trip to Vancouver and
                Vancouver Island. Chowhound was a great help. Here are some thoughts.

                In Vancouver, we loved Kintaro (for Ramen), the Cannery (for the view and seafood), Sun Sui Wah (for dim Sum), Feenies (for Lunch), Hapa Izakaya and Parkside. All are discussed on this Board, and all are great.

                I didn't much like Victoria, so I won't comment much about what to do there. We did, however, love the drive to Port Renfew and a visit to the Botanical Beach Park. If you want to eat a meal not at a restaurant, we liked the Italian deli stuff from Octavio's which is a 10 minute drive from Victoria in Red Oak Bay (much nicer than Victoria proper, in my opinion).

                We drove to Port McNeil, where we kayaked for a week. I highly recommend our B&B there, Ev's on the Beach. Check out the web site. Ev is wonderful, and her house is right on the water with an outdoor hottub. Port McNeil is a quite and small town. Of the restaurants, try the Oyster burgers at McNeil's. If you like adventure, there is a guy who will take you caving.

                The drive to Port McNeil from Victoria is about 6 hours, and about four from Nainamo to Port McNeil.

                If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me a jorlofsky@yahoo.com.


                1. Just like you, we are from the states (Chicago) and made great use of Chowhound before a recent visit to Vancouver and Tofino (10 days in mid-June.) We had an utterly fantastic time, in part because of the unusually good weather (warm, cloudless and rainless for our entire visit) but mostly because of the lovely folks, amazing scenery, and great food. We had our 7 and 9 year old daughters with us, who enjoyed all of it as well. We stayed at the Long Beach Lodge in Tofino, in a cabin which was unexpectedly elegant (we thought little cabin in the woods; we got a two-level house with luxurious furnishings and two wonderful bathrooms). The resort is only a few years old so everything (including the kitchen utensils) feels brand new. The service at the Lodge was gracious and friendly; it's right on the ocean and much of our time was spent walking up and down the very long beach (though it is not, oddly, on Long Beach, which is a few miles down the road). Continental breakfast is included, even with the cabins, but we ate many of our other meals in the cabin -- why not, when you can buy fresh salmon and crabs right off the boat in town? We also enjoyed a little deli called Breakers in town -- excellent sandwiches and desserts. We bought excellent organic produce, too, at a supremely groovy little place called Beaches, which is on the way into town. If you have kids (or are lithe and athletic) surfing lessons can be had in Tofino; my older daughter took two lessons, and loved it. The fit young men and women walking to the ocean in their wet suits augment the Tofino scenery, I must say. As to travel time, it did take us about 5 hours to get to from Horseshoe Bay to Tofino, as we did encounter construction delays; it was less on the way down, when we weren't stopped. I would note that both the drive and the ferry ride were very beautiful. We loved Vancouver, the city, as well. We stayed at the Blue Horizon Hotel, which we liked very much, and we walked to most of our great meals. We had several excellent meals at Hons, which has been discussed on this board, and also had gelato from Mondo Gelato (right across the street from our hotel) every day we were there (!) We'll have to leave fine dining options up to others to recommend, but I would also urge a trip to the Public Market on Granville Island, so you can drool over the fresh produce and fish as I did, and sadly reflect on how little of that we can get in the midwest (and yes, I shop my farmer's markets here, and they're just not as good, especially for fruit.) I hope the native Canadians don't mind me interjecting this advice on the board. Have a great time; we did and can't wait to go back!

                  1. If heading to Tofino, please feel free to contact me at the Concierge Desk of the Wickaninnish Inn. My name is Chris and regardless of where you are staying in the area, I would be happy to make some recommendations for you. Welcome to Paradise!!