For as long as she can remember Jenny has been dreaming of a road trip in British Columbia. It always seemed to be an amazing land filled with extreme climates and wildlife. So we decided with our remaining days left of annual leave from work that we would rent a car, pack our tents and explore this amazing part of Canada.
Although two weeks in British Columbia is not nearly enough to explore it all, it was all we could get. This a review of our trip and what we managed to see in two weeks. Check out the video and photos below.
Our route from Ireland included a stop over in Toronto. Due to bad weather we were forced to change some of our destinations but our route was as follows: Vancouver City, Vancouver Island (Cambell River & Tofino), Okanagan Valley & Whistler.
6 hours in Toronto
Our journey to Vancouver was broken up with a stop over in Toronto. With 8 hours to kill, we managed to get into the city for just enough time to grab a few beers and our first poutine. if you haven’t had poutine before it is the dish of Quebec and consists of potato fries, cheese curd and gravy. Ours also included bacon, yum. It is absolutely delicious but we don’t advise you to try it if you are on a diet, worried about your health or can get easily addicted to awesome unhealthy foods.
Van city is huge! While out walking and exploring it literally took us hours to get from one place to another. For both of us being from small cities, this was a massive shock! How can people get to where they need to be with out massive commutes?
Most time in Vancouver City was spent catching up with friends now living in the city. While they were in work we spent out time exploreing, eating sushi and finding coffee shops. Seriously how many sushi shops are there in Vancouver? They are everywhere, delicious and cheap!
While out walking we found the famous Granville island, Science World, The Rodgers Arena and more.
The real start of our road trip. With our rented car we crossed from VanCity to Vancouver Island and planned to drive north. Due to a storm our Air bnb cancelled last minute and meant we needed to change plans. We made an unexpected stop in Campbell River and it turned out to be the highlight of our trip.
Orcas and Humpback Whales
Our original plan was to drive from the ferry port Nanaimo in the south to Port Hardy in the north. The drive would have taken us hours. However, as fate had it we made a stop in the sleepy fishing village of Campbell River. Luckily we managed to get a last minute Air bnb and set out seeing what there was to do in town. Not a lot really, but we managed to get dramatic shots of the fishermen while the fog came in. Most importantly, we were able to arrange a whale watching tour.
Stopping in Campbell River ended up being a blessing. We were told the best place to see Orcas would be a few hours further north in Port Hardy. While in Campbell River we booked ourselves into a whale watching tour for the next day. Within 30 minutes of leaving the harbour we spotted our first two Humpback Whales. Then we came across a pod of Resident Orcas, another smaller pod of Transient Orcas and yet another pod of Resident Orcas. It was more and we could have wish for.
To prove luck was on our side, the tours that left from Port Hardy actually all came down to the Campbell River area. We would have spent a few more hours going further north just to get a boat back south. Imagine the time saved in both traveling north and taking the boat back. That time saved gave us more time alone with the whales and Orcas. To top off our day we also had a pod of a hundred dolphins chase our boat and spotted some sea lions while sailing thought the beautiful fjords.
Surfing in Tofino
After Campbell River, we crossed the island to the surfers paradise of Tofino. We had read about two things in Tofino, Amazing surf and Tacofino. We did both in one day.
If you make it to Tofino, do yourself and favour and find Tacofino. This small shack serves up the best seafood tacos we have ever tasted. The fact that it was beside the first surf board rental store we found was a massive bonus. We had tacos as pre-surf fuel and for post-surf recovery.
Surfing in Tofino is world class. Long Beach has sections which are perfect for beginners or advanced surfers. The beach is pretty dramatic with forrest right up to the coast and fog coming in from the sea in the early morning. Apparently it is one of the only high quality surf beaches in the world where you are guaranteed no sharks, a sign that the water is cold!
Looking for bears in Ucluelet
Not to far from Tofino is Ucluelet. We stayed in this town while visiting Tofino. There is not much to do except a hike along the Wild Pacific Trail and to take a tour to find bears. The bear tour is a bit of a scam. We did it but wouldn’t do one again. You would have to be extremely lucky to actually see any. The boat tour starts early in order to catch the bears having an oyster breakfast along the coast. Bears being bears are pretty reclusive and that fact means that the sound of the boat is usually enough for the bears to leave the beaches before you get a chance to see them.
We only saw two from a far for less than one minute combined. The tour agency were fair and offered to book us on another tour to try our chances at seeing them the next day. However, one couple on our tour had in fact done that as a result of seeing nothing the previous day and we had no time to stay in town, so the offer was wasted, as was the money spent. We will say the the boat ride was beautiful though.
A last minute decision to visit the Canadian wine region. As lovers of red wine we made the 4 hour ride to the relatively unknown city of Okanagan to cycle its vineyards and taste wine we had never heard of. The route from Vancouver CIty drives through desert and eventually arrives at a small city built on the side of a huge lake. it is a little surreal as the town seems to be brand new.
Other than visiting the vineyards and tasting great wines there is a really nice cycle though the valley along railroads. The route was formerly used to ship coal but a huge forrest fire in the region destroyed the city and the railway tracks. Eventually the tracks were rebuilt, not for trains, for cyclists to enjoy the scenery. You even get the chance to become friends with adorable little chipmunks.
Whistler & Garibaldi Lake
Surely on everyones list of places to visit when in Vancourer is to take a break and visit the former olympic village of Whistler. Unfortunately we weren’t in the snowy season when the town is in all of its glory. We did get to camp in the bear zone and get freakout by the slightest sounds during the night. We even had a random encounter with an old school friend in an Irish bar.
Hiking to Garibaldi Lake
Only 19km south of Whistler is an amazing hike to the clear blue glacier lake of Garibaldi. Unable to all of the hikes we settled on Gaibaldi and we weren’t disappointed. The hike took us 9 hours up and back with lunch at the lake. We even had a few encounters with bears that scared the senses out of us.
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