Does the phrase road trip bring a smile to your face? I love a good old summertime road trip with the windows open, the music playing, and a coffee in hand. I have fond memories of the dog hanging her head out the window and the kids in the back settled in to entertain themselves.
British Columbia, Canada, is the perfect province for a road trip. I know what you’re thinking: “Vancouver to Victoria? Well, that’s not much of a road trip!” But this road trip is going to take you on a scenic route between these two cities in British Columbia. We are heading up the Sunshine Coast on the mainland and then over to Vancouver Island where the road trip will continue to wow you with spectacular scenery. Be prepared for some stunning ferry crossings. The ideal season for this road trip is late spring to early fall with a length of about two weeks. Be sure to leave plenty of time for ferry travel, relaxing, and outdoor activities.
We are starting this road trip from Vancouver. You could easily spend a weekend (or much longer) in Vancouver. When you are ready to start this road trip, head on over to the Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal and take a BC Ferry to Langdale. Within minutes of leaving Vancouver behind, the scenery on this 40-minute ferry ride will have you feeling lighter! Grab a coffee, sit on an outdoor deck, and marvel as the ship passes by the Howe Sound fjords.
Pro Tip: Remember to get to the ferry terminal in plenty of time as the ferries get busy, especially in the summer. For an extra fee, you can make a reservation online.
Less than 10 minutes from the ferry landing at Langdale is the quaint seaside town of Gibsons. You have officially arrived at the gateway to British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast. Gibsons was the filming location for the internationally renowned TV series The Beachcombers. For fans, stopping by the restaurant Molly’s Reach is a must. Enjoy looking out over the sparkling water savoring clam chowder or a plate of fish and chips surrounded by memorabilia from the show.
After a hearty meal, why not go kayaking or take the hike up Soames Hill to see breathtaking views of Keats Island and the Strait of Georgia? This hike has some steep staircases, but the view at the top makes the climb worthwhile.
Lund And Savary Island
Getting all the way to Lund, Mile 0 of Highway 101, involves taking another ferry. Drive north on the Sechelt Peninsula along the scenic Sunshine Coast through age-old forests interspersed with glimpses of the sea, and 90-minutes later you will arrive at the Earls Cove Ferry Terminal.
This 50-minute ferry sailing from Earls Cove to Saltery Bay takes you through jaw-dropping natural landscapes. Check the crossing times here.
Pro Tip: If you plan to take both ferries the same day, take into account the 90-minute drive from Gibsons to the Earls Cove Ferry Terminal. It is 52 miles on quite a twisty road.
When heading north to the Earl’s Cove Ferry terminal, give yourself plenty of time to arrive well in advance of the ferry sailing. You don’t want to have to wait for the next ferry. During high season, there is a coffee shop open.
The Saltery Bay Ferry Terminal is 22 miles from the town of Powell River. Three choices for accommodation in the area are as follows: Use Powell River as a base for exploring, stay right in Lund at the historic Lund Resort, or rent a cabin on Savary Island (numerous options are available through Airbnb, HomeAway, and beyond).
Being in this part of British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast is all about rejuvenating and enjoying the natural beauties of our planet. You’ll want to spend some time beachcombing at low tide. Look for purple sea stars and get out on the water to look for whales and bald eagles. A visit to world-renowned Desolation Sound is an unforgettable highlight.
Terracentric Coastal Adventures offers zodiac tours and also kayaking trips to get you up close and personal with this part of beautiful British Columbia.
You’ll not want to miss the glorious laid-back vibe of Savary Island. There are no ferries across to the island, but the Lund Water Taxi will get you there. Walk up the hill from the dock, rent a bike for the day, and tour the island. There are very few services on the island, so bring everything that you need.
When in tiny Lund, don’t miss Nancy’s Bakery. Here, you will be welcomed by the scent of fresh cinnamon buns (blackberry are my favorite) and coffee. Sandwiches and other treats are also available.
Take the BC Ferry from Powell River (Westview), right in the center of town, over to Comox (Little River) on Vancouver Island. The crossing takes one hour and 30 minutes.
The small town of Comox is the perfect place from which to take a salmon fishing charter. If you love spectacular views, drive to Mount Washington and ride the chairlift to the top for stunning vistas of the Comox Valley. You can sail down a zip line for a thrilling experience.
Head north on Vancouver Island along Highway 19, which is well maintained and picturesque. Keep your eyes open for wildlife!
Telegraph Cove is the ultimate destination for beauty, whales, and ecotourism. It’s such a relief to know that places like this still exist in the world. It is a piece of paradise with colorful heritage buildings hugging the shoreline and waterfront views that take your breath away. Telegraph Cove, part of the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve, is Canada’s only designated sanctuary for killer whales.
There are two main reasons to go to Telegraph Cove. One is to see the whales, and the other is to walk through one of the last boardwalk settlements on Vancouver Island.
Take a three-hour whale-watching tour on a 74-person boat with the Prince of Whales Whale and Marine Wildlife Adventures in Johnstone Strait and the Broughton Archipelago to look for orcas and humpback whales. Zodiac tours are also available.
If you are interested in getting even closer to the whales and other wildlife such as sea otters, eagles, and porpoises, why not try kayaking in the Johnstone Strait? North Island Kayak offers a variety of kayaking tours that leave from Telegraph Cove as does Orca Sea Kayaking.
And believe it or not, there are even grizzly bear adventures to be had here. Tide Rip Grizzly Adventures will take you on a full-day trip to see grizzly bears.
The Killer Whale Cafe and Old Saltery Pub is Telegraph Cove’s most famous eatery. Of course, it offers delectable seafood.
Parksville And Qualicum Beach
Parksville and Qualicum Beach, two beautiful beach towns on Vancouver Island, are seven miles apart, or a 12-minute drive. Spending time walking the beach at Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park is a must. The water is warm for swimming, the bottom is sandy, and, at low tide, there are plenty of sea critters to discover in the tide pools. If you feel like exploring underground caves, don’t miss the Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park.
Stop by Coombs and visit the goats. Yes, Goats on the Roof Old Country Market is more than just a marketplace! At this point on the road trip, you might feel like indulging in a spa. The Tigh-Na-Mara seaside spa resort comes highly recommended. Stay awhile in the Parksville area, and you may never want to leave.
Salt Spring Island
How about adding a trip to a quaint smaller island? As you pass through the city of Duncan, take a BC Ferry from the Crofton Ferry Terminal over to Salt Spring Island. You will arrive at the Vesuvius Ferry Terminal at the north end of the island. Before you go, read about how to spend a perfect weekend on Salt Spring Island.
Our awesome road trip ends in Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia. Victoria is fun to explore with its historic center and the bustling inner harbor. Enjoying high tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel is a must!
If you have time to extend the road trip or are looking for a day trip from Victoria, Sooke is another fabulous destination on Vancouver Island. In Sooke, you will find more outdoor activities and gorgeous coastal scenery.
This fabulous road trip from Vancouver to Victoria has come to an end. After many miles and ferry crossings, you will have experienced some of the finest destinations in British Columbia.
Driving south? Consider these five quaint stops in Washington, Oregon, and California.