Six day trip to Vancouver Island. Victoria via Juan de Fuca to Cowichan Bay, Port Alberni, Tofino and Ucluelet
|GPS Coordinates are 49.19253282366184, -123.95394008435923.
Link on Google Maps
Lets start with the two deviations from our plan
On the map, we found a Forest Service Road from Cowichan Lake to south of Port Alberni. One minor problem, the road was closed.
Lake Cowichan was an important place and we booked a hotel. We presumed that a lake can have a bay, so we booked the hotel in Cowichan Bay. Well, Cowichan Bay is on the ocean, a 40 kilometer detour we tried to avoid.
Beside the two hiccups, everything else including the weather was amazing.
Sunday to Victoria
We had an early morning to catch the eight o'clock ferry to Nanaimo. Nobody travels on a Sunday morning, the ferry was maybe 70% full.
The 100 km drive to Victoria included a visit to Cowichan Bay. We heard many nice things about the little coast town. We even saw our little dream boat there.
Cowichan Bay, little did we know that we have to come back here.
We had only a few hours left in Victoria to walk from the hotel to the Fisherman's Wharf. We had dinner at one of the floating restaurants. Fish and Chips of course, one piece halibut, one piece salmon. Somehow the salmon doesn't taste as good as the halibut. Frying a white fish seems to turn out much tastier.
Monday to Cowichan Bay via Port Renfrew
We had breakfast at The Ruby just beside the Best Western. Excellent breakfast options and very tasty.
We left the hotel to stop at the Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Sites. The fort has well preserved rooms and walls. Our highlight was the 1942 Jeep, one of the forefathers of our Jeep.
We continued our journey along the Ocean Blvd and passed the Paul Lewis Beach Art. The Boulevard is a sand bank that shelters the Esquimalt Lagoon Migratory Bird Sanctuary.
One and a half hours later, we came to Jordan River. The beach is a popular surf spot. From our last visit years ago, we remembered the café at the bend where hwy 14 makes a turn inland. It was time for us to get a coffee at the Cold Shoulder Cafe and watch the surfers waiting for the perfect wave.
Next stop was Sombrio Beach in the Juan de Fuca Provincial Park. A 250 meter trail leads down to the cobbled beach.
The forest along the coast line is magic. Take some time to follow all or part of the hiking trail. We didn't have time to spend more then half an hour, our Monday program was too crammed.
We arrived late at the Cowichan Bay Ocean Front. When we booked the hotel, we thought that Cowichan Bay is actually on Cowichan Lake. Not so, we had to drive all the way to the coast where we already spent some time in the morning.
Tuesday to Port Alberni
The stop in Port Alberni didn't leave us many memorable encounters. The two places we wanted to see were closed. So we decided to visit the petroglyphs in the Sproat Lake Provincial Park. It was already late when we arrived and to our benefit, we were the only visitors there. By the time we returned to the hotel, we didn't do much planning to find a place to get dinner. The pizzeria in walking distance served takeout only. The ordering process left us with very low expectations. We were wrong, the pizza was good considering we had to use our own paper plates and backup cutlery from the Jeep. Mind you, the cutlery was more expensive than the pizza, it's one of these superlight high-tech sets for backpacking.
Wednesday to Ucluelet
Highway 4 along Kennedy Hill was open only once every hour. No other alternative to get to Ucluelet or Tofino. We scheduled our departure from Port Alberni accordingly. The wait was short.
We had two nights reserved in Ucluelet and still had most of the day ahead of us. Tofino is a small town on the tip of a peninsula. The main attraction is year-round surfing. The many surf shops leave no doubt. But before we got into Tofino, we stopped at Radar Hill to enjoy the view.
When we saw a skull crossed by a surf board and a fishing rod, there is only one thing we could do. Get a coffee and a dessert. The Tofitian delivers on their promise to have the best coffee in Tofino. The wide selection of sweets made the choice difficult. Just behind the green leafy curtain was our table. A most relaxing place.
There is more than one beach that faces the open pacific ocean. The waves from far away storms can travel unhindered to the shore line.
The Tonquin beach is sheltered by islands. This beach is in walking distance from the town. The trail leads through a forest and a labyrinth of steps. Very nicely done.
We made it to the Bayshore Waterfront Inn in Ucluelet just after five. This was the nicest hotel on our whole trip. The hotel has few rooms and is charming and well maintained. We were welcomed and had time for a conversation and breakfast suggestions. We learned about the sealions that congregate at the Seaplane Harbour.
This is not the first time we encountered the Californina Sealions. Our hotel room in Cowichan Bay was facing the ocean and the sealions were barking all night. A short 5 second bark and 2 minutes of silence. Well, from an evolutionary point of view, they were here first.
Watching them on the float was interesting and noisy as we expected. The Seaplane Harbour is a well know hangout.
Thursday in Wild Pacific Trail
Culinary highlight on Thursday and Friday was breakfast in The Blue Room in Ucluelet, or Ukee for short. I am the two-eggs-with-patatoes-and-toast kind of guy. For reasons I don't remember, I broke with my tradition. Ursula had waffles on Friday. We both loved the breakfast.
A good nights sleep and great breakfast, we were ready to tackle the Wild Pacific Trail. We were reading the trail description on the visitor website, "A perfect destination for photographers, storm watchers, bird watchers ...". We would love to see the coast line when the high waves roll in.
Friday back to Whistler
On the way back we had to stop at Cathedral Grove in the MacMillan Provincial Park. Most forests along the trail we travelled were old growth, covered with mosses and lichens. Very little light gets to the bottom where only the ferns thrive.
No matter how many pictures we add, the giant Douglas Fir trees and the intense green from the mosses and ferns must be experienced.
We timed our trip to catch the one o'clock ferry and arrived about one hour before the ferry departure time. We were assigned lane 22, the stand-by lane. Two cars ahead of us, a man sat on the tailgate of his truck and carved a plank. We didn't pay much attention since he was talking to friends or family. Eventually, we boarded the ferry and were one of the 10 last cars before they closed the ramp. We parked behind the truck of the carver. He got out of the car, opened the tailgate to get his gear and we approached him. His name is Nelson McCarty from Lytton. He is a member of the Lytton First Nation here in BC.
He showed us the few finished carvings he still had in his possession and we loved the 'Air / Land / Water - Eagle / Bear / Salmon' and bought it. What an interesting meet and great souvenir.
We returned to the camp site in Whistler with great memories. The calm ferry ride and nice weather was a fitting ending.
For our next adventures, we found an epic camp site in the rainforest on Cowichan Lake, the Maple Grove Recreation Site. In 2019 we drove from Port Hardy to Nanaimo. This is another place where we would love to spend more time. The map shows many forest service roads to lakes and into the mountains. No doubt, we will be back.