Last Spring break, we took a trip to Victoria on Vancouver Island and had such a great time. This year, the Island called to us again! We ended up on a road trip from Nanaimo to Ucluelet and Tofino – a gorgeous 3 hour drive that we broke up to accommodate some must-see sites.
We had reservations on the 5:45 pm ferry from Tsawwassen to Duke Point on the last day of school. Being able to reserve with BC Ferries gave us peace of mind; we didn’t want to get to the island too late so really did not want to miss the ferry! Also, that sail time perfectly coincided with dinner which we grabbed at the White Spot onboard. As parents, we automatically plan for fatigue and food considerations when travelling with the kids! The sailing was smooth and fun; dinner took up most of the first hour, and then the kids enjoyed playing cards, browsing in the gift shop and, of course, we took the obligatory photo on the deck.
I spent a lot of time on BC Ferries in my early childhood when we lived in Victoria and our extended family lived on the mainland. It’s such a thrill to be able to take my kids on these nostalgic tours of the Salish Sea and we’ve already got some ideas of where we’ll head next. But first, let’s recap this trip!
When we arrived in Nanaimo, we rested our heads at the Howard Johnson Harbourside Hotel. Located close to the terminal, it was the perfect spot to catch some zzz’s before heading out first thing in the morning.
Our total driving time of the day was 2.5 hours (to Ucluelet) but we were determined to take the trip as slow as possible. That’s one of the beauties of a road trip, after all. The freedom to stop at whim. After driving for about 50 minutes, we saw a sign for Cameron Lake and decided to pull over for a stretch. When we piled out of the minivan, we found the trail that led down to a pristine picnic spot complete with sandy beach, calm, reflective waters and serenity. It was picture-perfect. This would be an ideal spot to time a packed lunch.
Cameron Lake rests on traditional Kwalikum First Nation territory and is a popular spot for swimmers – at least, the swimmers who can brave the cold waters…and the mysterious lake monster that some have claimed to have seen! The lake was so beautiful that I think, maybe in peak summer temperatures, I’d take my chances with the island’s ‘Ogopogo’.
Cathedral Grove (Macmillan Provincial Park)
Cathedral Grove is located on traditional Hupacasath First Nation territory and is an endangered old-growth Douglas Fir ecosystem. Now this is a place you cannot drive by! Home to ancient rainforest – and I mean, 800 years ancient – this stunning remnant of what once covered the entire island is definitely worth a slow walk-through. It doesn’t take long to complete the trails but why rush it? It’s important to stay on the trails so as not to damage the biosphere, but there is a lot to see from the path whether you look ahead, to the sides…or waaaaaay up.
Don’t be deterred from stopping here if it happens to be raining – the trees offer an amazing canopy and you will be well protected from rain and wind. What I’m saying is, don’t miss this opportunity.
Another place we stopped at spontaneously but one that you should definitely think to include on a road trip to Ucluelet and Tofino. We noticed some beautiful rocky terrain and cars parked on the side of the road, so we decided to take a look. A short flight of stairs led to a huge ‘playground’ of boulders and puddles, and the sound of a gushing river. This is where we ended up having our packed lunch and then explored for awhile.
Ellis River was our last stop until we reached Ucluelet mid-afternoon where we spent the night at Black Rock Oceanfront Resort. It would have only been another 40 minutes to Tofino if we had kept going but we couldn’t pass up the chance to do the Wild Pacific Trail and watch the waves crash onto the famous black rock of this area. So, Ucluelet is where we stopped for the night and it certainly deserves its own blog post.
Stay tuned for my next two posts detailing each destination. I hope this comes in handy for you if you’re planning this epic road trip. If you have any particular questions, please leave a comment!
Thank you, BC Ferries, for providing me with a travel discount. It’s a pleasure to share my family’s adventures. All opinions are my own.