While Victoria’s attractions and amenities are sure to keep you busy, extend your visit with a little “Island time.” Need a few ideas? Here are a few of our favourite day-trip destinations.
Salt Spring & the Gulf Islands
35-minute ferry trip from Sidney/Swartz Bay
Visitors to this tranquil island paradise renowned for its relaxed lifestyle enjoy Salt Spring’s natural beauty, art galleries, studios, wineries and gift shops. Visit on Saturdays and take in the huge outdoor market where the island’s accomplished artisans and farmers display their fine products. Hiking trails at Ruckle Provincial Park, country roads ideal for cycling and wonderful kayaking are among the many possibilities here.
Venture a little farther to some of the other Gulf Islands, including the beautifully rural North and South Pender islands and Saturna Island, home of a celebrated winery and a Canada Day lamb barbecue that tempts locals and visitors year after year.
The Cowichan Valley
About 60 km from Victoria to Duncan
First Nations heritage, wineries and numerous family attractions and activities make the Cowichan Valley the ideal destination for a day trip from Victoria. Known as the City of Totems, Duncan is one of Vancouver Island’s most significant centres of First Nations culture and features totem tours, a museum in a 1912 train station and the Quw’utsun’ Cultural and Conference Centre, showcasing First Nations heritage. On the north side of town, the Pacific Northwest Raptors provides thrilling flying demonstrations while the BC Forest Discovery Centre, set on 100 acres, offers exhibits on the past, present and future of forestry, hiking trails, picnic areas and steam train rides.
Winery and cidery touring is another highly recommended Cowichan Valley activity. Enjoy a guided visit from Victoria with Executive Wine Tours or for a self-guided tour, pick up a winery map from area visitor centres.
Enjoy a drive through the picturesque communities of Shawnigan Lake, Cobble Hill, Mill Bay and Cowichan Bay, a scenic seaside village east of Duncan known for its fresh seafood, galleries, shops and waterfront museum. Allow time for a stroll along the waterfront, including a stop at Arthur Vickers’ Shipyard Gallery and Hilary’s Cheese, a local favourite. West of Duncan, Cowichan Lake is a hub for fishing, swimming, canoeing and camping.
About 70 km from Victoria to Chemainus
One of the most popular attractions on Vancouver Island is the town of Chemainus, famous for its statues and larger-than-life murals that have transformed the town into one large, outdoor art gallery. Golf, shops, antique malls, tea houses and a great dinner theatre round out the possibilities.
Ladysmith & Nanaimo
Victoria to Ladysmith: 95 km; to Nanaimo: 111 km.
Enjoy a leisurely stroll along Ladysmith’s historic main street and its new museum or visit some of the many artists and artisans making their home here, about 90 minutes from Victoria. Transfer Beach Park is fabulous for all ages—take in the harbour views, go for a dip, savour a summer picnic or let the kids roam about the playground.
A little farther north, Nanaimo is a popular stop for eclectic shopping, entertainment and beautiful waterfront. BC Ferries links the town to both Horseshoe Bay and Tsawwassen on the Mainland and the Island Highway continues north, making Nanaimo a great jumping-off point to other adventures. Highlights here include the Port Theatre, the historic downtown, Newcastle Island, the Harbourside Walkway, the Nanaimo Museum and, for thrilling outdoor experiences high above the ground, WildPlay Element Park.
Oceanside: Parksville and Qualicum region
Victoria to Parksville: 147 km
About 20 minutes beyond Nanaimo, discover the picturesque communities of Parksville, Qualicum, Nanoose, Coombs, French Creek and Arrowsmith, collectively known as Oceanside. You’ll find sandy beaches, winding rivers, challenging golf courses and family-friendly attractions. Favourites include the community beach and playground in downtown Parksville, the Coombs Country Market (watch for the goats on the roof!), the World Parrot Refuge, Little Qualicum Falls and Englishman River Falls provincial parks and the always beautiful Milner Gardens.
From Parksville, continue north or head to the west coast and Port Alberni, the gateway to the Pacific Rim, about 45 minutes from Parksville. From here venture on to the beachfront fishing and resort communities of Ucluelet, Tofino and beautiful Long Beach.
- Read more: “Highlights Along the Pacific Rim Highway”