Vancouver Island 5-Day Itinerary

Nestled on Canada's rugged western coastline, Vancouver Island is a haven for nature enthusiasts, thrill-seekers, and those seeking solace in the great outdoors. With its diverse landscapes, vibrant communities, and rich cultural heritage, Vancouver Island promises an unforgettable journey of exploration and discovery.

Join us on a 5-day escapade as we traverse the length and breadth of this enchanting island, immersing ourselves in its pristine wilderness, quaint villages, and bustling urban centers. From exhilarating outdoor adventures to indulgent culinary delights, each day brings forth new experiences and memories waiting to be made.

So, pack your bags and get ready to embark on a journey of a lifetime. Vancouver Island awaits, and the adventure begins now!

How Many Days to Explore Vancouver Island?

This is a question we get asked a lot!

Vancouver Island's mass is 32,134 sq km (12,407 sq mi). Most tourists underestimate how long is needed to explore this beautiful part of the world. Spending 5 days on Vancouver Island gives you enough time to explore some of its most stunning natural beauty spots, charming towns, and rich cultural experiences.

The following is a sample itinerary to help you see the highlights. Think of it as a catch-all for what to do on Vancouver Island.

If you need help getting to Vancouver Island, read up on the ferry systems first. For more information on why you should visit our beautiful island, read Discover the Magic of Vancouver Island.

Getting Around

The best way to explore Vancouver Island is by car. This way, you have the freedom to explore at will. The following 5-day itinerary highlighting the best things to do on Vancouver Island requires a vehicle. That said, we do have bus services here, which will bring you to many city centres around the island.

This article contains affiliate links, which means that if you happen to make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Butchart Gardens in Victoria. Vancouver Island View

5 Days on Vancouver Island – Day 1

Victoria

Start your trip in Victoria, the island's capital city. Hopefully, you can prebook an early morning ferry from Tsawwassen (on the Vancouver side) to make the most of your day in Victoria.

As soon as you get off the ferry, head to the stunning Butchart Gardens.

From there, drive to the picturesque inner harbour, do some shopping while walking to Chinatown, and view the British colonial-style architecture along the way.

In the evening, head to Fisherman's Wharf, a bustling waterfront area, for some seafood and drinks.

If you need even more ideas:

Places to Stay in Victoria:

cowichan kinsol trestle. Vancouver Island View

Day 2 – Cowichan Valley

Drive to the Cowichan Valley, an area known for its wineries, farms, and artisanal food products. Tour the vineyards, enjoy some tastings, or explore local farms and farmers' markets.

For a full list of food, drink and wine stops, check out the Cowichan Valley Flavour Trail.

Must-see stops in the Cowichan Valley:

Rest your head tonight at the Best Western Plus Chemainus Inn.

Long Beach in Tofino. Vancouver Island View

Day 3 & 4 – West Coast

Get up early, grab a coffee and make the 3.5-hour drive to Tofino. There is so much to see along the way. However, to make the most of your time on the West Coast, you may just want to drive straight there.

Tofino is a small coastal town known for its surfing, whale watching, and rugged natural beauty. Take a walk on Long Beach, one of the most spectacular beaches in the area, and explore the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

In the evening, catch the sunset from the top of the Wickaninnish Interpretive Centre.

On day four, head to the nearby town of Ucluelet, which has an equally impressive coastline and offers a wide range of outdoor activities, from kayaking to hiking. Stop at the Amphitrite Lighthouse and the Wild Pacific Trail for some of the most stunning views on the island.

Accommodations can be hard to get on the West Coast, especially during the summer. So plan well ahead for the best choices.

Nanaimo Harbour. Vancouver Island View

Day 5 – Nanaimo

Finish your trip in Nanaimo, a city known for its rich history and cultural offerings. Visit the Nanaimo Museum to learn about the city's past, stroll along the scenic waterfront, and explore the local art galleries and boutiques.

If you have time, take the short ferry to Saysutshun (Newcastle Island). Or check out one of these other beautiful trails: Top 10 Nanaimo Walks. If you're feeling adventurous, try bungee jumping at the nearby WildPlay Element Parks.

Nanaimo is where you will take the ferry back to Vancouver, and there are two ferry terminals to choose from. Departure Bay ferry terminal takes you to Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver, while Duke Point will take you back to Tsawwassen.


5-Day Vancouver Island Itinerary Summary

This 5-day Vancouver Island itinerary provides just a taste of what our beautiful island offers. There are countless other attractions, locations, natural wonders, and cultural experiences to discover.

If you have more time, I highly suggest heading north (after your time on the West Coast).

Parksville, Qualicum Beach, the Comox Valley, Campbell River, and the amazing places found further north offer incredible experiences. You really can't go wrong no matter where you choose to explore!

More Road Trip Ideas

A 5-Day itinerary, created by a local, helping you explore the best Vancouver Island has to offer.
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4 Comments

  1. Heather Allen says:

    Everyone thinks Vancouver Island ends at Campbell River. Port Hardy is another 250 kilometers north of Campbell River. There are beautiful vistas everywhere you look. You never even mentioned San Josef Bay and Cape Scott Park. San Josef is included in the list of “the 50 most beautiful beaches in the world”.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Heather…but you’re obviously not a regular reader of mine, for if you were you’d know that the north end of the island is my favourite area to explore and I talk/write about it a lot! Please read all or any of the ariticles found under the “Destination – Vancouver Island North’ for proof of this. There’s even a ‘Vancouver Island North road trip’ article too! For a 5-day itinerary, it’s nearly impossible to see everthying. Especially since most tourists want to start in Victoria. At the end of the final paragraph of this post, I did tell readers to venture further north if they have more time.

  2. John McNamer says:

    Do yourself a favour, go to Campbell River and take in the Indigenous grizzly and whale watching cultural tour to Bute Inlet

    1. Hi John, I’ve done the Grizzly Bear tour out of Campbell River and it was absolutely fanstastic! I have an article about that one too. (Search for ‘Grizzly bear tour’ to read it).

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