Road trips are a great way to explore Vancouver Island, mainly because there is so much to see. Although travelling from Victoria to Nanaimo is a relatively short journey (1.5 – 2 hours), you miss out on some spectacular sights along the way if you drive straight through.
This is why I’ve put together an itinerary of an extensive road trip from Victoria to Nanaimo. Whether you are visiting for the first time or the 100th (or possibly even a local), I highly recommend taking your time to ensure you make the most of this route. You never know what you might discover.
Days 1 – 3 – Victoria
Victoria is one of those cities you can spend a week in and still not see everything. But to ensure you hit the highlights, I recommend at least three days – especially if it’s your first visit.
Top Attractions in Victoria
- Royal BC Museum – a natural and human history museum presented through three different galleries located in the heart of the city. Due to the recent government announcement of a complete overhaul of the museum, this will be the last summer to enjoy it! So, if you haven’t gone to the museum lately, you best get there soon.
- The Butchart Gardens – a top tourist destination just outside of Victoria.
- Victoria Bug Zoo – home to some of the world’s rarest insects, arachnids and other creepy-crawlies.
- Beacon Hill Park – a 200-acre beautifully landscaped park with wild peacocks and a petting zoo.
- Miniature World – tiny themed dioramas and displays representing historical times and fictional worlds.
If you have more than three days or want to pack in as much as possible, here are a few more ideas.
Recommended Accommodations in Victoria
- The Fairmont Empress – even if this hotel is over your budget, make sure to take a stroll through the lobby and main hallways. And if you have the time, I highly recommend high tea.
- Delta Victoria
- Hotel Grand Pacific
Looking for Vacation Rentals? We’ve got you covered:
From Victoria, make your way towards the Cowichan Valley. Driving north along Highway 1, you will pass by quaint towns and experience breathtaking views of the sea and the Gulf Islands. A notable spot along the Malahat is Goldstream Provincial Park.
Days 3 & 4 – the Cowichan Valley
Highlights of the Cowichan Valley
- Malahat Skywalk – Vancouver Island’s newest attraction provides incredible ocean views.
- The Kinsol Trestle – One of the tallest free-standing and most spectacular timber rail trestle structures globally.
- Stop for ice cream in Cowichan Bay at the Udder Guys
- BC Forest Discovery Centre – Chronicles the history of logging in BC.
- Pacific Northwest Raptor Centre – Located in Duncan, this bird exhibit has fantastic flying demonstrations.
- Cowichan Lake & River – if you are here during the summer months, I highly recommend tubing down the Cowichan River.
- Chemainus – a charming seaside town that is an absolute must-see.
Recommended accommodations in the Cowichan Valley
Nanaimo / Ladysmith
Days 4 & 5 Nanaimo
From Chemainus, continue to head north towards Nanaimo. A notable spot to stop for a few hours is Transfer Beach in Ladysmith if time allows. And DON’T pass through Ladysmith without stopping at the Old Town Bakery!! Their cinnamon buns are so delicious and popular, that your best bet is to order ahead of time.
- Visit the Yellow Point area and stop for a bite to eat and drink at the Crow & Gate Pub
- Wild Play Element Parks – For the thrill-seeker!
- Westwood Lake Park – is one of Nanaimo’s best-loved parks.
- Romper Room – for some fantastic indoor rock climbing.
- Have lunch at the Dingy Dock Pub and Restaurant (kid-friendly) – Canada’s only floating pub.
- Saysutshun (Newcastle Island) – is a great place to swim, explore, or kayak.
- Take the ferry across to Gabriola Island – one of the Gulf Islands in the Strait of Georgia.
If you have more time to spend in Nanaimo, read 48 Hours in Nanaimo for even more ideas.
Recommended accommodations in Nanaimo
For Vacation Rentals, check out this link:
To conclude your trip, BC Ferries has two ports in Nanaimo. The Duke Point terminal will take you back to Tsawwassen (the same port you would have travelled from to Victoria) or the Departure Bay ferry, which takes you to Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver.
Have I missed one of your favourite spots?
Please leave a comment below if you feel I should have included another must-see attraction or destination for this extensive road trip from Victoria to Nanaimo.
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