Road trips are a great way to explore Vancouver Island, mainly because there is so much to see along the way. Although travelling from Victoria to Nanaimo is a relatively short journey (1.5 – 2 hours), if you drive straight through you are missing out on some spectacular sights along the way.

This is why I’ve put together an itinerary of an extensive road trip from Victoria to Nanaimo. Whether you are visiting us 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.

Are you looking to explore Vancouver Island? Here is an extensive road trip from Victoria to Nanaimo showcasing all of the must see attractions along the way.


Days 1 – 3 – Victoria

Victoria is one of those cities you can spend a week in and still not see everything. But in order 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.
  • 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.


Recommended accommodations in Victoria

Luxury Accommodations

Mid-Range Accommodations

If you are looking for other accommodation options for Victoria feel free to use this handy tool:

Looking for Vacation Rentals? We’ve got you covered:

Top Vacation Rentals in Victoria 

Cowichan Valley

From Victoria make your way towards the Cowichan Valley. Driving north along Highway 1 you will pass through old growth forests, 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

  • The Kinsol Trestle – one of the tallest free-standing and most spectacular timber rail trestle structures in the world.
  • 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.
  • Duncan is also home to over 40 beautifully carved totem poles throughout the city and is a notable spot to visit.
  • Cowichan Lake & River – if you are here in 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

Are you looking to explore Vancouver Island? Here is an extensive road trip from Victoria to Nanaimo showcasing all of the must see attractions along the way.


Days 4 & 5 Nanaimo

From Chemainus continue to head north towards Nanaimo. If time allows a notable spot to stop for a few hours is Transfer Beach in Ladysmith.

Nanaimo Attractions

Recommended accommodations in Nanaimo

For Vacation Rentals check out this link:

Best Nanaimo Vacation Rentals

To conclude your trip BC Ferries has two ports in Nanaimo. The Duke Point terminal will take you back to Tsawwassen (which is the same port you would have travelled from to get 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.

Don’t forget to save this article on Pinterest for future reference!

Are you heading to Victoria, BC and looking for things to do? Why not make the trek to Nanaimo for a great Vancouver Island road trip. Travel this scenic highway and find unique locations along the way.


  1. If going further north I recommend Qualicum Beach, the falls on the Little Qualicum River are a must see, especially in the spring. Milner Gardens are lovely and a nice comparison to Butchart Gardens. The beaches of Parksville are the best on the island.
    In Nanaimo, public access to the ocean for nature walks are available at Neck Pt. and Pipers Lagoon. Morrell Sanctuary is a hikers delight and easy enough to walk with children. Buttertubs is a great place to take little ones and you can see many birds. No dogs allowed there, however.

    • All excellent suggestions, Jim. Thank you. For anyone reading this comment, all of these wonderful suggestions have been written about in various articles. To find information about each one, just enter the name in the search bar.

  2. Joan Fenner Reply

    We were just in that area and attended a play in Chamainus. Delightful! There are also a variety of hikes out of Ladysmith if time permits.

    • Aren’t the plays at the Chemainus Theatre spectacular? We’ve attended quite a few, and I am always so impressed. Yes, there are some great hiking trails around Ladysmith. Many of which I have still yet to explore! Thanks for the great suggestions.

  3. Mysty Beal Reply

    Whoa! Consider departure point from Port Angeles, WA via the Blackball (Coho) ferry! That’s our planned ferry to Victoria.

    • Kim Reply

      Yes, indeed! When travelling to Victoria from Washington, the Black Ball ferry is great! The ferries mentioned were for travellers leaving Nanaimo. 🙂

  4. Pingback: The Best of 2016 - Vancouver Island View

Write A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It