There are so many top things to do on the scenic drive from Victoria to Pacific Rim National Park. This guide will help plan your journey to give you a taste of what is in the area and should not be missed. On this suggested route you will spend a minimum of five nights, including a two-night stay in Victoria. Vancouver Island has so much natural beauty, culinary delights and cultural experiences to offer that you can easily extend your stay here or put it on your list of places to return to.
Get an early start for your full day adventure to the wild west coast of Pacific Rim National Park. The drive from Victoria to Pacific Rim National Park is 4 hrs, 51 min (320 km) without stops.
The scenery along this route is spectacular. Leave the charming Victorian-era, British influenced city of Victoria, head north up Vancouver Island to the wild west coast surf of Pacific Rim National Park. Experience towering Douglas Fir trees in the old growth rainforest at Cathedral Grove. Take a few short hikes to marvel at numerous tumbling waterfalls and access kilometres of sandy beaches.
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Suggested stops along the way
- Take in the views from the Malahat Summit.
- See the historic murals at Chemainus, known as the City of Murals.
- Eat a legendary Nanaimo bar, a dessert originating from the city of Nanaimo.
- Hike to the waterfalls at Englishman River Falls Provincial Park.
- Check out the goats on the roof at Coombs Country Market.
- Do another short hike to two waterfalls at Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park.
- Take a swim or have a picnic at Cameron Lake Provincial Park.
- Experience towering old growth rainforests at Cathedral Grove, MacMillan Provincial Park.
- Discover ancient rock carvings at Sproat Lake Provincial Park. The prehistoric petroglyphs are some of the best found in British Columbia. Find out more.
- Discover the quaint village of Qualicum Beach.
- Walk on the endless sandy beach at Rathtrevor Provincial Park.
IMPORTANT – Before starting this trip check road conditions and highway construction here. This will prepare you to make the best use of your time to avoid lengthy travel delays between Port Alberni and Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. The road is undergoing highway upgrades at Kennedy Lake. The construction should be finished by Summer 2020.
After leaving Victoria, drive up to the Malahat Summit on the Trans Canada Highway. Stop at breathtaking viewpoints along the winding 20-kilometre stretch. This mountainous road runs through the middle of Goldstream Provincial Park and its old-growth temperate rainforest. The park features two waterfalls, a world-class salmon spawning stream from mid-October to December and one of the highest concentrations of Bald Eagles in Canada from December to February. Camping is available.
You are now in the Cowichan Valley region. The climate here provides the warmest year-round temperatures in Canada. It is rich in Indigenous culture, and home of the authentic, unique handcrafted Cowichan sweaters made of bulky, hand-spun unprocessed wool. This area offers artisanal food and drink from local farms, breweries, distilleries and cideries, along with great recreational opportunities.
Chemainus is a town that has more than 40 historic murals. Take a self-guided walking tour to see all of them. This picturesque town also offers many quaint galleries, boutiques and shops to browse through.
Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park
Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park offers one for most family-friendly beaches. The sandy beach is a great safe place to explore. At low tide you can walk out to the shoreline that extends out almost a kilometre. Check the tide schedule here.
It is a wonderful place to picnic, walk trails through the forest and along the beach, birdwatch and discover marine life. Check out the Rathtrevor Nature House and their programs during the summer months. Download a map.
The campsites here are very popular, so remember to make a reservation early to avoid disappointment. Make a reservation now.
Parksville is a great beach resort area. The Community Park has a wonderful water park and play area for children.
The popular sand sculpture competition and exhibition is held annually each summer. This year it takes place July 9 – August 16, 2020. See the carvers in action starting Friday, July 10 at 2 p.m. until the judging begins on Sunday, July 12 at 5:30 p.m. Find out more about the beach festival.
Stop to play mini golf at Paradise Fun Park. It is open rain or shine.
Try a flight of local hand-crafted beer at Mount Arrowsmith Brewing Company.
It’s always fun to have a beach fire and roast marshmallows, take a leisurely stroll on the beach or relax to watch the sunset or sunrise.
Qualicum and Parksville are a very popular summer resort area. Many people use this area as a base to explore other area attractions. Avoid disappointment by booking accommodations early.
Qualicum Beach’s downtown area offers quaint shops to stroll through as well as many places to eat. If you visit on a Saturday, go to the year-round Farmers Market. It features local produce and handmade products.
Englishman River Falls Provincial Park
Take a hike through lushly forested area of Douglas fir trees to discover two waterfalls. One of the waterfalls drops down into the narrowest BC canyon related to a waterfall. Mist from the waterfall provides a perfect spot for maidenhair ferns to thrive. Download a map of the park.
Englishman River Campsites are available from May through September. Reservations are accepted. Find out more.
Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park
Little Qualicum Falls has many short easy hikes through the old growth Douglas fir forest to view the upper and lower falls, as well as the river. Download a park map. Campsites and picnic areas are available in the park.
Sproat Lake Provincial Park
Stop at Sproat Lake Provincial Park and discover prehistoric petroglyphs. These ancient rock carvings are some of the best found in British Columbia.
Sproat Lake is a popular spot for locals to swim, windsurf, waterski, fish, canoe or kayak. If you are lucky, you will see one of the last remaining famous Martin Mars waterbombers on the lake, once used to help fight forest fires.
Camping is available at the park and reservations are accepted. Download a park map.
Sproat Lake Provincial Park is located off Highway #4, 13 kms. north of Port Alberni on the road to Pacific Rim National Park.
Take a swim or have a picnic at this beautiful fresh water lake. The B.C. Scientific Cryptozoology Club claims there is a creature looming in these clear waters. Cameron Lake is part of Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park.
Coombs Old Country Market is always a popular and busy spot. The main market store has a whole variety of food, baked goods and novelty items. The ice cream shop is always a favourite and Billy G’s doughnuts sells out fast. There are also a number of boutiques, clothing shops, and places to eat.
Experience towering old growth rainforests as you walk among giant Douglas Fir trees that have stood for at least 800 years at Cathedral Grove, MacMillan Provincial Park. In 1997, a huge windstorm swept through the park, toppling hundreds of giant trees. Look around as you follow the trails and boardwalks through the park and you will see evidence of nature’s powerful blow. The downed trees have become nurse trees. As these trees begin to rot, they provide a nurturing environment to new life and regrowth in the forest. Download a map of the area. This is a very busy place and it may be difficult to find parking. Be very cautious when trying to cross the busy highway or when pulling out of the parking spot.
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
There are so many wonderful things to do and discover in Pacific Rim National Park, but be aware of your surroundings. Always be cautious about water hazards, watch the tides and never turn your back on the ocean. Large waves can come up suddenly without warning. Learn more about water hazards in this area.
- Try west coast surfing. There are many guide services available. You must wear a wetsuit at all times. Check surf conditions here.
- Visit the Kwisitis Visitors Centre to learn about the Nuu-chah-nulth people who have inhabited these lands for more than 1,000 years. The Visitor Centre is located at the south end of Wickaninnish Beach.
- Storm watching is popular and when fog rolls in you can hear the fog horns in the distance.
- Explore tidal pools full of colourful sea stars, sea urchins, anemones, crabs, mussels, barnacles and more. Check tide times here.
- Take an interpretive or guided walk. There are more than 35 kms of beaches and trails. Shorepine Bog Trail is a quick 800 m loop around an old coastal temporate rainforest. Rainforest Trail A & B takes you through the temperate rainforest. It has many short flights of stairs, but each loop is only 1 km. Stop at the parks information centre for more information and maps.
- Remember to order your Parks Canada Discover Pass if you plan on visiting many National Parks in Canada.
- Find out more about what is offered in nearby Tofino and Ucluelet.
Where to stay in Pacific Rim National Park
Hotels – Our favourite spot to stay is Ocean Village Resort. It is a perfect beach location with a wide sandy beach and lots of tidal pools to investigate when the tide is out. The rustic beehive accommodations are comfortable and popular. There is also an indoor pool to enjoy. Here are few other popular places to stay in this stunning beach area: Pacific Sands Resort, Middle Beach Lodge, or Wickannish Inn on Chesterman Beach 28 km north of the Highway 4 junction. Search below for more accommodation ideas or check the the official British Columbia travel site here.
Motorhome Park – Crystal Cove Beach Resort offers an RV Park, Glamping and Cabins. This resort is located next to Ocean Village Resort listed below.
Camping – The Long Beach Unit of Green Point Campground in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve has 94 camp spots. Parks Canada also offers an oTENTik. The A-frame cabin blends a cabin/tent camping experience. Each cabin sleeps 6. These sites are located between Ucluelet and Tofino, 12 km north of the Highway 4 junction.