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 road trip to Vancouver Island 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.
Scenic road trip Victoria to Pacific Rim National Park
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.
If you are planning a trip to explore some of the most incredible spots in BC, don’t miss our suggestions for experiences to last a lifetime.
Road constructions and delays continue on the route from Port Alberni to Tofino. At the moment, the road is closed in both directions 1 1/2 hours from Port Alberni heading westbound, and 45 mins from Tofino heading east, Monday to Friday from 5 am – 7 am and 11 am – 3 pm. On weekends and other times top of the hour releases. Check here for updates.
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.
Top things to do from Victoria to Pacific Rim National Park stop for the spectacular views from the Malahat Drive Summit.
Don’t miss the stunning 360-degree views from the top of the 250 m (820 ft) high Malahat Skywalk tower.
The skywalk opened on July 15, 2021 and is Vancouver Island’s newest outdoor adventure.
Stunning views from the Malahat Skywalk. Photo: Hamish Hamilton
You are now in the Cowichan Valley region. The climate here provides the warmest year-round temperatures in Canada.
The Cowichan area 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.
Top things to do from Victoria to Pacific Rim National Park stop for cultural experience – Cowichan Tribal Journey celebration. Photo Credit: Indigenous Tourism Association of BC
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.
Viewing the wall murals in Chemainus. Photo Credit: Tourism Vancouver Island/Ben Giesbrecht
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 the beach festival has been cancelled due to COVID-19. Find out more about the beach festival for another year.
Stop to play mini golf at Paradise Fun Park. It is open rain or shine and has COVID-19 safety measures in place.
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.
Top things to do in Parksville. Photo Credit: Destination BC/Graeme Owsianski
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cathedral Grove, MacMillan Provincial Park opened July 1, 2021. To reduce the spread of COVID-19, a one-way trail network is in place and it is recommended a mask be worn.
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.
Hiking trails through Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island. Destination Canada/Brian Caissie
Top things to do on Vancouver Island Cathedral Grove Trails. Photo Credit: Destination BC/Graeme Owsianski
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.
One of the top things to do on Vancouver Island is visit the wild west coast of Vancouver Island. This is an aerial view of Long Beach in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve near Tofino. Photo Credit Destination British Columbia
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.
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.