Chuck and I celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary this year with another anniversary roadtrip, this time to Vancouver Island, BC. Although I can literally see the Island from our house, this would be my first trip (Chuck’s second). After researching various Island “must-sees,” we visited the following spots over the course of our week-long adventure:
Bellingham -> Victoria -> Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park -> Tofino -> Pacific Rim National Park Reserve -> Strathcona Provincial Park
With traveling in the Pacific Northwest in the spring and the high probability that it would rain for some, if not most, of our trip, we decided to borrow Chuck’s Grandma’s VW Westfalia camper to make our camp time a little more comfortable. It was awesome – I loved the extra space and the pop-top tent – but disliked the lack of a functioning radio/stereo (my iPhone and a small Bluetooth speaker provided roadtrip music for this adventure).
This was my first trip out-of-town since my Dad passed away two months earlier and it was really therapeutic – it’s no secret that I love to travel and it felt good to step outside of my daily life routine and focus on the new things we were seeing. Not that he wasn’t on my mind each day – as a lover of nature and an enthusiastic admirer of anything scenic, he would have really appreciated all of the beauty we saw, which encouraged me to focus on really, truly enjoying each moment.
Love the festive ferry name; Ferry selfie; Ferry-induced seafoam
All aboard the Vancouver (Tsawwassen) to Victoria (Swartz Bay) ferry – a very scenic 1 1⁄2 hour jaunt through the Southern Gulf Islands.
Grey sea and sky
After disembarking the ferry, we drove into BC’s beautiful provincial capital city – Victoria. We fueled up with $6 Tiki Tuesday drinks, tacos and burgers at North 48, then checked out the impressive Parliament Buildings and various other historic landmarks around the Inner Harbour.
We also perused several quaint shops downtown; I bought a Cowichan-knitted wool toque and a few locally-designed silver rings at Tonic Jewelry.
Parliament Buildings; World traveler Captain Cook; Canadian chocolate expressions; WWI and WWII memorial statue
Impressive totem poles at Thunderbird Park
Sunlit Garry oak trees in Beacon Hill Park
After a full day of walking around town (my iPhone Health app tracked us at over 10 miles), we watched the “America Wild – National Parks Adventure” IMAX movie at the Royal BC Museum and had a fantastic dinner at farm-to-fork restaurant 10 Acres Bistro.
The following morning, we picked up coffee at Murchies Tea and Coffee and headed to The Butchart Gardens. Being that it was listed as the tourist attraction in Victoria, I thought it best not to miss it. Surprisingly, Chuck didn’t bat an eye when I suggested spending an afternoon there – granted, as a lot of you know, he does like his plants and herbs (ha!).
What a beautiful place! It’s amazingly maintained – nary a weed in sight – and we both thoroughly enjoyed walking through the various garden displays. It was also great people-watching – many of the fellow garden-goer’s comments regarding various garden delights reminded me a lot of my dear Grandma, bringing up wonderfully nostalgic memories.
Adorable moss-covered squirrel; Ross Fountain
Bird totem; Various beauties from the Sunken Garden
My favorites from the Mediterranean Garden
After our stroll through the gorgeous Gardens, we drove north through Duncan and caught a glimpse of the “World’s Largest Hockey Stick and Puck.”
In Cowichan Bay, we popped into a few cute shops along the waterfont and stopped for grilled cheese and fish tacos at Get Phil’d Up. After lunch, we continued north into Parksville to secure a camping site in Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park, located along the Strait of Georgia.
After a stroll around the park, we picked up A&W – another nod to my Dad for his love of the Teen Burger – and had a picnic dinner on the beach. Then Chuck showed off his baseball skills…
Stick and rock baseball
Me, my new toque, and Chuck; Driftwood flower; Chuck counting the rings.
We wandered along the beach the next morning, then drove the Pacific Rim Highway to Tofino, stopping at Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park to hike along the gorgeous waterfalls.
We took a walk among the hanging moss in Cathedral Grove, then stopped at Kennedy River to stretch our legs and found these neat Love Locks fastened to the chain link fence.
After a long, windy drive to the coast, we reached the cute surf town of Tofino and checked in to the beautiful Red Crow Guest House for our anniversary stay. After unpacking, we walked into downtown Tofino to explore the waterfront, shops, and restaurants.
Shoes on wires at Tofino’s Tuff City Skatepark
After dinner at Shelter, we went to watch the sunset at windy Chesterman Beach.
The following morning, we picked up Rhino coffee and drove south to Ucluelet to explore the Wild Pacific Trail. This scenic walk was paired with low chant-like sounds of the whistle buoy, which is activated by the waves. I’m excited to storm-watch here at some point in the future…
Coolest sign ever; Mossy sunlight; Lighthouse sign; Amphitrite Lighthouse
Look closely to the right to see a glimpse of a grey whale breaching!
Prayer flag vista; South Park school sign in Ucluelet
After our Wild Pacific Trail walk, we hiked through old growth trees to sandy Half Moon Bay.
On our dive back to Tofino, we stopped at Long Beach to watch the surf and (blowing) sand.
Next up, our annual anniversary self-timer (with remote).
Then, relaxing on the deck of our guesthouse.
Maple bacon doughnut; Chuck learning; The only bear we saw on our trip; Scenic rocky beach in front of our guesthouse
We finished the afternoon with a romantic canoe ride along the Tofino inlet.
After our anniversary paddle around the inlet, we had a wonderful dinner at Wolf in the Fog, sharing the Block Party plate which consisted of pickled watermelon salad, fried chicken, pulled pork, ribs, and the best cornbread ever.
Then the rain came… we had really lucked out on the weather thus far but it wouldn’t have felt quite right to not have any rain over the course of our PNW trip. Plus, it was really soothing to take a dip in the guesthouse hot tub amongst the rain (SNL Will Ferrell hot tub skit-imitation ensues).
The misty rain continued through the next day and we headed east towards Strathcona Provincial Park, picking up provisions at Save-on-Foods in Campbell River, then stopping for a quick hike to Elk Falls.
To our pleasant surprise, Strathcona Provincial Park was nearly empty – hardly a car in sight – so we had our choice of camp sites at Ralph River campground along Buttle Lake.
Buttle Lake; Wetland walkers
After talking to the camp hosts, we decided on Flower Ridge for our hike the following day.
It was a steep uphill trek for over 3 hours – then we hit the snowline. Luckily, we met two hikers on their way down so we were able to retrace their snowy steps to reach pretty viewpoints of the surrounding areas.
Camo hard at work
Views amongst snow
On our final island day, we took the short hike to beautiful Lower Myra Falls.
One of the many pictures of Chuck looking on…
With that, we had to pack up and head home via the Nanaimo ferry, leaving with wonderful memories of PNW island life.
I’m so grateful to have spent 7 happy years with this guy – cheers to many more adventures!
If you’d like to reminisce about our previous years anniversary adventures, here are the links: Kaua’i’s Kalalau Trail, the Oregon Coast/Crater Lake, Banff/Jasper, and Glacier National Park.
Some images for purchase here.