A Travellerspoint blog

Western Canada - Part 4 - Vancouver Island - September 2017

Vancouver – Campbell River – Port Hardy – Port Renfrew – Sooke – Nanaimo - Vancouver

sunny 30 °C

Our last leg of the Western Canada adventure started at Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal. There we boarded (car and all) the Coastal Renaissance for the short sail over to Vancouver Island. Ferry terminals in general, are not very attractive places, but Horseshoe Bay is an exception. It is more like a small beach resort with a marina than a commercial port. The weather for the sailing was fantastic, clear blue skies, bright sunshine and almost no wind, which meant we spent the whole journey out on deck.


Our first base on Vancouver Island was at Campbell River, a small town in the North Central region. Our two days there were spent hiking and using the good Wi-Fi to do a bit of admin. We visited Elk Falls Provincial Park, which was right on our doorstep and ventured further afield to the Strathcona Provincial Park and Gold River on our second day.


From Campbell River we travelled to the top of the island, to the town of Port Hardy. On route we called into Telegraph Cove, a small village located in a tiny cove and was once a fishing and cannery community. Today it survives on eco-tourism. We had been here before, some 12 years ago, and were keen to revisit. Many of the buildings in the village date back to the 19th and early 20th century, this gives it its charm. Unfortunately, since our last visit this has been diluted by development in the area and an RV park. Well I suppose that’s progress; it was still a nice place to visit.


Port Hardy is the most northerly town on Vancouver Island, and the gateway to the inner passage (a navigable route through a group of islands that stretch up the north American coast to Alaska). It’s quite an attractive town with lots of small coves all around it. One of those coves, Storey Beach, was recommended to us for a visit, which we duly did.
Storey Beach is the waterfront for the small hamlet of Fort Rupert, once a Hudson Bay Company fort, and now the home to a small Kwakiutl first nation community. The area is adorned, with beautiful Totem Poles and other traditional artwork, and most of the graves in the cemetery have Eagle carvings on top them. The area is popular with Bald Eagles, and we were fortunate to see several on the beach scraping over a Salmon carcass.


On our second day we travelled a bit further afield and visited the Marble River Provincial Park. We hiked along the River Trail as far as Bear Falls, a spot where Black Bears hunt Salmon, but it was still a bit too early in the season, so no action on our visit. We did see a couple of nice Bald Eagles though, and a Green Frog on a bridge walkway.


Our last day in Port Hardy was spent on the beach, just a stones through from our apartment. It was very tranquil and relaxing to stroll along the beach, watching Bald Eagles sore above our heads, Ravens fighting over a fish and a Blue Heron hunting in a small lagoon.
All good things must come to an end though, and it was time for us to head south to our next destination of Port Renfrew. But Port Hardy had left a lasting memory on us, for its exceptionally friendly residents and its sense of remoteness.


Port Renfrew is almost at the other end of Vancouver Island and full day’s drive. We were particularly excited about this section of our Vancouver Island discovery, as we were to hook up with our very good friends Dave and Susan. We had arranged to meet them at our accommodation in Port Renfrew, but we didn’t have to wait that long, as we bumped into them on the Pacific Marine Road just outside of Port Renfrew. Dave and Susan were staying with us for the weekend and we had lots of things planned for Saturday and Sunday.


Unfortunately, Saturday’s weather restricted these somewhat. It tipped down almost all day, but we still had a great time watching DVD’s, chilling out and catching up. However, we did manage a short walk on China Beach in the early evening, before a great pizza in the coastal hamlet of Shirley.


Sunday dawned with bright sunshine so we were up and out in no time. Destination Botanical Beach, just a few kilometres outside Port Renfrew. With the tide out this is rock pool heaven, and as all of us liked scrambling across rocks and peering into these miniature oceans, we were in our element. After a good hour of enjoyment we decided to retreat back to the beach as the tide was coming in.


However, just as we made that decision, our route needed to be changed. Coming our way was a Black Bear mum and her cub. So we changed our route, to avoid a confrontation, and retreated to a safe place to watch mum teach her youngster how to find food in rock pools. An incredible sighting and our first bear cub on this trip.


Dave and Susan departed for Nanaimo on Sunday afternoon (but we were to see them again on Wednesday) and we moved down the coast to Sooke on Monday.

On the way to Sooke we stopped for a hike to Mystic Beach. The beach is famous for its waterfall, which tumbles out of the forest onto the pebbled beach below. Unfortunately, due to the lack of rain, it was more of a dripping tap than a waterfall, but the forest walk was nice.


Sooke is a small town close to Vancouver Island and British Columbia’s capital, Victoria. Not so picturesque as Port Renfrew, but an ideal spot to explore the islands most southerly section.
With our good friend and guide for the day, Sue, we set about seeing what we could in the short time we had in the area. The day started with a beautiful hike in the East Sooke Regional Park. The Aylard Farm trail took us through forests, down onto secluded beaches, then up to a rock outcrop (Beechey Head) with views across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the USA coast beyond. We were also fortunate enough to see both Harbour Seals and Californian Sea Lions in the shallow waters along our route.


Then, following a few hours rest and a clean up, we headed into Victoria to continue our tour. It was a lovely bright and warm early evening, which was ideal to see what downtown Victoria (James Bay area) had to offer. A great day then ended with a pub meal and watching the sun go down over the Strait of Juan de Fuca, thanks Sue.


It was then time to head back north to Dave and Susan’s, who had very kindly offered to let us stay at theirs for our last few nights on the island. We had plenty of time for our journey from Sooke to Nanaimo, so did a bit of sightseeing on route. First stop was the Sooke Boardwalk, which offered stunning views out into the Sooke Inlet. It was then a return visit to Port Renfrew’s Botanical Beach for more rock scrambling, no bears this time though. Then the final leg, with brief stops at Honeymoon Bay and Lake Cowichan, both attractive places and deserving of a bit more time on another occasion.


For our stay with Dave and Susan, our aim was to socialise with them as much as possible. Being the middle of the week, it meant they had to work during the day, so we made the most of the evenings. During the day we were happy to chill out and catch up on admin jobs.
The night we arrived we had a BBQ and watched a movie at their place, plus a glass or three, but on the second and third nights we all went out
On the second night they took us to a Folk music gig. What, I hear you say, Malc listening to anything other than metal. Well I do admit this did take me out of my comfort zone, but I am open to new experiences. The venue was in Nanaimo at the White Room. Dave being a bit of a music celeb in town, he was able to introduce us to everyone from the promoters to all the band members, which made the event feel very intimate. The venue was quite small as was the crowd, which made the whole evening feel more like a party with friends than a music gig. The support band was a local duo, Ben and Dave; in fact Ben lives in the same street as Dave and Susan. Ben was on banjo and vocals, and Dave a strange instrument called a Steel Pedal Guitar. They were a good opening act, but I am not sure I can appreciate the sound of the Steel Pedal Guitar. They were followed by the main act of the evening, the Jenny Ritter Trio. Jenny was on Banjo, Guitar and vocals; joined by Adam on Violin (Fiddle), Guitar and vocals plus Ryan on lead Guitar. And they surpassed my expectations by some considerable margin. Excellent musicians, especially Adam, and great songs, all written by Jenny. All in all a very enjoyable evening. If anyone reading this would like to have a similar experience, check out www.jennyritter.com.


For our third night we all went to an Ice Hockey match, a first for me. It was the local side, the Nanaimo Clippers against the Powell River Kings. This was a British Columbia Hockey League match, at the Frank Crane Arena in Nanaimo. For the first two periods there wasn’t much between the two teams, but in the third the clippers collapsed and lost 9-1. Not the result we were hoping for, but a nice evening anyway. It was then back to Dave and Susan’s for a movie, a few drinks and general merriment.


The following morning we bid our farewells to Dave and Susan, took a ferry to Vancouver and flight back to the UK. And that finished an incredible Western Canada adventure.

Personal Observations

Vancouver Island has the greatest density of Black Bears in Canada. However, they are less frequently sighted than in other parts of the country. The reason for this, is most of the island is uninhabited and difficult to access, and that’s where most of them live. So we were very lucky to see a mum and cub on the beach, in Port Renfrew.
Little known fact on bears, unlike the majority of mammals they can see in colours just like human.

We noted that when buying spirits in Canada, the bottle sizes were different to most of the rest of the world. Generally, you see a medium bottle at 70ml and a standard bottle at 1l. But not in Canada, a medium is 75ml and a standard 1.14l.
The reason for this is, although the metric system has been in place for many years, the bottle capacity is based on the old English system of quarts. This has then been converted to ounces, but because the imperial and American ounces differ, so does the bottle capacity.

Posted by MAd4travel 11:46 Archived in Canada

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents

Be the first to comment on this entry.

This blog requires you to be a logged in member of Travellerspoint to place comments.