Begin your journey in Victoria, BC’s capital city, with a tour of the Parliament Buildings. Sheltered from the ocean, this seaside destination boasts a mild climate with lush, green vegetation inviting residents and visitors alike to explore its many beaches and parks.
There are city bus tours or horse-drawn carriages readily available, as well as new and historic shopping districts featuring antiques, arts and crafts, art galleries, malls and markets. Treat yourself to high tea at the ivy-covered Fairmont Empress hotel, built in 1908. Or visit the Maritime Museum of BC, where 5,000 nautical artifacts and interactive displays relate BC’s nautical history.
Head north via Highway 1, and then travel west along Highway 14 to Sooke. Choose one of many bed and breakfasts to tuck into for the night. En route, make time to stop at East Sooke Regional Park for bird watching. The park also has a network of hiking trails to explore.
Nearby at Sooke Potholes Provincial Park, explore the geological marvels carved deep in the sandstone bedrock from the last ice age. Hikes and walks abound and offer views of the jagged coastline and inspiring vistas of Juan de Fuca Strait and the Olympic Mountains. Fishing enthusiasts can enjoy catch and release fishing along the Sooke River, an important spawning river for coho and chinook salmon. The park is an ideal place to watch the annual salmon spawning run. Visit the Sooke Region Museum and plan to dine at Sooke Harbour House – an award-winning west coast restaurant that only uses local ingredients.
Continue to Port Renfrew, home of both the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail and the historic West Coast Trail.
Between Jordan River and Port Renfrew, signs will guide you to campgrounds and the entry points for hikes along the 47-km/29-mi Juan de Fuca Marine Trail – good for day hikers and overnight trekkers alike. For those who prefer fishing, Port Renfrew is an ideal base to book a trip for salt or freshwater trips, available year round.
Drive from Port Renfrew to the quaint community of Lake Cowichan.
Along Cowichan Lake, Vancouver Island’s second largest lake, campgrounds dot the shoreline. Take a dip in the water, explore the lake by boat or canoe, or cast out a fishing line. There are several hiking trails in the area, including a one-hour loop covering both sides of the Cowichan River in Cowichan River Provincial Park. Take in spectacular views of the canyons and gorges in BC’s temperate rainforest from the restored 66-Mile and Holt Creek railway trestles on the TransCanada Trail.
Travel southeast to the city of Duncan, where there is a self-guided walking tour of the magnificent Aboriginal carvings located in the community.
In Duncan, take a “Totem Tour” and visit the traditional buildings at the Quw’utsun’ Cultural Centre where carvers practice their trade. Duncan is also home to the BC Forest Discovery Centre, which showcases BC’s logging and steam-related history through interactive exhibits and live eco-systems displays. Take a relaxing train ride on a historic locomotive as it winds its way over a wooden trestle and around the museum grounds.
Enjoy the fruits of the Cowichan at many wineries. Spend an afternoon sampling various wines in tasting rooms and shops, or take a guided tour of the wine making facilities and vineyards. Head south on Highway 1 into the South Cowichan communities of Cobble Hill – home of BC’s first cidery – and then to Mill Bay.
From the South Cowichan, you may want to stop at Bamberton and Goldstream provincial parks before continuing south to Victoria on Highway 1. This scenic stretch of highway is also known as Malahat Drive.
Alternatively, board a BC Ferries vessel at Mill Bay to Brentwood Bay. This 25-minute ride, dubbed “Vancouver Island’s most beautiful shortcut,” lets you complete your holiday with a visit to the famous Butchart Gardens, located in Brentwood Bay, before heading south on Highway 17 to Victoria.
(Note: Map shows the Mill Bay ferry option back to Victoria.)