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Three orcas swim close together with their dorsal fins high out of the water with a mountain backdrop

Rainforest to Rockies: Trans-Canada Highway 1 to Mile 0 on Vancouver Island

4 to 6 Days, 165 km (102.53 mi)

Embrace coastal communities and oceanside adventures as you journey from Nanaimo to Victoria, the capital city of BC, on a side trip along Highway 1 to Mile 0.

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To get the most out of your Rainforest to Rockies journey, consider extending your trip to experience Mile 0 of Trans-Canada Highway 1 by taking a ferry to Vancouver Island, rejoining the Trans-Canada Highway 1 in Nanaimo, and then travelling south to the province’s capital city, Victoria, the home of Mile 0.

Part 1

Vancouver to Nanaimo

Skyride Surf Adventure gondola at Grouse Mountain | Destination Vancouver/Devin Manky

Vancouver’s unique location offers a reminder of how close both the Pacific Ocean and the mountains are. Spend happy hour at a beachside restaurant, an afternoon on an Indigenous cultural canoe trip up Indian Arm with Takaya Tours, or take a gondola ride up Grouse Mountain for spectacular views of the city, the Pacific Ocean, and the Gulf Islands beyond. Walk or cycle around Stanley Park’s 400-hectare rainforests and the Seawall surrounding it, and explore temperate rainforest trails.

Your journey to Mile 0 starts by heading west on Trans-Canada Highway 1 to BC Ferries’ Horseshoe Bay terminal, where sailings depart regularly to Nanaimo. The ferry route is considered part of Highway 1, and on Vancouver Island continues south from Nanaimo to Victoria.

Part 2

Nanaimo

Chateau Wolff Estate Winery and Vineyard | Jonah Ferguson

A visit to the harbourfront city of Nanaimo helps ease you into Island life. Start with a leisurely coffee accompanied by a Nanaimo bar (a sugary chocolate-and-custard treat that originated here) while you watch seaplanes land in the harbour. Wander the city to meet artisans and visit local shops, or explore the forest-covered islands off the coast. Take a tiny passenger ferry to Saysutshun (also known as Newcastle Island), rent kayaks, swim, and learn more about why the island is so special to the local Snuneymuxw People. Another outdoor option is Petroglyph Provincial Park, just south of Nanaimo, home to First Nations carvings dating back more than 1,000 years.

Part 3

Nanaimo to Cowichan Bay

Cowichan Bay | Andrea Johnson

While it’s only an hour-long drive between Nanaimo and Cowichan Bay, stopping at the charming seaside towns and thriving artist communities en route can quickly fill an entire day. Window shop Ladysmith’s historic First Avenue, admire murals in Chemainus, and explore Duncan’s Indigenous art galleries and the 44 hand-carved totem poles throughout the city. 

The area around Cowichan Bay and Cobble Hill is Vancouver Island’s prime wine-growing region, and you can pair perfect sips from small wineries, cideries, and distilleries with local oysters and mussels.

Part 4

Cowichan Bay to Victoria

Kinsol Trestle in the Cowichan Valley | Reuben Krabbe

The postcard-worthy views of the Strait of Georgia make the journey between Cowichan Bay and Victoria particularly noteworthy. A highlight for many is driving the scenic stretch of road between Mill Bay and Goldstream—known as the Malahat Drive—that winds sharply as it climbs steeply to sweeping views over inlets, bays, the Southern Gulf Islands, and the mountains closer to Vancouver. 

The vintage timber rail trestle, Kinsol Trestle, is part of the Cowichan Valley Trail and a popular spot for hikers and cyclists. Trek through temperate rainforests among 600-year-old trees, streams, and waterfalls at Goldstream Provincial Park, or take the spiral ramp tower that reaches 250 metres above sea level for amazing views of the coastline and forest at the Malahat SkyWalk. Located on the territory of the Malahat Nation, the SkyWalk was created to inspire a deeper connection to nature. It features driftwood sculptures and local Indigenous and interpretive stories.

Part 5

Victoria

Victoria | Reuben Krabbe

Victoria is BC’s capital, with Mile 0 of the Trans-Canada Highway 1 sitting on the waterfront at Beacon Hill Park. While many cite the city’s British feelfrom the grand parliament buildings and afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress hotel to the 55 acres of manicured blooms at The Butchart Gardens and the Victorian storefronts and pubs that line Government StreetVictoria is so much more.

The city’s charming Chinatown is Canada’s oldest, with narrow alleys made for exploring. Delve into the province’s culturally diverse history at the Royal BC Museum, including spectacular exhibitions highlighting the Indigenous Peoples who live in the province. A drive or cycle around the city takes in beachfront neighbourhoods, while whale-watching trips from Victoria’s photogenic Inner Harbour may bring you closer to orca, humpback, grey, and minke whales. 

With a quick ferry ride back to Vancouver via Swartz Bay (30 minutes north of Victoria along Highway 17), this extension is an easy way to experience the coast before or after you head off on your Rainforest to Rockies adventure. 

Please note: Remember to check for access information and note which parks or areas require advance booking or have other unique conditions.

 

Header image: Three orcas with a mountain backdrop | Reuben Krabbe

Driving Directions

Part 1 - Vancouver
  • 6.25 km
  • 12 min
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