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11 BC Coastal Towns to Visit This Fall

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Autumn surfing at Cox Bay in Tofino
Cox Bay in Tofino | Brian Caissie

The last year and a half has left us all with a pent-up wanderlust; we long to explore again, to reconnect with the special people in our lives, and to rekindle our sense of wonder. And if salt water is the perfect salve for most things—whether it comes from tears, sweat, or the sea—let the cool Pacific Ocean wash your worries away when you visit one of BC’s coastal cities or seaside towns this fall.

Choose an adventure that speaks to you: A peaceful hideaway, a sporty activity, cheerful libations, or the simplicity of being present in nature. You’ll surely satisfy your appetite to explore, whether you escape for the weekend or embark upon the road trip of a lifetime.

​​Note: This story (originally published in 2020) was updated specifically for the unique travel circumstances of 2021. Information is accurate at the time of publication; we recommend you contact businesses directly to confirm availability and familiarize yourself with their COVID policies.

Fisherman's Wharf in Victoria| Jordan Dyck

Victoria

This fall, rediscover BC’s beloved capital city. From its historic architecture to its youthful energy, Victoria makes for a fun and relaxing coastal city escape. Book a hotel in the heart of downtown Victoria, where you’ll be within walking distance of eclectic markets, boutiques, and galleries. Take a guided walking or bike tour to discover hidden gems and fascinating tales from the past, or experience Indigenous culture and and the popular orca exhibit at the Royal BC Museum.

The vibrant dining scene is brimming with eateries serving West Coast fare and farm-to-table menus. As the home to Canada’s first brewpub, Victoria is also deemed the “cradle of craft beer revolution” and has been brewing it since 1858. There are plenty of innovative breweries to explore along the Victoria Ale Trail. Try Whistle Buoy Brewing in Market Square, which recently released a first-of-its-kind crypto-beer (purchased via non-fungible tokens or NFTs).

Drive 45 minutes northeast of Victoria to the Cowichan Valley, where you can sample wines in BC’s newest official wine region. Saanich (just a 20-minute drive from the city) is another daytime excursion, where you can enjoy radiant fall gardens at The Butchart Gardens and visit Sea Cider Farm and Ciderhouse. Stay in the heart of the action at the Parkside Hotel or book a rejuvenating getaway at Oak Bay Beach Hotel, located just outside the city.

Nanaimo

Take a mini road trip to this classic maritime city for mountain biking, craft beer and wine tasting, island hopping, and forest bathing. Nanaimo, fringed by the Salish Sea (Strait of Georgia) and temperate rainforests, is where the adventurous come to play: Go bungee jumping and ziplining at Wildpay Element Parkhike to a breathtaking waterfall, or go for a paddle. Saysutshun/Newcastle Island Provincial Park, just a 15-minute ferry ride away, offers a fascinating glimpse into the living culture of the Snuneymuxw people. Meanwhile, artsy Gabriola Island, with its beautiful beaches, sandstone rocks, and abundance of farm-fresh food, is an adventure-seekers’ haven. After a day of play, settle in for a pint at one of Nanaimo’s four breweries. Wine-lovers might be enticed to visit the two local vineyards: Chateau Wolff Estate, located on the slopes beneath Mount Benson, and Millstone Estate Winery, which boasts a sunny patio. Get a feel for the city’s maritime roots by staying on the harbour at the Coast Bastion Hotel, located near the bustling Old City Quarter. And, if you have a sweet tooth, quash your cravings with the Nanaimo Bar tasting trail or Not Brothers Co. ice cream. Get more inspiration for a three-day getaway to Nanaimo. 

Views just outside the Beach Club Resort | @glamouraspirit_

Parksville

You might have driven through Parksville on a Vancouver Island road trip before, but have you stopped to explore? This is the land of fresh seafood, goats on the roof, and quaint shops. Parksville is made for R&R, so book a relaxing seaside escape, complete with beach walks, culinary treats, and pampering. The stunning Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort, with its oceanfront views and Grotto Spa, is a spectacular setting for a spa-cation (tip: dine in your spa robe with views of the rainforest at the Treetop Tapas Grill).

The Parksville and Qualicum Beach coastline is dotted with provincial parks and wildlife reserves beckoning to be explored. Head for a casual hike through old-growth forest in Englishman River Falls Provincial Park, or hike the historic Arrowsmith CPR Regional Trail, which offers views of the Island. If you’re craving tranquility, grab a Devon Cream scone and tea to-go from the Camellia Tea Room and stroll through the autumnal gardens of Milner Gardens and Woodland.

Wind down with a lazy afternoon sampling food and craft beverages from the area. Grab a pizza and a pint at Mount Arrowsmith Brewing or sample a tasty Kolsch at Loveshack Libations, a nano brewery in nearby Qualicum Beach. The town also boasts two distilleries and a host of other restaurants, lounges, and pubs (and yes, there are plenty of oysters on the menu). Start planning your stay.

Comox

There’s something about Comox that makes for a fulfilling road-trip getaway. Maybe it’s the quaint, beachy high street that’s dotted with little boutiques, java joints, and a bike shop. Perhaps it’s the expansive ocean views seen from Goose Spit or the rolling farmland of the Comox Valley, with its farm-fresh produce, artisan provisions, and dock-to-dish dining options. The area boasts a handful of breweries, four wineries, and two distilleries, including Wayward Distillery (which makes honey-based spirits). Foodie-minded neighbour Courtenay is home to Locals Restaurant, an essential stop if you want to sample the best of Vancouver Island producers. Nearby Cumberland adds a historic and adventurous flavour to the valley, with heritage buildings, tasty local eateries, and an extensive mountain biking trail network (tip: take a guided tour). If you’re looking for waterfront luxury, try the Kingfisher Oceanside Resort and Spa, where you can slurp oysters, soak up ocean views, and rejuvenate in the spa. It’s hard to pick just one favourite town, so why not try all three? There are plenty of accommodation options throughout the Comox Valley.

Campbell River

Venture farther up-Island with a trip to Campbell River, an oceanside community that’s deeply connected to its tidal waters and Indigenous roots. Sample an abundance of freshly harvested seafood, direct from the ocean to your plate: Dockside fish and chips, Dungeness crab, oysters, fresh-caught salmon—you name it. As the Salmon Capital of the World, Campbell River is the perfect place to take a guided fishing tour. (Your fresh catch will pair well with local libations.) Swing by Beach Fire Brewing and Nosh House (the last stop on the Vancouver Island Ale Trail) to sample a flight and Salt Spring mussels. You can also sip your way through two distilleries, and nearby vineyards—Coastal Black Estate Winery and Cidery is nestled at the base of Mount Washington, south of Campbell River. Besides from food and drink, there’s plenty to do: Visit Elk Falls Provincial Park; buy hand-crafted art and provisions from local shops; or take the 10-minute BC Ferries ride to neighbouring Quadra Island. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for an unforgettable wildlife-viewing experience, Klahoose Coastal Adventures offers Grizzly Bear viewing tours now through October (book a day trip or stay in their new wilderness resort). There are plenty of other great Campbell River hotels, bed and breakfasts, and campsites to choose from.

San Josef Bay in Cape Scott Provincial Park | Shayd Johnson

Port Hardy

Port Hardy—a town on the edge of Northern Vancouver Island’s wild and ragged coastline—will undoubtedly calm your busy mind and unleash your adventurous spirit. Part of road tripping fun is the journey itself, so why not take the scenic route?

Drive along Highway 19 to the historic boardwalk community of Telegraph Cove, a prime spot for whale watching, kayaking, and bear viewing. Continue westward to Port McNeill, where you can book a wildlife- and bear-viewing journey to the Great Bear Rainforest with Indigenous-owned Seawolf Adventures. Be sure to visit the new Devil’s Bath Brewing Co. for a pint while you’re in town. Once in Port Hardy, stay in Kwa’lilas Hotel, owned by the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw people, where you can view intricate Indigenous art and savour Gwi’ Gwi’ Oysters or a smoke platter at the nax’id’ Pub.

Immerse yourself in the natural wilds of Port Hardy by land, sea, and air: visit Cape Scott Provincial Park to explore windswept beaches and remote wilderness; head for a paddle or surf; and go sightseeing by helicopter or floatplane (weather permitting). If time allows, take a day trip to Port Alice, where you can grab a coffee at the new Foggy Mountain Coffee Company and look out over Neroutsos Inlet. Start planning a memorable and adventurous visit to Port Hardy.

Tofino

Tofino—with its expansive beaches, thriving food and drink scene, and surf shops—makes for a fall escape filled with adventurous days, cozy nights, and plenty of fun. With the bustling energy and hot days of summer in the rearview mirror, the relaxed coastal town becomes a home base for watching powerful Pacific storms that hammer Vancouver Island’s wild West Coast come fall. Don your wet weather gear and hit the beach to stormwatch (at a safe distance, of course)—you may just spot local pro surfers catching a wave or two. Take a surf lesson yourself (it’s warmer than you think) or head out for a rainforest hike, then, swap adventure tales over a small-batch brew at Tofino Brewing. Cross the street to sample Tofino Craft Distillery’s line up of intriguing Certified Organic spirits—Old Growth Cedar Gin and Jellyfish Absinthe, to name a few. Release your inner child with a stay at the new kid in town, Hotel Zed, which boasts psychedelic decor, a live-fire restaurant, and whimsical amenities (think: hidden arcade, mini disco, and a bike path that runs through the lobby). If you’re looking for a quieter atmosphere, consider The Shoreline, a boutique property with strong cabin vibes, or the Wickaninnish Inn, which is nestled in the rainforest overlooking the sea. Book a fall stay and let the Pacific Ocean do the rest.

Ucluelet

Ucluelet might be a remote and laid-back fishing village with coastal charm, but it presents its own dynamic mix of outdoor fun and culinary exploits. The sleepy town has an unassuming-yet-burgeoning culinary scene that serves up fresh seafood and Vancouver Island ingredients. In recent years, several new food trucks have opened their (van) doors—the “bacos” (a.k.a. bao tacos) at West Coast Salty Buns and the fresh oysters at Ravenlady Oyster Forte are ever-popular. Pluvio restaurant offers an elevated menu created from fresh, local ingredients (try the chef’s tasting menu with wine pairings for the full experience). Ucluelet Brewing, which opened in 2020, brews up an eclectic variety of IPAs, saisons, sours, and even a porter. Craft beverage brethren Pacific Rim Distilling harvests wild yeast from Barkley Sound to make its signature small-batch Humpback Vodka, a family recipe that dates back to the pre-Prohibition era. If you’re in search of Ucluelet’s rugged side, the Wild Pacific Trail offers peek-a-boo views of untouched inlets and archipelagos, with the crown jewel being Amphitrite Point Lighthouse (a great place for stormwatching). Take to the water with a guided kayak tour on the quieter harbour side of town (weather dependent), or sign up for a surf lesson. While its roots are firmly planted in the fishing industry, Ucluelet is also a place for luxury—take, for instance, Black Rock Oceanfront Resort, perched on a rocky point overlooking the vast coastline. There are plenty more accommodation options for a tranquil stay.

Gibsons Marina | @folkfotos

Gibsons

The town of Gibsons may have been an idyllic coastal backdrop for the popular TV show The Beachcombers, but it’s even more charming in real life. Just minutes from the BC Ferries Langdale terminal, Gibsons is a gateway to exploring the southern Sunshine Coast, with its parks, beaches, and hidden gems. Foodies will delight in the countless restaurants and eateries sprinkled throughout the picturesque seaside town, with a focus on global flavours, fresh seafood, and local ingredients (plus: there’s great coffee, beer, and donuts).

Start by sipping your way through the three local breweries (the pleasant farm setting at Persephone Brewing Co. is a must). Visit newly opened Banditry Cider, whose name is inspired by the “bandit” orchard birds that keep the pests away. Procure picnic items at Gibsons Public Market: Artisan cheeses, locally-cured meats, fresh-baked bread, and chocolate (of course). Visit the village of Roberts Creek, just 15 minutes up the highway, an artists haven with a scenic waterfront pier and historic general store (on your way, be sure to pop into Sunday Cider and Bruinwood Estate Distillery for a tasting).

From here, you can explore Roberts Creek Provincial Park, go mountain biking, hike to waterfalls, and visit secret beaches. With waterfront views and an on-site restaurant at Bonniebrook Lodge, you may just never want to leave. Plan your autumn stay in Gibsons.

Sechelt

Just 30 minutes from the BC Ferries Langdale terminal, Sechelt is a launchpad for outdoor play, cultural experiences, and great dining. Try El Segundo for bold flavours and tropical tipples or the enticing signature cocktail list at Porch Restaurant in Davis Bay, which offers views of the Salish Sea and eastern shores of Vancouver Island. Sechelt joins its crafty coastal cousins with Batch 44 Brewery and Kitchen, newly minted Twenty-Two Taphouse, and the Bricker Cider Company. Book a tasting tour by bus, or take your experience to new heights with the Flight to Flights Ale and Air tour. On the other side of the peninsula, Sechelt Inlet, home to Porpoise Bay Provincial Park, is prime for a kayak or boat tour in early fall, while neighbouring Coast Gravity Park is a mountain biking paradise. The Sunshine Coast’s diverse and colourful arts community is one of its best-known attributes, so catch the Sunshine Coast Art Crawl October 22-24, 2021. Stay just 10 minutes out of town at the Pointhouse Suites on Sargeant Bay, set on a granite rock face overlooking the ocean. There are a variety of accommodation options in Sechelt, from cabins to resorts and guesthouses.

Bella Coola

Plan a memorable and soul-stirring road trip to the Great Bear Rainforest, with Bella Coola as your doorway to raw, untouched wilderness and breathtaking wildlife encounters. The Bella Coola Valley, with its glacial rivers, jutting fjords, and vast forests, stretches 100 kilometres inland, with temperatures typically remaining mild into the early fall. The vibrant living culture of the Nuxalk people is deeply embedded here, and you can experience it for yourself: View totems, contemporary art, carvings, museums, and heritage landmarks. Visiting in the fall means that you may be lucky enough to witness the salmon spawn or go bear viewing when you stay in a rustic cedar lodge with Bella Coola Grizzly Tours. Get an intimate tour of the coastal waters and witness incredible marine biodiversity with a sailing charter as you glide along ancient coastlines peppered with waterfalls, old-growth forests, and hot springs—wolves, whales, bears, and other wildlife are often seen on the trip. Fly into Bella Coola by airplane or helicopter to get a bird’s-eye view of the lush valley on the way in. If you’re heading there by car, you can take in the dramatic beauty of the coast along the BC Ferries voyage from Port Hardy to Bella Coola (advance booking is required). Alternatively, you can take a longer, scenic road trip on the Mainland by driving into the Bella Coola Valley via Highway 20.

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MENTIONED IN THIS STORY

Spas & Wellness, Hotels, Accessibility

The Parkside Hotel & Spa

The Parkside Hotel & Spa features some of the largest guest rooms in Victoria. Conveniently located two blocks from the world famous Inner...

Phone: (250) 940-1200

View Listing

Hotels

Coast Bastion Hotel

The Coast Bastion Hotel is located in the heart of charming Nanaimo, near the ferry terminal and within walking distance to the seawall walkway,...

Phone: (250) 753-6601

View Listing

Spas & Wellness, Hotels, Resorts & Wilderness Lodges

Kingfisher Oceanside Resort and Spa

Nestled in a coastal forest on the eastern shore of Vancouver Island, the Kingfisher Oceanside Resort and Spa offers breathtaking ocean and...

Phone: (250) 338-1323

View Listing

Hotels

Hotel Zed Tofino

Hotel Zed Tofino is a hotel experience that completely rebels against the ordinary. You may be used to our retro-chic motel feel in our other...

Phone: (250) 725-2323

View Listing

Storm Watching, Hotels, Resorts & Wilderness Lodges, Accessibility

Black Rock Oceanfront Resort

Set in Nature, Designed for Comfort. Vancouver Islands most awe-inspiring oceanfront resort, Black Rock Oceanfront Resort offers a spectacular...

Phone: (866) 762-5011

View Listing

Indigenous Culture, Hotels

Kwa'lilas Hotel

The Kwalilas Hotel (meaning a place to sleep) is a premier First Nations four-star destination hotel located on the North Island. The hotel...

Phone: (250) 949-8525

View Listing

Bed & Breakfasts

The Bonniebrook Lodge

Historic Bonniebrook Lodge since 1912 features 7 luxury suites, comfortably appointed in a contemporary West Coast style. Bonniebrook Lodge is...

Phone: (604) 886-2887

View Listing

Cabins & Cottages

Bella Coola Grizzly Tours Inc.

Private Log Cabins with sundecks and full facilities offer panoramic views of the Bella Coola Valley. Kitchenettes, wireless internet, satellite...

Phone: (250) 982-0098

View Listing

Spas & Wellness, Hotels, Accessibility

The Parkside Hotel & Spa

The Parkside Hotel & Spa features some of the largest guest rooms in Victoria. Conveniently located two blocks from the world famous Inner...

Phone: (250) 940-1200

View Listing

Hotels

Coast Bastion Hotel

The Coast Bastion Hotel is located in the heart of charming Nanaimo, near the ferry terminal and within walking distance to the seawall walkway,...

Phone: (250) 753-6601

View Listing

Spas & Wellness, Hotels, Resorts & Wilderness Lodges

Kingfisher Oceanside Resort and Spa

Nestled in a coastal forest on the eastern shore of Vancouver Island, the Kingfisher Oceanside Resort and Spa offers breathtaking ocean and...

Phone: (250) 338-1323

View Listing

Hotels

Hotel Zed Tofino

Hotel Zed Tofino is a hotel experience that completely rebels against the ordinary. You may be used to our retro-chic motel feel in our other...

Phone: (250) 725-2323

View Listing

Storm Watching, Hotels, Resorts & Wilderness Lodges, Accessibility

Black Rock Oceanfront Resort

Set in Nature, Designed for Comfort. Vancouver Islands most awe-inspiring oceanfront resort, Black Rock Oceanfront Resort offers a spectacular...

Phone: (866) 762-5011

View Listing

Indigenous Culture, Hotels

Kwa'lilas Hotel

The Kwalilas Hotel (meaning a place to sleep) is a premier First Nations four-star destination hotel located on the North Island. The hotel...

Phone: (250) 949-8525

View Listing

Bed & Breakfasts

The Bonniebrook Lodge

Historic Bonniebrook Lodge since 1912 features 7 luxury suites, comfortably appointed in a contemporary West Coast style. Bonniebrook Lodge is...

Phone: (604) 886-2887

View Listing

Cabins & Cottages

Bella Coola Grizzly Tours Inc.

Private Log Cabins with sundecks and full facilities offer panoramic views of the Bella Coola Valley. Kitchenettes, wireless internet, satellite...

Phone: (250) 982-0098

View Listing

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