We recently spent a week on Vancouver Island and it exceeded our expectations on all fronts. There are so many things to do on this amazing island. From exploring the local nature and wildlife in Ucluelet, to the amazing specialty coffee at Regard Coffee Roasters in Nanaimo, here are 10 things to do on Vancouver Island.
1. See black bears in the wild
Vancouver Island is full of wildlife so be sure to put some time aside to see the local bears and whales in the region. There are many companies offering wildlife tours and we ended up going with Jamie’s Whaling Station due to their positive reviews and proximity to where we were staying. Despite being caught in the rain on a zodiac for 3 hours, we were fortunate to see five bears which made it all worth it! It was a truly unforgettable experience. Jamie’s operate daily tours from Tofino and Ucluelet and be sure to check their website for availability. They also run whale watching and kayak tours.
Price: We paid CAD$99 per person for the Ucluelet Bear Watching tour which ran for 3 hours.
168 Fraser Lane, Ucluelet, BC
Our tour ran from 8:30am-11:00am. Tours run at different times depending on the season so check their website for more details.
2. Devour wood-fired pizza at Abbondanza
Abbondanza has some of the best pizza we have eaten, and yes, we’ve been to Italy! After a long drive from Victoria, we were surprised to find such great quality pizza in the small and quiet town of Ucluelet. Abbondanza is owned by chef Corey Crabbe and with his family, they are focused on serving mouth-watering wood-fired pizzas with fresh, high-quality ingredients. Think imported Italian tomatoes and mozzarella cheese, alongside local chanterelles. The pizzeria has plenty of seating inside but since our Airbnb was around the corner and it was late, we decided to take-away. We shared a margarita with extra basil and a diavola, and both pizzas were equally delicious. We would have easily gone back for dinner again had they not been closed on Sunday! You can check out a great video about Corey and his pizzeria here
Price: CAD$18-28 for a 14″ pizza, excluding tip
1972 Peninsula Rd A, Ucluelet, BC
3. Specialty coffee at Regard Coffee
Whenever we arrive in a new place, the first thing we do is try to find the best coffee in town. And in the case of Vancouver Island, I think we found it! Regard Coffee Roasters is a specialty coffee roaster located in Nanaimo. Beans are roasted in-house and we enjoyed two varieties (Nicaragua and Ethiopian) that reminded us what excellent coffee should taste like. As well as serving delicious coffee, Darren, the barista was really friendly. We had a chat about the growing coffee scene in Canada and the USA, and he even gave us plenty of recommendations for places to eat and drink around Nanaimo, Victoria, and Vancouver. While there are a few baked goods from Riso Foods (one of Darren’s recommendations), the focus is really on the coffee. We loved it so much that we visited twice in two days. Big glass windows, wooden benches, and the open airy space make this place the perfect cafe to sit back, relax and sip on your latte. If you love coffee like we do, this place is not to be missed.
Price: $3.50 for coffee, excluding tip
#2, 1925 Bowen Rd, Nanaimo, BC
Monday-Friday: 8:00am – 5:00pm
Saturday-Sunday: 9:00am – 3:00pm
4. Walk the Wild Pacific Trail
No trip to Vancouver Island is complete without a walk on the Wild Pacific Trail – the vision of Ucluelet’s own Oyster Jim, who has spent the past 30 years carefully building and maintaining the trails to showcase the amazing scenery of Ucluelet’s breathtaking coastline. The trail is broken up into 3 main sections and spans across more than 8km, with much of it overlooking the North Pacific Ocean.We tackled the entire trail over 2 days but for those adventurous (and fit!) enough you could walk the whole trail in a day.
If you have limited time, we recommend doing the easy to moderate Lighthouse Loop, which will take around one hour including stops for photos. Our favorite section was the Rocky Bluffs and Ancient Cedars trail, where the mist set in and made for some great photos. During Summer 2018, there will free interpretive walks every day at 10 am so get on your hiking boots on!
There are various access points to the trail. The Lighthouse Loops can be accessed from the carpark at
Coast Guard Drive, Ucluelet, BC
The trail is open 24/7
5. Indulge in a day spa
What’s the best way to relax after a long walk on the Wild Pacific Trail? A day spa of course! There is an abundance of day spas and wellness centers around Vancouver Island, so choosing the right place can be difficult. For Jess’ birthday, she visited Sacred Stone Spa and absolutely loved it. Her session started with a Green Tea Seaweed Salt Glow, followed by a Signature Massage and finished with a Classic Organic Facial. Needless to say, she felt like a different person walking out of the spa! They have a range of services and packages available so check out their website to find the best one for you.
Price: The Signature Massage starts at CAD$95 for 60 min. All costs and packages are available on their website.
368 Main Street, Tofino, BC
6. See a waterfall
Englishman River Falls
Located 15 minutes South East of the Old Coombes Country Market, Englishman River Falls is a popular stop for visitors to see some amazing canyon and waterfalls. We went in the late afternoon and were lucky enough to see only a handful of people on the trail and at the falls. There is plenty of day use parking available and there are 103 camp and tent sites available between May and September. Swimming is permitted in the river below the and during summer months so it’s not uncommon to see visitors swimming in the river below the lower falls. The park has 3km of well-maintained trails, so it makes a great stop for a picnic and an easy walk.
We recommend doing the 1.4km loop track which will take you from the main carpark, over the upper falls, and down to the lower falls before returning to the main carpark.
2245 Errington Rd, Errington, BC
Little Qualicum Falls
Little Qualicum Falls was recommended by Darren from Regard Coffee and we are so glad that we made the stop there. The falls are located 15 minutes North West of the Old Coombes Country Market and since it’s just off the Highway 4, Little Qualicum Falls is a popular stopping point for drivers coming from and going to the West coast of the island.
For day visitors, there’s plenty of parking available, and if you’re looking to stay longer there are 96 campsites spread across 2 main areas.
There are 6km of trails around the park and we recommend taking a walk to see both the upper and lower falls, which are not far apart. When we arrived at sunset, we were fortunate to have the whole place to ourselves, but as it was dark by the time we finished taking photos we didn’t have enough to fully explore the area.
7. Eat Japanese comfort food at Kuma
For Jess’ birthday, we ate dinner at Kuma. Kuma mean’s “Bear” in Japanese so it’s no surprise that the restaurant has a bear theme! We had read good reviews, and being in the mood for Japanese food we decided to give it a try and we weren’t disappointed! To put it simply, Kuma serves up Japanese comfort food. They specialize in plates for sharing with classic dishes such as karaage (fried chicken) and okonomiyaki (cabbage pancake). They also serve larger plates such as rice bowls and ramen.
We shared the chicken karaage, spicy agedashi tofu, and tuna tataki bowl. All of the dishes were fantastic and hit the spot. For dessert, we shared a green tea cake with white chocolate sauce which was such a nice combination to finish off a great meal. They also have a great drinks menu with Tofino Brewing Co. beer on tap as well as sake, whiskey, and house cocktails. Happy hour is from 4-5pm where they serve a limited menu at a slightly cheaper price. Our advice is to get there early to snag a table or be prepared to wait!
Price: Approximately CAD$60 for two people including drinks, excluding tip
101 – 120 Fourth St, Tofino, BC
8. A yoga class at Coastal Bliss Yoga
Coastal Bliss Yoga is a yoga studio located just a short 10-minute drive south of Tofino. It was set up in 2010 to bring together yoga teachers and students, and the wooden studio is simply beautiful. We had a spare afternoon in Tofino and felt like doing something different so we decided to join a yoga class in the late afternoon. We chose to do an “All Levels Foundations Flow” class with Heidi, who is a friendly and experienced instructor. During the hour session, Heidi guided us through a range of poses and sequences and it sure was a workout! We enjoyed ourselves so much that we’ll be back for another class the next time we’re in Tofino.
Coastal Bliss Yoga runs a variety of meditation and yoga classes daily, including beach yoga during the summer months. There are different classes available depending on your experience, but if you have only done yoga a few times (like us!) then we recommend joining a “Level 1” or “All Levels” session.
Price: CAD$18 for a drop-in class (includes hire of yoga mat and props). Multi class passes and memberships are also available.
1180 Pacific Rim Hwy, Tofino, BC
(Located above Studio One Hair Salon)
There are 3-4 classes a day, 7 days a week.
Check their website for the latest schedule.
9. See goats on the roof at Coombs Old Country Market
Did we say goats on the roof? Yes! Driving back from Tofino to Nanaimo, we stopped at the famous Coombs Old Country Market to see what it was all about. And sure enough, we were greeted by a family of 3 goats roaming around on the roof of the market. The market has been around since 1975, and besides goats, hosts a range of restaurants, cafes, market stalls and retail shops. We decided to have lunch at the Cuckoo Trattoria and followed it up with a donut from the local bakery. We especially enjoyed the open air produce market, where we picked up some fresh fruit and vegetables for our dinner that night. The market is just a short detour from Highway 4 so if you’re heading to or from the West Coast then this makes a great stop for lunch.
2326 Alberni Hwy, Coombs, BC
7 days a week (except Christmas Day and New Years Day)
Opening times change depending on the season so be sure to check the most up to date times here
10. Watch the sunset at Chesterman Beach
There’s nothing quite like watching the sunset over the Pacific Ocean and what better place to do this than at Chesterman Beach. The beach is a 10-minute drive from Tofino and we found a small parking lot with direct access to the sand. Despite being a well-known sunset location for locals and tourists, the beach was not overly crowded and we managed to get some great photos on the sand. On the northern side of the beach (towards The Pointe Restaurant) there are some big rock formations that you can climb up to get a different point of view of the beach. We recommend checking the sunset times and getting there at least 30-minute before to make sure you don’t miss it!
1212 Lynn Rd, Tofino, BC
There is a range of access points to the beach but we found a parking lot with direct access to the beach just opposite the Seafarers Bed & Breakfast.
Depends on the season. Check out this handy website for tide and sunset times
Leave us a comment below and tell us what your favorite things to do on Vancouver Island are!