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Vancouver Island Mini-Safari: Leg 3
8 days · Victoria, BC → Port Hardy, BC · Easy
Leg 3 is our small group tour of Vancouver Island. We search for bears, whales and explore old growth forests and west coast beaches as we travel to Tofino and up the Island’s north tip to Alert Bay.
Nestled along Canada’s west coast, Vancouver Island is a paradise of tranquil islands, pristine coastlines, and emerald forests. Here, the ever-present Pacific Ocean shapes the scenery, softens the climate and supports a thriving marine and land mammal population. Parks visited on this Vancouver Island holiday include Goldstream Provincial Park, MacMillan Provincial Park and Pacific Rim National Park.
On this leg of the Canada West Safari, we explore old-growth forests where the trees form a cool canopy over walking trails, saunter along on sparkling, wave-swept beaches and wind our way to Vancouver Island’s distinctly different west and east coasts. As we head north, we learn the history of First Nations and see how their ceremonies and traditions are woven into the fabric of Vancouver Island culture. Optional activities include grey whale watching in Tofino and grizzly bears viewing from Alert Bay.
- 8 days, 7 nights
- Victoria, BC
- Port Hardy, BC
- Activity Level
- Max Group Size
- The properties we stay at include inns, cabins and small hotels. At a minimum you will have one queen bed and a private bathroom. Our properties all underscore our philosophy to utilize small-scale accommodation that offer character and cleanliness, pursue sound environmental practices and support other local operators.
- Air conditioned 15 passenger van.
- 7 breakfasts, 1 dinner
- Activity Notes
- This tour enables guests to get out and explore the front country of the six parks we visit. Escorted hikes and walks vary in length from 20 minutes to one hour.
- Fully escorted with one driver/guide
- 7 nights’ accommodation in hotels, motels and inns
- 15 passenger van with air conditioning
- 7 breakfasts, 1 dinner
- Tours of local villages
- Escorted walks and hikes
- All entrance fees to provincial, national parks and protected areas
- Return ferry transportation from Quadra Island to Campbell River
- Return ferry transportation from Port McNeil to Alert Bay
- Entrance to the Butchart Gardens
- Three hour narrated whale watching tour in Johnstone Strait
- Entrance fees to Umista Cultural Centre
- Meals where not indicated
- Airfare from Port Hardy to Vancouver
- Optional activities
- Travel, cancellation and baggage insurance
- Driver/guide gratuities
- 5% GST
If you decide to finish Leg 3 in Port Hardy on Day 6, please advise Midnight Sun Travel if you would like us to book your air to Vancouver on this day, As our last stop on Day 6 is Alert Bay (about one hour by ferry and road to Port Hardy) we will be able to book you an afternoon flight on Day 6 to Vancouver. Air from Port Hardy to Vancouver is about $150.00 to $250.00 depending on when booked.
Entrance to Craigdarroch Castle
Guided Horse Carriage Rides
2 hour guided Kayak Tour
Guided Cultural Tour in Voyaguer Canoe
Grey whale watching in Tofino (approx. $90)
Grizzly bear viewing from Alert Bay (full day - approx. $268)
View Vancouver Island Mini-Safari: Leg 3 in a larger map
Schedule & Prices
Leg 3. Victoria, BC to Port Hardy, BC
|Jun 12–Sep 7, 2017||$4,150||—||$860|
Vancouver Island Mini-Safari: Leg 3 Itinerary
Day 1. Victoria, B.C.
Check-in to the Inn at Laural Point after 3 pm. The city of Victoria was named after Queen Victoria of the Untied Kingdom when it was part of the British North America. Victoria is one of the oldest cities in the Pacific Northwest and also home to the Coast Salish First Nations and second oldest Chinatown on the Pacific Coast (after San Francisco). Known as the "City of Gardens" Victorias' street lights are adorned with hanging baskets while small gardens, roadside barriers, flower pots are practically on every street corner. This city is green year round.
Meet your guide in the lobby for a one hour guided tour of the city lights from the Parliament Buildings and through the downtown area.
Meals : N/A
Day 2 Victoria, B.C.
After breakast we head out on our guided city tour including Beacon Hill and Thunderbird Park, Emily Carr House and St Anns' Academy. We'll swing by Government House and Craigdarroch Castle where passengers have the option to tour inside the castle. After our city tour we head norh along the Saanich Penninsula to the world famous Butchart Gardens. Here passengers can tour the grounds and enjoy lunch at one of three eating venues. We return to Victoria in the late afternoon and passengers will be dropped off at their hotel. The evening is free to enjoy on their own.
Meals : Breafkast
Day 3. Tofino/ Ucluelet, Pacific Rim National Park, British Columbia
From Victoria we travel north over the scenic Malahat Drive on the island Highway. At Goldstream Provincial Park we follow a riverside trail to a nature house. We walk among 600-year-old Douglas fir trees and western red cedar, mixed with western yew and hemlock, red alder, big leaf maple and black cottonwood. Deer frequent this park as do numerous small animals like raccoons, minks, beavers, otters and Gray and Douglas squirrels. Salmon, trout and steelhead are found in the park’s streams, and migratory and resident birds such as hummingbirds, Bald eagles, turkey vultures, ducks and gulls can be spotted.
The town of Chemainus (pop. 4100) is known at the “Little Town That Could”. Here we’ll see the end transformation of a town that was once completely dependent on logging but is now a tourist attraction. With its large outdoor murals depicting its historic past, this quaint little town now has quaint shops, boutiques and cafes. Guests can enjoy a light snack and walk the streets to view the large outdoor art gallery.
Shortly after Chemainus, we turn west and head inland to cross the spine of Vancouver Island to the rugged west coast. Along this three-hour drive, you’ll encounter rolling farmland, stretches of wilderness and Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Provincial Park, an old growth forest with massive 800 year old fir and cedar trees. After Port Alberni, located at the end of a long saltwater inlet, we drive across a mountain range and drop down to the Pacific Ocean. Here lies Pacific Rim National Park, bordered on either side by the small towns of Tofino (pop: 1,902) and Ucluelet (pop. 1,652).
We arrive in Pacific Rim National Park by mid afternoon. This rain forest drips with water, and teems with plant life, a world of cedar, vivid green moss and a mosaic of ferns. We arrive in time to take one of the many trails that skirts the ocean or heads to the sandy beaches. In the evening, there are numerous local restaurants and cafes that feature fresh local ingredients, including seafood.
Accommodation: Hotel / motel
Day 4. Tofino/ Ucluelet, Pacific Rim National Park, British Columbia
After breakfast we head out to explore the sights and sounds of Pacific Rim National Park.
Our first stop is at the Kwisitis Visitor Centre and Long Beach. Perched on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, the Kwisitis Centre is a great place to learn about the natural and cultural history of this area. On the beach by the Centre we can take off our shoes, sink our feet into the wet sand and watch the waves crash among the rocky headlands.
From here we continue along the coastal road. We arrive in village of Tofino (pop. 1400) in time for lunch. At Tofino's doorstep is the Clayoquot Sound region, a world UNESCO biosphere reserve. The residents here are friendly, a little eccentric and passionate about their west coast oasis. Between the quaint shops and plethora of activities, you’ll find Tofino has the perfect combination of nature and culture.
One place not to miss is the magical world of the Henry Vickers Art Gallery. Constructed as a replica of a traditional First Nations’ long house, this gallery is akin to entering another world -- as you walk at first into darkness, you then detect the subtle lighting of prints, paintings and carvings.
We return to the Village of Tofino where guests will have some free time to explore on their own before we make our way back to Ucluelet.
Accommodation: Hotel / motel
Day 5. Quadra Island, British Columbia
After breakfast, and before jumping back in the van, your driver/guide will provide a narrative tour of The Rainforest Trail in Pacific Rim National Park. Decorating the paths are interpretive signs, viewing platforms and resting benches. Everywhere around you are families of ferns, moss and lichens. Birds sing in the trees while small, invisible creatures scurry on the forest floor.
Along the way, as no visit to the island would be complete without a taste of Blackberry wine, we stop off at a local winery to indulge a little.
Our final brush with metropolia is Campbell River (pop. 32,000). Located on the frontier of the North Island wilderness, this town is also referred to as the “Salmon Capital the World”. We take in First Nations’ history and visit a downtown area that looks unchanged since the 1950’s. We stroll along the town’s scenic waterfront walkway and see the working harbour.
Now, it’s off to our island hideaway. Onboard a coastal ferry, we cross Discovery Passage to Quadra Island, home to a lively close-knit community of 2,700 people.
Late afternoon finds us at our waterfront accommodation with ocean views from every room. Once a fishing lodge, this resort has a laid back, boutique feel. You can explore one of the nearby forest or ocean front walking trails on this 1100 acre property. Or treat yourself to the spa.
Accommodation: Hotel / motel
Day 6. Alert Bay, Telegraph Cove, British Columbia
Leaving Campbell River, we say good-bye to 90% of the population of Vancouver Island (about 750,000 people) as we head inland along a single lane highway into the remote Nimpkish Valley. Camera ready, we keep a look out for black bear, Roosevelt elk and deer.
Two hours later, we reached the ocean and take a secondary road to Telegraph Cove (pop. 20). Nestled between ocean and rainforest in the northern Vancouver Island wilderness, Telegraph Cove was the northern terminus of a telegraph line that began in Campbell River and stretched from tree to tree along Vancouver Island's east coast. This largely boardwalked community recalls a rustic past that included a lumber mill and salmon saltery. During the summer it’s a also a hub for outdoor activities including whale watching, bear viewing, fishing, ocean kayaking and diving.
After lunch we’ll board our boat with one of the first whale watching companies in BC for a three hour whale watching tour in Johnstone Strait. The onboard naturalist will educate you about the wonders of the Orca. The boat we cruise in comes equipped with a hydrophone and enables guests to hear whales communicate with each other. Other wildlife spotting opportunities include minke and humpback whales, Steller sea lions, dolphins, porpoises, and bald eagles.
At Port McNeill (pop. 2600), we take our second coastal ferry of the day to Alert Bay (pop. 900) on Cormorant Island. Alert Bay is headquarters of the ‘Namgis First Nations, known for its rich cultural history including the U’Mista Cultural Centre and the Big House, the centre of many famous potlatches and traditional dance ceremonies.
After taking dinner at the inn, there’s time to stroll along the beach or walk the two kilometres from the lodge into the village.
Accommodation: Waterfront Inn
Meals: Breakfast, dinner
Day 7. Alert Bay, British Columbia
Guests have two options on this day, either a guided tour of Alert Bay or a full day grizzly bear tour.
Our tour of Cormorant Island includes the ‘Namgis Big House, the world’s tallest totem pole, the Chief Burial Grounds, a look at some funk homes and the boardwalk trail of the Ecological Gardens. The more outdoor minded may elect to press on, into the Big Tree Trail.
In the afternoon guests will have the option to visit the U’mista Cultural Centre or go to the Big House to watch the local dance group perform (dancing in July and August only). At U’Mista, you’ll find the potlatch collection returned by government to First Nations.
The full day grizzly bear tour departs from the dock at 6:45 am. The tour heads to Knight Inlet and returns to Alert Bay by 4:00 pm. The cost of the tour is approximately $280 per person (including lunch). Your chances of viewing grizzly bears are excellent.
Accommodation: Waterfront Inn
Day 8. Flight from Port Hardy to Vancouver, British Columbia
After breakfast passengers can take a relaxing morning to do last minute shopping, enjoy sights that they missed the day before or simply sit on the patio of the lodge and watch for whales.
We catch the afternoon ferry from Alert Bay to Port McNeill in the afternoon and make the final drive of the tour to Port Hardy. We escort those guests finishing Leg 3 to Port Hardy Airport for their flight to Vancouver. Those continuing on with Haida Gwaii, Leg 4, will be dropped off at their accommodation.