Vancouver Island hidden gems?
July 20, 2016 3:56 PM   Subscribe

My sweetie and I are going to Vancouver Island for a road trip holiday, and we're looking for cool sights and restaurants that you love but we may not know about.

Our itinerary is roughly Comox - Parksville - Tofino - Cowichan - Victoria. We're from Calgary, so don't need any generic Canadianism. Time frame is the next 10 days or so. Specifically, we're looking for:
* Unique sights and museums (e.g. The Kinsol Trestle or the market with the goats on the roof)
* Modest excursions into natural beauty (e.g Cathedral Grove, not serious hiking)
* A good winery to visit
* Local relaxed/eclectic restaurants and pubs

posted by Homeboy Trouble to Travel & Transportation around British Columbia (13 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I recommend visiting the Sooke Potholes; Google map. It's a river that has a series of cascading small waterfalls. You can easily swim upstream and climb the falls to find fun little private pools. If you are more adventurous you can jump off the cliffs into the 'potholes' (super deep holes into the limestone rock. There are also simple hiking trails along the water, ruins to explore, and plenty of beautiful views. Sooke is a 45 minute drive south-west of Victoria.
posted by axismundi at 4:05 PM on July 20, 2016

Best answer: I've eaten twice at Point no Point and the food was as delicious as the view was amazing. Each table has binoculars so you can look around the Juan de Fuca Strait. If you go, try to reserve a table in the SW corner to get the best view. It's about a 10 minute drive past Sooke, coming from Victoria.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 4:30 PM on July 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

The deep bay marine research station isn't very interesting but the fish fry in the marina parking lot next to it is delicious.

Rath Trevor beach in parksville has sand dollars!

Don't overlook Nanaimo! Nanaimo downtown and marina area is fun, for a day excursion you can take a boat to Newcastle island.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:13 PM on July 20, 2016

I'm only familiar with the Victoria region:

Victoria Bug Zoo, so you can say you've held a tarantula.

Butchart Gardens, because they are fantastically gorgeous.

rebar modern food for an excellent meal.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:56 PM on July 20, 2016

Best answer: Coombs Old Country Market, GOATS on the roof.
posted by lois1950 at 8:23 PM on July 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Seconding the Sooke Potholes - worth coming south from Cowichan for.

Your timeframe would be right for the Parksville Sand Castle Competition/Festival.

The weather here is supposed to be decent enough but if you're as far south as Cowichan on a rainy day do slip into town to check out the Royal BC Museum.
Rebar is great and worth making a trip for. If you're already in Victoria my go-to list includes:
  • Coffee assorted local food at The Parsonage
  • Pastries around the corner at Patisserie Daniel
  • Burgers at Bin4. My GF appreciates the GF fryer at the Blanshard location
  • Soft serve at the Beacon Hill Drive-In which is, handily, across the street from Beacon Hill Park (go! see the petting zoo! spend time with the pygmy goats! they will climb you!) just up from the Transcanada Mile Zero & Terry Fox monuments
My info further upisland is out of date but nice easy walks include:
  • Englishman River Falls
  • Little Qualicum Provincial Park. Did a lot of cliff jumping and swimming there as a kid but I don't think it's exactly condoned anymore
  • The Brick Yard beach & park in Nanaimo
Other kinds of day trips might include:
  • Ferrying to nice beaches on Horby Island
  • Rather specialized but if you're at all interested in swimming events the HtO MS Thetis Lake swim (Thetis is just outside of Victoria) is a phenomenally well run open water lake swim with distances ranging from 800-5000m July 31st.

posted by mce at 9:44 PM on July 20, 2016

If you like goats, I recommend a trip to Saturna Island. And when you're in Victoria, go to the Beacon Hill park petting zoo for the morning goat stampede. For food in Victoria, Northern Quarter is excellent, as is Red Fish Blue Fish. Be sure to check out Cold Comfort ice cream (next to the Parsonage) and/or Kid Sister in Fan Tan Alley.
posted by atropos at 9:49 PM on July 20, 2016

Best answer: If you like to read, be sure to set aside some time for Sidney-by-the-Sea. It's supposed to have the most bookstores per resident of any city in the world. Munro's Books and Russell Books in Victoria are wonderful.

I second the recommendation for Butchart Gardens. Abkhazi Gardens a little further outside of downtown is lovely. I also agree that the Royal British Canadian Museum is wonderful.

I adore wandering through Beacon Hill Park.

Craigdarroch Castle is also worth a walk-through.

Robert Held Art Glass is in Parksville, BC. He is a master glassblower and offers demonstrations and classes. The studio often has sample sales and other pieces available. They're very beautiful and unique.

I always stock up on tea, either at Murchies Tea or at Special Teas. (Special Teas tea is a lot better than their website).
posted by dancing_angel at 10:40 PM on July 20, 2016

The butterfly garden is a must-do when you're in Victoria. It's one of the cheaper tourist attractions but it's one of the best.

Other Victoria things:

Check out Fan-Tan alley in Chinatown. It's the narrowest street in Canada, and the shops are fun in there. There's a metaphysical shop that has great jewellery.

Also, Little Jumbo was one of the best bars/lounges I've been to in all my travels. A bit on the pricier side, but the drinks were phenomenal and the location is super interesting(it's hidden in a small back area of a building).

The market square on Johnson street is also really nice. Very interesting layout and shops.
posted by InkDrinker at 11:33 PM on July 20, 2016

Best answer: Hike around Little Qualicum Falls, do not miss it, seriously.
posted by Cosine at 12:55 AM on July 21, 2016

You could rent bikes and spend some time on the Galloping Goose, Lochside or E&N Rail Trails. There's a nice loop from downtown you can do it's about 25 km's. Or bike all the way out to Sooke Potholes, but that's about 55 kms!
posted by drinkmaildave at 11:02 AM on July 21, 2016

Best answer: Norwoods Restaurant in Ucluelet was really amazingly good. The coastal trails in that area were also very pretty and not challenging.
posted by Jasper Fnorde at 1:37 PM on July 22, 2016

Response by poster: Sorry for the delay in marking answers, but I was on holiday with my sweetie on Vancouver Island! We had a lovely time and I marked as best answer the suggestions that we actually took advantage of -- in some cases there was just a lack of time or whatever.

Some of our highlights (for future reference of others):
* Goat related shenanigans at both Coombs and Beacon Hill
* Lighthouse trail in Ucluelet
* Sooke pothole and Point No Point
* Duncan's walkable little downtown
* The cute wee "village" at Cowichan Bay
* The whole Chinatown/Bastion Square historic/retail district
* Munro's and Russell's books and Murchie's teas
* Fireworks at Symphony Splash

Thanks again! It was good to have Metafilter help us out on our holiday!
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:27 PM on August 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

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