Fantastic Creatures: Totems, Geoducks, and Giant Trees

  • Start: British Columbia, Canada
  • End: Tofino, BC
  • Last Modified: 2011-11-14 17:02:47
  • Total Mileage: 227 Miles
  • Number of stops: 15


We almost missed the ferry from Seattle to Vancouver Island. Jet lag and dilly-dallying left us scrambling up the boat ramp like the fictional Ping the duck to avoid getting swatted for being the last to board. The ship's horn blared a final warning just as we cleared the deck. My husband and I sunk into our seats and our two sons set off to explore. At last, we were on our way. This was our family trip to see the white-gloved charm of Victoria, up Highway 1 through various seaside towns, beaches, and attractions farther up the coast, making a left turn halfway up the island at Parksville to head over to the wild west coast. We had four days for our island road adventure. After a short two-and-a-half hour ride, our boat docked in Victoria. The oh-so-British atmosphere flourishes in Victoria. Cherry red telephone booths, double-decker buses, tea shops and lovely gardens abound as in merry old England. First stop: the obligatory stroll through the Empress Hotel lobby to check out times and prices for afternoon tea. We burned right through the hotel and on up Government Street, with its assortment of shops filled with English goods. Everyone loved Murchie's Tea & Coffee Inc., a huge store on Government Street. Adults can sit and sip a favorite brew and perhaps select gifts for friends at home. The kids had a hard time choosing from the goodies in the pastry case. Other shops along the street offer linens (what home is complete without tea towels?), antiques, other foodstuffs, and more. We decided to stop at the venerable Rogers' Chocolates Ltd. Since 1885, Rogers' has been serving tasty chocolate creams, caramels, and other treats from the wood panel-lined shop. Chocolates are available in fancy gift tins, or standard boxes. We swooned at the taste of the Empress Squares, caramel covered in almonds and dipped in chocolate. After a long stroll, we headed to Thunderbird Park, behind the Royal British Columbia Museum. The museum itself offers a great history of the island, but the boys didn't want to explore inside, wanting to check out the totem pole carvers crafting awesome creatures into the wood instead. Reproductions of totem poles are also on display. While there were many other things to see and do in Victoria, including the gorgeous flowers of the Butchart Gardens, we were overdue to start our trek north. There were loads of things we didn't have time to catch in Victoria: Goldstream Park, where seagulls and eagles soar; Craigdarroch Castle, a 39-room mansion; the shops of Chinatown; and the delights of some great restaurants - the Blue Crab Bar & Grill, serving delicious salmon at reasonable prices, and more downscale places like Swans, with its Buckerfield burgers, or Nautical Nelly's fish and chips. A friend recommended lunch or dinner at the Malahat Mountain Inn, a four-star restaurant with gorgeous views. It's located on the Malahat Highway just outside Victoria. It's best to spend the day in Victoria, then head out to the Malahat Mountain Inn for dinner, arriving before sunset. Specials may include local catch, especially salmon and cod. Prize for the "looks ugly but tastes delicious" goes to the gooseneck barnacle appetizer in white wine sauce. On the second day, we continued our trek up Highway 1. Our first stop was Duncan and the Quw'utsun' Cultural and Conference Centre on the banks of the Cowichan River. Here, docents showed us the life of the native Canadian people from Vancouver Island. The boys enjoyed another opportunity to watch totems carved and learn how fish is smoked. The list goes on and you can follow the journey stop-by-stop with this custom road trip.

Stop #1:

Murchie's Tea & Coffee
British Columbia, Canada

Stop #2:

Rogers' Chocolates Ltd.
British Columbia, Canada

Stop #3:

Royal British Columbia Museum
British Columbia, Canada

Stop #4:

Craigdarroch Castle
British Columbia, Canada

Stop #5:

Butchart Gardens
British Columbia, Canada

Stop #6:

Goldstream Provincial Park
Victoria, BC

Stop #7:

Malahat Mountain Inn
British Columbia, Canada

Stop #8:

Quw'utsun' Cultural and Conference Centre
British Columbia, Canada

Stop #9:

British Columbia, Canada

Stop #10:

Old Country Market
Coombs, BC

Stop #11:

Cathedral Grove
British Columbia, Canada

Stop #12:

The M.V. Lady Rose
British Columbia, Canada

Stop #13:

Ucluelet, BC

Stop #14:

Long Beach
British Columbia, Canada

Stop #15:

Tofino, BC

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