In British Columbia, metropolitan centers thrive alongside sublime wilderness. Start in Vancouver and ferry to its namesake island to enjoy the best of both worlds. This itinerary balances a little bit of everything in Vancouver and Victoria: cities, mountains, and ocean.
Head north from Vancouver airport and loop around Point Grey to the Museum of Anthropology, a wonderful introduction to the history of the Pacific Northwest. Duck through the old-growth forest behind the museum to get a feel for the city’s natural splendor. Check in to your hotel and take an evening stroll through Gastown to the Water Street Café for dinner.
Even if you hit Stanley Park as the sun first rises, you’ll find that many locals have beaten you on their morning jog. Cross to the North Shore and take the Grouse Mountain Skyride. Drive Highway 99 to Whistler, which takes around 90 minutes. After dinner at award-winning Araxi, spend the evening exploring the resort village.
Explore Vancouver Island
Catch the ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island. Drive Highway 4 for the two-hour journey across the island to Tofino, making a stop at Cathedral Grove. Splurge by staying at the Wickaninnish Inn and dining in-house.
Book a Tofino whale-watching tour for the morning, enjoy an outdoor lunch at Tacofino, and then take a beach walk in Pacific Rim National Park before returning along Highway 4 to Nanaimo for the night.
Heading south from Nanaimo along Highway 19 for 45 kilometers (28 miles), detour at Crofton Bay to catch a ferry to Salt Spring Island. Enjoy lunch at an outdoor café in Ganges, then make the short ferry hop to Swartz Bay, gateway to Victoria and home to the centrally located Magnolia Hotel and Spa.
Make your way to the Inner Harbour on foot. The Royal BC Museum is a must-see, Market Square and the surrounding streets are interesting to explore, and the fish-and-chips at Barb’s Fish & Chips is perfect for lunch. Still hungry? Head to Oak Bay for afternoon tea.
Arrive at Butchart Gardens at opening time—before the bus-tour crowd arrives—then return to Vancouver by ferry. You’ll get there in time for an afternoon flight home.