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Friday, 28 March 2014

Expo 86

In some ways the province of British Columbia has long been Canada’s California. You might also say that Vancouver is Canada’s Los Angeles. If you grew up in a major Canadian city in the east like Toronto or Montreal, or in  a small town like Cochrane in Northern Ontario or Truro, Nova Scotia, you probably hoped to go out west at some point in your life and see for yourself what it would be like to take in the tall trees and deep forests, the big mountains, and the Pacific Ocean. If you were a hippie back in the day maybe you planned on spending a summer naked out on Long Beach on the west side of Vancouver Island.
Many Canadians who have visited Vancouver over the years have decided to make it their home. Some chose to live there because of the climate and lack of snow and bitter cold in the winters. For others it was the spectacular beauty of the city, the mountain backdrop on the north shore, the sandy beaches, Stanley Park.
Probably the first major transformation of Vancouver from a medium sized city with an economy that was based largely on the forestry industry to more cosmopolitan city, was the building of high rise apartment buildings in the downtown west side that started in the 1960s. Restaurants with foreign cuisines started appearing.
Up until the late 1970s there were still restaurants around that didn’t have liquor licences and the police looked the other way if you brought your own booze with you and had it served to you by your waiter. Back then Woodward’s was a locally owned department store chain, you went to the Army & Navy Store for fishing tackle and camping gear, Mitzi Gaynor was still turning up once a year to appear at The Cave Supper Club. Beer joints like The Ritz Hotel on West Georgia Street were where the younger crowd hung out. The wealthy were sipping their cocktails with paper umbrellas at Trader Vic’s next to The Bayshore Hotel and dining at The Devonshire Hotel.
1986 was Vancouver’s centennial year. Various ideas were kicked around as to how to celebrate the occasion. The initial proposal for a “fair” was introduced in the late 1970s. The theme from the start was “transportation” and the importance of Vancouver as both a port city and a railway hub that connected to the rest of Canada.
Contrary to what many believe, Expo 86 was never a “class A” world’s fair like the ones in Montreal, Brussels, and New York City. Expo 86 was more of a “class B” fair. Whatever it was, it was a big deal for the city of Vancouver and for Canada. The transportation premise morphed into including communications. Originally the fair was going to cost about 80 million dollars but that figure later grew to over 800 million dollars.
The place that was chosen as the location for the fair was an area east of downtown Vancouver called False Creek. False Creek is a salt water inlet. For many years the land in this area was used for industrial purposes. At one time the Canadian Pacific had their railway yards there. By the late 70s most of the industries had moved away from the area as it was too congested for transportation of finished products.
A good part of the land on the northern side of False Creek was mud flats. In the late 70s there was still a cooperage that made barrels and an upscale seafood restaurant called Ondine’s in the area. One of the difficulties in reclaiming the mud flats was soil contamination from over a century of being used for industrial purposes.
The closest bridge to the Expo 86 site was a wooden swing bridge structure called the Cambie Street Bridge. It was torn down and replaced by a new bridge in 1985. For many years Vancouver football fans watched their BC Lions play at Empire Stadium on the east side of Vancouver near the suburb of Burnaby. It was at Empire Stadium in 1954 that the first sub 4 minute mile was run. Roger Bannister snuck by John Landy while Landy was looking over his shoulder. Empire Stadium just wasn’t going to cut it as a good representation of Vancouver during Expo 86 and it was also out of the way.
BC Place Stadium on the left.
The construction of BC Place was completed in 1983. It has a seating capacity of about 60,000 people. Over the years I have seen some diverse forms of entertainment there. May years ago I saw Bob Hope do his comedy act there at an exhibition baseball game with the Seattle Mariners as one of the participants. I think one of the ball players broke a leg rounding 2nd base and that’s why we don’t see any more baseball exhibition games at BC Place. I may be wrong.  I watched a soccer game between the Vancouver Whitecaps and the New York Cosmos when every one of the 60,000 seats had a bum in it. I also saw Bjorn Borg and John MacEnroe play tennis at BC Place when they were past their prime. I went to a “Saskatchewan Day” thing at BC Place during Expo 86. My ex was from Saskatchewan. I remember a security guard sharing a joint in the washroom with some of his Saskatchewan pals.
The initial SkyTrain line (light rapid transit) was completed in 1985 in time for the fair. It wouldn’t look good having a fair with a transportation theme without some more modern way of moving people about.
Monorail not Skytrain
I was living in Montreal in the 1960s and worked on construction on Expo 67. I was familiar with major construction transforming a city. I also knew about the pride and spirit that comes along with a fair when local residents show off their city to millions of tourists. It was going to be a fun time to be living in Vancouver for many.
I can’t say that I was a frequent visitor to Expo 86. I had just started a new business in May of 1986 and was putting all my profits back into the company. In hindsight, I probably should have used my credit card and gone to the fair more often. What difference would 500 bucks spent on the plastic have made? All in all I think we went to the fair about 6 times.
My Expo 86 season pass.
Monk McQueen's
I remember the long line-ups to the Unicorn Irish Pub. I also conquered my fear of roller coasters that went back to when I was a kid. The one at Expo 86 even did upside down loops.
The Unicorn.
Beer Garden.

When the fair ended, Expo 86 had attracted over 22 million visitors. The deficit was 311 million dollars. 311 million dollars certainly sounds like a lot but it is offset by the legacy of the fair. The sphere like Science World still sits at the end of False Creek. SkyTrain has expanded its routes a number of times over the years. Canada Place is now where cruise ships to Alaska berth while in the port of Vancouver. The biggest hockey stick in the world was shipped over to the small city of Duncan on Vancouver Island. The world’s largest flag pole is now located by a car dealership in Surrey, BC.
Science World.
Canada Place
BC premier Bill Vander Zalm.
When the whole deal was over a good part of the land where Expo 86 was situated was sold off to Hong Kong business magnate Li Kai-Shing for a fraction of what it was worth. The floating MacDonald’s restaurant, nick named “McBarge”, was abandoned in the Burrard Inlet years ago and can still be seen today.

Expo 86 was a turning point in the history of Vancouver. There is no doubt that today it is a world class city.
The following is a list of some of the entertainers who turned up for Expo 86 starting with the ones no longer with us.
Bob Hope, Liberace, Roy Orbison, Miles Davis, Lou Rawls, Johnny Cash, John Denver, Peter Allen, Red Skelton, and Jacques Cousteau. Other notables were Loverboy, Manhattan Transfer, Harry Belafonte, Anne Murray, The Eurythmics, Julio Eglesias,  Joan Baez, Kenny Loggins, Smokey Robinson, The Beachboys, Don McLean, The Temptations, k.d. Lang, Bryan Adams, and Jerry lee Lewis.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Vancouver Island: A Summer Vacation Paradise-Where To Go, What To See

Most Canadians know where Vancouver Island is but if you live in another country you may have never heard of it. I’m a bit prejudiced in that I live here but I think it is the best place to live on the planet and an amazing summer vacation destination.

Vancouver Island is off the coast of British Columbia. It is about 300 miles in length and about 50 miles width at the widest point. The island has a population of about 800,000 with half of those people living in the city of Victoria area. (Victoria is the capital of the province of British Columbia). There are 3 ways to get to the island by car. BC Ferries has sailing routes from Vancouver, BC to Victoria which is at the southern tip of the island and to the city of Nanaimo which is about a 2 hour drive north from Victoria. There is also a ferry route from Port Angeles in Washington State to Victoria which is run by a company called Black Ball. The ferry ride from Vancouver to Nanaimo takes 2 hours. The ferry ride from Port Angeles to Victoria and Vancouver to Victoria takes 1-1/2 hours. Tourists from all over the world marvel at the ocean views from the top decks of the ferries.
Vancouver Island
There is an express highway that goes from Victoria to Campbell River. It is also known as the Trans Canada Highway or The Inland Island Highway. I am just going to call it the “express highway” in these writings. There is also what some called the Old Island Highway that runs close to the eastern shoreline that offers outstanding ocean views. Most Vancouver Islanders live on the east coast of the island. About a 20 minute drive north of Nanaimo is the seaside town of Parksville. It is here that you can turn right and head out to Pacific Rim National Park. After passing through Port Alberni, the road becomes curvy with a number of hairpins. The drive from Parksville to Pacific Rim National Park takes about 2 hours. You will notice very quickly that you are out in the wilderness.
One of the things that make Vancouver Island so unique is its diversity. Beaches, fresh water lakes, unpolluted creeks and rivers, and waterfalls are everywhere. Most often you are only minutes away from deep lush forests. From the express highway you will see beautiful farms on rolling hills. There are a number of vineyards on the island. There are always some mountains in sight, some which are snow-capped throughout the year. Every little town, every little beachside community, offers something interesting and different.
It really doesn’t matter what your age is, there is something for everyone. If you are older and just want to take in the breath taking views and stay in a B&B or fancy hotel it is there for you. If you are a golfer there are beautiful courses all over the island. Vancouver Island offers some of the best salmon fishing in the world in places like Campbell River, Port Alberni, Tofino, and Ucluelet. If you are the outdoor type there are hiking trails everywhere including ones to the tops of mountains. Each year a number of seasoned hikers tackle the 65 mile West Coast Trail. You can surf at Long Beach or rent a kayak at a number of seaside towns on the island. You can walk through the giant Douglas fir trees at Cathedral Grove, see the killer whales on a boat excursion, or walk for miles along the sand at Long Beach.
It gets hot in the summer on Vancouver Island (we usually have long stretches without rain in July and August.) Unlike other areas in North America, in summer we have very little humidity and there is usually a light ocean breeze going on. For some reason we also have very few mosquitoes.
If you are travelling as a family there are all kinds of campgrounds throughout the island. I would suggest you book early if you plan to stay at one of the provincial or national parks. If you prefer a more upscale place to stay and relax you may choose to stay at one of the many resorts and spas. Each summer a number of visitors choose to take in Vancouver Island by renting a camper van.
There is no shortage of great places to dine including a number of waterfront pubs with incredible views.
Have I got you enthused yet? How about bungee jumping or riding a zip line?
Pretty well every town has one or more festival in the summer months. There is the Parksville Sand Castle Competition, the Victoria Jazz Festival, and the Nanaimo World Champion Bathtub Races, just to name a few. Live theatre can be found in places like Qualicum Beach, Chemainus, and Victoria. Many towns have Saturday morning farmer’s markets.
Nanaimo Blue Festival
So….how about a guided tour? I am going to try and do my best to tell you about the best places to go and the best places to see. I’ll try not to leave much out.
A Guided Tour of Vancouver Island

Parliament buildings Victoria
The Empress Hotel Victoria

Butchart Gardens
We are going to start in Victoria and work our way up island. If you like shopping or dining out Victoria is your place. The city is crawling with restaurants and offers every conceivable cuisine.  Check out Fiamo Italian Kitchen and Fifth Street Bar & Grill. Yes in the summer the city can be a bit of a tourist trap but there is a lot to see. You could go for high tea at the famed Empress Hotel which faces the harbour. Just next door are the provincial parliament buildings. A block away is the Imax Theatre and close by is the can’t be missed Royal British Columbia Museum. You could visit the birth place of famous Canadian artist Emily Carr. A great place for lunch is Fisherman’s Wharf which is about a 20 minute walk from downtown. You will probably need to get directions to find Butchart Gardens which is one the most beautiful gardens in the world. There is a lot more to do and see in Victoria but if you just want to go for a nice drive I suggest driving over to Beacon Hill Park close to downtown and follow the Oceanside route past some old and new outstanding houses that face out on to the ocean. Enjoy an outdoor coffee or lunch in Oak Bay. There are all kinds of great golf courses in and around Victoria.
Sooke And Port Renfrew
You will probably need directions as to where to cut off the main highway and head west to Sooke and Port Renfrew but it will be well worth it. Look for Highway 14. I suggest this drive as a day trip. The road has a lot of twists and turns and you are very close to the Pacific Ocean at times with amazing views. Sometimes this area can get fogged in a bit but the fog is usually gone by about noon. Sooke is a seaside town worth stopping at. Further up the highway is great little resort to stop off at for lunch at called Point No Point. Years ago, back in the 1960s, it was run by two little old ladies who have since passed on. Apparently each table in the dining room has a set of binoculars on it to take in the ocean views.
On the way to Port Renfrew you will notice signs with names like China Beach. There are a number of beaches along this route not too far from the highway. There is also the outstanding Juan de Fuca Trail that runs from Sooke to Port Renfrew. You have your choice of relaxing on the beach or a hike through the rain forest. Port Renfrew is truly at the end of the road. You can’t drive any further west. Port Renfrew is also where hikers with reservations begin the world famous West Coast Trail. Dockside in Port Renfrew is a lounge/restaurant with a nice outdoor patio.

China Beach

Juan de Fuca Trail

Port Renfrew
Sidney and Salt Spring Island
You take the Pat Bay Highway northeast from Victoria. Sidney is where the ferry terminal is from Victoria to Vancouver. There isn’t a whole lot to see in Sidney but there are some nice restaurants on the main drag. It is a short ferry ride to the most populated of the Southern Gulf Islands, Salt Spring Island, which is inhabited by about 10,000 people, a mixture of well to do yuppies and folks with a bit of hippy in them. Every Saturday morning there is a large outdoor market with locals selling everything from homemade preserves to hand stitched clothes, from pottery to locally grown produce. Noted Canadian artist Robert Bateman lives on the island. There are some very pretty farms on the island and you are sure to see sheep grazing somewhere. You can get a really good view of some of the other Southern Gulf Islands from the top of Mount Maxwell. Other islands that can be reached by ferry from Sidney include Mayne, North and South Pender, and Galiano.

Saltspring Island
The Malahat
The Malahat is a stretch of highway just north of Victoria. It has a steep incline at both ends of it. There are some viewpoints along the way where you can pull over and look out over the Gulf Islands. If you haven’t driven the road before you might want to stay in the inside lane as there is a tendency for a number of people to drive over the speed limit here. There is a cut off on the Malahat to pretty Shawnigan Lake which is well worth spending a few hours at.

View of Southern Gulf Islands
Cobble Hill
After the steep descent down from the Malahat you will see a cut off to Cobble Hill. If wine and wine tasting is your thing, there are probably more vineyards in this area than any other on Vancouver Island. There are a lot of farms in the area.

Cobble Hill

Something To Remember
If you are driving north on the Island Highway remember that the ocean is always to your right. Don’t be afraid to venture down a road to your right. You will always end up by the ocean. One of the prettier little spots is a place called Genoa Bay. There are boathouses in the area and a nifty little pub right by the water. Follow the shoreline road and you will pass some very pretty farms.
Genoa Bay
Genoa Bay
Cowichan Bay
You will have to take a right hand turn off of the Island Highway to get to Cowichan Bay. The main drag has all kinds of little shops and restaurants. It is also a good place to buy fresh seafood. The Rock Cod Café was featured on the Canadian food show You Gotta Eat Here.

Cowichan Bay


You are now in the Cowichan Valley. The valley has a population of about 80,000 people. Duncan has a population of about 5,000. The world’s biggest hockey stick is in Duncan. This area is also where Cowichan sweaters are knitted, usually with First Nations designs on them.

Chemainus is known world-wide for its many murals that have been painted on building walls. It is also known for its theatre that produces a number plays and musicals throughout the year. This summer’s musical is Les Miserable.

Chemainus theatre
Chemainus mural
Ladysmith is one of a number of places on Vancouver Island that were once coal mining towns. Ladysmith is known for its older buildings and Christmas lights display in December.
Nanaimo is the 2nd biggest city on Vancouver Island. The hub, tub, and pub city. It has a population of about 85,000 people. Nanaimo is where jazz singer Diana Krall is from. Take a walk along the downtown waterfront. This is where you can catch a small ferry to Newcastle Island or the Dingy Dock Pub which is the only registered floating pub in Canada. Among the many shops in the older part of downtown is a place called The Flying Fish that sells furniture and home items you don’t  often find at other places. A very interesting store.

Nanaimo waterfront
Nanaimo bathtub race
The Nanaimo waterfront is where The International World Championship Bathtub Race starts and finishes at the end of July.  Nearby Maffeo Park by the ocean hosts live outdoor entertainment in the summer months including part of the Nanaimo Blues Festival.
Just south of Nanaimo off the road to ferry at Duke Point is the village of Cedar. There are 3 fine dining places in the area. The 1st is Mahle House which is in a quaint older building and offers exquisite food. Not far away from here is The Crow & Gate Pub which is as authentic as a British pub could be without being in the U.K. Relax outdoors in a garden setting while you enjoy your bangers and mash along with a pint. You will find yourself in a beautiful country setting that includes a pond with a variety of geese. About 15 minutes further along is Yellow Point Lodge. It is one of those classic resorts that has been around for many, many years. It even has an outdoor salt water pool. The views from in front of the lodge are spectacular.

Yellow Point Lodge
Crow & Gate Pub
Just south of Nanaimo is a place called Wild Play where you can jump off a bridge attached to a bungee cord, take a ride on a zip line, or negotiate your way through the high trees attached to a harness. The latter is suitable and safe for anyone over 12 years of age.

Zip line
Parksville is about a 20 minute drive north of Nanaimo. The town is well known for its summer sand castle building festival. This is great place to spend the day at the beach. At the southern tip of Parksville is Rathtrevor Provincial Park. A nice place to camp or enjoy the trails and beach.

Ratrevor Neach
Decision Time?
Parksville is where one decides whether to continue north on the island or turn left and head across the island to the incomparable Pacific Rim National Park and Long Beach. You really don’t want to miss this spectacular countryside. We’ll get back to Parksville later. We’re off to the west coast!
Coombs And Cathedral Grove
Find the highway that takes you west to Coombs. The town is a bit of a tourist trap but you should stop and see the restaurant/bakery with the goats on the roof. The highway you are on hooks up with the highway to Port Alberni and points west. You will want to stop and wander through Cathedral Grove where some of the biggest trees in the world are located. You may well want to spend 2-3 hours here. Next up is “the hump” where the highway raises high in the mountains (Mount Arrowsmith is off to your left) and then descends into the Alberni Valley. 

Goats on roof at Coombs, BC
Catherdral Grove

 Port Alberni And Sproat Lake
Port Alberni has a population of about 27,000 people. It is the last stop on the way to the west coast of the island. If you are fit you might want to try hiking up nearby Mount Arrowsmith. August is probably the best time for salmon fishing on the Somass River that runs right in front of the town. Campbell River and Port Alberni both seem to claim to be the salmon capital of the world. If you turn left when you reach the river the road will bring you over to Port Alberni Harbour Quay that offers a number of restaurants and small shops.

Port Alberni
About a 20 minute drive west of Port Alberni is the gorgeous Sproat Lake. The lake is about 15 miles long and the home of the Martin Mars water bombers, planes often used to fight forest fires in California.
The highway from here to the west coast is quite windy with a number of hairpins. You have to slow down to about 25 mph at times. There are a number of places you can pull over along the way and view waterfalls and the rushing river. It is quite common in this stretch of highway to see a black bear or two. Don’t get out of your car to take a picture unless they are quite a distance away. Be prepared to be patient if you are following a number of motor homes.

There is a dirt road that goes out to the small fishing village of Banfield on the west coast of the island from Port Alberni. I only suggest taking this road if you are the wild and woolly type because your vehicle will be caked in dust including places that are hard to clean. Bamfield is at the beginning or end of The West Coast Trail.

West Coast Trail

West Coast Trail
 Pacific Rim National Park, Long Beach, Tofino, and Ucluelet
It has been a fairly long drive but you are finally here. You will come to a “T” in the road. On your right is the park admissions office where you will have to pay a small fee if you are spending any time in the Pacific Rim National Park. The park staff can provide you with info and pamphlets.
At the “T” you can either go to your left to Ucluelet or to your right towards Long Beach, Pacific Rim National Park, and Tofino. Ucluelet is about a 15 minute drive from the “T”. On your way through town you will see the Canadian Princess Fishing Resort to your left. The Canadian Princess is a renamed ship built in eastern Canada in the 1930s. Today it is permanently moored and has a restaurant and bar. There is also a lodge next to it. This is good place to stop for lunch or a cocktail. Perhaps you will see the salmon catch that day being cleaned in the early afternoon.

Canadian Princess, Ucluelet, BC

Keep following the main road through a residential area and you will come to the Amphrite Point Lighthouse parking lot. The lighthouse can be seen up close only a hundred yards or so away. This is also the beginning of The Wild Pacific Trail. Here you will get an up close view of the wild Pacific Ocean. It is an easy trail to navigate.

Wild Pacific Trail

We are now going to turn around and head back along the road we arrived on. Just past the “T” on the left hand side of road are some surf shops and outdoor café’s nestled in the trees, a good place to grab a cup of java.
Long Beach
Long Beach
You are about to enter Pacific Rim National Park. Take the cut off to Wickaninnish Beach and Interpretive Centre. Here you will find a restaurant with magnificent views of the beach and the Pacific Ocean. Next door is the Interpretive Centre that has exhibits about the flora and fauna of the area and some First Nations history. Arthur Lismer, one of Canada’s most famous painters, and one of The Group of Seven, painted seascapes in the area back in the 1930s.
Wickaninnish Restaurant
Driving back to the highway you will see a sign to your right indicating Florencia Beach. Many tourists miss this spot but it is one of those that know favourite places to go. You take a wooden stairway to get down to the beach. At the bottom of the stairs is where most who have come to surf the waves hang out. It is worth it to sit on a log and just watch them for a while. After you have taken in the surfers for a while, head left along the beach. Take your shoes off and walk through the surf. After a while you will come to creek that you will have to wade across. Walk for another mile or so. Drop your beach chairs or blanket and plant yourself for the day. This is one of our favourite spots anywhere on the planet! You are off by yourself. On most days you may see as few as a dozen people hiking past you along the beach. On the horizon you can see a small uninhabited island a mile or so off shore. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Surfers Florencia Beach
Florencia Beach
Florencia Beach

Florencia Beach
Grice Bay
We are now going back to highway and will make a left turn when we get there. Green Point is the name of the campground in Pacific Rim National Park. If you plan to stay here it is suggested that you make plans months in advance to get a reservation. It is usually booked early for the months of July and August. The campground also has a little theatre where the park Parks Canada folks will talk about things to do and see in the area each night. Long Beach is just below the campground.

Other spots of note in Pacific Rim National Park are Combers Beach, Schooner Cove, Grice Bay, and Radar Hill. Whether you only go once to this part of BC, or return for other visits, the beauty of wild nature will leave a lasting impression on you.
We are now leaving the National Park. From here to Tofino there are a number of first class seaside resorts. Tofino is the end of the road. You can’t go any further west from here. Tofino is a world class destination. People come from all over the world to visit Pacific Rim National Park and almost always end up in Tofino. It definitely is a tourist centre with small cafes, first class restaurants, and offers are a variety of tours. Killer Whale watching is one of the more popular attractions and of course salmon fishing. There are a number of B&B’s in town. You can even go horseback riding on the beach if you care to. A great place to relax and unwind with the locals is Jack’s Pub at Marina West. I met Chris Hayes, the American political TV guy on MSNBC, at this pub some years ago.  You can purchase fresh seafood here or watch the day’s catch by guests being cleaned on the dock. The pub has a great view of the harbour.

View from Tofino
Killer Whale watching Tofino

If you are one of hardy outdoor type and are into ocean kayaking, the Broken Islands are just minutes away. Tofino is comfortable place to spend time at. It is kind of like you are at the edge of the world.
And so we say goodbye to the west coast (kind of sounds like an old movie travelogue doesn’t it?)
We are going to head all of the way back to Parksville on the east coast of the island. The drive (without stopping) will take about 2 hours.
Once again we have a choice of taking the island expressway or the slower coastal road. We are going to take the latter as there is more to see and we will be closer to the ocean.
Qualicum Beach, Bowser, Deep Cove, and Fanny Bay
Qualicum Beach is an upscale community with a lot of old money owning summer homes there for years along with wealthy retirees. You can walk for hundreds of yards out on the beach when the tide is out. Just a short drive up off the highway is the town core with a variety of upscale stores and a wide selection of restaurants. There is a salmon fish hatchery just north of Qualicum Beach that is open to the public.

Qualicum Beach

The next area you will be driving through is called Lighthouse Country. You can see the lighthouse just south of Denman Island from the small hamlet of Bowser. If you are looking for a gorgeous view of both the ocean and the mountains turn off at Deep Bay and find the government dock. There is a neat little street surrounded on both sides by ocean. At the end of the street is a nice sandy beach and here is where you can see those gorgeous views.

Lighhouse off of Denman Island
Deep Bay
A bit further up the highway is Fanny Bay. I’m kind of partial to Fanny Bay as I owned a house and property there for 5 years. If you turn left at Shipspoint Road and take the first right you get to, you will find a nice little spot down a short single lane dirt road where you can see the oyster beds. Fanny Bay oysters are known internationally. If you see someone who is out for a stroll or walking their dog, stop and ask them where the Enchanted Forest is. You should find it interesting. Depending on the time of year you might find sea lions near the government dock. Before leaving Fanny Bay you might want to stop at The Fanny Bay Inn for a pint or lunch. It is just off the highway and has kind of been an institution on Vancouver Island for a number of decades.

Fanny Bay
Fanny Bay Inn
Fanny Bay

Fanny Bay oysters
Buckley Bay, Denman and Hornby Islands
Buckley Bay is where the ferry goes to Denman Island. You have to catch a 2nd ferry to get to Hornby Island. There are some beautiful farms on both islands. A trip to Hornby Island is well worth it. 2 places to visit there that I highly recommend are Tribune Bay and the Helliwell hiking trail.
Buckley Bay ferry to Denman and Hornby Islands
Helliwell Trail Hornby Island
It is about a 20 minute drive from Buckley Bay to the city of Courtenay. Personally, I’m not a big fan of The Kingfisher Resort and Spa that you will pass along the way.
Courtenay And Comox
It is worth it to stop off in Courtenay and visit the shops on 5th Avenue. Courtenay also has one of the islands most outstanding golf courses called Crown Isle. If diving is your things check out U.B. Diving in Courtenay. If not “you be” doing something else. One of 2 bridges will take you over to the upscale town of Comox which offers boutique shopping and some pubs and restaurants with excellent water views. Comox also has an international airport and a Canadian air force base and an aircraft museum. Check out Seal Bay Nature Park. For those that are the adventurous sorts, take the ferry from Comox to Powell River where there is an artist colony.
We are going to stay on the coastal highway from Courtenay to Campbell River simply because there is more to see on this route. There are 3 or 4 things that you might want to see when you take the express highway back at the end of your vacation on Vancouver Island.
Campbell River
Campbell River also claims to be the salmon fishing capital of the world. Port Alberni offers river fishing for salmon where the Campbell River area is all about ocean fishing. Just north of the city is a fishing resort called Painter’s Lodge with expert fishing guides. It is also a great place to stop for lunch. Just a short distance away is Quadra Island. If you are really keen about salmon fishing you have your choice of a number of resorts including April Point on Quadra Island. Another island that can be reached by ferry from Campbell River is Cortes Island. Check out The Fusilli Grill for lunch or dinner in Campbell River.

Painters Lodge Campbell River
Telegraph Cove, Port McNeil, And Port Hardy
Once you leave Campbell River and head north you will be finding yourself in a more sparsely populated part of the island. Towns are more far apart. You are pretty well assured to see bears somewhere close to highway at some point. You will probably realize that for a good part of this section of your trip that you are out in the wilderness. There are pretty lakes on both sides of the highway. Nimpkish Lake is a favourite of wind surfers.

Nimpkish Lake
Telegraph Cove is a pretty little harbour with most of the buildings built on stilts. It is a great place to go kayaking. There is a nice pub there but be prepared to pay 13 bucks for a burger.
Telegraph Cove
Kayakers at Telegraph Cove

Telegraph Cove

Port McNeil and Port Hardy are both fishing ports and some of the locals are involved in the forestry industry which has been in decline on Vancouver Island for decades. Avid American sports fishermen have been coming up to this area for years.

Sointula Island And Alert Bay
Both of these destinations can be reached by ferry from Port McNeil. Sointula is a very pretty island with well-kept small farms. Be sure and drive out to the lighthouse which is just a short hike away from where you’ll park your car. There is a nice road that goes along the shoreline just off of the ferry. Sointula was initially settled by Finnish immigrants. The population of Alert Bay is mostly First Nations people. I wouldn’t say it is the most friendly place. There is an excellent gift shop with First Nations artworks right by the “residential school” that has been closed and shuttered for a number of years. The school and how First Nations children were forced to go there and were often abused is not one of British Columbia’s high points in history.

Alert Bay
Residential school alert Bay
Old double decker British buses alert Bay
Northern Gulf Islands ferry
Fishing boat

Cape Scott Provincial Park
Cape Scott is at the northwest tip of Vancouver Island. It is one of few places on the island that I have not visited. From what I understand you have to take a dirt road to get to the park and you are basically totally away from civilization once you get there. Only really experienced hikers and campers should venture out to the park.
Heading Back South
We are now going to go back down the island. It will take a few hours to get to Campbell River on the 2 lane highway. You are sure to notice the mountains that have snow on top of them year round. Once you get to Campbell River you are going to take the Island Express Highway which has 2 lanes going both north and south.
Strathcona Provincial Park
Strathcona Provincial Park is both the largest provincial park on Vancouver Island and the Province of BC’s oldest provincial park. Once again if you plan on hiking you should be fit but if you just want to relax at a lodge that is also available to you. The park is about a 40 minute drive from Campbell River.

Mount Washington
This is where Vancouver Islanders ski in the winter. Depending on the snowfall, the ski season is sometimes extended into May. It is well worth the winding drive up to the chairlifts and lodges in the summer. It is a great place for mountain biking, taking a chairlift ride, or going for a hike.
Mount Washington
Cumberland And Comox Lake
There is a left hand turn off near the right hand exit to Courtenay that will take you to the old mining town of Cumberland. A number of the original buildings that were built long ago still exist. There is a mining museum in town. A few miles away is the secluded Comox Lake, a nice place to spend the afternoon at the beach.
Horne Lake
Now that you have done almost everything you could imagine on your trip how about something a little different like caving? Horne Lake has a beautiful beach with mountain backdrops. It is also known for its guided tours of the nearby caves.
Heading For Home
Nanaimo is probably your best bet to get back to Vancouver. You can either take the ferry to West Vancouver from downtown Nanaimo or to Tsawwassen just south of Vancouver from Duke Point just south of Nanaimo.


Some Things To Remember
#1 Book early if you are planning on spending some time camping at one of the parks, particularly at Pacific Rim National Park. The same is true for the more popular resorts.
#2 Be prepared to slow down a bit. For the most part Vancouver Island people are not in a big hurry and the general atmosphere is casual.
#3 Decide what activities you would like to do in advance. Of course you can always wing things but it usually better to have some kind of plan.
Don’t be Shy!
If you have any questions about Vancouver Island that you think I can answer, just e-mail me. If you want to know where the best trails are, where the best ocean fishing places are, where the best pubs are, where the best kayaking places are, the names of some really good restaurants, where the best golf courses are, where the best beaches are….etc., etc., DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK!
I’m not being paid to write what I’ve written. I truly love Vancouver Island and all it has to offer. The more tourists the better the better the local economy! It is a place you won’t soon forget.
My e-mail address is: