If you’re looking for a summer road trip that packs in a variety of activities and scenery, British Columbia is a great option. Our 8-day road trip included the city of Vancouver, the mountains of Whistler, the beaches of Tofino, and the history of Victoria. There was so much to see and do that no one in my family was left unsatisfied (a rare feat for a family road trip!). For context, we have an outdoorsy 20-something, me the foodie and history nerd, and my moderately adventurous parents. Oh, and all of us are vegetarians! See below for our 8-day British Columbia itinerary.
Road Trip Overview:
Day 1: Vancouver, BC
Day 2: Drive from Vancouver, BC to Whistler, BC with all the stops between
Day 3: Whistler and Blackcomb mountains
Day 4: Whistler, BC to Vancouver Island / Tofino, BC (via drive and ferry)
Day 5: Tofino, BC and Pacific Rim National Park
Day 6: Tofino, BC to Victoria, BC
Day 7: Victoria, BC
Day 8: Vancouver, BC
Detailed Trip Breakdown:
Our trip began in the city of Vancouver, with our first full day dedicated to exploring the city. To kick off the day we had a very satisfying lunch at Budgies Burritos, a vegetarian quick-serve Tex Mex restaurant.
We next worked off the food at Stanley Park, a huge park that is encompassed by the city and the bay. We were able to rent bikes from a nearby shop and explored the entire park’s perimeter. This allowed us to see downtown, the water, a beach, and a lot of other fantastic scenery. The park also has a number of gardens, recreation areas, and landmarks.
All that biking worked up an appetite again so we rewarded ourselves with waffle treats at Nero Belgian Waffle Bar.
Our last main activity for the day was Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, located in North Vancouver. This park has the famous suspension bridge you’ve probably seen on your Instagram feed. Thankfully, the park is extremely accessible! I recommend visiting the park after 5:00 pm to avoid crowds and really have a chance to enjoy the park.
Our first full day ended with dinner at House of Dosa where we enjoyed South Indian comfort food.
The second day of our road trip covered the stretch between the cities of Vancouver and Whistler. The non-stop drive is under 2 hours but with so many stunning stops along the way, it’s worthwhile to devote a full day to the drive!
We began the day at Granville Island Public Market in Vancouver. This sprawling public space has it all – fantastic eateries, markets, galleries, and shops. It’s possible to spend an entire day there but we were mostly interested in the food! We ended up ordering food from four different eateries and shared it all.
We then left Vancouver and drove to Whytcliff Park, a tucked-away park in West Vancouver with great scenery and an opportunity to see an array of wildlife. We spent less than an hour at the park and were able to see three whales and some sea lions!
We continued our drive to the town of Squamish where we took the Sea to Sky Gondola, allowing us to see the surrounding mountains. More adventurous folks can skip the gondola and hike up to the Summit Lounge area but we took the easy (and fun) route by using the gondola.
Once at the top, we were surrounded by sweeping views of the Howe Sound and the Coast Range. There were also several hike options and a suspension bridge, so you can spend as much or as little time as you want at the top.
Our last stop before Whistler was Brandywine Falls which was a quick hike off the highway to a lookout point.
After arriving in Whistler we explored the fairytale-like village and dined at Pizzeria Antico, a cozy and satisfying Italian eatery.
Our third day was devoted to enjoying the mountains. We took the gondola up Whistler mountain and another lift up to Whistler’s peak. Even in the summer, there were plenty of activities to enjoy. For instance, we ate lunch up on the mountain, explored the snow walls, and took different hiking trails.
We then took the Peak to Peak Gondola to Blackcomb mountain. This gondola is a whopping 4.4km trip and the scenery is amazing. It might not be a great option if you’re afraid of heights though! However, the gondola is huge and it was a very smooth ride.
Back in Whistler Village we enjoyed gelato at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, shopped, and ate dinner at Indian Masala Bistro – not the best Indian food in the world but it was a safe choice for our family.
The fourth day of our British Columbia road trip was our longest stretch of driving: going from Whistler to Tofino. However, once again there were plenty of interesting stops along the way to make it enjoyable. We ate breakfast at Ingrid’s, a vegetarian-friendly cafe, before departing Whistler for Vancouver Island.
Along the way we made a quick stop at Shannon Falls near Squamish. It was a very accessible walk to the waterfall and a nice excuse to stop and stretch our legs.
We then grabbed lunch at Mag’s 99 Fried Chicken and Mexican Cantina which was essentially the Canadian hipster version of Taco Bell (and it was great). We continued our drive to Horseshoe Bay where we caught our ferry to Vancouver Island. The ferry system around Vancouver is very easy to use and we had no issues figuring it out. We also lucked out on the weather and were able to lay out in the sun while ferrying across the bay. Not a bad way to travel!
Once on Vancouver Island, we drove straight to Ucluelet where our hotel was. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find lodging in Tofino because of the high demand in summer, but Ucluelet is equally charming and less touristy. Definitely try to book accommodations well in advance during the summer months because there aren’t many options in the area (we learned the hard way). After a long travel day, we enjoyed an embarrassing amount of pizza at Abbondanza Pizza.
Today we enjoyed as much of the Tofino area as we could squeeze in. We started at the Visitors Center to get our bearings before heading to Common Loaf for lunch, a charming restaurant and bakery. We then worked off our food by wandering around the town of Tofino.
Next, we headed to Pacific Rim National Park where we did two shorter rainforest trail hikes and visited Combers Beach. Pacific Rim National Park is actually 511 square kilometers so there is more real estate to explore than feasible in one trip. We stuck to the area nearest Tofino and Ucluelet.
Later that afternoon, we had a bear watching tour with Jamie’s Whaling Station & Adventure Center. We’ve done whale watching tours before so we thought we’d try something different with a bear watching adventure! The tour used a comfortable boat and we lucked out and saw several black bears (although they were kind of far away). Overall, it was a fairly enjoyable and relaxing way to get on the water and do something new. If you haven’t done a similar tour before, it’s worth trying once.
That evening, we headed back into Tofino and had dinner at Tacofino, a taco food truck that has now grown to several restaurants (easy to tell why once you’ve tried their food). We followed dinner with dessert at Chocolate Tofino and then headed to Long Beach to watch the sunset.
Our third to last day in British Columbia brought us to Victoria, the province’s capital. But first, before leaving Ucluelet, we had a quick breakfast at Zoe’s Bakery and Cafe. The drive from Ucluelet to Victoria is about 4 hours so it did take up our entire morning.
Once in Victoria, we had lunch at Varsha – a family-run Indian fusion restaurant with a nicely diverse menu. We spent the rest of the late afternoon/evening shopping and exploring the main part of town on our own. For instance, we did a free guided tour of the British Columbia Parliament Building. We also ended up going to the Victoria Tacofino location for dinner because we had loved it so much in Tofino!
Our seventh day was spent getting to know the city of Victoria. We found the best way for us to explore – via bike tour! We did the 2-hour Castles, Hoods & Legends tour from The Pedaler which enabled us to see Chinatown, Craigdarroch Castle, Beacon Hill Park, the waterfront, and more.
We next went to Government House, but not to see the house! The gardens and grounds of this estate are beautiful, especially in summer. We then ate at the adjacent Cary Mews Tea House which was a perfect conclusion to our time in Victoria.
Alas, all good things come to an end. Our last day brought us back to the mainland and to Vancouver.
We finally opted for an indoor activity and went to Science World – a center with interactive exhibits and displays. Although a more kid-friendly museum, we still enjoyed the exhibits and the excuse to bring out our playful sides.
We next went to 49th Parallel for some famed coffee and donuts (yes it was good), before heading to the popular Gastown district to window shop and enjoy more food. We concluded our trip with dinner at Nicli Antica Pizzeria.
That concludes our 8-day road trip around British Columbia! Of course, the province of British Columbia is massive and we just touched one corner of this beautiful place. However, we found this to be a perfect, and accessible, introduction for our family. Is there anything we missed? Let us know!