Originally Posted by hrewer
It's been a long time between starting this plan and picking it up again. We are now hoping the border will continue be open and we will be able to visit Vancouver Island in September. With the help of all your suggestions I have come up with this plan and I'd love some feedback on it.
We have 3 weeks and love moderate hikes. We also have inflatable kayaks that we would like to use on calm waters. We usually do not choose hook ups unless we need to for laundry. We do not have a high clearance vehicle.
Fort Victoria for 3 nights - seeing Buschart gardens and a day in the city
Brown's Bay for 4 nights - to visit Gold River, Elk Falls, maybe the museum at Campbell River
Alder Bay for 4 nights - Telegraph Cove for whale watching, driving up to Port Hardy
Cumberland Lake for 1 night
Tofino for 4 nights
Living Forest in Nanaimo for 1 night
Gordon Bay 1 night
French Beach 1 night
Goldstream for 2 nights
I'm most unsure about the one night stays and wonder whether I should drop the southern loop and spend more time somewhere else. Or should I drop Tofino and spread those nights out? Any recommendations would be appreciated.
I think we will start after the holiday weekend in September to avoid crowds so this will actually go a little into October.
I let this one run for a few weeks to see where it would go....
Working sort of backwards: The Island and your waiting for September plan.... Two things: Keep in mind that the Island has TWO climates. Once you go over the bridge going north at Campbell River you are going straight WEST and the temperatures will be cooler and will arrive sooner. Another thing to consider is that the North Island empties out of tourists starting on August 15th. I worked at Tel Cove and it's a ghost town after that date. So if it was me and I was dead set on doing the whole Island, including McNeil, Hardy....I'd hop on a ferry in early or mid august and DRIVE straight north....there's lots of places you could spend one night in a campground close to the highway and after a leisurely two day drive you'd be in Hardy and start your "vacation" there... still be assured of the best possible "north island" weather and have plenty of time to do the whole Island!
JMO of course.
Island campgrounds are varied and I'll list them by price point:
Private, premium campgrounds with all bells and whistles (Living Forest)
Private, "ma and pop" operations...a bit funky, some can be real gems
Campgrounds run by non-profits (fish hatcheries, municipal) my favourite
Provincial Parks premium (either for location and/or amenities like showers/kiddie playgrounds) Goldstream/Gordon Bay
Provincial Parks regular, built long ago, large sites, outhouses...nothing much more
Recreational Sites: usually free unless there's a host looking after them for the summer, off the beaten path (gravel roads) but some are only a few miles off the pavement and can/could be the highlight of your whole trip.
Starting from the north end....Port Hardy has a great "non profit" CG called Quatse River CG....close to town, you could even long walk it along the river trail. If you decide to drive to coal Harbour DON'T bring your trailer...nice drive an all but there is NO place to even park there.
In the area you HAVE to go to Storey's beach....fabulous municipal park, great beach with even a free sani-station! but no overnight camping.
Alder Bay is a great spot for what you want to do in the area.
If you were into golf Seven Hills golf course has RV spots for cheap (water/power) and the nine hole course is great and deserted. The views from the RV sites are "million dollar"! I'd stay there even if I didn't golf.
You have kayaks....you may want to stop around Woss and camp at the Woss Lake Rec Site....might be busy on a weekend, but lovely during the week.
I would suggest a few more lakes (dozens) between there and Campbell River but they involve a lot more logging road travel/bushwacking that you might not want to do with an Escape
Sayward is worth a stop....there's a nice, well run CG just off the main road, another one on the river on the opposite side of the highway and a third (municipal) right in the middle of the little, very little, town.
Browns Bay as a base for the Campbell River area is not ideal IMO. It's quite a ways out and comes with a rather steep gravel road. Alternates are right in town...on the spit there is a CG that is just a gravel parking lot with trailers stacked like cordwood but within walking distance to EVERYTHING and you can paddle the estuary right there....then there is Elk Falls Provincial Park a couple of miles away that is a beautiful spot on the river (a regular PP campsite)
Moving further south there's Saratoga Beach PP....a "premium" PP CG....with a fabulous beach and a few attractions nearby.
As well as Kitty Coleman PP (non-profit run)...small quieter place, RIGHT ON the Straight of Georgia (throw a rock from your trailer into the water)....lovely spot.
Cumberland??? (Comox Lake) Don't do it unless you're into jet-skis, wakeboard boats and noise. (I live just a few miles from there).
There are alternates close by....in Courtenay and in Comox.
Tofino/Ucluelet??? Well you'll have to do it....or you'll kick yourself.
My pick would be Bella Pacifica....and they still let you overnight at Wallyworld in Port Alberni BTW.
The Pacific Marine Circle Tour is on your list and I love it. Done it twice.
Because of the elevation change, counter clockwise is the way to go IMO.
Gordon Bay is a great place....there's a beautiful 9 hole golf course just beside it that has a very welcoming clubhouse with great food too!
If you got kayaks, you HAVE to stop at Fairy Lake and paddle the lake into the lazy San Juan river and paddle up it for a while....gorgeous spot.
While there is enough room in the parking lot at Botanical Beach for you and your trailer....the drive there is SUPER NARROW...just be aware of that.
French Beach (premium PP) is fine...but there is a large day use /parking area there as well...it can be "busy" (not your wild, deserted, west coast beach if that is what you're after) I would suggest China Beach CG in Juan De Fuca PP. China Beach is a "regular" PP CG with sites spaced far apart. The hike down to the beach is about 20 minutes.....and the beach is WILD.
Sooke is worth a stop....it's got a great CG (non-profit) RIGHT on the river, you can launch your kayaks right beside your trailer....lovely spot.
There is nothing at Goldstream PP CG except for very big trees! If you want to visit Victoria attractions, you might as well stay at Fort Victoria for the same price and be closer in, have wifi and do laundry(?). Keep in mind that it's an "urban" CG though.....HUNDREDS of sites. You only sleep there.
Have a good trip.