Washington & Vancouver Island Road Trip: The Quest for The Pacific Rim
This page contains affiliate links. Read my full disclosure for more information.
This ultimate 8-day road trip itinerary explores Vancouver Island from Victoria to the Pacific Rim and everything in between (and kind of all-around).
We started in Seattle, Washington where we flew in specifically to start our road trip and took the ferries from the Anacortes port to Vancouver Island, BC. We did everything from meeting wolves, hiking a rainforest, walking the largest beach we’ve ever seen in our lives, hugging some of the biggest and oldest trees on the earth, seeing goats that live on roofs, and more.
Eventually, we came back into the U.S. and even hit up part of the Olympic Peninsula before we flew out of Seattle back into St. Louis, MO.
In this road trip guide, we go through everything from what to expect from international ferry routes, what you’ll need for an international road trip like this, the best spots for hiking and beaches, and the wonders you’ll come across in probably the most fun 8 days of your life.
The Only 8 Day Washington & Vancouver Island Road Trip Itinerary You’ll Ever Need
My wife was looking up places for us to go for our 3rd year wedding anniversary and came across Vancouver Island, BC in Canada. What most stood out to her first were the rich history the trees and forests have (she is somewhat of a tree enthusiast).
If you’ve ever come across a picture online of Cathedral Grove, your reaction might match hers. Really quick, here is one:
That’s me, in my new tree home. 😂 I wish!
Since it was just a ferry ride away from Anacortes, a town just north of Seattle, WA, this ancient world of mountains and rainforests seemed very exciting and reachable.
We did another fly and drive trip where we flew into Seattle, WA from St. Louis, MO and then drove up to Anacortes, WA for 2 days. From there we planned 6 days exploring the Canadian island.
Day 1: Seattle and Anacortes
We flew into Seattle,WA and rented a car to use to drive up to Anacortes and take across the ferry into Victoria, BC on Vancouver Island. It was tricky to find a car rental company that would allow us to drive the rental car into Canada. We ended up going with Dollar Rental and had a great experience with them.
Other car rental agencies that allow you to drive their rentals from the U.S. into Canada are Hertz and Budget. However, you are restricted to where in Canada you can take these rentals (including Dollar Rental).
I am going to give you some unconventional advice here: Dollar Rental told us that their cars are only covered in Victoria and when they asked where else I would be taking the car, I said only Victoria. Yea, I lied. It was right as we landed at the airport and I wasn’t as prepared as I thought I was so I lied. (I also had the next 8 days perfectly planned out and those plans would only work with that rental).
We were careful with that car and everything worked out fine. The car was fine, we were fine and the rental company never found out. BUT I definitely recommend you being more prepared than me and making sure you know all of what they do and don’t cover before booking in advance.
After that guilt dissipated in my chest from picking up the rental car, we made our trek up to Anacortes and stayed at the Ship Harbor Inn.
Pro tip: We were able to get our round trip plane tickets to Seattle from St. Louis (nonstop trip each way) for free thanks to using Southwest Rapid Rewards points to cover my ticket price and our Southwest Companion Pass that covered my wife’s ticket.
Day 2: Visit Deception Pass and Our Wolf Encounter
We enjoyed the free breakfast and coffee at the inn before venturing out for the day (which was quite the exciting day ahead). We had planned an Airbnb Experience at Predators of the Heart but to kill some time before our scheduled meetup, we checked out Deception Pass.
Predators of the Heart is right down the road from Deception Pass so after snapping some shots and enjoying the scenery, we headed that way.
Predators of the Heart is a 10-acre wildlife preserve and education 501(c)3 non-profit. One of the ways they pay for, expand the preserve and care for the wildlife there is by offering a 2-hour wolf encounter and immersive experience on their property which can be booked through Airbnb Experiences.
Their wolves are one of the largest wolf packs in the Pacific Northwest and share the compound with a variety of other animals such as cougars, bobcats, lynx, hawks, owls, vultures, skunks, foxes and many more.
When I originally found the Airbnb Experience for the wolf encounter, I really had to think about the $200 price tag. After the experience, I can 100% say it is worth every penny.
Then it was off to another Airbnb down the road, looking over the Pacific Ocean. We napped it out and then closed out the day with the one of the best blackened snappers I’ve ever eaten at a restaurant called Adrift (this was when I still ate fish). It was one of those perfect days.
Day 3: Take the Ferry from Anacortes, WA into Sidney, BC and stay in a treehouse.
If you are planning to take the ferry to Vancouver Island any time during the summer, make your vehicle reservations online in advance. You can reserve your vehicle’s spot using the Washington State Ferries Vehicle Registration Page.
Be sure to also reserve your return spot either using this same website and route back or switch it up and reserve it on the route from Victoria, BC to Port Angeles, WA.
You will need to arrive 90 minutes before the ferry departs and they have a small snack bar and bathrooms near the area where you wait with your vehicle before boarding (which was a godsend for someone like me who has a nonexistent bladder).
Once you arrive in Sidney, be prepared to go through Canadian Customs but this goes pretty quick and is pretty straight forward. They ask you what you came for, when you’re coming back and happily send you on your way.
From there we ate a restaurant called and drove to Hatley Castle to wander about the grounds. We didn’t pay to go inside and had plenty of fun touring the outside area and surrounding trail.
Then we made our way to our Airbnb for the night which was named the Owl Perch Treehouse. It was the coolest tiny home and treehouse I’d ever had the pleasure of sleeping in (minus the fact you have to climb down a ladder to use the bathroom in the middle of the night).
The treehouse was located in Sooke, BC in a normal neighborhood even though the photos made it seem like it was in a forest. But still, we weren’t complaining. It came with free champagne, overweight rabbits everywhere and there was this amazing trail that ran through the neighborhood that I got to run that next morning.
Pro tip: Most of our accommodation was covered by Airbnb referral credits and when we weren’t staying in an Airbnb, we stayed in an inn or hotel covered by Chase reward points. We love finding ways we can travel hack and use as much of our points and resources to save money on our trips.
Day 4: Drive from Sooke to Ucluelet and explore all the lakes.
This day was one of the wildest days in terms of scenery. We even said to each other “how are we experiencing all of this in one day”. It was one of those days that seemed to go on for a week; a real stitch in time.
From Sooke, we made our way through Duncan, Nanaimo, past Cameron Lake, Cathedral Grove, Sproat Lake (with a couple of roadside stops to take in the scenery and get our feet wet in the water) and even met some roof goats.
Then eventually to Ucluelet where we would be staying for the next 2 nights.
We stayed at The Francis Boutique Inn which we got for free with using Chase reward points from our Chase credit card.
Day 5: Explore Ucluelet, Pacific Rim Provincial Park, and Tofino.
Vancouver Island has so much to offer that day 5 felt like day 15.
Our morning started out with coffee and breakfast as the cafe across the street.
We spent most of this day exploring different trails in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve next to the ocean, Long Beach, Tofino, and an old crashed plane in the woods (we left our phones and camera’s behind because of the wetness of the area but it was crazy looking).
Unfortunately, we didn’t make it all the way to the crashed plane because the deeper we walked, the swampier the ground got. It was getting dark so we made a call following our intuition and headed back but the walk in and out was still worthwhile.
If you do decide to walk all the way into the crashed plane, be prepared with rain boots and allow yourself enough time during sunlight. And watch out for bears, we didn’t see one up close be we saw one later cross the road while we were in our car.
The feeling of the Pacific Rim Provincial Park is hard to describe. Walking Long Beach made it seem like we were on the edge of the earth. We truly fell in love with the land here.
Day 6: More of the Pacific Rim and driving to Nanaimo.
We got in a couple more views and short hikes in the Pacific Rim before we headed back on our route back towards Victoria. The thing with the way we planned our road trip was the route back would be the same as the route in – there wasn’t any way around that.
The good thing was this way we could hit all the roadside pullovers and scenery spots that we missed on the way in. And you bet we pulled back up to our favorite lake – Cameron Lake. The water is way too cold to swim in it but we still got almost halfway in.
Before we stopped in Victoria, we found a cool Airbnb in Nanaimo with a private beach. We had an entire floor to us, free range of the deck, backyard, and beach. It was perfect for the night.
Day 7: Head back to Victoria and Butchart Gardens
From Nanaimo, we head back on our last stretch of drive before leaving Vancouver Island. We headed to Victoria where we had a modern-chic Airbnb, blocks away from the water. It was close to plenty of walkable routes and trails.
We also swung by Butchart Gardens for a botanical experience. We love gardening and especially trees so we had to check out the landscaping wonder that is Butchart Gardens before leaving the island.
If you love landscape art and a variety of rich, lucious natural colors, we recommend you check out the gardens while you are in Victoria. It was busy when we went but this was in “the before” so the crowds would be nowhere near what we experienced for quite sometime probably.
Day 8: Take the ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles, WA (and check out Olympic National Park).
The geese accompanied me on my morning run and we packed up for the ferry to Port Angeles, WA to explore the Olympic National Forest.
We took the Victoria ferry into Port Angeles, WA for the route back into the U.S. (and the perfect route for checking part of the Olympic Peninsula off our list).
When getting off the ferry into Washington, going through customs is nothing like coming into Vancouver Island from the U.S.. It was much easier to come into Canada from America, but we also were coming back into the U.S. on a weekend. So, it was definitely more time-consuming and probably took an hour total to get off the ferry and sit in a line of cars waiting to go through customs and border checks.
Once we were given the go-ahead to reenter our homeland, we went off to galavant around Olympic National Forest. Once again, we were on a time crunch so we decided to hit one part which ended up being the infamous Hurricane Ridge. We hiked around the area there for about 2 hours and then headed to our hotel before our flight took off the next day.
We had a National Park Pass so we didn’t have to pay any admission fees which is the way to go. The pass pays for itself with just 2 park visits so it’s a pass you should invest in if you plan on visiting at least more than 2 national parks in the same year.
Saying Goodbye: Vancouver Island
This road trip was our first international road trip we’ve ever taken and the first where we used plane, cars, and boats as modes of transportation. It was also the reason we really fell in love with the north west area of Washington and Vancouver Island.
Then we moved there.
We were still in living in St. Louis, MO when we took this road trip but today we live in NW Washington.
It is crazy to think that a trip can change your future but it was always in our plans to move to the PNW, this trip just helped narrow that down for us.
Where will your next adventure take you?
- Southwest Road Trip 4 Day Itinerary: Vegas, Grand Canyon, and Sedona
- We Sold Almost Everything We Own and Took a 15 Month Road Trip Across North America
- Cabot Trail Road Trip: 3 Days in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
- How We Tried Out “Car Life” & Traveled Across Europe For 3 Months
Pin it for later!
Dani is an entrepreneur and one of the creators of hikingandroadtrips.com. She is obsessed with everything outdoors, especially hiking, traveling and will take any opportunity to #getoutside for adventure or to just vibe with the earth.