Port Hardy and Port McNeill
We did think we would take the dirt road directly from Gold River over to the north-west part of Vancouver Island, but after chatting to the guys in the information centre in Gold River we decided to give it a miss; apparently it was much more rocky and poorly maintained than the road to Tahsis and we figured paved was probably the better option on this occasion. So we rode back towards Campbell River, stopping at Lady Falls on the way to walk another forest trail – no bears but it did seem like just the place.
After lunch, which was homemade soup at a lovely café on the side of the road run by a really friendly lady, we caught up with a family of bikers and stopped to chat with them for a while. The mum, dad and son were on their second tour and loving life on bikes. One of the best things about this trip was definitely the random conversations we had with people, especially other bikers who were travelling in a similar way to us – this motorcycle touring thing is quite common!
We went right up to Port Hardy to have a look at the harbour town that is famous for its water sports before heading back down to Port McNeill for the night.
Forest trail at Lady Falls.
Telegraph Cove felt like a resort hotel-owned town, and actually I think it was. Built on boardwalk making up a harbour wall, it was the place everyone we spoke to over the last couple of days said we needed to see. There were little cottages and old warehouses arranged around a harbour. The area was historically famous for whaling andnow for whale watching. There are stories of cougars and bears here, and whales are a very common sight in the harbour. We went into the Whale Museum where, among hundreds of scull and skeleton exhibits, they had the jawbone of a Blue Whale on display – that is SO big, no wonder Steve Backshall got excited when he saw one on Big Blue Live!
Boardwalk homes at Telegraph Cove.
The Whale Museum at Telegraph Cove.
We rode from Telegraph Cove to Port Alberni in one day, mainly because a lot of it was backtracking along the 19 down the coast. We actually wanted to stay in Tofino or in that area, but were unable to find any available accommodation or camp grounds and so plumped for a B&B in Port Alberni for a couple of nights as a base. We were glad we did; our only B&B experience of the trip was a success with a lovely room, amazing breakfasts, and friendly owner – check out the Hummingbird Guesthouse and stay there if you are ever in the area!
The B&B owner requested that we didn’t leave any of the doors open because bears have been seen in the garden and she didn’t fancy waking up in the morning to find one in her dining room! The river here is full of salmon, we could see them swimming around as we walked into town, and there is a nature reserve area along the river where black bears live. Sadly we didn’t spot any bears, but we did watch a deer eat someone’s flowers in their garden and had a lovely walk along Victoria Quay.
Tofino and the Pacific Rim National Park
Highway 4 from Port Alberni to Tofino is one of those twisty roads that bikers just love to ride, and as such has a bit of a reputation – we spotted the local paper had reported that there had been “yet another” accident on one of the bends. It was indeed a fantastic road to ride, but being the main route down to Tofino, a popular surfing spot, it was also quite busy in places with people rushing rather than enjoying their journey.
We stopped a number of times inside the Pacific Rim National Park to walk the trails and take in the rainforest. The Rainforest Trail was a couple of 1km boardwalk paths through the rainforest, quite rickety in places and so requiring careful footing, we saw hanging gardens of moss, ferns, massive old trees, heard all the animal noises and watched pools of baby salmon. There was a wolf warning in this area as they have been seen recently, but thankfully we didn’t come across any of them!
The Rainforest Trail, Pacific Rim National Park.
Boardwalk through the rainforest.
The Schooner Cove Trail was another boardwalk taking us a bit more than a kilometre down the hill to the beach. And what a beach! We found ourselves in the sort of place you could find on a desert island – sand, driftwood, ocean, beautiful.
Tofino itself was beautiful but very busy. We had ice cream at Chocolate Tofino and rode around to explore, but didn’t stop for long before heading back along Highway 4 and enjoying the road back to our B&B. We walked along one final boardwalk trail on our way back, called Shoe Cove, we stopped for the name and found it much quieter and more difficult to navigate than the others we’d done in the area but so beautiful.
Cathedral Grove and Little Qualicum Falls
We woke up to rain which was a real shame because we had plans to check out a few more trails today on our way to Victoria. Thankfully the constant rain in Port Alberti turned to showers as we rode along, so it could have been much worse.
MacMillan Provincial Park.
Cathedral Cove is famous for its tall and old trees, moss and nursery logs (fallen trees giving life to new trees). The Grove is both sides of the main road (I guess it would be more accurate to say the road cuts through the Grove), and parking is in two lay-bys that are, well, pretty chaotic. We wedged the bikes in and went to walk a couple of trails that were so beautiful and interesting. We have learnt a lot about trees, forests and rainforests on this trip.
Nursery tree in Cathedral Grove.
We also stopped at Little Qualicum Falls and did the short walk from the car park to the river and to watch the waterfall. It rained so heavily here that we bundled into our waterproof gear and took to the road rather than walking the trail to the Upper Falls, which was a shame because we were told they are pretty spectacular, but you can’t help the weather.
The rain also stopped play in Chermainus, a town famous for its murals; we rode through but didn’t fancy wandering around because we were already soaking by now. We did stop on the side of the road to watch a logging ship empty its load, though – I’d heard this was fascinating to watch and I’m glad we saw it; basically the massive ship tips sideways to allow the logs to fall off into the water and be washed to shore by the tide, before righting itself once all the logs are off. It’s much quicker than docking and using a crane or JCB to unload! I guess this is where all the driftwood at Bullards Beach is from.
LincsGeek and an uprooted tree in Cathedral Grove.
Victoria is the main city on Vancouver Island and actually the principle city of British Columbia, home to all the parliament buildings and such. We did a lot of walking and eating here – a great meal in China Town, some awesome limeade from a street seller, and dinner and breakfast at John’s Diner. We had booked a Whale Watching tour from here because we’d been told it was one of the best places in the world to view Orcas in the wild, and that was absolutely the case for us (more on this another day). Apart from that there were lots of other things to do and we made the most of our final day on Vancouver Island by visiting the parliament building for a free tour, watching some performers tell the story of British Columbia (with some amazing British accents!), wandering along Fisherman’s Wharf, and walking around the harbour and through some rose gardens. The architecture here was remarkably British (the city is named after Queen Victoria), and it was like experiencing a little bit of home at the end of our ten weeks away.
The British Columbia Parliament Building, Victoria.
Inside the BC Parliament Building, Victoria.
Vancouver Island in one Paragraph
Exploring Vancouver Island by motorbike felt like we were riding back home in Wales or Scotland; it was small enough to see the highlights in a week but large enough to feel like we’d travelled a long way and seen all kinds of things. I can totally see why all those people near the start of our trip encouraged us to make time for it, and I’m glad we took their advice. The rainforests and woodlands were stunning, sea views some of the best of the whole trip, and roads really good fun to ride. If you’ve never been over to Vancouver Island, make time to do so – it’s a great place to have an adventure.