An outstanding must to do on Vancouver Island is Whale Watching, especially with kids. We choose the company Orca Spirit Adventure in Victoria because they had four seat available on a little boat for Rosemarie, Alfred, Jay and Kuba. Jutta, Marion and Hermann took a larger and more convenient ship.
The cruise to the tiny rocks of Port Angeles in USA was quite bumpy. Fortunately we had our warm and cozy Astronaut like gear with a good padding. There was no customs on the border because we had no passports with us. There we met the larger ship with Jutta, Marion and Hermann.
It was the seasons of the Orcas but we didn't see any. Instead we saw some Humpback Whales which are rare in August. These are the third largest Whales species on earth - up to 16 meters long and 30 tons heavy. Humpback Whales are very human friendly, for example in September 2017 two adult Humpbacks protected a snorkeling woman from a Tiger Shark attack. One Whale pushed the woman away from the Shark while the other used its tail to block the predator's advance.
Our guide told us that it forbidden to drive less that 100 meters to a Whale. But nobody told the Whales about this regulation. Suddenly a huge beast bobbed up few meters in front of our little boat. Everybody in the ship was screaming including our guide. But nobody was fast enough to take a picture. In addition we saw many Sea Lions and Seals on and around the rocks.
Before we came to Vancouver Island we explored Waitabit Creek, Glacier National Park, Shuswap Lakes, Fraser River Valley and the Mill Lake Park of Abbotsford. Our first swim in the Pacific Ocean was on wonderful Centennial Beach with warm and free showers (GPS coordinates: N49° 00.781' W123° 02.416').
Waitabit Creek has a nice and free campsite directly on the beach of the river (GPS coordinates: N51° 30.043' W117° 11.039') where we stayed two nights. The kids enjoyed the ice-cold water, built dams, collected stoned and made other funny things.
In the (Canadian) Glacier National Park we hiked few hours the Glacier Crest Trail to a viewpoint. Unfortunately it was misty even a little bit foggy due to many wildfires in British Columbia caused by lightening or humans. Later we red in the Internet that British Columbia had the most severe fire situation in whole America! Consequently we decided to continue to the coast of British Columbia. Also there the situation was very bad, for instance there was a warning for the metropolis Vancouver not to make any sport outside and better remain in buildings. We checked daily the situation on the governmental website for air quality.
We were lucky with the air quality on the Shuswap Lake where we found two gorgeous beaches: Sunnybrae (GPS coordinates: N50° 46.194' W119° 17.943') and Blind Beach (GPS coordinates: N50° 53.005' W119° 22.732'). The water temperature was convenient and not only the kids enjoyed it.
Basically we followed the Trans Canada Highway number 1 through the Valley of Fraser River. Good and free campsites are close to Kamloops in the Grassland (GPS coordinates: N50° 43.673' W120° 23.474') and the Community Campground of Spences Bridge (GPS coordinates: N50° 25.253' W121° 20.215'). Highlights on this route were Hell's Gate and Alexandra Bridge, both with short trails to spectacular Fraser River.
From the continent to Vancouver Island we took the ferry from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay which is a two hours ride through the channels of the little islands in front of Vancouver Island. In Tsawwassen is a new Walmart close to the terminal which allows overnight parking (GPS coordinates: N49° 02.572' W123° 04.940').
Beautiful Victoria is with more than 400,000 inhabitants the largest city of Vancouver Island. It is also the capital of British Columbia and a major tourist destination of Canada. A full day we strolled through its harbor, city center and Chinatown.
It was difficult finding a proper overnight place close to Victoria. All campsites were full and all public parking spots had not so nice signs. Finally we stayed several nights on the picnic parking lot of Island View Beach close to the official campsite (GPS coordinates: N48° 34.509' W123° 22.088').
West of Victoria are marvelous beaches. Mystic Beach is accessible only by a hike of approximately half an hour through the dense cold rain forest. Another outstanding one is Botanical Beach close to Port Renfrew. The water was much warmer on Cowichan Lake, where we could swim a lot (GPS coordinates: N48° 49.191' W124° 04.492'). It is located 40 kilometers north of Port Renfrew. Half the way is the good and free campsite on the Pacific Marine Road (GPS coordinates: N48° 38.757' W124° 13.619').
We came again to Vancouver Island in the next year (2019) to explore its northern and central parts, see article From Kluane National Park to Vancouver.
For more pictures, please click here For a map of our itineraries, click here
To download the GPS coordinates files of British Columbia, click here