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Travel at your own pace on a self-drive tailor made itinerary to ensure that you see the most of Vancouver Island's wilderness and its prolific wildlife, which includes grey whales, orcas and black bears.

Vancouver Island is a microcosm of British Columbia with mountains, dense forests and desolate beaches. Its size and shape, good highways, lack of language barrier, and the friendly Canadian welcome all conspire to make it an ideal place to explore by hire car. Equipped with a comprehensive Welcome Pack, you will also have advice on the wildlife excursions you can join to watch grey whales and orcas, and where to see black bears and much more besides…

Read Amanda Madro's fascinating blog on her studies of orca pods on Vancouver Island.

Suggested Itinerary

  1. Day 1: Fly to Vancouver

    Fly to Vancouver on a daytime. On arrival, you will be met and transferred to your overnight accommodation.

    Accommodation: Century Plaza Hotel & Spa, 1-night

  2. Days 2-3 : Fly (or catch the ferry) to Victoria on Vancouver Island

    Once on Vancouver Island, collect your hire car and proceed to your hotel. We recommend a couple of days in Victoria, during which time a whale watching boat trip is included, focussing on orcas.

    Accommodation: Oak Bay Beach Hotel, 2-nights

  3. Days 4-6 : Drive to Tofino on west coast

    Your drive today to Pacific Rim National Park is a wonderfully scenic drive through mountains, forests and lakesides - ranked among the top three drives in Canada. After arriving in Tofino, enjoy a coastal black bear viewing trip in the fjord inlets, observing them foraging in the intertidal zone.

    During your stay, there will be opportunities to go looking whales and orcas. The whale watching trips take you through the pristine waters of Clayoquot Sound to view beautiful scenery and wildlife and, depending on the time of year, you could encounter grey whales, humpback whales, sea lions, sea birds and resident bald eagles.

    On your last day, take a bear watching tour to see black bears and explores the fjord inlets of Clayoquot Sound. There are also many hiking trails in the Pacific Rim National Park, or you could take a stroll along one of the many beaches.

    Accommodation: Tofino Resort & Marina, 4-nights

  4. Days 8-10 : Drive to Campbell River; whale watching

    Drive north to Campbell River, a drive of approximately four to five hours along the coast.

    The following morning enjoy a whale watching excursion (included), and then the rest of your time at Campbell River is at your leisure to arrange excursions to see more of the wildlife of the area. You may wish to join a bear watching excursion or perhaps enjoy some kayaking to explore the secluded inlets dotted along the coast.

    Accommodation: Coast Discovery Inn, 3-nights

  5. Days 11-12 : Drive to Port Hardy on north coast

    Continue your journey up the east coast of Vancouver Island to Port Hardy, a small fishing town and another excellent base for whale watching and bear viewing. During your time in Port Hardy you are free to explore the area on your own or you may wish to benefit from the knowledge of a local guide during a land-based tour or boat trip.

    Accommodation: Quarterdeck Inn & Marina Resort, 2-nights

  6. Day 13: Fly to Vancouver

    After returning your hire car to Port Hardy airport, check-in for your domestic flight back to Vancouver. There should then be some time to explore the city this afternoon.

  7. Day 14: Depart Vancouver

    Return to Vancouver airport in the afternoon to board your overnight flight back to the UK.

  8. Day 15: Arrive UK

You should note: This itinerary can be customised to include a side trip to stay at one of the bear lodges, to see grizzly bears. Alternatively, rather than flying back to Vancouver, you can take the ferry from Comox to Powell River on the mainland, and drive back down the coast over two days.

Key info

Our trip ideas are offered to inspire you and can be tailored to suit your requirements.
  • Duration and price including flights from/to UK: 15 days from £3,795 pp
  • Duration and price excluding international flights: 14 days from £2,895 pp
  • Single supplement: From £1,790
  • When to go: May-Oct: Daily departures
Featured locations:

Vancouver Island

The healthy black bear population and whale-watching opportunities make Vancouver Island a great destination for wildlife enthusiasts. Separated from the mainland by a long strait, the island’s west coast overlooks the Pacific Ocean, while the mountainous interior is heavily forested with big conifers.

  • Where: British Columbia
  • Ideal for viewing: American black bear, puma, grey whale, orca, sea otter
  • Excellent for: Wildlife photography, Self-drive, Whale watching, Bear watching, Dolphin watching

Vancouver

British Columbia’s largest city stands in a fine coastal setting, against a backdrop of lofty tree-covered peaks - a great starting point to any wildlife holiday in the province. There is plenty to see in this lively, multi-cultural city, such as exploring Stanley Park on foot or by bike.

  • Where: British Columbia
  • Excellent for: Activity & adventure, City stopover, History & culture

Pacific Rim National Park

Facing the Pacific Ocean, backed by Vancouver Island’s mountainous spine, this park preserves the natural heritage of Canada’s west coast, whose cool maritime climate generates an abundance of life on land and in the water. Interwoven with these natural wonders is the history of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations.

  • Where: Vancouver Island, British Columbia
  • Ideal for viewing: brown bear, humpback whale, orca, bald eagle, wolf
  • Excellent for: Walking safaris, Whale watching, Bear watching

Queen Charlotte Strait & Johnstone Waters

Situated between Vancouver Island and British Columbia’s mainland, this area is considered the best place in the world to observe orca who, during the summer months, are present on a daily basis. They can often be viewed close up from the boat, offering some wonderful sightings and photo opportunities.

  • Where: British Columbia
  • Ideal for viewing: orca, brown bear, Steller’s sealion, tufted puffin, humpback whale
  • Excellent for: Wildlife cruises, Whale watching, Dolphin watching