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Travel at your own pace (self-driving) to ensure that you get the most of the wilderness interior, watching 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, 1-night

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

    On Vancouver Island, collect your hire car. Whale watching trip by Zodiac, focusing on orcas.

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

    After driving to Tofino, enjoy a coastal black bear viewing trip in the fjord inlets, observing them foraging in the intertidal zone. Whale watching by Zodiac in Clayquot Sound and sea kayaking off Meares Islands, looking for orcas, grey whales, humpback whales, sea lions and bald eagles. Here you will also have a chance to hike in the Pacific Rim National Park.

  4. Day 8: Drive to Campbell River on east coast, 3-nights

    Drive to Campbell River on east coast

  5. Days 9-10 : Campbell River whale watching cruise coming up close to majestic orcas.

    Optional sea kayaking and hiking Kundra Island.

  6. Day 11: Drive to Port Hardy on north coast, 2-nights

    Option to go on bear watching or whale watching trip

  7. Day 13: Transfer to the airport and return hire car; fly to Vancouver, 1-night.

    You will have some time to explore Vancouver this afternoon.

  8. Day 14: Morning at leisure, transfer to the airport and depart

  9. 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 £3,695 pp
  • Duration and price excluding international flights: 14 days from £2,695 pp
  • Single supplement: From £1,190
  • When to go: May-Oct: Daily departures
Featured locations:

Vancouver Island

The healthy black bear population and whale-watching opportunities make this 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

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