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Western Canada – Vancouver Island

Author: lachner
Date of Trip: July 2005

After some extensive reading we set out for a two week trip to Western Canada. We flew out of Hamilton, ON, which was so hassle free compared to Toronto. There was parking close by and few people around. We flew West Jet and were very happy with the staff and their relaxed attitude. We arranged for a van rental in Calgary and were shuttled to the Dollar Rent a Car office without difficulty. We had investigated dropping the van in Vancouver but the rental rate was astronomical. So we returned to Calgary at the end of the trip.

We had a loose itinerary planned and did not prebook any hotels. In hindsight, not a good idea when the Calgary Stampede is on. Our last night we couldn’t get a room in Calgary, so stayed in Airdrie, north of Calgary at the Holiday Inn. A very romantic room with a hot tub, king size bed and fireplace worked just fine for my weary family of four, thanks to an extra cot.

Our travels took us to Drumheller, Edmonton, Jasper, Columbia Ice Fields, Lake Louise, Vancouver, Victoria, Whistler and Banff. I could share a lot of information but will narrow it down to Vancouver Island.

We left from Vancouver early in the morning to catch the ferry to the island. We were the first vehicle not to make the 9:00 am ferry. Breakfast in the Quay Market was overcrowded and overpriced. The trip across on the 10 am ferry was uneventful and provided a great opportunity to clean out the van. When I surfaced from the car park, I had no idea how close all of the islands were to each other.

We drove to Victoria and found the Admiral Inn which I had read about. It was a smallish hotel with a very wonderful family feel. To register you sat at a desk reminiscent of a bank manager meeting. There was a games room and Internet access and the rooms were very clean. We had a one bedroom unit with 2 single beds, and a queen and pull out couch in the living area plus a kitchenette for $179. Parking included. We were within walking distance of the downtown and harbor. We walked up to Craigdarroch Castle (not in walking distance according to my 2 children) and toured the 39 room building. The finest materials were used, stainglass windows, hand painted ceilings and wood paneled walls. There was a tower that had a great view of Victoria.

At the harbor we were entertained by the street performers. We took a carriage ride through James Bay and saw Emily Carr’s home as well as some beautifully restored houses and gardens. We dined at a hotel around the corner and were not impressed. Dessert al fresco downtown was a fun way to end the evening. Early morning we left the kids sleeping and after coffee on the balcony walked along the waterfront. We saw a community of colorful floating homes and lots of new construction. We walked through some residential areas. I like to see these type of areas as well as the tourist areas. We returned to the hotel and enjoyed the complimentary continental breakfast. Bagels, raisin bread, toast, yogurt, english muffins, juice and coffee or tea.

We headed for Port Renfrew on the west coast. The roads after Sooke were very curvy and we had to let my daughter out of the car to recuperate. We went to Botanical Beach on the advice of a friend. It was raining pretty steady as we hiked the 1 km to the shore. Our timing was perfectly planned. We hit the beach at noon and the tide was at its lowest at 1118. When the tide is out it leaves behind pools of creatures waiting for the tide to return. We saw giant great anemones, sea urchins, California mussel beds and a large burgundy variegated starfish. We ate at the Lighthouse Restaurant. Nothing fancy but filled us up. The proprietor told us we were in Port Rainfrew, they get a lot of rain apparently.

We decided to take a logging road across the island instead of back tracking to Victoria. It is being developed for a highway but lets just say they have a ways to go. It was paved, graveled, muddy, pot holed, sometimes all at the same time. We saw road work under way and there had been some blasting to widen the road before we got there. Further along we saw helilogging. The helicopter picked up the log at the top of the hill and brought it down to the side of the road. The road was 50 Km and it took us 1 1/2 hours but it was an adventure and well worth the time. We arrived in Cowichan Lake with a very dirty rental. We made it to Nainamo to take the ferry back to the mainland.

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