Western Canada Road Trip

Vancouver Island Travel Blog

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Bailey playing with a stick on Newcastle Island.

It was a bright and hot Wednesday afternoon. My wife Alana and I have been planning this day for almost two months and looking forward to it for much longer. I arrived home at 7am after working my last night shift. I went to bed while Alana was getting up to go to work. The excitement of the trip kept me from sleeping very well so I got up after only a couple short hours of sleep knowing that Alana would be our driver on that first day, as is our usual practice when we leave for vacation after I've worked a night shift. Our idea is that I am usually over tired which is no different then driving drunk, so for our safety she drives.

Once I was awake I finished the little packing that remained. Alana spent the entire night previous packing and preparing our things so my job was relatively easy.

Where we stopped on our Deep Cove kayak tour for lunch.
It was just time consuming. I finished only a few minutes before Alana returned from work and we immediately set off for another great road trip adventure. 

The drive was about 3 hours in total through some pretty dull landscape on the Yellowhead Trail highway between Edmonton and Jasper. As we entered Jasper National Park where we had a campsite reserved we seen heavy rain clouds forming around the peaks of the mountains which were now just a silhouette with the sun recently having ducked behind them. We know the whether is unpredictable in the mountains so we hoped for the best but prepared for the worst. 

We pulled into our site in the Whistlers campground just as the rain began to arrive.

Incinerator Rock at sunset
We rushed through the setting up of our tent which involved putting metal tent pegs into gravel. As any semi-intelligent person might know, gravel is the worst possible base for tenting. A fact that Canadian National Park planners do not seem capable of understanding. 

Frustrated by the gravel and lack of sleep I took a peg and tried to use a big momentum swing to hit it into the ground. Instead I put it through the side and floor of my tent. Damn it I thought.

After about an hour of sheer frustration in the rain we were set up and decided to just go straight to sleep. All night our air mattress was losing air. All night the cold ground under our air mattress was mixing with our warm bodies causing our air mattress and sheets to be damp with condensation. All night my 6'2" frame hung over the end of our bed causing my feet to freeze.

Newcastle Island

It was a miserable night and definetely not how we wanted to start our vacation. 

The next morning the momentum changed and our good friends called us and invited us to their mothers B&B just outside of the always hot and arid desert valley of Kelowna. We didn't hesitate before telling them we were on our way. 

We packed our gear from the miserable night in Jasper and went to town to have breakfast. We decided to go with a simple Subway sandwich and take our dog for a walk before locking her in our Nissan Xterra for the long drive to meet our friends. The day started out sunny and we began our long drive from Jasper to Winfield, the actual town we were to meet our friends.

Newcastle Island

Along the way we stopped for our second time in Avola for their world famous burger at the Log Inn Pub. As usual we understand why their burger is world famous. We carried on, stopping again in Kamloops to gas up and get our new favorite ice cream treat - Reeses Ice Cream Sandwich. Again, we kept driving and arrived just before 5pm. We managed to spot our friends vehicle on a roadside pullout, so we pulled over as well and knowing he was out boating we decided to pull out some chairs and beers and have a roadside party - just Alana, our dog, and me. 

While Alana and I were partying we needed to use the bathroom. For me this was a simple task, for Alana not so simple. She decided to duck behind our friends truck and a tree.

Avola Burger - Worlds Famous Burger
It was the best she could do for privacy and it worked. Well that was until she managed to set off the alarm on his truck. This made the next few minutes of our roadside party very loud and annoying. Eventually the alarm stopped and we were pretty certain his battery was dead, so we stuck around so that we could boost him if it came to that. 

Finally after sitting roadside for about an hour they arrived in their boat. As my friends wife got his truck to back it into the lake to get his boat we held our breath waiting for her to start it. It started and we didn't even need to explain that Alana pee'd beside their truck and set off the alarm.

We loaded up and headed to his mothers amazing B&B, the Quails Trail.

Sunset from our campsite in Tofino
 

Once there we received another call from another couple who were in the area and were getting married. All of our friends were going to be there for the wedding, but it was a last minute wedding plan so we were unable to make it due to our road trip already planned and booked. So instead we met the soon to be married couple in Kelowna at the Twisted Tomato restaurant. 

After a couple hours we decided to go back to their hotel and have a toke before going home. We pulled up and turned the parking lot into a new party spot. Our SUV had our cooler of beer sitting there waiting to be drank and we had enough Mary Jane for the next couple of months, so that lot was great. It eventually turned into a couple hours in a parking lot.

Great end to the night. 

We returned to the B&B and had our first good nights sleep of the vacation. 

The next morning we woke up to a full breakfast spread of bacon, eggs, sausage, and french toast. We packed up some sandwiches and a couple cases of beer and made our way to Kalamalka lake where we planned on spending the day on the water tanning, tubing, and floating. Our lab was on her first boat and she didn't have much of a problem. Our friends giant King Corso dog was also on the boat and was being super cute trying to cuddle anyone who was willing to allow a 170lb dog to lay across them.

We made it to our first spot and dropped anchor. The tubes and floatation devices were inflated and we hit the water. After some coaxing my dog made her first dive in the water and went under about 2 feet before pulling herself up.

Newcastle Island
We are pretty certain she freaked herself out, and since our friend forgot his ladder we couldn't pull her back in. So she was very frantically circling the boat looking for a way in. When she realized there was none she was noticeably panicking. We rushed into the water and swam to shore where she was able to catch her breath. At that point she relaxed and played in the water with our friends massive dog Gage. 

The four of us floated about 50 meters from shore and the dogs would regularly make the swim out to say hi before heading back to shore to rest. At one point Gage decided he wanted to take a break on me and tried climbing me. Needless to say a 170lb dog with sharp claws flailing around trying to climb me in water didn't work out nicely. My arms, shoulder, and stomach were bloody and days later black and purple with bruises.

Grice Bay
Fortunately I was a few beers in and hardly felt it at the time.

After an hour or so in that spot my friend noticed a black bear just off in the distance. Our dogs were still on shore and the bear wasn't too far away. I swam in to shore to keep their attention on me so they wouldn't see and attack the bear. My friend got his boat and tubes ready and came close to shore so we could lift the dogs in. His wife panicked, understandably since they just lost a dog that same week to cancer. My wife continued drinking her beer and watching the bear to make sure we didn't lose sight of it before the dogs were in the boat. 

The brief moment of chaos was over before we knew it and we were moving to another part of the lake. This continued for most of the day and until our beer was gone. That night we decided to cook some dinner for our amazing hostess and friends for letting us stay at their bed and breakfast for free.

We sat in the back yard around the fire pit in their amazing yard line with vineyards and a big pool. So much time in the sun did its damage and we were all exhausted and had an early night.

Once again we woke up to insanely hot weather and blueberry pancakes. We visited with our friends before continuing our road trip on our way to Vancouver. Before leaving town we stopped and purchased a new air mattress and duct tape to repair the hole I stupidly made in the tent.

We made it to Vancouver in the early afternoon. We checked into the Best Western on Davies and Denman and then took our dog to one of the ocean side off-leash parks near Kitsilano.

Deep Cove
The park was packed with people having a cookup in the park. Group after group of different ethnicities all cooking their respective dishes. All mouth watering smells. I could barely stop myself from raiding one of these groups of their food, our dog was not quite as controlled as I was. We decided to reduce the temptation and take her to Charleston park near Granville Island. Once we arrived there was what can only be described as a "circle jerk" of dog owners standing around in the center of the park. It was kind of weird. Our dog was even weirded out and decided she wouldn't play with any other dogs. 

After trying for about an hour to get our dog tired, which would have been much easier if Alana hadn't lost her frisbee, we decided to just take her back to the hotel and get ready to go out.

Newcastle Island
Once we cleaned up at the hotel we put our dog in a kennel and left for a night on Granville Street at Olympia Pizza which is more accurately the best pub in Vancouver.

We had a few pictures of beer before moving onto harder booze. We were spending our time people watching on the always busy Granville Street and enjoying our drinks and some of the best pizza we've had in Canada.

People watching was really strange on this night. Mainly because there was a random zombie parade. Downtown was full of thousands of people dressed as zombies. There was bride zombies, short short zombies, sporty zombies, emo zombies, punk zombies, slutty zombies, nerd zombies, gymnast zombies, and did I mention slutty zombies? What a crazy thing to see. It got even weirder when one of them asked to eat my brains.

Grice Bay
I could only inform them the meal would be too big to eat alone. 

After multiple hours we decided to go for a walk. We walked to Parliament on Robson and sat on the steps and had a toke. Eventually we decided to move to the yellow carpet waves setup in front of the parliament. They were crowded with people, including a few homeless who felt it was better then sleeping in a dumpster. We sat there awhile chatting and people watching. 

Eventually we were awkwardly joined by some barely legal girls who were drinking champagne from a paper bag and completely oblivious that their super short mini skirts were actually too short for where they were sitting and how they were sitting. I wasn't complaining..... They left after some very unintelligent banter with each other. I still have no idea why they sat with us instead of in one of the open sections that was around.

View from our campsite.

Later another group of couples walked by and one of the women in the group had to yell that this carpet thing cost the city $40,000 and hoped we were happy using such a waste of money. I thought that was nice of her. I was happy using that supposed waste of money. Maybe because I am from Alberta and don't pay taxes that contribute to it. Either way, another random person who was so disappointed in her own life that she needs to make people feel bad who are enjoying theirs.

Another woman and her boyfriend sat near us and began talking to some guys who were nearby. It got to the point where she wouldn't shut up and began telling them that she has a manly handshake. The best part of people watching is judging what is wrong with them. We figured this girl had daddy issues and over compensated for it by acting manly.

Newcastle Island
Anyways, that was about all of the weirdness we could handle for one evening.

We made a slow walk to Steamrollers for late night Tommy Burritos and another side trip for a donair. In Steamrollers the guy who took our order had the most comic stereotype asian voice possible and I didn't know whether he was joking or not. So I was trying not to laugh, but certain activities earlier in the evening were making that difficult. Eventually he told us our order was ready in as normal of a voice as I've heard. That was a very weird situation to add to the list we racked up this night.

We arrived back to our hotel just before 2am and walked in to an empty kennel. Immediatley we knew she was at the front desk and my wife bolted down there to apologize and get our dog back as well as do whatever we could to ensure we weren't kicked out.

Campsite in Nanaimo
When she arrived, the front desk staff were very friendly and returned her without even giving us crap. In fact they even took her for a walk just before we arrived. We ate and went to sleep.

The next morning we rushed over to the Urban Puppy Shop which is a doggy daycare that is near Granville Island. We decided to leave her there this night so we didn't have a repeat of the night before. After dropping her off we rushed to Deep Cove where we were going to take our first kayaking course. 

The beach was packed with cars and it was nearly impossible to find a good spot. We eventually found one at the school parking lot and made the long walk to the main street where we had lunch at the Arms Reach Bistro before making a dash to start our kayak lesson.

Bailey suntanning.

We started our lesson and met our instructor and group. There was 7 of us in total including the instructor. She helped us get our gear setup and gave us a brief verbal instruction before pushing us out into Deep Cove in our kayaks. It was amazingly simple to get used to and completely amazing to be out on the open water. The weather was still beautiful and didn't show any sign of getting worse. We went from island to island and along the shore where the multi-million dollar homes were. Our guide gave us amazing information about the area and even some of the real estate prices that she knew. We stopped on a small beach for a break and snack before continuing back to end our tour after 3 hours on the water. It turns out I am fast on a kayak and left everyone well behind me as we were heading back to dock.

View from our campsite.
 

After returning we slammed some drinks and ice cream in town and then made our way back to the hotel to have a shower and spend another night out on the town. 

First stop this evening was Joe Forte's. We had a great window seat where we got to see a real life crazy cat lady walk by with a baby carriage full of cats with another cat laying on top of it. A while later we got to see a bum fight that was apparently triggered by one of them spending the entire day in front of McDonalds begging for change and not giving anyone else a chance to beg for change in that spot. 

Next stop was Mill Pub after a quick detour to the Olympic torch area. We sat here and had a beer before finding a nice ocean front bench to have another toke and stare at the multi-million dollar condo's that come standard with a communal ferrari.

Starting at only $5 million... Maybe in a couple of years I guess.

We strolled the seawall before returning to our hotel. The next morning we went for breakfast and moved on to catch the Horseshoe Bay ferry to Nanaimo

Once in Nanaimo we checked into the very beautiful Living Forest campground. It was a little late so we set up our site, started a fire and began dinner over the fire while watching the sun set over the ocean from our amazing view. We always reserve the same site which is on the corner of a hill overlooking the ocean. The view is tough to beat in the entire site.

Newcastle Island
We stayed up all night around the fire having drinks and more.

We woke up the next morning to kids screaming at about 7am. We managed to drown them out enough to have another hour of sleep before the ravens decided to join the screaming kids. Once awake we made a masterpiece of a camping breakfast complete with bacon, eggs, toast, and left over baked potatoes which became hash browns. Then we made our way to Newcastle island where we spent the day hiking around the entire island. 

Newcastle island has some of the best views possible, but only on half the island. The other half is all trails in the middle of the island even though on map it looks close to the water - it really isn't. We found multiple spots on the trail to stop and have a drink and let our dog play. Eventually we were crossing a downed bridge and nearly stepped on a snake.

I'm sure most people wouldn't have batted an eye, but there are no snakes in Alberta and this was our first wild snake. I didn't know what to do or what kind it was. I only knew that I needed to get my dog away from it in case she got bit. I called her and she ran to me stepping on the snake on her way. A few days later we discovered it was a harmless garter snake. All that panic for nothing I guess.

We made it back to the campground in time for another great dinner cooked over the fire and another sunset. Another perfect end to a great day.

The next morning we were woken up once again to kids screaming and ravens mimmicking them. The weather was slightly cool this morning and looked like it was going to rain. We had a tee time at the cottonwood golf course, so our first task was dropping our dog off at daycare.

Bailey going to town on her stick.
Alana picked a place we thought was close to the course, but turned out to be on the complete opposite side of town. Fortunately for us it was right next to Smokin George's BBQ where we decided to stop for lunch. Right there in the middle of an industrial area was this small restaurant. It was one of those finds that make your day. The food was unbelievable and it was so out of the way I bet it was relatively unknown to anyone but locals and people who get lucky like us. 

Back on task we made it to the golf course. The woman who helped get us setup said it was slow out there and we could only fit in 9 holes in the 4 hours we had. I thought it seemed a little strange, but we decided to book 9 holes anyway.

Grice Bay
 

We hit the course and the weather decided to get hot, very hot. We made a side trip to our truck so we could load our golf bags with beer before teeing off. The course was nice, with plenty of tricky shots and we weren't exactly playing our best. We made it through 9 holes in less than 2 hours so we decided to just keep playing. Unfortunately we only took 15 balls and we managed to lose them all by the 12th hole. I should mention I only lost 2-3 of them.

After golf we returned to pick up our dog Bailey at the daycare, then back to our campsite where we spent another night making a great dinner and going for walks around the campground. 

The next day we were heading to Tofino, but first we decided to stop at McDonalds for some quick food on the way out.

Bailey watching Alana approach.
While eating my wife's boss texted her and asked if she could measure a KFC in the area. We weren't in a hurry and it wasn't going to take long so she did it. In the meantime I went into Canadian Tire and picked up a spring powered BB gun (hand gun style). I was thinking about doing that for months and what better time then on vacation when you budget for stupid purchases - although this was not stupid. In fact this might have bordered a genius purchase.

Once she finished measuring the building we decided to buy some DVDs in case the weather is crap in Tofino we could watch some movies in the tent or truck. We took turns having a look in Best Buy while the other person stayed outside with the dog. Ultimately we decided to buy Season 1 of True Blood, and Seasons 1 and 2 of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Then we began the horrible drive to Tofino.

The drive was only about 150km, but took over 3 hours due to the shoulderless and narrow road that is constantly twisting around blind corners and up and down massive hills. It doesn't help that far too many people drive way to fast and manage to cross into the oncoming traffic lane. Far too many times I had to slam on my brakes and prepare for what I was certain was going to be a head on collision, but fortunately missed by inches only because I drastically slowed down. My only other option was swurving away which meant over a hill or into a cliff. Not good options. If I was 18 years old again I would have chased each of those fuckers down and punched them in the jeans. However, I am more mature then that now and can't do that.

We finally arrived at the Greenpoint Campground in the Pacific Rim National park - between Tofino and Ucluelet.

While checking in we found out that Alana's great early planning and reservation meant we got the heavily sought after ocean front site. We pulled in and this site was a beauty. Complete privacy from both sides, and the back of the site was an amazing view down to the ocean and beach below. We put our tent up so that we could sit between it and the fire pit, further adding privacy from the people in front of our site. This couldn't be beat for how nice this site was. We settled into our site and made some dinner and had an early night.

The next morning we woke up and packed our beach gear and walked to the beach. We got there around 10am and it wasn't until noon that we put on sun screen. I mistakenly took Alana's advice that I was fine, but we quickly realized I wasn't. In fact I was burnt pretty bad.

 

The day was spent on the beach. The very empty beach. We had our beach chairs and a cooler full of beer and snacks, even a bottle of wine. Our day consisted of having a couple of drinks, smoking a joint, then taking our dog into the ocean and playing a combination of fetch and frisbee. In between trips to the water we set up targets and used my new BB gun to shoot targets. The targets were a bunch of shells I collected and stuck in the sand about 30 feet away. The day was perfect, there wasn't a cloud in the sky and there was a slight breeze to keep you from feeling too hot. We left after about 8 hours and returned for some more campfire cooking and another late night around the fire. 

The next morning we didn't wake up early to kids screaming. In fact we got to sleep in till almost 11am.

A much needed sleep in that is what vacation is all about.

Once we woke up we made our way into Tofino where we had lunch at Shelter, one of the many great BC restaurants that allow your dog to sit on the patio with you. Our food was perfect as usual and even though our waitress seemed like your typical stoner who didn't know any other word other than "cheers" it was still good. They even served our dog a nice bowl of water. After lunch we made our way back to Long Beach near Incinerator Rock where we found a nice quiet spot to setup, have more beers and tokes while we watched the sunset. Our dog found a couple nearby dogs and they all ran around together until one of the owners claimed to see beach patrol. We put her on leash for a bit, but didn't see anyone after so we let her go again.

 

We were still a little tired from all the sun we got the day before so we decided to just get some pizza in town and head back to camp where we could eat pizza and watch It's always sunny in Philadelphia in our truck. 

The next morning we went into town for kayaking around Grice Bay. We met our group just before noon and got our gear. We were at Jamie's Whaling Station for their lessons. This place was much less organized than Deep Cove. In fact we were standing in the blistering sun waiting for groups ahead of us to depart for nearly an hour. Very uncomfortable to say the least. The guide was pushing the double kayak on us, but we wanted our own kayaks so we had to push back. Eventually we got out and our guide was great. He knew the area very well, he knew all about the marine life, and he was very friendly.

He did get a bit preachy about the forestry industry, but it's Tofino, I expect to meet some pretty extreme tree huggers. 

After kayaking we went back to our site and began making home made burgers, couscous, and an amazing blueberry, goat cheese, and pecan salad. We settled into our camping chairs around a roaring fire and drank and smoked until we couldn't do either anymore. 

The next days were more fire prepared meals, plenty of time on the empty beach playing with our dog, and hiking the many amazing trails. This place was really natural beauty at its finest and the perfect relaxing beach holiday imaginable. We got lucky and only had good weather, excluding one day where there was heavy fog early in the day which cleared not long after noon. 

Our campground was lacking showers, but there were plenty of options around considering it was a town known for its dirty beach bums who regularly need showers.

She loves the water.
We spent a week here and will make a point of going back every chance we get - even if that means driving that crap road.

Our last morning we were disappointed to be leaving, but relieved to be only hours away from clean showers and bathrooms. We packed up early and hit the road. On the way we received another text from my wife's boss to measure another KFC in Port Alberni. We didn't have much planned this day and it meant our day was paid for at the cost of an hour of our time - well worth it.

We arrived back in Vancouver around 3pm and checked into our hotel on Broadway, a new area to us. The hotel was the Park Inn and suites. The hotel was pretty nice, but the street view overlooking downtown with the same views you see on most Vancouver postcards was pretty great.

We opened our patio doors and pulled up some chairs and drank well into the evening. We had planned on visiting a BBQ house down the street, but it was unfortunately closed so we eventually got in our truck and drove to Steamrollers for more late night Burrito's. We called it an early night and woke up early the next morning.

Our day was planned with shopping and walking and lots of it. We spent the better part of the day walking up and down Robson and Granville shopping. We spent some time in Gastown window shopping some of their trendy but over priced stores. That evening we had dinner at the BBQ house we missed the night before and ended with some beers on our patio.

The next morning we woke early for the 12 hour drive back home to Edmonton. Sad to see another vacation come to an end, but happy to be sleeping in our own bed that we missed so terribly much.

We will be back.

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Bailey playing with a stick on New…
Bailey playing with a stick on Ne…
Where we stopped on our Deep Cove …
Where we stopped on our Deep Cove…
Incinerator Rock at sunset
Incinerator Rock at sunset
Newcastle Island
Newcastle Island
Newcastle Island
Newcastle Island
Avola Burger - Worlds Famous Burger
Avola Burger - Worlds Famous Burger
Sunset from our campsite in Tofino
Sunset from our campsite in Tofino
Newcastle Island
Newcastle Island
Grice Bay
Grice Bay
Deep Cove
Deep Cove
Newcastle Island
Newcastle Island
Grice Bay
Grice Bay
View from our campsite.
View from our campsite.
Newcastle Island
Newcastle Island
Campsite in Nanaimo
Campsite in Nanaimo
Bailey suntanning.
Bailey suntanning.
View from our campsite.
View from our campsite.
Newcastle Island
Newcastle Island
Bailey going to town on her stick.
Bailey going to town on her stick.
Grice Bay
Grice Bay
Bailey watching Alana approach.
Bailey watching Alana approach.
She loves the water.
She loves the water.
Kayaking in Grice Bay, Tofino
Kayaking in Grice Bay, Tofino
Bailey mid catch - crazy eyes.
Bailey mid catch - crazy eyes.
Cooling off in the tidal water.
Cooling off in the tidal water.
Happy girl.
Happy girl.
Vancouver Island
photo by: Mezmerized