Our North American Trip - August and September 2006.
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Trip Report for Alaska, Canada & USA Trip – Week 5:    22 - 29 Sep 06
Vancouver Island

(This will be updated as and when the opportunity presents itself, and we’ll add photos when time permits.  It could be a bit disorganised at times!!)

Friday, 22 September
Fine day in Vancouver & Victoria, Vancouver Island - temp around 16 deg C.

This morning we packed up then drove from Vancouver to the Ferry Terminal at Tsawwassen and caught the 11 am BC Ferry from Tsawwassen, Vancouver to Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island (north of Victoria) – all vehicles drive in one end and drive off the other end – the food on the ferry was excellent in comparison to the Cook Strait ferries in NZ and the onboard gift shop has very good quality goods and clothing in it - the 1.5 hr ferry ride travelled in between lots of different islands, and was one of the calmest ferry rides we had ever had.  Once we arrived at Swartz Bay, Vancouver Island we drove to “The Butchart Gardens” - what a wonderful display of annuals, perennials, roses, dahlias and lots of mature colourful trees – leaf fall is just starting so the colour of some of the leaves was great.  This garden would be the best garden we have ever seen so were glad we made the effort to visit it.

Late in the afternoon we left the gardens and drove down to Victoria to find the “Helm’s Inn” accommodation we had booked.  When we checked into our accommodation, we were given a great sized room with king bed, 2 x lounge chairs, desk and chair and kitchenette and so conveniently placed to the centre of Victoria.  We walked to the local supermarket nearby to purchase some items for breakfast, etc.

Once unpacked, we walked downtown (one block away) to the centre of Victoria and took some late afternoon photos of “The “Empress” Hotel (upmarket hotel close to the Inner Harbour) - hopefully they will look great – really nice area with horse and carts taking people for trips around central Victoria.  Went to Pescatore’s Fish House for dinner – had oysters for starters then both had Halibut fish with crab on top for our main – really nice.  While at the restaurant we got talking to a young local couple and they recommended an Italian restaurant (Il Terrazzo Ristorante) – it’s down a narrow lane so we called in there while walking around the city centre and made a booking for tomorrow night, as we were warned that we would need to book.

After dinner we walked around Victoria, called into a Christmas decorations shop. It was really nice to walk around the city in the evening – there were heaps of people around, lots of street entertainment, and a number of horse and carriage tours around the city centre – they looked really neat at night along with the sound of the horses trotting about.  On the way back we attempted to take some night photos of the Inner Harbour and the Victoria Parliament Buildings, as the shape of these buildings are lit up at night, so hope some of the photos came out OK.

By he time we got back to the hotel we were both rather warn out as we had done a lot of walking today.


Saturday, 23 September – Victoria, Vancouver Island
Wonderful fine clear day in Victoria - temp around 16 deg C.

A slower start this morning after a tiring day / late night last night – both of us were suffering a little from the extra walking we did yesterday! 

Walked down to a local market but that wasn’t much chop so walked down to the Inner Harbour area and immediately notice that a Cruise West cruise boat was in Victoria for the day today.  We took an 45min inner harbour cruise on one of the little Victoria Harbour Ferries – the guy was very good with his commentary and did a great job of the cruise we were on, at the end he took us slightly further up the harbour to drop us off so we didn’t have to walk so far to where we wanted to go, so that was really kind of him.

Had lunch at a small French café (Café Vieux Montreal) – really nice turkey, avocado, salad and fig chutney – yummy!

Walked back through the downtown harbour area and the street entertainment continues.  Found some “Rogers” chocolate coated orange peel, called into the Information Centre to see if we could obtain any further info for when we drive further north on the Island tomorrow, then walked back to the hotel for a quick break.  We then had a walk through the nearby Beacon Hill Park – really nice area and heaps of old and young people taking advantage of the pleasant day and the large park.  Also saw three wedding parties having their photos taken in the park.

Caught up on some washing then walked to the Italian Il Terrazzo Ristorante for dinner.  Wow, what a buzzy, go, go place – at 6.15pm it was already full with a table for two waiting for us.  The service was excellent and very prompt with water and all the little extras, bread and chopped olive paste, pepper and grated parmesan cheese – they grate e cheese over your meal until you say stop, not when they think you have enough, which we thought was great.  We both shared tomato and basil and G had chicken stuffed with Mozzarella and on top of pasta with bolognaise sauce – A had salmon with avocado & Mozzarella with grilled vegetables.  A great place to go for a meal and glad we were advised to prebook.


Sunday, 24 September  -  Victoria – Parksville, Vancouver Island
Another wonderful fine clear day today - temp around 20 deg C.

Before we left Victoria we drove around the south/eastern bays (Clover Point; Ross Bay; Gonzales Bay; McNeill Bay and Oak Bay) – saw the daily ferry from Seattle arriving - before joining Highway 1 to drive north, stopping at a viewpoint on the way with a view of Vancouver ferry terminal we left from and Mt Baker, USA, in the distance.  Called into Duncan to view some of the Totem Polls and while there the daily train passed by – had a light lunch while stopped there.  Stopped at Crofton and drove down to the wharf area and spotted the local vehicle ferry coming in to so we waited for it to berth and depart again back to Saltspring Island.  We also noticed several barges in the water full of wood chips – expect they were for the very large local mill to process into paper products.

We travelled further up and stopped at Chemainus to view the 30+ murals on the walls throughout the town and lower village – a very pretty little village.  The murals were very well done and reminded us of Katikati in the Bay of Plenty, NZ – they also had a trail of yellow footprints painted around the town for people to follow to view all the murals – a brilliant idea.  Called into the Information Centre and were able to pick up all the info we needed for the remainder of the island we are to visit, so that was helpful as we were unable to obtain any other info on other parts of Vancouver Island at the Victoria Info Centre.  We sat for a while listening to a local busker who was very good.  Also saw lots of logs tied together in the harbour that had been floated on the water to the nearby timber mill for milling. 

Briefly stopped off at Ladysmith then drove onto The Old Country Market at Coombs (near Parksvlle) – they have goats grazing on the grass growing on the roof of the large food store – they certainly didn’t seem to have any problem living on top of the roof – most likely been doing it for years.

We eventually arrived at the Marina View B&B around 5.15pm – very pleasant hosts and room.  We went to Herons at the Bayside restaurant at the Quality Resort close by for dinner – our meals were very pleasant and it was great to have the choice of ordering a small or large main for a change (we both had small of course)- we would certainly go back

Appetisers - G had Duck Confit with raspberry and sundried blueberry reduction / A had a salad with spinach, strawberry, pear, sweat red onion and roasted sliced almonds salad.

For mains we both had Roasted Vancouver Island Chicken Breast stuffed with brie and peaches, served with fresh rosemary jus, sundried cranberry couscous and summer root vegetables.

Sorry Simon, we eat it before we thought about photos, but we did take some photos of the sunset out of the window.


Monday, 25 September  -  Parksville (drove to the West Coast, Ucluelet and Tofino, for the day)
Another wonderful fine clear day - temp around 22 deg C.

After a most enjoyable breakfast (fresh fruit, omelette and toast) we drove toward Tofino on the west coast, stopping off at Port Alberni for a coffee – it had quite thick low fog that started to disappear while we were there – lovely area with the Port Alberni Inlet coming up into the town from the west coast.  G found a little shop that sold mini cinnamon doughnuts – they were just lovely (they were not deep fried ones, hence nicer than tasted before). 

Travelled onto Ucluelet, went down to a wharf area and watched several Sea Lions catching fish, throwing them around, then eating them.  After lunch we walked the “Wild Pacific Trail” to view a lighthouse and some spectacular views of the southern coastline.

Drove onto Tofino and had a coffee sitting on a deck in the sun – nice and relaxing.  It has a lovely harbour with lots of inlets leading away from it – heaps of whale watching, bear watching and kayaking trips available.  Checked out two beaches we had been recommended – Chesterman and Long Beach – both had many logs that had been washed up onto them – must be quite a wild area when they have storms.

They do not have any beach front roads like we have in NZ but instead there are private land owners close to the majority of beach fronts and one cannot see whether there is a beach there or not until you have parked in a car park and walked through the trees toward the beach – one just has to know they are there!

On the way back we called in to have a look at Kennedy Lake – it’s a huge lake close to the western side of the island.

Lots of road works on the way to the Tofino – mostly women controlling the “Slow” and “Stop” signs. 

Took us 2 hours to drive back (locals tell you it will take 2.5hrs) – the road is quite windy alongside Kennedy Lake otherwise it’s quite a good road as far as we are concerned.  Went back to the Bayside restaurant at the Quality Resort close by for a quick dinner and got back to the B&B around 9pm.


Tuesday, 26 September  -  Parksville – Telegraph Cove
Another wonderful fine clear day - temp around 22 deg C.

After breakfast we checked out of our B&B at Parksville – Bob and Linda went out of their way to help us as much as they could and the service they gave was first class, and so were the breakfasts.  We drove up to Campbell River and had a look at the work the local Rotary Clubs have done eg, built a walkway along the sea shore for approx 7km;  converting the old sewerage works into a Maritime Heritage Centre, and the fishing pier – these are really impressive and look great and appear to get frequent use by the locals, which is great.

We met up with Colleen, another one of the “Slow Trav” people who fed us with local information prior to us visiting the area and had lunch with her at the Salmon Point Restaurant and Bar – it was great to meet her and her son Russell.

We then drove all the way up to Port McNeill – what a magnificent highway to virtually nowhere, 100kph and hardly any sharp bends.  We visited the local IGS Supermarket and stocked up on food to make our own tea, then drove the 17km to Telegraph Cove for the Bear and Salmon tour tomorrow morning at 7am!   Checked into our Cabin #9 on the boardwalk (the cabin is built on piles in the water next to a boat marina and lacking some bracing as it’s quite wobbly at times!) – very pleasant cabin with plenty of room and all the facilities we need.  Went for a walk around the general area before we made some tea for ourselves.

There’s a new subdivision close by with a few new homes being built but most of the sections are on sheer rock.  There’s also been some very small studio type accommodation built recently (without any outside decks and they overlook a boat marina) which really stand out as the building doesn’t really fit in with the local scene – a bit of a shame really.


Wednesday, 27 September  - Telegraph Cove (top of Vancouver Island)
Woke up to a foggy but fine morning - temp around 15 deg C.

Had an early breakfast this morning and down the boardwalk to Tide Rip Tours for our Grizzly Bear Expedition – needed to be at the tour boat office by 6.45am for departing @ 7am - left Telegraph Cove with 13 people and picked up another two at the nearby Hidden Cove Lodge.  We experienced low fog all the time while we traveled up through nearby islands to Knights Inlet and into the alcove where Knights Cove Lodge is situated (people travel into this lodge by float plane) was located in – at that point the weather cleared and we joined up with some further people.  Those who had paid for the Grizzly Bear and Salmon tour were taken to the mainland on a small flat bottomed barge and then driven in the safari van up to where the two viewing platforms were (these are owned by the Knights Cove Lodge).  I can now understand why it’s so important to be so careful when transferring from the safari van to the viewing platforms as the bears come so close to these at times.  The other people who had only paid for a grizzly bear estuary tour were taken up to the mouth of the river – they unfortunately only saw the back of one bear.

As we approached the viewing platforms we saw some bears play fighting in the main spawning area of the shallow river.     Nearby there were a couple of weirs in the river for salmon to climb up over.  During the 2 hours we were on the platforms (10am-12noon) we saw approx 14 grizzly Bears – 1 mother and cub (who had a transmitter collar on for tracking her whereabouts) and several juvenile pairs who were very playful.  We were very close to these bears as they continually caught and fed on salmon (salmon were traveling up the river to spawn) – the cub also periodically caught salmon but would periodically let it go then sit on a rock and wait for Mum to catch another one for him – it was so cute.  Sometimes when one of the juvenile cubs caught a salmon they would run up the bank to get away from the other one before eating it.  It sure was a fascinating day in the bear country – we will have ever lasting memories of this great experience.

The tour operator supplied us with a self help fill a bun lunch, which was very satisfying - we returned back to Telegraph Cove at 4.30pm.  We would have no hesitation at highly recommending Howard Patterson for a Grizzly Bear and Salmon tour – he was very helpful and went out of his way to ensure that he gave a most rewarding trip to us all.

The Grizzly Bear and Salmon tour would have to be the highlight of our trip – a truly amazing unique experience one would have trouble finding anywhere else (some videos are included below the photos).

Videos of the bears (small are very small, low resolution videos suitable for dialup connections so view them first, med should be ok for dialup connections but will take longer of course, lge are really only suitable for broadband connections as they are 1Mb to 3Mb long.

An overview of the site  small   med   lge
A river full of salmon  small   med   lge
Get your own fish      small   med   lge
Mum and cub share a salmon  small   med   lge
Mum catches a salmon      small   med   lge
How to skin a salmon        small   med   lge
Bears protect their patch   small   med   lge
The cub catches a fish       small   med   lge
The juveniles                    small   med   lge


Thursday, 28 September  - Telegraph Cove to Nanaimo (ferry from Duke Point –to Tsawwassen) and Vancouver
Woke up to fog and light drizzle until mid morning then fine for the rest of the day - temp around 18 deg C.

Up early to have breakfast, pack up and leave to catch a ferry mid afternoon – used one of the luggage trolleys to put our luggage on to take it to the car.

The road between Port McNeill and Campbell River is a nice wide road with little traffic on it – 2hrs traveling time.  Noticed quite a few mills that had many rafts of logs (booms) nearby on the waterways that had been floated to the mills rather than transported on logging trucks – they were either timber, wood chip or pulp and paper mills.  When we passed the Elk Falls pulp and paper mill at Campbell River today, it was spurting out lots of smoke – they obviously need some restrictions put on them in regard to pollution as the stink from this mill was horrendous when we passed through the town a few days prior, when the wind was blowing toward the town.  The paper mill employs just over 1000 staff, so it’s a reasonable size.

Drove down to the Old Country Market at Coombs, near Parksville (goats live on top of the supermarket and café roof) to have lunch.  Arrived at Duke Point (near Nanaimo) around 2pm to catch the 3.15pm ferry (“Queen of Alberni”) to Tsawwassen, Vancouver (we are amazed how quickly all the vehicles are unloaded and then reloaded into the BC ferries)     – we arrived at Tsawwassen at 5.15pm and 20 mins later we were at the Hampton Inn near Vancouver Airport to stay the night in readiness for flying back to NZ tomorrow.  We stayed one night at the same hotel when we first arrived in British Columbia and find the rooms very comfortable, the breakfast great and the staff ever so helpful.  The young lady at reception when we checked in highly recommended “The Boathouse” restaurant nearby in Richmond – we were not disappointed, in fact it would rate up with the better meals and service we have had while on holiday – the meal was excellent and we would not hesitate to highly recommend it to others - another plus for Vancouver!!

A had Dungeness Crab stuffed Jumbo Prawns with wild rice, asparagus and zucchini / G had black Pepper Sea Scallops (a Boathouse classic) with mashed potato, asparagus, red peppers and zucchini.

Back to the hotel to repack our bags for flying back to NZ tomorrow – Vancouver / San Francisco / Auckland / Wellington.

Videos of the loggers working on a log boom (small -very small, low resolution video suitable for dialup connections, good for viewing first, med should be ok for dialup connections but will take longer of course, lge is really only suitable for broadband connections as it is 2.4Mb long.