Fourteen itineraries to fill all 14 summer weekends.
We wait all year for our West Coast summer to finally arrive, so why not make the most of it? We’ve compiled a host of road trip itineraries to get you exploring, indulging and soaking up the best of B.C. and beyond, from the first of June to Labour Day—14 itineraries to fit all 14 summer weekends. Let’s go!
To Do: Wake up on the waterfront in Ucluelet.
A lot of people book accommodation in “Ukey” because Tofino is too busy or too expensive, but you’ll love your stay along this less touristed peninsula…especially if you’ve checked into a quirky-cozy yurt at Wya Point Resort. The small two-person waterfront yurts with wraparound cedar decks start at $135 per night, and you can bring the dog along, to boot. When you’re not beachcombing or scouring Ucluelet’s craggy ocean rocks for critters, a trip to the Amphitrite Point Lighthouse serves up some laid-back sightseeing with looping walks along less-than-three-kilometre sections of the Wild Pacific Trail, each with scenic lookouts that peek out at the coast. This trip you’re cooking most of your own meals, but treat yourself to a very Vancouver-calibre farm-to-table dinner (where the catch of the day comes from Ucluelet fishmongers) at homey wine-bar-chic Norwoods.—Julia Dilworth
June 8/9/10 Conquer the Woods
To Do: Take on the rugged B.C. backcountry with the help of a Chilcotin pro mountain biking tour company (bonus: enjoy a scenic float plane tour along the way). READ MORE ▸▸▸
June 16/17 Pair Wine with Culture
To Do: Feast with films at Devour Osoyoos Festival; Sip and swirl to song at Tinhorn Creek’s Concert Series.
The meals at Devour Osoyoos’s main screening gala and multi-course dinner are a far cry from standard Cineplex fare. Chefs fly in from all over Canada for the food and film festival, crafting dishes that pair with short, food-themed cinematic selections. They are sometimes inspired by the explicit ingredients in the movie, other times by the prominent culture or mood. Beef short rib seco from Ancora chef Ricardo Valverde, for example, was served up at last year’s event to accompany a moving Italian film about memory and taste. Packages (which include accommodation at the Watermark Beach Resort and a pass to all the festival events) start at $369—popcorn and Captain America, this is definitely not. If you’re more into music than movies, detour down the road to Tinhorn Creek to catch one of their epic summer concerts ($40) right on the grand lawn, glass of wine in hand, of course.—Stacey McLachlan
To Do: Bend hard and play hard at the Nectar Yoga B&B on Bowen Island.
You need to stretch, right? And to remember how to breathe? Yes, you do. At Nectar Yogaretreaters stay in one of two cottages (or in a garden suite on request) amidst the Bowen Island woods. Clean, cozy and minimalist, the retreat’s decluttered atmosphere, forest quiet and tasty vegetarian breakfasts—from waffles and smoothies to chia-pudding-and-granola parfaits—will reconnect your chi in all the right places.
Along with other instructors, Nectar owner and yogini Andrea Clark leads classes in your choice of yoga styles (including Hatha, Flow, Vinyasa and Yin) in a geodesic dome that looks out into the trees. Deep stretching and relaxation are all-season sports, but “summer is the most magical time on Bowen,” says Clark.
After your morning practice you can read your book in the hammocks slung between 100-foot-tall conifers, or walk to the sea at Miller’s Landing or Sandy Beach. Lunch on a curry wrap or smoked salmon sandwich at the Snug Coffee House; for dinner, eat Italian at Tuscany restaurant, or Spanish at the Barcelona Tapas and Wine Bar in Snug Cove.
Back at Nectar Yoga, have an evening sit in the wood-fired Finnish sauna—handmade of B.C. poplar, birch and cedar—and settle in for one of your most blissful sleeps of the year.—Tyee Bridge
July 1/2 Island Hopping
To Do: Three Gulf Islands, one long weekend: you can do this.
Friday night, hop a ferry to Galiano Island and check in to the Galiano Inn. Drop your bags in your villa and soak up the sunset views from your patio Jacuzzi. The next morning, strap on the hiking boots to take on Montague Harbour Marine Provincial Park, where the white-shell beaches date back more than 3,000 years, and work up an appetite for dinner at hyper-local, hyper-whimsical Pilgrimme. The gourmet restaurant in the woods is a foodie destination (a pilgrimage, if you will), so make a reservation to guarantee a taste of chef Jesse McCleery’s wildly inventive fare: think fermented barley grits with duck egg and beef heart tartare on sea lettuce. Post dessert, catch the late ferry to Pender Island, where Woods on Pender awaits to fulfill those West Coast glamping dreams with its roster of kitted-out Airstream trailers. Come Sunday morning, snag jam-slathered sourdough from the resort’s Coffee Kitchen Restaurant to fuel your Kayak Pender Island outing, which follows the island’s shorelines through kelp beds and gentle waves and practically guarantees wildlife sightings (hello, seal pups!). Toast your adventurous spirit at Twin Island Cider’s quaint orchard-side tasting shed, where heirloom apples are naturally fermented into something delightfully funky and fizzy. Then it’s back to the ferry terminal for your sunset ride over to Salt Spring Island. Settle in for the night at laid-back-luxe Stonehouse B&B—after a nightcap or two on the heated patio at Moby’s Pub—and, come Monday, hit the farm-tour circuit with stops that include everything from the chèvre paradise that is Salt Spring Island Cheese to the purple fields of Sacred Mountain Lavender. If you’ve got time, catch a show at the Fritz Movie Theatre (where $10 gets you both your ticket and a bucket of real-buttered popcorn) before heading out and leaving island life behind…at least until the weekend rolls around again.—S.M.
July 7/8 Peak Weekend
To Do: Go off-roading before breakfast in Whistler. READ MORE ▸▸▸
July 14/15 Behold the Beowulf
To Do: Challenge yourself on the “epic” mountain-bike loop at SilverStar Mountain Resort.
“Monsters, heroes, battles, ripped-off appendages hanging from rafters…” so goes Beowulf, the oldest surviving epic poem in English literature, about a warrior who defeats fiendish foe Grendel (and other nemeses, including a dragon). Now there’s another epic: a 35-kilometre cross-country bike trail named after this tale of conquest.
Purpose-built for mountain biking, this scenic loop along ridgelines and through old-growth forests opened last year at SilverStar Mountain Resort near Vernon, and has already received the coveted IMBA Epic designation (the International Mountain Bicycling Association currently recognizes 46 bucket-list, backcountry, mostly single-track “epics” worldwide).
“The name Beowulf came to light during the build,” says Jason Martin, trail builder and SilverStar bike park coordinator, because “we knew we were looking to build an ‘epic’ trail, but the word is so overused we wanted to put a twist on it.” Beowulf became the DNA. “The story relates to the entirety of this trail, from its inception—looking at maps, Google Earth, walking around the bush for weeks, finding a line—to the four-year build of the trail itself,” says Martin. “Every inch of trail has a story behind it, and these stories continue with each rider.” Add your spin to the saga this summer and, as the local battle cry goes, “tackle the dragon!”—Barb Sligl
July 21/22 Wine About It
To Do: Explore B.C.’s next big wine-country contender, one glass at a time.
The Nanaimo–Comox Valley area is as-yet unsung as a wine region, but it’s on the rise thanks to recent investments (and reinvestments) in estate wineries there in the past five years. Here are three wineries within 90 minutes of the Nanaimo ferry dock that are worth the trip.
This six-acre winery on the Millstone River is only 10 minutes from the Nanaimo harbour. Take your glasses out to the backyard picnic table for an al fresco happy hour with the chickens. If the weather is too hot or too wet, the tasting room comes with a nice selection of original jazz and blues vinyl playing in the background. Don’t miss the rosé (pairs well with Thelonius Monk), or the cabernet franc (better with Jimmy Rushing).
Started in 2006, Beaufort was bought by filmmaker James Cameron in 2014 because he loved the property (and, presumably, the wine). The cozy tasting room is in a renovated barn; a side picnic area overlooks the vineyards and the Beaufort Range. The wines are worth the hour-plus drive from Nanaimo to the Comox Valley. Try the Big Nose Red or the Beaudacious white, a blend of estate-grown German varietals.
40 Knots has a sprawling vineyard terrace where you can bring your own snacks—or they can provide you with a picnic basket filled with cheeses, smoked salmon and other morsels. Lauded B.C. winemaker Michael Bartier consults and provides them with Okanagan-grown merlot grapes for their tasty Stall Speed merlot. For island-grown grapes, try the Uncloaked chardonnay or pinot noir.—T.B.
July 28/29 Backyard Bash
To Do: Pair craft beer with live music at Victoria’s best block party.
Phillips’s annual Backyard Weekender in Victoria proffers the quintessential Canadian summer experience, transforming the parking lot behind the brewery into an outdoor concert venue complete with their excellent craft beer—the Blue Buck ale is a standout—two-handed street fare, and a lineup of musical acts that lean heavily into soul. Among them: locals Electric Sex Panther, Prince’s former band the Revolution, and Reggie Watts (a.k.a. the inquisitive hype man of The Late, Late Show with James Corden). A few blocks over, on a rapidly reviving stretch of the upper harbour, Canoe Brewpub and recently arrived Fishhook at Mermaid Wharf vie for the title of best patio. Also in contention: the Veranda at the Fairmont Empress Hotel. After undergoing a major refurbishment of its rooms and dining spaces, Victoria’s grande dame is also newly revived a quintessential Canadian experience of a different sort. To queen and country!—Rosemary Poole
Aug 3-6 Band Camp
To Do: Unplug and play at this out-of-the-way music fest in northern B.C.
ArtsWells Festival in northern B.C. is essentially summer camp for music and art lovers, a place to “jam, adventure, frolic, loiter,” says Vancouver Island musician and artist Jenny Ritter. “We go north and participate in that wonderful madness.”
The four-day party is set near Bowron Lakes in the neighbouring towns of Wells and Barkerville (a National Historic Site from the Gold Rush era). A nine-hour drive from Vancouver, it’s isolated (read: no cell service). And that’s the appeal, says Ritter. Everyone who comes this far is committed to being there, in the moment—with moments that include visual installations, wandering performers, parades, artisans, galleries and workshops.
But the magic really takes place in the extraordinary music venues, from St. Saviour’s Church in Barkerville (one of the original buildings from 1869) to the Sunset Theatre (built in 1934, it was B.C.’s first gambling hall and a former morgue) and bright-yellow Wells Community Hall (a 1938 structure that once housed a pistol range). “Every year there is inevitably some band I’ve never heard of that blows my mind, playing in the most intimate setting,” says Ritter. It’s what happened during her own performance at the Sunset last summer: “We had a six-piece band, and got to play as loud and as soft as we wanted…I felt like a goddamn superstar.”—B.S.
Aug 11/12 Happy Trails
To Do: Explore the coast with the most on the Sunshine Coast Trail
Imagine the Pacific Crest Trail but with more coastal, knock-you-off-your-socks scenery and zero Wild fans throwing boots about. The whole 180-kilometre Sunshine Coast Trailsnakes from the Saltery Bay ferry terminal up past Powell River to end at Desolation Sound’sSarah Point, with free hut-to-hut camping all the way. Manzanita Bluff offers a gorgeous panoramic view and is an easy day-hike option (about an hour each way from the Spire Access off Sarah Point Road); Tin Hat is harder, but the mountain vista goes 360 degrees. Either way, a stop at Nancy’s Bakery for a baseball-mitt-sized white chocolate raspberry cinnamon bun is mandatory.—J.D.
Sooke Potholes (Photo: Brandy Saturley.)
Aug 17-19 Sooke is for Lovers
To Do: Cozy up with the one you love at the off-the-grid Point No Point in Sooke. READ MORE ▸▸▸
Aug 25/26 Paddle-Powered
To Do: Hop in the kayak and cruise over to Twin Island’s stellar spots. READ MORE ▸▸▸
Sept 1/2/3 Get Lost
To Do: Make a detour to explore the oh-so-charming Centralia, Washington. READ MORE ▸▸▸