I was hellbent on being in Canada before the 4th of July. Duke had some shows in the Pacific Northwest so we figured there was no better time to make our way northwards. Once his tour was over, I picked him up in Seattle and we headed up to Port Angeles, WA where we would catch a ferry to Victoria on Vancouver Island. We were on track to achieve my goal!
The Ferry Ride
After spending the night in the Walmart parking lot in Port Angeles, we headed to the marina where we would board the ferry and begin our Canadian adventure. Neither Paisley nor DarthSchminuss, our rig, have ever been aboard a sea vessel so excitement and nerves were high. After Duke perfectly maneuvered the rig between a semi and a large support wall down in the hold, the three of us headed up to the passenger deck. Paisley was FREAKED. She only barked twice (which, if you know her, is a damn miracle) and the floors were super slippery so she looked like Bambi on the frozen lake. When we made it to some open seats, she just sat there wild-eyed and trembling. She eventually started to calm down but we decided to take her back to the truck and gave her a calming treat. She immediately relaxed so we knew that’s where she would be happiest for the journey. Two Kokanees and an hour and a half later, we had docked in Victoria, BC!
Entering Canada was extremely easy. The customs agent just asked us a few questions, checked Paisley’s immunization records and scanned our passports. Five short minutes later, we were on our way to Pedder Bay RV Resort and Marina where we would be spending the next two nights.
Pedder Bay RV Resort and Marina
This place is easily the nicest private campground we have stayed at so far. Each site is bordered by a dense hedge, so privacy is abundant and we could see the marina from the driveway! It was such a great way to begin our stay here on Vancouver Island. The inlet was smooth as glass, so kayaking is a must. We loved it so much, we even bought matching trucker hats with the resort logo on them!
East Sooke Park/Beechey Head
We knocked this little hike out the first afternoon we were on the island. After a 12 minute drive to the trailhead and a short walk, the views of the Olympic Peninsula across the Strait of Juan de Fuca were SLAMMIN! It was a bit crowded for our liking but there were tons of little deer trails off of the main trail that lead down to small coves and beaches. There was even a petroglyph of a sea lion along the way.
Mystic Beach/Juan de Fuca Marine Trail
This was my first real taste of the true coastal rainforests I have always dreamed about. Anywhere there is an excessive amount of moss is my idea of a perfect place and I couldn’t stop saying “These are my perfect woods!” It was 2km down to the beach which had a waterfall, a rope swing and about 20 too many people. We had packed a bottle of my favorite “pink wine” to enjoy once we arrived.
On our way back up the trail we crossed a suspension bridge. Little did I know this was about to become the most memorable suspension bridge of my life, and I’ve crossed a lot of suspension bridges. Duke asked me to hold the water bottle while he “grabbed the camera” from his backpack. I was busy peering down to the river below us when he said “Caitlin, turn around.” I assumed he was wanting to take a picture of me but when I looked, he was down on one knee with the most perfect ring I had ever seen. I immediately blurted out “Is this happening right now?!” and burst into tears. “Hurry up, this hurts!” he said, as the metal tread of the bridge was digging into his knee. My gut reaction was to get down on my knees with him. What the hell? Anyways, he proceeded to ask me to marry him and my answer was an emphatic “YES!!” We spent the rest of the hike admiring the ring, the woods and each other. Once we got back to the truck we enjoyed some celebratory Kokanees (they’re “glacier fresh!”).
Sooke Potholes Provincial Park
I freaking love rivers. I recently proclaimed to Duke that rivers are my favorite kind of water to submerge my body in. This place just confirmed that even more. It was a quick jaunt north off the main highway from Sooke. Like most things we’ve done lately, it was fairly crowded, but we were able to find a spot to call our own.
The potholes here are formed by the river currents when they hit just right and a whirlpool carves out a lovely spherical cavity into the surrounding rock. Some are tiny and some are quite large! All of them make for a really neat time.
Our ultimate goal was to make it up to Ucluelet and Tofino. Due to the crazy topography, there is no direct route along the west coast. Our first stop on the way north was Port Renfrew. It was here that we found Pacheedat Beach Campground on land owned by the Pacheedat First Nation tribe. This was our first experience camping on the beach and man, was it awesome! There were no hookups here but we don’t mind roughing it. It’s really really worth it sometimes and this was no exception.
Almost immediately, we befriended our neighbors and wound up having a wonderful time enjoying food and beverages with them until the wee hours. We had big plans for the next day but drank a bit too much Sortilege whisky and maple syrup liqueur (so Canadian, eh?) to make our early wake up call. Oops!
Botanical Beach/Lunch at Renfrew Pub
Once we finally rolled out of bed and secured everything for takeoff, we made our way to Botanical Beach Provincial Park. Duke had seen pictures online and knew even just the name would be a huge draw for me. It was a nice little hike through more coastal rainforest to the beach. We saw approximately ONE MILLION banana slugs, each of which I SQWEE’d at. Duke thinks they’re gross but I love those little aliens on Earth.
The tides were definitely on the rise when we got to the beach (make sure to check the tide charts to see when high/low tides are before going!) but there were still PLENTY of tide pools for us to check out.
The biodiversity is amazing and each tide pool has an entirely different vibe than the next. We spent far too long on Botanical Beach so we decided to skip Botany Bay and continue back to Darth.
I had fish and chips on my mind (though I tend to stay away from meat and most animal products, I just can’t help myself when I’m near the ocean) so we hauled ass to Renfrew Pub. The views on the deck of this place are fantastic and the food was equally enjoyable. I’d highly recommend it!
Cowichan Lake/Lily Beach
Duke had a place called Honeymoon Bay in mind for a pitstop on the way to Nanaimo, which is on the opposite side of the island from Port Renfrew. Seemed appropriate. It turns out Honeymoon Bay is also a small village on the lake so our GPS just took us there. We drove down the road a bit and stumbled upon a quaint little beach just off the main drag called Lily Beach. We enjoyed some sun, took a dip in the chilly lake and Duke put some kids to shame with an epic cannon ball off of a floating dock.
After our two hour trek across the island, on winding logging roads and across several one-lane bridges, we made it to Mountainaire Campground just south of Nanaimo. This place was a cute little family-friendly wooded spot.
The best part about this place for us was the access to the Nanaimo River. After a caffeinated morning full of Duke crushing work emails and me doing some writing at Javawocky coffee shop on the marina in Nanaimo, we spent an awesome afternoon jumping off of rocks and splashing around with our GoPro in hand. Definitely unforgettable!
Stay tuned for Duke’s take on the second portion of our island trip coming at you in a few days.
~ The Duchess