Photo credit: Rainforest Tours. From sea, to sky, to everything in between, our customizable Vancouver Island itineraries are guaranteed to suit every type, demographic, and style of traveller. The island offers a wealth of landscapes that give opportunity for sports, recreation, wine tasting, cultural exploration, wildlife viewing, and a renown sense of recalibration through travel.
Why book with Tours of Exploration?
- We specialize in customized, personalized tours that can suit your travel dates, length, and style. We can combine, expand on, or divide up itineraries as desired!
- This is our backyard! Many of Tours of Exploration's team members live on Vancouver Island. Let us show you what we are proud of.
- We choose to work with local partners, not only to guarantee an immersive, authentic experience; but also to economically support the area's local population.
- We ensure that you can book risk-free, and with confidence.
2022 DATES & RATES
Daily departures .
Prices vary with package selected
Or have a look at our one time special birds, Grizzly bears, whales and Indigenous cultural trip with the American Birding Association Sept. 17 - 24, 2022
Travel planning with Tours of Exploration
Our experience and expertise can remove the stress of planning so that you can maximize your time on Vancouver Island. We can package your holiday, or we can connect you to the most ideal sites that suit your desired visit on a customized or referral basis. All of this allows you flexibility and freedom on whether to have us take care of the decisions on your accommodation and recreational activities or to leave that to you. We are adept at matching your needs and budget to available offerings.
Best time to visit: Outdoor recreation takes place in almost every corner of Vancouver Island year-round. Each season is delightful and offers its own unique experiences.
Recommended length of stay: 7 - 10 days. You might want to book a short module of 2-3 days with us and leave the rest of the time free to explore on your own. Or let us help you string together several modules from North to South and West to East. Think about coming in the shoulder season (September to May) to avoid the summer surge in visitors and seasonal residents.
Activities: Active travellers of any age can enjoy easy access to a wide range of marine, and land recreation, including:
- Marine and wildlife sightseeing out of Victoria, Campbell River, Telegraph Cove, Port McNeill, Port Renfrew or Tofino.
- Swimming, scuba diving, and fishing
- Forest, coastal, and alpine trails of every length and experience level
- Kayaking, and stand-up paddle boarding
- Xcountry skiing, alpine skiing (Mt Washington), and snowshoeing
- Mountain biking or cycling
- First Nations experiences
- Connecting to the land and its history
Appropriate outer wear, equipment and preparation is needed. We provide details for any bookings we service.
Victoria - BC's capital with whale watching, ancient forests & ancient seas
Day 1. Victoria (whale watching)
Morning to experience the wildlife and oceanscapes in and around Victoria with a 1/2 day whale watching. Balance of the day to explore the historic and vibrant areas of downtown Victoria. Overnight Parkside Hotel which is in an excellent location for walking.
Day 2. Port Renfrew (Guided Ancient forests & Ancient seas experience)
Your driver/guide will pick you up at your hotel in Victoria. Travel along the Juan de Fuca highway (#14) west from Victoria. Port Renfrew is a small, coastal community, about a two-hour drive from Victoria, BC. It is within the traditional territory of the Pacheedaht First Nation.
The hiking location is Avatar Grove. Enroute a stop at a fun local cafe to grab our delectable lunches allows guests the opportunity to experience a true West Coast vibe, grab a coffee and use the facilities. We arrive at Avatar Grove at around 11 am. Here you find giant old growth cedar including the enormous firs of Avatar Grove. The forest grove is located alongside Gordon River, and provides visitors with a chance to be in old growth forest. The Grove is also home to Canada’s Gnarliest Tree, lush ferns and moss covered roots and rocks. Broken up into 2 sections, the upper and lower trails, we will take our time wandering through the boardwalks through towering old-growth trees. After lunch, your small group will take the 20-minute drive to Botanical Beach. Here, we will spend time weaving from trail to beach exploring the 2.6 kilometer loop, infamous for its incredible tide pooling opportunity. The group will make their way back to the vehicle from 4-4:30 pm to commence the drive back to Victoria. Return time to the pick-up location is around 6:30 pm.
*Please note that this is a long day. Bring extra food if needed. Drop off can be later than estimated.* The visit to Botanical beach is tide dependent and so the order of forest or beac
h may be reversed.
Day 3: Departure
Onward to next location or Stay Longer: Pre and post extensions are highly recommended in Victoria with its many historic attractions including the Provincial Parliament Buildings and vibrant working harbour. If you are up for a physical challenge – try the West Coast trail (permit and advance planning needed for this 6 day hike).
Photo credit: Rainforest Tours
North Vancouver Island Itinerary - Whales, Wildlife & Indigenous Culture
Travel to the remote Pacific Coastal Rainforest of northern Vancouver Island and experience the First Nations culture of the Kwakwaka'wakw in Alert Bay. Get up close with the whales and unique marine environment onboard an expedition boat. Cruise the island-studded waters watching for whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions and a great variety of birds in their natural habitat and learn about tidal ecology.
Day 1: Arrive Port McNeill
Arrival to the remote northern community of Port McNeill (5-6 hour drive from Nanaimo or 7 hours from Victoria). Enroute, discover diverse island communities nestled between the mountains and the ocean shore and scenic vistas. On arrival, settle into the hotel for 3 nights.
Day 2: Whales, Seals & Birds (B,L)
Breakfast at the hotel. A full day of wildlife activities aboard an expedition boat. Johnstone Strait is a narrow passage that separates Vancouver Island from the mainland. The Strait is set amongst steep fjords, small islands and lush rainforest with old growth red cedar and Sitka spruce up to 1000 years old. Subsurface upwellings and penetrating ocean currents result in a rich marine environment that is home to five species of salmon, numerous sea birds, Orca, minke and humpback whales, several species of dolphin, black bear, harbour seals and stellar sea lions.
This area is best known as the world’s prime Orca viewing region. We will search for resident and transient pods of Orcas as well as resident pods of killer whales (these whales usually come to feed in July to early October). Other wildlife in the area at that time of year includes humpback whales, Steller sea lions, harbour seals, huge numbers of sea birds and bald eagles, and perhaps some Pacific white-sided dolphins. This time of the year is also great for birds. Binoculars are a must! We will include natural history interpretation and you will be able to identify general marine mammal species. Lunch onboard.
Day 3: Indigenous Culture (B,L,D)
Breakfast at the hotel. Prepare for a very active day with plenty of walking and discovery. This is a full day on Cormorant Island. We walk a short distance to the ferry dock for an 8:45am departure onboard the 45-minute ferry crossing to Alert Bay on Cormorant Island. This crescent shaped island is located in the region known as the beautiful Inside Passage, and is set amidst splendid scenery and abundant wildlife.
Alert Bay is historically significant as the oldest First Nations community on North Vancouver Island, and is well known as a centre for the powerful resurgence of Native culture. We will visit the U'mista Cultural Centre, an internationally known facility that houses a fine collection of historical artifacts depicting the Potlatch Ceremony of the Kwakwaka'wakw. Walk amongst the totems and cultural centres of Alert Bay. Lunch is included in the community. In the afternoon stroll along the boardwalk at Ecological Park. The park is an ecological treasure trove of sights and sounds and a paradise for bird-watchers and botanists. A series of trails wind around the forest area and the boardwalk crosses the marsh, allowing visitors a close view of the swamp's ecosystem. Cedar snags, hemlocks and pine trees draped with moss provide an eerie charm and beauty.
The Kwakwaka'wakw have been instrumental in spearheading a movement to reclaim their birthright to traditional art, dances, songs, legends, ceremonies, and language. With some visits, you will have the opportunity to hear the origin story of the people, legends from the past, and finally shown a selected number of traditional dances (Big House ceremonies may not coincide with all visits). Depart at approximately 5:00pm for a walk to the ferry terminal and journey back to Port McNeill.
Day 4: Port McNeill Departure (B)
After breakfast, check out of lodgings at Port McNeil and return to Nanaimo.
Stay Longer: Add a day to see the Grizzly Bears. In the wild and pristine region of Western Canada's Pacific Northwest, a select few travellers are afforded the incomparable thrill of close encounters with some of North America's most impressive creatures – massive grizzly bears. Each spring, the Grizzlies are seen feeding on grasses near the inlet shores. Each fall, when millions of salmon make their final spawning run giant grizzlies gather at the spawning channels to fatten their already massive bodies in preparation for the imminent winter freeze. Bald eagles, grebes, Marbled Murrelets, loons, herons and many others are frequently seen. We will depart by boat early for a full day program and enjoy the added experience of hiking in the Great Bear Rainforest. Lunch included.
Tofino Travel Itinerary
Day 1 To Tofino, Pacific Rim National Park
Bus from Victoria (or Nanaimo). Or self-drive1. Travel through the winding and majestic sights of the Malahat highway – you are guaranteed to be glued to your window for the entirety of the trip. Making one brief transfer stop in Nanaimo, the Tofino-bound bus will also drive through Ladysmith, Duncan, Coombs, and Ucluelet, offering a brief exploration of the island’s townships along the way. Continue along the Pacific Rim Highway and arrive at the Pacific Rim National Park on the west coast. This is one of the most spectacular nature reserves in North America, with pristine sandy beaches, dense rainforests and imposing rock formations. You can hear the waves crashing along the outstretched beachfront as you approach your accommodation. The time has come to explore your new coastal surroundings!
Day 2 Marine wildlife tour
Today, we have the option of partaking in a nature tour by boat (depending on the weather) on covered boats - or for the truly daring, the adventurous zodiacs. This experience takes us through the unique island world of the Clayoquot Sound, in which from May to October we look for whales, dolphins, eagles, seabirds, sea lions and the occasional black bear along our wild west coast. Both options have a a maximum of 12 passengers as the boat capacity.
Other Tofino activities could include a visit to the Botanical Gardens, kayaking, surfing lessons, hiking trails or a foodie crawl.
Day 3 Pacific Rim National Park
Spend a day on one of Tofino's beaches enjoying the beauty of Pacific Rim National Parks. Swim, play in the sand, explore the life in tidal pools, and restore your mind, body and spirit.
Option to kayak: Enjoy the lush coastline and inlets offshore from Tofino. As part of this kayak adventure, you will experience the spiritual energy of the ancient Big Tree Trail on Meares Island. The hike leads us over approx. 500 meters of boardwalk through majestic rain forest containing 1500 year-old trees and unique flora and fauna. This hiking part of our kayak tour usually takes about 40 minutes. Maximum 6 people/guide for each group.
Option for Surfing and SUP-ing rentals and lessons. Surfing and SUP-ing rentals and lessons. Surfing and Stand-up-paddling are experiences that are possible for all ages and all skill levels around Mackenzie Beach, and the sheltered Inlet. Tours are 2 hours long, and can be made private for a maximum of up to 6 people and range from 2-3 hours.
Day 4 Depart Tofino
Depart by bus to Victoria or Nanaimo.
Stay longer: It is worth staying for several more days, to thoroughly experience Tofino the way you want to.