Vancouver Island in the Time of Covid

The route October 20-25:

  • Departure Bay (Tsawwassen) to Nanaimo (Duke Point)
  • Coombs (stayed in Parksville)
  • Tofino
  • Ucluelet
  • Gabriola Island
  • Nanaimo (Duke Point) to Departure Bay (Tsawwassen)

I’m not trying to be dramatic, but not being able to travel because of Covid makes me feel like a beached baby (I’m being generous) whale. Gaining 200 pounds each day, unable to properly breathe (seriously though, I have medical problems), and thrashing around not knowing what is left or what is up. That’s me.

I am in my element when I am travelling, take that away and I fall apart like a flaky Parisian croissant.

If one more person suggests that staycations are a great alternative to travel during these times, I will lose it. I am really fragile right now so please don’t push me.

By some divine miracle, in October, I was able to do a small adventure. My Canadian province didn’t have a strict lockdown at this time, so I decided to make the best of it. I went to Vancouver Island with my cousin. “Unemployed buddies!” – we yelled joyously together. Until two weeks later when she got a job so now I can only exclaim “unemployed!”, which doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

There wasn’t much info on road-tripping around Vancouver Island during October, only that in some areas you may be lucky to catch the autumn leaves changing colour. Well, call me yucky, I mean, lucky because we spotted some fine-coloured leaves on the drive.

As for wildlife, the bears go sleepy sleeps for the winter. Gray whales can be seen (somewhat) but expect rainy, windy conditions and the more nauseating price tag that goes along with boat tours. There are goats in Coombs. Tofino, specifically, is a doggy paradise. I am talking non-stop pooches approaching. Some may not consider the latter wildlife but you’d be wrong.

Goats on the roof in Coombs. I remember these bearded baffoons from when I was young. Some may argue I went to Vancouver Island just to see these goats. They did not disappoint. In the summer expect zero parking. In October, however, parking spots as far as the eye can see, provided you are nearsighted!

Englishman River Falls is glorious. We raced to catch the falls before the night snatched the view from us and before the park gate closed for the evening. There are some trails surrounding it. If you plan properly and go when you can see things I am sure you’re in for a treat.

Little Qualicum Falls is rather big. It’s a walk down from the parking lot and you’ll spot a lovely rush of water while standing on the bridge. Definitely worth a stop.

Cameron Lake is pretty. It’s rated a 4.7 on Google because all of nature is stunning blah de blah but if you are pressed for time or don’t need to use the outhouse, then you can skip this. It’s a lake.

Cathedral Grove in Macmillan Provincial Park is CLOSED due to covid. Properly fenced and boarded up. Normally, this lovely boardwalk, with the entrance located right on the side of the highway is a delight. We were only able to admire the decent amount of parking and the sturdy-looking outhouses as we drove past.

Hole In The Wall, Port Alberni. This is a very random man-made oval cut out from a rock wall. With Google directions, it may lead your car down a gravel road but there is a closed gate and you can’t park there. Instead, you have to drive slightly further until you see the Coombs Country Candy store. Pull into a parking lot that is visible from the highway and can be reached from Lacy Lake Road. You may be able to park in the candy store lot, but I don’t know how aggressive taffy makers can be. You then need to dash across the main highway and scuttle alongside the road (back towards that gate that was closed) and you’ll see a dirt path at some point. The directions from there I think were obvious, just keep left if there are any forks.

Wally Creek, we skipped because you have to pull over on the side of the Pacific Rim Highway, which is totally doable on the way to Tofino from Port Alberni but on the way back you have to kamikaze across the highway to get to the parking.

Sprout Lake we did on the way back from Tofino and we found some random turn-off with ample parking that was deserted. The bears hibernate because there are no more fish for them to eat so when we saw red Sockeye salmon by the water’s edge, we began to fear a bear was going to creep on us.

Closed because of Covid

Basically, anything that is on indigenous land is closed. Including Hot Spring Cove.

The things that we did that were open:

  • Rainforest Trail
  • Bog Trail
  • Radar Hill- easily accessible by car
  • Lighthouse Loop

Park Pass

The parts in dark green on the map are considered part of the Pacific Rim National Park. To walk/ park/ hike in any of these areas, you need to have a Park Pass. You can purchase it from kiosks in the parking lots (card only) or from any of the open tourist info centres for 10.00 CAD. It is good for 24 hours and you keep it on your car dash so you don’t get ticketed. If you’re debating whether you are a sleazy person or not, within an hour we saw someone getting ticketed for not having a Park Pass, so don’t be an ass (like me) and buy a pass!


ActivityExpenses for 2
Ferry (round trip Vancouver Island and Gabriola)225
Accommodation (1 night Parksville, 2 nights Tofino, 1 night Ucluelet)380
Food (ate out 3 times and bought groceries)160
Park Pass ($10 each)20
Other (gas in a hybrid, ferry reservation)75
Total approx. per person430

We stayed with family friends on Gabriola Island and I borrowed my mom’s car, which saved us a little moola. Tofino accommodation is notoriously expensive no matter the time of year, even camping was pricey in shoulder season. That is because what most would consider off-season is marketed as “storm season” so heaps of tourists often go for that. I am sure Covid didn’t help matters. If the hot springs were open, we would have forked over the 140 or whatever it is. We didn’t feel like surfing or whale watching and the kayaking to Meares island was fully booked the morning that we called. We mostly ate tacos so it was a success.

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