The drive from Nanaimo to Tofino takes place primarily on winding two lane roads, over mountains, through forests, and along rivers before you hit the west coast of Vancouver Island.
We made two stops and one detour on the three and a half hour, two hundred thirty kilometer drive.
If you expected to find fairies and trolls on Vancouver Island, for sure they’d live in Cathedral Grove. This is an old growth forest with Douglas firs over 800 years old and ancient Western red cedar. The main route (Highway #4) from Nanaimo to Tofino passes through the park. This is well-worth an hour’s stop along your way.
Port Alberni Visitor Centre
If you need a spot to stop and stretch your legs, the Port Alberni Visitor Centre is a lovely spot to stop for a picnic lunch. Also along Highway 4 between Nanaimo and Tofino, the Visitor Centre offers some spectacular views of Mount Arrowsmith and the McKenzie and Beaufort mountain ranges. Interpretive signs inform visitors about the tsunami that damaged the city in 1964 after a 9.2 earthquake struck Alaska. There are also signs about the First Nations in the region: the Tseshaht and Hupacasath.
Robertson Creek Fish Hatchery
We made a little detour after the Port Alberni Visitor Centre to stop by the Robertson Creek Fish Hatchery and learn about what started as the largest pink salmon spawning channel in North America. It now deals with coho and chinook salmon. Visitors are welcome to take a self-guided tour of the facilities. There are more great interpretive signs about native and non-native fish in the area and what the hatchery does.
After about half an hour wandering around the hatchery, we noticed they were closing the gates for the day. We scooted out and continued on to Tofino.
Now I’d love to hear from you. Have you driven from Nanaimo to Tofino? Let me know in the comments where your must-see sights are along the way.