Vancouver Island Map and Driving Guide
A Vancouver Island map and driving guide to help you find the best adventures Vancouver Island has to offer!
map courtesy of Davenport Maps
Driving Vancouver Island
Vancouver Island offers many excellent driving trips, with diverse and spectacular scenery. The South Island and East Coast have the largest population centres and the main highways are found here. The Vancouver Island road map we've included here will help you get around!
Driving time from Victoria to Port Renfrew: 2 hrs
From Victoria, Highway 14 heads southwest through the town of Sooke (stop at the
Sooke Harbour House
for dinner on your way back - really expensive, but really, really good food!) then turns northwest and heads toward the village of Port Renfrew.
Along the way you'll see plenty of beach signs. Which beaches are worth seeing?
Juan de Fuca Provincial Park
. This park contains some excellent beaches for exploring. These aren't generally "sandy destination beaches," but provide an interesting day of exploration. Here are the beaches in this park worth stopping at:
French Beach is easily accessible right from the parking lot off the highway and provides some spectacular views. Good place to picnic, but it's very rocky. However, interesting tidal pools here - kids find it intriguing!
Further down the road, explore beautiful China Beach (trailhead to the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail), and Sombrio Beach (popular with surfers). A word of caution: This road can be narrow and windy, so drive carefully and definitely watch the signs.
The road terminates at Botanical Beach (a bit past Port Renfrew). This is a wonderful beach, well known for it's fascinating tidal pools. Worth stopping and checking out.
Driving time from Victoria to Nanaimo: 1.5 hours
From Victoria, Highway 1 heads north through the towns of Mill Bay, Duncan, Chemainus and Ladysmith - all of which are picturesque in their own right and worthy of a visit.
Chemainus in particular
in particular is world famous for it's murals which have been painted by local artists on the town's buildings.
Nanaimo is the next major city (population 72,000). Once strictly a resource-industry town, Nanaimo has gone to great lengths to revitalize it's waterfront and downtown core.
Driving time from Nanaimo to Campbell River: 1.25 hours
Highway 1 continues north, and just south of Parksville it splits into two routes: Highway 19 is a four-lane divided highway with a speed limit of 110 km/h that continues right through to Campbell River. This is a great route if you're in a hurry, but there isn't much to see.
If you have time and want some scenery, take Highway 19A, which travels through the towns of Parksville and Qualicum Beach and follows the waterfront north. This is a spectacularly scenic drive all the way through to Courtenay and beyond to Campbell River. For an added treat, go sometime from the end of September to the middle of October, when the leaves are changing colour!
Driving time from Campbell River to Port Hardy: 3 hrs
Once past Campbell River, you're really in the wilderness. Small villages and towns, which have traditionally been supported by forestry jobs, are all you'll find for civilization. This highway is generally very good; well-maintained with decent shoulders. Look out for the odd narrow, twisty bit, though. For an excellent, home cooked meal, stop in at The Cable Cookhouse Cafe (at the Sayward turnoff). The building is quite unique too (we're not telling - you have to go see it!)
Travel to the West Coast
Driving time from Parksville to Ucluelet/Long Beach/Tofino: 2.5 hours
This is the route to the best of the west coast. Highway 4 from Parksville passes through Cathedral Grove in MacMillan
Provincial Park. You HAVE to stop here to wander through the well-groomed trails among the giant cedars.
Next is the pulp-mill town of Port Alberni, then Sproat Lake. Rent a boat to explore this large body of water, which during summer months is home to the Martin Mars water bombers. These are the largest forest-fire fighting aircraft of their type in the world and are really something to see!
After Sproat Lake, Highway 4 becomes rough, windy and narrow in several places. Use caution, especially if you are driving an
RV. On some corners, large vehicles (such as semis) travelling in the opposite direction will need to use part of your lane
to clear overhanging rocks. Keep right if you value your mirrors!
Driving time from Campbell River to Gold River: 1.5 hrs
This is a very pleasant trip, travelling through the heart of Strathcona Provincial Park. Generally a good highway, but not
particularly well maintained since the mill in Gold River shut down.
Deer and black bear are frequently seen on this route. It's a good idea to fill up in Campbell River, as there are no gas stations en route to Gold River, and services in Gold River are limited.
Approximately 25 minutes from Campbell River, past the Strathcona Park Lodge, the highway splits. Turn right over the bridge
to continue on to Gold River, or go straight to follow the Westmin Mine road.
The Westmin Mine road serves the Boliden-Westmin zinc, copper, gold and silver mine (tours are available). Also off this road
are several camping spots and picnic areas along beautiful Buttle Lake. There's also several trails that access Strathcona Park hiking routes from here (
see area map here
If you're thinking of touring around on the Island, you'll find our
Driving Vacation page
very useful to help you plan what to see and do all over the Island.
Vancouver Island Adventures / Vancouver Island Map