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I'm planning to spend a few days on Vancouver Island with some friends in a few weeks time. Our rough plan is a day or so in Victoria, then drive out to Ucluelet to go sea kayaking, then return to Victoria to depart.

The drive from Victoria to Ucluelet is about 300km (sadly there's no road along the south of the island), and Google Maps thinks it'll take about 5 hours. With that in mind, we've basically allocated one day each way for the journey. (We didn't fancy going kayaking straight after a long drive, and driving back after a day's kayaking didn't seem sensible either!)

What this plan means is that we'll have time to stop off once or twice (for an hour or so) along the way. However, I'm not sure if there's anything to stop for, and if we'd be better off just pushing on and spending more time in Ucluelet.

Does anyone know if there are any things to stop off and do along the way? Any museums / galleries / etc to visit? Are any of the towns along the way picturesque and worth stopping of in for a little bit? As we drive through the various parks/reserves along the way, are there any points where we could stop off for a 1-2 hour interesting hike?

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Do you need to go back to Victoria? I ask because if you are planning on just taking the ferry back to Vancouver, you can do so from Nanaimo instead. –  SigueSigueBen Jun 8 '12 at 15:24
    
The hire car needs to go back to the place we get it from (the one way fee was massive!), so we need to do Victoria-Ucluelet-Victoria –  Gagravarr Jun 8 '12 at 19:29
    
It's probably not worth the effort, but there is a train from Victoria to Nanaimo, if you wanted to switch your rental and save yourself backtracking to Victoria. –  SigueSigueBen Jun 8 '12 at 20:43
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up vote 6 down vote accepted

As someone who lives between Victoria and Ucluelet, let me have a crack at it.

Even though I'd try to fit in two or three stops to break up the long drive, you should spend as much as time on the West Coast as possible. There's more than just Ucluelet: Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is just a short drive away and at the end of the peninsula, there is the town of Tofino.

Back to the drive: Chemainus is known for its murals, so you could swing through town to take a look at them (the highway doesn't let you see them). Nanaimo is the biggest city on the island after Victoria, but I there's probably not much reason to stop. Parksville and Qualicum, on the other hand, are pleasant stops and have nice beaches -- but you'll be seeing better beaches on the West Coast.

If you leave the highway early, Coombs has the Old Country Market.

You should definitely make time to take a walk at Cathedral Grove, which is between Coombs and Port Alberni, just after Cameron Lake, in MacMillan Provincial Park. There are also waterfalls just before the lake (Little Qualicum Falls), which are nice and only a short (few hundred meters) walk from the carpark.

The city of Port Alberni is the last stop before the West Coast and is a good stop for fuel and food.

Most of the towns have some sort of museum of varying degrees of interest, but none of them come close to the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria. Between the trip up and the trip back, you can probably see most of what I've mentioned here and not prolong your travel time too much.

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butchartgardens.com –  littleadv Jun 8 '12 at 17:27
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We did the drive from Victoria to Ucelet and back on the same day in May of 2014. Next time we'll stay the night. It was a beautiful drive. Remote. We stopped to take photos along the way. It rained off and on with snow occurring in the mountain tops. We stopped alongside the lake for photos and in the park to walk next to the trees. We found a decent place to eat in a town on the way to Terrace Beach which turned out to be the easiest approach to the water for the seniors in our group. Ucelet didn't appear to be overdeveloped. Pacific Northwest beauty at its finest.

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