From surf towns to artist meccas, island excursions to waterfront trails, Vancouver Island and the surrounding Gulf Islands offer an incredible array of outdoor adventure, culture, cuisine and history. Below is our list of top five day trips (and weekend getaways) to enjoy from Victoria and Nanaimo.

TOFINO - One of Vancouver Island’s most celebrated destinations, Tofino is situated on the remote and staggeringly beautiful west coast. A prime destination for year-round surfing, beach exploring and outdoor adventure, the village is located within the heart of the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. And beyond its incredible natural surroundings, Tofino is home to nature-driven spas, luxury resorts, a flourishing arts culture and thriving, locally inspired culinary scene. Either drive from Victoria or Nanaimo, taking in the towering old-growth trees along the way, or enjoy the view from above traveling by seaplane.

SIDNEY SPIT - Now is the time to start planning your spring day trip (or campout) to Sidney Spit, located on the north end of Sidney Island in the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. The family-friendly destination is a sandy, narrow strip of land that stretches into the sea, featuring endless pristine beaches. Accessible by boat, or walk-on ferry service from Sidney (May to September), the expansive park also boasts numerous wooded hiking trails and an abundance of birds and marine life.

SALT SPRING ISLAND - Among the largest of the Southern Gulf Islands, Salt Spring Island has been named “one of the prettiest artist towns in North America” by the New York Times. Located between Vancouver Island and the mainland, the island features historic seaside villages, resorts ranging from quaint cabins to luxurious hotels, countless artists’ studios, a vibrant culinary scene and incredible outdoor recreation. Challenging hiking and biking trails offer spectacular vistas, while the sheltered ocean cove offers fishing, diving, sailing, kayaking and more. Head out for the day, stay for the weekend, enjoying the island’s Ruckle Provincial Park, the largest provincial campground in the Gulf Islands.  

SOOKE POTHOLES - No, not the kind of potholes you try to avoid by car, but the unique geological formations that create deep pools in the river rock. Located less than one hour from Victoria, the Sooke Potholes Provincial Park offers some of the best freshwater swimming in the region, spectacular views of the Sooke River, hiking on short forest trails and access to the Galloping Goose Regional Trail. Head up for a picnic, walk or bike ride, or wait until the campground opens in May to sleep surrounded by Douglas Firs, amidst the soothing sounds of rushing water.

EAST SOOKE REGIONAL PARK - Roughly 30 minutes toward the coast from the Sooke Potholes is the East Sooke Regional Park, featuring 50 km of trails along rocky coast, over dry hilltops and through the shaded rainforest to sheltered coves. Trails include the challenging 10k Coast Trail and capture spectacular views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains. Pocket beaches, rocky bays and tide pools are perfect for exploring and scuba diving.