With a heat wave arriving in Vancouver just in time for Andrew’s Birthday, we decided to take advantage of the sunshine and long weekend to go camping on Vancouver Island. Little did we know that organising last minute camping trips in Canada, especially on a long weekend, is very difficult. So we decided to go to the only place that had any availability, which was Lone Cone Campground on Meares Island, just off Tofino. This turned out to be a fantastic decision as the campground is small and located in such a beautiful setting. The cost was NZ$60 per night for the campsite, and split between three of us made it incredibly cheap. Plus included for free is a 15 minute water taxi from Tofino to Meares Island. So we packed up our bags with our newly purchased camping gear and jumped on a bus headed to Horse Shoe Bay to catch the ferry over to Vancouver Island. The ferry is cheap and only takes about an hour and a half to Nanaimo. Its spacious and offers great views of the Gulf Islands and Vancouver.
Once in Nanaimo we picked up our rental car and started the very scenic 3 hour drive across the Island to Tofino. Honestly, it is incredibly picturesque and there are so many places to stop and marvel at along the way. Cathedral Grove was one of those stops, and we took a brief moment to stretch our legs and stare at the huge, and very old, Douglas fir trees.
There are numerous expansive lakes that we passed on the way and we wished we could have stopped at all of them. For our water fix we stopped at Kennedy River, where we jumped across the rocks and took in a spectacular post card-like back drop.
After such a scenic and comfortable drive it seemed that all too soon we arrived in Tofino. Tofino is pretty much Canada’s top surf spot and the rugged beaches in this area are really beautiful. The town itself is pretty expensive and touristy, so if you’re not into surfing then a brief stop here is all you really need. We didn’t get much time to enjoy them but a short stroll down Long Beach was enough to gain an appreciation for this stunning part of the world.
It was then time to park the car, jump on the water taxi with all our luggage, and head out to Meares Island. On arrival we set up camp and immediately marvelled at the gorgeous spot we had ended up at. We were camping right between the beach and the foothills of the towering Lone Cone Mountain. That afternoon we immediately hit the beach to enjoy some drinks and just relax, and in the evening we made a bonfire on the beach. I mean really, how much better does it get?
One of the must-dos on Meares Island (other than lounging on the beach) is to hike up Lone Cone Mountain for a view of Tofino and the surrounding islands. It is a pretty gruelling and muddy uphill hike to get to the top but the views are definitely worth it. Although, bring some bug spray, they are everywhere! Even though it’s all uphill, it is still a pretty fun hike that has you scrambling over logs and dodging giant mud puddles. Be prepared with snacks and water as it saps a lot of energy.
There’s also a bit of fishing to be done in the area, however the fish did not seem to enjoy our hot salami as bait, so we will be a bit more prepared next time. Our time on Meares and Vancouver Islands were absolutely fantastic and we enjoyed some of the best scenery that we have experienced in British Columbia. Cost wise, it was a pretty reasonable.
Here is a breakdown of our costs for 3 days (3 people):
Accommodation – NZ$120
Food/Drink – NZ$227
Car rental and parking – NZ$205
Petrol – NZ$38
Ferry – NZ$105
Total spent – NZ$695 (CA$660)