Vancouver Island - please help shape my stay!

Hey everyone. Heading to Vancouver and VI at end of May/start of June

Current plan is to have 2 x nights in Victoria
3 x nights in Ucluelet or Tofino
2 x nights in Campbell River or somewhere further north and
3 x nights in Vancouver city

Would welcome views on

  1. Tofino or Ucluelet ? A friend has aid to go for U as it is less touristy ( relatively ) but I wonder about food options
  2. Tofino food festival is on 1 June - worth bending our itinerary to attend or don’t bother ?
  3. Campbell River or is somewhere else on the East / North a better base for food adventures ?
  4. There is a craft beer festival on in Vancouver itself on 3 June. Anyone been ? Any good for food as well as beer or only for diehard hop geeks ?
  5. Any quintessential Island food experiences not to miss ?

Once itinerary sorted will ask more specific questions.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Emlyn

I’m also interested in Vancouver. There’s talk of an Alaska cruise next year and that would give us a couple of nights in the city, prior. Any “must do” foody things?

I truly dislike referencing myself from another website, but it is what it is. My hubby and I went in July-August 2016. We both fell in love with Vancouver Island (I’d been to Vancouver 2 times before and Victoria once; B had been once to Vancouver with me and this was his first time on the island). I am decidedly more of a “Ukie” girl than a Tofino one (Tofino leans more fancy, Ucluelet is laid-back and less expensive but the 2 towns are a short, scenic drive apart.) Won’t you please report back on your experience? I’d love to read all about it!

"Been back for almost a week now and my trip report is due! Had a great time on Vancouver Island and SSI. It won’t be our last trip to this fantastic place (it was my 3rd time in Vancouver but 1st extensive trip to the Island).

Thanks to all the BC hounds who chimed in to my original inquiry, linked here. Guess we never did make it off-the-beaten-track, but we will try harder next time:

A lot of meals were self-catered but we ate out plenty of times, too. Amongst the highlights, there were some low ones, but I like to keep things on the positive tip, so this is not an exhaustive report. And it goes without saying that my partner-in-crime, “B,” had fantastic B.C. beer everywhere we went, in restaurants, brown-bagging beer at our picnics (I, unfortunately, am not allowed to drink for another 4 months or even longer but I had some small nips…a favorite of both of ours was the Hopnotist from 49th Parallel).

Vancouver:
-Lunch at Guu with Garlic: Teriyaki chicken for B, which he liked and deliciously homey curry udon for me, which despite the ground beef (my usual diet consists of veggies and seafood), I devoured.
-Poked our heads into Save on Meats, which I didn’t know anything about beforehand…we were drawn in by the intriguing exterior and were greeted by friendly hipster-types (who knew - I thought hipsters had to all be dour as a requirement). We vowed to return.
-Dinner at Phnom Penh: B had the requisite chicken wings, of which I had a nibble-man, that sauce really IS all that; pan-fried rice flour veggie buns/pancakes (bland on their own, but with the spicy sauce, quite good), adequate garlicky gai lan (we needed something green), bland shrimp fried rice (we had read something positive about the rice on-line). In our little kitchen the next morning, I crisped up everything in a scorching hot skillet, improving them all, even the rice, which became socarrat-like or Korean nurungji-like
-Coffee at Musette (Burrard location) – As we are cycling enthusiasts, we both loved this place, especially since, when we walked in at 7:30 am-ish, a small crowd was transfixed by live Tour de France coverage and they weren’t your typical, testosterone-driven cycling snobs we’re used to on the US east coast; buttery banana bread and coffee both hit the spot.

Nanaimo:
-Lunch at Gabriel’s – Quick lunch after getting off the ferry in Nanaimo. Another place we both loved. B had the hearty veggie burger, we shared bread with kale “butter” (more like a spread or tapenade braised in balsamic), and my peanut sauce with tofu over brown rice was huge, rich, and filling.

Esquimalt/Victoria:
-Wild blackberries at Macauley Point were fun to pick and so plentiful. I ate my weight in kg. (To answer a B.C. hound who wondered where we were staying in Esquimalt - yes, it was with Nancy and Andrew Paine at their great little carriage house. Being within walking distance of Macauley Point was a great surprise!)
-Spinnakers – Food was just ok, but we still enjoyed the atmosphere here. Salmon pizza was a bit dry, green salad with sprouts and veggie soup were adequate. Friendly bartender at the upstairs bar and walking off dinner on the waterfront, in the direction of Esquimalt was really pleasant.

Salt Spring Island (We were amazed by the number of farm stands. Martha’s Vineyard-esque to the nth power):
-Ganges Street Food – Got take-out veggie dal, curry chicken poutine for a Ruckle Park picnic straight from the ferry based on someone’s recommendation on the trip over…she was SO right!
-Forgettable pizza from Uptown and beer at Southey Point at sunset, which made up for the pizza.
-Saturday market – Had a lot of fun here, despite the large, but polite crowd (guess we’re used to crowds here). Foxglove tomatoes; tofu jerky; lovely crusty olive boule; huge, crisp lettuce for only $1/head; David Wood herb and garlic goat cheese for yet another Ruckle picnic, just past the very orderly campground and on some rocks at the ocean’s edge.
-SSI Brewery had a small but cozy sampling room and the beer was fantastic.

Coombs – Goats on the Roof is insane! Fun to just gawk at the number of food items from all over. How can they possibly turn-over everything?!

Ucluelet:
-4 Spice – Take-out fish and chips, vegan curry for a great picnic near Blackrock Resort, on the fabulous West Coast Trail
-Jiggers – Some of the best fish and chips we’ve ever had (vinegar in spray bottle is a simply genius idea)

Tofino:
-Shelter – A great salmon burger for B, salmon surf bowl for me, which I loved - enough contrasts in flavors and textures to keep my interest.
-Tacofino - B’s fish burrito was definitely better than my vegan burrito - I panicked and went vegan when I should have gone with fish tacos with kimchee. Grrr!
-Kwisitis Feast House - The small snack we had here was nothing to write about, but what a great place to watch sunset over drinks, overlooking Wick Beach. You can get 2 hours free parking from the restaurant if you don’t have a park pass.
-Duncan – We stayed at Fairburn Farmstay, where they keep water buffalo. They are producing milk and mozzarella.

Last night in Vancouver:
-St Augustine – Salmon burger, tomato + boccocini salad with salmon - both were just ok…stingy over-cooked salmon in both dishes, but B was quite happy with the beer selection and we had good company at the bar.
-Tai Sho Ken – Tsukemen was a revelation and my spicy ramen was superb as well; we skipped Santouka our first time through since we had eaten at the Singapore location, but I needed my ramen fix! The unseasoned broth at the tables is a brilliant detail - just a touch magically transformed both my and B’s broth.
-Alibi Room – B went with the veggie burger on the bartender’s recommendation over the pulled pork sandwich (B was quite happy). My tofu rice bowl was just ok. It was huge and after a while, I tired of the same flavors. It generally needed some oomph, some umami. But we both loved the feel of the room and the happy, after-work, Friday before a long weekend (Civic Day) crowd.

Til we meet again, B.C…Cheers!"

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This is brilliant, thank you. I searched CH but not under the correct term it would seem !
Apropos of your wider VI experience my current plan is to go to Victoria x 2 nights, perhaps Salt Spring Island x 1 or 2 ( definitely worth it ? ), Ucluelet x 3 before a few nights back in Vancouver city.
Are there other places you would say are must visit ( whether food wise or otherwise ? )
Did you venture any further up North and East than Coombs ?
Also, if this isn’t too cheeky, could you let me know if you stayed anywhere particularly good ?
Did you actually stay in U or Tofino ? I have had contrasting recommendations but Uclulelet currently favourite on basis it seems quieter place to stay ?
Thanks for tolerating my none food questions !
Emlyn

I’ll dig up my trip journal and provide more details…BTW, there’s a typo in my post (too late to edit). We went in 2014, not 2016 (I should’ve remembered that since I was 7 months pregnant). My accounts of beer were small nips I took of my hubby’s beer. As you probably already saw on CH, there are some really fabulous Vancouverites there who are invaluable resources.

Hey there - a diverging opinion on where to stay on VI south/west portion. We went a couple of years ago, and stayed kind of partway between T and U, but closer to T, at a crazy golf course/camping ground/airport thing. The location was very pretty, although the campground was fairly no frills. The resorts were just too dang expensive in the summer.

We spent more time in Tofino than Ucluelet, although we hit up both because it is quite a haul to get to these areas from the more popular Victoria and Nanaimo. If you are looking for a quaint little shopping area to walk and browse, Tofino will give you that more than Ucl, but it is still extremely small, way smaller than comparable walking neighborhoods in Victoria. Ucl is downright dead. Sleepy is a rosy glasses way of looking at it. There is no walking area. There are a small # of shops or eateries, which you’d probably drive between, if you even bothered, because there are not more than 2-3 at any given location. Ucl is great if you don’t want or need any such diversion, and are renting a spot with a view and content to just sit and look at it. It also has a couple of very very nice trails, and you can easily see all there is to see in a day. Back to Tofino, even that shopping district will not occupy you for more than a single afternoon. Take advantage of the whale and bear excursions, hiking, and certainly hit up some beaches outside of T. That would be the highlight of the trip for me. You can rent wetsuits and get in the water. Long Beach is particularly lovely.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold