Driving Along The Attractive Highway 4 – Nanaimo to Tofino

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After getting the ferry from North Vancouver (Horseshoe Bay) to Nanaimo; we headed down to Tofino, a small surf town located on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. It is an easy drive, meaning you can’t get lost as you take Highway 4 all the way there. There are many beautiful stops along the way. So, take the whole day to do this drive instead of 3 hours. You will cover roughly 207 km.

Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park – Nanaimo to Tofino

Little Qualicum Falls - Nanaimo to Tofino route
Lower Falls

This is the first stop on your way from Nanaimo to Tofino. Little Qualicum Provincial Park is about 9.3 km west of Highway 4. The trail loop is family-friendly. It has viewing points for both the lower and upper falls. These sit on either side of the Little Qualicum River. The waterfall was impressive and found by wandering through the plush forest. The crystal blue water was rapid and raged through the deep canyons. A perfect place to stretch the legs.

Nanaimo to Tofino – Cathedral Grove at MacMillan Provincial Park

Giant Red Cedar Tree on the way from Nanimo to Tofino
Me and a 800-year-old Cedar

After a short drive, you arrive at the next stop, Cathedral Grove. Cathedral Grove is home to the biggest and oldest Douglas Fir Trees and Giant Red Cedars. The trails are family-friendly and are on either side of the road. This place gets busy making it difficult to park. We arrived there around mid-morning and even that was a challenge. The parking is simply a pullover on either side of the highway. Please be aware of traffic and pedestrians especially in the summer months when crossing or driving.

Within this Provincial Park sits trees up to 800 years old. The sheer size of the Douglas Fir and Red Cedars are unbelievable and something you have to witness. The forest here is rich in different shades of green ranging from ferns, moss, and trees towering above. One of the short walks was less busy than the other. So as you strolled along the boardwalk you could hear birds chirping away. Peaceful.

Nanaimo to Tofino – A Hole in a Wall at Port Alberni

Hole in the Wall Nanaimo to Tofino
The Cool Random Hole in The Wall

The hole in the wall was our third stop as we travelled from Nanaimo to Tofino. The hole in the wall is a hidden unique stop as you enter Port Alberni. There is a dirt pull-out on the north side of the highway just before the Coombes Country Candy Store. Once parked up we crossed the highway on foot to find the hidden gravel pathway by the concrete barrier. Kind strangers have mounted small wooden signs to help you navigate the 15-minute walk to the hole in the wall.

The history goes that the locals blasted a hole for a water pipeline. Nowadays, it isn’t used and the water flows nicely over the rocks. When we were there wasn’t much water following. It now sits as a quirky photo opportunity and a peaceful stroll along the dirt path.

Wally Creek – Kennedy River Love Locks

After, we cooked our lunch at the port in Port Alberni. Also, we finished lunch just in time as the rain started to pour. We decided to continue the drive down towards Tofino. As we drove away, the mountainous rugged portion of the drive started. Following the incredible landscape for 56 km before coming to Wally Creek alongside the Kennedy River.

Wally Creek Nanaimo
The Magical Feel to Wally Creek

On a metal fence, people can leave locks for their loved ones unfortunately this wasn’t all that was left. RUBBISH or TRASH as some might call it. When adventuring and exploring these places we are entering nature, please pack out what you bring in. This fence hindered the experience.

In the other direction, away from the stupid ‘love locks’ fence, the views are amazing. Looking back up the river the views were the best we had seen on this journey. The Mountains were poking out from behind the misty backdrop. I couldn’t help but take it all for a while. The rain had stopped so the air was nice and cool. Carefully, we climbed over the rocks to get closer to the Kennedy River. Getting closer allowed us to get a sense of how powerful the water flow is.

Giant Red Cedar Trail

As we slowly edged closer to Tofino, the next stop was only 6 km from Wally Creek. Although hard to find it was worth it. Drive slowly and look for a small sign that signals the start of the trail. The dirt trail gives you a more intimate experience compared to the dug-out trail at Cathedral Grove. This particular forest lets you see the uniqueness of the Giant Red Cedars. Also, explore the river bank to take in more views of the Kennedy River.

The Forest Interpretive Trail

The pull-out for this stop is 1.5 km before the Pacific Rim Visitor Centre junction. So, if you hit the centre you have gone too far. This walk is different from the others as it educates you on the importance of rehabilitating the forests. If you are like me and love learning then this short walk is for you. As you maneuver your way along the boardwalk, you will see the importance of ensuring the health to restore old growth.

Wild Pacific Trail Ucluelet

Wild Pacific Trail
Taking The View In on The Wild Pacific Trail

We found a free spot to park for the night so that all could spend the day exploring Ucluelet (ukee… as locals call it). This is a small town located at the opposite end to Tofino in the Pacific Rim National Park. After filling up on a cooked breakfast at The Blue Room Cafe, we were ready for a day of hiking.

Wild Pacific Trail: Browns Beach to Rocky Bluffs

Wild Pacific Trail
The Rocky Coastline

Our first trail was from Browns Beach to Artists Loop (2.75 km) which cuts through a forest including oceanside vistas. The Rocky Bluffs is a 3 km return track along the coastline with incredible views. Also, this coastal hike includes a 1 km detour around the Ancients Cedar section. We spent the whole morning exploring all these trails. A good way to burn off the big breakfast.

Wild Pacific Trail: The Lighthouse Loop

Also, we did the 2.6 km loop known as the Lighthouse Loop. The trail starts at the 100-year-old Amphitheater Lighthouse before winding north along the rugged coastline. We completed this trail in the evening light. A perfect backdrop to watch the sun go down. To break up these two hikes we spent the afternoon visiting the beaches in Ucluelet. We topped our tans at Little Beach and Terrence Beach. Both nice and quiet.

Summary of the Scenic Pacific Rim Highway

This drive from Nanaimo to Tofino is something I highly recommend. Although lots of walking these stops were a welcome break from sitting behind the wheel. Again, this route is best if you have a car or hire one. As you can stop where you like, when you want, and forever for how long you wish.

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