Vancouver Island is an RVer’s paradise! We spent about 2 weeks exploring the southern part of Vancouver Island this summer before heading farther north on the island, and enjoyed every second of it. It wasn’t easy to narrow it down, but we put together a list of 5 of our favourite stops that we made on our RV adventure.
Starting our journey in Nanaimo, BC, the first must see spot to check out is the Historic Kinsol Trestle. This giant timber rail trestle, originally constructed in the 1920’s, is the largest trestle in Canada, and one of the largest in the world! You can view the 44 meter tall, and 187 meter long trestle from the bottom by the river, or walk or bike across it and view it from the top. This incredible structure is bound to make you feel tiny in comparison, and is well worth a stop along your travels.
Heading from the east to the west side of Vancouver Island, you’ll come across the small town of Lake Cowichan. Here, you’ll be able to find lakeside campgrounds great for swimming, kayaking, and paddle boarding - but the town is actually famous for its tubing! You can purchase a tube at practically any store in town, or rent one from “The Tube Shack”. It takes about two to two and a half hours to float down the Cowichan River, and once you're finished, you can catch a shuttle back to Lake Cowichan! We don’t think an afternoon could get much better than that.
Once you reach the west side of the island, you have to make a stop at the famous Botanical Beach located in the Juan De Fuca Provincial Park. If we were to imagine what the Pacific west coast would look like, this area would be exactly what we had pictured. Rocky cliffs, crashing waves, and an amazing sunset over the ocean. If you visit the area at low tide, you can scour the tide pools on the rocks where you’ll discover a variety of sea creatures. This beach has one of the most diverse ecosystems on the Pacific coast. When we were there, we were lucky enough to find sea urchins, blue mussels, crabs, snails, and so much more. We were even able to watch a grey whale feeding just a few meters off the coast!
There are plenty of great camping options along the loop of the southern tip of Vancouver Island towards Sooke and Victoria, many of which are even on the beach. If you make your way back up the island just past Nanaimo, you’ll find yourself in Nanoose Bay. This is an amazing area to be able to harvest your own dinner! Alongside Highway 19 is a rocky beach FULL of clams and oysters. When we stopped here to go shell fishing, it only took about an hour to harvest the oysters and clams that we needed for dinner. Not only was shell fishing an amazing experience, but we were also able to enjoy the extremely fresh Oysters Rockefeller, steamed clams, and rice that Alysha prepared for us that same night. There are a couple of things you’ll need to do before you grab your bucket and shovel and run down to the beach though. First, you need to ensure you have your BC tidal fishing licence with you, which is required to harvest any shellfish. Next, check the regulations for harvesting shellfish in the area that you are in. Each area will have different rules on what shellfish you can harvest, and how many. Lastly, you will need to check if the area that you are harvesting from is closed due to red tide. If you miss this step and end up eating shellfish in red tide (even if it is fully cooked), you can become seriously ill.
Our 5th and last must see spot on your RV trip around Southern Vancouver Island is the little town of Chemainus. This historic town is on Highway 19A which runs along the eastern coast of Vancouver Island. Chemainus has an entire street with dedicated RV parking next to all of the downtown shops, Waterwheel park, and the visitor’s center. Chemainus’ claim to fame is their 53 giant hand painted murals on the sides of historic buildings all throughout the town. We saw many of them while we explored the shops, took in the live music in the park, and enjoyed some local homemade Nanaimo bar ice cream cones. The artisan town of Chemainus has so much to offer, and we only wish that we could have spent more time enjoying it.
Southern Vancouver Island is jam packed with plenty of amazing things to see and do. We hope that our list of 5 must see spots gives you an idea of how fun an RV trip on the island can be. Whether you enjoy history, relaxing on the water, or a little bit of adventure, the island offers something that everybody will enjoy.
Luke & Alysha
About Luke and Alysha
Hi there! We're Luke and Alysha, and we travel and camp in our Adventurer 23DS Class C motorhome with our cat named “Cat". We have taken our RV across Canada from BC to Newfoundland and back, and made so many fun memories along the way. We are continuing to explore more of Canada (when there is no snow on the ground at least) and share all of our adventures along the way on our YouTube channel. You can also follow us on Instagram.