Road trip drive: Vancouver to Pacific Rim National Park

I was craving some time away, to disconnect from the urban world around me. I wanted to do something on my own, a short escape. I decided I would do a solo road trip, and my destination would be Pacific Rim National Park.

Not owning a car in Vancouver can present a slight challenge when planning a road trip, I had a few options:

  • rent a car in Vancouver
  • fly and rent a car from Tofino airport
  • borrow a car from Modo* or Zipcar
  • take the bus

*Modo is a car sharing company based in British Columbia

One of the reasons I was going on this trip was to experience solo camping for myself, to prove that I could do it and maybe give some reassurance to other women so they would try it too. I have a few friends that have soloed camped and they were so positive about it.

A car was necessary so I could transport and store camping gear so that I could fully explore the park. I wouldn’t have to worry about weight limits or bag size. I ended up booking with Modo, a car sharing company in Vancouver. It was a better deal than the other options. I also like that they are a co-op, instead of a private business. A couple of things I considered when deciding was the kilometres I would be driving and what would happen if something went wrong (i.e accident or breakdown).

I packed everything I could the night before, picked up the car and headed to Horseshoe Bay to grab the 6:20 am ferry to Departure Bay, avoiding rush hour traffic in Vancouver. BC Ferries is the only way to get over to the island, if you are planning on bringing a car. The fares will vary depending on the number of people in the vehicle and the size of the vehicle. In September 2013, I paid $66.75 per one way, for myself and an average size car. The ferry ride was one hour and forty minutes, the sky was clear and I spent my time on the outside deck taking in the views. You can grab food on the ferry but I didn’t on this trip. Depending on the season, you may have a sailing wait to board the ferry, especially in the summer and holiday weekends. If you are travelling during a peak time or can’t afford to miss a sailing, make a reservation.


There are multiple places to visit along the way to Pacific Rim National Park, Tofino or Ucluelet. I had planned to stop at more places than I actually did. Once I got on the road, I wanted to put my feet in the Pacific Ocean as soon as I could and get my camp site set up. I made sure to stop at the well-known Coombs Market for some coffee and to see the goats on the roof. I quickly got on the road again, as I knew that I would be back on another trip to explore the market some more.



One of the parks I pulled off for was Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Provincial Park, I highly recommend a walk along the path. There are two short walks to experience, both with restrooms. It’s right off highway #4, you can’t miss it. I picked the southern walk, Big Tree Trail and Living Forest Trail. They are short walks and people of varying abilities would be able to complete them. I loved the old Douglas Fir trees that are just off the highway, the large tree has a circumference of at least 9 meters. It’s a great short walk and allows you to stretch your legs before the rest of the drive. After Port Alberni, the driving becomes fun and exciting (for me) with lots of curves, changes of elevation and scenery. It was my favourite part of the drive but difficult as I had to keep focus on the road when I just wanted to take in the scenery.  There are pull outs if you need a break, want to stop to take some photos or if you need to let someone behind you pass. One tip about driving, if you are driving a RV, truck or just prefer to drive slower, please let vehicles pass you by either pulling over or when the passing lane opens up go into the right hand lane. Other drivers really do appreciate it and it makes the drive better for everyone. It’s a drive you want to savour and do at your own pace.

A couple of tips for driving are to bring a phone car charger, music playlists, protein snacks, chocolate, lots of water and printed maps. As soon as I pulled out from the ferry, the music went up and I was singing along enjoying the drive. Cell phone coverage is spotty, however you will get reception in Port Alberni and off and on during the drive. I recommend filling up your gas tank in Port Alberni, the next gas station is in Ucluelet.

The drive out to Pacific Rim was one of my favourites. I went on this trip with a few goals in mind and all my goals were accomplished. As cliché as that sounds, the park was a serene beautiful place for me to get away and try solo camping.  This beautiful park was the perfect setting for me to have some alone time to reflect on life. As with most trips, the drive home was more difficult as I was driving away from nature and relaxation to return to work and the city. Pacific Rim has left its mark on me and I will be making a number of return trips to explore further.

Have you driven to Pacific Rim National Park area? What was your favourite part?

5 thoughts on “Road trip drive: Vancouver to Pacific Rim National Park

  1. Road trips are the one kind of trip I haven’t really tried by myself – I can’t relax when I have to do all the driving. But that looks like a beautiful area to go camping in!

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