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Driving from Victoria to Nanaimo on Hay 1/19 and even further to Parksville, then along Hwy 4 for a short distance to Cathedral Grove would make for a full day trip with a number of interesting places to visit and things to do.
About 20 km along Hwy 1 is Goldstream Provincial Park which has shaded trails through big timber forest as well as covered picnic tables. The stream is salmon bearing and the salmon run from mid October to late November to spawn in the shallow water. Bald eagles are eager participants. Arbutus trees, 100 year old maple trees, and 300 year old cottonwoods, Douglas fir, red cedar, hemlock and many more abound in this park. Hike up Mt. Finlayson or to Niagara Falls.
Another 15 km takes you to the pull out for the Malahat Summit Lookout with its spectacular views over Saanich Inlet and Peninsula.
A diversion for 22 km along Shawnigan Lake to the wooden Kinsol Trestle may be of interest. It is the highest and largest surviving timber trestle in Canada that once brought old growth logs by train to the saw mills along the coast of Vancouver Island.
Back on the highway, Duncan is the next stop, just 26 km along the road. Two attractions of interest are the BC Forest Discovery Centre. Another place of interest is the Pacific Northwest Raptors where you can walk the forested trails and enjoy flying bird of prey demonstrations.
20 km north is Chemainus. This is a town that had its economic foundation pulled out from under it when forestry in this area collapsed in 1983. The townspeople rallied to revitalize their town with 39 outdoor murals. Walk the murals with a guide from the information Centre and stop in at the shops and restaurants while doing so. Walk through the park to the lower town which is close to the waterfront and the ferry landing for the Thetis Island ferry.
After a further drive of 35 km or so, you come to the historic city of Nanaimo. Inhabited by First Nations people for centuries, the first white settlers came from England in the mid 1800s. Coal was discovered and the economy heated up. The Bastion was built to protect the area and harbour. Nanaimo has streets that twist and wind with character, historic churches and many shops and restaurants. It is the home of the Nanaimo Bar Trail, a gastronomic experience.
Parksville is next, after about 40 km where you can find expansive beaches at low tide, Rathtrevor Provincial Park, the nearby North Island Wildlife Recovery Association, English River Falls Provincial Park, Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park, Cameron Lake and Cathedral Grove in McMillan Park. Also in the vicinity, you can visit Coombs Farm Market with the goats on the roof.
This makes for a solid day trip including stops for coffee and lunch. Driving straight back to Victoria from Cathedral Grove takes about 2.5 hours. Any or all of this drive could be done according to time available.
The Pacific Marine Circle Route on Hwy 14 is a 255 km circle from Victoria > Port Renfrew > Duncan > Victoria over 5 hours plus stops. Or if time is a factor, a one way 100 km drive from Victoria > Port Renfrew over 2 hours one way, plus stops.
Along the way are beaches, parks, trails and swimming lakes to visit and enjoy. The drive with stops takes you through old growth forests with giant trees, rural quieter towns and landscapes and panoramic views of Juan de Fuca Strait.
This article describes the single route to Port Renfrew, returning to Victoria along Hwy 14 which can be done in a full day trip.
Map part 1 to China Beach -- Aylard Farm (East Sooke Regional Park) > Whiffin Spit > Sooke Potholes > Muir Creek > French Beach Provincial Park > Sandcut Beach (Jordan River Regional Park) > China Beach.
Map part 2 to Avatar Grove -- Mystic Beach > Sombrio Beach > Botanical Beach > Avatar Grove (Gordon River Rd.)
Aylard Farm - located in East Sooke Regional Park, easy excursion, intertidal life, hill top views.
Whiffin Spit - located in Quimper Park, Whiffin Spit extends to and protects the mouth of the Sooke Basin from the open waters of the Juan de Fuca Strait. A lovely, flat, wheelchair accessible, packed gravel walk along the spine of the spit.
Muir Creek - This beach has easy access but low tide best. A salmon stream. Fossils are present. Intertidal life, wildlife and panoramic vistas over Juan de Fuca Strait. This area provided the tree for the world's largest totem pole, now located in Beacon Hill Park (39 metres).
French Beach Provincial Park - FBPP has hiking trails through Douglas Fir, Sitka Spruce, Western Hemlock and Western Red Cedar. Wildlife includes whales in spring and fall, sealions between August and May. There are picnic areas on the water.
Sandcut Beach at Jordan River - This beach has a short, easy hike on a rugged, wooded trail but rather difficult to find. 0.25 km west of the bridge over Sandcut Creek, clearing on the left. More info.
China Beach - This beach is accessed by a gravel trail with some steep sections for 15-20 minutes through old growth forests of Sitka Spruce, Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedar to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Spectacular views, sandy beach. Waterfall. Grey whales spring and fall. More info.
Mystic Beach - A moderately difficult 45 minutes hike, including a suspension bridge to a white sand beach and a waterfall. More info.
Botanical Beach - A short 10-15 minute walk from the parking lot just beyond Port Renfrew. Tidepools, intertidal life, formations sculpted out of sandstone, dangerous rogue waves hit the beach from time to time. Surf and storms can make this a dangerous beach. More info and photos.
Galloping Goose Trail - This former rail bed for 55 km from Victoria to Sooke River and the Sooke Potholes is fit for multiple uses: walking, cycling, running or riding a horse. There are many access points with parking lots along the way. Covers urban, rural and wilderness landscapes. More info and trail map in red.
Juan de Fuca Marine Trail - This trail is a strenuous day hike or multi-day hike in rugged territory. Some easy to moderate day hiking from trailheads at China Beach, Sombrio Beach, Parkinson Creek and Botanical Beach. Trail map.
Sooke Potholes - The Potholes are mentioned in both the Sooke Potholes Regional Park (63.5 hectares) and the Sooke Potholes Provincial Park (7 hectares). They are deep pools in the freshwater Sooke River where picnicking can be enjoyed. More info - has a good map on the Regional Park website.
Lizard Lake - near Port Renfrew. Fishing, swimming, hiking, camping, canoeing, picnicking, boardwalk pier out over the lake and a sandy beach. More info.
Fairy Lake - near Port Renfrew. Hiking, swimming, camping, canoeing, mountain biking, picnicking, fishing and a sandy beach. More info.