Vancouver Island Travel Guide: Campbell River

Hi friends, it’s Em back again with the third installment in our Vancouver Island Travel Guide! To recap, last summer Mr Olive and I took our kids and two suitcases and traveled more than 10,000 kilometers across the world to Canada for a month-long road trip around Vancouver Island and the Rocky Mountains. Bonkers decision? Possibly! One of the best decisions we’ve ever made? Definitely! In this post I’m going to share about our visit to Campbell River, a small fishing town on the east coast of the island, which claims to be The Salmon Capital of the World! (You can read about our visits to charming Victoria and beautiful Nanaimo here.)

In Campbell River we stayed at Oyster Bay Resort, a wooden chalet resort whose website boasts an ocean view from the deck of each chalet – which there is. The only problem is that Island Highway 19A cuts right through that view, only a few metres from the porch! Hmmm. Despite the not exactly pastoral location of the resort, it does have some great things to recommend it. The pine chalets themselves are large and quite beautiful in design. They are also well-equipped with full kitchens for self-catering, a very real advantage when travelling with children whose palates are, let’s say, rather conservative (I didn’t get to taste any of that famous Campbell River salmon since no-one else was willing to eat it! Boo!).

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Campbell River has great access to some wonderful pristine coastline. In fact, my main motivation for adding the region to our itinerary was the memory of a couple of superb beaches I had visited with my parents and Canadian family on holidays as a kid. On this trip we had considered staying at the Miracle Beach campground (in order to recreate a memorable camping trip from my childhood – vast star-filled night skies and uninhibited hot dog consumption are what I mainly remember) but we ended up thinking better of it because of the inconvenience of having to carry camping equipment around with us for an entire month just for a couple of nights worth of tent camping.

Still, I wanted to visit Miracle Beach itself, which was a short drive south of our accommodation. It was a gloomy and overcast day, but we rolled up our trousers and had the best time playing in the shallow breakers and the tide pools. We dug in the wet sand and made heart shapes out of rocks until the rain started to fall and we returned to our chalet for Tom’s nap.

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The skies cleared later that afternoon and we set out again for the second beach on our list: Saratoga Beach, also located south of downtown Campbell River. The sky was enormous, the tide was way out and the sand was damp and perfect for drawing and building things (and by ‘things’ I mean mermaids). Saratoga is a beautiful long, wide stretch of beach and the kids had all the space they needed and more for running amok.

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We stayed for two nights at Campbell River before continuing on to our next destinations, Ucluelet and Tofino on the wild Pacific coast of the island. There is no direct road joining Campbell River on the east coast with Ucluelet on the west so it was necessary for us to return south along the east coast to Parksville and then take Highway 4, otherwise known as the Alberni Highway, west across the island.

While Tom napped in the car, we followed a route which took us alongside Macmillan Provincial Park and the small yet internationally significant example of old-growth forest known as Cathedral Grove. This stand of rare and ancient Douglas Fir trees is protected and preserved by the Parks authority and with good reason: these trees are giants. The tallest measures 75m in height and the widest 9m in circumference. Some are more than 800 years old. Cathedral Grove draws hundreds of thousands of visitors yearly from all over the world and, even on the wet and muddy day that Sophie and I were there, we were just two among the many tourists gazing up in awe at the faraway canopy above.

Hope you enjoyed visiting Campbell River with us! Next stops: Ucluelet and Tofino!

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