Vancouver to Comox 4 Day Itinerary
Vancouver to Comox Itinerary
In many ways Fall is the perfect time of year to escape the day to day, it’s an opportunity to skip town and find communities that offer tranquility and activity in equal measure, just without the summer clamor. The Comox Valley represents an accessible welcoming locale, footed with abundant nature, for those wishing to reset.
Surrounded by the Salish Sea and backed by the grandeur mountains of the Beaufort range and Strathcona Park, this mid Vancouver Island gem attracts many throughout the year. The months September through November offer a stripped back pace, and nearly all the same activities and attractions enjoyed in the balmy summer months. With several routes from the lower mainland and Sunshine Coast to this region, including two BC Ferries routes, an expedited Hullo Ferry crossing, and a range of flights from domestic to sea-plane, the Comox Valley makes a wonderful choice for multi-day getaways based around a weekend. It can sometimes seem a steep task, however, to figure out exactly what to enjoy once here. That’s why we’ve pieced together a 4 day example itinerary to excite and delight.
Leave your worries behind and hop on a ferry to enjoy some Island Time.
Flee the bustle and dial into island time! Our example itinerary operates on a loose basis, so if you’re all for an earlier or later departure, or for making the trip via one of the other modes of transport mentioned - make it happen!
We’re going to use the BC Ferries route of Horseshoe Bay West Vancouver, to Departure Bay Nanaimo, as our start and end points. Ferries also run from Powell River to The Little River Comox terminus too.
After wrapping up your Friday to-do list make your way to the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal with at least 90 minutes to spare prior to departure for your 6:15pm sailing. Rental vehicles, if required, are available from numerous Vancouver locations for National, Budget and Enterprise, booking early will enable getting the best deal. Arriving early for your sailing allows enough time to explore the quaint village of Horseshoe Bay. Always book ahead of time.
The ferry crossing takes 1 hour and 40 minutes. BC ferries offer dining options onboard, from handhelds like burgers, to seared salmon and salads. It’s also worthwhile to bring a dinner onboard too. If the weather and daylight permits, make sure to take in the majestic scenery on the decking or through a window, or take a moment to read up on your destination and you’ll already feel any stresses receding.
Once docked at Departure Bay Nanaimo, it’s a 1 hour 15 minute drive northerly on highway 19. All being well you should reach Courtenay at around 9:30pm, (disembarking factored in). If having traveled by air and in need of a rental vehicle pick up, there’s options that are best organized ahead of time through National, Budget and Enterprise, visit the desk located inside the airport to arrange pick up. Using local taxi services is also a simple way to travel around with Comox Taxi, Ambassador Taxi or Joe’s Taxi. BC Transit also poses an option with a bus network servicing Courtenay, Comox and Cumberland, change in downtown Courtenay for farther afield destinations.
Accommodation options in the Valley are many, we’ve highlighted just a few comfy choices in what we believe are excellent central locations for exploration.
If being at the heart of everything sounds like it’s the best way to go, then the Bayview Hotel in Courtenay and the nearby Westerly Best Western are two great choices. These are the start and finish points for each day of your adventures, for the sake of this itinerary.
The Bayview’s rooms are some of the comfiest and cleanest around, with spacious areas and hotel facilities to please multi day stays. From the whirlpool and indoor swimming pool to the 24 hour fitness centre, as well as great dining facilities, they have you completely covered.
The Westerly, only an 11 minute walk from the Bayview, is a clean, convenient, pleasant hotel with local dining on-site, and an on-site fitness centre.
Moving up in the world, if luxuriating takes precedence over a central location the Kingfisher Oceanside Resort, with its renowned oceanfront setting, spa and sought after restaurant, will check the boxes. Find this resort a little way south of Courtenay.
The seaside community of Comox and charming village of Cumberland both have options through airbnb, with beautiful properties available, each unique and memorable.
A fun Saturday packed with delicious eats and adventures.
The delicious breakfasts served in-hotel are of course an option, but exploring Courtenay’s eateries may appeal too. Brunch in the Comox Valley is less about lineups and hype and more about local ingredients, seasonal menus and thoughtfully crafted dishes. Off Main in the heart of downtown Courtenay, on 4th street, offers a rotating menu and a real pride in balanced breakfasts using local ingredients. Mignon & Kie, on Courtenay’s pretty 5th street, crafts small breakfast items and plates with a mix of African and Euro influences.
After your introductory feed, it’s time to experience a long running Comox Valley institution - the weekly Saturday Farmers’ Market. This hub of makers, bakers, growers and artisans nicely encapsulates the region’s friendly community-first feel. Meet local farmers and crafters and maybe walk away with something to remember your time here. If you haven’t already take this opportunity to wander up Courtenay’s quaint 5th street, explore the independent stores, cafes and curios.
Just a 15 minute drive north of Courtenay lies Seal Bay Nature Park. This beautiful second growth forest and wild beach is an impressive 1.5 times the size of Vancouver’s Stanley Park. Find a network of graded trails suitable for walking, cycling and horseback riding. Allot yourself a couple of hours at least for some wandering. If cycling here is preferred there are mountain bike rentals to scoop in Courtenay beforehand. Parking at the Bates Road lot is a great way to experience both the lush rainforest and the wild pebble beach too, head to the east of this parking and disappear into the dense forest. From the pebble beach, which faces onto the Salish Sea and overlooks the Sunshine Coast and the magnificent Coast mountains beyond, you’ll likely see wildlife. Bring binoculars and expect to encounter seals, sea lions, eagles, several bird species and even whales. The Fall colours are really spectacular at this time of year. You’ll emerge regenerated and probably hungry, which leads us to our next locale - Comox.
Hop in the car and drive 15 minutes to downtown Comox, head straight to Church St. Taphouse. This always-bustling locals’ favourite offers a varied menu which features hearty classics, Asian fusion and intriguing flavour profiles. If beer is your thing, their stacked rotating tap menu of BC craft beer will excite. Find wines and ciders, too.
Once you’ve concluded your delicious late lunch, be sure to wander through the downtown of Comox and visit the various stores, cafes and trinket shops. Afterwards, and a short walk away lies Comox Marina Park. This delightful area has a children’s park, a sizable lawn to lay a blanket and the scenic marina boardwalk. Make time to wander along this boardwalk as the mountain-meets-ocean views are sublime at any time of year. If wanting to extend your activity further before your Comox dinner reservation, a short drive away will bring you to the Filberg Heritage Lodge & Gardens, this historic property is completely constructed from timber. Although, its immaculately landscaped grounds and the views it gives are worth the journey alone.
Nurture your connection with nature and head to the mountains.
Grabbing breakfast in-hotel will nicely set you up for the day ahead. Alternatively heading to Mudsharks in downtown Courtenay is an ideal option for the day that lies ahead. Their speedy, yet friendly, freshly prepared breakfast menu is a Valley favourite. Whilst their barista grade coffee using Vancouver’s Parallel 49th beans, also tends to hit the spot too. Either grab something from here for your lunch to go, or head over to Courtenay’s famed Bigfoot Donuts for some of their soft deadly sweet donuts, but mainly for their savory handhelds. Grab a savory item here for your lunch. As you’re about to ascend into the backcountry.
A quick look on a map illustrates how the vast island wilderness backs onto the Comox Valley, with the highway skirting the valley floor and backed by huge swathes of interior that are essentially impassable by motor vehicle. The Beaufort mountain range and Strathcona Park make up this area - the spine of the mid-island. It’s easy to use the Comox Valley as your base to explore this backcountry, with a fully paved road that leads to Mt. Washington resort linking the community by a mere 30 minute drive from downtown Courtenay. You’ll need chains in your trunk if tackling this November onwards. This resort, of course, plays host to snowsports throughout the winter, but the snow won’t be arriving until at least December. Which means September through November is a terrific time to explore via hiking. With a network of trails that begin at the Paradise Meadows trailhead that take in serene lakes, wild forest and vast viewpoints alike, with notably fewer people than some of its mainland contemporaries, it's a popular Fall activity to connect with the boundless nature.
Firstly, make a plan and stick to it, let your hotel concierge know where you’re headed and carry enough water and food to see you through. The usual leave no trace and wildlife awareness come into play, also. There’s various trails for various abilities, all starting from the Paradise Meadows trailhead, from the easygoing boardwalk hike of the Paradise Meadows Loop, only 3.4km all in, to more challenging hikes like Helen Lake Mackenzie to Battleship Lake Loop (8.2km). And the longer still - Lake Helen McKenzie to Kwai Lake to Croteau Lake Loop (15.6km). Your day in the mountains will live long in the memory. The views on a clear day mean seeing over the Salish Sea and far into the mainland Coast mountains.
No matter which hike you decided upon, it's likely you’re going to feel a little spent. Take a moment back at your hotel to unwind and relax. If this just isn’t you and you’ve energy left to burn, heading to Gladstone Brewing, with its provincially award winning craft beer lineup and delectable Mexi-fusion menu may fit the apres bill. Their patio is sizable, dog friendly and contains heaters.
Take the short walk from the hotel to Locals, one of the Valley’s finest restaurants. The name indicates the theme, with local produce and catches used to craft the sumptuous culinary creations. The cocktails and wine menu is reason enough to make a reservation. If after something a little more casual, head to the stylish Pizzeria Guerilla on Courtenay’s 5th street for pies that are truly satisfying, their extensive island beer pours and house made cocktails also delight many.
Denman Island Exploration.
Today entails a short trip to one of the Comox Valley’s adored gulf islands - Denman Island. Here you’ll find an even slower pace of life, an arts scene and glorious examples of nature including old growth forest. Head south by car for 20 minutes and reach the micro Buckley Bay Ferry Terminal, tickets are usually simple to attain right there and then, but booking ahead is also possible. Although with multiple sailings that only take 10 minutes to complete, it’s no real loss to wait a little. Be sure to check out the whimsical general store at the ferry terminal for supplies or fresh oysters before you cross.
Less than a 20 minute drive will bring you to Boyle Point Park, here you can complete the easy going slight gradients of a 30/45 minute loop trail. Full hiking gear is not necessary. The view atop overlooking Chrome Island and its lighthouse is worth it, but the peaceful forested trails themselves are reason enough.
An 8 minute drive from Boyle Point Park will deliver you to your next destination, try your next favourite tipple from Corland Farm and Vineyard Winery, a cute 10 acre winery. The owners encourage you to walk the grounds and try their wines in their delightful tasting room. A bottle surely makes a great souvenir from your time on Denman.
The quirky and offbeat Earth Club Factory, is a guesthouse, bistro and general meeting place to partake in creativity and celebrate Denman island’s art scene. Stop here for some lunch where there’s seasonal home-styled food, fresh baking, sandwiches, sushi and more.
Drive 6 minutes from Earth Club Factory to Fillongley Provincial Park. Here you’ll find a wild sprawl of beach that overlooks neighbouring Hornby Island, but the highlight is perhaps the meandering easy to complete walk to be had through the old growth forest here. The soaring giants of Douglas Fir and Cedar are soul nourishing, chances are you won’t encounter many people.
It’s time to make moves back to the island, Vancouver Island that is. Even if the lineup and consequent wait seems long, which is unlikely in the fall, it clears very quickly with so many sailings between the two terminals.
The Kingfisher resort, a short 10-minute drive south of Courtenay which you will have passed on your journeying south today, offers not only comfortable rooms and a reputable spa but a highly regarded restaurant, Ocean 7. This reservable bistro serves a curated menu of west coast dishes, including seafood and farm-to-fork options, along with cocktails and local wine. The location, with its ocean views, is rightly spectacular.
Experience the joy of quaint Cumberland.
It’s your last full day, time to make the most of it. There’s options today to go full throttle or to keep proceedings mellow. Once awake and ready, make the short drive to locals’ favourite Tin Town Cafe, here choose fresh breakfast items such as freshly baked croissants, tarts, cereals and barista brewed coffee. Next, head one block over to always great Honey Grove Bakery - you may recognize them from your time at the farmers’ market, they’re fine bakers of sourdough bread creations, pastries, sweet treats and truly delicious savory flatbreads. Grab something to go for lunch from here, for your day in Cumberland. Then make the short 10 minute drive over to the historic village.
Before exploring the village of Cumberland we’re going to start with the backdrop that partially defines it - its sprawling community forest and trail network. The steady building of these trails, by a pioneering few, have shifted Cumberland from a sleepy mining village to an outdoors enthusiasts fantasy. With world class mountain biking terrain available, the same trails are adored by hikers and trail runners alike.
So, if seeking a fast paced rollick through second growth forest you should definitely go mountain biking. The Fall especially presents a fantastic time to go, with less people on the trails. Hire a bike and protective gear from Beaufort Cycles, and make sure to learn about the trail system, or better still purchase a map. Remember to bring a GPS, water and your lunch!
If all of that sounds like way too much velocity, hiking may be your preferred pursuit to experience the trails. Prepare as you did for Mt. Washington’s backcountry, as using trails, and being in forested areas, means being wildlife aware and courteous in leaving no trace.
Comox Lake is only a 6 minute drive from Cumberland village, and is rightly worth a visit. The large kidney shaped lake is glacial fed and backed by the towering Strathcona Park behind. There’s kayaking and SUP rentals until early Fall, but swimming is also a popular activity here, if you can brave the water temperatures! Here, in particular, is a great place to enjoy your lunch with several picnic tables free to use and views to relish. When taking to the water, exercise water safety, and beware of conditions.
Now heading into the village itself make time to wander along Dunsmuir street and its surrounding streets. You’ll find an enjoyable place filled with unique art adoring locals, its quirky nature is celebrated and encouraged. Dropping into Moons Records is the best representation of this, with its eclectic range of vinyl, local art, skateboards, merch and curios. Here in particular marks a perfect place to buy a memento or a gift. Heading for a refreshing drink at, or even just ducking your head into, the Waverley Hotel is worthwhile too. This is one of the Valley’s principle live show venues, hosting artists from the island, the province and indeed international acts. If you should catch a show you will never forget the experience. The vestiges of a by-gone era are very much apparent in the charming wood-clad interior.
It’s been a busy few days, no matter how easy or hard you hiked or biked. It’s time to sit a while and decompress, revel in the calm of the hotel. Heading into Courtenay for dinner will bring you back to 5th street, here you could try the much touted Nikkei Ramen Ya, this delicious ramen joint is celebrated by foodies island-wide and has garnered a reputation that truly holds up. Alternatively, Atlas provides a reputable option, with a menu that’s curated month by month with local ingredients brought to life, a locally adored establishment that’s been going since 1998.
It's not goodbye, it's see you next time!
Departure day has arrived, but there’s no need to do the dreaded countdown. We advise taking the headache out of travel jeopardy and making tracks with plenty of time on your side, no rushing here! Today it’s wise to take the hotel breakfast or simply sneak in another Mudsharks visit for expediency. Check out at the hotels we’ve listed is 11am.
If you’re flying back domestically, Comox International Airport is only a mere 15 minutes from downtown Courtenay via car, so just arrive the prescribed 90 minutes before departure.
Sailing on BC ferries from Departure Bay back to Horseshoe Bay you’ll grab the 1pm sailing, this gets you into Horseshoe Bay at 2:40pm and gives ample time when you’re back in Metro Vancouver to unwind and ready yourself for the next day. It’s advised to be 90 minutes early for departure, so 11:30am is your goal to reach the terminal. Factoring in the 1 hour 15 minutes it takes to drive you’ll need to be on the road by 10:15am.
Sailing back on the ferry presents an ideal time to reminisce on the slice of island life that was. The Comox Valley awaits to welcome you back next season.
The above itinerary aims to be a basis of a trip, and days are interchangeable, ferry times and flight times can also be altered in line with preferred days of travel.
Tumble Into Fall
Fall in the Comox Valley is an invitation to embrace nature's captivating transformation and create cherished memories that will linger long after the leaves have fallen.