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A 24-Hour Food Tour Across Southern Vancouver Island

With ice-wine-glazed salmon, seaside gin, spruce sausage, and more

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Passenger ferry in Victoria harbor on a sunny day, sailing in front of the Fairmont Empress hotel that is in the background
Victoria Clipper ferry sails into Victoria Harbour.
Courtesy of FRS Clipper

Whether you take a passenger ferry from Seattle, drive to the Port Angeles ferry, or fly in by seaplane, Vancouver Island’s temperate rainforest offers beautiful views, relaxing hikes, and hidden culinary gems. Like Seattle, the region is part of the ancestral lands of the Coast Salish (Séliš) peoples. The island’s chefs, distilleries, and breweries showcase local ingredients with creative twists inspired by the unique climate and ever-changing Salish Sea. Trying to explore the entire island in 24 hours would be stressful. But it’s just enough time for a wonderful culinary tour, spanning from Victoria to Tofino.

Note: Traveling to Canada requires proof of COVID vaccination and a passport, as well as completion of the ArriveCAN app 72 hours prior to arrival. The Victoria Clipper offers a helpful guide to the process. COVID tests are not currently required, though this may be subject to change.

10 a.m. — Victoria: Brunch at the Blue Fox Cafe

The Blue Fox Cafe embraces you with 90s coffeehouse nostalgia. With bright art adorning the walls, brunch here is meant to be fun. The Blue Fox offers all the classics you’d expect from a popular neighborhood haunt. One of the most true measures of any cook, the eggs Benedict is perfection. For something more unusual, the Oranges del Sol pancakes or French toast are topped with triple sec and roasted pecans.

Note: The Blue Fox is closed Wednesdays.

11 a.m. — Victoria: Bon Macaron

Bon Macaron is a rainbow of confections. This jovial Victoria bakery also teaches classes on how to make a beloved but fickle almond treat. Traditional flavors include caramel, pistachio, and champagne. More adventurous types can try the tomato basil, sake, blue cheese and pear, or bacon flavors.

Noon — Sooke: Sheringham Distillery

There are centuries of stories about messages in bottles, floating to some unsuspecting recipient on a lonely beach. Sheringham Distillery has flipped that myth on its head. Crafting what can only be described as the ocean in a bottle, the distillery’s Seaside gin tastes like the spray of waves crashing against a rocky cove. Kelp and rose petals combined may sound unusual, but if you have time, stop by the tasting room and you’ll see the alchemy in action.

2 p.m. — Nanaimo: Lunch at Nori

Sushi at Nori is an experience to savor. The presentation is elaborate and colorful. Flavors are balanced, sharp, and subtle. The restaurant garnishes many dishes with edible flowers, infusing every plate with a playful twist. In addition to sushi, the menu offers a tropical salad with tart mango and pineapple topped with a roasted sesame-onion dressing.

3 p.m. — Coombs: Old Country Market (aka “Goats on the Roof”)

If you want to stop for a snack and stretch your legs en route to the coast, the Old Country Market in Coombs is a relaxing spot. Many fondly call it the “Goats on the Roof Market” because goats often bound around, playing on the grassy roof above. Next door is Cuckoo Trattoria and Pizzeria, opened by a chef from Italy who enjoys incorporating Pacific Northwest ingredients into traditional recipes.

6 p.m. — Ucluelet: Dinner at Pluvio

This restaurant, named after the word for a rain-lover (pluviophile), embraces the Pacific Northwest’s bounty of seasons. Enjoy a range of options for your three-course menu, with choices like a wagyu beef tartar with cured mushrooms, a seafood-focused feast, or botanically-inspired seasonal fare. Pluvio’s plates pop with color and texture to excite the palate.

Note: Reservations are recommended.

7 p.m. — Tofino: Dessert and Drinks at Wolf in the Fog

Tofino’s Pacific Rim beaches boast dramatic views in the rain, sunshine, and at sunset. Wolf in the Fog captures the constantly undulating tides with hyper-seasonal dishes and cocktails. The rotating menu ensures you’ll always be surprised with inspired new dishes.

Note: Reservations are recommended.

9 a.m. — Tofino: Breakfast at The Pointe

The Pointe’s sweeping views will illuminate your morning and your meal. Morning, noon, and night, the restaurant’s dishes sustainably celebrate local game, seafood, and produce. The herbaceous spruce breakfast sausage is not to be missed. And the Power Bowl’s wildflower yogurt is wonderful enjoyed with the bright morning light that pours into the dining room. The Pointe feels intrinsically bound to the water outside, the creative menu always mirroring the view.

Note: Reservations are recommended.

10 a.m. — Tofino: Dockside Smoked Fish

Dockside Smoked Fish is located inside House of Himwitsa, which translates as “storytelling and the passing of knowledge from elder to youth” in the Nuu-chah-nulth (Nuučaan̓ułʔatḥ) language. Dockside Smoked Fish serves an array of seafood products caught by First Nations fishermen. Chinook and Sockeye, spicy or sweet, whatever your preference, this business probably has it. And if you enjoy teriyaki, the ice-wine-glazed smoked salmon has a sweet but slightly tannic flavor that compliments the fish well. Tofino is so beautiful that you’ll feel tempted to stay longer. If you’d like to spend an extra day on the water, ask about hiring local fishing guides while visiting Himwitsa.