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  • Jennifer Dowd

A Weekend Adventure: Port Alberni, Nanaimo, and Salt Spring Island, May 17-18, 2024

There's nothing like a weekend adventure to break up the monotony of daily life, and this weekend was all about exploring Vancouver Island. With my furbaby Baylee and my adventurous Aunt as companions, we set off early on Friday morning, our destination: Port Alberni, Cathedral Grove, and Salts Spring Island.

Cathedral Grove: Nature's Cathedral

Cathedral Grove, located in MacMillan Provincial Park, is a must-see for anyone traveling through Vancouver Island. The ancient Douglas fir trees towered above us, some as old as 800 years. Walking through the grove felt like stepping into another world, where time slows down and nature's grandeur takes center stage. Baylee loved sniffing around the forest floor, and my aunt was in awe of the sheer size of the trees. We spent some time wandering the trails, soaking in the peaceful atmosphere.

Port Alberni's Hole in the Wall: A Minor Letdown

After the enchanting experience at Cathedral Grove, our next stop was the Hole in the Wall in Port Alberni. Known for its unique rock formation and waterfall, it seemed like a promising destination. However, upon arrival, we found it to be somewhat underwhelming. The hike to get there was pleasant enough, but the actual Hole in the Wall didn't quite live up to the hype. It was interesting, sure, but not the breathtaking natural wonder we had anticipated. We snapped a few photos and then decided to move on.

McLean Mill: Stepping Back in Time

Next on our itinerary was the McLean Mill Historic Site. As a former sawmill, it offered a glimpse into the logging history of the region. Despite the site's historical significance, the overall experience was a bit lackluster. Many of the displays felt dated, and there wasn’t as much to see or do as we had hoped. Still, it was a pleasant enough stop, and we appreciated the effort to preserve this piece of local history. By late afternoon, we were ready to head to our overnight stop in Nanaimo.

Saturday: Exploring Salt Spring Island

Saturday morning started with a ferry ride to Salt Spring Island. The journey was picturesque, with stunning views of the surrounding islands and the occasional sighting of marine wildlife. Upon arriving at Salt Spring Island, we quickly realized it was much more touristy than we had anticipated. The island is known for its vibrant arts scene, charming boutiques, and numerous outdoor activities. However, the commercialized vibe was a bit overwhelming. While there were plenty of shops and galleries to explore, none of them truly stood out. The natural beauty of the island was undeniable, but after a while, all the trails and scenic viewpoints started to blend.

We visited a few local markets and took a leisurely drive around the island, but nothing captured our interest in a meaningful way. Despite this, Baylee enjoyed the various walks, and my aunt and I had a good laugh about our knack for finding the most underwhelming attractions. I did manage to pick up an amazing piece of art by Art is Gold Au by artist Robin Seagrave. Check out his website here.

While the specific sites we visited might not have lived up to our expectations, the true joy of the trip was in the journey itself. Traveling with Baylee and my aunt, sharing stories, laughs, and quiet moments, made the experience worthwhile. The underwhelming attractions gave us something to bond over, and we returned home with a collection of memories.

Every adventure has its ups and downs, and not every destination will leave you breathless. But as long as you're with good company and an open mind, even the most underwhelming sites can lead to a memorable and enjoyable journey.

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