The drive from Victoria north along the East side of Vancouver Island and then west over the Beaufort Mountain Range is an attraction in and of itself, especially if, like me, you love to drive winding coastal roads through the wilderness. I stopped several times on this drive, making it significantly longer than the Google  Maps estimate of 4.5 hours from the Victoria airport. It’s worth taking your time to stop off at the roadside lookouts between Victoria and Nanaimo, including the impressive Malahat, and to pull to the side of the road to explore short trails and stream and lakeside vistas as you cut across the island.  It took me almost 6.5 hours, including a brief stop at Rusticana Coffee Shop in Mill Bay for a delicious smoked salmon sandwich, complete with delicious locally-made artichoke pesto and tons of veggies.