thanks for all the replies!

hv: we'll certainly use that as a starting point for things to see - probably also doing museums etc but can sort that on google. I'm not so much into the street/city photography though. Got any recommendations for excellent+cheap food around chinatown? Vietnamese in particular I suspect I'll be missing badly after 3 weeks in Nova Scotia.

Yep, we definitely like hiking (typically spent 8+ hours/day walking on previous travels, but that was just 2 of us). Now, we'll have a 13-mo-old girl along who will be in a backpack. That means I'm carrying the child on front (9kg? she's small) and cameras (10kg) on back so won't be doing any huge ascents or distances and probably can't hike in the rain. 5km sections with good rests should be OK; probably 10km if I can share child-carrying duties.

sly: I think I'll have to PM you. We'll have to look into car rental costs in Nanaimo vs the ferry costs because I really want to see more of the island than just the towns at the south.

mosport: my wife will be all over the smoked fish

AK: we're looking at Alaska, but we don't want to be stuck on a boat for that long. I think we'd rather get an apartment-type thing in Nanaimo and spend a bunch of time driving/walking around the island and getting more personal with the rocks & forests.

PdJ: we expect to soak up a good 1% of what there is to see, and thoroughly; we have no illusions that a month is enough to cover any one of the places we're going to spend 2 days in. Hotels are for sleeping and storing luggage! I would like to see mountains, but moreso if there's white stuff.