Guest Post: Vancouver Island, home to some of the most spectacular natural beauty in the world, encompasses 285 miles of pristine wilderness along the Western coast of Canada. Stretching from the Juan de Fuca Strait in the south to Queen Charlotte Sound at its northernmost tip, Vancouver Island attractions include old-growth rainforests, alpine habitats, labyrinthine waterways, and fjord-like coastlines.
Ranked the #1 island in Canada – and #6 in the world – by several travel magazines, Vancouver Island boasts an immense variety of activities. While the most famous places, Victoria and Tofino are packed with tourists throughout the summer, many of the most rewarding spots are hidden gems known mostly by locals.
Kayaking is the Best Way to See Local Marine Life
For visitors interested in getting out on the water, kayaking in Telegraph Cove offers incredible opportunities to get up close and personal with wildlife. Orca whales frequent the cove, with over 200 returning to feed every summer. Humpback Whales are also often spotted as they enter the narrow straits in search of food; a Stubbs Island whale watching trip increases the chance of an encounter.
Other wildlife includes Steller sea lions, Pacific white-sided dolphins, river otters, bald eagles, and harbor seals. Kayak rentals are available from North Island Kayak, offering guided tours with experts and naturalists.
Forests, Trails, and Caves Offer Fantastic and Natural Beauty for All
A number of trails allow hikers to trek through spectacular wilderness. These include the Galloping Goose Trail, which connects Victoria’s Inner Harbour to the ghost-town of Leechtown. The 55 kilometer trail is runs along a former rail line and is excellent for biking.
The Juan de Fuca Trail runs along the western shoreline of southern Vancouver Island. Just north is the West Coast Trail, which is longer and tends to have more strenuous sections. A hike to Cape Scott Lighthouse, located on the northwest tip of the island, is similarly remote, and is famous for its winter storms that bring waves up to 70 feet tall.
Wilderness destinations on the island include Strathcona Provincial Park which gives visitors access to hike the Forbidden Plateau in summer and ski Mount Washington in the winter. Cathedral Grove within MacMillan Provincial Park is home to 800 year old trees, some standing as much as 250 feet tall. The Horne Lake Caves, located near Qualicum Beach, are a little-known secret and definitely worth a visit – especially with the opportunity to stay in a traditional teepee on the coast!
Qualicum Beach, Cowichan Bay, & Sidney-by-the-Sea are Worth Visiting
For those more interested in civilization, a number of quaint towns dot the Vancouver Island landscape. Qualicum Beach is filled with many natural and beautiful forests, trails, a river, and the beach with an adjoining paved promenade. Cowichan Bay is home to an authentic cheese shop, bakery, and ice cream store – all well worth a visit. Sidney-by-the-Sea, a quaint seaside town, has a main street that boasts the most used book stores per capita in Canada.
While these recommendations are great starting points for exploring Vancouver Island, sometimes the best way to uncover the best spots are to chat with locals and learn from their knowledge. So bring a flexible schedule and an open mind and enjoy a land of unmatched natural beauty!
Angie Picardo is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a financial literacy site dedicated to helping people master the art of money management, from developing an effective budget and investment strategy to choosing the best online brokerage accounts.
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