Vancouver Island is one of the world’s top travel destinations, from its stunning ocean views to the breathtaking mountains. Consistently ranked as one of the 10 friendliest countries in the world, Canada has something to offer for every kind of traveler and the Island is no exception, offering numerous opportunities for outdoor adventure and fun-filled activities.
Vancouver Island’s current population is under one million, meaning you won’t have to worry about being stuck in traffic, or idling along bumper-to-bumper as you try to get to your destination. The Island is full of beautiful open spaces and picturesque highways, offering memorable views at every turn. There is a diverse, exquisite terrain from top to bottom, ranging from snow-capped mountains to sandy beaches, forests, lakes, rivers, and harbours.
This is the world’s 43rd largest island and Canada’s 11th largest island, spanning 460 km (290 mi) in length and 80 km (50 mi) in width. It is situated in the southwestern corner of British Columbia, separated from the mainland’s coast by Johnstone Strait and Queen Charlotte Strait on the north and northeast, and by the Strait of Georgia on the southeast.
The Strait of Juan de Fuca separates the Island from Washington State in the United States, and the west coast of the Island opens up to the Pacific Ocean.
The Vancouver Island Ranges run through the majority of the Island, creating varying climates and landscapes along the way. The highest peak on the Island is Golden Hinde at 2,195 m (7,201 ft), which is located near the Island’s centre in Strathcona Provincial Park.
Vancouver Island is littered with fishing villages all along the coasts, giving you the opportunity to try your hand at fishing for salmon, trout, and halibut, to name a few. Campbell River (located in the centre of the Island), Victoria (located in the south), and the Pacific Rim near Tofino (along the west coast) are just a few of the top destinations for this pastime.
Canoeing and Kayaking
Vancouver Island is famous for its canoeing and kayaking opportunities, which include easy paddling inside Victoria’s Inner Harbour as well as more challenging waters as you approach the area’s narrow channel.
Other popular spots for kayaking amongst locals and visitors alike are Johnstone Strait, Broughton Archipelago, the Broken Group Island, Clayoquot Sound, the Gulf Islands, Nanaimo, and the Discovery Islands.
There are also numerous freshwater paddling options, such as the remote Sayward Forest Canoe Route, Cowichan Lake, Elk and Beaver lakes, and Main Lake Provincial Park on Quadra Island.
Boating and Sailing
Vancouver Island is a favourite boating destination for many, as the Island offers an abundance of inland waterways as well as open ocean waters off the west coast. Nanaimo provides not just one but two harbours with ideal water for boaters of all skill levels.
Other popular boating spots include Matheson Lake, 26 km (16 mi) south of Victoria, as well as the beautiful coves of Denman Island, Hornby Island, Nanoose Bay, and Tribune Bay. Discovery Passage, the main waterway linking the Strait of Georgia with Johnstone Strait, is another favourite.
Whale Watching and Sea Life
Vancouver Island offers some of the best opportunities in the world for viewing sea creatures and wildlife. Orcas (a misnomer for killer whales), dolphins, humpbacks, porpoises, seals, and sea lions are among some of the most spotted and mesmerising animals in our coastal waters.
The best part? You will be able to catch a glimpse of these awe-inspiring animals from many different areas, both on land and water.
There are numerous whale watching operators that offer whale watching adventures, giving you the chance to take a guided tour of our beautiful waters and catch a glimpse of some of the world’s most enchanting sea creatures.
We have more than 40 stunning golf courses for you to choose from, whether an avid golfer or a beginner. Our golf courses can be found in urban settings, such as Victoria in the south, to courses amongst the trees of Campbell River in the north.
For those interested in a true golf tour of the Island, there is the Vancouver Island Golf Trail, which stretches 250 km and boasts a dozen beautiful golf courses. Ranked as one of the top golf experiences in North America, the Trail takes you from Victoria to Campbell River, allowing you to discover breathtaking courses and scenery along the way.
Camping and Hiking
Vancouver Island is also known for its many different camping and hiking opportunities. With its majestic mountain ranges, pristine forests, and plenty of chances for hiking, climbing, and pitching a tent, the Island is truly paradise for the avid outdoorsman. Here is a list of some of the Island’s best areas for camping and hiking:
- Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park
- Miracle Beach Provincial Park
- Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park
- Ralph River-Strathcona Provincial Park
- Green Point Pacific Rim National Park
- Cape Scott Provincial Park
- Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park
- Cowichan River Provincial Park
- Juan de Fuca Provincial Park
- Strathcona Provincial Park
If winter sports are more your speed, you are in luck. Vancouver Island offers some of the best skiing in North America, namely at its two top-notch ski resorts: Mount Cain Ski Resort (located in Woss, between Sayward and Port McNeill) and Mount Washington Ski Resort (located in Courtenay).
With good snow conditions starting in early winter and lasting into spring, one can see why these are the ultimate winter recreation destinations. In addition to downhill skiing and snowboarding, there are also plenty of opportunities for cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and snow tubing.
Events and Festivals
When it comes to special events and festivals, there are dozens that take place throughout the year. If you are looking to plan your Island trip around a traditional festival, concert series, or other event, you are in luck. There is never a dull moment here, allowing you to be a part of an unforgettable experience any time of the year.
Here is a small sample of highlights from the vast selection of events and festivals to look forward to:
• Victoria International JazzFest – Boasting performers from around the world, this special event is held in downtown Victoria and takes place across 10 days and nights in June. Both indoor and outdoor venues are filled with more than 250 premier international jazz, blues, world, and Latin artists, making this an unforgettable experience for any music lover.
• Filberg Festival – Taking place in June, this festival is considered one of the best arts and crafts festivals in the Pacific Northwest. Offering an extraordinary collection of high quality work by BC resident artists, you won’t want to miss the beautiful pottery, wood and metalwork, jewelry, original paintings and handmade toys. The event takes place at Filberg Heritage Lodge, a designated landmark in Comox.
• Labour Day Weekend – This holiday weekend is marked by the Victoria Classic Boat Festival, where approximately 100 classic sail and power boats come from near and far to descend upon the Victoria Inner Harbour and celebrate their proud heritage.
• Marine Festival and World Championship Bathtub Race – Did you know that bathtub races first originated on the Island? Since its initiation in 1967 by former Nanaimo mayor Frank Ney, the Bathtub Races are an international tourist attraction every year in July, bringing in thousands of visitors and “tubbers” who want to come see the parade, fireworks, and more, or participate for first place in the races.
If we still haven’t enticed you to visit, be sure to check out the world-famous Butchart Gardens, llama walks and wildlife viewing tours, the petroglyphs and totem poles, the wineries and cideries, hot springs, and the myriad of mouth-watering, world-renowned restaurants.
Yes, Vancouver Island is amazing! Drop by for a visit – we would love to see you.