Holidays in Vancouver Island, British Columbia
With wild landscapes, indigenous First Nations culture, snow-dusted mountains and superb wildlife, both on and offshore, Vancouver Island feels far removed from the buzzing, upbeat metropolitan energy of the mainland. The wild, surf-pounded coast is home to migratory humpback whales, dolphins and sea lions, while black bears and bald eagles rule over the rugged hills.
Vancouver Island is a special place with snowy mountains, beautiful scenery, and lots of animals. Unlike the busy cities on the mainland, it's peaceful and close to nature. Here, you can see whales, dolphins and sea lions near the coast, and black bears and bald eagles in the hills. For those visiting, there are plenty of things to do on Vancouver Island, like surfing at Tofino, learning about First Nations culture in cedar canoes, or fishing in the Campbell River. All in all, Vancouver Island is a great spot for outdoor adventures.
Things to see and do on Vancouver Island
Curious what to do on Vancouver Island? Well, there’s no shortage of options to keep you busy no matter your interest. Here are some of our favourite things to do on Vancouver Island.
One of the top things to do on Vancouver Island is stroll through the sprawling 55-acre Butchart Gardens. Swing by in the spring, and you'll walk through a sea of colourful tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths. When summer hits, don't forget to check out the Rose Garden and stick around for the Night Illuminations and some evening entertainment. Late summer? The perennial and dahlia displays will be in full swing. And if you're an autumn lover, the Japanese maples in their golden and red finery will be a treat. During winter, get into the holiday spirit with the Christmas decorations, lights, carollers, and festive brass tunes. And while you're there, why not hop on the Rose Carousel or grab a bite at one of the restaurants? It's been a National Historic Site of Canada since 2004. Go and explore at your own pace, and don't miss the sunken garden and water fountains; both are crowd favourites.
Wine tasting is one of the top things to do on Vancouver Island. This place has been making wine since the 1920s. They started with fruity wines, and now they've got a whole range – everything from honey wine to some excellent grape wines. As you travel from Comox Valley to Sooke, you'll find about 30 intimate little wineries. Similar to the vineyards in Italy, many here are run by families, creating a wholesome and inviting experience. Imagine sitting down and having the owner's son or daughter pouring you a glass and chatting about the vineyard's history.
In Comox Valley, the wines are fresh and flavourful – plus, there's even a winery owned by the director of Titanic, James Cameron. Head to Central Island, and you'll get to taste some crisp white wines and deep reds. In the Cowichan Valley, it isn't just about great wine; it's a treat for the eyes with art-filled wineries and a buzzing local scene. And if you drive around the South Island in the summer, you'll pass by cute little farm stands where you can grab fresh eggs or pies, often using an "honour box" system to pay.
Pacific Rim National Reserve Park
When plotting what to do on Vancouver Island, Pacific Rim National Park undeniably shines. It's not just any park; it's like nature's masterpiece split into three cool parts: Long Beach, the Broken Group Islands, and the West Coast Trail.
Start at Long Beach. Trust me, it's more than just a beach. Think epic waves, endless sand, and the kind of sunset that makes you want to snap a pic. If you're all about nature vibes, this is your spot.
Next up, the Broken Group Islands. If you're into kayaking, this place is like hitting the jackpot. With over 100 islands along the west side of Vancouver Island, every paddle feels like a mini-adventure.
Now, if you're up for a real challenge, there's the West Coast Trail. It's not just a walk in the park (pun intended!). You'll be climbing a ton of ladders, getting a little muddy, and crossing some pretty fast rivers. And while the weather can be a wild card, the sense of achievement is totally worth it. Plus, the stories you'll have to tell will earn you some serious bragging rights.
There's some cool history here, too. The West Coast Trail follows paths that the Huuay-at, Ditidaht and Pacheedaht first nations used way back in the day. So, while hiking, you're also walking in the footsteps of some of the island's earliest people. No wonder it's one of our top things to do on Vancouver Island.
Thinking about things to do on Vancouver Island? How about some whale watching? It's hands-down one of the most incredible things to do around here. We'll set you up in this nifty Mustang floater suit with a life jacket built right in, keeping you safe while out on the water. Oh, and if it gets chilly, they've got hats and gloves ready for you, too.
Hop on one of the boats – choose from zippy zodiacs or something covered like our Sun Raven or Night Eagle. They hold about 10-12 people and reach speeds of 25-30 knots. The whole adventure takes around 2.5 to 3 hours, which means heaps of time for spotting those magnificent creatures.
When to go to Vancouver Island
When is the best time to visit Vancouver Island? The best time of year to visit Vancouver Island is typically from March to May and then again from September to November. This Canadian gem boasts some of the mildest weather, especially in its pleasantly dry summers. Though you might catch a light sprinkle during the spring and autumn, the temperatures remain cosy. Summer brings a vibrant energy with numerous festivals in Victoria and throughout the island. While winter isn't the peak season, its closeness to Whistler, a renowned ski haven, does attract a handful of snow enthusiasts. And for those eager to spot whales, plan your trip between April and October for the best sightings.
Where is Vancouver Island?
Vancouver Island, tucked away in the Pacific Ocean and part of British Columbia, is a real treat stretching 460 kilometres. Starting from the beautifully historic capital, Victoria, in the south and going all the way up to the wild and windy beaches of Cape Scott in the north. It's also an easy ferry hop away from the bustling city of Vancouver. So, whether you're into forest hikes, coastal drives, or just exploring cute towns, this island's got a bit of everything.
Where to stay on Vancouver Island
Tucked away among Vancouver Island's majestic cedar trees, you'll find a blend of accommodations that tell a story of heritage and natural beauty. From grand hotels that wear their history with pride to plush lodges like Clayoquot Wilderness Lodge that let you watch wildlife right out your window, there's a spot for everyone. After a day exploring the island's wonders, it's comforting to know you can kick back in a place that feels just right – whether that's a building that's seen a century pass by or a cosy nook with waves lapping nearby. Ready to discover the perfect stay? Here's our pick of some of the island's best spots.
FAQs about Vancouver Island
The island is 456 kilometres long and 100 kilometres wide at its widest point.
Although there’s been the occasional sighting of a grizzly bear, they’re not common on Vancouver Island. For bear-watching, your best bet is to take a boat ride along the mainland coast.
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