Province/Territory: British Columbia

West Coast Artisan & Adventure Central

  • 50 ecological reserves
  • 1000 year-old cedars
  • 9396 lakes

Life on Vancouver Island moves at a relaxed pace. This is where you can take your pick between luxury lodges or kayaking into untouched wilderness, between boutique shopping or hiking into hushed groves of old-growth cedars, fir and Sitka spruce.

Choose adventure and see winter gales turn the Pacific Ocean into frothy swells in the surf town of Tofino. Dive into sunken naval ships, bike trek though the backwoods or fish for record-breaking salmon. In beachside Parksville, play championship golf, relax with a massage and dine after in your robe in a treetop restaurant. In capital city Victoria, walk under the Gate of Harmonious Interest and enter the oldest Chinatown in Canada. Stay for dim sum and to shop for curios down Fan Tan Alley, once the site of the city’s infamous opium dens and gambling houses.

Outdoor adventure

  • Take a paddle on the wild side on a sea kayak adventure from Tofino to spot whales, bears and marine wildlife.
  • Storm-watch while standing on the edge of the world facing mightly Pacific Ocean waves in Tofino.
  • Drive through the range of Roosevelt Elk, the world's largest elk, en route to Port Hardy to embark on a BC Ferries cruise to BC's remote, ruggedly beautiful wilds.
  • Surf, beachcomb and horseback ride on sandy beaches in Pacific Rim National Park.
  • Go snowtubing on Mount Washington, voted one of the top 10 for “Best Powder” by Ski Canada magazine.
  • Explore ancient fossils and crystal formations on a caving expedition at Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park.
  • Dive in Vancouver Island waters, declared the world’s best for clarity and marine life diversity by the Jacques Cousteau Society.

Urban adventures

  • Take High Tea as the British colonials did at Victoria’s 100-year-old Fairmont Empress Hotel.
  • Enjoy spectacular blooms, concerts on the lawn and a synchronized fireworks show on Saturdays in the summer at world famous Butchart Gardens].
  • Find European boutiques in charming Trounce Alley or explore Antique Row along Fort Street in Victoria's downtown core.

Arts & Culture

  • Touch a woolly mammoth and try on a replica necklace of a 2,800 year old Syrian princess on a behind-the-scenes tour at the Royal BC Museum.
  • Visit Emily Carr House to find out more about Canada's beloved landscape painter and writer.
  • Catch the ballet, opera and concerts at Victoria's Royal Theatre and MacPherson Playhouse, and Nanaimo's Port Theatre.
  • Watch a 3D documentary at the six-storey IMAX Victoria Theatre.
  • Follow the yellow footsteps on a walking tour of the famous city murals in Chemainus.

Food & Drink

  • Lift a prawn trap from a pontoon boat on a Brentwood Bay eco-tour and leave your bounty with the chef to prepare it, the way you like it, for dinner.
  • Toast the queen with a martini in the antique splendour of the Empress Hotel's Bengal Lounge.
  • Drive right to the doorsteps of winemakers and artisanal food makers during the annual Cowichan Wine & Culinary Festival.
  • Buy fresh seafood off the boat at Fisherman's Wharf in Victoria.
  • Dine on fresh local fare in quaint Cowichan Bay, North America's first Cittaslow (Slow City) town.

Nature & Wildlife

  • Listen to orcas through a hydrophone from camp on a four-day family kayak tour with Kingfisher Wilderness Adventures.
  • Watch for whales while flying high over the Georgia Straight to Victoria on a seaplane Aero-Mail Run to the Gulf Islands.
  • Spot orcas, humpback whales, bears and sea lions a marine excursion in Tofino.
  • View the salmon run in Goldstream Provincial Park, an old-growth temperate rainforest just outside Victoria.
  • See rehabilitated eagles, other raptors and black bears at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre.

Weather

  • Warm summer weather extends from mid-June until September — expect average daily July temperatures of 21.8°C in Victoria, which boasts the mildest climate in Canada and an average of 2,183 hours of sunshine a year.
  • Temperatures are slightly cooler, with more moisture, at the north end of the Island in Port Hardy. Expect summer averages of 17°C and winters average 4°C.
  • Island winters, from December until March, are mild and damp; the average monthly temperature for Victoria in January is 6.5°C.
  • Spring lasts from March until early June, with flowers blooming as early as February in Victoria and Nanaimo.
  • Fall, from late-September to November, brings more mild and cool weather.
  • Discover local weather information. Research local weather patterns at Environment Canada's Canadian Climate Website.
Quick facts

Area: 31,285 sq-km (12,079 sq-mi)
Status: Largest island off North America's west coast
Population: 700,593 Vancouver Island; 726,367 total region
Cities: Capital Victoria, Nanaimo, Port Alberni, Parksville, Courtenay, Campbell River
Access: BC Ferries operates 47 ports of call on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.

When to go
Getting Here

Vancouver Island is located on Canada’s West Coast and is accessed by BC Ferries terminals in Nanaimo and Victoria. Floatplane service connects to downtown Vancouver. The Island is also served by international and regional airports:

Getting around