Vancouver Island is part of British Columbia, Canada. As well as the island itself, it is also a region which includes the Gulf Islands in the Strait of Georgia. It is often referred to by the locals as simply 'The Island'. Vancouver Island is the largest island off the west coast of North America at about 450km long and up to about 90km wide. It has a population of over 700,000 people, with a little less than half of those living in the Greater Victoria area.
|North Vancouver Island
The least populated area; this remote area offers many recreational opportunities.
A group of many islands between Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia. There's kayaking, the off the beaten path charm of Quadra Island and wildlife ranging from orcas to grizzly bears.
|Central Vancouver Island
On the east side of the island, it includes the city of Nanaimo, the beaches of Parksville-Qualicum Beach, the Comox Valley towns of Courtenay and Comox, and the salmon fishing town of Campbell River. Heading westwards is Tofino, with surfing, whale watching and storm watching.
|South Vancouver Island
The most densely populated region, this area includes Victora, the stately capital of the province, the rural Saanich Peninsula, home to Buchart Gardens, and other nearby towns.
|Southern Gulf Islands
Group of islands between Victoria and Nanaimo in the Strait of Georgia.
- Victoria - The capital city of British Columbia that markets itself as a piece of England.
- Sidney - A relaxing city 20 minutes from downtown Victoria, 5 minutes from the Victoria International Airport, Quiet, on the Waterfront with quaint little shops. A tourist vacation and retirement location with waterfront walkways and bicycle paths.
- Port Renfrew - A 2 hour scenic drive from Victoria on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, Port Renfrew is a small west coast community originally built by logging and fishing. It is situated along 150 miles of rugged uninhabited coastline.
- Nanaimo - The second largest city, and largest port on Vancouver island.
- Parksville-Qualicum Beach - Popular summer vacation spot with its many sandy beaches and wide range of accommodation. Off the beach, there are fun parks for the kids and some pleasant walking trails. Nearby are a handful of provincial parks where you can see waterfalls, try to wrap your arms around an old growth tree or go caving.
- Tofino - Ecotourism center on the beautiful (if wet) west coast of the island. The main attraction is Long Beach which is part of Pacific Rim National Park. There's also surfing, whale watching and storm watching (in winter).
- Courtenay/Comox - The gateway to Mt Washington, Strathcona Provincial Park and some spectacular fishing. These two towns are a beautiful place to visit in summer and winter.
- Port Hardy - Small logging town on the North tip of the island, gateway to Cape Scott Provincial Park.
- Telegraph Cove - Voted one of the ten best "towns" in Canada to visit by travel writers (as published in Harrowsmith Magazine).
- Cape Scott Provincial Park — Coastal hikes, amazing beaches and wildlife
- Gulf Islands National Park Reserve — Established in 2003, Gulf Islands National Park Reserve safeguards a portion of the gorgeous Gulf Islands archipelago. Gulf Islands National Park Reserve offers visitors incredible opportunities for boating, kayaking, hiking, wildlife viewing and picnicking. The larger islands of Saturna, Mayne and Pender can be accessed via BC Ferries, with daily departures from Swartz Bay, Vancouver Island. Please visit the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve website for more information .
- Juan de Fuca Provincial Park — park and hiking trail on the southwest coast
- Mt. Washington Alpine Resort — alpine skiing, often with the most snow in Canada, and mountain biking
- Pacific Rim National Park Reserve — scenic, multi-unit park on the west coast, includes
- Strathcona Provincial Park —
The most common way to get to Vancouver Island is by BC Ferries. There is regular ferry service from Tsawwassen (near Vancouver) to Swartz Bay (Near Victoria), Tsawwassen to Duke Point (near Nanaimo) and Horseshoe Bay (Near Vancouver) to Departure Bay (in Nanaimo). These ferries generally run about every two hours with more frequent service on some of the routes in the summer.
The Victoria airport has flights from various locations in Canada. There are also flights from Vancouver to many of the towns and cities on the island. Floatplane facilities located both in the Victoria and Maple Bay.
Floatplanes operated by Harbour Air, Salt Spring Air fly frequently from-to downtown Vancouver, YVR and other destinations including the scenic Gulf Islands. Some of these float plane operators will also do tours of the city and nearby attractions starting at about $80-100 per person... a great way to see the island.
The easiest way to travel around Vancouver Island is to drive.
There is coach bus service to most of the major cities on the island, but it is generally a patchwork, and travelling around by bus often involves inconvenient waits to catch connecting buses.
In the Parksville / Qualicum Beach region , see the giant old growth forest at Cathedral Grove, funky "goats on the roof" market at Coombs, and watch the tide go out for more than a kilometer at Parksville and Rathtrevor Beaches.
Go on a hiking or walking nature tour of ancient rainforests with their giant trees, visit alpine meadows and lakes or stroll along colourful sea side tide pools. Try bird watching or wildlife viewing in the area's diverse ecosystems. A mild climate means year round tour opportunities including winter surfing, storm watching, mountain skiing and fall salmon viewing into December. Journey on a whale watching or grizzly bear tour.
Out of Telegraph Cove on the North End of the island, kayak with the Orca. Half day to 7 day expeditions in Johnstone Strait & vicinity.
- Golf at over 11 world-class courses
- Pacific Northwest Expeditions Ltd., P.O. Box 97, Stn. A Nanaimo, BC, ☎ . Sea kayaking tours and vacations. Kayaking the Inside Passage with killer whales, whale watching, grizzly bear viewing, and lodge based kayak adventures.
- Coastal Bliss Adventures Ltd., 6-5803 Banks Rd, toll-free: . Hiking, kayaking, and canoeing tours from coastline to the Coast Mountains. Wildlife viewing at the boundaries of land, sea, and sky. Tours on the new North Coast Trail and kayaking in both Pacific Rim and Gulf Islands National Parks.
- Take BC ferries from Swartz Bay (near Victoria), Nanaimo or Comox to the Lower Mainland, with urban Vancouver and its environs offering a sophisticated experience and other areas such as the Sunshine Coast being more rural and natural.
- BC Ferries from Port Hardy head through the Inside Passage to Prince Rupert, accessing the North and Central Coast of British Columbia.
- BC Ferries from Swartz Bay (near Victoria) to the Southern Gulf Island communities of Saturna, Mayne, Pender, Galiano and Saltspring. The Southern Gulf Islands have something to offer any kind of traveller. Visitors who love the outdoors can boat, hike or view wildlife in one of the Southern Gulf Islands' beautiful regional, provincial and national parks. For the culinary traveller, local wineries, fromageries, bakeries, and farms all offer tantalizing treats. For those interested in immersing themselves in the Gulf Islands lifestyle, check-out the many local galleries, theatres and community events. Travellers who just want to be pampered can relax at any number of high-end resorts, retreats and spas, while the low-key traveller can experience a quaint bed and breakfast, or a rustic campsite in Gulf Islands National Park Reserve.
- Black Ball Transport offers ferries from Victoria to Port Angeles, Washington, the gateway to the Olympic National Park
- Washington State Ferries offer ferries from Sidney to the San Juan Islands and Anacortes.
- Desolation Sound: is between Lund and Campbell River up to Dent Island filled with beautiful islands and few towns