Vancouver Island is one of Canada’s best vacation destinations. With a mild climate and pristine wilderness, it’s a great place to visit at any time of year. Here are the top 5 Vancouver Island activities you can’t miss out on!
Vancouver Island is a whale watcher’s paradise. Up and down the coast, you’ll find killer whales (orcas), humpback whales, gray whales, minke whales and a variety of other marine mammals, including dolphins, seals and sea lions. The peak whale watching season begins in mid-may and lasts until October. Great Pacific Adventures, a Victoria-based company, offers tours on both covered vessels and zodiacs.
West Coast Trail
The West Coast Trail is a 75 km long backpacking trail that follows the southeastern edge of Vancouver Island, from Bamfield to Port Renfrew. Built in 1907, the Vancouver Island hiking trail was originally used to facilitate the rescue of shipwreck survivors along the coast, but it is now part of Pacific Rim National Park. Rated one the world’s top hiking trails, the West Coast Trail winds through forest, bogs and beaches and requires a high level of fitness, knowledge and skill to complete. The trail is open from May 1 until September 30.
Storm watching is a relatively new tourism phenomenon on Vancouver Island but it’s one that shouldn’t be missed! The best time for storm watching is November through March, when the wind, rain and waves pound the west coast of Vancouver Island. Witness the ferocity from a cozy beachfront cabin in Tofino or Ucluelet or brave the storm from a secure outdoor viewing point.
The Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino bills itself as the “original Vancouver Island storm watching destination.” Every single room, suite and public space has a view over the ocean, allowing guests to view the legendary storms from a safe and luxurious place.
Open year-round, the world-famous Butchart Gardens offers 22 hectares of stunning floral displays. It was created in 1904 and still retains much of the original design. Today, it features over 1 million blooms and attracts over 1 million visitors each year. Be sure not to miss out on the spectacular summer fireworks displays!
Other Victoria BC gardens include the Abkhazi Garden, Government House, Hatley Gardens, Finnerty Gardens and the gardens at Fairholme Manor bed and breakfast.
Vancouver Island art is a eclectic mix of past and present. In the same day, you can see 3000-year-old petroglyphs, world-famous murals, traditional aboriginal paintings and contemporary shows put on by local artists. Emily Carr, one of Canada’s most famous artists, lived and worked on Vancouver Island.
Cedar Hill Longhouse has a great collection of northwest coast native art, including original paintings, sculptures, carvings and limited edition serigraphs/silkscreens.
The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria hosts the largest public art collection in BC, with over 17,000 permanent works of art plus popular exhibitions.
Where is Vancouver Island?
Vancouver Island—not to be confused with the city of Vancouver—is a large island off the southwest coast of British Columbia. You have to take a ferry to get there, but it’s one of the beautiful journeys you’ll ever take. All the ferries to Vancouver Island accept both vehicles and foot passengers, except for the ferry from Seattle to Vancouver, which is a high-speed, passenger-only ferry.