Vancouver Island is a mere 90 minute ferry ride from Vancouver or a 25 minute hopper flight away. The 460 km by 80 km island offers an incredibly diverse array of activities – but there are a lot of people who don’t make it past the Victoria area.
First some Vancouver Island facts.
- It’s the world’s 43rd largest island.
- It’s Canada’s 11th largest island.
- Nearly half the Vancouver Island population lives in the greater Victoria area.
- The island is named after George Vancouver, a British Royal navy officer who explored the North American coast between 1791 and 1794.
- Victoria is the capital of British Columbia.
25 Must Do Activities on Vancouver Island
- Hike out to the Cape Scott Lighthouse at the wild northwest tip of Vancouver Island. This area is famous for its winter storms – and waves 70 feet tall have been reported.
- Go Grizzly Bear watching in Knight Inlet. (Knight Inlet is on the mainland but tours originate from the island). You might like Hidden Cove Lodge to be your base.
- Try a Stubbs Island whale watching trip – the first company to offer such a trip in British Columbia.
- Rent a kayak in Telegraph Cove and take a day trip in search of the Orca whales. Bring a picnic and pull into one of the driftwood laden beaches.
- Drive to Zeballos – an old mining town – on dirt roads used by huge logging trucks. Picture yourself living in such a remote community and then hop on a fishing boat for the day. Reel in huge halibut and salmon.
- Take a scenic boat ride on the M.V. Lady Rose. The boat is being retired but the Frances Barkley will still offer daily scheduled boat trips – just like they have for 70 years – to points along Alberni Inlet and Barkley Sound.
- Visit Strathcona Provincial Park. Hike the Forbidden Plateau in the summer. Ski Mount Washington in the winter.
- Kayak the Broken Group of Islands in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.
- Visit the town of Tofino and Ucluelet. Try surfing on Long Beach. Go whale watching – in fact the spring migration is on. Kayak Clayoquot Sound. Take a boat ride to Hot Springs Cove and immerse yourself in natural pools. The boardwalk to get to the hotsprings is itself an interesting attraction. Boaters from all over the world have carved their names in individual boards so you can see the history of who has visited. Fish. Dine well. Sleep on the beach.
- Visit Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Provincial Park. Here you’ll find Douglas fir trees 800 years old – measuring 250 feet in height and 25 feet around. You could have a religious experience in the grove – the trees inspire such awe.
- Tour the Vancouver Island wineries. In the summer season many of them offer a fine dining option too. You might also want to try Merridale Cider – a business offering everything cider including seasonal spa services.
- Stop off in Chemainus and experience professional theater in a small town. There are lots of matinees too.
- Take a cooking class at Kilrenny Farm.
- Cowichan Bay is a not to be missed stop – notable for its cheese shop, fantastic bakery and delicious ice cream. Bring your appetite.
- Visit the Damali Lavender Farm in the Cowichan Valley.
- Take the 4.5 hour train ride from Victoria to Courtney. Enjoy the views of a spectacular gorge and the Gulf Islands as you zip along the Strait of Georgia.
- Stop by the Butchart Gardens – a 55 acre property that close to one million people visit every year. It takes 50 full time and 12 part time gardeners to look after the place.
- Make a stopover in Sidney-by-the-Sea. The town offers lovely oceanside walking, a vibrant main street and the most used book stores per capita of anywhere in Canada.
- Take tea at the Empress Hotel in Victoria . Tea is served in the relaxing atmosphere of the elegantly restored Tea Lobby. Be prepared to drop $44 – $55 – per person.
- Use the dedicated walkway and saunter along Victoria’s Inner Harbour. If you have extra time visit the Royal BC Museum and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. If you’re hungry try the perennially busy Rebar Modern Food – a restaurant offering inventive vegan and vegetarian food.
- Take a harbour ferry cruise.
- Try one of the local brews – at the Canoe or Swan Brewpub.
- Cycle the 55 kms on the Galloping Goose Trail from downtown Victoria to the Sooke Potholes.
- Hike all or a portion of the 47 km Juan de Fuca Trail that follows the western shoreline of southern Vancouver Island.
- If you want a longer (75 kms) more difficult hike then try the West Coast Trail – north of the Juan de Fuca Trail.
This list of 25 must do activities on Vancouver Island should get you started. Any other suggestions would be welcomed in the comment section.
Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta
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