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Stunning landscapes and First Nations heritage converge on spectacular Vancouver Island, where you’ll find dramatic scenery ranging from soaring forests to windswept coastlines. Whether you’re chasing waves on the western edge, spotting pods of whales, sampling local wines, embarking on grizzly bear-watching tours, or hiking amid giant sequoia trees, you’ll have no trouble finding things to do on Vancouver Island that capture British Columbia’s larger-than-life beauty. Head to town for a dose of culture: Between elegant architecture and afternoon teas, the capital of Victoria retains a British feel, while surf-spot Tofino is a bohemian hub with artistic flair.
You don’t get rainforest without plenty of rain, but July and August experience bright, sunny days, making these Vancouver Island’s busiest months. The fine weather extends into the shoulder season—which comprises May, June, and September—but in late fall, winter, and spring, you’ll encounter cool and gray conditions. It’s still gorgeous in the off-season, though. Winter brings big storms and waves to the west coast, drawing “wave chasers” who watch the dramatic weather from cozy hotel rooms.
Most travelers come to Vancouver Island by ferry, making the 1.5- to 2-hour crossing from Tsawwassen or Horseshoe Bay to Swartz Bay or Dune Point. From there, it helps to have your own vehicle unless you’re making a beeline for Victoria’s walkable downtown. Distances are considerable, and some visitors heading for the remote west coast will hop on one of the seaplanes that make regular trips between the mainland and island towns.
The Nanaimo bar, one of Canada’s most beloved desserts, is named for a small city on Vancouver Island’s east coast. The no-bake square combines chocolate, coconut, almond, and graham cracker crumbs in three layers. You can find all sorts of riffs on the sweet treat, with variations that include Nanaimo bar ice cream, cheesecake, and even Nanaimo bar waffles. For a deep dive into the toothsome dessert, check out the Nanaimo Bar Trail, which travels from Nanaimo to the surrounding region.
Vancouver Island’s top attractions include the Inner Harbour of historic Victoria, Butchart Gardens, beaches, and its lush temperate rainforest. There are also cultural experiences for every taste: Victoria has the renowned Royal BC Museum and the stately Craigdarroch Castle, while Tofino is great for browsing galleries....More
Ample kid-friendly trails, beaches, and parks make outdoor exploring a top family activity on Vancouver Island, with favorite spots including The Butchart Gardens, Wild Pacific Trail, Rainforest Trail, and Chesterman Beach. Whale- and dolphin-watching outings are also great, and kids love marine encounters at the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea....More
Spend at least three days on Vancouver Island to see some of its top sites, including historic Victoria, Butchart Gardens, and the rainforest. Budget more time if you’re heading to the scenic and rugged west coast, where Tofino is a home base for surfing, hiking, boating, and more....More
Vancouver Island is full of gorgeous spots. History buffs celebrate the beauty of Victoria’s elegant Inner Harbour, while nature lovers point to pretty Mystic Beach, the Wild Pacific Trail, or the Rainforest Trail. The island is also quite varied, with a landscape that goes from rugged mountains to sandy beaches....More
Yes, there’s a lot to do on Vancouver Island. Popular activities include hiking, surfing, visiting beaches, whale watching, and exploring the island’s many scenic parks. Victoria—British Columbia’s capital—is the hub for historic and cultural offerings, and there are over a dozen wineries in the Cowichan Valley wine region....More
Vancouver Island often has beautiful weather from May through September, though rain is possible any month of the year. In September and October, though, you can watch Chinook salmon spawning, a dramatic natural display that draws visitors to island locations such as Goldstream Provincial Park and Stamp River Provincial Park....More
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