Welcome to Canada’s far west (best) coast

Paddle through serene coastal waters. Backpack in majestic wilderness parks. Marvel at the furred, feathered and finned wildlife on land and out to sea. Gaze at distant snow-capped mountains while striding barefoot along softly curving beaches. Bomb down mountain bike trails, surf the big waves and swim with the salmon. Inhale crisp, clean ocean breezes and the mossy fragrance of old-growth rainforests.

Grr - For a once-in-a-lifetime bucket list experience, join an adventure with a local guide in search of grizzly bears.
Grr – For a once-in-a-lifetime bucket list experience, join an adventure with a local guide in search of grizzly bears.

Once you’ve had your day’s fill of nature, head for cosmopolitan centres, small towns and snug harbours to shop, dine, wine, educate and amuse yourself. Paradise for travellers seeking authentic, go-anywhere adventures both outdoors and in supreme indoor comfort has a new name: Vancouver Island. To prove it, the Island has yet again retained its status as the #1 Island in Continental US and Canada in Travel + Leisure magazine’s 2014 World’s Best Awards.

The highlight reel as cited by voters includes scenery, wineries, whales, sport fishing, sailing, beaches, the arts and the Island’s “wonderful people.” As the editors of Condé Nast Traveler have noted, “our readers implore visitors to this captivating gem to stay as long as possible since there is simply so much to see and do.” The warm welcome our visitors receive from locals is a big part of the appeal, and it’s no surprise that Victoria was recently voted the third friendliest city on the planet behind only Melbourne and Auckland in a CN Traveler readers’ poll.

The exposed top of a submerged mountain range, the Island stretches for 460km/285mi from charmingly sophisticated Victoria in the southwest to Cape Scott’s windswept beaches and rugged headlands at its northern tip.

The regions covered on this website also include the idyllic southern and northern Gulf Islands, the mazy waterways of Discovery Passage and Queen Charlotte Strait, and a sizable chunk of the B.C. mainland’s fjord-like coastline, including the Great Bear Rainforest.

This is a land of extremes, both natural and cultural, where modern creature comforts exist alongside the living traditions of the First Nations’ peoples who have resided here for millennia. Enjoy leisurely roadtrips with the whole family. Or set the GPS for off-the-grid adventure. The friendly, knowledgeable staff at Visitor Centres across the Island are eager to help with advice, brochures, maps and free wireless Internet services.

Many visitors mix it up in spontaneous, unscripted style by combining crunchy outdoor experiences with the smoothest of refined  leasures. Epic oceanfront hiking trails, wilderness camping, rock climbing, cycling, wildlife watching expeditions, ziplines, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding makes the “roughing” part of the equation a rare and special delight.

San Josef Bay boasts warm sandy beaches, haystack rock formations and is a popular day hike for North Island residents.
San Josef Bay boasts warm sandy beaches, haystack rock formations and is a popular day hike for North Island residents.
These particular whales are resident whales and can be frequently seen in and around the southern waters of Vancouver Island.

Killer Whales (Orcinus Orca) playfully slap their pectoral fins in the waters of Haro Strait

These particular whales are resident whales and can be frequently seen in and around the southern waters of Vancouver Island.
A must see, the cathedral grove trail winds through an ancient old-growth forest
A must see, the cathedral grove trail winds through an ancient old-growth forest

As for the pampering, Vancouver Island delivers big time. Shop in unique retail outlets selling local fashion, food, wine, crafts and art. Book restorative stays in resort lodgings, welcoming B&Bs and funky hostels. Graze on the slowest of slow foods (i.e., fresh, organic and ultra local) in unpretentious, quietly worldclass restaurants. Sip award-winning wine, cider and spirits on vineyard tours. Step back in history at provincial, municipal, public and First Nations’ museums. Enjoy live music, theatre and the fine arts. Or simply chill with friends and family at getaway retreats far from the hurly-burly of the modern world.

Warm Pacific Ocean currents give Vancouver Island one of the mildest climates in Canada. Spring, summer and fall deliver shirt-sleeve days and cool evenings. Conditions turn dry and pleasantly toasty in July and August, perfect for trips to the beach, camping excursions, open-air markets and a multitude of community, culinary and music festivals. Winters are traditionally wet yet also free from snow (apart from the fantastic powder conditions at Mount Washington and Mount Cain) and sometimes wildly exciting – especially when storms roll in with majestic fury from the open Pacific. All this makes the Island one of Canada’s favourite short-haul snowbird escapes. Discover the truth of a popular West Coast boast by skiing or snowboarding in the morning, enjoying a late lunch at a beachside bistro and playing 18 holes of golf before sunset.

Tourism Vancouver Island’s Vacation Guide divides the Island into seven geographic regions notable for their unique character and attractions. All are served by modern roads and transit systems. The international airports in Victoria and Comox welcome incoming flights from Canada, the U.S. and overseas. And the Island is within temptingly easy getaway distance of Vancouver and Seattle – little more than 20 minutes by float plane or a couple of hours at most by the reliably efficient B.C. and Washington state ferry systems. However you get here, you’ll want to linger and pinch yourself as you discover one memorable place after the next on Vancouver Island: Heaven on earth and Canada’s Pacific Northwest paradise.