Vancouver Island

Vacation Guide 2016

Super, Natural British Columbia
Play. All. Day.
Fisgard Lighthouse at Dawn
Sidney, the Gateway to Vancouver Island
Hwy 28 snakes through the Upper Campbell and Buttle Lake valley, deep in Strathcona Park.
Breathtaking. Heart thumping. Wow.
A bird viewing platform in the evening light extends out into the Campbell River estuary.

Welcome to Canada’s far west coast,

an ocean-carved land of extremes ranging from mild to wild, cultured to life-affirmingly raw. Paddle through serene coastal waters. Backpack in majestic wilderness parks. Marvel at orcas, black bears and the sheer abundance of furred, feathered and finned wildlife. Gaze at distant snowcapped mountains while splashing barefoot along softly curving beaches. Bomb down mountain bike trails. Stroll seawalls and loop trails. Surf the big waves. Swim with the salmon. Inhale crisp ocean breezes and the mossy fragrance of ancient, old-growth rainforests.

A typical West Coast scenic on Vancouver Island
A typical West Coast scenic on Vancouver Island’s West Coast, near Rugged Point. Credit Boomer Jerritt

Once you’ve drunk your fill of nature’s intoxicating, endlessly renewable resources, it’s time to relax, restore and recharge yourself in the region’s cosmopolitan centres, small towns and snug harbours. Expect a warm welcome and gracious hospitality in communities that are friendly, clean, safe and often positioned strategically in points of astonishing postcard beauty.

Paradise for travellers seeking authentic, a ordable, go-anywhere adventures – both outdoors and in supreme indoor comfort – has a reliably consistent name: Vancouver Island. To prove it, the Island has yet again retained its long-running status as the #1 Island in Continental US and Canada in Travel + Leisure magazine’s 2015 World’s Best Awards.

Evening light highlights receding ridges deep in Strathcona Park as seen from atop Flower Ridge. Credit Boomer Jerritt
Evening light highlights receding ridges deep in Strathcona Park as seen from atop Flower Ridge. Credit Boomer Jerritt
Kayakers paddle in Hoskyn Channel with Read Island in the background.  Discovery Island group. Credit Boomer Jerritt
Kayakers paddle in Hoskyn Channel with Read Island in the background. Discovery Island group. Credit Boomer Jerritt

The highlight reel as cited by voters includes scenery, wineries, whales, sport fishing, sailing, beaches, the arts, First Nations’ cultural experiences 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 welcoming, open-minded attitudes of Island residents is part of the appeal, and it’s no surprise that Victoria was recently voted the third friendliest city on the planet in a CN Traveler readers’ poll.

Stand Up Paddleboarding is going strong here in Comox particularly when the setting is at sundown at Goose Spit Regional Park in Comox. Credit Boomer Jerritt
Stand Up Paddleboarding is going strong here in Comox particularly when the setting is at sundown at Goose Spit Regional Park in Comox. Credit Boomer Jerritt

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 in these pages also includes 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 ord-like coastline, including the Great Bear Rainforest.

Enjoy leisurely roadtrips and offshore outings with the whole family. Or set the GPS for off-the-grid adventure. The friendly, knowledgeable staff at Visitor Centres across the Island can help with advice, brochures, maps and free wireless services.

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“full moon” plays to the audience in this fun filled dance performance in the bighouse during aboriginal days. Credit Boomer Jerritt

This is a sea-to-sky land of extremes, natural and cultural, where modern creature comforts co-exist with the living traditions of First Nations’ peoples who have resided here for millennia (at least 13,200 years according to a 2015 archeological find on Calvert Island). Experience the cultures of the Coast Salish (South Island), Nuu-chah-nulth (west coast) and Kwakwaka’wakw (North Island) through their art, cultural presentations, adventure experiences and interpretive centres. Learn about the reclaimed Potlatch, watch carvers and dancers in action, embark on wildlife tours with storytelling guides, and book stays in First Nation resorts.

Kayakers paddle in Hoskyn Channel with Read Island in the background.  Discovery Island group. Credit Boomer Jerritt
Kayakers paddle in Hoskyn Channel with Read Island in the background. Discovery Island group. Credit Boomer Jerritt

Many visitors mix it up in spontaneous, unscripted style by combining challenging outdoor experiences with the smoothest of refined pleasures. 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.

As for the pampering, Vancouver Island delivers with singular style. Shop in unique retail outlets stocked with 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 world-class restaurants. Sip award-winning wine, cider and spirits during vineyard and distillery 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.

A hiker is dwarfed by the Mt Septimus massif while hiking into Cream Lake in strathcona Park. Credit Boomer Jerritt
A hiker is dwarfed by the Mt Septimus massif while hiking into Cream Lake in strathcona Park. Credit Boomer Jerritt

Warm ocean currents give Vancouver Island one of the mildest climates in Canada. Spring, summer and fall deliver shirt-sleeve days and cool evenings. The weather heats up in July and August, perfect timing for beachcombing, 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 usually 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.

A small waterfall flows into the aquamarine waters of Bute Inlet. Credit Boomer Jerritt
A small waterfall flows into the aquamarine waters of Bute Inlet. Credit Boomer Jerritt

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 the cultured yet wild heart of Vancouver Island: Heaven on earth and Canada’s Pacific Northwest paradise.