Welcome to the Vancouver Island Region!
Welcome to Vancouver Island on Canada’s far west (read: best) coast. Inhale the timeless peace and mossy aroma of verdant old-growth rainforests. Focus your eyes on distant snow-capped mountains while striding barefoot along softly curving beaches. Snap digital mementos of a who’s who of wildlife on land, sea and soaring overhead. Shop, dine, wine, educate, amuse and deeply relax yourself along with friendly locals and your near-and-dear alike in cosmopolitan centres, small towns and snug harbours.
Paradise for travellers seeking authentic, no-hassle, go-anywhere adventures both outdoors and in supreme indoor comfort has a new name: Vancouver Island. Voted the #1 island in Canada and #6 in the world in Condé Nast Traveler magazine’s 2012 readers’ poll, and #1 island in Canada and the Continental USA by Travel + Leisure magazine in 2012. The Island itself and the myriad smaller islands that shelter along its eastern shoreline are internationally renowned as a short and long-term vacation destination.
The exposed top of a submerged mountain range, Vancouver Island stretches for 460km/285mi from the Juan de Fuca Strait in the south (separating Canada from the U.S.) near British Columbia’s capital city Victoria all the way to Queen Charlotte Sound off Cape Scott at its northern tip. The region covered in these pages also includes the idyllic southern Gulf Islands, their northern counterparts, the mazy waterways of the Johnstone Strait and Boughton Archipelago, and a sizable chunk of the mainland’s fjord-like coastline.
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 your compass for off-the-grid adventure. Many visitors mix it up in spontaneous, unscripted style by combining crunchy outdoor experiences with the smoothest of urban and resort-town pleasures. Rugged oceanfront hiking trails, wilderness camping, big-wave surfing, mountain biking meccas, wildlife watching expeditions, caving and kayaking trips through postcard seascapes makes the ‘roughing it’ part of the equation a rare and special delight.
As for the pampering, Vancouver Island delivers big time. Shop ‘til you drop 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 world-class restaurants. Sip celebrated cold-climate wine on vineyard tours. Step back in history at provincial, community and First Nations’ museums. Enjoy live music, theatre and the fine arts. Or simply chill out in the warm company of friends and family at getaway island retreats. Warm Pacific Ocean currents give Vancouver Island one of the mildest climates in Canada. Here you can ski or snowboard in the morning, have a late lunch at a beachside bistro and play nine holes of golf in the afternoon. Spring, summer and fall offer lovely moderate weather conditions with shirt-sleeve days and pleasantly cool evenings. July and August are tops for beach and outdoor adventures packed with long, active days in the sun and plenty of lively community festivals. Winters are traditionally wet, yet the Island’s off-season is also free from snow (apart from the higher elevations) and wildly exciting – especially when watching the storms roll in with majestic fury from the open Pacific. Good raingear, gumboots and the lure of low accommodation rates makes Vancouver Island one of Canada’s best-kept secret snowbird escapes.
Whatever your make-it-up-as-you- go agenda, you’ll experience the magic of Island life. In these pages, we’ve divided the Island into seven geographic regions notable for their unique character and charms. All are served by modern roads and transit systems. Vancouver Island is within easy hailing distance of Vancouver and Seattle – little more than 20 minutes by float plane (40 minutes from Seattle) or a couple of hours at most by the reliably efficient British Columbia 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 paradise.