Explore Vancouver Island
You have chosen one of the world’s best places for a vacation. Vancouver Island has something for everyone. From outdoor adventures in spectacular settings to exciting shopping and dining experiences, Vancouver Island offers visitors an abundance of attractions to explore.
Covering 32,261 square kilometres, Vancouver Island has seven geographic regions. The South Island is home to the city of Victoria, British Columbia’s provincial capital, as well as Sidney, the Saanich Peninsula and Sooke.
Known as the “City of Gardens,” Victoria is a delight at any time of year. Walking is an excellent way to explore Victoria’s picturesque downtown, home of the oldest Chinatown in Canada, the Royal British Columbia Museum and the majestic Fairmont Empress Hotel, among many other treasures. One of the South Island’s most popular attractions is Butchart Gardens, a National Historic Site. Located on the Saanich Peninsula, Butchart Gardens features 55 acres of public display areas, maintained by a team of 50 gardeners.
The Gulf Islands are sprinkled across the southern part of the Salish Sea and include Salt Spring, Mayne, Galiano, North and South Pender, and Saturna. These idyllic gems invite visitors to slow down and soak in a little “Island time.” Browsing for arts and crafts, kayaking, hiking and cycling are all popular pursuits on the Gulf Islands.
The Cowichan Region is known for its vineyards and wineries. Duncan, the commercial centre of the Cowichan Valley, is home to more than 80 totem poles. Chemainus is famous for its wall-sized murals—three dozen of them and counting—which depict the town’s history of forestry and human settlement.
The Central Island includes Nanaimo, an important transportation hub, Gabriola Island and the oceanside communities of Parksville and Qualicum Beach. Inland from Parksville, look for Coombs Country Market with its family of goats on the roof. The Horne Lake Caves, north of Qualicum Beach, earned the title “Best Natural Outdoor Site in BC” from Attractions Canada.
The Pacific Rim region, the Island’s West Coast, is known for breathtaking surf beaches. In MacMillan Provincial Park, Cathedral Grove is an awe-inspiring stand of 800-year-old first growth trees right along Highway 4, the gateway to the Alberni Valley.
Port Alberni, known for it's wonderful restaurants and heritage activities, celebrated their Centennial Year in 2012. Travel westward to the communities of Ucluelet and Tofino where surfing, kayaking, hiking, whale watching and fishing are all big draws in this rugged outdoor playground.
The Central Region is an exceptional adventure destination. The Comox Valley (Courtenay and Comox, Cumberland, Royston, Union Bay, Fanny Bay, Black Creek, Merville, Denman and Horby Islands), Campbell River, Gold River and Tahsis offer a myriad of activities, including wildlife watching, kayaking and fishing. Mount Washington Alpine Resort entices skiers and snowboarders in the winter and hikers and mountain bikers in the summer. Denman and Hornby Islands, as well as the Discovery Islands (Quadra, Cortes and the Outer Islands) are known for outdoor activities and vibrant arts communities.
The North Island is a great place to escape the crowds. Whale watching tours depart from Telegraph Cove, a historical boardwalk village. Port McNeill and Port Hardy are jumping-off spots for whale watching and tours to view bears along the mainland inlets. Residents of Alert Bay share their traditional First Nations culture with visitors, and the Finnish community of Sointula has an intriguing past as a socialist commune.