Eco Tourism on Vancouver Island
Vancouver Island is an outdoor adventure wonderland, offering an abundance of camping, hiking and eco-tourism experiences. When Islanders want to brag about their natural playground, they’ll tell you it’s the only place in Canada where you can ski in the morning and kayak in the afternoon.
One of the most prestigious hiking trails in the world is on the west coast of the Island: the aptly named West Coast Trail. With spectacular coastal views and challenging forested terrain, the trail has hikers jostling for their reservation early for the May 1st opening, to secure the bragging rights to say they’ve completed it—in an average of 5 to 7 days.
If you’ve just arrived, the nearby Juan de Fuca Trail is considered a comparable hike and doesn’t require reservations. There are several exit points on this trail, so it can be completed in as few as 3 days. The West Coast Trail is part of Pacific Rim National Park, worth the visit for its coastal forests and long beaches, including the 25-kilometre Long Beach Unit.
Much flatter, though not without its share of rainfall, is Port Hardy’s Cape Scott Trail in northern Vancouver Island. The 24-kilometre coastal hike travels through a variety of terrain, from pristine beaches to boglands and dwarfed coastal forests.There are many excellent day hikes, ranging from easy strolls to challenging eight-hour treks on Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and the Discovery Islands Quadra and Cortes.
The Wild Pacific Trail, located in the district of Ucluelet, is a seven phase trail system skirting the rugged cliffs and shoreline of the westcoast of Vancouver Island. Overlooking Barkley Sound and the Broken Group Islands to the east and the open Pacific Ocean to the south and west, the Wild Pacific Trail offers spectacular shoreline panoramas and seaward vistas through ancient cedar and spruce-framed viewing platforms constructed on the best headlands along the route. The trail is presently divided into three sections: Lighthouse Loop, Big Beach and Brown's Beach.
From Victoria in the south to Cape Scott Provincial Park at the northern tip, Vancouver Island is well set up for campers. Provincial park campgrounds are spread throughout the Island. Green Point Campground, in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, offers campsites facing the surf of Long Beach.
Strathcona Provincial Park is a magnificent mountain wilderness with an extensive network of hiking trails. Climbers keep busy reaching for the sky, with rock to scale in the summer and ice to climb in the winter.
Kayak rentals and tours are widely available. The nutrient-rich waters surrounding Vancouver Island are a playground for paddle enthusiasts, and professional guides allow even beginners to access the beauty of places like calm nooks in the Discovery Islands, the contrasting outer reefs of the Broken Group Islands or the inlet passages of Clayoquot Sound.
World-class saltwater and freshwater fishing lures anglers to Vancouver Island in pursuit of all five species of Pacific salmon, as well as halibut, trout and cod. Campbell River and Port Alberni are two of many places to get hooked.
Wildlife tours provide the opportunity to see whales, bears and other creatures in their natural habitat. Tours leave from several locations, including Tofino, Ucluelet, Telegraph Cove, Port Hardy, Quadra Island and Campbell River.
Southern Vancouver Island and Discovery Passage (Campbell River and the Discovery Islands) boast some of the clearest water in the world. Scuba divers report seeing octopus, giant anemones, seals and wolf eels. Take surfing and kayaking lessons from the experts in Tofino and Ucluelet.
Caving, or spelunking, is growing in popularity. The Horne Lake Caves near Qualicum Beach, Upana Caves near Gold River, and Thanksgiving Cave near Tahsis, all offer spelunking experiences for all skill levels.
Vancouver Island has become well-known for mountain biking. Challenging and scenic trails are situated in the Comox Valley, Mount Washington, Campbell River and the Discovery Islands. Mount Washington and Mount Cain, noted for their generous annual snowfalls, are home to first-rate skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing.