While downtown Vancouver has a lot to offer city lovers and nightlife enthusiasts, Vancouver Island has an entirely different lifestyle to explore. The fast-paced rhythm of everyday life slows down here. Even though downtown Vancouver is only an hour and a half away from Victoria by ferry, the two feel like they’re an ocean apart. Trading high rises for mountaintops, a visit to this island forces us to move with the tides and breeze. This cozy, community-centered destination has a tremendous amount to offer, and will surely steal the heart of anyone looking to connect with nature. With that being said, we have assembled a few key destinations and activities to add to your Vancouver Island bucket list! Check out our favourite spots below!
Getting to the Island and Touring Around
To get to the island from downtown Vancouver, visitors can fly or take the ferry—though most locals will recommend using the latter. In the summer, ferry bookings can get particularly busy, so it is highly recommended to book a ride in advance. After arriving on the island, this website can be used to stay up to date on any nearby road closures. This will be especially helpful while planning day trips and overnights around the island.
While the entire island is undoubtedly worthy of exploration, Tofino, Victoria, Ucluelet, and Nanaimo are a few popular spots. Tofino is known for its surf culture and remote beauty. It is often thought of as a hybrid between a tropical climate and a classic Canadian landscape.
Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, is known for its outdoor activities and vibrant art scene. Nanaimo is home to the creation of… you guessed it… Nanaimo bars! Need we say more? The cost of living in Nanaimo tends to be lower than in other locations on the island, so if you’re looking to stay in any city long term, consider Nanaimo.
Lastly, Ucluelet is another highly recommended area to spend time in. This municipality is quickly becoming a world-renowned fishing destination as it offers some of the best saltwater fishing in the Pacific Northwest. Staying in Ucluelet is also typically less expensive than Tofino, and the views are equally as captivating!
What to Do With Your Time
There are a myriad of landmarks to see and activities to do, the following are some that we believe speak to life on the island! First up, one non-negotiable bucket list item for many travellers is to visit Coombs Country Market. This market has an incredible on-site bakery and doubles as a general store. However, its main feature is its grass roof. Seven months out of the year, this grass roof houses a group of goats. Additionally, going caving with Horne Lake Caves is another unique activity that will stay with you for a while!
Joining a Homalco Wildlife & Cultural Tour is also another incredibly special experience. Here, you will have the opportunity to travel alongside Homalco First Nation community members, to see and learn about their traditional territory, Bute Inlet. This tour invites visitors to watch bears, learn about the Homalco’s culture, and experience the deep level of respect and connection that the Homalco feel towards the surrounding wildlife.
Where your Hiking Boots can Take you
When it comes time to spend the day outside, there is no shortage of trails and beaches to choose from. Cathedral Grove in Macmillan Provincial Park, for example, is a beautiful location to take in the beauty of old-growth forests. The 16-kilometre stretch known as Long Beach in the Pacific Rim National Park is certainly a sight that needs to be experienced firsthand. The West Coast trail around Tofino and Ucluelet is also highly recommended for its old-growth forests and centuries-old Douglas fir, Sitka spruce and Western red cedar trees. Lastly, kayaking and paddleboarding in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Clayoquot Sound should be added to everyone’s Vancouver Island travel itinerary!
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By: Briahna McTigue