Less than a two-hour ferry ride from Vancouver, this lush outpost at Canada’s western edge consistently ranks as one of the World’s Best Islands in travel magazine polls. But it isn’t overrun or ultra-commercialized. That’s what travelers love about Vancouver Island.
Humble towns, many built on fishing or logging, are tucked along Vancouver Island’s pristine coastline. A mountainous spine runs the length of the island, giving way to rivers, lakes, fjords and towering old-growth forests that are a wonderland for outdoor adventure. In every region you’ll find thousands of gorgeous pockets of nature and culture that seem, for the most part, undiscovered.
Most visitors start their trip at Vancouver Island’s southern tip in Victoria, the provincial capital, and work their way north. Driving the length nonstop takes about 5 ½ hours. From the east to west coast, it’s about a 2-hour trip over the mountains.
The highway north from Victoria leads into the warm, fertile Cowichan Valley where the Gourmet Trail connects wineries with fresh seafood docks and organic farms. The best time to visit is in summer, when everything is open and the Quw’utsun’ Cultural Centre has aboriginal demonstrations.
In the Central Island the seaside resort towns of Parksville and Qualicum Beach see vacationing families return year after year for sandy beaches, golf courses, spa time and to see the famous goats on the roof at Coombs Market.
For mountain bikers and hikers the uncrowded trails through the mountains of Strathcona Provincial Park offer the chance to see black bears and waterfalls. Winter brings skiers and snowboarders to the park’s Mount Washington Alpine Resort, where Olympic athletes trained before the 2010 Vancouver Games.
Farther north the population thins and the highway narrows to two lanes. Tourism is practically nonexistent except for the guides who outfit you with a kayak or Zodiac for whale-watching or take you on the salmon fishing excursion of a lifetime.
On the rugged west coast, life is isolated and ocean-centric. Fishing is king in Ucluelet. The surf town of Tofino revels in a bohemian vibe in its artist studios, cafes and beach bonfires. Food truck fish tacos and Pacific Rim National Park’s beaches are equally legendary here.
Coming soon: Itineraries for arts & culture, nature & wildlife, outdoor adventure and more.
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Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We donât want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.
Price ranges are quoted in C$.
See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $5 per person
$$ => Tickets $6-15 per person
$$$ => Tickets $16 per person
$ => Rooms less than $100 for a double
$$ => Rooms $101-200 for a double
$$$ => Rooms $201 for a double
$ => $1-20 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$$ => $21-40 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$$$ => $41 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $11-30 per person