Kristina has been writing for the internet of things since 2010 and has recently moved from tech-themed op-eds to outdoor adventure writing. She enjoys writing about adventures in nature just as much as embarking upon them herself.
On Vancouver Island, the largest island on the West Coast of North America, ancient First Nations culture blends seamlessly with the modern world. Waves of the Pacific Ocean wash against its shore, where temperate rainforests burst with life.
Marvel at an abundance of furry or feathered wildlife, or venture out in the foothills of snow-capped peaks, loud and humid rainforests, and howling wild beaches. No bucket list is complete until you’ve added Vancouver Island!
Relax, revive, and unwind in British Columbia’s capital city, Victoria, home to vibrant cosmopolitan neighborhoods and riveting harbors. On Vancouver Island, the wind rustles up adventure with every step you take. Still not sure why you should visit this island on the edge of the world? Here are 8 reasons that will remove any doubts!
1. Find Your Spirit Animal
Wolves in Vancouver Island
Cited as the best place on Earth for whale watching, Vancouver Island has something for every kind of wildlife enthusiast. With an eager eagle eye looking down on you from the skies above the Tofino Mudflats, taking a selfie will be the last thing you’ll want to do. Instead, submerge yourself into places bursting with wildlife — observe seals, cougars, grizzlies, dolphins and many other species in their natural habitats.
The Strait of Georgia, a broad waterway that separates Vancouver Island from mainland Canada, is located right on the Pacific Flyway, a bird migratory route. Twice a year, migrations from a number of species travel all the way from Alaska to Patagonia in search of better food sources, breeding grounds, and overwintering sites. Local ornithologists, scientists specializing in birds, can predict when and which species will cross the skies in spring and autumn.
Vancouver Island offers sanctuary for many endangered species. One such species is the Vancouver Island wolf. Often blamed for the reduction of local marmot populations, wolves are nevertheless essential to the ecosystem on Vancouver Island, as without them the population of deer would skyrocket, resulting in an overbrowsing of undergrowth.
Wolves usually reside in the northern part of the island, where the most contact with humans occur in Clayoquot and Barkley Sounds. Wolves and many other threatened species of mammals can be found on the island throughout the year. Hurry to witness some extraordinary wildlife in their natural habitats while you still can!
2. Follow in the Footsteps of the First Nations
Hiking trail in Vancouver Island
Home to windswept mountains and valleys carved by glacier-fed rivers, Vancouver Island has some of the most diverse hiking trails in the world. Every trail is steeped in history, taking you on a journey through time as you take in the quaint countryside. While towns and villages, bursting with indigenous culture, welcome you at the end of each day.
Choose from a short stroll on the beach, day hikes in the luscious rainforests, or life-altering multi-day adventures down history lane. Some of the best hiking trails in the world begin and end on Vancouver Island, such as the West Coast Trail, Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, Wild Pacific Trail and many more. You can embark on these adventures by yourself, or go on a guided tour, where you’re sure to come back safe with plenty of memories and new friends!
3. Combine Kayaking and Cross-Country Skiing
River kayaking in Canada
Versatile weather across Vancouver Island’s different regions and altitudes make it possible to ski and kayak on the very same day! It’s a paradise for adrenaline junkies seeking to reach new heights and take on new challenges. Combine exhilarating rides down the slopes with a peaceful paddle into the sunset for the perfect day.
Local ski resorts offer slopes with an elevation of up to 1640 ft (500m) and quick lift service. The Mount Washington Ski Resort is smack-dab in the center of some of the most beautiful alpine scenery on Vancouver Island, bordered by the Pacific Ocean on one side and Strathcona Park on the other. Ski, snowboard, and enjoy cross-country skiing trails in and out of the pines.
After a day of breathless fun on the slopes, there’s no better way to relax than by kayaking on the waters in and around the island. From experienced sea kayakers to those excited to try it out for the first time, everyone will find what they’re looking for. Praised as a paddlers’ paradise during the summer, kayaking on Vancouver Island during the winter is completely unmatched. A maze of inlets and islands, wildlife around every turn, and the turquoise waters will make your kayaking adventure unforgettable.
4. Hug the World’s Gnarliest Tree
Hug the World’s Gnarliest Trees
You’ll never feel smaller than when you’re surrounded by the giant trees of Vancouver Island! Mild climate finds refuge on the island under a temperate rainforest biome that is constantly hydrated by rainfall — spawning giant trees, sizeable bushes, and fascinating wildflowers. This unique wonder of nature is threatened by logging companies, who in their every right are able to log and clearcut them all. Protected only by passionate activists and outdoor enthusiasts, giant old-growth trees are still available to marvel at, so visit them while you can.
There are a few scenic spots on Vancouver Island where you can visit these tremendous trees. Macmillan Provincial Park is one of them, harboring Cathedral Grove, where giant Douglas-fir trees are accessible via an extensive network of man-made trails. A stroll in Macmillan Provincial Park is quite an inspirational experience.
Another great spot to marvel at these natural giants is the Port Renfrew Area. It houses Canada’s largest Sitka Spruce, the Red Creek Fir, and the giant San Juan Sitka Spruce. In Avatar Grove, you’ll also find the world’s gnarliest tree — a Red Cedar, standing 262 ft (80m) tall, accompanied by the longest recorded bulbous burl and a labyrinth of serp
5. Island-Hop Around the Vancouver Island
Sunset in vancouver island
Vancouver Island is surrounded by so many breathtaking islands that you could easily enjoy a happy holiday island hopping without ever setting foot on the mainland. Island hopping is popular among tourists and is incredibly simple, thanks to Vancouver Island’s sound infrastructure. All you need to worry about is ferry tickets and accommodation, as every island is packed with sights beckoning to be explored!
The Gulf Islands are a great starting point or first stop. Located in the Strait of Georgia, they’re halfway between the British Columbian mainland and Vancouver Island. Each island has its own unique indigenous culture, landscape, and is bursting with life. Salt Spring Island is the largest and most visited island in the Gulf Islands, where travelers come to admire peaceful scenery, watch migrating birds, and taste freshly caught shellfish. Relax on the beach or explore riveting waterscapes, everything is possible on Salt Spring Island!
The Broken Group Islands are located in Barkley Sound off the west coast of Vancouver Island. Famed for turquoise waters and pristine white sand beaches, every island in the Broken Group Islands is accessible by boat or by sea kayak for those with courage. Unlike the Gulf Islands, there is very little civilization, which means there’s no electricity and the island’s lack of drinking water and shelter. It’s something you should prepare for. However, once you find yourself in their secluded waters and inlets, you’ll quickly forget about what you’re missing!
6. Breathe in the Lifestyle and History in Victoria
Seafood in British Columbia, Canada
Vancouver Island offers the best of both the cosmopolitan and the rural, combining breathtaking beaches, alpine landscapes, wildlife, and fresh air with the hustle and bustle of the city. Combine city breaks with a host of wonderful outdoor activities and breathtaking nature in and around the capital of British Columbia, Victoria.
With some of the best seafood this side of the Pacific, opportunities to eat and forge local produce, and last-minute trips to neighboring islands, Vancouver Island is just as charming and progressive as any coastal town. Combine all this with affordable waterfront housing and you have yourself a perfect place to live. Once primarily known as a place for retirees, Victoria is now attracting a much younger crowd, thanks to a world-class university as well as hip dining options and craft beer breweries!
7. Don’t Break the Bank
Pacific Rim National Park
It’s no secret that travel can cost you a pretty penny or two. The style is also a factor--while a city excursion is more culturally enlightening, it usually costs more than a camping trip. Keep to a budget by combining a city break in Victoria with a nature retreat at Pacific Rim National Park. Here are a few more tips on how to save money on a trip to Vancouver Island:
Plan in advance. Some of the biggest expenses of a holiday are a result of lack of research and planning. Once you know when and where you’ll be spending your nights and what activities you want to tackle, there won’t be any unexpected surprises.
Spend more time in nature. Plan your holiday so that most of your nights are spent camping as opposed to a hotel. It’s much cheaper and lovelier to wake up with a stunning view right outside your tent. We recommend choosing somewhere on a mountain overlooking a lake or deep in the rainforest.
Be aware of wildlife. There’s nothing worse than an unexpected meet and greet with wildlife while roaming the island. A visit to the doctor will not only increase the total price tag of your trip, but also turn out to be very time-consuming.
8. Visit Tofino, Where Opposites Live in Harmony
Tofino Landscape in Canada
One of the most popular destinations on Vancouver Island is the district of Tofino. With its summer population swelling many times its winter size, Tofino attracts nature lovers, birdwatchers, hikers, surfers, and bikers from all over the world. Originally inhabited by First Nations people several centuries ago, this small fishing hamlet is where the culture of the modern day meets with nature and five-thousand-year-old customs. Set out on journeys across trails built by indigenous people centuries ago, seek out ancient carvings, and visit the many art galleries.
For those in search of more active adventures, the waves washing against the beach will offer ideal conditions for surfing almost every day. Here, the inlets and islands just off of the shores of Tofino are perfect for a kayaking expedition, and the nearby national parks will surround you with the never-ending sounds of birds and wildlife.