Kristina has been writing for the internet of things since 2010. 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 neighborhoods and harbors. Or go island-hopping and kayaking off the coast. Still not sure why you should visit this island on the edge of the world? Here are 8 best things to do on Vancouver Island!
1. Find Your Spirit Animal
Endangered Vancouver Island Wolf
Cited as the best place on Earth for whale watching, Vancouver Island has something for every kind of wildlife enthusiast. Submerge yourself into places bursting with wildlife — observe seals, cougars, grizzlies, dolphins and many other species in their natural habitats.
Vancouver Island and mainland Canada is separated by the Strait of Georgia, which is smack-dab in the middle of the Pacific Flyway, a major migratory route.
Twice a year, migrations from a number of bird species travel all the way from Alaska to Patagonia in search of better food sources and breeding grounds.
Vancouver Island also offers sanctuary for many endangered species. One such species is the Vancouver Island wolf. Local wolves are essential to the ecosystem on Vancouver Island. Without them, the population of deer would skyrocket and devastate local flora.
Wolves usually reside in the northern part of the island. Humans might come across them in Clayoquot and Barkley Sounds.
Hurry to glimpse some extraordinary wildlife in their natural habitats while you still can!
2. Hike in the Footsteps of the First Nations
Hiking trail in Vancouver Island
Home to windswept mountains and river valleys, Vancouver Island has some of the most diverse hiking trails in the world. Choose from a short stroll on the beach or a day hike in green rainforests. If you're up for a longer adventure, check out multi-day treks that span the whole island.
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.
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!
2. Combine Kayaking and Cross-Country Skiing
River kayaking in Canada
Vancouver Island is a paradise for adrenaline junkies seeking to reach new heights and take on new challenges.
The diverse climates and altitudes make it possible to ski and kayak on the very same day! Ride down the slopes in the morning and cast off on a quiet paddle 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. Ski on mountains between the Pacific Ocean and Strathcona Park. 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 expert sea kayakers to total beginners, everyone is welcome!
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 blue waters will make your kayaking adventure unforgettable.
You’ll never feel smaller than when you’re surrounded by the giant trees of Vancouver Island!
Mild temperate rainforests on the island are constantly hydrated by rainfall — meaning giant trees, sizeable bushes, and fascinating wildflowers.
There are a few scenic spots on Vancouver Island where you can visit the native, old-growth trees. At Macmillan Provincial Park, which harbors Cathedral Grove, walk among giant Douglas-fir on a huge network of man-made trails.
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.
With endless islands and islets, island hopping is still one of the classic best things to do on Vancouver Island.
It's easier than it sounds. All you need to worry about is ferry tickets and a booked inn, and you're good to go. Each 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 and landscape.
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 or drinking water. Once you find yourself in their secluded waters and inlets, though, you’ll quickly forget about what you’re missing!
6. Breathe in the Lifestyle and History of Victoria
Seafood in British Columbia, Canada
Vancouver Island offers the best of both the cosmopolitan and the rural, combining beaches and fresh air with the hustle and bustle of thecity. Combine city breaks with a host of wonderful outdoor activities in and around Victoria, the capital of British Columbia.
With some of the best seafood and fresh produce this side of the Pacific, Victoria is just as charming and progressive as any coastal town. It's also quite easy to hop away to a neighboring islands on a last-minute ferry ride.
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. 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, this small fishing hamlet is where the culture of 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, Tofino's surroundings are ideal for surfing, kayaking, and birdwatching.