Our home for two and a half years, Vancouver Island, epitomises the best that Western Canada has to offer. Rugged mountains, lush rainforest and raging ocean – tick, tick, tick.
Combined with endless outdoor recreation options and extensive wildlife opportunities (orcas and bears anyone?), it is a great place to visit at any time of year.
Take a few weeks or a couple of days, either way, you’ll definitely have a unique adventure. If you’re not convinced already, here are our top five reasons for taking a trip across the Georgia Strait!
The west coast lifestyle is one of a kind
There’s snorkelling, swimming, surfing and fishing to try, as well as plenty of more Islands (big and small!) to visit just a short ferry or paddle away. If salt water isn’t your thing, head inland and you’re likely to stumble upon a mountain-framed lake before too long.
Biking and golfing are possible almost year round. You can either surf and ski on the same day if you’re up for putting a little effort in. It’s a win-win all around on Vancouver Island.
Coast, mountains and rainforest
Vancouver Island is home to the Pacific Rim National Park as well as British Columbia’s first Provincial Park, Strathcona. The two perfectly demonstrate the diversity of landscape here; stunning beaches and rainforest on the coast and tranquil lakes and mountains within the interior.
The smaller Provincial Parks such as Cape Scott (rugged coastal wilderness), Cathedral Grove (giant trees!), Sproat Lake (centre of lake country) and Goldstream (more big trees!) complete the picture.
It’s an all year round destination
Most outdoor activities may be preferable to do in the summer but there is still plenty to enjoy in the winter. Though snow levels are low to non-existent at the town level, the mountains tell a different story.
Both Mount Washington Alpine Resort and the smaller Mt Cain offer plenty of alpine adventures to those missing the white stuff. In fact, Vancouver Island’s resorts often have the biggest snow base in the world.
Away from the mountains, the winter storm season provides exciting viewing opportunities on the coast, and in turn, the surf is meant to be the best at this time of year.
Free or low-cost fun
Not only is there plenty to do on the Island, a lot of it is available at low cost or completely FREE! The beauty of Vancouver Island is priceless (literally), and the extensive Provincial Park network makes it easy to explore more and pay less.
There are plenty of free or low cost ‘Rec Sites’ and Regional/Provincial Park campgrounds all around Vancouver Island (the further north you go, the less you’ll pay), enabling you to camp in stunning locations while keeping to a low budget. Our favourites are Pye Lake (first photo below) and Jordan River (only $12, even in peak season)
Variety of wildlife
Almost 750,000 people live here, mostly in and around the city of Victoria. It’s a fairly quiet place in general, but we’re not the only ones here.
Sharing the land and waterways are orcas, bears, seals, cougars, elk, bald eagles, dolphins, whales and the biggest salmon you will ever see! Aside from just taking your chances, you can actively seek out the wildlife by joining a whale or bear watching tour.
Better still, a multi-day kayak camping or expedition trip (such as WildCoast’s Orca Camp) will get you even closer to the action. My own personal bear spotting count this year has hit 12, and I don’t even try too hard…!
Visiting Vancouver Island, Canada
Have I convinced you yet? Vancouver Island’s beauty convinced us enough to extend our time there by a whole two years. It’s a pretty addicting kind of place as you will find out.
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One half of the Canadian/British couple behind Off Track Travel, Gemma is happiest when hiking on the trail or planning the next big travel adventure. JR and Gemma are currently based in the beautiful Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada