Vancouver Island, the warmest spot in Canada, is known for its gorgeous scenery and laid-back cities and towns. If you’ve never been to this beautiful island, you’re definitely in for a treat. With many things to do, from outdoor hikes and surfing to indoor dining and history, Vancouver Island is a must-add to your bucket list.
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Victoria, the capital of BC and the largest city on Vancouver Island, is a great place to start your experience.
Whether you’re getting to Vancouver Island by plane or ferry, start your vacation at Victoria’s Inner Harbour. Walking by the water gives you a good feel of the city’s energy, not to mention the pathway makes a great vantage point for sights of the Parliament Building and The Empress. Take a free tour at the Parliament building and stroll the grounds learning about the architecture and history of the beautiful building.
The Empress is also a sight to behold and a must-see on your Vancouver trip. Built-in a chateau-style, the building overlooking the Inner Harbour is a luxurious hotel. It’s famous for high tea service. An afternoon of mini sandwiches and exotic teas at the Empress will not disappoint! Tourists and locals alike enjoy the splendour and elegance of this attraction.
Fisherman’s Wharf is also located in Victoria’s Inner Harbour. Enjoy the colourful and permanently docked houseboats and grab lunch at one of the many local restaurants on the water.
Victoria has a bustling food and coffee scene. Eat at a variety of local restaurants; there’s something for everyone in Victoria. From elegant to cozy, enjoy an oyster bar, grill, and tapas at Ferris’ Oyster Bar. Or you could visit OLO Restaurant focusing on Pacific Northwest dishes and includes a tasting menu sourced with organic ingredients and wine pairings. Be sure to check out Be Love for its local vegan dishes. For a new restaurant with original takes on the classics, try Tug Eatery located on Mermaid Wharf.
If you’re a coffee-lover, Victoria has many local cafes, coffee roasters, and latte art experts, so be sure to make time for coffee shops. For example, try Hey Happy to taste various international coffees, or Discovery Coffee, considered by some to be the best coffee in Victoria. Finally, go to the aptly named Habit Coffee to enjoy craft coffee in a cozy, almost cliché, coffee-shop ambience.
Local distillery lovers – especially Gin drinkers – will enjoy a tour of Victoria Distillers, located in Sydney, BC, near the Victoria Ferry terminal. Famous for the Empress 1908 purple gin, and winner of many gin and beverage accolades.
Near Victoria, in the Cowichan Valley, is a lush region for outdoor activities and wine. Vancouver Island has more than 20 wineries; most of them are located here. Book a wine tour on your own, or take one of the many organized tours that leave from Victoria.
Another must-see in Victoria is the Butchart Gardens, a 55-acre property brimming with gardens, fountains, sculptures, and streams. The five central gardens are renowned for their explosive colour throughout the year. The garden is open year-round, with various displays depending on the season.
Royal BC Museum
History buffs will enjoy a tour of The Royal BC Museum to learn about some of BC’s history, including archives, First Nation languages, Native plant gardens, and a deep dive into Orcas.
Craigdarroch Castle is also worth a visit. Designated as a National Historic Site of Canada, the castle is a fairy-tale built in the historical, Victorian-era, Scottish Baronial style. You can visit to learn about the wealthy coal family that lived there, and the impact they had on Vancouver Island.
If you want to enjoy the island’s wilderness without some of the tourist ambiances in Tofino or the city atmosphere of Victoria, go to Port Renfrew for a rugged experience of the mountains, forest, and ocean. If you want to make the trip longer than a day, there are hotels and glamping experiences nearby you can indulge in.
Old Growth Forests
If you’re after another must-see, the old-growth forests in Port Renfrew is also a great place to visit. Old-growth trees are more than 1000-year-old trees towering to the sky. Eden Grove in Port Renfrew is another popular spot to view these magnificent trees. If you’re not heading to Port Renfrew this trip, go to Cathedral Grove past Nanaimo or one of the groves in Tofino.
Goats on the Roof
Located in between Tofino and Victoria, Coombs is a small town known for its Old Country Market. The market has shops and restaurants to enjoy but is famous for its goats on the roof, covered with grass for them to graze on.
The next best city to visit on Vancouver Island is Tofino. It has a remote, outdoor retreat feel to it while being a popular tourist destination.
Surf at Pacific Rim National Park
Located adjacent to the Pacific Rim National Park, Tofino is the surfing destination of Canada. Learn to surf (or watch) at Long Beach or Chesterman Beach.
The town, formally a fishing village is the haven for many young, artsy types. It has a hip café and food scene to explore. We recommend you try Bean at the Cove or Wildside Grill.
Soak in Hot Springs Cove
If you’re craving some relaxation, go to Hot Springs Cove to relax. Book a boat tour to the hot springs or navigate on your own. It can be an adventure to find them, but it is well worth it. These hot springs are often on top hot springs lists globally.
Vancouver Hiking Trails
Vancouver Island is full of excellent hiking trails. For more experienced hikers, try the Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet, BC. This 8.8 km path winds around the coast, offering one-of-a-kind views of the ocean. Other great options are the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, Mystic Beach Trail, or one of the many trails in the provincial and national parks on the island.
What are you most excited to experience on Vancouver Island? Let us know in the comments below!
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