Take it outside!
Inside and out, Vancouver Island delivers. Our handful of vibrant urban centres percolate with sophisticated pleasures, engaging walkabouts and plentiful diversions. And our smaller, mostly coastal towns woo visitors with come-as-you-are friendliness, charm and scenic wow. Whether on a staycation or visiting from afar, you’re invited to settle in for the duration to relax and rejuvenate. Stick to a pre-planned itinerary. Or make it up as you go when customizing each day’s activities based on personal interests, fitness levels, curiosities and passions.
Indulge in our celebrated local food, wine and beer scenes. Enjoy music, theatre, arts and a year-round festival calendar. Shop for unique Island-made products. Stroll through magical botanical gardens and along manicured golf courses. Or hang out in museums, artist studios, community halls and no end of funky coffee shops packed with friendly locals delighted to share their own Island tips and secret places with the inquisitive.
Ambling from one classy brewpub to the next in downtown Victoria (recently rated as one of the top-three friendliest cities in the world) can be defined as an outdoor activity, of course. So can a driving tour of Island wineries or a weekend spent entranced by world-class musicians at a music festival. In fact, a quick dash from parking lot to the velvet embrace of a sumptuous resort or spa requires some brief exposure to the elements.
Yet it’s outdoors under nature’s big top that Vancouver Island really shines. There’s a reason readers of two of the world’s top travel magazines – Travel + Leisure and Condé Nast Traveler – repeatedly give us the nod as one of the best islands in both North America and the world (including a repeat #1 rating as top island in North America in Travel + Leisure’s 2014 World’s Best Awards). Evidently they see the same beauty as fur-trader James Douglas did back in 1842 when he declared the Island “a perfect Eden.” National Geographic clearly agrees: the magazine’s editors dedicated 10 percent of its summary of Canada’s top-50 places to the Island region by including Tofino, Victoria, the Gulf Islands, the Discovery Passage and the Great Bear Rainforest in the tally.
Rather than showcasing our creature comforts however, the Outdoor Guide is a breezy overview of the possibilities for fresh-air enthusiasts keen to lose themselves in nature by hiking, paddling, surfing, biking, fishing and actively exploring this magnificent, largely unspoilt western edge of the New World.
Islanders reside here for many good lifestyle reasons, yet one of the foremost is easy access to the Island’s trove of idyllic getaway spots. It takes just eight hours to drive Vancouver Island stem to stern on smooth ribbons of tarmac. At every turn there are well-mapped and signed departure points into a natural environment that’s open 24/7 year-round. Coastal trails, seawalls, marinas and boat ramps tap into the Island’s 3,340 km (2,137 miles) of coastline. Or head inland to parks, lakes, river valleys, alpine meadows and mountain peaks – variously sweet and challenging, mild and wild.
Outdoor adventurers are served by a wide range of excellent mapbooks and guidebooks focused on the Island region, some of general interest, others focused exclusively on fishing, kayaking, cycling, beaches, vineyards, restaurants and farmgates.
When on the road, drop into any of 25 Visitor Centres dotted across the Island. Each is staffed by enthusiastic, knowledgeable Vancouver Island cheerleaders eager to help you optimize your priceless holiday time. Full details on our green spaces (land and marine) can be found at the BC Parks website. For special deals and further information on our regions, activities and accommodations, check out Tourism Vancouver Island’s Vacation Guide, available at Visitor Centres or online at VancouverIsland.travel.
We’ve covered the vast range of outdoor possibilities as best we can here, yet the truth is that words simply can’t do the Vancouver Island region justice. Instead, get here and experience it in person. Our climate makes us a year-round destination: ripe with emerging life in the spring, pleasantly warm and dry in the summer, sweater-weather moderate in the fall, and cozily wet, dark and thrillingly stormy in the winter. As James Douglas noted back in the Victorian era and now readily confirmed by 760,000 residents and millions of annual visitors: Eden.