Vancouver Island, located just off Canada’s Pacific Coast, is recognized for its moderate climate in comparison to the rest of the country. Vancouver Island is approximately 460 kilometers (286 miles), from British Columbia’s colonial bustling city of Victoria in the south to the wildness and secluded beaches of Cape Scott in the north.
This unique location, like the southern gulf islands, features enormous woods, rough terrain, steep mountain peaks, and fascinating beaches. Vancouver Island offers it all, whether you want to go on a relaxing weekend break, explore the craggy terrain and wealth of animals, or brave the Pacific surf.
When most people think of Vancouver Island, they imagine a tiny, undeveloped place with beaches and not much else. In actuality, Vancouver Island is a vast, inhabited, beautiful island with a wide range of fauna and activities to see, explore, and enjoy. Here are some facts about Vancouver Island and its many sections.
1. Vancouver Island: How big is it?
Vancouver Island is approximately 460km long and 100km broad, with a total area of around 32,100 km². It is Canada’s eighth-biggest island. Vancouver Island’s population is 864,864. Vancouver Island has approximately 3400 kilometers of coastline.
Victoria, British Columbia’s capital city, is Vancouver Island’s largest city, with a population of around 84,000 people. With a population of 110 people, Zeballos is Vancouver Island’s smallest town.
North Island, Central Island, South Island, the Gulf Islands, Cowichan, and the Pacific Rim are the six regions of Vancouver Island.
The Vancouver Island Mountain Range stretches the full length of the island. Vancouver Island’s mountains cover 45,373 square kilometers, with the highest point being the top of the Golden Hinde at 2,195 m. Della Falls, in Campbell River, is Canada’s tallest waterfall and is in the top 10 in the world. It stands 440 meters tall.
There are around 40 Farmer’s Markets on the Vancouver Island. The Duncan Farmer’s Market is regarded as one of the best in British Columbia. There are around 37 licensed wineries from the South Island to the Cowichan Valley and the Comox Valley.
Interestingly, there are three major First Nations groups in the location. Kwakwaka’wakw, Nuu-chah-nulth, and Coast Salish peoples. Other groups inside the band have their own cultures and administrations. Famous people who have lived on Vancouver Island include Pamela Anderson, Randy Bachman, Kim Catrall, and Nelly Furtado.
Vancouver Island is home to several world records, including the world’s longest hockey stick in Duncan and a Guinness World Record for the largest street hockey tournament in Ladysmith. In Victoria, British Columbia, there is also the world’s biggest totem pole.
The Vancouver Island Marmot is an island-specific animal that is different from other marmot species. They are classified as an endangered species, and extensive conservation efforts are underway to restore their number.
Some of the greatest cold-water diving in the world can be found on Vancouver Island. Nootka Sound and Hornby Island are among the few spots on the planet where you may view six-gilled sharks.
You will experience an average low temperature of -2 degrees Celsius in the winter and a high temperature of 23 degrees Celsius in the summer. It is believed to have Canada’s mildest climate.
Rainfall on Vancouver Island exceeds 20,000mm per year, with Port Renfrew and Tofino receiving the highest. Victoria receives the least amount of rain due to the rain shadow cast by the mountains and the continent.It is home to some of the world’s tallest and oldest spruce and cedar trees, some of which are over 310 feet tall and over 1000 years old.
With a population of over 7,000 black bears, it is estimated to have the densest population of black bears. It is home to approximately 7,000 distinct aquatic species as well as over 200 different migratory bird species.
2. Must-See Places On Vancouver Island
It’s no wonder that Victoria is the most popular and accessible location on Vancouver Island, given its proximity to both mountains and the sea. There are several things to do in Victoria within a 20-minute driving radius.
From walking around Victoria’s British colonial downtown to taking a tour of the Butchart Gardens to discover the animals on a whale-watching cruise, to visiting one of the numerous beaches, overlooks, or parks. Victoria caters to all tastes!
Visit the tiny, sandy Gonzales Beach for a stunning view of the Olympic Mountains, Willows Beach for a younger clientele and a more relaxed environment, or Thetis Lake and Durance Lake for a swim.
Victoria Parks – take an afternoon stroll in Beacon Hill Park or a day trek at Gowlland Todd Provincial Park for spectacular vistas of the Malahat.
Explore the beautiful “Niagara” waterfall in Goldstream Provincial Park, conquer your fear of heights on the historic Trestle Bridge once utilized by trains, or take a hard climb to the neighboring summit of Mount Finlayson.
Mount Doug provides a wonderful view of the ocean towards the mainland and the Gulf Islands, while Mount Tolmie provides an amazing city vista.
2.2. Ucluelet And Tofino
Ucluelet and Tofino are both fantastic places on Vancouver Island to go away and unwind in nature! Both locations are only 4 hour by drive from Victoria, yet the towns are only 30 minutes apart.
There is excellent climbing, surfing, and the most beautiful beaches on the island! Cox Bay, Mackenzie Beach, Chesterman Beach, and Long Beach are among the favorite beaches.
Tofino is regarded for having the greatest surf in Canada, and the atmosphere of the town reflects this, with peaceful vibes and laid-back people that really love and care for the nature that surrounds them.
Ucluelet, or “Ukee” as the Vancouver Islanders name it, is better renowned for its relaxation and calm trekking along the coastal trails that surround it.
2.3. Provincial Park Strathcona
Strathcona Provincial Park features the most pristine nature, the most diverse species, and the most spectacular landscape on Vancouver Island.
Strathcona Provincial Park is not just British Columbia’s oldest park, but it is also a smaller, less touristic counterpart of the famous Rocky Mountains. Strathcona Provincial Park, with its 250,000 hectares of terrain, provides the greatest recreational and hiking opportunities.
My top options for the park include:
People’s favorite in Strathcona Park is Landslide Lake. You’ll have to trek to get there because it’s high in the mountains. With its stunning teal color, this lake is a one-of-a-kind sight on Vancouver Island!
Mount Albert Edward: At 2,093m (6,867 ft), Mount Albert Edward is Vancouver Island’s sixth tallest peak. Not unexpectedly, this peak has the best views!
Buttle Lake: The 23-kilometer-long (14-mile-long) Buttle Lake is one of the few lakes in Strathcona Provincial Park that can be reached by automobile. There is no need to climb, so you can simply rest and enjoy!
Mount Washington is a must-see in the winter, offering unrestricted skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing.
2.4. Sooke To Port Renfrew
The West Coast of Vancouver Island is ideal for those who want isolated beaches, rich rainforests, and jagged cliffs.
The region between Sooke and Port Renfrew is a wonderful refuge of peace and calm that may be visited in a single day or weekend. Rent a vehicle and travel from Sooke to Port Renfrew on the West Coast Road!
Along the way, you’ll pass some of Vancouver Island’s most gorgeous beaches! Sand Cut Beach, Mystic Beach, Sombrio Beach, and Botanical Beach are the favorite beaches in terms of ambiance, scenery, and natural beauty.
2.5. The Gulf Islands
There are 15 Gulf Islands between Vancouver Island and British Columbia’s coast. The Gulf Islands are a real paradise, with a wealth of animals, nature, seaside activities, and a laid-back environment. Each of them is accessible via boat or, in certain circumstances, seaplane.
Explore the outdoors on the wooded islands of Mayne, Galiano, Hornby, Saturna, or Gabriola. Visit the famed Saturday afternoon market on Salt Spring Island, the biggest island.
3. Best Outdoor Activities on Vancouver Island
3.1. Vancouver Island’s Best One-Day Hikes
Mountain of Old Baldy: This 2.4 km back track is near Cowichan Valley Regional Park, not far from Victoria. This climb is a must-do because of the swing on top of the mountain and the views of Shawnigan Lake.
Wild Pacific Trial: The 2.6-kilometer Wild Pacific Trail at Ucluelet offers a sight of Vancouver Island’s wild and rocky West Coast. Look at the roaring waves on the cliffs, the distant islands, and the wind-blown Douglas fir trees.
Cox Bay Lookout: After a short 1.5-hour climb, to your next favorite viewpoint on Vancouver Island, with vast views of Cox Bay, the surrounding mountains, and the islands in the distance.
Mount Tzouhalem: A 6-kilometer climb will take you to the cross atop Mount Tzouhalem, which gives a spectacular perspective of the Cowichan Valley. It is a wonderfully enjoyable (though hard at first) climb that begins near Cowichan Bay.
Ocean trail: In East Sooke Regional Park, this 13-kilometer thru-hike travels through the rainforest right near the coast. There are rocky bays, secret beaches, tidal pools, and breathtaking vistas of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains in the distance along the walk.
3.2. Vancouver Island’s Best Multi-Day Hikes
Juan de Fuca Marine Route: The Juan de Fuca Marine Route is a 47-kilometer coastal trail that passes along mountainous shorelines as well as the scenic Sombrio Beach and Mystic Beach. Begin in China Beach or Port Renfrew and camp at one of the many beachside campgrounds!
West Coast Walk: Stretching 75 kilometers from Port Renfrew to Bamfield, this coastal trail is difficult and takes at least 4 to 5 days to complete. You will need a permit to enjoy this spectacular West Coast wildlife.
Elk River Trail: This 26-kilometer trip leads to the magnificent Landslide Lake and is best completed in two days. For good reason, it is by far the most popular trek in Strathcona Provincial Park!
Mount Albert Edward: This 32-kilometer trek is also available in Strathcona Provincial Park. Because it is a challenging trek with substantial elevation gain, it is best completed in two to three days. The continual variety in scenery, from the bright green Paradise Meadows to the dark Circlet Lake, old-growth forest, and wildflower-filled alpine meadows, will take your breath away!
3.3. Vancouver Island Kayaking
With its variety of ocean views, animals, and islands, Vancouver Island is an excellent area to go kayaking! Kayakers of all levels of expertise will find something to suit their requirements, from a simple half-day or day paddle in the Clayoquot Sound near Tofino to a multi-day adventure in the Desolation Sound.
If you are not as skilled or confident enough to go kayaking on your own, you may schedule a kayaking trip. The open ocean is frequently rough and requires much skill.
Furthermore, guides are knowledgeable about the most attractive locations as well as animal hotspots. Many otters, sea lions, killer and grey whales, and birds live in the seas surrounding Vancouver Island!
3.4. Victoria Whale Watching
Whale watching is one of the most popular activities on Vancouver Island. And for good reason with a plethora of marine animals and several varieties of whales in the seas surrounding Vancouver Island, this is the ideal location to see these magnificent creatures.
Whales include the orca, sometimes known as the killer whale, as well as the grey, humpback, and minke whales. Other aquatic life includes sea lions, seals, dolphins, and a variety of marine birds.
By far the most popular place to go whale watching in Victoria. With three orca pods nearby, you are nearly certain to see one of the whales! The guides are incredibly informed and helpful, giving you all you need to know about these magnificent beasts.
4. When Is The Ideal Time To Visit Vancouver Island?
Even though Vancouver Island has a comparatively moderate climate, it is nonetheless impacted by the seasons. Each season provides its own set of activities and events, which should be considered when organizing a vacation to Vancouver Island.
4.1. The Peak Season
On Vancouver Island, the peak season lasts from June through September. It’s the ideal time to be outside, with temperatures ranging from 15 to 25 degrees Celsius and little to no rain. Summer gives a plethora of things to select from, including camping, whale watching, surfing, swimming, and hiking.
However, lodging rates will skyrocket during these months, as will the number of people visiting Vancouver Island. The amount of cruise ships that arrive at Victoria Harbour on a daily basis, in particular, creates a crowded environment in and around Victoria.
4.2. The Shoulders Season
September through November and March to May are the shoulder season. The months of October, November, and March are wet and dismal, with temperatures ranging from 5 to 15 degrees Celsius.
Colors abound on Vancouver Island in the fall and early spring, producing stunning vistas. During this time of year, certain interesting yearly events take place, such as the Salmon Run.
September, April, and May are quite bright and warm! Daytime temperatures range from 10 to 20 degrees Celsius, allowing for short-sleeved shirts and shorts on occasion.
This time of year is perhaps the greatest time to visit Vancouver Island because the region is not overrun with people. Also, wildlife will reawaken (for example, bears will emerge from hibernation around April-May), giving excellent wildlife viewing possibilities.
4.3. The Off-Season
November through March is the low season for visiting Vancouver Island. This is the time of year when the days are the darkest, the heaviest rain falls, and temperatures dip to as low as 0 to 10 degrees Celsius.
With the exception of the mountains, most of Vancouver Island will be snow-free all year. The summits of the mountains in Strathcona Provincial Park will be buried in snow for months. Winter sports opportunities will thrive where hiking pathways become impassable.
Mount Washington is Vancouver Island’s sole ski resort, and it provides fantastic skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing activities!
5. Places To Stay On Vancouver Island
Vancouver Island has something for everyone, from luxurious hotels to small homestays and camping in the center of nature.
If you’re visiting during a national holiday or peak season, we strongly advise you to book your lodgings ahead of time! On certain days, especially, campsites tend to sell out quickly!
5.1. Vancouver Island Camping
There are several camping spots to select from if you hire an RV or bring your own camping equipment. British Columbia has nearly 700 National and Provincial Parks, as well as several Regional Parks.
Many of these have camping facilities, and some accept reservations. Find yourself sleeping in the most exquisite location on the long beach, by a lake, or in the center of a mountain range!
Most campgrounds do not provide electricity plug-ins or water hook-ups for recreational vehicles. They do, however, include rudimentary toilets, food caches, and a platform for your tent.
5.2. Budget Lodging On Vancouver Island
There are a variety of inexpensive hotels. beach resorts and homestays whether you are hiring a vehicle or staying in the cities! People normally look for the greatest deals on Airbnb, Hostelworld, or booking.com.
6. List Of Equipment And Packing
Planning a vacation to Vancouver Island is similar to planning a major adventure! Because of the temperate temperature, you must be prepared for both warm and cold weather, as well as periodic rain.
It gets very cold, especially at night, so pack a couple of thick sweaters, thermal underwear, and a jacket!
If you’re going camping, carry a waterproof tent, a warm sleeping bag, comfy sleeping pads, a camping stove (to boil water and prepare meals), and a cooler (to keep your food cold). I also recommend having a durable water bottle with a filter, particularly if you want to hike.
There is frequently no water at the campsites or along the route, so you will have to acquire water from the river. Water purifiers or water tablets remove microorganisms from the water, removing the risk of “beaver fever.”
While a bear is unlikely to attack, Vancouver Island is home to a large number of black bears. We recommend packing bear spray because there is a good possibility you will encounter one during your stay.
Bear spray is more effective than bear bells, which are commonly seen. Bear spray is classified as a “weapon,” and it significantly minimizes the danger of harm or death in the event of an attack. As a result, knowing how to use it is critical.
7. How To Get Around
7.1. Vancouver Island Car And RV Rental Suggestions
It is more difficult to get about Vancouver Island than it is elsewhere in Canada. Because public transit is restricted (there are no trains on Vancouver Island! ), you are nearly compelled to rent a vehicle or RV.
Fortunately, several rental alternatives are accessible from major cities including Victoria, Nanaimo, Duncan, Courtenay, and Campbell River.
While hiring a vehicle is good if you are staying in the city or have your camping gear with you, an RV is a better alternative if you don’t have your gear but still want to enjoy Vancouver Island’s richness of wildlife! Check out Outdoorsy if you want to rent an RV.
Outdoorsy, also known as the Airbnb of the RV world, is a peer-to-peer rental service that allows you to rent RVs from RV owners.
7.2. Considerations While Hiring A Vehicle Or An RV
Since renting a car or RV on Vancouver Island is not inexpensive, it is advisable to check rental pricing before making a reservation. Several websites compare various rental firms. Carrentals.com is a fantastic website that includes all of the well-known vehicle rental businesses such as Avis and Hertz.
Avoid airport pick-ups and drop-offs if at all feasible since they are more expensive. It is advisable to return the car or RV to the same rental site because additional costs apply if you return the vehicle to a different location.
Examine the age limitations. To hire a car or RV in Victoria, you must be at least 21 years old, and most rental businesses impose extra costs if you are under the age of 25.
Select your vehicle wisely. Despite the fact that Canada is a developed country, many rural areas on Vancouver Island can only be reached via gravel or logging roads.
8. Somewhere Between Living And Dreaming, There’s Vancouver Island!
If you visit Canada, I would highly recommend visiting Vancouver island as it has several best places. It is one of the must-visit destinations in the country.
On Vancouver Island, fill your days with adventure, leisure, and new experiences. The Vancouver Island region has so much to see and do, from outdoor activities to animal watching and culture-rich festivals!
Explore an ocean-carved terrain that ranges from gentle to wild, sophisticated to life-affirmingly raw. Backpack through breathtaking wilderness parks. Admire orcas, black bears, and the sheer variety of furred, feathered, and finned fauna.
While wading barefoot along softly curved beaches, gaze out to faraway snowcapped mountains. Relax, restore, and recharge amid the region’s urban hubs, tiny villages, and cozy harbors. That’s Vancouver Island for you!