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Travelling Vancouver Island

Our Guide To Exploring the Canadian West Coast’s Island Lifestyle

Welcome to Vancouver Island, the home of BC’s capital city and some of the best surfing beaches in the country. If you’re looking to visit a place filled with diverse landscapes, beautiful nature and endless adventure, travelling Vancouver Island is the right choice. Canada isn’t all snow capped mountains and cold weather– and Vancouver Island is proof of that (though it does have mountains too). Rainforests, sunny beaches, cool natural springs and more await. So, come on over and experience Canadian island living for yourself.

Travelling Vancouver Island With FML Adventures

About Vancouver Island

Stretching across 460 kilometres, Vancouver Island is an ocean-carved destination perfect for any kind of traveller. It’s a place for rest and recharge in city centres like Victoria or in eclectic communities in small towns and harbours along the way. Or, its place of wild adventure in rustic surf towns and lush wilderness parks. Either way, this destination has everything you could want all packaged into a small island off the coast of British Columbia. 

 

Found on the traditional and ancestral territories of the Kwakwaka’wakw, Nuu-chah-nulth, and Coast Salish peoples, Van Isle is home to 50 cities and towns and about 3,400 kilometres of coastline (aka beaches for days). So, if you’re looking for a beach getaway, try Canada. It might be the underdog when it comes to beach destinations, but it is definitely worth visiting. 

Island weather

Vancouver Island has some of the warmest temperatures in Canada, so if you’re thinking of bringing a thick parka, this is not the part of the country for that. On average, the coldest temperature is -2° Celsius in the winter and the average high is 23° Celsius in the summer. However, if you’re climbing up mountains, don’t be surprised if you see snow-capped peaks year-round.

 

The island sees an average of 20,000 millimetres of rain per year, with Port Renfrew and Tofino seeing the most. Victoria, on the other hand, sees the least because of the rain shadow caused by the mountains and the mainland. This region is also home to severe winter squalls - aka sudden bursts of white out blizzards. But, for the most part, it is the warmest place in Canada.


British Columbia as a whole is also an area that faces a lot of wildfires during the summer so if you’re planning on exploring Vancouver Island when things start to get hotter in Canada, we recommend the BC Wildfire Service app to keep in the know of the latest fires and areas to avoid.

Fun Facts about the island

Need a little more incentive to explore the island? The island is the unique home of a Guinness World Record holder and nature you just won’t find the same way anywhere else. 

 

  • The largest hockey stick in the world, Duncan, BC.

It may not be a surprise that Canada holds a hockey stick world record, but this stick measures in at a gigantic 62.48 metres at the Cowichan Community Centre. Originally commissioned by Canada’s Federal Government for the 1986 Expo in Vancouver, the hockey gear has been on display in Duncan since 1988. It is 40 times the size of a regular stick and comes with a puck as well.

 

  • Canada's highest waterfall, Della Falls near Campbell River.

It descends from the mountains on Vancouver Island at a nearly vertical drop of 440 metres. The name comes from Joe Drinkwater, a trapper and prospector who first visited the falls in 1899 and named it after his wife. Della Falls is formed by the glacier-fed lake (Della Lake), which is found at an elevation of 1,080 metres in the mountains of Strathcona Provincial Park.

 

  • The Vancouver Island Marmot, Vancouver Island.

This marmot is only found on the island, hence the name. It is one of five animals to live only in Canada. In 2007, only 30 of this species remained in the country and they were on the edge of extinction. However, since then, they have become a national mascot for conservation earning the nickname “Canada’s panda.” The Marmot Recovery Foundation has since counted 250-300 left in the wild as of 2015, and, because of new suitable areas to live, they have spread across Vancouver Island after only thriving in the subalpine meadows of the Nanaimo lakes region.

Exploring Vancouver Island

Our favourite places to visit on Van isle

Vancouver Island is typically split into six major regions: North Island, Central Island, South Island, the Gulf Islands, Cowichan and the Pacific Rim. Throughout the entire area, there are tons of places to travel, but here are some of the top destinations on the island.

Situated within the traditional territory of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, Tofino is a coastal town on the edge of Vancouver Island. It is the beach capital of Canada bordering the Pacific Ocean but also not so far off from the black bear rainforest of the island as well. As a top travel destination on Vancouver Island, it welcomes visitors from around the world to an array of activities including: surfing, fishing, cycling, hiking, kayaking, golfing, food tours, whale watching, ziplining and more. If you’re looking to try surfing, explore the sea life in tide pools or just paddle along calm waters, this is the place for you.

En route to Tofino, we recommend stopping at the Coombs Old Country Market where you can witness a family of goats grazing on the grass rooftops of the market. Next up, enjoy a walk through Cathedral Grove where you can get up close and personal with some of Canada's oldest trees.

TOFINO

Welcome to the capital of British Columbia, Victoria. Located on the traditional territories of the Lkwungen peoples, this city is known for its cosmopolitan lifestyle and the Indigenous, British and Asian traditions that echo through its arts, culture and history. Known as the city of gardens because of its year-round coastal climate, Victoria is the Pacific Northwest's oldest city, home to Canada’s oldest Chinatown and known as the most British city in Canada as a popular destination for history buffs and Royal Family fans. Plus, it has a network of bays, coves, beaches and lakes perfect for swimming and sailing.

Victoria

Sooke, located on the ancestral land of the T'sou-ke Nation of the Coast Salish people is home to two regional parks. East Sooke is where travellers can enjoy hiking trails that range from casual walks to full-day adventures. Sooke Potholes Regional Park, on the other hand, houses crystal-clear waters that are perfect for swimming. Further west, the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail can be found where avid hikers can experience a multi-day excursions. But, if hiking over multiple days isn't your vibe, there’s tons of entry points for day use like French Beach, China Beach, Sombrio beach and more. However, the end goal is to get to Botanical Beach at the end of the hike where tide pools give you a glimpse into the wild of new underwater world.

Sooke

Jordan River is a small logging community that connects Sooke to Port Renfrew. Home to the West Coast Surfing Association, there is a collective of avid surfers who call Jordan River home despite Tofino being the top surfing destination on the island.

 

Port Renfrew is the tall tree capital of Canada located on the ancestral land of the The Pacheedaht First Nation peoples. This jewel of the west coast is surrounded by ancient rainforests, Canada’s tallest and largest Douglas Firs, Cedars, and Spruce Trees, and offers tons of hiking and recreational activities. It is found at the southern entrance of the Pacific Rim National Park where the famed West Coast Trail is found, and near the beginning of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail as well. If you’re planning on travelling Vancouver island, seeing the natural beauties in Port Renfrew is an absolute must.


Located near Port Renfrew in Avatar Grove which is home to ‘Canada’s Gnarliest Tree.’ Found on the traditional territory of the Pacheedaht First Nation, this lush forest is a highlight of the region which was first identified by the Ancient Forest Alliance in December of 2009. It’s an old growth rainforest with two main hikes that let you explore the greenery of some of the oldest trees in the country. But be careful because the rain makes tree roots and boardwalks slippery when wet.

Jordan River & Port Renfrew

Cowichan takes its name from “Quw’utsun,” a name given to the region by the original inhabitants, the Quw’utsun peoples. It hosts lush, green forests, orchards and award-winning vineyards, along with beautiful coastlines. The Cowichan Valley covers the area between Port Renfrew on the west coast, and Malahat and Naniamo on the east. It is located in Canada’s only maritime Mediterranean climatic zone and has the warmest year-round temperatures in the country. For visitors looking to come see it for themselves, there are activities like fly fishing, rainforest hikes, championship golf and cruises down the coast waiting for you.


The FML Adventures family recommends camping lakeside on Lake Cowichan, and taking the opportunity to river float along the Cowichan River.

Lake Cowichan

Made up of mountains, farmland and beaches, Comox Valley is found on the ancestral land of the K'ómoks First Nation. It is made up of three main communities, the city of Courtenay, town of Comox and village of Cumberland. Some of the main activities of the region include skiing, swimming, mountain biking, scuba diving and golfing, but there’s so much more. No matter what season, Comox Valley always has something to do.

Comox Valley

Brewery Hopping in Victoria

Victoria is a major city filled with all kinds of people trying to make the next great drink, so there are tons of breweries to choose from while you're visiting. So, why not try them all?

A Travel Guide to Our Favourite Things to do on the Island

The BEST WAYS TO TRAVEL AROUND THE ISLAND

Around the island, there are tons of places to travel, and despite being an Island, they're not all close to one another, so the best way to get around is really by car or RV (or Brent the Bus if you’re on an FML Adventure). The island is built for road travel with rest stops along all the highways, lookouts to stop at and bonus, the views while driving are amazing. 

 

If renting a car is not in the cards, there is always public transit. Each community has their own transit system so travelling from town to town is not the easiest with the transit system. However, there are also coach and shuttle buses that travel across the island to various destinations as scheduled public commuter services. So, it’s still public transit in the form of coach buses on the highway.

Vancouver Island Travel Guide

Group Tours on Vancouver Island

Alternatively, group tours are a great way to get around the island and explore as much as you can all while securing safe and simple transportation and gaining some friends along the way. It is the perfect way to travel as a solo traveller or backpacker and a great way to discover new places, meet new people and learn more about the island from local tour guides. 

 

We may be a little biased because this is the FML way of travelling Canada, but hey, it's a great way to get around.

Planning a trip to Explore Vancouver Island?

If you’re planning on travelling Vancouver Island and are not sure what to do, let FML take the lead. Travelling to Vancouver Island is a time to relax and enjoy, so join our Vancouver Island Adventure running every summer and taking all the planning off your hands. The itinerary is already prepped and ready to visit some top destinations on Vancouver Island, with plenty of time to truly experience everything we can while we’re there. Visit our tour page to learn more.