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51 Best Things To Do On Vancouver Island (2023)

Vancouver Island is the perfect destination for outdoor and nature lovers. There are so many things to do on Vancouver Island…

You can go hiking in the beautiful forests and mountains, there are rugged beaches, lovely little villages, and amazing wildlife, both on land as well as in the water.

Vancouver Island is located just off Canada’s Pacific Coast and can easily be reached from Vancouver. The island is about 500 km long and 100 km wide and is a perfect ‘miniature version' of Canada.

You'll be spoiled for choice as there are so many places to go on Vancouver Island!

The best things to do on Vancouver Island: a complete guide

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2 weeks on Vancouver island

We spent two weeks on Vancouver island but still only managed to see the lower half of the island. There are lots of must-do activities on Vancouver Island and you could easily spend much more time there!

In this Vancouver Island guide, you'll find Vancouver Island must-sees and highlights, practical advice, and a map with all the places mentioned in the post.

If you've got 3 weeks on Vancouver Island, be sure to read all the way to the end of the post. I've added a couple of activities that fit perfectly in a Vancouver Island 3-week itinerary.

?Only got a few days to explore Vancouver Island? Check out this 4-day tour, including the most popular highlights in Victoria, Nanaimo, and Tofino. 

What to do on Vancouver Island: map

Click here for the interactive map.

Where to stay on Vancouver Island

There are lots of accommodation options on Vancouver Island. You can go camping, glamping, or stay at one of the many cute boutique hotels.

If you are traveling on a budget, campsites are your best bet. Expect to pay between 30-50 CAD for a campsite, depending on the season and the onsite facilities.

Boutique hotels are more expensive, especially in peak season. However, there are great options available, such as the cute By the Sea BnB in Sidney or the lovely Middle Beach Lodge on the rugged coast in Tofino

Luxury travelers can stay at the iconic Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria (pictured below), definitely a special place to spend your time on Vancouver Island.

Here are my best accommodation tips for Victoria, Nanaimo, and Tofino.

Note: Prices for these hotels depend on the time of year and how far in advance you book. Therefore, the prices mentioned in the tables below are a rough indication of the price per night to help you compare the different options. Use ‘click here' to see the latest prices on Booking and book ahead to get the best deal.

Where to stay in Victoria

5-star hotelFairmont Empress Hotel8.3S$440Click here
4-star hotelRoyal Scot Hotel & Suites8.6US$144Click here
4-star hotelOswego Hotel8.9US$139Click here
2-star hotelHelms Inn8.5US$108Click here
3-star hotelRed Lion Inn7.9US$79Click here
CampgroundGoldstream CampgroundClick here

Where to stay in Nanaimo

3-star hotelCoast Bastion Hotel8.4US$198Click here
3-star hotelThe Buccaneer Inn8.7US$186Click here
3-star hotelBest Western Northgate8.2US$205Click here
ApartmentAnnArthur Guest House9.5US$115Click here
CampgroundLiving ForestWebsite

Where to stay in Tofino

Ocean view studioIsland Village8.5US$240Click here
MotelTofino Motel Harborview8.7US$180Click here
LodgeMiddle Beach Lodge8.5US$175Click here
CampgroundGreen Point CampgroundWebsite

How to get to Vancouver Island?

Ferry to Vancouver Island

By ferry

There are several ferries going to Vancouver Island.

If you are traveling to Vancouver Island from Vancouver, you can take the ferry from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay (close to Victoria) or to Duke Point (close to Nanaimo).

Alternatively, you can take a ferry from Horseshoe Bay (just north of Vancouver) to Departure Bay (also close to Nanaimo).

Check the ferry schedule and price info here.

There are ferries from the U.S.A. to Vancouver Island as well, departing from Port Angeles and Seattle.

This boat trip in itself is already worthwhile, especially the Tsawassen – Swartz Bay route.

You'll sail along the spectacular Gulf Islands and if you're very lucky, you may even spot a (killer) whale.

By plane

You can also fly to Victoria, there is an international airport in North Saanich (about 20km from Victoria).

Click here for the best ticket deals.

How to get around Vancouver Island?

Red Safari van on side of the road on Vancouver Island

Vancouver is the largest island on the Pacific coast of North America and driving from Victoria in the southeast to Port Hardy in the northwest takes approximately 5.5 hours.

While there is public transport on Vancouver Island, it's not an extensive network. Services are limited to cities and larger towns.

Getting to trails is very hard if not impossible when relying only on public transport. You can find more information here.

In my opinion, the best way to explore Vancouver Island is by car. You can easily rent a car or a campervan for your Vancouver Island trip.

Or, if you are planning to stay in Canada for a longer period of time, you can consider buying a car instead of renting one.

In any case, having your own wheels gives you the freedom to stop wherever you want and explore the best places on Vancouver Island!

Click here for the best car rental deals or check out great RV rentals here

What is the best time to visit Vancouver Island?

While you can visit Vancouver Island the entire year due to its mild climate, the weather is the nicest between April and October.

These are also the best months for whale watching on Vancouver Island.

Visit Vancouver Island in Spring

Spring is a great time to visit Vancouver Island as the entire island turns green and there are lots of pretty blossoms and flowers.

Furthermore, there are fewer tourists, and accommodation prices are generally lower.

Visit Vancouver Island in Summer

Vancouver Island is a very popular tourist destination during the summer months, both for international visitors as well as for Canadians.

Temperatures are highest in summer, the average temperature on Vancouver Island in July and August is around 22 degrees Celsius, though (much) hotter days are getting more and more common due to climate change…

There are lots of festivals and activities on Vancouver Island during the summer months, so it's definitely a fun time to visit.

However, it is also the busiest time on Vancouver Island as this is peak season, and accommodation prices are at their highest.

Vancouver Island view from Nanaimo tourist information

Visit Vancouver Island in Autumn

Fall is a nice time to visit Vancouver Island as the leaves on the trees turn to fiery autumn colors.

When visiting Vancouver Island in autumn, you can watch the fall foliage in The Butchart Gardens or visit one of the Harvest Festivals.

Visit Vancouver Island in Winter

While the winter months on Vancouver Island aren't necessarily cold, they are generally quite wet. November, December, and January in particular (22 rainy days per month on average).

If you bring a raincoat (a smart thing to do no matter the time of year) you can still visit Vancouver Island in winter. That being said, for outdoor activities, this isn't the best time to visit.

Also read Easy hikes in Banff, Calgary winter guide and Things to do in Drumheller.

51 great places to visit on Vancouver island

1. Take a free tour of the British Columbia Parliament Buildings

British Columbia Parliament Building in Victoria

With beautiful buildings, lots of cafes and restaurants, and a friendly vibe, Victoria is a great place to start exploring Vancouver Island.

Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia and it's therefore not surprising to find the imposing British Columbia Parliament here.

While the BC Parliament is home to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, this beautiful building is accessible to the public!

You can visit the British Columbia Parliament independently or join one of the free guided tours. There are several tours a day which last between 30-45 minutes.

Read more about the free tours here.

2. Admire the Fairmont Empress (or have a high tea)

Lobby Lounge at the Empress Hotel

The luxurious Fairmont Empress hotel opened its doors at the start of the 20th century and is a true city icon.

If you like a high-tea (and even if you don't;-), be sure to have a ‘Tea at the Empress‘ which has been a tremendously popular Victoria activity since 1908!

Looking for a place to stay in Victoria? Check my Victoria hotel guide with great options for any budget.

3. Explore Victoria Old Town

Victoria has a lovely historic center that can easily be navigated on foot. Pick up a map at the Visitor Centre and spend the day wandering from one beautiful old building to the next.

In my Victoria itinerary, you can read about more top things to do in this beautiful capital.

4. Whale-watching tour

Killer whales on whale watching tour in Victoria Vancouver Island

The waters around Vancouver Island are rich in marine life, therefore it comes as no surprise that going on a whale-watching tour is one of the most popular things to do in Victoria.

Victoria is one of the top spots to see killer whales (orca) but you’re also likely to encounter gray whales and humpback whales.

Click here to book a whale-watching tour in Victoria

5. Butchart Gardens (20 km from Victoria)

The Butchart Gardens Victoria BC

One of the best things to see on Vancouver Island is the famous Butchart Gardens. These beautiful gardens are a National Historic Site of Canada and the result of the vision, passion, and dedication of Jenny Butchart.

Walk the winding paths through the Sunken Garden, smell the fragrant roses at the Rose Garden, and find your inner zen at the Japanese Garden.

The easiest way to visit Butchart Gardens (if you don’t have your own transport) is via this popular bus tour.

Included in the tour: transportation in a comfortable touring car, a professional guide, and entrance to the gardens.

Click here to book a tour of the Butchart Gardens!

6. Kayaking

Victoria BC panorama Inner Harbour

If your schedule allows it and you have time for another great outdoor activity, consider taking a kayaking trip.

Here are some of the most popular kayaking tours in and around Victoria:

7. Stroll around Fisherman's Wharf

Seal swimming around Fishermans Wharf Victoria

A popular hotspot in Victoria is quirky Fisherman's Wharf, a floating village with colorful houses and cute little shops.

Don't be surprised to see some other inhabitants of the wharf floating in the bay (yup, that's a seal!).

8. Go for a walk in Beacon Hill Park

USA view from Beacon Hill Park in Victoria, BC

Victoria is a green city surrounded by the ocean. From Beacon Hill Park you have a great view over the Strait of Juan de Fuca. On a clear day, you can easily see the U.S.A. on the other side of the strait.

As an alternative option (families with kids will love this in particular), I recommend this Beacon Hill Park tour in a horse-drawn carriage. You'll feel like you've been transported back in time!

9. Refill your energy at Crust Bakery

Garlic-rosemary focaccia at Crust Bakery

All that walking around Victoria makes you hungry and a great spot to replenish your energy is Crust Bakery.

There are so many mouthwatering options to choose from, ranging from pretty pastries and buttery croissants to healthy whole-meal loaves and their soft and fragrant garlic-rosemary focaccia (my personal favorite)!

If you're a foodie like me, you can also try this food tour and treat your taste buds in full.

10. Eat the best tacos on Vancouver Island at Tacofino

Delicious tacos at Tacofino Victoria

I love Mexican food and was very happy to stumble upon Tacofino. The staff kindly recommended their favorites to help us decide.

But no worries, it doesn't matter which taco or burrito you choose, they are all delicious…

11. Go for a walk (or a swim) at Sooke Potholes Provincial Park

Sooke Potholes Provincial Park

One of the best places to visit on Vancouver Island is Sooke Potholes Provincial Park. The name says it all, you can see potholes in this park.

But not those annoying potholes on ill-maintained roads…

No, these huge potholes were created by massive boulders being carried downstream by the thundering river when the glaciers melted a long time ago.

Nowadays the river is much calmer and you can even go for a swim in designated areas!

12. Admire Sheringham Point Lighthouse

Sheringham Point Lighthouse on Vancouver Island

I love old lighthouses, don't you? The Sheringham Point Lighthouse is quite possibly the most picturesque one I've ever seen.

Though Nugget Point Lighthouse in New Zealand is a serious contender for the number 1 spot too…

In any case, Sheringham Point Lighthouse was built in 1912 and has since then guided countless ships along the treacherous south coast of Vancouver Island.

You can’t enter the Lighthouse itself, however, the grounds are open to the public.

Park at the head of the Sheringham Lighthouse Trail (Sheringham Point Rd) and hike the lovely 3.4-kilometer loop trail.

13. Hike the Botanical Beach Loop Trail

Botanical Beach Loop Trail in Port Renfrew

The Botanical Beach Loop Trail is just a short trail (less than 3 kilometers) but very worthwhile. The trail leads through the forest and over the rugged beach with rocky pools.

The reason this was an epic trail for us is that we saw our first bear! A young and therefore relatively small black bear walking around on the beach…

It's so cool to see wild animals in their natural habitat though obviously, we kept an appropriate distance.

Black bear on Botanical Beach Loop Trail

Apologies for the poor quality of the picture, not being able to take proper wildlife pictures is what convinced me to finally buy a great DSLR camera.

14. Hike the West Coast Trail

Avid hikers may want to tackle the famous West Coast Trail, an iconic backcountry, multi-day backpacking trail. 

This 75-kilometer trail leads from Bamfield to Port Renfrew and is not something to take lightly. This epic track requires some serious preparation, you can read all the nitty details on the Parks Canada website.

That being said, this trail is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and something I'd love to do during a future trip to Vancouver Island.

15. Check out Canada's Gnarliest Tree in Avatar Grove

If you are looking for an off-the-beaten-path place to visit, this is it! The road leading to Avatar Grove is rather bumpy, we drove very slowly and walked the last kilometer to the trailhead.

But it's pretty fun to see the Gnarliest Tree in Canada, it looks like a giant tied a knot in it!

16. Have a pick-nick at Fairy Lake

Fairy Lake, Vancouver Island Canada

A lovely little lake surrounded by trees and mountains, the perfect place for a pick-nick. Keep an eye out for otters and other wildlife!

17. Drive the beautiful Pacific Marine Road

The Pacific Marine Road on Vancouver Island

The road between Port Renfrew and Honeymoon Bay is very quiet and very beautiful.

My advice: wake up early, pack enough water, food, and fuel for the road (there are no services along this road) and enjoy the ride!

18. Admire the massive and ancient Harris Creek Sitka Spruce

Harisson Spruce is a very big and ancient tree found along the Pacific Marine Road on Vancouver Island

That's what you call a big tree, the trunk has a diameter of 4 meters! Nobody knows exactly how old the Harris Creek Sitka Spruce is, but these types of trees can live up to 800 years…

19. Have lunch, dinner, or a drink at Jakes at the Lake

Jakes at the Lake in Lake Cowichan

Jakes at the Lake (Cowichan Lake) is the perfect pub in the perfect location… We had a tasty dinner on the patio while watching the sunset over the lake.

20. Take a short hike to the Stocking Creek Waterfall

Stocking Creek Waterfall on Vancouver Island

I'll be honest: this isn't the most impressive waterfall you'll find in Canada.

Nevertheless, it's a lovely short walk through the forest and a good place to stretch your legs when driving from the Cowichan Valley to Nanaimo (or vice versa).

21. Walk around Westwood Lake (or go for a swim)

Westwood Lake near Nanaimo

This easy 5,5km trail goes around Westwood Lake and makes for a perfect afternoon stroll.

When we visited the weather couldn't have been more perfect and the park was filled with families celebrating summer.

22. Hike to the top of Mount Benson

View from the top of Mount Benson near Nanaimo

Make sure you have a proper breakfast or lunch before scaling this mountain. The loop is 8 kilometers and took us 3,5 hours (return).

I recommend wearing sturdy hiking boots, it was pretty muddy when we went up. It's a steep climb but the view from the top more than makes up for that…

23. Check out the Abyss, but don't fall in…

The Abyss is one of the attraction near Nanaimo

Even if the weather isn't that great, this 1-kilometer trail (return) to the Abyss is a nice short stroll.

Once you are atop the rocks you'll see the jagged crack in the ground, aka the Abyss. It's deep, so be careful!

24. Explore the Old City Quarter of Nanaimo

Nanaimo is a great place to spend a couple of days and one of the places that can't miss on your Nanaimo itinerary is the Old City Quarter.

Here you can find cute colorful houses, lovely cafes, and beautiful boutique shops. Read more about the Old District on their official website.

Extremely important note: don't forget to sample some delicious Nanaimo bars during your Nanaimo trip!

25. Stroll around Nanaimo's Harborfront Walkway

Nanaimo harbourfront walkway

Nanaimo has a very nice harborfront with good views over Newcastle Island and Protection Island.

At Nanaimo Harbor, you can also catch a small ferry (only for pedestrians) to the Dinghy Dock Pub, the only floating pub in Canada!

26. Hike to the Ammonite Falls

Ammonite Falls Vancouver Island Canada

This is an easy 5km (return) hike, walking to the Ammonite Falls and back took us a little over an hour.

The falls are beautiful, but most of the snow had already melted when we visited in June and the waterfalls were not as spectacular as in early Spring.

Nevertheless, do add the Ammonite Falls to your list of Vancouver Island points of interest, they are beautiful in any season!

27. Chill out at the French Creek Marine Pub

Rainy day view on Vancouver Island

Sometimes it rains in Canada and on those days the best place to be is a cozy pub, like the French Creek Marine Pub.

We received a warm welcome from the staff and spend the rainy afternoon sampling beer and cider.

28. Spend the morning (or the entire day) at the Qualicum Foods Cafe

Cloudy sky on Vancouver Island

When the rain continues, don't despair! The Qualicum Foods Cafe serves hot coffee and delicious sandwiches.

There is WiFi and sockets to charge your devices. What more could you wish for? Blue skies aside;-).

29. Visit Qualicum Beach

On a sunny day, head to Qualicum Beach instead. This beach is one of the best beaches for families, with wide expanses of white sand and shallow water.

There are plenty of benches along the boulevard where you can sit down to admire the beautiful views.

Qualicum Beach is famous for the Ocean Mile Swim, be sure to check if your travel dates coincide with this fun local event.

30. Admire the thundering Englishman River Falls

The upside of rainy days is all that rain makes for thundering waterfalls and the Englishman River Falls definitely falls (no pun intended;-) into that category.

It's only a short and easy walk to these pretty falls, don't miss them on your Vancouver Island trip!

Or try this tour of Vancouver Island's most magnificent waterfalls and landscapes, where you'll stop by the country market (see below) and enjoy marvelous views of the rainforest.

31. Visit the Old Country Market

Old Country Market in Coombs with the famous grazing goats on the roof

The Old Country Market in Coombs (which is included in the last mentioned Vancouver Island waterfall tour) is famous for the grazing goats on the roof of the market, but there is much more to see!

There are cute shops and the market has a great selection of fresh products (such as delicious smelling rosemary bread) and imported international products (real Italian espresso for coffee addicts like myself!).

32. Have a delicious homemade ice cream at Coombs

I usually restrain myself and get one scoop of ice cream, but there were just too many delicious options to choose from at the Billy Gruff Creamery!

Ultimately I went for the sea-salted caramel (their best-seller) and strawberry cheesecake, finger-licking good…

33. Visit Little Qualicum River Regional Park

I visited several waterfalls on Vancouver Island, but the ‘Little' Qualicum Falls was the most impressive one. Cascading down several tiers these roaring falls took my breath away, nature is so powerful!

An added bonus is the photogenic abandoned railroad you'll cross when entering the park.

Too bad it's no longer in use though, what a ride that would have been…

34. Walk among giants in Cathedral Grove

Moss-covered trees in Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island
Cathedral Grove forest on Vancouver Island Canada

Cathedral Grove is one of the many Vancouver Island attractions and I loved this old-growth forest with its massive trees, all covered in moss and lichen.

There are two short and easy boardwalks, one on each side of the road. It's easy to lose yourself in this mysterious green world…

35. Admire the view from the Port Alberni Fire lookout

View from the Port Alberni Fire lookout

It's a bit of a climb (300 meters elevation, 9 km return), but the view over the Port Alberni valley is splendid!

I completely understand why they built a fire lookout in this particular spot, you can see for miles and miles in all directions!

36. Stroll around the Harbour Quay in Port Alberni

Port Alberni harbourfront

Port Alberni isn't very big or known as one of the main attractions on Vancouver Island. However, there are lots of things to do in Port Alberni and the surrounding area.

The harborfront is a lovely area and the view over the Alberni Inlet (with its 40km the longest inlet on Vancouver Island) is beautiful.

At the harbor front, you can climb a small lookout tower, there are several nice shops and the All Mex'D Up Taco Shop.

37. See the salmon migration at the Stamp River fish ladder

Stamp River fish ladder at Vancouver Island

I had never seen salmon (alive;-) before, let alone seen them migrate up a river! At the Stamp River Falls a fish ladder has been installed, helping the salmon in their journey upstream.

Salmon migration at the Stamp River fish ladder

The fun part: here is a big TV showing a lifestream from the fish ladder. So you can actually see the salmon swimming through!

38. Check out the Petroglyphs at Sproat Lake Provincial Park

K’ak’awin - best preserved petroglyphs in British Columbia

A short trail leads along the lake to K’ak’awin, one of the best-preserved petroglyphs in British Columbia. What do you think it looks like? The Monster of Sprout Lake?

39. Drive the Pacific Rim Highway

Pacific Rim Highway on Vancouver Island

One of the places to see on Vancouver Island is the beautiful Pacific Rim Highway.

This scenic drive to Ucluelet and Tofino leads along lakes and through green forests to the wild South coast of Vancouver Island and the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

Take your time and stop often to take pictures!

40. Hike the Wild Pacific Trail (part I & II)

We hiked these trails in the rain, but even so, the views were hauntingly beautiful…

This was one of my favorite Vancouver island activities, what an amazing and rugged coastline!

You can find detailed information about the hike (including a map) on this website. Be aware that bears and wolfs are often seen on the trail, so read up on what to do when you encounter one.

41. Feel the pounding of the waves at the Amphitrite Point Lighthouse

Pounding waves at the Amphitrite Point Lighthouse Wild Pacific Trail Vancouver Island

The Amphitrite Point Lighthouse may not be the prettiest of lighthouses, but it is very strong! 

Interesting fact: being the Lighthouse keeper wasn't an easy job back in the day… The first keeper lived a mile from the lighthouse, he hiked down every night at sunset to light the lamp.

The keeper would return at midnight to rewind the mechanism and again at sunrise to extinguish the lamp. So much for a good night's sleep!

But it's a good thing he did, before the lighthouse was built many ships sank in this treacherous part of the Pacific Ocean.

42. Get hot cocoa at the Gray Whale

Hot cocoa at the Gray Whale cafe in Ucluelet Vancouver Island

Another great option for a rainy day on Vancouver Island is the cozy coffee bar we found in Ucluelet.

It's called the Gray Whale and they serve steaming cups of hot chocolate and several freshly baked pies…

43. Hike the Schooner Cove Trail

The Schooner Cove Trail is a short and easy hike (4km return), but a beautiful one nonetheless. The trail leads to Schooner Cove Beach via a boardwalk through the ancient forest.

The beach is a great spot to spend some time and, depending on the weather, you can even go for a swim.

44. Take a stroll on Long Beach

This beach stretches over 16 kilometers and is the longest beach on Vancouver Island. Watch the surfers conquer the waves and search for driftwood.

Or simply sit down, build a sand castle with your kids, and enjoy the breathtaking views.

45. Explore cute and artsy Tofino

Tofino is a village on the Wild Pacific Coast

I am not exaggerating when I say that every Canadian we spoke to asked if we would be visiting Tofino. Apparently, Tofino is pretty famous in Canada!

And while I'll admit it's hipster galore, Tofino is a nice place to visit.

It's one of the cutest small towns in Canada, with bakeries, cafes, shops, and galleries, perfect to be explored on foot on a sunny afternoon.

46. Hike the Tonquin Trail (and watch the sunset)

Tonquin Beach Trail is an easy hiking trail on Vancouver Island near Tofino

Yet another nice little hike on Vancouver Island… The Tonquin trail is an easy 3km loop through the temperate rainforest and leads to Tonquin Beach.

We visited during the day, but Tonquin Beach is also a very popular place to watch the sunset.

More highlights on Vancouver Island

If you've got more time to spend on Vancouver Island, consider adding these popular spots to your Vancouver Island itinerary as well.

47. Visit Campbell River

Campbell River is about a 90-minute drive from Nanaimo and a 40 minutes drive from Comox (you're point of arrival if you were to take a ferry from Power River on the Sunshine Coast, BC).

Campbell River is the third largest city on Vancouver Island and has a wonderfully friendly vibe. There are lots of things to do in Campbell River, so if you've got some time left in your itinerary, this city (and the surrounding area) is a great place to spend it!

Visit the Maritime Heritage Centre, go for a stroll along the 10-km-long Rotary Sea Walk, or have a fancy meal at the Harbour Grill.

48. Visit Elk Falls Provincial Park

One of the best things to do in Campbell River is to visit Elk Falls Provincial Park. Admire the waterfalls and walk the swinging suspension bridge.

Follow the easy Millenium Trail through the forest and feel dwarfed by the sky-high trees. 

49. Go hiking in Strathcona Park

Strathcona Provincial Park is one of Vancouver Island's hidden gems. The mountainous landscapes are perfect for hiking and some of the best day hikes on Vancouver Island can be found in this expansive Provincial Park.

The Elk River Trail (21km), Crest Mountain trail (11km), and Bedwell Lake trail (15km) are great options.

Prepare well for each of these trails, you're hiking in the wilderness and it's crucial you know what you're doing.

50. Conquer the north and visit Port Hardy
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For those looking who want to go as far off the beaten path on Vancouver Island as possible, drive all the way up to Port Hardy.

From Campbell River, the drive takes around 2.5 hours. Nanaimo to Port Hardy is 4 hours of driving and Victoria to Port Hardy takes almost 5.5 hours.

Stop at Telegraph Cove (pictured above) along the way, this tiny and picturesque village is an excellent place to grab some lunch (the Killer whale café is highly recommended).

From Telegraph Cove it's only a short drive (40 minutes) to Port Hardy, the northernmost town on Vancouver Island.

51. Spend a day on Pender Island

Pender Island is one of the Southern Gulf Islands. This cluster of beautiful islands is situated between Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia in the Strait of Georgia.

Pender Island actually consists of two small islands, North Pender Island and South Pender Island, and is surrounded by the Salish Sea.

The island offers a variety of outdoor activities for visitors, such as kayaking, whale watching, camping, and fishing.

All in all, Pender Island is the perfect place for a relaxing getaway, with plenty of opportunities to explore and enjoy the outdoors!

Frequently asked questions about Vancouver Island

Are there any grizzly bears on Vancouver Island?

Although grizzly bears are very rare on Vancouver Island, there have been several sightings in recent years, mostly in northern Vancouver Island.

Black bears are much more common on Vancouver Island, which is why it's important to read up on bear safety and always carry a can of bear spray.

Are there bald eagles on Vancouver Island?

Yes, there are many bald eagles living on Vancouver Island. Bring your binoculars and keep your eyes peeled for one of the most spectacular birds in the world.

Are there cougars on Vancouver Island?

It has long been said that the world’s highest concentration of cougars lives on Vancouver Island. Something to be mindful of when heading out into those beautiful forests.

Read more about cougar safety here.

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Vancouver Island things to do: in conclusion

I hope you enjoyed this post! Feel free to ask any questions you have by leaving a comment or sending me a message. Also read my other Canada post for more Canada travel inspiration!

This post was updated in March 2023.


Sunday 4th of June 2023

Thank you for writing this interesting article! There are a few places I am now interested in seeing. There are a couple points that are incorrect though. The average temperature is not 17C during the day. That is more of a night time average.The days average closer to 30C. Rain? Only 6 days over 3 months? Maybe closer to 6 days a week for 3 months. It is, after all, a rainforest.


Monday 5th of June 2023

Hey Cindy,

Thank you for reading and I'm glad you've added a couple of places to your Vancouver Island itinerary because of my post:-) Also, thank you for the weather feedback, we visited in Summer but it was a relatively cold year and temperatures rarely made it above 20 degrees Celcius. However, I've checked the current climate information for Vancouver Island and adjusted the averages (temperature and number of rainy days) accordingly. Thank you for letting me know!



Wednesday 10th of August 2022

Thanks for the detailed description. About wildlife on Vancouver Island, it has long been said that the world’s highest concentration of cougars is on the Island. Just something to be mindful of !


Wednesday 10th of August 2022

Hey Mike,

Thanks for reading and I'll add that to the post! That's definitely something to be mindful of as they're beautiful but dangerous creatures.



Saturday 18th of June 2022

Way too much scrolling to get to the list. It's Butchart Gardens, not Butchard.


Sunday 19th of June 2022

Dear Becky,

You can use the table of contents to quickly get to the section you're looking for, in your case the list of things to do on Vancouver Island. Thanks for catching my spelling error, I've adjusted it! Have a lovely trip to Vancouver Island!



Friday 8th of October 2021

Awesome article! I am definitely planning a trip to Vancouver Island after reading this post.


Tuesday 12th of October 2021

Hi Alex, thank you for your kind words! Glad I have inspired you to visit Vancouver Island:-) Lotte

Jade McDiarmid

Sunday 31st of January 2021

What a great list! I live here and plan on following the list this yr! Did you come back and make a list for the North Island?


Sunday 31st of January 2021

Hi Jade,

Thank you, happy to hear that:-) Unfortunately, I haven't been back to Vancouver Island yet as Canada is currently closed to international tourists. Perhaps later this year or 2022...

Best regards, Lotte