Holiday must-sees: The best things to do on Vancouver Island

Now that the dark, cold days of winter are over, a getaway to the Vancouver Island region will ease you out of hibernation.

Kayaking off Vancouver Island

Celebrate spring with a little Vancouver Island time!

Gone are the dreary doldrums of winter, and a getaway to Vancouver Island may be just what you need to celebrate. You don’t have to travel far for a little adventure – or relaxation. Vancouver Island is a vacation destination for everything from fishing, kayaking and wildlife watching to more historic, artistic and culinary activities – and we’ve got some spectacular ideas for quick getaways that will ease you out of hibernation.

Take afternoon tea in the garden

Victoria is as famous for its traditional afternoon tea as it is for its Old World English gardens. Sip a savoury house blend in style at The Fairmont Empress or nibble on delicate scones in an intimate tea room like the White Heather or Point Ellice House. Then wander the pathways in whimsical gardens on grand estates like Government House and Hatley Castle. Do both at the world-renowned Butchart Gardens, where spring and summer are the best time to see this kaleidoscope of floral colour.

Tour by bicycle

Turn your vacation into a culinary tour on two wheels through the Cowichan Valley, where flat, meandering country roads connect wineries, cideries, organic farms, fruit orchards, cheese makers and artisan bakeries. Stop in to sample their wares and stock up on snacks for the road. Of course, you can travel this route by car, too – stop at a Visitor Centre for the requisite maps and helpful advice in plotting your path. While you’re out and about, be sure to check out some of this region’s art galleries and studios, many of which are open to visitors. And in Chemainus, more than 40 enormous murals make for an intriguing tour of the town’s history.

Explore by kayak

When the sun is shining over the Gulf Islands – as it often is – the locals grab their paddles and head to the beach: the favourite ocean activity here is kayaking. Launch from any of dozens of beaches to explore tranquil bays and postcard-worthy coastlines, and look for sea stars clinging to the islands’ sandstone cliffs as you glide past. Lessons and tours are available for all skill levels, or plan your own holiday adventure with a picnic lunch procured from the local markets and artisan producers on Salt Spring Island. The Gulf Islands are also a haven for the artistically inclined; art galleries are abundant and many art studios are open to visitors.

Tee up for a golf getaway

While Vancouver Island is famous for golf courses that stay open all year, there’s nothing better than teeing off with the warmth of the sun on your shoulders and the Georgia Strait and Coast Mountains as your view. Boasting courses that feature stunning vistas and memorable challenges for every level of player, the Parksville and Qualicum Beach region is home to five top-rated 18-hole courses, two of which are among Canada’s top 100 golf courses, plus an historic nine-hole course that was founded in 1913. Take a break from the greens with a trip to the beach; this is also one of the most popular resort areas in Canada, and when you see the wide expanses of sparkling sand, you’ll understand why.

Get up close and personal with wildlife

In several communities in the North Island, nature is rugged and untamed – the perfect opportunity to see wildlife in its natural habitat. Chartered tours are the best way to watch for bears as they wander the creek beds in search of berries, or to see orca, grey, and humpback whales glide through crystal-clear waters. Springtime in this region means the return of thousands of grey whales – sign up for a whale-watching tour by Zodiac for ocean-bound thrills.

Fish for your dinner

No fish tales necessary here! In the North Central Island region – the Salmon Capital of the World and home to the Campbell River, Comox Lake, and of course, the Pacific Ocean – the fishing opportunities are legendary. Dream destinations for both freshwater and saltwater fishers, enthusiasts have been pilgrimaging to the communities of Campbell River, Courtenay and Comox for well over a century. A stop at the Visitor Centre will equip you with maps of the area and plenty of advice on the best freshwater fishing spots; for trophy catches of saltwater fish, hire a charter boat and benefit from the local knowledge of an experienced guide.

Take a hike

There’s no question that the Vancouver Island landscape is dramatic – and there’s no better way to explore it than on foot. Options range from gentle walks through old-growth forests or historic First Nations sites to more strenuous treks for experienced hikers. Take an urban stroll along the harbour front in Nanaimo, the Island’s second-largest city, and watch the comings and goings of seaplanes, ferries and fishers. In the Cowichan Valley, cross the historic Kinsol train trestle or travel the Cowichan River Footpath to Skutz Falls. In Ucluelet, hike the relatively easy Wild Pacific Trail for a taste of both beaches and rainforest, plus panoramic views and possible wildlife sightings. Come spring and summer, the quaint neighbouring seaside communities of Port Alberni, Bamfield and Tofino become bustling hubs for outdoor enthusiasts – pair your nature walk with a water-based activity like kayaking, surfing or scuba diving.

Where to stay

Choose the ideal backdrop for your holiday – accommodation on Vancouver Island is varied, and no matter your taste you’ll find something to suit. Quiet seaside hideaways, rural inns surrounded by acres of farmland and animals, B&Bs oozing historic charm and five-star resorts offering pampered luxury all number among the best places to stay.

For more information or to order your free Vancouver Island Vacation Guide, visit or call 1-888-655-3483.