8 Amazing Activities You Need To Do On Vancouver Island
Vancouver island is known as Canada’s nature playground. With old growth forests, incredible sea life and stunning coastline, it’s easy to see why it carries that title! During my 11-day road trip through the Canadian Rockies, I spent just under a week on the island. And I definitely feel like I could’ve explored more of it!
So instead of writing a vague post about how wonderful Vancouver Island is, I thought I’d ask top travel bloggers (including a local islander) about what their most memorable activity was on the island. Some of them are doable in a single day. And depending on your itinerary, most have the option to extend the activity over several days.
Before we jump into the post, I’d like to acknowledge that the West Coast Trail hasn’t been mentioned in the amazing activities to do, but it’s definitely worth while if you can book yourself in quick enough! I had a friend who did it two years ago, and I’ve been wanting to do it since! Check out the link if you’d like to read a detailed day-to-day breakdown of the trek.
Now, without further adieu, here are…
8 Amazing Activities To Do On Vancouver Island
Go On A Grizzly Bear Tour
Recommended by Lisa of The Hot Flash Packer.
One of the most exhilarating things to do in September and October is visit the grizzly bears in Bute Inlet. While Vancouver Island has no grizzly bears, it is the home to Campbell River, which is the starting point for Discovery Marine Safaris grizzly expedition.
The roughly 8-hour trip starts at the port in Campbell River where you are briefed by the captain and on-board naturalist. It takes over 2 hours by boat through the very beautiful inside passage.
If you’re lucky, you will see seals, eagles, orcas, humpback whales, and maybe even a stray cruise ship in the glacier fed inlet!
When you arrive to the Homalco Reservation in Bute Inlet, young First Nation residents will take you by shuttle bus to several grizzly bear viewing spots. The best spot is the confluence of a stream and the Orford River, where I witnessed eight grizzlies at one time!
In total, I saw twelve grizzly bears during my exciting visit. Even though the grizzlies are only meters away, they are totally busy eating as much salmon as they can to prepare for winter hibernation.
Whale Watching with Prince of Whales
Recommended by Kate Newman of Travel For Difference.
Before visiting Canada, I knew there was one thing that I desperately had to do… Whale watching!
Canada is so well known for the abundant amount of whale species that swim within its waters, so for anyone that loves close wildlife encounters, this is definitely something for you!
Situated in the harbour of Victoria, on Vancouver Island, is Prince of Whales. After doing a lot of research, it became clear that this is definitely the best company for the job; they’re ethical, sustainable and really do care for the marine life they observe.
As for the tours themselves, there is a lot to choose from; zodiac adventures, crossings from Vancouver to Victoria (and vice-versa) and many others that stop at attractions along the way. One thing that I can 100% ensure, is that you’re bound to see a serious amount of wildlife!
Humpbacks, orcas, seals, porpoise, nesting birds and more! With Prince of Whales, they ensure that a safe distance is kept from the animals to ensure that they’re left undisturbed. I couldn’t recommend this activity enough – From the 2 tours I did with this company whilst on Vancouver Island, I encountered 17 whales, 3 porpoises, and over 100 seals… Not bad right?
Hiking the Wildside Trail
Recommended by Taryn of Happiest Outdoors.
Hiking on Vancouver Island is one of the best ways to experience the beauty of the area. You may have heard of some of the most popular trails, like the West Coast Trail. But if you want to get escape the crowds and have spectacular sandy beaches and coastal rainforests all to yourself, check out the less visited Wildside Trail.
Catch a water taxi from the dock in downtown Tofino and boat over to the remote village of Ahousaht 30 minutes away on Flores Island in Clayoquot Sound. From there you can take a day trip to along the first portion of the Wildside Trail or hike the full 22km round trip distance and wilderness camp on the beaches. The trail is mostly flat and travels along beaches and through forests on hand-split boardwalks.
You’ll walking in the traditional territory of the Ahousaht First Nation (the local indigenous people) so watch for interpretive plaques along the way that explain places of historical and spiritual significance.
If you’re lucky, you might also see some of the resident wolves or spot orcas swimming by your campsite!
Snowshoeing in Strathcona Park
Recommended by Patrick Horsfield of Adventographer.
Vancouver Island is so much more than quaint villages and rugged coastline. Strathcona Park, British Columbia’s first and the largest on Vancouver Island, is home to endless tracts of untouched but accessible mountain wilderness. But what if you’re not visiting at the height of summer? Never fear! Snowshoeing in Strathcona Park is one of my must-do Vancouver Island Activities.
Starting from the Mt. Washington Ski Resort (where snowshoe and equipment rentals are available) well marked trails branch out through an area known as paradise meadows. From 2 hour circuits around (or over if you’re brave enough) the lakes to day trips in the backcountry there is something here for everyone no matter your fitness or experience level. When you’re done playing in the great outdoors awesome food and hot drinks await you at the ski hill’s restaurant/bar.
Laughs are bound to be had as you learn how to move around on snowshoes. Once you get the hang of it, however; there’s no better way to experience the majestic beauty and quiet of the snow-covered landscape.
Go On A Kayak Adventure in Telegraph Cove
One of my favourite memories on Vancouver Island was kayaking for the day in the Comox Valley. Just outside of my cousin’s relatives’ house was a herd of seals– including two seal pups! Although I loved my little kayak adventure in Comox (you can rent kayaks here), kayaking in the infamous Telegraph Cove is the place to go!
Located in the north-west corner of the island, Telegraph Cove is the best spot in the world for orca sightings! The cove is a few kilometres away from the Robson Bight Ecological Preserve, Canada’s only killer whale sanctuary. You can’t cross into the sanctuary by water or land, but you can still see them from Telegraph Cove! It’s also a great spot to see humpback whales and pods of dolphins, along with your more easily-spotted sea lions, seals, bald eagles, and more!
With North Island Kayak, you have plenty of options from a half-day to a multi-day kayak adventure to get your fill of Canada’s incredible sea life! And it’s one of the cheapest kayaking tours in the area. Kayaking season runs from June through to mid-September, so book yourself in quickly!
Hike The Wild Pacific Trail
Recommended by Scott Hornberg of International Hotdish.
Whether you visit Vancouver Island in the summer, winter, fall, or spring, you must venture along the Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet. You’ll be subject to beautiful views you didn’t know were possible, flora and fauna worthy of fine paintings, and a serene atmosphere of nature unlike anything you’ve felt before.
If you’re into hiking, you’ve certainly come to the right place. Trails are easy to moderate and are clearly marked and well cared for. Paths are easy to follow. You’d be well served to try the Lighthouse Track – it’s easy and offers some of the best views on the Wild Pacific Trail. The area is devoid of rubbish, and each section has beautiful photo opportunities of raging cliffs and roaring water.
If you’re looking for a break from hiking and instead a little relaxing, you’ll find ample beaches to lay down and stretch your legs. The water is usually pretty cold, though, so think twice before taking a dip.
Wine Country in Cowichan Valley
Recommended by Sarah Hughes of Live, Dream, Discover.
When people think about Vancouver Island, British Columbia the first thing that usually comes to mind is the capital city of Victoria. In fact, we have met many people around the world who think it is actually called Victoria Island. This lovely city is understandably popular and is most definitely worthy of a visit, however, there is so much more to this large island.
One of our favorite things to do is to explore the many Vancouver Island wineries. It’s true that Vancouver Island is not really known for wine but there is, in fact, a fabulous wine region here which started in the 1920’s but really blossomed after a Government-funded trial called the Duncan Project in the 80’s and 90’s.
The main wine region starts just outside of Victoria and spreads throughout the Cowichan Valley. Today there are about 40 licensed wineries and over 400 acres of vineyards planted in the region. Many of these wineries have tasting rooms and are open to the public for tours and range from charming, small family operations to large, fancy commercial wineries.
Pacific Rim National Park
Recommended by Janine DeVault of Janine In The World.
If you love hiking, Vancouver Island is the ultimate playground. Whether you want to explore alpine meadows, remote beaches, or old growth forest, Van Isle has you covered — I would know; growing up there, I had the chance to explore it all!
In my opinion, Pacific Rim National Park is home to some of the most beautiful scenery on the entire island. It’s a great representation of what you will find up and down the entire west coast and the best part is, you can drive there (no float planes or water taxis required!).
There are 8 hikes (but let’s be real, they’re more like walks) within the park and each of them has a unique point of interest, whether it be a surf break, sand dunes, old growth forest, or the opportunity to spot wildlife.
The Schooner trail will lead you through magnificent ancient trees to a stunning, sandy cove, perfect for tide-pooling or a picnic. For contrast, you can explore the Shorepine Bog trail which features stunted trees and a mossy bog that insulates you from the sounds of surf crashing in the distance. Or, you can walk the Nuu-chah-nulth trail and attempt to spot whales and coastal birds before arriving at the incredibly scenic Florencia Bay to watch some of Canada’s best surfers catch some waves.
Or hey, pack your board and wetsuit so you can join them!
What are your favourite things to do on Vancouver Island?
Please share all your favourite Vancouver Island activities in the comments below! And if you have any stories of your time on Vancouver Island, I’d love to hear them too!
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