The largest island off the west coast of North America, Vancouver Island can be reached via a scenic 90-minute ferry ride from the city of Vancouver in British Columbia. A wildlife and nature lovers’ paradise, here you’ll have the opportunity to view everything from orca, gray and humpback whales to black bears and countless bald eagles, all against a backdrop of beautiful, rugged beaches, lush rainforest and soaring mountains. It’s also home to B.C.’s capital of Victoria, providing city delights as well.

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Stroll through Butchart Gardens Butchart Gardens
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Butchart Gardens

Stroll through Butchart Gardens

The reason Victoria has been nicknamed the “City of Gardens,” Butchart is one of the world’s most beautiful display gardens, established by Jenny Butchart who wanted to beautify the barren pits the limestone mining company her husband had left on their property. Owned by the same family today, most of its 55 acres that contain some 700 varieties of plants that bloom between March and October are open to the public. Some of the highlights include the Italian Garden, Japanese Garden and the stunning Rose Garden, blooming at its peak during the summer months. Arrive in late June or early July and you’ll be able to marvel at the delphiniums that are dotted in between.  On Saturday evenings during this season, you’ll not only witness the endless array of colorful flowers but a magnificent fireworks display.

Drive the Scenic Marine Route

The Scenic Marine Route follows the Trans-Canada Highway for about 180 miles and can be traveled by car, hiked or biked. It showcases beautiful parks and beaches, ancient forests and gargantuan trees, traversing from the east coast of the island, passing through the mountains around Lake Cowichan and following the west coast before looping back to the city of Victoria. Make time for plenty of stops with multiple viewpoints along the way for capturing photos.  Sooke Potholes Provincial Park, which sits along the banks of the Sooke River is known for its unique rock formations and offers the chance for an especially tranquil, refreshing dip. You may want to take a hike on the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail too, which follows the coast and features incredible views of the island-dotted sea and the chance to glimpse all sorts of wildlife, like sea lions, whales and bald eagles.

Explore Cathedral Grove Provincial Park trail through Cathedral Grove Provincial Park, Vancouver Island, BC
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trail through Cathedral Grove Provincial Park, Vancouver Island, BC

Explore Cathedral Grove Provincial Park

Stop at Cathedral Grove Provincial Park and you can witness a rare and endangered remnant of an ancient Douglas fir ecosystem. This is the last of the remains of a temperate rainforest that once covered Vancouver Island over a thousand years ago. Take a stroll along the trails to view the towering giant Douglas firs and unique rock formations.

Enjoy the outdoors at Pacific Rim National Park Pacific Rim National Park
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Pacific Rim National Park

Enjoy the outdoors at Pacific Rim National Park

Set along the island’s wild west coast against a backdrop of dense rainforest and towering mountains with miles and miles of beaches, Pacific Rim National Park is a destination that was made for nature and wildlife lovers. Here you’ll find abundant sea and land creatures, including everything from a variety of whale species, sea lions and seals to black tail deer, endangered leather turtles and bald eagles. You may get an up close, more personal look by venturing out on a whale observation cruise via Zodiac boat, watching for the frequently spotted humpback and grey whales, as well as the occasional pod of killer whales and other marine life too. It’s made up of three units, each offering something unique of its own, such as the 10-mile stretch of pristine, undeveloped coastline known as Long Beach. The longest stretch of sandy beach on the west coast, this is the spot to go for beach strolls and beachcombing, surfing and kayaking. Stay through the end of the day to enjoy a grand finale as the color splashes across the sea at sunset.

Spend time in Tofino Tofino, British Columbia
Tofino, British Columbia

Spend time in Tofino

One of the prettiest towns on the island, Tofino lies at the north end of Pacific Rim National park, serving as a hub for the long series of beaches along the coast. It’s a popular gateway for those who want to surf or hiking through the emerald rainforest with its 800-year-old cedar trees that line a wooden boardwalk. It’s also the departure point for boat excursions into Clayoquot Sound’s protected bys where humpback, orca and grey whales are often spotted as the pass along the shore, while black bears gather in the area to feast on shellfish.

Explore Campbell River

The town of Campbell River, also known as the “Salmon Capital of the World,” was nicknamed for the five different salmon species that run through its main river. The fish attract bald eagles and kingfishers that can often be seen searching for a meal from the trees overhead or along its banks. While fishing is the biggest draw here, there are also a number of art galleries, unique boutiques, eateries and farmers markets to explore. History buffs won’t want to miss the Museum at Campbell River, the ideal spot for learning more about the living history of the region and the rich cultures of the First Nations groups.

Marvel at the bears in Butte Inlet

You can experience some of British Columbia’s most impressive wildlife in its natural habitat by joining a boat tour to the glacial emerald waters of the Orford River which sits within a breathtakingly pristine fjord known as Bute Inlet. Along the way,there’s a good chance to be able to marvel at all sorts of animals, including whales, black bears and a variety of marine life.  This is the home of the largest concentration of grizzly bears in province and you’ll stand in awe on the viewing platform, mesmerized by all the bears, sometimes cubs as well, all drawn here for the abundance of spawning salmon. While the bears are the star of the show, the surrounding scenery is a close second.

Take a ferry ride to Quadra Island Lighthouse on Quadra Island, B.C.
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Lighthouse on Quadra Island, B.C.

Take a ferry ride to Quadra Island

A 10-minute ferry ride will bring you to Quadra Island, part of the Discovery Islands, just off the island’s east coast. Spend the day walking the beach trails where you can glimpse interesting sea creatures like sea urchins, jellyfish and starfish in the tide pools as well as sea lions, seals, porpoise dolphins and whales just offshore while incredible scenery serving as the backdrop. Or, get out on the water and paddle a kayak by taking a tour led by marine life observation guides.

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