Panoramic View of Kennedy Lake during a vibrant sunny day, Vancouver Island

Things to do in  Vancouver Island

These coastlines need no introduction

Stunning landscapes and First Nations heritage converge on spectacular Vancouver Island, where you’ll find dramatic scenery ranging from soaring forests to windswept coastlines. Whether you’re chasing waves on the western edge, spotting pods of whales, sampling local wines, embarking on grizzly bear-watching tours, or hiking amid giant sequoia trees, you’ll have no trouble finding things to do on Vancouver Island that capture British Columbia’s larger-than-life beauty. Head to town for a dose of culture: Between elegant architecture and afternoon teas, the capital of Victoria retains a British feel, while surf-spot Tofino is a bohemian hub with artistic flair.

Top 8 attractions in Vancouver Island

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens, established in 1904, treats visitors to an enchanting floral show that changes with the seasons. Covering 55 acres (22 hectares) on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, the botanical space is intricately laid out into separate themed gardens with landscaping that impresses and inspires gardeners and nature lovers alike.More

Sidney (Sidney-by-the-Sea)

Life revolves around the water at this laid-back coastal community north of Victoria. The action centers on the seafront where you’ll find a sculpture-dotted walkway, a beach scattered with sea glass, and a pier where locals crab and cast fishing lines, as well as an aquarium housing marine life native to the Salish Sea.More

Gulf Islands National Park Reserve

Established in 2003, this national park encompasses 8,896 acres (3,600 hectares of forested islands and marine habitats between Vancouver Island and Vancouver city. Wildlife thrives in its Mediterranean-like climate with bald eagles, cormorants, and hawks patrolling the skies and orcas, porpoises, and seals occupying the waters.More

Gulf Islands

Dotted around the Strait of Georgia between Vancouver Island and the British Columbia mainland, are the laid-back Gulf Islands. Come to browse farmers markets, visit artist studios, and experience nature—from woodland trails to pebbled beaches—all of which draw Vancouverites fleeing the city.More

Victoria Butterfly Gardens

There’s a rainbow of fluttering wings at the Victoria Butterfly Gardens. The destination is also home to carnivorous plants, pink flamingos, insects, and poison frogs. The gardens are entirely indoors, too, making this a great activity on rainy days.More

Church & State Wines

Located on the Saanich Peninsula, Church and State Wines is proof that you don't have to stray far from Victoria to grow fantastic wine grapes. The Saamich location is one of two Church and State outposts in BC—the other is in the province's celebrated Okanagan wine region.More

Strait of Juan de Fuca

Named after a 16th-century Greek explorer, the Strait of Juan de Fuca is sandwiched between Vancouver Island and Washington state, connecting the Salish Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The international border between the US and Canada cuts through the channel, and marine creatures—including whales, porpoises, and seals—abound.More

Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Sites

West coast Canada’s oldest lighthouse watches over ships in the Juan de Fuca Strait at this pair of historic sites near Victoria, British Columbia. Gun batteries, concrete walls, and other fortifications comprise the defense system of Fort Rodd Hill, an artillery fort that’s a prime example of 19th-century military engineering.More

Top activities in Vancouver Island

Whale Watching Tour in a Zodiac Boat in Victoria
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Victoria Whale Watch Tour
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Victoria Whale Watch Tour

Zodiac Whale Watching Adventure from Victoria
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Victoria Whale Watching Tour on a Covered Vessel
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Pedicab Tour of Victoria from Cruise Ship Terminal
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Ghostly Walking Tour in Victoria

Ghostly Walking Tour in Victoria

Whale Watching Nanaimo Open Boat Tour
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Zipline Adventure Tour
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Zipline Adventure Tour

Victoria Whale Watching Tour by Zodiac
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All about Vancouver Island

When to visit

You don’t get rainforest without plenty of rain, but July and August experience bright, sunny days, making these Vancouver Island’s busiest months. The fine weather extends into the shoulder season—which comprises May, June, and September—but in late fall, winter, and spring, you’ll encounter cool and gray conditions. It’s still gorgeous in the off-season, though. Winter brings big storms and waves to the west coast, drawing “wave chasers” who watch the dramatic weather from cozy hotel rooms.

Getting around

Most travelers come to Vancouver Island by ferry, making the 1.5- to 2-hour crossing from Tsawwassen or Horseshoe Bay to Swartz Bay or Dune Point. From there, it helps to have your own vehicle unless you’re making a beeline for Victoria’s walkable downtown. Distances are considerable, and some visitors heading for the remote west coast will hop on one of the seaplanes that make regular trips between the mainland and island towns.

Traveler tips

The Nanaimo bar, one of Canada’s most beloved desserts, is named for a small city on Vancouver Island’s east coast. The no-bake square combines chocolate, coconut, almond, and graham cracker crumbs in three layers. You can find all sorts of riffs on the sweet treat, with variations that include Nanaimo bar ice cream, cheesecake, and even Nanaimo bar waffles. For a deep dive into the toothsome dessert, check out the Nanaimo Bar Trail, which travels from Nanaimo to the surrounding region.


People Also Ask

What are the top attractions to visit on Vancouver Island?

Vancouver Island’s top attractions include the Inner Harbour of historic Victoria, Butchart Gardens, beaches, and its lush temperate rainforest. There are also cultural experiences for every taste: Victoria has the renowned Royal BC Museum and the stately Craigdarroch Castle, while Tofino is great for browsing galleries.

What are the most popular things to do in Vancouver Island with children?

Ample kid-friendly trails, beaches, and parks make outdoor exploring a top family activity on Vancouver Island, with favorite spots including The Butchart Gardens, Wild Pacific Trail, Rainforest Trail, and Chesterman Beach. Whale- and dolphin-watching outings are also great, and kids love marine encounters at the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea.

How many days should I spend on Vancouver Island?

Spend at least three days on Vancouver Island to see some of its top sites, including historic Victoria, Butchart Gardens, and the rainforest. Budget more time if you’re heading to the scenic and rugged west coast, where Tofino is a home base for surfing, hiking, boating, and more.

What is the most beautiful part of Vancouver Island?

Vancouver Island is full of gorgeous spots. History buffs celebrate the beauty of Victoria’s elegant Inner Harbour, while nature lovers point to pretty Mystic Beach, the Wild Pacific Trail, or the Rainforest Trail. The island is also quite varied, with a landscape that goes from rugged mountains to sandy beaches.

Is there a lot to do on Vancouver Island?

Yes, there’s a lot to do on Vancouver Island. Popular activities include hiking, surfing, visiting beaches, whale watching, and exploring the island’s many scenic parks. Victoria—British Columbia’s capital—is the hub for historic and cultural offerings, and there are over a dozen wineries in the Cowichan Valley wine region.

What is the best month to visit Vancouver Island?

Vancouver Island often has beautiful weather from May through September, though rain is possible any month of the year. In September and October, though, you can watch Chinook salmon spawning, a dramatic natural display that draws visitors to island locations such as Goldstream Provincial Park and Stamp River Provincial Park.

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