Vancouver Island

George Vancouver was a British naval officer who gave his name to a number of places in Canada.  One of the places named after the explorer is North America’s largest Pacific Ocean Island.  Vancouver Island at 460 kilometres (290 miles) in length and 80 kms (50 miles) wide is also Canada’s 11th largest island.

Situated just off the southwestern corner of the province of British Columbia, Vancouver Island is separated from the mainland by the Johnstone and Queen Charlotte Straits and by the Strait of Georgia.  The island enjoys Canada’s mildest climate, but is also is situated on the Pacific’s Ring of Fire so gets a lot of seismic activity.

The largest city on Vancouver Island is Victoria.  It has a delightful inner harbour and many beautiful buildings.  Visitors pour in to view vast sculpted gardens and London-style double-decker buses, to shop for Irish linens and Harris tweeds, to sip afternoon tea, and to soak up what they believe is the last vestige of British imperialism in the Western Hemisphere.  The Butchart Gardens are particularly well known for the lovely displays roses and its Japanese and Italian-themed gardens which are lit up on summer nights.

It’s worth exploring the old town section of Victoria with its heritage buildings and galleries and sidewalk restaurants around bastion Square, and also nearby Chinatown where you can visit Fat Tan Alley Canada’s narrowest street. IMAX is a Canadian invention, and you can visit National Geographic’s IMAX theatre which is located within the Royal British Columbia Museum, which features marvelous dioramas and artifacts from all eras of British Columbia’s human habitation.

Given that Canada has a maritime history going back thousands of years to the first Inuit and Native Canadian settlers, the Maritime Museum is well worth a visit with its exhibition of over 5,000 artifacts.

It’s not quite a museum, nor is it an amusement park, but Miniature World is one of those places that takes you by surprise.  Incredibly accurate dioramas representing everything from exactly replicated historical scenes to flights of fantasy making it well worth the visit.

One of the unique attractions in Victoria is the Pacific Undersea Gardens where you can view much of Vancouver Island’s marine life from 5 metres underwater to see just how diverse and rich the waters are around the Island.

Vancouver Island’s second-largest city is Nanaimo, a picturesque oceanfront town with fabulous mountain views and a busy harbour. Home to events like the harbour’s Bathtub Race, the city of 75,000 offers outdoor opportunities from full-moon kayaking to golfing. Boat-fresh seafood graces tables at an ever-increasing number of restaurants.

Vancouver Island’s largest city on the rugged west coast is Tofino.  This cities appeal lies in its unadulterated nature: its untouched national parks, unpopulated beaches, and uncut forests. The town’s symbol is an 800 year old cedar tree, the Eik Cedar. A popular area to visit near Tofino for both locals and visitors alike is the Pacific Rim National Park.  There are three regions in the Park: Long Beach, which is located along Wickaninnish Bay and is a popular surfing spot, although it can be dangerous when tides are high.  Also the Broken Group Islands, a conglomeration of islands and islets in Barkley Sound; and the West Coast Trail a 75 km (47 mi) long backpacking trail following the southwestern edge of Vancouver Island. It was built in 1907 to facilitate the rescue of survivors of shipwrecks along the coast, part of the treacherous Graveyard of the Pacific.

Getting to the Island is relatively easy. There’s regularly scheduled Vancouver Island ferry service, and regularly scheduled flights to and from the Island.  The British Columbia Ferry Service (BC Ferries) provides all major passenger and vehicle ferry services on the West Coast of British Columbia.  You can take a ferry from Vancouver to the Island’s 2 largest cities: Victoria or Nanaimo (the scenery is really beautiful on both of these routes).  There are also ferries to the ports of Anacortes and Port Angeles in Washington State, USA, and a ferry between Port Hardy on Vancouver Island and Prince Rupert in British Columbia.  There are also regular scheduled flights to Victoria.

1 comment to Vancouver Island

  • Every time I walk up the front steps of city hall, I look at the statue of George Vancouver and wonder where in the world his last name came from. It’s a particularly nice statue. I wouldn’t mind one one day…

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