Where To Go on Vancouver Island

Here are some of the highlighted places to visit on Vancouver Island as well as some hidden gems to explore.

Before beginning, I would like to give you some background.

It was LOVE at first sight- My love affair with Vancouver Island, began in 1999 when my husband and I set foot on her shores.

Map of Vancouver Island

Map of Vancouver Island showing ferry routes

Vancouver Island is a unification of First-Nations and European cultures. I can truly understand the desire of early discovers in the late 1700s to settle and colonize this place.
 History tells us that the first foreign people to arrive on the island were brought here by the Hudson Bay Company, a British fur trading firm. They brought not only English, Irish, Scottish but also migrants from Europe and from Hawaii.

Gold-rush activities of the 1860s prompted the growth of Victoria, named after Queen Victoria, with miners arriving from California to buy licences and mining-gear.

On April 2, 1868, Victoria became the provincial capital of British Columbia.

Today many of the landmarks in the city, are remnants of traders, lumber barons and miners who settled here; including Chinese labourers who came to build the railway. It is the combination of various cultures that infuses Vancouver Island, and especially Victoria, with a unique and fascinating appeal… A photographers dream!

Dusk with reflections on the calm waters of Victoria's Inner Harbour

Dusk with reflections on the calm waters of Victoria's Inner Harbour

Make your way to the picturesque Inner harbour and experience for yourself the excitement and atmosphere of this world famous attraction.

Day or night this photographic Island will have your shutter clicking continuously. There’s something for everyone, tourists bustling, vendors tantalizing and street performers busking. The vibe is definitely tangible and whether you're young or mature you're sure to find the atmosphere electric!

If you are lucky enough to visit the island in winter, then head off to Mount Washington where white hot action awaits:

Cross-Country Skiing and Snowboarding: Although Vancouver Island is renowned for its steep, rugged mountains, there's also great beauty in the mellow, rounded hills and snow-carpeted meadows. This terrain is ideal for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, great aerobic activities for the whole family, or the wandering couple and invigorating exercise for the fitness fanatics. Forty kilometres of quiet track-set trails, partially located in Strathcona Provincial Park, will provide enough terrain for the most demanding adventurer to explore.

Paradise Meadows - Nordic skiers on Mt. Washington enjoy some of the most diverse and scenic trails in the Pacific Northwest. All trails are track-set for classic and have a centre lane groomed for skating. From the cozy, cross-country day lodge at Mount Washington, a series of loop trails offers workouts of between 3 and 12 km long across the gentle terrain of Paradise Meadows. All told, there are over 40 km of skating-style and double-track cross-country trails around Mount Washington.

Intermediate and advanced nordic skiers can take advantage of a specially priced lift ticket for the Red Chair, from which you can descend into the upper West Meadows along 10 km of tracked trails. For some of the best cross-country terrain anywhere, try the Lake Trail Loop and the Upper West Trail. There's an unhurried nature to cross-country skiing at Mt. Washington.

Snowshoeing is the best and easiest way to access the outdoors in winter time. Strap on your snowshoes and hit the trails at Mt. Washington. Don't miss the Lantern Light Cross-Country and Snowshoeing tour through the incredible meadows of Mt. Washington. Glide along under a canopy of stars, with only lanterns or headlights to guide you home.

Families that have diverse interests within their group will appreciate having both alpine and backcountry facilities within a short walking distance of each other at Mt. Washington. While some members are riding the ski lifts, others can be exercising in the quiet of the backcountry. Some of the best views of Mt. Washington's alpine terrain are from out in Paradise Meadows.

Snowmobiling: Vancouver Island's hundreds of kilometres of old logging roads provide convenient access to remote forests and mountain ranges. Snowmobile touring on the island combines exploration of unexplored areas with panoramic views of distant valleys and towering peaks.

With abundant snowfall and spectacular views, Mt. Washington is a great place for snowmobiling, offering unlimited adventure. Snowmobiling is not permitted beyond the 10-km marker! Snowmobile rentals are available in Courtenay and Campbell River, and guided snowmobiling tours can also be arranged.

Mt. Cain and Area

Mt. Cain is located in Mt. Cain Regional Park, off Highway 19 north of Campbell River, and is run by the non-profit Mt. Cain Alpine Park Society. It is Vancouver Island's only community owned and operated ski and snowboard facility, with plenty of enjoyable and challenging runs.

At Mount Cain you'll find untouched powder which has built up over the week, virtually no line-ups for lifts and the friendly, welcoming atmosphere of a family oriented mountain. With its island interior location, Mt. Cain has drier snow than other Coastal mountains, and better spring skiing conditions. Mt. Cain (1,646m) is open on weekends and ski holidays in the winter, offering 18 downhill runs (vertical drop 450 m) and 15 km of unmarked cross-country trails to explore.

Mt. Cain is accessed from the Island Highway 19 and is located 8 km south of the Woss turnoff. It's a 16-km ride on a gravel road from the highway to the day lodge. Roads are regularly maintained by the mountain's maintenance department, assisted by the forest companies

Butchart Gardens

The Butchart Gardens are located in Brentwood Bay, 21 km north of the capital city of Victoria and 20 km south of the Vancouver - Victoria ferry terminal at Swartz Bay.

Fifty acres of floral enchantment offering eye-candy views, as your camera shutters ‘click’’ away whle you wander along meandering paths and expansive lawns, capturing the beauty of thousands of flowers.

In 1904, the idea of Butchart Gardens began with an effort to beautify a worked-out quarry site (now the world renowned sunken garden) on the 130-acre estate of Mr. and Mrs. R.P. Butchart, pioneers in the manufacture of Portland Cement in Canada.

Their endeavour became a family commitment to horticulture and hospitality spanning more than 90 years and delighting visitors from all over the world. From the exquisite Sunken Garden to the charming Rose Garden, this 50-acre show-place still upholds the gracious traditions of the past, in one of the loveliest corners in the world.

A visit to the gardens is a must, even if your stay in Victoria is short, make sure to fit this into your itinerary, also that your camera batteries are charged and you have extra memory cards or film, depending on your equipment. My suggestion is to plan your visit in the morning or later in the afternoon to maximize on the subtle lighting. The gardens offer a peaceful and relaxing day with opportunies to take awesome shots.