As soon as we started looking at moving to Victoria from Toronto, we knew we were going to have to put together an epic bucket list for our time on Vancouver Island. As nature and outdoor lovers, the lure of VI is strong and we know we’re going to have plenty of things to do on Vancouver Island to keep us busy! Here are a few of the experiences we’ve set our sights on!
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Our Vancouver Island bucket list
What might look like a small slither on the map compared to the rest of Canada is anything but. Often overlooked in favour of its namesake city on the mainland and the rest of British Colombia, Vancouver Island has plenty to offer – especially for the outdoor lover – and could keep you busy exploring for weeks, months or even years.
Vancouver Island is 460 kilometres (290 mi) in length, 100 kilometres (62 mi) in width at its widest point, and 32,134 km2 (12,407 sq mi) in area. It takes five hours to drive from Victoria to Tofino alone, and is in fact the largest island on the western coast of the Americas. Home to mountains, lakes, temperate rainforest and sandy beaches, the topography of Vancouver Island is varied, too.
Being based in Victoria, on the southern tip of the Island, we can’t wait to head north and experience the beauties this huge island has to offer. Here’s what’s on our bucket list for our time here on Vancouver Island!
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1. Wander the English Gardens of Victoria
Once the capital of the British Dominion of Canada, it’s not surprising the Victoria has retained something of its former imperial legacy. Victoria is known as the “City of Gardens” – its temperate climate (compared to the rest of Canada) makes it the perfect place to grow. Being fond of English Gardens (not to mention getting a welcome reminder of home), we’re looking forward to getting to know our new home city and enjoying moments of tranquility in spring and summer surrounded by blooms.
The famous Butchart Gardens are some of the most popular and include not only rose gardens and plenty of fountains, but gardens inspired by Japan and around the world.
2. Head out to Watch the Whales
Mention Vancouver Island and whales probably jump to mind. The island offers some incredible opportunities for whale watching, with possible sightings (depending on the season) including: Orcas, Grey Whales, Minke Whales, and in the north: Dolphins, Porpoises, and Humpback Whales. Conservationist Jacques Cousteau declared Telegraph Cove (in the North of Vancouver Island) as one of the best places in the world to observe Orca Whales in the wild. Just last month, a new Orca calf was spotted with a southern Orca pod by a whale watching trip from Victoria.
We can’t wait to research the best whale watching tours from Vancouver Island and report back!
3. Practise our Surfing in Tofino
The hippy, laid back surf and beach town of Tofino – with its dramatic coastline and famous waves – is Vancouver Island’s (and Canada’s) top spot for surfing and is home to a wide range of surf schools and camps. Come July and August, Tofino is a popular spot for beach-lovers, yogis and surfers alike and is full of fair-trade, ethical boutiques and vegan cafes packed in alongside the surf outfits. Just make sure to bring your wetsuit as the water is far from warm!
It’s been a long time since we’ve taken to the waves, so we’re looking forward to dipping our toes into Canadian waters.
4. Learn about First Nations Culture
We love to learn about indigenous and local culture when we travel, and Vancouver Island is incredibly rich in its own Indigenous culture from the First Nations groups who have long called Vancouver Island home. The First Nations were the first inhabitants of the island, and there are 53 First Nations Communities on Vancouver Island, which were all established with their own chief. The First Nations are spread across three distinct tribal districts: The Coast Salish, Nuu chah nulth, & Kwakiutl.
After centuries of facing persecution and suffering, the First Nations have regained recognition and rights – at least to some extent- in recent years, although indigenous populations across Canada are still having to fight for many of their land and other rights. First Nations culture is being celebrated on Vancouver Island and there are a range of community tourism initiatives set up that visitors can support and learn about First Nations culture at. Learn more from Indigenous BC.
5. Get our Hiking Boots on
Hiking is one of the best ways to explore Vancouver Island, and the trails are endless: From relaxing strolls to multi-day treks and mountain ascents. Mount Douglas Park, just 20 minutes away from Downtown Victoria will likely be our starting point: We hear it has amazing views of the bay and over the city.
We’ve got our eye on the Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet, as well as the longer and more remote Juan de Fuca Marine trail along the Island’s Western Coast.
6. Discover the best of Ecotourism on Vancouver Island
We love a good sustainable resort, eco lodge or tourism project that does some good, and the good news is that there are plenty of them on Vancouver Island! From First Nations Community Tourism projects, to Carbon Neutral lodges we’ll be looking to report back on the best of these. On our shortlist: The Clayquot Wilderness Resort and Cabana Desolaton!
7. Bathe in the Forests & Nature
It’s official – there’s nothing better for our wellbeing than being surrounded by nature. We hadn’t heard of Forest Bathing until our recent trip to Costa Rica, but we can’t wait to experience Vancouver Island’s rainforests and woods first hand. Several companies are now running “nature therapy” tours – which may or may not be your thing – it’s just as easy to go for a walk yourself.
We’re looking forward to experiencing Vancouver Island’s hot springs, woodland walkways, hiking trails and even its opportunities to sight bears – a new phenomenon for us!
What’s on your Vancouver Island bucket list? We’d love to know – drop us a line in the comments below and help inspire us!
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