Located just off the West Coast mainland of British Columbia, Vancouver Island is a 460 kilometre-long and approximately 80 kilometre-wide island that is home to many communities, townships and cities, including the provincial capital city of Victoria. The largest island on the western side of North America, Vancouver Island has an extremely diverse topography ranging from lush rainforest valleys and snow-capped peaks to rugged, rocky coastlines and smooth, sandy beaches. It's this diversity that gives such distinct flavors to the various regions and the communities that comprise them.
The southern tip of the island is comprised of Greater Victoria, the Saanich Peninsula and the Western Communities. Much of Victoria itself can be characterized as a modern heritage city with turn-of-the century buildings standing alongside condo high-rises. And with its ancient oak forests, cherry blossom-lined streets and warm, windswept weather, it's no surprise that Victoria is consistently ranked one of the most beautiful cities worldwide. Only a short drive from the city centre, the Saanich Peninsula is a cradle of agriculture with quaint communities and calm, inland beaches, while the more rugged Western Communities are a cluster of booming townships on the island's more rugged and forested Pacific Coast.
Only an hour's drive up island, the Cowichan Valley enjoys a unique micro-climate, evident in the area's proliferation of vineyards, orchards and dairy farms. Small communities such as Cobble Hill, Duncan, Cowichan Bay, Cowichan Lake and Chemainus breathe a unique mix of small-town flavor and aboriginal charm into the region.
Further north, the mid-island city of Nanaimo is a quaint tribute to Vancouver Island's oceanic history. With fabulous restaurants, bountiful shopping and numerous outdoor activities at your fingertips, it's clear why this is a growing, prospering community. Just minutes from Nanaimo are the coastal communities of Parksville and Qualicum beach. Parksville boasts the best beach in the world at Rathtrevor Park, it has to be seen to be believed. At low tide the ocean retreats more than 2km our exposing white sand for as far as the eye can see in every direction. One hour further north, the Comox Valley is not only home to the communities of Courtney and Comox but also the island's alpine sports destination: Mt. Washington boasts 60 runs, a high-speed quad chair, a fixed-grip quad (among other lifts) and a vertical drop of over 500 meters. It's easy to see why visitors from the world over make this their skiing destination.
Like your recreation a little warmer and wetter? Take a detour to the island's west Pacific Coast and experience the awesome, wave-crashing majesty of Long Beach, the surfer mecca that stretches between the towns of Ucluelet and Tofino.
Simply put? If you haven't experienced Vancouver Island, you haven't really experienced British Columbia.
Vancouver Island is located off of the west side of Canada and is easily accessible by plane, boat and car. In order to drive to the island from Vancouver you must use the BC Ferries system so please check the schedule before departing. Victoria has a large International Airport that has daily flights to and from Seattle and Vancouver as well as many other destinations. The east side of the island is accessible by car, bus and train. Most of the west side of the island is best accessed by 4x4 as most of the roads are very rugged and much of this part of the island is true wilderness. Please make sure you let someone know where you are going and when you are returning if you intend to head into the back country.