Vancouver Island, Canada

With whales swimming just off the coast and bald eagles soaring overhead, Vancouver Island can feel more like a National Geographic advertisement than a chunk of land just off the coast of bustling Vancouver. A large swathe of the island is protected parklands, including a central mountain range, old-growth forests, beaches and rainforest. Naturally, the best way to experience is by heading out into the thick of it: this westernmost chunk of British Columbia is quite popular as a hiking, biking and kayaking destination in summertime. But it’s not all rugged wilderness; the island is home to a smattering of charming coastal cities, including Victoria, the European-influenced capital of British Columbia. Vancouver Island is also home to an exciting dining scene focused, as expected, on local, natural ingredients, including salmon and trout from the local waters. It’s an entire universe on one green island.

When to go

Summer is the best time to explore the hiking trails and waterfront, and the skies are mostly clear from June through August. Winter, from December through March, is prime skiing season in British Columbia, with cross-country skiing, storm-watches and a good bit of downhill skiing on the island.

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Getting there

  • Planes

    Victoria International Airport (YYJ) is the main airport on the island. It offers flights from cities including Vancouver (www.aircanada.com), Seattle (www.alaskaairlines.com) and San Francisco (www.united.com). Travelers from further afield will likely fly into Vancouver International Airport (YVR), which offers flights to major cities including New York (www.united.com), London (www.ba.com) and Los Angeles (www.aa.com). From there, flights to Victoria take under an hour. Nanaimo (www.nanaimoairport.com) and Comox (www.comoxairport.com) airports are also good local options.
  • Automobiles

    The island is reached by car ferry – mostly from Vancouver. Many people drive through British Columbia to take in the eye-popping natural beauty. Since the terrain tends towards the rugged, four-wheel drives and winter tires or chains come into their own between November and March.