Known for its temperate climate, at least comparatively speaking to its neighbouring provinces, Vancouver island is often referred to as the California of Canada, and for obvious reasons.
Located on the west coast of Canada off of the Pacific Ocean, Vancouver Island, an island of British Columbia, boasts a mountainous landscape, a coastline of beaches and coves, and expansive forests that make for an all-encompassing destination.
Whether it’s hiking trails, wildlife watching, water activities, beach bathing, or some simple R&R, Vancouver Island offers it all… a sought-after retirement destination, an increasingly popular hotspot for the younger generations, and home to about a million people… it’s all starting to make sense!
It’s home to Canada’s tallest waterfall, it’s said to have the densest bear population in the world, and its largest city, Victoria, also happens to be the capital of its home province of British Columbia!
Now that you’re familiar with the island, it’s time to dive into the details. In what follows, we’ll be detailing everything you could ever need to know about exploring Vancouver island, particularly in the summer, from the best places to visit and the most popular things to do outdoors to the best times of the year to visit and the most efficient ways to explore it…
So, if you’re ready to put on your adventure shoes and eager to learn all there is to know about this magnificent Canadian island, this guide is for you!
Without further ado, let’s get right into it…
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The Best Places to Visit on Vancouver Island
With nearly one million residents, Vancouver Island is a sizeable part of British Columbia, boasting several towns and cities throughout. When visiting, it can be challenging to attempt to cover every corner of this beautiful island, especially if you’re only visiting for a short time.
There are, however, a few notable towns and cities, in particular, that are worth the visit no matter how short or long your stay on Vancouver Island is…
With that said, below are some of the best places, towns, and cities to visit on Vancouver Island, detailing the most popular things to do at each. Starting, of course, with the capital city of Victoria!
As the capital city of British Columbia, Victoria is as popular a city as any here in this western province…
From the beaches to the parks and mountains, Victoria doesn’t lack things to do outdoors, especially during the summer months. In fact, Victoria island was voted the top city in Canada in 2022! This, of course, comes as no surprise. Here’s why…
First, it’s hugely accessible to reach. Just 20 minutes from the city center, it’s become a primary breeding ground for summer gatherings, day trips, and the like. Additionally, because it’s so close to both the sea and the mountains, it makes it an extra unique destination to explore.
With endless hidden gems to seek out while visiting, there surely won’t be a dull moment (unless you want one, of course) here in Victoria.
Perched along the coast of British Columbia in the middle of both Victoria and Whistler sits a beautiful surfing town known as Tofino. Arguably the most talked about town and area of Vancouver Island, Tofino is both bustling, quaint, and authentic.
From local shops and restaurants to rainforests, world-renowned beaches, and breweries, it embodies what an authentic “surf town” is meant to be… Notably, Tofino is often considered the best surfing destination in Canada!
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The Gulf Islands
You might be asking yourself how there are islands within islands… Well, sure enough, there are…
The Gulf Islands compile 15 small islands perched between Vancouver Island and the mainland of BC. Known for its abundant wildlife, serene natural landscapes, and chill vibes, the Gulf Islands are a bucket-list destination when visiting Vancouver Island.
Otherwise called Canada’s Hawaii, the Gulf Islands, and particularly Hornby Island, is an awe-inspiring location to check off the list. You may even decide to spend the rest of your vacation here!
Things to Do on Vancouver Island
While we’ve touched on some of the most popular things to do in each of the main towns, villages, and cities of Vancouver Island above, we’ve yet to really detail the specifics of what this versatile island is known for, particularly in the summer…
We’ve got you covered if you’re looking for recommendations on the best things to do and see here on the island!
So much more than what’s depicted in this guide, Vancouver Island can only be experienced and genuinely understood by visiting and indulging in all that it has to offer. Nevertheless, the following are some of the best things to do here in the summer; if you’re an adventurer, explorer, and lover of the outdoors, Vancouver Island is sure to be your playground!
Hike the Great Outdoors
If you’re visiting Vancouver Island and you don’t embark on a hike or two, did you really visit Vancouver Island?
With so many hikes to choose from, all of which boast varying difficulty levels, there’s a trail here for everyone. Not to mention, there’s no shortage of beautiful scenery, spectacular views, and good weather to accompany it.
Some of the best trails include the Wild Pacific Trail, Cox Bay Lookout, and Mount Tzouhalem!
Just beware; Western Canada is somewhat known for its abundant wildlife, particularly bears and big cats… Don’t let this sway you, however. Come prepared and enjoy nature; it’s what it’s all about!
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Bask on the Beaches of Victoria Island
If you choose the appropriate time of year to visit, Vancouver Island boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, some of which often get confused with beaches in Portugal, Hawaii, and California!
What pairs well with beautiful beaches? You guessed it…. Surfing! Whether it’s a solo adventure or you’re in need of hiring a professional, Vancouver Island has you covered when it comes to surfing.
Rent a board at a nearby surf shop, run down to the coast, and hop on for the ride before turning it in for the day as you bathe in the hot Vancouver sun.
Notably, one of the best beaches to visit here on the island is Long Beach. Known for its ridable waves, white sandy beach, and several cafes nearby, it makes for the perfect summer day.
Kayak Along the Coast
Seldom do you get the opportunity to see whales up close and personal, let alone kayak with them… Well, on Vancouver Island, you can! With an abundance of varying wildlife, beautiful scenery, and, most of all, appropriate weather, Vancouver Island is the ideal location for a kayaking excursion.
If you’re not an experienced kayaker, consider booking a kayaking tour with a professional tour company instead. Not only will the guides accompany you, but they’ll provide you with complete knowledge, both about kayaking techniques and the ocean itself.
Some likely animals you’ll come across during a given tour include killer whales, sea lions, and otters…
Whale Watch on the West
Again, not everywhere you go will allow you to capture the essence and sheer size of whales up close and personal; in fact, it’s quite rare, even here in Canada… on Vancouver Island; however, the opportunities are abundant!
Both affordable and exciting, there are several tours to choose from, each typically lasting 3-4 hours in duration. Not only will you learn bunches about the ocean’s wildlife but, if you’re lucky, you might get to see some photo-worthy humpback whale breaches!
Additionally, if you can book a tour nearby Victoria, you’ll almost guarantee a few killer whale sitings, for there are three orca pods in nearby areas…
Bewilder at the Butchart Gardens
These famous, well-kept grounds are one of the most incredible things to see on Vancouver Island, without a doubt. While it won’t exert any adrenaline, and though it might not be the most adventurous of the activities on the list, Butchart Gardens has been deemed a National Historic Site of Canada, and for a good reason.
Accompanied by beautiful winding walking paths and gardens that surround it, it makes for a perfect mid-day coffee/tea break.
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Flock About the Fisherman’s Wharf
Let’s be honest, not every day do you happen upon a floating village; yes, you heard that right… a floating village! Equipped with colourful floating houses, quaint local shops, and some friendly seals that pop up to say hello, the Fisherman’s Wharf is a great day trip while in Vancouver.
When to Visit Vancouver Island
Like most Canadian destinations, Vancouver island is beautiful all year round. However, its participated-in activities are likely to change depending on when you choose to visit due to the ever-changing climate.
Similarly, if you opt to visit during peak season (i.e., the summer months), prepare to experience inflated prices on airfare, accommodations, excursions, and otherwise.
You might be asking, then, “when is the best time to visit Vancouver Island?”
While the answer comes down to preference and availability, the summer months here are undeniably beautiful, boating comfortably mild temperatures and an abundance of outdoor activities to partake in.
With that said, choosing a time of year to visit the Island ultimately comes down to YOU, so be sure to plan before you book the ticket. The following is a summarized breakdown of each travel season…
June – September
The peak season, June to September, brings with it fantastic weather and an abundance of outdoor activities to participate in. With little rain experienced during these months and temperatures reaching 25-30 degrees Celsius, there’s no complaining during summer in Vancouver.
Notably, because of its spectacular climate and worthy activities, you can expect the prices to be somewhat inflated. This, however, is to be expected no matter where you plan on traveling to during the summer months.
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September – November
Notably, one of two shoulder seasons of the year, September to November, bolsters moderate Canadian temperatures and primarily grey skies. Many, in fact, opt to visit in September because it’s close enough to the summer to offer sunny warm days still, but far enough away to offer cheaper flights in.
Not to mention, the crowds have largely dissipated by these shoulder months, making it an opportune time to visit while still being able to explore the great outdoors.
November – March
Like most destinations, unless you’re seeking ski hills and Skidoo jumps, November to March is the low season for tourism on Vancouver Island. Though the cities don’t often experience much snowfall, the mountain peaks nearby certainly do.
Transforming from surf towns to ski towns reasonably quickly, it makes sense as to why Vancouver is such a popular year-round destination, especially for those who prefer to experience all four seasons.
As the second of the two shoulder seasons, March to May also brings with it moderate temperatures. While it’s still on the colder side, especially if you’re not used to the Canadian climate, you’ll begin to experience temperatures rising, flowers blooming, and outdoor activities starting to open again for the summer.
Again, because it’s shoulder season, you’ll experience lower prices and fewer crowds, two common priorities for many!
Whatever time of year you choose to visit Vancouver Island, you’ll surely have a magical and memorable time. It goes without saying, however, the summer months here on the island are amongst the best.
It’s Time to Explore the Island!
If you’ve never been to Vancouver Island and you have the opportunity to visit during the summer months, make every effort to fulfill said opportunity and explore all that the fantastic island has to offer.
Consider this guide a sign to book that ticket you’ve been putting off! Trust us, your memory jar will thank you later!