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Select a Region
Greater Victoria
South Island
Central Island
North Island
Pacific Rim (West Coast)
Gulf & Discovery Islands
Sunshine Coast

 
 Greater Victoria
Click to view a full-size Greater Victoria map The capital region of British Columbia, Greater Victoria encompasses a broad range of communities, from lively downtown streets and bustling harbours to serene parks and coastal farmland. With the mildest climate in Canada, Victoria is perfect for visiting at any time of the year.
  Brentwood Bay
  Central Saanich
  Colwood
  Esquimalt
  Highlands
  James Bay
  Langford
  Metchosin
  North Saanich
  Oak Bay
  Saanich
  Saanich Peninsula
  Saanichton
  Sidney
  Sooke
  Swartz Bay
  Victoria
  Victoria Airport (YYJ)
  Victoria Downtown
  Victoria Island
  View Royal
  Western Communities
 
 South Island
Click to view a full-size South Island map A rare combination of rural charm and elegant sophistication, the South Island region is home to Victoria, British Columbia's capital city. The region presents a remarkable diversity of landscape and recreational opportunities, with beaches and views the likes of which are found nowhere else on the coast.
  Chemainus
  Cobble Hill
  Cowichan Bay
  Cowichan Station
  Cowichan Valley
  Crofton
  Duncan
  Genoa Bay
  Glenora
  Greater Victoria
  Honeymoon Bay
  Jordan River
  Ladysmith
  Lake Cowichan
  Malahat
  Maple Bay
  Mesachie Lake
  Mill Bay
  Nitinat Lake
  Port Renfrew
  Shawnigan Lake
  South Island
  Trans Canada Hwy 1
  West Coast Hwy 14
  Youbou
 
 Central Island
Click to view a full-size Central Island map With its warm ocean temperatures, sheltering mountains, tranquil lakes, fabulous fishing and exceptional golf courses, the lush Central Island region is a year-round holiday destination. The Island Highway winds past well-kept farms in this serenely rural part of Vancouver Island.
  Black Creek
  Bowser
  Buckley Bay
  Campbell River
  Central Island
  Comox
  Comox Valley
  Coombs
  Courtenay
  Cumberland
  Deep Bay
  Dent Island
  Discovery Islands
  Errington
  Fair Harbour
  Fanny Bay
  French Creek
  Gold River
  Gold River Hwy 28
  Island Highway 19
  Lantzville
  Lighthouse Country
  Merville
  Mt. Washington
  Nanaimo
  Nanoose Bay
  Oceanside
  Parksville
  Qualicum Bay
  Qualicum Beach
  Royston
  Saratoga Beach
  Union Bay
  Winchelsea Islands
  Yellow Point
 
 North Island
Click to view a full-size North Island map Born from volcanic rock, the rugged North Island region features a largely uninhabited wilderness of forests, lakes and snow-capped peaks - a unique, natural paradise. Most of Vancouver Island once looked as the North Island still does today, with much of the remaining wilderness now preserved.
  Alert Bay
  Blackfish Sound
  Broughton Archipelago
  Coal Harbour
  Discovery Coast
  Discovery Passage
  Echo Bay
  Esperanza Inlet
  Holberg
  Inside Passage
  Island Highway (19)
  Johnstone Strait
  Kelsey Bay
  Kingcome Inlet
  Knight Inlet
  Kyuquot Sound
  Malcolm Island
  Nimmo Bay
  Nootka Island
  Nootka Sound
  North Island
  Nuchatlitz Inlet
  Port Alice
  Port Eliza Inlet
  Port Hardy
  Port McNeill
  Quatsino
  Quatsino Sound
  Queen Charlotte Strait
  Sayward
  Sointula
  Swanson Island
  Tahsis
  Telegraph Cove
  Thompson Sound
  Winter Harbour
  Woss
  Yuquot (Friendly Cove)
  Zeballos
 
 Pacific Rim (West Coast)
Click to view a full-size Pacific Rim (West Coast) map The Pacific Rim is a region of wild landscapes, never-ending beaches and spectacular weather - be it long summer sunsets or fierce winter storms. Prepare yourself for the quintessential wilderness experience in this moss-laden landscape of mist and surf, thunderous ocean and prevalent peace.
  Alberni Inlet
  Alberni Valley
  Bamfield
  Barkley Sound
  Bedwell River Valley
  Broken Group Islands
  Clayoquot Sound
  Long Beach
  Pacific Rim (West Coast)
  Pacific Rim Highway 4
  Port Alberni
  Quait Bay
  Sproat Lake
  Tofino
  Ucluelet
 
 Gulf & Discovery Islands
Click to view a full-size Gulf & Discovery Islands map With their ancient forests, rocky shorelines and miles of beaches teeming with marine life, the Northern Gulf Islands are remote, serene places that soothe the soul. Blessed with a balmy climate and an idyllic landscape, the Southern Gulf Islands are each unique in character, but share a gentle, bucolic charm.
  Cormorant Island
  Cortes Island
  De Courcy Island
  Denman Island
  Gabriola Island
  Galiano Island
  Ganges
  Gulf Islands
  Hornby Island
  Jedediah Island
  Kuper Island
  Lasqueti Island
  Mayne Island
  Newcastle Island
  Northern Gulf Islands
  Pender Islands
  Quadra Island
  Rendezvous Islands
  Salish Sea
  Saltspring Island
  Saturna Island
  Southern Gulf Islands
  Texada Island
  The Discovery Islands
  Thetis Island
  Valdes Island
 
 Sunshine Coast
Click to view a full-size Sunshine Coast map A secluded world of beaches, bays, islands and fjords overlooked by B.C.'s majestic Coast Mountains, the Sunshine Coast stretches 180km along the Strait of Georgia, from Howe Sound to Desolation Sound. The Sunshine Coast lives up to its name, with bright days outnumbering gloomy ones by a wide margin.
  Bute Inlet
  Desolation Sound
  Earls Cove
  Egmont
  Garden Bay
  Gibsons
  Halfmoon Bay
  Highway 101
  Irvines Landing
  Jervis Inlet
  Keats Island
  Lang Bay
  Langdale
  Loughborough Inlet
  Lund
  Madeira Park
  Pender Harbour
  Powell River
  Roberts Creek
  Saltery Bay
  Savary Island
  Sechelt
  Secret Cove
  Sliammon
  Sunshine Coast
  Toba Inlet
  Wildwood

Vancouver Island
Greater Victoria: Almost half of Vancouver Island's population of 700,000 lives in and around the provincial capital of Victoria, at the southern end of Vancouver Island. Victoria has a temperate climate with mild, damp winters and relatively dry and mild summers. It is sometimes classified as a cool-summer Mediterranean climate due to its usually dry summers. There is a rich diversity of landscapes within the region, ranging from the Douglas fir forests along the coast to the drier, exposed conditions of the higher, rockier elevations that support arbutus (madrona) and Garry oak forests. Flowers bloom year-round in Victoria, which makes exploring the outdoors here enjoyable in any season. Thousands of migrating birds, ducks, geese, and swans make the Victoria region a semi-annual stop-over point.

Victorians display their love for the natural world by cultivating flower gardens at every turn. As you'd imagine in a region where a large urban population interacts with such a delightful natural tableau, a vast network of walking, hiking and biking routes leads through the many parks with which the city is blessed.

Although the mountainscape on the southern end of Vancouver Island is not as rugged as the North Shore mountains that rise above Vancouver, this actually mitigates in favour of hiking, as the physical demands for reaching viewpoints is not as great. On the other hand, the views are as panoramic and breathtaking as anywhere in the province. It's easy to imagine how sweet life was for Native Canadians who once had this all to themselves. Beacon Hill Park in downtown Victoria was the site of a village that had been inhabited for thousands of years prior to the arrival of the colonial settlers in the 1840s. A tangled web of events since then has displaced the original dwellers, but their history is evident in the petroglyphs that adorn the shoreline and in the middens of seashells mounded up beside the beaches on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Totem poles new and old stand as proud reminders of this heritage.

To gain a fresh appreciation for the talents and skills of First Nations people, combine a visit to the outdoors around Victoria with a stop at the Royal British Columbia Museum, a world-class repository of native artifacts. With the enriched perspective that such a visit will bring, you'll look at the landscape with new interest and appreciation. The figures on the totems will no longer be static representations from a mythological age. Instead, combined with the presence of killer whales, seals, eagles, ravens, salmon, and other species that are as vibrant in the landscape today as they were in the past, you'll enter a timeless real and, in the process, discover a new place in nature for yourself.

South Island: The exposed waters of Vancouver Island's southwestern coast quickly dispel any notion that an ocean is an ocean is an ocean. The true personality of the Pacific is revealed as you traverse the slopes of San Juan Ridge as the Strait of Juan de Fuca makes its entrance from the open water of the Pacific. Conditions shift dramatically from the sheltered, rain-shadowed waterways of the Strait of Georgia with its gaggle of tranquil islands. Here you face the open ocean, where nothing breaks the rolling swells or deflects the sting of winter storms. For those who listen for the force of the West Coast, here it begins to speak up, way up.

Many a dark chapter has been written about ships and crews that perished in the violent storms that rake the raw shoreline. This is the Pacific's Davy Jones's Locker. Thrown up on the beach, survivors considered themselves blessed if they could reach the West Coast Lifesaving Trail. As harsh today as then, less-endangered people willingly subject themselves to this legendary trail's test of endurance. Such a reputation adds a wild spice to adventuring here. Venture with care and you'll come away with wonderful memories of your time spent by the shoreline, where many creatures live in splendid harmony with the ocean's deep rhythms.

Southern Vancouver Island covers the country between Port Renfrew and Bamfield on the west coast and Malahat and Nanaimo on the east side. Most of the population lives along the east coast, where farming in the lush, rolling Cowichan and Chemainus Valleys has gone hand in hand with logging since Vancouver Island was an independent Crown Colony. The heart of agriculture lies south of Nanaimo, the Hub City, and this pastoral atmosphere persists as you make your way north to Parksville in central island. However, it's hard to ignore the slopes of the Vancouver Island Mountains that begin to nudge travellers closer to the coastline for wont of wide valley bottoms.

Most roads west peter out quickly in the face of this granite tour de force. The exception is the cross-island melange of paved highway and gravel logging roads that link the sheltered Cowichan Valley with the storm-battered community of Bamfield on the west coast. A greater contrast is hard to find, which is what makes exploring this region so fascinating. There's plenty of easygoing adventuring to be found by sticking to the main routes, although everyone should treat themselves to a backroad or two where the valleys meet the Strait of Georgia. There are beaches here the likes of which are found nowhere else on the coast, with views that engender intimacy with the landscape, yet emphasize its isolation.

Central Island: As you drive the Island Highway, it's always a treat to look across the Strait of Georgia at landmarks on the mainland as spires of the Coast Mountains rise on the eastern horizon. The farther north you head towards Courtenay and Campbell River, however, the more the peaks and glaciers of Vancouver Island's ranges, principally the imposing Comox Glacier, Forbidden Plateau, and Mount Washington, rise in the west and vie for equal attention.

As the highway winds past well-kept farms, this is a serenely rural part of the journey. Flowers abound in the gardens that front many of the homes along the way. Small rivers such as the Little Qualicum and the Englishman, as well as the mightier ones such as the Puntledge and the Campbell, empty into the strait. From the highway you catch glimpses of quiet green forest settings on the banks that line each river's course. Come late summer, these streams teem with spawning salmon.

For much of the way between Courtenay and Campbell River the Island Highway runs beside Qualicum Bay, an area rich in seafood. Pullouts beside the road give easy access to the bay's sand and pebble beaches. At several places you can buy fresh seafood, brought to the docks daily from local waters.

The mountains and islands of central Vancouver Island have a mysterious sense about them, as if they're always trying to hide some secret. It's true: you do have to travel farther afield here in order to penetrate its cloud-laced valleys and coastal rain forest. Take your time as you meander through this laid-back region. Its rhythms are subtle, but with gentle probing they reveal themselves, showing greater complexity than first meets the eye.

Pacific Rim: In the decades before the Pacific Rim National Park was born in 1970, this moss-laden landscape of mist and surf was a little-known outpost, a world apart. If adventurers managed to coax a vehicle across the tortuous road that led west from Port Alberni to the isolated ports of Tofino and Ucluelet, finding a bed was a simple matter at one of the few local inns. The alternative was constructing a driftwood shelter on one of the fabulous beaches nearby.

One million visitors a year now make this same journey on black-topped Highway 4 (Pacific Rim Highway) to experience the romantic isolation of the region. It's a tribute to the scale of this environment that so many travellers can be absorbed into it and still leave it so (apparently) empty. The open ocean stretches off unbroken and vacant, while the elemental forces at play here - the winds and the tide, the sun and the rain - excite within visitors a deep-seated resonance, a sense of belonging to this place.

Undoubtedly, the same chaos that reigns in winter during gale-force storms mimics, on a microcosmic scale at least, the fury of the Big Bang. And on eternal summer evenings, when a magenta sunset ignites the ocean's summer evenings, there's a peace so prevalent that you could almost bottle it and call it salvation. Take your pick of moods; they're both soul-satisfying.

North Island: Most of Vancouver Island once looked as the north island still does today. Much of the remaining wilderness, such as Brooks Peninsula, a stubby 14-km long projection on the northwest coast of the island, has now been preserved. Other places are sheltered by the elements from the preying eye of industry, like Cape Scott Provincial Park, one of the wildest, windiest, most woebegone locales in the province for human habitation. Journeying to Brooks Peninsula or Cape Scott is only for those whose mettle has been tested by the repeated exposure to the bellows and blast-furnace of nature in the raw.

Some of this landscape's mysteries lie tucked away inside the vaulted domes of underground caverns. Afloat in a sea kayak on the open Nootka or Quatsino Sounds, or deep inside the Quatsino cave system, be prepared to experience a blend of connectedness and jubilation, isolation and terror, when adventuring here. One thing is guaranteed: at the end of the day, you'll sleep well.

Gentler conditions prevail in the sheltered waters of Johnstone Strait, where the kwakwaka'wakw First Nations are the traditional gatekeepers. To experience a tranquility that passes all description, paddle these waters where whales rub and salmon run in summer months.

The Gulf and Discovery Islands
Southern Gulf Islands: Snug in the Georgia Strait, between the mainland and the eastern side of Vancouver Island, are the Gulf Islands. Each of these islands seems to be a world unto itself; each has its own history, culture and colourful characters. There are seven major islands in the southern half of the Strait of Georgia. Each island has its distinctive charm, and deserves at least a day or two for exploring. A good way to do so is by bicycle, stopping at campgrounds or bed and breakfasts along the way.

Roadways and trails take you on a tour of natural beauty, leading you to hilltops for fabulous views and down to the beach for an afternoon swim. Around each corner is an artisan's gallery or a cafe, a row of unique little shops or a quiet marina. There's also camping, hiking, fishing, boating, all in beautiful surroundings and a friendly, relaxing atmosphere - truly what holiday memories are made of.

Saltspring Island is Canada's arts and crafts island. Because of its mild climate, mellow pace, beautiful landscapes and island isolation, artists and crafts people are drawn from all over the world. Although Saltspring is well known to boaters and may be reached by three ferries and scheduled air flights, it remains a quiet lesser-known paradise for most travellers. On Saturday mornings in the summer, the spirit of Saltspring can be caught in the local Market in Ganges, the biggest town in the Gulfs.

Rolling orchards and warm rock-strewn beaches abound on Mayne Island, a rustic 13 square-km spot. It's small enough for a day trip, but pretty enough for a lifetime. Drop by the lighthouse, watch the frantic activity as fishermen wait till the last minute to get out of the ferry's way in Active Pass, or stroll up the top of Mayne's mountains for a view of the Strait of Georgia - and you'll begin to discover what Mayne is all about.

Saturna Island is tucked away at the southern end of the island chain. Rural, sparsely populated, and difficult to reach, Saturna Island is easily the least spoilt of the Gulf islands. The Pender Islands are known as the 'Friendly Islands' and the 'Islands of Hidden Coves' - with over 20 public ocean access spots to visit along the beaches and coves. The mild climate and pristine wilderness make the Penders perfect for family holidays, romantic retreats, golfing, hiking, biking and nature-watching.

Galiano Island has always enjoyed the reputation of being the most welcoming to visitors. This is due in large part to the limited amount of farmland on Galiano in comparison to other islands. Of necessity, early settlers here opened their homes to tourists as a way of earning a living. Today, Galiano is a hub for sea-kayak trips and the site of the Montague Harbour Provincial Marine park, one of the largest provincial marine parks on any of the islands. This isn't to say that residents of the other islands won't be just as pleased to see you disembark at the dock. Indeed, tourism is important to the livelihood and economic well-being of most of the Gulf Islands, although some are better prepared for it than others.

Gabriola Island, the most accessible of the chain, features three provincial parks, quiet beaches and sensational ocean views. Perhaps the most interesting limestone formations on the Gulf Islands are located at Gabriola Sands Provincial Park. Explore the amazing cave-like sandstone formations called the Malaspina Galleries.

Decide in advance which island best suits your purposes, then consult a BC Ferries schedule to see if you can manage the connections in the course of a day's visit, or whether you'll have to seek overnight accommodation. Except in summer months, ferry service to many islands is restricted to one or two sailings a day. You may find that in order to catch a ride, you'll have to start your day well before dawn and return home late in the evening. The trade-off is that you'll find far fewer visitors sharing the roads, waterways and parks with you as you travel at off-peak times.

Northern Gulf Islands/Discovery Islands: These islands, part of a chain of 6,000 islands that shelter the British Columbia coastline between Washington and Alaska, lie beyond the quick-access range of Vancouver and Victoria. The wonderful silence that envelops these islands is characteristic of the ambience in remote central coast locales.

It wasn't always this way. In the heyday of fishing and logging camps, the population on the more isolated islands was surprisingly higher than it is today. Evidence of this can be seen in the abandoned cabins, ancient villages, and overgrown logging roads. Explore by car, kayak, mountain bike or on foot. Find a location that appeals to you, and within this microcosm, experience the wonder and magic that pervades life here.

Quadra Island is a 10-minute ferry ride from Campbell River. Resident artists and craftspeople make the island a fine place to sleuth around for pottery and other wares. The Kwagiulth Museum and Cultural Centre contains an outstanding collection of authentic artifacts. Tranquil and bucolic, Denman Island and Hornby Island sits just off the east coast of Vancouver Island. Denman, the larger of the two is known for its pastoral farmlands and its population of talented artisans.

After going to the effort to reach Cortes Island, with its placid lakes, beaches rich in shellfish, and rugged gorges - your reward is finding a campsite on the southwestern corner at Smelt Bay Provincial Park, a heavenly setting on this picturesque island. Texada Island, originally home to a whaling station, is now the site of a working limestone quarry.

Hop aboard the foot passenger ferry from French Creek and cruise across the Strait of Georgia to Lasqueti Island. Largely undeveloped, Lasqueti is a worthwhile destination for a day trip or longer - not only for its natural beauty, but it is so distant from the mainstream. The fleet of BC Ferries that services the Northern Gulf Islands is not as large nor are the sailings as frequent. Others can only be reached by private transportation such as water taxis, kayaks, canoes, or powerboats and, occasionally, airplanes. Visitors will find that the further north in the Strait of Georgia that they explore, the fewer fellow travellers they'll encounter.

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