Vancouver Island celebrates some fabulous annual festivals, carnivals, events, and outdoor recreation competitions. Time your visit to Vancouver Island to coincide with some remarkable natural spectacles of the animal kingdom, outdoor music recitals, local art fairs, and natural or historical exhibitions – or just come along and stare at the crazy things people do for work and pleasure. Vancouver Island offers a wonderfully rich and colourful array of local festivities, entertainment, and outdoor pursuits.
Victoria Film Festival (February)
The Victoria Film Festival is a selection of films that they scoured the earth to find that you might not normally have a chance to see. The organizers bring the films together for a ten-day celebration, and often the filmmakers come to join in. Not only do you get to see some of the best films of the year, you get to hear what the filmmaker has to say. Lots of people buy Film Passes to see films everyday during the festival, or they pick up the discount 5-Film or 10-Film ticket packages.
For more information visit: www.victoriafilmfestival.com
Pacific Rim Whale Festival (mid March to early April)
The northward migration of an estimated 21,000 Gray whales along the west coast of Vancouver Island has heralded the coming of spring for thousands of years. Grays travel close to shore, pausing to feed in shallow waters, providing excellent viewing opportunities from strategic shore locations. The greatest number of whales can be seen in the spring, although many whales remain in local waters to feed until the return migration to Mexico in October. Besides the unique opportunity of seeing these huge mammals, ocean scientists and whale researchers present education programs about whale migration, biology and the conservation efforts that have brought the Gray whales back from the edge of extinction. If you want a closer look at these magnificent animals, venture out onto the open Pacific aboard local charter boats offering scheduled whale watching tours from Tofino or Ucluelet.
For more information visit: Pacific Rim Whale Festival
Brant Wildlife Festival (April)
The Brant Festival is held in Parksville and Qualicum Beach in early April each year to celebrate the migratory stopover of over 20,000 Brant geese. Each spring, immense flocks of Brant geese descend on the shores of Vancouver Island for a last major food stop before continuing their amazing journey north to the Alaskan breeding grounds. The communities of Parksville and Qualicum Beach celebrate this wonderful natural event with the three-day Brant Festival that includes nature talks, guided tours of marsh, forest and seaside habitats, photography workshops and a birding competition.
For more information visit: www.brantfestival.bc.ca
Swiftsure Sailing Race (May)
A fleet of the most competitive racing sailboats converges on Victoria for the annual Swiftsure race, the longest-running yacht race in the Pacific Northwest. The challenge, hosted by the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, attracts around 200 boats in the short, middle and long-distance events that take competitors out and across the Juan de Fuca Strait and back, providing spectators with a colourful display of boats and spinnakers.
For more information visit: www.swiftsure.org
Great Walk (June)
North America’s toughest pledge walk – 63-1/2 kilometres along gravel forestry roads in some of the most rugged and beautiful country in the world. The annual walkathon between Tahsis and Gold River attracts thousands of outdoor enthusiasts to raise money for charity.
For more information visit: www.greatwalk.com
Jazz Fest International (June)
Lovers of jazz can take in music by jazz performers from around the world when they grace Victoria’s stages for 10 days and nights in June. Various indoor and outdoor venues in downtown Victoria host the festival as the city heats up with more than 250 of the world’s best jazz, blues and world beat artists.
For more information visit: www.jazzvictoria.ca
Nanaimo Marine Festival (July)
Visitors won’t want to miss the world-famous Bathtub Race held during the Nanaimo Marine Festival in late July. Men and women of all ages and backgrounds come from around the world to race across the Georgia Strait in bathtubs, from Nanaimo to Vancouver. Competitors always take the 48-km run very seriously, but the day is filled with tons of fun and laughs for both contestants and spectators alike. Hundreds of outboard powered “tubbers” plane their zany craft at high speed across the strait in their quest for the much-coveted first prize.
For more information visit: Loyal Nanaimo Bathtub Society
Filberg Festival (August)
The Filberg Festival, reputed to be the best Arts and Crafts festival in the Pacific Northwest, offers an amazing selection of the finest quality work by BC resident artists, from pottery to handmade toys. This outdoor show and sale is displayed in the gardens of Comox Valley’s historic Filberg Lodge. Entertainment is local too, provided in many musical styles.
For more information visit: www.filbergfestival.com
Victoria Fringe Festival (September)
Over the Labour Day weekend theatre troupes from our own backyard and around the world present entertaining performances at different venues all over Victoria. For the very best in comedy, drama, dance, magic, music, story telling and more, the Fringe is the best ticket in town.
For more information visit: www.victoriafringe.com
Symphony Splash (August)
One of the grandest events in Victoria’s summer season is the annual Symphony Splash. The Victoria Symphony Orchestra performs on a floating stage secured in Victoria’s beautiful Inner Harbour. The free show traditionally climaxes with a resounding rendition of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture amidst a dazzling display of fireworks and booming cannons.
For more information visit: www.victoriasymphony.ca
Victoria Dragon Boat Festival (August)
Spectacular dragon boats roar into Victoria’s Inner Harbour, providing a colourful spectacle, with organized entertainment onshore.
For more information visit: www.victoriadragonboat.com
Royal British Columbia Museum
The Royal B.C. Museum in Victoria is one of the foremost cultural institutions in the world, and always manages to produce remarkable annual feature exhibitions.
For more information visit: Royal BC Museum
Victoria Classic Boat Festival (September)
Victoria’s picturesque Inner Harbour is the place to be on the Labour Day weekend, when around 100 classic sail and power boats from throughout the Pacific Coast and beyond arrive for the Victoria Classic Boat Festival. The festival is one of the Pacific Coast’s most celebrated displays of heritage sail and power craft, open to vessels of traditional plank-on-frame construction built prior to 1956, or newer vessels that are built to pre-1956 designs.