5 Quintessential Must-See’s On Vancouver Island

If the mainland of Vancouver isn’t enough for you then not to fear. Just a hop, skip and a jump away is Vancouver Island – home to British Columbia’s capital, easy-going surf towns and age-old temperate rainforests.

Victoria Harbor
Victoria Harbor is the heart of the city. PHOTO ALLISON HINRICHS

About 97km (60 miles) west of the mainland lies Vancouver Island, the easiest and the most interesting way of getting there is by ferry, in addition to taking a plane ride. BCFerries is the boat I took over to the island when I visited, and it was an amazing experience that I would happily do again. The ferry trip takes about four hours, but you will barely notice the time go by as you will be distracted by the beautiful ocean views and delicious food it supplies. This island is an overlooked, eccentric destination which offers the best of both worlds: a bustling city that draws in folks from all over the globe, as well as a great spot for outdoor activities, including: hiking and snorkeling.

vancouver island bc ferries
Ferry passing by on the way to the island. PHOTO ALLISON HINRICHS

The Vivacious City of Victoria

Victoria City
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. PHOTO Allison Hinrichs

In all honesty, the city of Victoria deserves a travel guide of its own for all the amazing activities it offers. Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia and is stationed on Vancouver Island, it’s only a 90-minute ferry ride away from the mainland of Vancouver. This city is a cultural phenomenon from the constant festivals and bustling outdoor markets, to the Harbor that looks like something straight out of an oil painting. This is the epicenter of British Columbia and is described as the last remnant of British imperialism in the Western Hemisphere.

The Fabulous Fairmont Empress Hotel

721 Government St, Victoria, BC V8W 1W5, Canada

The Empress Hotel
Known as “The Jewel of the Pacific,” Victoria, Vancouver Island. PHOTO Allison Hinrichs

In the city of Victoria, looking out over the Inner Harbor is the historic Fairmont Empress. Constructed in 1908, this building has hosted tea for King George VI and other member of the royal family. This 477-room hotel is a highlight of the island and has recently been restored to its original glory with Edwardian-style furniture and extravagant décor. The Fairmont Empress is known for its Afternoon Tea and has served a whopping 130,000 visitors annually. Join fellow travelers and locals for a peaceful pot of Earl Grey while staring into the harbor. Teas are ethically-sourced from the most reputable tea producers in the world.

The Riveting Royal British Columbia Museum

675 Belleville St, Victoria, BC V8W 9W2, Canada

Royal BC Museum
Royal BC Museum, Vancouver Island. PHOTO Allison Hinrichs

When traveling, it is easy to get caught up in the beautiful landmarks of the destination and forget that these landscapes have a past as deeply rooted as our own. The Royal British Columbia Museum offers the perfect history lesson with incredible exhibits that feature native artifacts. Before European settlers colonized British Columbia, it was home to multiple indigenous societies that have existed in this region for more than 10,000 years. Today, there are 200,000 indigenous people in B.C., including: the First Nations, Inuit and Métis. In total, there are 198 distinct First Nations communities, each with their own culture and history. This museum does an incredible job of protecting and maintaining the legacy of the indigenous people of British Columbia, their history is fascinating and deserves to be known.

The Blossoming Butchart Gardens

800 Benvenuto Ave, Brentwood Bay, BC V8M 1J8, Canada

Butchart Garden
Former limestone quarry transformed into a sunken garden, Brentwood Bay, BC. PHOTO ALLISON HINRICHS

Welcome to Butchart Gardens, Canada’s designated National Historic Site which draws over a million visitors every year. As beautiful as this year-round lush garden is, it is the garden’s history that truly inspires visitors. This garden is the result of one woman’s incredible vision and work ethic. Jennie Butchart and her husband Robert migrated to Vancouver with the intention of building a cement plant on top of the limestone rich Tod inlet. After the couple exhausted their new property’s limestone deposits, Jennie was struck with a vision of a breathtaking garden born from the mined out industrial quarry. From there, she transformed her backyard limestone quarry into a glorious garden haven that is now home to 900 bedding plant varieties. There are over 55 acres of gardens from the seaside, a Japanese Garden, the vibrant Rose Garden, the sweet-smelling Italian Garden, the Mediterranean Garden, and its tropical flora. This historical property is every gardener’s paradise.

The Town of Tofino

Tofino
This region is admired for its biodiversity, Tofino, BC. INSTAGRAM @longbeachlodgeresort

The small town of Tofino is on the western shore of Vancouver Island. It’s Canada’s most popular surf destination and stationed like a lighthouse looking out into the vast North Pacific Ocean. The former logging and fishing village has evolved into a popular travelers’ hub. Besides surfing, this seaside town is also an adventurous location for paddle boarding in the Clayoquot Sound and hiking in the Pacific Rim National Park to witness ancient cedar trees that make up some of the oldest trees in Canada. This is the perfect place to enjoy Canada’s nature in all her glory.