12 things to do on Vancouver Island

12 things to do on Vancouver Island

What to do on Vancouver Island: 12 things to explore

 

Vancouver Island is a popular destination for tourists, people from other countries coming to learn English, and even the British royal family! Canadians from all over the country want to move here too. So why is it so popular?

Maybe it’s because there’s so much to see and do. I’ve lived in Victoria for my whole life minus some travelling. Living abroad really helped me appreciate all the beauty that we have here.

Read on to find out about some of the great places you can fall in love with and learn more about.

Sidney By the Sea

Sidney is charming little town with a population of 12,000 people on the Saanich Peninsula. Getting there only takes about 30 minutes by car from Victoria, but it’s easily accessible by bus as well. Although it’s small, it’s a great place to spend some time exploring.

Do you love reading? I do. And I love little bookstores! Every store in Sidney reflects the bookshop owner and features the books they’re interested in. Sidney is rich with bookstores. I encourage you to wander along Beacon Street poking your head into different shops. See all the different little worlds of books in Sidney.

If books aren’t your thing, Sidney also offers restaurants, ocean views, and events. From June to September, the Sidney Street Market offers a wide variety of sights, smells, sounds and products to check out. Watch a concert, buy some crafts and food, and spend some time checking out the other shops in Sidney.

Getting to Sidney is really easy. From Victoria, the fastest bus is the #70 bus, but the #72 will also get you there. The bus takes you right to Beacon Street, so you can hop off and just start exploring Sidney! Have fun!

Bevan Fishing Pier, Sidney, Vancouver Island

Photo Source: Town of Sidney

Duncan

Duncan is another small town located north of Victoria. It has a population of only 5,000 people, but it’s the commercial centre of the Cowichan Valley region, which has a population of 80,000.

The area around Duncan is the home of the Cowichan Tribes, which is the largest band of the Coast Salish people. This rich heritage is reflected in Duncan’s other official name, “the City of Totems”.

Totems are the large wooden poles that have been carved and painted to become beautiful works of art. They represent stories, legends and cultural beliefs of the local first-nations people.

Duncan is a great place to learn about indigenous history. You can enjoy the self-guided totems tour and see over 40 totems.

I’d also recommend you check out the Duncan Garage Café & Bakery. Inside, you’ll find a health-food store, a bookshop, but most importantly, you’ll find a delicious restaurant and bakery. The lines are always long, but don’t worry because they move quickly. It’s a great place for brunch or lunch. Try it out!

Quw’utsun’ Cultural Centre, Duncan, Vancouver Island

Photo Source: VancouverIsland.com

Chemainus

Chemainus is a small town that is full of art. Located an hour north of Victoria, it has more than 40 wall murals that give you a sense of the history of the town. It features murals that depict the first-nations history, as well as the early European settler history of Chemainus.

You can wander through streets full of charming old-style buildings, learn some history, and eat at the great cafes and restaurants Chemainus has to offer. I recommend the Owl’s Nest Bakery and Bistro. They have great food and a really nice atmosphere.

Besides the murals, Chemainus is also famous for its live theatre. The Chemainus Theatre is a professional theatre that draws people from Victoria and nearby Nanaimo all year round! They also have a great restaurant with a buffet and live piano entertainment!

Why not make a day of it? Arrive early, have a nice meal, explore the town with the help of the Chemainus Festival of Murals Society, then enjoy the buffet and see a play at the theatre.

Chemainus Mural – Chemainus, Vancouver Island.

Photo Source: Tourism Vancouver Island

Parksville & Qualicum Beach

 

Keeping with the theme of small towns, let’s talk about Parksville! While Parksville is a small town of around 12,000 (13000) people, in tourist season it feels like a very busy place.

A great time to go is during the annual sand-castle sculpting competition as part of the Beach Festival. When I was growing up, I’d go to Parksville every year with my family. To me, Parksville is all about two things: mini-golf and the beach.

When you drive through Parksville, you can’t help but notice the Paradise Fun Park. The bright blue waters and fountains of the mini-golf course really stand out. This mini-golf course was much more elaborate and interesting than anything around Victoria when I was growing up. They have two exciting courses to try out, so you can play two completely different games and show your friends your skills. I also recommend that you enjoy an ice-cream cone after the game.

Parksville’s Sand Sculpting – Parksville, Vancouver Island.

Photo Source: Parksville Beach Festival

Rathtrevor Beach

The other big attraction right next to Parksville is Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park. It features a 2km sandy beach.

The amazing thing about Rathtrevor beach is how shallow and warm it is. When the tide goes out, you have to walk a kilometre on the sandy beach to get out to the waterline. On a hot day, the sun heats up the sand so that when the tide comes back in, the water is luxuriously warm. It’s just a great place to spend the day.

The park also has a really wonderful campsite that is close to the beach. It’s a great place to spend a weekend.

Rathtrevor Beach, Parksville, Vancouver Island

Photo Source: BC Parks

Englishman River Falls

Englishman River Falls is a great place to come and explore in a day. It’s about a two-hour drive from Victoria and located near Parksville, BC.

You can enjoy the beautiful scenery of our rainforests and do an easy 30-minute hike that will take you to the stunning falls and forest walking trail!

There’s also a campground in the park, so if you’d like to really spend some time in the forest, you can also book a campsite!

Englishman River Falls Provincial Park, Vancouver Island

Photo Source: BC Parks

Coombs

When I think of Coombs, I think of two things: goats on the roof and ice cream! What? Goats on the roof. Yes. You read that right. What more could you want?

Coombs is a small community of only about a thousand people located ten kilometres west of Parksville. It’s a two-hour drive from Victoria. The Old Country Market features the most famous site in Coombs: the goats hanging out and eating grass on the market’s roof.

As explained on the market’s website, the roof was inspired by the founder’s Norwegian heritage. In Norway, it’s not strange to build houses into the hills so that they’re covered in soil and grass. About 30 years ago, the owners had the idea to borrow some goats to eat the long grass during the Coombs market.
The goats on the roof were a huge hit! They are now one of the most famous tourist attractions on Vancouver Island!

If you go up in the summer, you might have to try a couple of times before you see the goats on the roof. It’s often too hot for them to spend too much time up there.

Speaking of the heat, after you try to catch the goats, get an ice cream! The Billy Gruff Creamery has a huge selection of different flavours of ice cream to help you cool down on a hot day.

Coombs, Vancouver Island

Photo Source: VancouverIsland.com

 Tofino

Tofino is one of the most popular destinations for tourists on Vancouver Island because of the white sands and waves at Long Beach in Pacific Rim National Park. It’s a destination for bird-watchers, nature lovers, and – most importantly – surfers!

Tofino is a four-and-a-half-hour drive from Victoria. Be warned: the road out to Tofino (the Pacific Rim Highway) isn’t easy to drive. It’s paved, but it’s a very windy road. People who drive the road a lot go pretty fast, and they may be impatient with slow drivers. But don’t be rushed. Take it slow. It’s a really beautiful drive, with nice places to stop along the way. It’s also possible to take a bus to Tofino, but I think going by car is better. A car allows you to really explore the park.

Most people don’t think of Canada as a place to go surfing, but long beach and the other beaches around Tofino are world-class! It might be a great story to tell your friends back home: you went surfing in Canada!

The park itself is great, but Tofino is also a really cool, relaxed little town. There are many nice restaurants and fine-dining opportunities. It’s a great place to shop and just wander around. There’s also the nearby town of Ucluelet, where you can also find a nice, relaxed atmosphere. Ucluelet also has great hiking opportunities on the Wild Pacific Trail!

Tofino, Vancouver Island

Photo Source: Tourism Vancouver Island

Sidney Spit

 

Okay, technically this isn’t on Vancouver Island, but it’s a really easy daytrip from Victoria.

Sidney Spit is part of the Gulf Islands National Park. You can easily get there from Sidney. There’s a passenger ferry that takes you from the Beacon Pier at the end of Beacon Street in Sidney to the dock on Sidney Island. You can’t take your car, so don’t bring it!

Don’t be put off by the name Sidney Spit. A spit is just a part of the land that runs into the ocean. It’s basically a sandy strip that sticks out into the ocean. So Sidney Spit is a great place to camp, hang out on the beach, and just wander around and relax.

You might be thinking, “But there’s nothing to do there!” Exactly. Go there and do nothing! Enjoy.

Sidney Spit

Photo Source: Sidney Spit Ferry

Saltspring Island

 

Saltspring Island is another of the Gulf Islands, but it’s not just a park! Salt Spring Island is a really interesting community of people. The population of the whole island is only about 11,000 people, but it’s home to a lot of notable Canadians like Randy Bachman, a famous Canadian musician and radio broadcaster.

Saltspring Island is an easy place to get to. Just take bus 70 or 72 from Victoria to the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal. Without a car, it only costs $10 per person to take the ferry, which leaves throughout the day. When you arrive on Saltspring, you can take the bus from Fulford Harbour to the main town on Saltspring – Ganges. If you want to feel the wind on your face, there are also companies that rent scooters!

Ganges is the site of the famous Saturday Market. The market runs from April to October from 9am to 4pm. What makes this market special is that everything must be produced and sold by the vendors. So everything you see there is truly homemade by over 140 vendors. It’s a great place to find a souvenir, clothes, crafts or just some delicious food!

Salt Spring Island

Photo Source: Salt Spring Tourism

East Sooke Park

Vancouver Island has a lot of beautiful nature to see, and East Sooke Park is one of the best places to see it. Located only an hour’s drive from Victoria, it’s an amazing place to get away from the city and your studies!

The park has over 50 kilometres of hiking trails. My favourite is the Coast Trail. It has really amazing views of the rough west coast. Be careful though, it’s not an easy trail.

East Sooke Park has easier trails to get started with too. The hike from Pike Road to Iron Mine Bay and the hike from Aylard Farm to Becher Bay are both really easy. There is a map of all 50 kilometers of trails in the park available here. There’s so much to explore!

East Sooke Park on Juan de Fuca Strait, Sooke, Victoria, Vancouver Island

Photo Source: BritishColumbia.com

Mount Washington Alpine Resort

 

This is where I learned to ski and snowboard. Mount Washington is no Whistler, but it’s a great mountain and a great place to make sure you see some snow on your trip to Victoria!

Mount Washington is a three-hour drive from downtown Victoria. If three hours behind the wheel doesn’t sound appealing, you can also take the ski bus. It leaves from different locations around Victoria at around 5am and brings you back at around 7pm. It costs around $30 each way.

Zip Lining at Mount Washington

Photo Source: Mount Washington Alpine Resort

Explore!

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the different places you can let your curiosity go wild. Of course, there are many other places to explore on Vancouver Island. Do you have some ideas or tips? Post them in the comments!

The Global Village offers a Summer Teen Activity Program and and Fifty Plus (50+) Activity Package for mature adults. Both programs offer with exciting activities, paired with a General English courses and accommodation.

Explore beautiful Vancouver Island while learning English with GV English Programs!

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