Vancouver Island is an outdoor playground, attracting adventure seekers, extreme athletes and wilderness lovers from around the world. Vancouver Island is the largest island in North America, and continues to retain the prestigious and long-time status as the Best Island to visit in Continental US and Canada from the Travel + Leisure magazine’s 2015 World’s Best Awards.
Everyone should visit Vancouver Island at least once in his or her life, (maybe I’m biased, I did just move here). If you only have a week to see as much as you can, your best bet is to follow this vacation guide to plan your trip with eco-friendly destinations.
Get there by ferry – Avoid long line-ups by taking the ferry mid week, you will be pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable the journey can be. Depending on where you are, board the ferry from Tsawwassen to Victoria (Swartz Bay), or, if you’re near Vancouver, take the Horseshoe Bay ferry to Departure Bay in Nanaimo. See schedules here.
Get there by plane – If you like feeling like a rock star, you can take a ride with Harbour Air, the first carbon neutral airline in North America. Harbour Air will pick you up from downtown Vancouver and deliver you right into Victoria’s inner harbour, in front of the famous Fairmont Empress Hotel. They also fly to other island locations. Of course you can fly to Victoria’s International Airport as well, and you might want to see about departing through Nanaimo or Comox Valley Airport to give yourself more time to explore the island.
Day 1 and 2: Victoria
Victoria, BC’s historical Capital City, is becoming one of Canada’s ecotourism hotspots. Activity providers are seeing the benefits of operating more sustainably and being recognized as a green business.
Go whale and wildlife watching: Several Sustainable Tourism Certified businesses are tour companies, operating from downtown Victoria. Choose a tour that fits your tastes and schedule.
Stay at green hotels, such as the Parkside Hotel and Spa, a LEED building with low VOC furnishings, or check out the Inn at Laurel Point, Victoria’s first Carbon Neutral hotel.
Take a walking tour: Walking around the city is the greenest and cheapest option. Take a walk from Beacon Hill Park to the Parliament buildings, through the Empress Hotel and up to China Town. Don’t forget to visit Market Square and Fantan Alley. For more ideas on free activities read this article.
Day 3: Sooke or Salt Spring Island
Both Sooke and Salt Spring Island offer a getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city. If you want to stay in Sooke, spend a night at Sooke Harbour House, where guests can expect to be pampered with locally sourced, organic meals in an environmentally conscious resort.
If you don’t want to miss Salt Spring Island, take the ferry from Crofton or Victoria’s Swartz Bay. Make sure you start your adventure at the Visitor’s Center and ask about green hotels, then take a tour of the island’s unique sights and stops with Tour Salt Spring
Day 4-5: The West Coast (Ucluelet and Tofino)
Drive north past Nanaimo and take Highway 4A to the island’s West Coast. Stop for a wander through Cathedral Grove, one of the last old growth forests on the island where it’s said you can see fairies.
If you feel like camping, stay at Surf Junction Campground, located just outside of the Pacific Rim National Park. Here you will get all the information you need to get your surf on.
If you’re looking for luxury, these Sustainable Tourism members surely won’t disappoint you. Black Rock Oceanfront Resort in Ucluelet or the Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino both offer indulgent accommodation and dining experiences.
Day 6-7: North Island
As hard as it is to leave the West Coast, you won’t want to miss the Comox Valley and North Island. Stay at Royston House Bed and Breakfast, which offers personalized service within the lush oasis of a Certified Backyard Habitat. Taste the delicious wines of 40 Knots Vineyard and Estate Winery and visit Strathcona Park Lodge, an off-grid outdoor education centre on your way to Campbell River. Now it’s time to decide whether you want to go river rafting with Destiny River Adventures, or wildlife viewing with Campbell River Whale Watching and Adventure Tours.
Don’t miss experiencing Broughton Archipelago’s Paddler’s Inn, where you can sleep in a handcrafted float house and experience nature by taking a relaxing and rejuvenating break from your everyday life.
Bonus week: Sea kayaking or hiking adventure
A kayaking trip comes highly recommended as one of the best experiences you could have on Vancouver Island. If you have time, add on a multi-day kayaking adventure from one of these green tourism businesses:
- Spirit of the West Adventures – Quadra Island
- Kingfisher Wilderness Adventures – Port McNeill
- West Coast Expeditions – Spring Island, near Kyuquot
- Coastal Bliss Adventures – Cowichan Valley
Bonus day: Qualicum Beach to Nanaimo
If you happen to have one extra night, spend it sleeping in a tree at Free Spirit Spheres near Qualicum Beach, and explore the quiet darkness of Horne Lake Caves and Outdoor Center.
Leaving the island
As sad as you may feel, there will come a time when you have to leave Vancouver Island. Whether you’re on a plane or ferry, if you are like most travellers, you will realize one trip is never enough. With so many natural wonders to explore, use this guide as a base to plan more vacations. Just remember, give yourself an extra day for travel, you never know if you’re going to miss a ferry or catch a fairy… but know this for sure; expect the unexpected at Vancouver Island.