Vancouver Island holiday highlights

Just off the west coast of mainland Canada lies Vancouver Island. A scenic ferry or floatplane ride from the mainland will transport you to pretty Victoria, British Columbia’s historic capital city which is home to attractive colonial buildings and verdant gardens. The colourful Butchart Gardens in the north of the city are stunning, and in the summer months whale watching is extremely popular, with orcas inhabiting local waters. Some of the best food here includes freshly-caught salmon and trout.

Located on the west coast of Vancouver Island, on the tip of the Esowista Peninsula, is the settlement of Tofino, a popular summer destination. Tofino is the perfect choice for nature lovers, whale watchers and even surfers, and with its setting on the southern edge of the Clayoquot Sound, it offers stunning views of the water. From here you can take a cruise to spot whales, learn how to surf, follow hiking trails along the coast, head out on bear-watching trips and visit the beautiful Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

Located approximately 25 miles along the south west coast of Vancouver Island from Tofino, is the district of Ucluelet (pronounced yew-kloo-let), affectinally know as Ukee. Much like the rest of Vancouver Island, the area is heaven for outdoor adventurers with a wide range of activities on offer allowing you to explore the beautiful Ucluelet Peninsula. As well as bear and whale watching, ocean kayaking is a favourite pastime in the region’s sheltered waters. Other activities include fishing and hiking the Wild Pacific Trail.

Set on the eastern shore of Vancouver Island, the city of Campbell River is the ‘Salmon Capital of the World’ and popular activities here include bear- and whale-watching, fishing and hiking. Knight Inlet, which is reached by float plane from Campbell River, is set in the far reaches of one of the main inlets of the British Columbia coast. This natural wilderness of lush rainforest shelters a diverse range of wildlife including bald eagles, grizzly bears and black bears.

The opportunity to see Vancouver Island and the Strait of Georgia from a floatplane is one of the most quintessential Canadian experiences. These operate between Vancouver and Victoria, Tofino, Campbell River or Port Hardy. Alternatively, you can cruise across the strait with BC Ferries. Routes include Vancouver to Nanaimo and Vancouver to Victoria (Swartz Bay). There are two departure points in Vancouver – Tsawwassen and Horseshoe Bay, the latter only serving Nanaimo.

Vancouver Island key facts

Time difference

GMT -8 hours

Capital

Provincial capital: Victoria

Currency

Canadian Dollar (CAD)

Flying time to destination

Vancouver: 9½ hours

Language

English is widely spoken all over Canada except Québec, which is bilingual (French-English).

Passport & visas

An Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA) is now required for British citizens travelling to Canada, please speak to a Personal Travel Expert for details

Vancouver Island good to know

Tipping

Many Canadians in the service industry rely on tips to supplement their income. Tips or tax are not usually automatically added to a bill in Canada, but you should always check. Taxi drivers, hairdressers and waiters are generally given 10-15%. Bellhops, porters and doormen are generally paid Can$1 per item of luggage. It may be advisable to carry small change for this purpose. These figures are for guidance only and assume that service has been good.

Public holidays

01 January: New Year's Day
February: Family Day
March/April: Good Friday
May: Victoria Day
01 July: Canada Day
September: Labour Day
October: Thanksgiving Day
25 December: Christmas Day
26 December: Boxing Day

Shopping in Vancouver Island

Most goods are available slightly cheaper than the cost at home. Canadian arts and crafts fashioned from pewter, wood, silver and pottery (as well as Native Canadian art like soapstone-carvings, totem poles and weavings) are best found in the regions where they are produced.