Vancouver Island Attractions
Some 450 km (280 mi.) long, and 100 km (60 mi.) across at its widest, Vancouver island is the largest island on the Pacific coast of North America.
It extends parallel to the coast of mainland British Columbia, separated from it by the Georgia and Queen Charlotte Straits. The island is densely wooded and mountainous, rising at its centre to its highest point, the 2200 m (7220 ft) Golden Hinde, the summit zone at least being snow covered. The extremely rugged and still largely virgin western coast is deeply indented, with numerous inlets and Bays extending far inland. The particularly beautiful southern section was turned some years ago into the Pacific Rim National Park. Lying in the rain shadow, the gently rolling hill country on the east and south coasts is relatively sunny; here agriculture and horticulture thrive. The likewise flat but. deeply indented northern tip of the island is by contrast covered with ancient forest and scarcely opened to the outside world.Frequent precipitation on the west coast favours the growth of dense rain forest, with giant trees overgrown with moss and ferns. These ancient forests are an indispensable resource for the island's thriving timber, cellulose and paper industry. Following bitter clashes with the indigenous Indians as well as conservationists, for example at Clayoquot Sound, the provincial government and logging companies operating on Vancouver Island have agreed a more cautious and environmentally friendly approach to the "timber harvest".Particularly in the Provincial Park and areas little touched by human settlement or industry, wapiti, deer (especially black deer), black bears and wolves are often to be seen. There are also, reportedly, still some cougars here; visitors should be extremely wary of them.Vancouver Island has long been settled by north-west coast Indians belonging to three different language groups. Descendants of the Nootka live on the west coast, some Kwakiutl groups in the north, and in the south-east the coast Salish. The majority of the mainly small Indian communities can only be reached by boat or seaplane.The east and south coasts are relatively densely populated. Victoria, in the extreme south, is the capital of both island and province (British Columbia). Further north, almost directly across the strait from Vancouver, are the port of Nanaimo and the popular residential area and resort of Qualicum Beach. In the extreme north of the island. ferries calling in or their way through the Inside Passage to Prince Rupert and beyond have helped Port Hardy to prosper.At the time of the first contacts with Europeans three different West Coast Indian language groups were represented among the tribes of Vancouver Island. The Nootka hunted and fished from settlements on the island's west coast while the north was inhabited by bands of Kwakiutl and the south-east by the coast Salish.The first European to reach the area was probably Sir Francis Drake. Voyaging along the Pacific coast of America at the end of the 16th c. Drake reached as far as present day Vancouver. It was not however until the end of the 18th c. that Spanish, Russian, British and American seafarers explored the west coast of Canada more extensively. In 1778 Captain James Cook, sailing up the west coast of Vancouver Island, landed at a small Indian settlement on Nootka Sound, presumably the first white person to do so. Cook very quickly recognised the possibilities for the fur trade and the potential for trade with China and soon British and American ships were making regular visits to the west coast Indians to exchange pelts. This growing British and American presence in territory to which Spain had formal claim quickly led to disputes, and in 1790 the Spaniards built a modest fort on Nootka Island, at Friendly Cove. Subsequently four British ships were seized. In 1795 however a new agreement was reached by the two sides which resulted in the Spanish relinquishing their remote outpost.It was at the close of the 18th c. that Captain George Vancouver, successfully negotiating the Johnstone Strait, established that the territory he took possession of for Britain and to which he gave his name was indeed an island. Later Vancouver Island came under the control of the Hudson's Bay Company which dominated the fur trade and in 1843 the company founded the first European settlement - at Fort Victoria - to which, in 1846, its western headquarters were transferred. The island would probably have long remained the exclusive domain of fur traders had not the discovery of gold in the Cariboo Mountains brought thousands of gold prospectors and settlers to Victoria.Timber is still the island's primary industry. In consequence large tracts of ancient forest, much of it many hundreds of years old, have already been destroyed. The larger tree trunks are shipped away elsewhere while the smaller ones end up at the cellulose factories and paper mills of Duncan, Nanaimo, Campbell River, Port Alberni and Port Alice. The rest of the tree is burned. The timber companies are nowadays required to replant deforested areas, which they do mainly with fast-growing Douglas firs to yield another "harvest" in 50 to 70 years time. Estimates suggest that with the exception of protected areas Vancouver Island will have lost all its ancient forests by the middle of the 21st century. But it would be difficult to overestimate the importance of the timber trade to the economy, particularly the contribution made by the logging companies and related industries to the island's infrastructure. Outside working hours private cars are able to use most of the unsurfaced forestry roads. Fishing and tourism are Vancouver Island's other major activities.Fish provide the livelihood of many islanders. Until a few years ago the coastal waters were fished, but recently so-called aqua farming has become established. Salmon and trout principally, but also other good quality fish, are "produced" in huge fish-rearing tanks. Tourism is growing in economic importance, with increasing numbers of tourists, including many from Europe, captivated by the island's lovely scenery.Ferries:Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen (-Vancouver); Swartz Bay-Gulf Islands; Victoria-Port Angeles/Washington State (USA); Victoria-Seattle (passengers only); Sidney-Anacortez/Wash; Departure Bay-Horseshoe Bay (-Vancouver); Courtenay/Comox-Powell River; Port Hardy-Prince Rupert; numerous local ferry and boat services.Air:Seaplane from Vancouver (Coal Harbour) to Victoria, Nanaimo and Port Hardy. Several of the major North American airlines fly to Victoria International Airport situated on the Saanich Peninsula. There are regional airports at Campbell River and Comox. Numerous connections by seaplane to out-of-the-way places or camps.
Sidney - Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre
Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre in Sidney is, as the name suggests, an aquarium. The focus is largely on local marine life of the Salish Sea, around southern Vancouver Island. Exhibits include a wet lab, aquarium habitats, touch tanks, and interesting temporary exhibits. The Discovery Center is very educational and will be of interest to people of all ages.
Campbell River, Canada
Campbell River, north of Courtenay, is primarily a fishing and industrial center. It is a good place to begin exploring the northern area of Vancouver Island. Visitors come here for fishing or wildlife viewing. Eco tours take visitors on trips to see bald eagles, lions, and sea otters. Bears also inhabit the area.
Museum at Campbell River
The Museum at Campbell River displays artifacts from the First Nations people of northern Vancouver Island. Other exhibits include logging and fishing equipment, and an outdoor historical interpretation park.The museum features both permanent exhibits as well as changing galleries.
Address: Box 70 Station A, Campbell River, BC V9W4Z9, Canada
Opening hours: May 18 to Sep 30: 10am-5pm
Oct 1 to May 17: 12pm-5pm; Closed: Mon
Oct 1 to May 17: 12pm-5pm; Closed: Mon
Always opened on: Canada Day (Jul 1), Civic Holiday - ON, BC, AB, MB, SK, NB, NWT (Canada) (1st Monday, Aug), Labor Day - Canada (1st Monday, Sep), Victoria Day - Canada
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), Thanksgiving - Canada (2nd Monday, Oct), New Year's Eve (Dec 31), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Christmas Eve - Christian (Dec 24)
Entrance fee in CAD: Family $15.00, Adult $6.00, Students $4.00, Child 6 & under FREE
Facilities: Gift shop
Port McNeil, Canada
Port McNeil is a small town located in northern Vancouver Island. The town is known for its beautiful setting on the waterfront with distant mountains in behind. Port McNeil also has a mild climate year round.The area has become popular with visitors who come to do kayaking, whale watching, fishing, and camping.
Coombs - Butterfly World and Gardens
Butterfly World has more than 30 free-flying species of butterflies in a walk-through tropical garden. Other sites include a petting zoo, Japanese water garden and outdoor aviary.
Gulf Islands National Park Reserve
Gulf Islands National Park Reserve consists of lands on 16 islands, plus numerous small islets and reef areas. The climate is sunnier and milder than the nearby mainland. It has become a popular weekend retreat and a haven for wildlife.
Address: 2220 Harbour Road, Sidney, BC V8L2P6, Canada
Useful tips: The park's administrative office is open from 8:00 am - 4:30 pm on weekdays and closed on weekends. Park lands are open year-round, but no services or limited services are available in the off-season.
Galiano Island is the home of Montague Harbour Provincial Park, the center of aborignal life for thousands of years. Swimming, fishing, sightseeing, hiking and diving are popular recreational activities. The island is also known for its white sand beaches.All the regular tourist amenities can be found here including a variety of accommodation options such as resorts, inns, and cottages, along with restaurants, galleries, and craft stores.
Map of Vancouver Island Attractions