Our guest author, Leigh McAdam shares her love of Vancouver island, British Columbia, where you can explore the temperate rainforests, go kayaking along the rugged coastline and hope to see bears, orca whales and bald eagles.
Vancouver Island dependably ranks as one of my favourite places to visit. I love it for its wild spaces and easy access to nature. Many visitors don’t make it past Victoria, and though it’s a delightful city, it’s the places where Mother Nature reigns that strike a chord with me. Vancouver Island is home to one of the world’s temperate rainforests; it also boasts over 3,400 kilometres of coastline, a coastal mountain range often shrouded in fog and countless islands. For a memorable trip to Vancouver Island include as many of these experiences as possible.
Coastal flora & fauna
Visit wild west coast beaches especially the ones along the Juan de Fuca Trail, northwest of Victoria as well as those in the Tofino area. Botanical Beach, near Port Renfrew is a standout and easily visited as a day trip from Victoria. (Or stay in Point No Point Lodge and head north from there.) Although it’s on the Juan de Fuca Trail, it’s accessible to day trippers. Check out the tide charts before you go so your visit coincides with a falling tide. Bring your rain gear and a pair of shoes with some traction. Then plan on a few hours peering into nature’s potholes – filled with all manner of animal life – sea urchins, starfish, mussels, sea cucumbers, shore crabs and hermit crabs, octopus, chitons, limpets, sculpins, barnacles, periwinkles and sea anemones. When the tide starts to rise, pull out a picnic lunch and relax on a nearby sandy beach.
And on the way to Port Renfrew – or anywhere else on Vancouver Island for that matter, keep your eyes peeled for black bears at the side of the road. But use common sense and take your photographs from the safety of your car.
Hike & kayak to spectacular views
For one of Canada’s best day hikes, head to East Sooke Regional Park and plan to hike the Coastal Trail. You get the full west coast experience, yet it’s only 45 minutes from downtown Victoria. Like many trails along the coast, its 10 km length belies its difficulty. Expect to be challenged by non-stop ups and downs but there is a reward – spectacular, rugged coastline broken by a cedar and fir filled rainforest, with swaths of wildflowers in season. From your resting spot, be it a bench or a beach, enjoy the views of the Olympic Mountains over in Washington State.
Clayoquot Sound accessible from Tofino deserves a visit. It’s popular as a kayaking destination – for one day to multi-day trips. If you only have a day, you can join a guided tour and head for Meares Island where you’ll see some of the oldest and biggest trees in British Columbia. The most famous tree – the Hanging Garden Tree – is a western red cedar with a massive 18.3 metre circumference. Otherwise join a tour and head out for one of the islands, some of which boast beautiful, white sand beaches. Expect to see seals, whales, otters and lots of sea birds.
If you’ve dreamed of seeing Orcas (killer whales), head for Telegraph Cove at the northeastern end of Vancouver Island. Not only is it one of the best places in the world to see these whales, you’re also likely to see bears and bald eagles. Adventurous travelers should consider joining a multi-day kayak tour in the area but note that the waters can be challenging because of the currents.
Adventure for everyone
If you’re already in Telegraph Cove, then try to include a boat ride to Knight Inlet to see the grizzly bears. June is the best month to visit but in the fall you’re treated to the sight of the bears catching and eating salmon. For the truly adventurous there are several excellent backpacking trips including the famous West Coast Trail that takes most people four to seven days to hike its 75 km length. Although tough, it rewards with incredible beach camping every night. Other choices include the Nootka Island Trail and the North Coast Trail.
There are loads of other kayaking options. Near to Victoria you can kayak in the waters around the southern Gulf Islands. The Discovery Islands near Campbell River are beautiful, but challenging with currents and the lack of campsites. The Broken Group of Islands in Pacific Rim National Park near Tofino offers amazing kayaking – and it’s perfect for novices.
No matter what adventure you choose, Vancouver Island will charm you. And despite its reputation as a rainy place, it can be sunny and dry for weeks on end come summer.
Visit the #explorecanada official Canada Tourism Website for more information on things to do in British Columbia and Vancouver Island as well as their social media channels on Instagram | Facebook | Twitter
Author Bio: Many thanks for this article to Leigh McAdam, a Calgary based blogger writing about outdoor and adventure travel at HikeBikeTravel.com. Recently she completed 100 adventures across Canada and wrote the ebook – Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures.
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