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12 Unusual Things to Do on Vancouver Island

Morden Colliery Historic Provincial Park | © Sun Metron / Flickr
Morden Colliery Historic Provincial Park | © Sun Metron / Flickr
There is plenty to keep you busy on Vancouver Island, including incredible hikes, beautiful beaches, and remote provincial parks. If you’re looking to do something a little bit different during your visit, then check out this guide to the best unusual things to do on the island.

Victoria Bug Zoo

The Victoria Bug Zoo opened in 1997, and it is home to 50 different animal and insect species, such as praying mantis, scorpions, tarantulas, and Canada’s largest ant colony. But the bugs are always changing, so one visit to the zoo is never enough! Learn more about the animals through the Bug Zoo’s knowledgeable tour guides. They are also on hand to give guests a safe bug-handling experience—if they’re feeling adventurous.

Up close to a Victoria Bug Zoo resident © Darren Kirby / Flickr

Try a Titan(ic) Caesar at The Schooner Restaurant

The Schooner Restaurant has been in operation since 1949. The popular Tofino dining establishment is known for three things: its steaks, seafood, and cocktails. The one drink that people have to try at the restaurant is the Titan(ic) Caesar. The Caesar is known as Canada’s national drink, but The Schooner’s version takes the cocktail to another level. They garnish a glass of Caesar with a cheeseburger, a steak sandwich, onion rings, hot wings, bourbon baby back ribs, prawns, an assorted cheese skewer, and pickled vegetables. It’s a meal and an alcoholic beverage in one!

Free Spirit Spheres

Free Spirit Spheres might be Vancouver Island’s most unique—and unusual—accommodation option. The three spherical and Hobbit-like treehouse pods are surrounded by coastal rainforest near Qualicum Beach and were created by Tom Chudleigh. Named Melody, Eryn, and Eve, the pods start from $175 per night. There are bathrooms located at ground level, as well as a barbecue area and a small kitchen for all guests to use. Free Spirit Spheres is currently constructing two more treehouse pods too, called Luna and Flora.

Free Spirit Spheres © Kyle Greenberg / Flickr

Petroglyph Provincial Park

Not to be confused with Petroglyphs Provincial Park in Ontario, the singular Petroglyph Provincial Park is a two-hectare park located at the south end of Nanaimo. It’s where people will find hundreds of petroglyphs carved into the park’s rocky surfaces. The rock carvings were made by the area’s First Nations people more than 1,000 years ago. Some of the featured carvings at the park are of human figures, symbolic animals, and mythical sea and wolf-like creatures. There’s also an interpretive area on-site, where people can make rubbings of select castings.

Miniature World

Miniature World is the self-proclaimed “Greatest Little Show on Earth.” One of the most popular tourist attractions in Victoria, Miniature World is home to over 85 mini dioramas and displays. Inside, visitors will find the world’s smallest operational sawmill, which took 11 years to create. There are also two of the world’s largest dollhouses, built around 1880. Miniature World also has the Great Canadian Railway—one of the world’s largest model railways—and sections such as the Wonderful World of the Circus, Space 2201 AD, Enchanted Valley of Castles, Frontier Land, Olde London Towne on 1670, and so much more.

Inside Miniature World © Ruocaled / Flickr

Old Country Market

Located on the highway, Old Country Market has some unique guests living on its roof—goats! Say hi to the grassy roof’s residents before enjoying everything else that the market has to offer. Old Country Market is home to a deli, imported specialty grocery store, bakery, ice cream store (some say the best on Vancouver Island), Cuckoo’s Trattoria, Taqueria, The Market Restaurant, a gift shop, a surf shop, Chinese antiques, and Zolena, an accessories boutique.

Fan Tan Alley

When in Victoria, you must take a walk down Fan Tan Alley, Canada’s narrowest street. Located in Victoria’s Chinatown, it’s 0.9 meters (35 inches) wide at its narrowest point. It’s named after the Chinese gambling game Fan-Tan; back in the late 1850s, many Chinese immigrants came to Victoria because of the gold rush. Until the 1920s, Fan Tan Alley was a gambling district, filled with restaurants, shops, and opium dens. Despite its checkered past, today, Fan Tan Alley is a popular tourist destination that’s home to businesses such as an ice cream shop, independent boutiques, and an art gallery.

Fan Tan Alley  © Hayley Simpson

Canso Bomber Crash Site

In February 1945, a Royal Canadian Air Force Canso 11007 carrying 12 passengers crash-landed shortly after takeoff in what is now known as the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. All 12 passengers miraculously survived the crash, even though the plane was carrying 454 kilograms (1,000 pounds) of explosives. The wreckage is still surprisingly intact after all of these years. For a detailed trail description, visit the Tofino Trails website.

Morden Colliery Historic Provincial Park

The four-hectare Morden Colliery Historic Provincial Park protects parts of Vancouver Island’s coal mining history. It’s home to the island’s only remaining concrete coal tipple, which the Pacific Coal Company built in the early 1900s. The tipple is the last remaining piece of the Morden Coal Mine. The Friends of Morden Mine is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the area. There’s also a trail running through the park to the Nanaimo River.

Morden Colliery Historic Provincial Park  © Sun Metron / Flickr

Royston Wrecks

Located in Vancouver Island’s Comox Valley, the Royston Wrecks (or Ghost Ships of Royston) is where 14 ships were deliberately sunk to create a breakwater that protected Comox Harbour’s log booming grounds. Comox Logging and Railway Co. sunk the first ship in 1936 and the last ship in 1959. The area is great for walking along the Royston Seaside Trail, bird-watching, and fishing in the summertime.

Shack Island

While in Nanaimo, take a journey north and out to Shack Island at low tide. The small T-shaped island is home to a rocky beach and shabby shacks. Although some of the shacks look rundown, quite a few of them are still used today, as summer cabins, by the descendants of the original owners. Shack Island is part of Pipers Lagoon Park, which is home to a very inviting natural lagoon too.

Shack Island at low tide © Laura D’Alessandro / Flickr

Wacky Woods

Wacky Woods (as it’s unofficially called) is four acres of privately owned woodland that’s filled with hundreds of artworks. It’s the wacky legacy of George Sawchuk, a renowned artist from Vancouver Island who passed away in 2012. Wander through Sawchuk’s outdoor gallery, filled with sculptures, wooden books containing quotes, and objects he attached to trees. Atlas Obscura says, “His forest gallery is filled with works that range from Dadaism to surrealism, often with a political slant.”