Victoria is the heart of Vancouver Island. It is British Columbia’s capital, as well as the largest city on the island. It is also where various ferries and seaplanes arrive daily from both Vancouver and Washington State. There’s plenty to keep the whole family busy in Victoria, including many pubs, cafés, and boutique shops for the adults, along with museums, award-winning gardens, and attractions for the family.
For luxurious travelers, there’s no better place to stay than the Fairmont Empress. The Edwardian-style hotel is an award-winning property that’s home to 464 guest rooms, the Willow Stream Spa (one of Canada’s best), and the world-renowned Tea at the Empress. For budget-minded people, check out Ocean Island Inn, which has dormitories and private rooms. There is also Abigail’s Hotel, a small adults-only guesthouse with charming rooms.
Besides Victoria, Tofino is undoubtedly the second most popular place to visit and stay on Vancouver Island. It’s all about the outdoor adventures in Tofino, as it’s known as Canada’s surf capital and a storm-watcher’s paradise. Whether you enjoy kayaking, wildlife watching, sunset viewing, or visiting hot springs, this locale has it all. It also has a variety of accommodation options. On Mackenzie Beach, there’s Ocean Village Resort, with its beehive-style cabins, and Crystal Cove Beach Resort.
A five-minute drive down the road takes you to the prestigious Wickaninnish Inn, which is known as the place for storm watching in Tofino. But the ultimate destination is Clayoquot Wilderness Resort. Accessible via floatplane only and located within Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, this resort is designed in an eco-safari style. There’s a spa, adventure activities, dining tents serving modern coastal cuisine, and so much more.
Qualicum Beach is a relaxing town in which to base yourself. Located 30 minutes north of Nanaimo, you can be in Victoria or Tofino within two hours, or Chemainus in an hour. It’s known as the island’s Garden Village, so a visit isn’t complete without checking out Milner Gardens & Woodland. Qualicum Beach is also part of the Mount Arrowsmith UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Hiking, ocean kayaking, and spending time at the beach are other popular activities around town.
Accommodation-wise, there’s nothing more unique than Free Spirit Spheres: three spherical treehouses suspended in the rainforest near Qualicum Beach. Next, there’s Crown Mansion Boutique Hotel & Villas, which has something to offer everyone. It also has a restaurant on-site and is close to the beach.
Tofino’s southern neighbor, Ucluelet is a small seaside village. It’s the perfect starting point for enjoying the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, one of Canada’s most beautiful national parks thanks to its combination of rainforest, rugged coastlines, uninhabited islands, sandy beaches, and ancient cedar trees. Other things that attract people to Ucluelet instead of Tofino are its aquarium and the Wild Pacific Trail.
A Snug Harbour Inn, a luxury oceanfront B&B, says it’s the perfect romantic retreat. Black Rock Oceanfront Resort is a four-star property located on Ucluelet’s rugged coast and only a five-minute walk from the Wild Pacific Trail. It was inducted into TripAdvisor’s Hall of Fame in 2016 due to five years of excellence. Another option is the Terrace Beach Resort. Beverly Hills 90210 star Jason Priestley co-owns the resort with his dad, Lorne, and stepmother, Norma.
Destination BC says Port Hardy, located in the northern portion of Vancouver Island, is evolving into “one of North America’s best as-yet undiscovered outdoor adventure destinations. The natural ingredients are all here: fishing, hiking, world-class scuba diving, and serious quantities of wildlife.” Port Hardy is where visitors catch ferries towards Prince Rupert and the Great Bear Rainforest. It’s also the gateway to Cape Scott Provincial Park, which is a must-visit for hiking enthusiasts.
Destination BC also believes Port Hardy has a “bright green ecotourist future,” thanks to accommodation options like Ecoscape Cabins, which is focused on minimizing its environmental footprint. Kwa’Lilas Hotel is Port Hardy’s premier First Nations destination hotel, where guests can choose between mountain- or ocean-view rooms. There’s also an on-site restaurant that serves fresh and local west coast cuisine.