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Vancouver Island

Photo © Utrecht

Travel Guide North America Canada British Columbia Vancouver Island

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Introduction

Pacific Rim National Park, Vancouver Island

Pacific Rim National Park, Vancouver Island

© All Rights Reserved Utrecht

Vancouver Island, in British Columbia, sits on the west coast of Canada. It is home to around 760,000 residents. Nearly half of these (344,630) live in Greater Victoria.

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History

The island was first explored by Europeans when British and Spanish expeditions arrived in the late 18th century. It was originally named Quadra's and Vancouver's Island in commemoration of the friendly negotiations held by Spanish commander of the Nootka Sound settlement, Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra, and by British naval captain George Vancouver in Nootka Sound in 1792, to find a solution to the Nootka Crisis. Quadra's name was eventually dropped and it has since been known solely as Vancouver Island. It is one of several North American locations named after George Vancouver, the British Royal Navy officer who explored the Pacific Northwest coast of North America between 1791 and 1794.

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Geography

Vancouver Island covers 32,134 square kilometres and is the largest island off the North American west coast.
The island is 460 kilometres in length, 80 kilometres in width at its widest point. It is the world's 43rd largest island, Canada's 11th largest island, and Canada's second most populous island after the Island of Montreal. Along with most of the southern Gulf Islands, plus various minor islands offshore from its southern end, the southern part of Vancouver Island is the only part of British Columbia (and of Western Canada) that lies south of the 49th Parallel. The area has one of the warmest climates in Canada and since the mid-1990s has been mild enough in a few areas to grow subtropical Mediterranean crops such as olives and lemons.

The Island separated from the mainland of British Columbia by Johnstone Strait and Queen Charlotte Strait on the north and northeast, and by the Strait of Georgia on the southeast, which along with the Strait of Juan de Fuca along its southwest separate it from the United States (the Straits of Georgia and Juan de Fuca are now officially also part of the Salish Sea, which includes Puget Sound as well). West of the island is the open Pacific Ocean, while to its north is Queen Charlotte Sound.

The Vancouver Island Ranges run most of the length of the island, dividing it into a wet and rugged west coast and a drier, more rolling east coast. The highest point in these ranges and on the island is the Golden Hinde, at 2,195 metres. Located near the centre of Vancouver Island in 2,500 square kilometres Strathcona Provincial Park, it is part of a group of peaks that include the only glaciers on the island, the largest of which is the Comox Glacier. The west coast shoreline is rugged and in many places mountainous, characterized by its many fjords, bays, and inlets. The interior of the island has many lakes (Kennedy Lake, north of Ucluelet, is the largest) and rivers.

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Cities and Towns

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Sights and Activities

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

© All Rights Reserved smross

  • The Butchart Gardens provide stunning floral displays year round. Admission prices for an adult range from CA$16.35 to $29 depending on the time of the year. Free for children under 5. Open daily 9:00am-sundown. Address: 800 Benvenuto Ave, Brentwood Bay
  • Strathcona Provincial Park is the largest park on the island, covering more than 2,000 sq kilometers.

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Weather

Vancouver Island has a mild maritime climate with generally wet conditions year round. There are huge variations though, ranging from just around 650 mm near Victoria to 10 times (!) as much at some locations along the west coast. Snow is possible in winter at higher elevations, but usually uncommon at sea level. Temperatures in winter (December to March) are mostly above zero at sea level, though frost is possible higher and more inland. In summer, temperatures up to 30 °C or even a bit more are possible, but only during a few weeks in total.

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Getting There

By Plane

Victoria International Airport (YYJ) offers flights to/from Seattle, Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton, San Francisco and even seasonal flights south to Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Honolulu, Las Vegas and Phoenix.

By Boat

There are several ferries operating between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia and between Vancouver Island and Washington State in the USA:

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Getting Around

By Plane

There are flights between Victoria and places like Nanaimo, Comox and a few others towns on the island.

By Train

The Malahat is operated by ViaRail and travels between Victoria and Courtenay, stopping en route in half a dozen places like Nanaimo.

By Car

There is one major north-south highway system on the island, which runs along the eastern side. It begins in Victoria as Highway 1 which is part of the Trans-Canada highway system as far as Nanaimo. There, Highway 19 takes over and continues to Port Hardy. The route is a patchwork of two-, four-, and six-lane roadways between Victoria and Port Hardy.

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Sleep

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
Malahat Bungalows & Rooms300 Trans Canada Highway VictoriaGUESTHOUSE-
Sun Lotus Yogic Life Center5070 Culverton Rd. DuncanGUESTHOUSE-
Mt H'Kusam View Lodge1165 Salmon River MainHostel-
Riding Fool Hostel2705 Dunsmuir Ave, Cumberland BC Comox ValleyHOSTEL93

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Contributors

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This is version 17. Last edited at 10:42 on Feb 22, 16 by Utrecht. 13 articles link to this page.

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