Vancouver Island is part of the British Columbia province of Canada, and is located off the Western coast of North America, just west of Vancouver and north of Seattle. At the southern end of the island is Victoria, the capital city of the province, and the entire island is a haven for nature lovers, with amazing parks, mountains, rivers, and a coastline full of marine life. Visitors to Vancouver Island can take a week-long cruise with Outer Shores Expeditions to see whales, dolphins, and more, or go for a hike in Pacific Rim National Park. Travelers can also indulge in a traditional tea service at Milner Gardens, learn about the First Nations people at Campbell River Museum, or play up in the treetops at Wildplay Nanaimo.
1. Craigdarroch Castle
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Craigdarroch Castle, built in 1887, has all the romance of a castle in a fairytale and the history to go with it. Built by a Scottish immigrant who made a fortune in the coal industry, the castle was built at the top of a hill overlooking Victoria, and the four-story building is full of incredible stained glass windows and masterfully ornate woodwork. Today, the castle is open for tours, and visitors can explore the 200,000-square-foot castle, see the exquisite Victorian-era furniture, and learn about the Dunsmuir family, who once lived there.
1050 Joan Crescent, Victoria, BC V8S 3L5, Canada, Phone: +1-250-592-5323
2. Pacific Northwest Raptors
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The call of a hawk and the swooping dive of an eagle are both instantly recognizable in the vast, open skies. Birds of prey are huge and intelligent, and many of them are also very endangered. At The Raptors on Vancouver Island, a group of scientists and falconers have created a haven for these birds of prey, where they can fly away whenever and wherever they please, but always have a home to which they can return. Visitors to The Raptors can observe these beautiful birds in flight and on the ground through once in a lifetime personal encounters with hawks, owls, falcons, and more. From a half-hour Hawk Walk all the way to a week-long Falconry Training Course, where students will learn how to handle and hunt with falcons, The Raptors offers a number of educational experiences designed to teach and delight its guests.
1877 Herd Rd, Duncan, BC V9L 5W4, Canada, Phone: +1 250-746-0372
3. Abkhazi Garden
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Abkhazi Garden was first planted in 1946 by Prince and Princess Abkhazi shortly after their marriage. The garden has flourished in the decades since, with sloping rocky landscapes, native trees and, of course, many beautiful flowers. The garden is close to the road, although visitors would never believe it, since it feels incredibly secluded and peaceful. Visitors can enjoy the tranquil area and the masterful landscaping, and then indulge in a cup of hot tea, an array of traditional scones and pastries, or a light lunch at the Abkhazi Teahouse, which is renowned for its classic and traditional tea services.
1964 Fairfield Rd, Victoria, BC V8S 1H2, Canada, Phone: +1 778-265-6466
4. Beacon Hill Park
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The area that is now Beacon Hill Park was once called Meeacan, which means "belly", because the protrusion of the hill from the surrounding area looked like the large, extended stomach of a man lying down on his back. This park, containing almost 200 acres of greenery and gardens, has been a park since 1882. It is located in downtown Victoria and is home to walking trails, playgrounds, sports courts, ponds, and a petting zoo. The park is also home to the world's largest totem pole, which stands at 160 feet tall and was erected in 1956 to honor the First Nations people.
100 Cook St, Victoria, BC V8V, Canada, Phone: +1 250-361-0600
5. Comox Air Force Museum
© Comox Air Force Museum
At the Comox Air Force Museum, visitors can take a self-guided tour through the history of aviation in Canada. Inside the museum there are artifacts dating back to World War I, such as uniforms, medals, a pilot ejection seat, and an aircraft engine. There are short documentaries on a number of subjects, with historical footage, interviews with pilots, and more. Outside, guests to the museum can explore the Heritage Air Park, which is home to a number of old aircraft as well as heritage vehicles that were once used by the Canadian Air Force.
Military Row, Lazo, BC V0R 2K0, Canada, Phone: +1 250-339-8162
6. Elk Falls Provincial Park and Protected Area
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This British Columbia Provincial Park is named for the scenic, thundering waterfall that is its centerpiece. Elk Falls is almost 85 feet high, with steep cliff walls and a pool at the bottom where the river collects and continues after the drop. Visitors to Elk Falls Provincial Park can hike through an old growth Douglas fir forest, go fishing in the lakes for trout, chinook, or salmon, or spend a night camping surrounded by stars and nature. The park contains informational signs, so guests can learn about the local flora and fauna, while the campgrounds are equipped with picnic areas, drinking water, and toilets.
Hwy 28, Campbell River, BC V9H 1P1, Canada, Phone: +1 800-689-9025
7. Englishman River Falls Provincial Park
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Englishman River Falls Provincial Park contains two notable cascades, both situated along the Englishman River, which runs through the park. This 240-acre park contains old-growth forests full of cedar, hemlock, Douglas fir, and maple trees, among others, and is home to several hiking trails where visitors can take an easy hike through beautiful nature, where they will find canyons, waterfalls, and lush green forests. Vehicle-accessible campsites are equipped with drinking water, pit toilets, picnic areas, and campfire rings. Swimming is also permitted within the park, just below the lower falls.
2245 Errington Rd, Errington, BC V0R 1V0, Canada, Phone: +1 250-474-1336
8. Fisherman's Wharf
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Located in the city of Victoria, just a short walk from the Inner Harbor, Fisherman's Wharf is a fun destination for visitors and locals alike. The floating dock is a great place to see the wide variety of watercraft moored there, including float houses, commercial vessels, and tour boats. The docks are lined with shops and kiosks, selling everything from souvenir toys to clothes and accessories. There is also a wide variety of food offered, and visitors to Fisherman's Wharf can indulge in delicious crispy fish and chips, fresh crab, a cup of hot coffee, or a sweet and refreshing ice cream cone.
12 Erie St, Victoria, BC V8V 4X5, Canada, Phone: +1 250-383-8326
9. Fort Rodd Hill & Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Site
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The gorgeous Fisgard Lighthouse is located at Fort Rodd Hill on a rocky patch of land that rises up, surrounded on all sides by the ocean except for a thin strip of land. Visitors to the site will see gorgeous views of the ocean and the snow-capped Olympic Mountains as they tour the grounds of this historic site. The buildings on the property bear a lot of history, and visitors can take a self-guided audio tour of the grounds to learn about the area, historic events, and each of the buildings at the site. There are also guided tours available through the rare Garry oak ecosystem, and guests have the option to spend a night camping under the stars in a heated oTENTik.
603 Fort Rodd Hill Rd, Victoria, BC V9C 2W8, Canada, Phone: +1 250-478-5849
10. Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park
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Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park encompasses a portion of the Little Qualicum River as well as the southern edge of Cameron Lake. The landscape here is deeply forested, with the steep slopes of mountains rising up from the park's edge. The lake is ideal for boating, fishing, and swimming, and the river is a scenic companion to many of the park's walking and hiking trails. The lake can get quite windy due to the surrounding mountains, so many visitors like to try their hand at sailboarding while out on the water.
4001 Alberni Hwy, Qualicum Beach, BC B9K 1X7, Canada, Phone: +1 250-474-1336
11. Milner Gardens & Woodland - Vancouver Island University
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This beautiful natural area sits upon 70 acres of land overlooking the Strait of Georgia. Visitors can take a leisurely walk along the pathways, which are lined with trees, shrubbery, and flowering plants – including a wide collection of over 500 varieties of rhododendron – for a tranquil, peaceful day amongst nature. The historical house on the property was built in 1931 and modeled after tea plantation houses in Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon under the British Empire. The house has been visited by the UK royal family themselves, and visitors to the house can enjoy a beautiful and delicious traditional tea service, with tea, cakes, and more.
2179 Island Hwy W, Qualicum Beach, BC V9K 1G1, Canada, Phone: +1 250-752-6153
12. Miniature World
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Despite the small size of their exhibits, a trip to Miniature World will leave a big impression. This attraction features 85 miniature railroads, some of the largest dollhouses in the world with over 50 painstakingly detailed rooms, and a number of astonishingly detailed dioramas. Years of work have gone into each of the exhibits, like the Camelot miniature set, which creates a beautiful visualization of the legendary King Arthur and his knights at the Round Table. Guests will wonder at the detail of Charles Dickens' London, a classic circus set, and even a space scene set in the year 2201.
649 Humboldt St, Victoria, BC V8W 1A7, Canada, Phone: +1 250-385-9731
13. Museum at Campbell River
© Museum at Campbell River
The Museum at Campbell River is an ethnographic museum that displays and educates about the history of the region and the people who have lived there. Begun in 1958 with one small exhibit, the museum has grown in the decades since to comprise exhibits pertaining to the First Nations people, the lifestyles of early pioneers who settled on Vancouver Island, the early salmon fishing industry, and more. The museum contains artifacts and even relocated structures like a pioneer's cabin, the historic Willows Hotel, and a log float house used in the commercial fishing and logging industries during the 1920s.
470 Island Hwy, Campbell River, BC V9W 4Z9, Canada, Phone: +1 250-287-3103
14. Nanaimo Museum
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In the Nanaimo Museum, visitors can discover the history of the Canadian city of Nanaimo. Exhibits feature a 1920s schoolhouse, the history of the Nanaimo Bastion, stained glass, artifacts, and signs from historical Nanaimo businesses, and tools from the early logging and coal mining industries. There are also exhibits about the First Nations people of Nanaimo, wherein visitors can get a feel for life inside a traditional Snunéymuxw longhouse and view artifacts and tools used in everyday life in a historical culture.
100 Museum Way, Nanaimo, BC V9R 5J8, Canada, Phone: +1 250-753-1821
15. Outer Shores Expeditions & Wilderness Tours
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With Outer Shores Expeditions and Wilderness Tours, guests can see Vancouver Island and the beauty of British Columbia from the water on a small ship expedition around the coast. Outer Shores offers expeditions all over British Columbia, but their Vancouver Island tours include Northern Vancouver Island, the Southern Gulf Islands, and Pacific Rim National Park. Guests can take a week-long cruise around the island to see whales, dolphins, and birds from the decks of the vessel. The ship will put into port so that guests can visit local vineyards and farms, eat amazing, local, and fresh food, and explore the amazing wilderness of Vancouver Island's parks and old-growth forests.
360 B Harbour Road, Victoria, BC V9A 3S1, Canada, Phone: +1 855-714-7233
16. Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
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This world renowned national park comprises almost 200 square miles of beautiful nature. The park is divided into three distinct parts: the West Coast Trail, Long Beach, and the Broken Group Islands. Hikers will love the historic West Coast Trail, which stretches for 75 km through old-growth forests, over rivers, and across lovely beaches, following the trail taken by a group of shipwreck survivors in 1906. Reservation and permit information for the trail can be found online. For those who want to see Pacific Rim from the water, there are a number of great spots for surfing, kayaking, and more, and for those wishing to learn about history and culture, each section of the park has a First Nations Unit where visitors can listen to traditional stories and go on guided nature walks.
British Columbia V0R 3A0, Canada, Phone: +1 250-726-3500
17. Point Ellice House Museum & Gardens
© Point Ellice House Museum & Gardens
Point Ellice House Museum & Gardens is a gorgeous historic Victorian home dating back to 1861, when it was built by the illustrious O'Reilly family. The house was their home for over a century until 1975, when it was sold to the province of British Columbia. Every single one of the family's possessions was left behind in the house, including furniture, clothing, board games, silverware, and musical instruments. The items on display today are all from the period of 1890 to 1920. It is one of the largest intact collections of Victorian objects. Tours are self guided.
2616 Pleasant St, Victoria, BC V8T 4V3, Canada, Phone: +1 250-380-6506
18. Quatse Salmon Stewardship Centre
© Quatse Salmon Stewardship Centre
The Quatse Salmon Stewardship Centre is located in Port Hardy, on the north end of Vancouver Island. This place is dedicated to salmon conservation and education efforts in the region. Visitors and fishing enthusiasts will love the educational exhibits about salmon, their environments, and their unique characteristics. Guests will even have the opportunity for a hands-on encounter with these fascinating fish. The Quatse Salmon Stewardship Centre, as well as the salmon hatchery, offer tours, workshops, special events, and educational courses.
8400 Byng Rd, Port Hardy, BC V0N 2P0, Canada, Phone: +1 250-902-0336
19. Royal BC Museum
© Royal BC Museum
The Royal British Columbia Museum, located in Victoria, has over six million items in its collection, each pertaining to the history and culture of the province of British Columbia. The museum's collection includes exhibits on a wide variety of topics related to natural and human history. In the realm of natural history, visitors will have the opportunity to view specimens and skeletons of mammals, fish, whales, birds, and other animals, most of which are native to British Columbia. In the human history section of the museum, visitors will find archaeological artifacts from up to 10,000 years ago as well as exhibits devoted to ethnology and modern history.
675 Belleville St, Victoria, BC V8W 9W2, Canada, Phone: +1 250-356-7226
20. Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea
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The Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea is a public, not-for-profit aquarium where visitors can view and experience over 160 varieties of sea life as well as exhibits and art collections pertaining to the Salish Sea. With school programs, special events, and lecture series, the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea has a wide and varied array of educational tools to teach its visitors about this incredible diverse ecosystem, one which contains many keystone species like the orca whale and the Pacific salmon.
9811 Seaport Pl, Sidney, BC V8L 4X3, Canada, Phone: +1 250-665-7511
21. The Butchart Gardens
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The Butchart Gardens first began over 100 years ago, when a woman named Jennie Butchart began to build and grow the garden in the massive gaping pits left by her husband's limestone quarry. Tons and tons of soil were carted into the quarry by horse and by hand, and from the years of 1906 to 1929, the Butcharts worked the land into a beautiful and unique garden, with impeccable landscaping, a wide variety of plants, and even ornamental birds like peacocks who lived on the land. Today, visitors can see over one million plants in bloom at the gardens, especially during the months of March to October.
800 Benvenuto Ave, Brentwood Bay, BC V8M 1J8, Canada, Phone: +1 250-652-4422
22. Victoria Bug Zoo
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Located in the city of Victoria, the Bug Zoo is a family-friendly destination offering visitors the opportunity to get up-close and personal with approximately 50 unique species of live insects from all over the world. At the Bug Zoo, guests will see glow-in-the-dark scorpions, egg cases, and the inner workings of the largest ant farm in Canada. Guests can choose to interact with and handle giant hairy tarantulas as well as many other fascinating insects. Experienced guides will always give guests a personal tour of the zoo, dropping fun facts about its residents and allowing guests to interact with the bugs along the way.
631 Courtney St, Victoria, BC V8W, Canada, Phone: +1 250-384-2847
23. Victoria Butterfly Gardens
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There are over a thousand butterflies representing almost 75 unique species in the Victoria Butterfly Gardens. This family-friendly attraction is fun, educational, and incredibly beautiful. The stunning, colorful gardens are full of tropical flowering plants and inset with winding walking paths, where lucky guests will find themselves as a perch for butterflies. Those with keen eyes may also spot other species of animals in the gardens, like flamingos, iguanas, frogs, and more. At the insectarium, guests can see and learn about a number of other insects.
1461 Benvenuto Ave, Brentwood Bay, BC V8M 1J5, Canada, Phone: +1 250-652-3822
24. WildPlay Nanaimo
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This natural amusement park allows guests to have the adventure of a lifetime in the treetops of Central Vancouver Island's forests. Adventure courses will take guests up into the canopy, where they will traverse wobbly suspension bridges, swing on ropes, ride a zipline, and even walk a tightrope. With the bungee jump, visitors can leap from a steel bridge to free fall for 150 feet toward the Nanaimo River, before bouncing right back up again. A zipline tour will take guests soaring through the treetops, while the Primal Swing will send them flying out in a soaring arc over the River Canyon at high speeds.
35 Nanaimo River Rd, Nanaimo, BC V9X 1S5, Canada, Phone: +1 855-595-2251
25. Adrena LINE Zipline Adventure Tours
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At Adrena LINE, guests will soar through the green canopies of Vancouver Island's rich temperate rainforest, at up to 150 feet above the ground. There are eight ziplines included on the tour, which range in length from 150 feet to over 1,000 feet, and tours, which are led by experienced and trained staff members and last about 2.5 hours from start to finish. If for some reason that's not enough fun, Adrena LINE also offers a series of adventure packages for guests, including rainforest hiking tours, coastal kayaking, and whale watching at Race Rocks.
5128C Sooke Rd, Sooke, BC V9Z 0E2, Canada, Phone: +1 250-642-1933
The top attractions to visit on Vancouver Island near me today according to local experts are: