Houseboats on Cowichan Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia (Rich Reid/Getty)

Grizzly bear with cub on Vancouver Island, British Columbia (iStockphoto/Thinsktock)

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What to do in Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island is the biggest island off the coast of North America, encompassing an amazingly diverse ecosystem of old-growth forests, rainforests, big mountains, alpine meadows, and ocean beaches. While many people limit their visit to Victoria, with obligatory visits to Butchart Gardens and The Fairmont’s Empress Room, adventurous souls head north to the Comox Valley, a burgeoning mountain-biking mecca. In the historic coal-mining town of Cumberland (about three hours north of Victoria) is the Riding Fool Hostel, owned by riders and designed with facilities like bike storage and wash stations. Out the front door, trails with colorful names like Thirsty Beaver wind through the old-growth fir and cedar forests, integrating old rail lines and logging roads. For an après-ride libation, join the local crowd at the Waverley Hotel.

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Traveler Reviews of Vancouver Island


Lacy rates Vancouver Island
Many people mistake Vancouver Island for Victoria, because, after all, it is nearest to Victoria. It's a quaint little place with plenty of culture to explore. My biggest advice about visiting the island is to get out and enjoy the outdoors. Hike out to the Cape Scott Lighthouse, or take a whale watching tour. Climb into a kayak or take a trail around Strathcona Provincial Park. In the summer, try your hand at surfing on Long Beach. There are also several wineries that make for excellent vineyard tours and tastings. Whatever you do here, don't stay cooped up in your hotel room.
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