Making the Most of a Visit to Vancouver Island: tips from a local

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No visit to Canada’s West Coast is complete without taking a BC Ferry (or seaplane) across the Georgia Straight to Vancouver Island. The Island epitomizes the spectacular Pacific Northwest, with its scenic mountain and ocean vistas, abundance of wildlife and diverse aboriginal cultures. Today our friendly and knowledgeable Port Alberni guide Sandy talks (and shares photos) about his favourite spots to visit around central Vancouver Island.

Vancouver Island is a huge draw for visitors who love the outdoors. It is because of the clean crisp air, the mountain vistas, the pure clear water running in the streams, the lure of the tides in the oceans, sandy beaches, bucolic farms and a way of life that seems to be far from the hustle and bustle of the urban environment that so many people need a rest from. I know. I lived in that kind of environment in my youth and longed to find a living in a more rural environment. And Vancouver Island has everything that you could wish for. Even thirty years after I left Southern Ontario, I am still a tourist. Here are four things I love to do in my part of the world.

Visit Stamp River Provincial Park. This park has some of the most iconic elements of Vancouver Island in it. A majestic waterfall on a wild river where you can see hordes of salmon jumping in their return to their home streams. Three species of salmon make their way through the falls and the adjacent fish ladder. The surrounding rainforest is dominated by huge old Douglas Fir and Cedar. In the fall especially, bears, eagles, ravens and others patrol the river looking for spawned out fish. This river is perhaps the most important salmon-producing river on Vancouver Island.

Visit Forbidden Plateau in Strathcona Provincial Park. This is the only paved road to high elevation forests on Vancouver Island. From here you can walk on fairly easy hiking trails in the sub-alpine where snow lingers in the hollows until well into July. Some of the trails even have boardwalks. This area is a staging point for those who want to hike up into the alpine mountains further into the park. For those who aren’t into a strenuous activity, you can hop on the chairlift of the adjacent ski hill taking you to the top of Mount Washington for a magnificent view of the Strait of Georgia, the Coast Mountains of the mainland and the highest mountains of Vancouver Island.

Visit a few wineries. Only in the last 15 years has it been recognised that Vancouver Island can grow some pretty decent grapes. So vineyards and wineries have sprung up in many areas around Vancouver Island and the adjacent Gulf Islands.

• Lastly, and perhaps best of all, is a visit to the rugged west side of the island. Picture the long sandy beaches of Pacific Rim National Park, surfers shooting over the crests of waves, impossibly craggy headlands with a lighthouses crowning them, whales blowing off shore, roosts of sea lions, seals and cormorants with seabirds crying overhead. Magnificent in any season!

I think Sandy missed is calling; his background is in forestry, but he should be a travel writer! If his inspiring prose has tempted you to visit Vancouver Island, consider getting in touch before you go: Sandy’s guide page.
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