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Island Escapes

Duncan's rich First Nations heritage

Duncan’s rich First Nations heritage

From outdoor adventure to neighbourhoods steeped in history, Greater Victoria offers plenty to keep you entertained this summer, but if you have a few extra days to explore, numerous treasures await your discovery. Here are a few of our favourite Island destinations, all within several hours of the Capital city.

Salt Spring Island

35-minute ferry trip from
Sidney/Swartz Bay

Salt Spring Island is a tranquil, island paradise renowned for its relaxed lifestyle, natural beauty, art galleries, studios, wineries and gift shops. Visit on Saturdays and take in the huge outdoor market where Salt Spring’s accomplished artisans and farmers display their fine products. Hiking trails at Ruckle Provincial Park, country roads ideal for cycling and wonderful kayaking make this an ideal daytrip, or pack for an overnight getaway.

The Cowichan Valley

About 60km from
Victoria to Duncan

First Nations heritage, wineries and numerous family attractions and activities make the Cowichan Valley the ideal destination for a day trip from Victoria. Known as the City of Totems, Duncan is one of Vancouver Island’s most significant centres of First Nations culture and features totem tours, a museum located in a 1912 train station and the Quw’utsun’ Cultural and Conference Centre, showcasing First Nations heritage. On the north side of town, the Raptors Centre and BC Forest Discovery Centre are excellent for all ages.

Winery and cidery touring is another highly recommended Cowichan Valley activity – pick up a winery map from area Visitor Centres and come explore one of Canada’s fastest-growing wine regions.

Enjoy a drive through the picturesque communities of Shawnigan Lake, Cobble Hill, Mill Bay and Cowichan Bay, a scenic seaside village known for its fresh seafood, galleries, shops and waterfront museum. West of Duncan, Cowichan Lake is a hub for fishing, swimming, canoing and camping.

Chemainus

About 70 km from
Victoria to Chemainus

One of the most popular attractions on Vancouver Island is the town of Chemainus, famous for its statues and larger-than-life murals that have transformed the town into one large, outdoor art gallery. Golf, shops, antique malls, tea houses and a great dinner theatre round out the possibilities.

Nanaimo's Swy-a-Lana Park

Nanaimo’s Swy-a-Lana Park

Ladysmith & Nanaimo

Victoria to Ladysmith: 95km;
to Nanaimo: 111km.

Enjoy a leisurely stroll along Ladysmith’s historic main street or visit some of the many artists and artisans making their home here, about 90 minutes from Victoria. Transfer Beach Park is fabulous for all ages – take in the harbour views, go for a dip, savour a summer picnic or let the kids roam about the unique playground.

A little farther north, Nanaimo is popular for its eclectic shopping, entertainment and beautiful waterfront. BC Ferries links the town to both Horseshoe Bay and Tsawwassen on the Mainland and the Island Highway continues north, making Nanaimo a great jumping-off point to other adventures. Highlights include the Port Theatre, the historic downtown, Newcastle Island, Harbourside Walkway, Nanaimo District Museum and, for thrilling outdoor experiences, WildPlay Element Park.

Oceanside – Parksville and Qualicum region

Victoria to Parksville: 147km.

About 20 minutes beyond Nanaimo, discover the picturesque communities of Parksville, Qualicum, Nanoose, Coombs, French Creek and Arrowsmith, collectively known as Oceanside. Here enjoy sandy beaches, winding rivers, challenging golf courses and family-friendly attractions including the community beach and playground in downtown Parksville, the Coombs Country Market – watch for the goats on the roof – the Parrot Refuge & Recovery Centre, Milner Gardens and Little Qualicum Falls and Englishman River provincial parks.

From Parksville, travellers can continue north or head west to Port Alberni, the gateway to the Pacific Rim, about 45 minutes from Parksville. From here venture on to the beach-front fishing and resort communities of Ucluelet, Tofino and Long Beach.

The Comox Valley

About 220km from Victoria

Continuing north, travel either the newer, more direct Inland Island Highway or opt for a more leisurely, picturesque route along the Island Highway. About three hours from Victoria, the Valley includes Courtenay, Comox, Cumberland and several smaller communities, including Hornby and Denman Islands.

Mt. Washington Alpine Resort celebrates the summer snow melt with hiking, mountain biking and other activities. Down the mountain, ocean, lakes and rivers are popular for kayaking, windsurfing, swimming and exploring. Other highlights include historic Cumberland, a former mining and logging community, and the Courtenay and District Museum, the first stop on the Great Canadian Fossil Trail. In the waterfront town of Comox, visit Filberg Lodge and Park, home to the annual Filberg Festival of arts and entertainment (August 1 to 4). Also a diverse farming community, stop at the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market before a picnic at the beach!

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