Browsed by
Category: Travel

Bird Watching

Bird Watching

Bird Watching

Blue Jay

Bird watching is an excellent activity at any time in life but especially during retirement. You can do it alone or in a group. It’s a great way to get outdoors, close to nature in a new environment or simply in your own backyard. Getting close to nature has been shown to be good for your health. It’s calming and an activity that can’t be rushed. Bird watching (or birding) helps us appreciate Mother Earth and reminds us to be kind to our environment. It’s really fun to try to find a new species to add to your list and try to figure out what you saw.

White-Breasted Nuthatch

To begin bird watching, you need a few things:

  1. Binoculars
    • Borrow some first to see what you like. It’s really worth spending a bit more for better viewing. Also you have to carry them around so make sure they aren’t too heavy! I love our Nikon 8×42 waterproof binoculars (which by the way are great for boating too).
  2. Camera
    • To start out you don’t need a camera, but if you intend to document what you’ve seen, then you’ll need a zoom lens. But even a blurry picture can help you identify a bird.
  3. Bird Book
    • Find a good bird book for your area that has good images and descriptions of behaviour, calls and habitation and migration information. You can also search on the web for information.
  4. Bird Feeder
    • A quality bird feeder that keeps squirrels off will help attract birds to your own backyard. Clean it every once in a while to prevent birds spreading disease. Keep it filled so birds learn to come back. Also consider putting out suet, which attracts woodpeckers. A great option for your regular feeder is the Squirrel Buster available from Lee Valley Tools.

Once you’re set-up, start small and work on identifying the birds in your own backyard. Then venture out for walks around your neighbourhood. Perhaps there’s a pond nearby, so you can find other types of birds. Some people join groups with other birders and even go on trips to find migrating birds.

Osprey
Osprey taking flight

I started making a list of some of the birds I see frequently. I surprised myself because the list is by no means complete but it is actually quite long. I know I’ve missed many birds but it’s really amazing the variety on this initial list! In Ontario, Canada there are lots of beautiful birds including:

  • Cardinal
  • Blue Jay
  • American Goldfinch
  • House Finch
  • American Song Sparrow
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Green Evening Heron
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • Common Flicker
  • Mallard Duck
  • Canada Goose
  • Rose Breasted Grosbeak
  • Common Loon
  • Common Grackle
  • Bohemian Waxwing
  • American Robin
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Crow
  • Tree Swallow
  • Seagull
  • Phoebe Bird
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Slate-coloured Junco
  • Osprey
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Ruffed Grouse
  • Owls – many types

And the list goes on! Wow! My husband and I love spotting different birds while we are out for our walks either first thing in the morning or later in the evening.

What birds have you seen?

Read also Go Outside!

Victoria, BC

Victoria, BC

Victoria, British Columbia

Victoria is the capital city of Canada’s province British Columbia. It is located on the southern most tip of Vancouver Island and is the most southern part of Western Canada. It is about 100km from British Columbia’s largest city, Vancouver, on the mainland. It is accessible by air or by boat. Greater Victoria has a population of about 365,000.

BC Parliament & Queen Victoria statue
Victoria Legislature at night
Detailed ceiling inside Legislature Building

Named after Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, it is one of the oldest cities of the Pacific Northwest, settled by the British in 1843. The city has maintained many of its original buildings including the impressive Legislature buildings and the Empress Hotel. It is also known as the Garden City with its beautiful flower gardens throughout. Many tourists flock to the popular Butchart Gardens.

Butchart Gardens
Victoria water taxi

The harbour is a busy place and is easily walkable. Popular for both boaters and retirees, it has the most temperature year-round climate within Canada with warm dry summers and mild, wet winters with little to no snow. Due to the mild climate, it is home to interesting birds, plants and trees. The economy is primarily technology, tourism, education and BC’s provincial government. The city is easily accessible by foot, bicycle, bus or car. Victoria’s waterfront harbour is a busy place with water taxis, private floatplanes, tour boats and private boats. If you’re thinking of visiting this lovely place, you will be sure to be impressed! The best time of year to visit to avoid larger crowds would be spring (March, April, May) or fall (September, October).

Victoria’s busy harbour
Fisherman’s Wharf
Ogden Point cruise ships
Fisgard Lighthouse

Some of the most popular tourist spots are:

Some useful links:

Have you ever been to Victoria?

Read also about Vancouver Island and Tofino.

Top Tips to Pack Smart

Top Tips to Pack Smart

12 Top Tips to Pack Smart

  1. Pack Light – If you can manage it, travel only with a carry-on. Travelling with only a carry-on makes travel so much simpler. If you need to transfer flights checked bags can be a hindrance.
  2. Wear heavier and bulkier items to avoid carrying them in your bag.
  3. If required buy what you need at your destination. Buy heavy liquid toiletries at your destination to save carrying them!
  4. Learn how to pack well. Leave no space unused. Save space in your bag by rolling your clothes instead of folding them. Stuff smaller items like socks and underwear in your shoes.
  5. Use plastic bags to compartmentalize. This makes it easier to find things quickly. Use a plastic bag for dirty laundry. Use Ziplok type bags for accessories. Old newspaper bags can be used for shoes.
  6. Pack earplugs, inflatable cushion and/or eye mask. If you can manage the cost and room in your bag, take noise cancelling earphones or earbuds. It’s important to get rest where possible.
  7. Keep a sarong or scarf in your bag. It can double as a blanket or pillow on the plane, a shawl on a cold evening, beach cover-up, picnic blanket, change room screen, etc.
  8. Take your own snacks for the plane. You’ll save money and keep hunger under control. Your food will probably be healthier too.
  9. Make photocopies of your passports. Take pictures of your passport to have a copy on your phone. Use your phone to take pictures of a rental car.
  10. Use a security wallet. Take some cash, one bank card and one credit card in your wallet. Put the remaining cash and 2nd credit card, driver’s licence, travel insurance info in a money belt under your clothes.
  11. Avoid roaming charges or only use WIFI at hotels, etc. Keep maps and travel guides on your iPhone instead of carrying maps and travel books. Keep books on your iPhone or iPad.
  12. Wear travel pants with pockets where you can store your travel documents for quick easy access. Wear (and pack) versatile, comfortable, low-maintenance clothing that is designed for travel. It is usually wrinkle-free and can be quickly washed in a hotel sink.

 

What are your packing tips?

Please leave your tips in the comments section below…

Read also Travel Safety Checklist, How to Travel Light.

Georgian Bay by boat

Georgian Bay by boat

Georgian Bay by boat – Beausoleil Island and surrounding area

Georgian Bay is a boater’s paradise and is sometimes referred to as the sixth great lake. The Canadian Shield landscape is serene, with its windswept tall pine trees, clear blue water, rocky cliffs and beaches. It was the stomping ground of the Group of Seven painters so you might recognize the landscapes from their paintings.

Beausoleil Island dock at Sandpiper Campground
Sandpiper Campgrounds on Beausoleil Island

A common destination is Beausoleil Island, which is just off the shore and is most easily accessed by boat from Honey Harbour. If you own a boat, you will most likely moor at this island at least one night. It is part of the national parks and at 8km long is the largest island of Georgian Bay Islands National Park. It offers day and night docking, hiking, beaches, walking trails, camping as well as an information centre. There are several campgrounds if you have your own tent, but there are also cabin rentals and new oTentiks.

Make sure you have a good GPS for boating in this area. There are several rocks just below water level so it is important to know where they are so you can avoid grounding your boat! To get to Beausoleil Island from Honey Harbour, go through Big Dog Channel. It may look too narrow to get through but it is not! It’s best to plan your visit to avoid large crowds of people. Sandpiper campground has a lovely sandy beach and is a good place to go, if it’s not too crowded. You can also get higher vantage points from campsites at the north end of the island which are rockier.

Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake

Some things to watch for: There is some poison ivy off the trails so stay on the trails to avoid it! It can also get quite buggy in the evening so take longer clothes and bug spray. Also watch for the native Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake, which for the most part will try to avoid you. It’s worth a trip to the visitor’s centre on the south part of the island to familiarize yourself with these and other interesting facts. To stock up on food or gas, the closest stop by boat is Picnic Island.

Picnic Island (Food & Gas)

Nearby places to visit in the area include the towns of Midland and Penetanguishene. They have separate harbours but the towns are closely linked.

Mural at Midland waterfront

Midland (Population about 17,000)

  • Cycling and walking trails
  • King Street – main street with cafes and gift shops
  • Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre (wildlife and birds)
  • Midland Cultural Centre
  • Golfing, fishing, boat tours
  • Home to a 2nd Henry’s Fish restaurant
  • Things to do in Midland

 

Penetanguishene (Population about 9,600)

 

 

Henry’s Fish Restaurant, Frying Pan Island, Sans Souci, ON

Henry’s Fish Restaurant, Sans Souci, ON

Giants Tomb Island – This island has no permanent residents and is part of the Georgian Bay Islands National Park. It is popular for day trips and it’s best to anchor in the sandy bay on the east side and swim in the clear crystal waters, or walk along the sandy shore.

Have you been to this part of Georgian Bay?

Feel free to leave your comments below…

Read also about boating.

 

 

Boating

Boating

Boating

Do you ever had those days when you’re feeling stressed and just want to get away from it all? A change of scene and a change of pace can do wonders. One activity I love for escaping is boating.

Cruising on Rideau Canal

In my youth, my parents built a cottage on a small lake. The experience I had and the memories that were created at the summer cottage were priceless. My family had a canoe and small aluminum rowboat. We never needed to go far on the water and the cottage was well equipped with the basics. It was a time to be unplugged from school and work. My siblings and I would spend the summers there until we were old enough to work a summer job. There were endless hours swimming, fishing, puttering and exploring. In the evenings, there were plenty of card games, reading in the bunks and even playing hide-and-seek in the dark with other kids on the lake.

My husband has similar memories and we wanted to share like experiences with our own children. We never got our own cottage but instead we invested in a boat. We did quite a lot of research and eventually got our first boat, which was a Princecraft deck boat. Our girls were young at the time, but old enough to help. We trailered it to nearby rivers and lakes and explored everywhere we could. We anchored and fished and swam. We beached it on nearby beaches and picnicked, spending the day out in the sun. Our girls had fun being pulled around on the tube. We even took it on trips and camped on the shore along the way.

Our first boat: a Princecraft deck boat

Boating was a new way to escape! It is a hobby that forced us to slow down and not rush. Boating has its own pace and you simply can’t rush it. This is one reason we really love it now. It forces you to slow down and not get exited about delays. When you’re out on the water, you can feel your heart rate start to slow. The feeling of being out on the water is relaxing, calming but at times can even be exhilarating! The wind and sun feel energy giving and there’s nothing like having a picnic lunch in the boat after a delightful swim to cool off on a hot summer’s day.

An upgrade: 26 foot Regal cruiser

Our next boat was an upgrade. We soon learned that pitching a tent and blowing up 4 air mattresses each evening was tiring! So we sold the Princecraft and purchased a 26-foot Regal cruiser, which we moored at a marina. It slept 4 relatively comfortably and had a mini-bathroom (or head) and kitchenette. We outfitted it with solar power and anchored out many evenings. There is nothing quite like seeing the sunset and sunrise from out on the water…. So peaceful!

Back to a trailerable Princecraft fishing/ski boat

Now that our adult children have moved out, we have downgraded again to a trailerable boat – another Princecraft but this time a fishing/ski boat with a windshield. It suits our needs right now while we are only using it on weekends in the summer. For the winter months it is covered and stored.

Our dream and plans include one day purchasing a 40-foot trawler to live on for a year and travel the Great Loop. This will be a true test of our love of boating. I will be interested to compare living on a boat for a 2-week holiday versus living on it for a whole year!

Boating is a fun activity with the family

Challenges with boating:

  • Finding the right boat – consider how and when you will use it, how and where you will store it, do your research, go to boat shows, get as much info as you can, buy used
  • Ask lots of people – everyone has advice – most boaters love to tell you all about their boat and their experiences
  • Learning how to maintain a boat – changing oil, filters, etc. YouTube is a great resource
  • Learning how to launch a boat and how to trailer – if you are new to this, then practise backing up and learn how to turn the wheel to be able to back a boat down a ramp – it comes with practise
  • It can feel stressful to get your boat launched with other boaters waiting to use the ramp – remember everyone is in the same boat (so to speak) so don’t panic! Most boaters help each other – it’s a good community
  • Some boaters like to drink – this is one part I can do without – drinking and driving any vehicle is a big No-No in my books
  • Always wear lifejackets even if you know how to swim
  • Allow extra time – you can’t be in a rush!

 

Best part of boating:

  • Enjoyment of being out on the water
  • Getting close to nature
  • Fun time with family and friends – swimming, fishing, tubing, skiing exploring
  • Relaxing activities – reading, picnicking, fishing, sleeping
  • Great stress reliever, great weekend activity/hobby, great retirement activity

 

Are you thinking about starting boating?

What are your experiences out on the water?

Please let me know. Leave your comments below…

 

Read about other retirement activities.

Read about how to reduce stress.

Turks and Caicos

Turks and Caicos

Turks & Caicos Islands

Turks and Caicos Islands (aka TCI) are a series of low-lying coral islands owned by Great Britain. They are located in the Atlantic Ocean, east of Cuba and north of Haiti and Dominican Republic. Cruise ships dock in Cockburn Town on Grand Turk and the international airport is located on Providenciales. This is the gateway island known as “Provo” with luxury resorts, shops and restaurants. This is a common winter vacation spot (with short flights) for many Canadians and Americans.

The expansive 14-mile barrier reef is a draw for snorkelers and scuba divers with a dramatic 2,000m underwater wall. The islands have a total population of about 34,000 with approximately 1.4 million visitors annually. Locals are mostly descendants of Africans who were brought in to work on the salt pans and cotton plantations. Expats are from all over the world including British, Canadians, Americans, French, Bahamians, etc. There are many private luxury homes on Provo. Some famous owners of private homes on Parrot Cay (between Provo and North Caicos) include Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, Donna Karan, a New York fashion designer, Christie Brinkley, an American model and Bruce Willis, an American actor.

The Government is a British Crown Colony with a Governor being appointed by the Queen. The economy relies on tourism, real estate development and exportation of seafood. The currency is the US$ and while you will find both left and right-handed cars, they drive on the left like in Britain. There are no traffic lights on Provo, only traffic circles – remember to look right! Gasoline (in 2017) costs $5 per gallon but since the island is quite small, you don’t end up using much fuel. Most places accept credit cards but gas stations only accept cash. There is no public transportation so you’d need to rent a car to get around. Atlantic Standard Time is observed all year in TCI. Electricity is 100 volts, which is suitable for U.S. appliances. Water is produced by desalination and most people prefer to buy bottled water to drink mostly for its taste. Most items are quite dear in price but you can get almost all the usual foods in the grocery stores. The main places to shop on Provo are Quality Foods, Graceway IGA and Graceway Gourmet Foods.

Providenciales satellite image

The climate is generally warm and consistent all year. There is a “hot” season and a “cool” season. May to October are considered hot and November to April cool ranging from 75F to 95C. The cool season is the best time to travel to TCI, otherwise it is too hot during the day to get outside. In February/March when we travelled here it was 83F (28C) every day and 72F (23C) at night. There is a nice leeward wind on the north side of the island. Hurricane season runs from June 1 to September 30. Floods and heavy rains can occur during hurricane season. After it rains mosquitoes and sand fleas can be a problem, so take bug spray. The water temperature hovers around 80F.

Crime is quite low however visitors should not let down their guard. Theft is the most common crime committed against visitors. Rental cars are marked so they suggest leaving doors unlocked so windows don’t get smashed. Also don’t go to remote areas. For healthcare, there is a modern hospital on Provo run by InterHealth Canada as well as Cheshire Hall Medical Centre. On Grand Turks there is Cockburn Town Medical Centre. There are also several medical clinics and pharmacies.

To travel to other islands you can take a guided tour or take a self-guided tour. You can also fly to the other islands. The ferry to North Caicos costs $50pp round trip and takes about 30 minutes each way. To get around on your own on North Caicos, you need to rent a vehicle. I’d suggest renting a Jeep since only the main road is paved and all the side roads are quite rough. Be aware that signage is quite small and sometimes hard to find. North Caicos, the “green island” is home to the Government Farm at Kew Village, Wade’s Plantation, town of Whitby, Cottage Pond, Flamingo Pond and Bottle Creek. There is a causeway to Middle Caicos, the biggest island. Here you can see the Indian Caves (N/C) and Conch Bar Caves National Park ($20pp) only accessible with a tour guide. There is also the famous Mudjin Harbour where you can walk out to the rocks depending if the tide is out, or walk the path along the cliff for some spectacular views.

Cheshire Hall Plantation ruins
Indian Caves on Middle Caicos

On Provo itself, the main attractions are: 12-mile Grace Bay Beach, Grace Bay area shopping and restaurants, snorkelling at the Bight Reef or Smiths Reef, Turtle Cove Marina, Conch Farm, Long Bay Beach, the hole at Long Bay, Sapodilla Bay Beach, Sapodilla Hill stone engravings, Cheshire Hall Plantation. Water sports include snorkelling, diving, free diving, kite boarding, parasailing, jet-skiing, windsurfing, sailing, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, fishing, glass-bottom boating.

TCI Sapodilla Bay – view from Sapodilla Hill

One of the most enjoyable activities for me was snorkelling. We made sure to get out almost every day to explore a new part of the reef. Our villa had direct beach access to Smith’s Reef, which is one (if not THE best) reef on Provo. Get directions and maps at VisitTCI.com. There was beautiful untouched coral, including (purple) sea fan coral and (yellow) brain coral. We saw many different fish like Rainbow Parrot Fish, Yellow Tail Snapper, Sargeant Major, Queen Trigger Fish, Trumpet Fish, Barracuda, Common Brown Rays, and Spotted Eagle Ray and many more!

Queen Trigger Fish

This is not a cheap location to visit. We rented a villa at Atlantic Ocean Beach Villas, which we loved. We normally prefer this type of accommodation over a hotel. But for this we get peace and quiet and the ability to prepare our own meals. This saves money and gives us more flexibility. The Atlantic Ocean Beach Villas have 2 properties (each with 4 villas), one located right on the beach and the other just across a quiet road that also has the same private access to the beach. These villas were significantly cheaper but in my opinion better since we didn’t have people walking past our units. Ours actually backed onto a canal that lead to Turtle Cove. There were no people trying to sell us trinkets on the beach at all. The beaches were immaculate, natural and unspoiled with only a few people there at a time. With Smith’s Reef directly off the beach, we were lucky to go snorkelling nearly every day. We saw the most amazing coral and fish! All in all, this was a very successful holiday and a great way to spend a winter vacation.

Atlantic Ocean Beach Villas on “Provo”
Sunrise at Providenciales “Provo”

Have you been to Turks & Caicos?

Please leave your comments below… I’d love to hear from you!

 

Useful links about TCI:  Visit TCI and Turks & Caicos Tourism

Read also Travel Safety Checklist and How to Travel Light

 

Tofino, BC

Tofino, BC

Tofino, BC

Tofino is a nature lover’s paradise on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It sits on a peninsula within Clayoquot Sound. It’s small population of about 1800 nearly triples in size during the summer months. The wild natural scenery including the various inlets and ancient rainforest attract many visitors. Year-round surfers come to sandy beaches with impressive waves, which is part of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. It’s sister town, Ucluelet, is 40km along the coast to the south. Both Tofino and Ucluelet are popular spots for winter storm watching. There are many hotels that cater to this including the well-known Wickininnish Inn.

To get there, you would fly to Vancouver Island to either Comox or Nanaimo, then drive to Tofino. You will end up driving first on highway #19 to Qualicum Beach, which is about 45 minutes from Comox (to the north) or Nanaimo (to the south). Then you drive east another 2-1/2 hours to Tofino along highway #4.

Along the other end of the peninsula lies Tofino’s neighbour, Ucluelet. The distance between is about 40km and takes about 45 minutes to drive.

Tofino – (population of 1,800)

Tofino & Ucluelet visitor information

Tofino & Ucluelet Visitor Guides

Here are a few of the activities in the area:

 

Ucluelet – (population of 1,600)

Amphitrite Lighthouse Loop Trail
View from Wild Pacific Trail

Have you ever been to Tofino or Ucluelet?

Please leave your comments below…

Read about Vancouver Island.

 

 

 

Travel Cheaper

Travel Cheaper

Tips to Travel Cheaper

It’s easy to spend a lot when traveling, but if you do some research in advance, plan as much as you can, take advantage of deals, you can save yourself some money. Here are some tips to traveling a bit cheaper:

  1. Make travel a priority. You will always find something else to spend your money on, but if you make travel a priority, you’ll plan a trip and save for it.
  2. Get free flights with travel rewards. Use budget airlines (but check their safety ratings).
  3. Watch for deals. Be willing to travel last minute.
  4. Travel in off-peak times. Research as much as possible before booking to find the best times to travel to your destination.
  5. House swap or house sit to save money on accommodation. Alternately use AirBnB or HomeAway or VRBO to find home rentals.
  6. Be food smart! Prepare your own meals. It’s ok to eat out occasionally but this can really add up if you eat out all the time.
  7. Get discount cards, tourist cards or passes for public transit like rail passes.
  8. Travel in a group. Organize a group tour for bigger discounts. Save on vacation rental by booking as a group. Carpool to share the expense.
  9. For long-term travel, consider working overseas by picking up some casual work. Get a contract in your field, or work as an instructor, or teach English as a second language.
  10. At your destination look for free activities like walking tours, exhibitions, etc.
  11. Avoid souvenir shops. Be selective about what you buy.

How do you save money when travelling?

Please share your tips below…

See how to travel light.

Invermere, BC

Invermere, BC

Invermere, BC

 

Windermere Lake

Invermere may be one of Canada’s best kept secrets. It’s a small community in the province of British Columbia, near the border of Alberta. It sits in the Rocky Mountain Trench on the northwest shore of Lake Windermere. It has a population of approximately 4,000 permanent residents, which increases ten-fold in the summer months with tourists and many Calgarians who own a second home in Invermere. You can get to Invermere by driving 3 hours from Calgary or 1-1/2 hours from Cranbrook (to the south) and it has become one of British Columbia’s top destinations.

As a vacation destination, Invermere and the surrounding area have much to offer. Located in one of the most beautiful parts of Canada with its natural beauty amongst the mountains, along the shores of Lake Windermere, Invermere has a cold temperate climate. It has fairly significant precipitation: snowy winters and long hot summers making it perfect for year round visits.

Summer activities include golfing, swimming, kayaking, boating, water sports, fishing and hiking. Winter activities include skiing, skating and snowmobiling. At any time of year there are spa treatments, hot springs and various festivals and shopping in local arts & craft shops. Spring comes early to the valley, by late March. With snow in the mountains until July, you could go skiing in the morning and then play golf in the afternoon! Fall is warm and sunny allowing the lake to stay warm, extending any summer activities.

Invermere has two public beaches on Windermere Lake: Kinsmen Beach (near downtown) and James Chabot Provincial Park (at the north end of the lake). The entrance to the downtown is marked with a bronze statue of explorer David Thompson and his wife. In the summer, the quaint main street is lined with flowers. You’ll find various shops, pubs and restaurants and even a historic movie theatre.

Fairmont Hot Springs

The Columbia Valley has amazing geothermal hot springs, which are popular at any time of year. They might be the most fun in winter when the steam coming off the hot springs makes the experience more mysterious.

Canada Day Parade

Many festivals take place in the summer, from a birding festival each May, Canada Day parade July 1st, many sports events including triathlons and paragliding. Every Saturday in summer there is a thriving farmer’s market. Winter festivals include the Snowflake festival and Taste of the Valley.

More information on Invermere and area:

Have you been to Invermere?

Please leave your comments below…

Read about more travel destinations.

 

Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island

The most western part of Canada is known for its mild climate and stunning scenery. It is also renowned for its arts community. British Columbia’s capital city Victoria sits on the southern tip of Vancouver Island and named after Queen Victoria. This is a popular vacation destination for tourists and many retirees move here due its mild climate, boat-lined harbour, neo-baroque Parliament Buildings and English-style gardens. Many of the retirees are British-Canadian and you can’t help but notice many British accents especially in areas like Oak Bay, a residential area within Victoria. Like Vancouver, the cost of homes has increased drastically but it is an area that is very quaint and walk-able with lots of little shops on its main street.

The whole island encompasses about 32,000 square km (about 500km long and 100km wide) with a population of about 750,000 people. The highest elevation is 2,195m or 7,200 ft. There are two ways to approach the island. If you go by car, then there are ferries to Nanaimo or Victoria. BC Ferries runs ferries from Vancouver (Tsawwassen and Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay). If you approach by air, the most popular landing spots are Victoria, Nanaimo or Comox. Really the best way to see the island is to rent a car and drive. There used to be a train but it doesn’t run anymore. In addition to driving you could travel by bus either Greyhound or Island Link Bus, but these options give much less flexibility than the ability to drive and stop whenever you want.

To drive from the most southern tip in Victoria all the way up to the most northern point in Port Hardy is about 500km and would take about 5-1/2 hours total non-stop. Obviously, a traveller would want to stop and visit places on the way. Your visit would not be complete without a visit to the west coast of the island – to Tofino. The drive from Qualicum Beach to Tofino is about 2-1/2 hours. Here you can see the large waves crashing into the rocky coast. It’s a popular spot for winter storm watching. There are many hotels that cater to this including the well-known Wickininnish Inn.

Depending on how long you have to spend on the island, you’d probably want to research various aspects to see which interests you the most. There is so much to see and do; from beaches, trails, parks and gardens to museums, castles and historical buildings to tours, fishing, boating, golfing etc. Some of the most popular spots are:

Victoria: (Greater Victoria population about 365,000)

Butchart Gardens
Craig Darroch Castle
BC Parliament & Queen Victoria statue

Nanaimo: (population about 167,000)

  • Tourism Nanaimo
  • Harbourfront walkway – The Bastion landmark
  • Neck Point Park, Maffeo Sutton Park, Piper’s Lagoon Park, Westwood Lake Park
  • Newcastle Island
  • Nanaimo Museum
  • Protection Island
  • Boat tours, kayak rentals, fishing, canoeing

 

Parksville (population about 12,000)

  • City of Parksville
  • Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park
  • Parksville Community Park & Skate Park
  • Paradise Fun Park
  • Top Bridge Park
  • Englishman River
  • Boat tours, golfing

 

Qualicum Beach – (population 8,500)

Little Qualicum Falls
Enormous trees in Cathedral Grove

Tofino & Ucluelet

  • Tofino – (population of 1,800)
  • Ucluelet – (population of 1,600)
  • Tofino & Ucluelet visitor information
  • Chesterman Beach, Long Beach, Cox Bay Beach
  • Pacific Rim National Park
  • Rainforest Trail
  • Schooner Cove
  • Tofino Brewing Company
  • Surfing, windsurfing, kite-surfing, winter storm-watching
  • Hiking, camping, fishing, eco-tours
Surfers enjoying the waves near Tofino, BC

Comox (population about 13,000)

  • Fishing charters
  • Golf
  • Parks
  • Trails
  • Gardens

 

Campbell River (population about 31,000)

  • Museum
  • Elk Falls Provincial Park & Suspension Bridge
  • helicopter tour, boat tour, kayak river adventures
  • Quinsam Fish Hatchery
  • Ripple Rock
  • Maritime Heritage Centre

 

Port Hardy (population about 4,500)

  • Most northern populated part of Vancouver Island
  • BC Ferries Inside Passage cruise
  • Quatse Salmon Stewardship Centre
  • Port Hardy Museum
  • Nature tours, trails, parks
  • Scarlett Point Lighthouse

 

More information about Vancouver Island can be found at the following links:

Who knows? You may love it so much you might decide to move there!