300 miles long, filled with breathtaking mountain scenery and coastline, Vancouver Island is ruggedly beautiful, with areas of lush temperate rainforest.

Major areas of population are Victoria (around half a million inhabitants), the provincial capital, perched on the southern tip of the island, and the port of Nanaimo , a city of around 80,000 people, on the island’s sheltered East Coast. Other noteworthy destinations include Parksville and Qualicum , on the East Coast and Tofino, Ucluelet and the Pacific Rim National Park on the more remote West Coast. The latter provides plenty of boating, kayaking and eagle-spotting opportunities.

Victoria is a small, but bustling city, buoyed by the parliament and endless succession of visitors. A large retired community make Victoria their home – drawn by its position as the warmest city in Canada. Winter also sees an influx of long term snowbirds, who fill many of the city’s hotels for months on end. Victoria also boasts a noticeable English population (many of them retired), drawn to this most Anglophile of North American cities. Despite these more mature denizens, Victoria has a vibrant youth culture – the UVic excels at research and co-op education.

Tofino is much loved by Vancouverites as a long weekend destination, despite the twisty, windy roads that thread across the island (and through the famous trees of Cathedral Grove) that take several hours to navigate.The blustery low season is the best time to take in Tofino’s flavor, as the hordes of camcorder-toting troopers won’t be disgorged from their RVs and coaches till July. Storm watching (January through March) brings (literally) a second wind to the tourist industry in this small, former fishing village.