Whale watching, bear-spotting and aerial adventures off Vancouver Island
Close to the mainland yet a world away, Vancouver Island is all about wildlife, wine and welcoming communities. Adrenaline-fuelled adventures. Animal encounters on land and at sea. Epic road trips that take in heart-stirring landscapes – and world-class food and culture along the way. Start it all from the peak luxury of Villa Eyrie Resort – less hotel more restful mountain retreat – overlooking Canada's captivating Saanich Inlet and Olympic Mountains.
A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE
Vancouver Island is the gateway to the great outdoors – and some of the most incredible up-close-and-personal wildlife encounters. From around April to October, you can take a bespoke tour from Villa Eyrie Resort to spot orcas, gray, minke or humpback whales in the Salish Sea waterways. Year-round, head north to Port Hardy for black and grizzly bears in their natural habitats, to Nanaimo's Green Mountain for Roosevelt Elk and Goldstream Provincial Park for bald eagles swooping for a salmon dinner. Nearby Cowichan Valley is also the home of some of Canada's most awe-inspiring national parks – perfect for immersing yourself further in nature, or for embarking on aerial adventures. Zipline above ancient firs, tackle treetop obstacle courses, and tick off that bucket list with a bungee-jump. Villa Eyrie Resort has a luxury Tuscan spa to treat tired muscles when you've finished.
WATER, WATER, ALL AROUND
Another way to enjoy the beauty of Vancouver Island is through its close relationship to water. And this can be as laidback or get-your-heart-racing as you want. Embrace the open ocean with a spot of surfing in Tofino. Swim amongst the rocks in Sooke Potholes Provincial Park. Fish for trout, stand under mighty waterfalls, or even get some serious hot springs downtime in Maquinna Marine Provincial Park. If you're at home on the water, you'll be in your element with kayaking – one of the most popular ways to see Vancouver Island's wildlife and wonderland landscapes.
If you haven't quite got your sea legs yet, there's no shortage of land-based activities, too. Try cycling the Trans Canada Trail or simply take some leisurely walks around Victoria's beautiful Thetis Lake, enjoying Vancouver's waterscapes from dry land.
A MENU WORTH REMEMBERING
With a coastline brimming with natural wonders, it's no surprise that fresh seafood like Humbolt squid and Dungeness crab are the stars of Vancouver Island's varied food scene. The mild climate of the South Island is also the perfect place to forage for locally-grown produce at charming farmer's markets – and for finding a stellar vintage (or two). With vineyards, orchards and rolling green fields all across Cowichan Valley, there's a whole rack of wineries and cideries to keep you (and your palate) entertained. Duncan has a tea farm for hot beverage-lovers, Victoria has everything from gourmet food trucks and sustainable fish and chips to sophisticated cocktail bars. Of course, you can savour many of these incredible ingredients – and the landscapes they come from – from the comfort of Villa Eyrie Resort's Summit Restaurant, which serves delicious farm-to-fork dishes with a side of mountain views.
MAKE A DAY OF IT
Victoria, Vancouver Island's cosmopolitan capital, is within very easy reach of the South Island's glorious alpine landscape. It's got everything from spacious parks and boutique shops to artisan cafés for whiling away lazy afternoons. Start with old-world treasures like Craigdarroch Castle before exploring Canada's history at the Royal British Columbia Museum. Find serenity amongst the flowers in the Butchart Gardens. Then finish the day with a stroll around Inner Harbour, with the impressive Parliament Buildings lit up in the background – the perfect spot (and time) for a photograph.