Visiting Vancouver Island for a Few Days?
Here are Some of the Most Popular Attractions to Check Out
From North to South, Vancouver Island is home to many world-class tourist attractions. Below is a list of Van Isle Marina staff’s top recommendations. If you’ll be visiting the island by boat, you can moor your boat at our marina before or after you set out to see more of what our Island has to offer (see our yacht park rates to learn more).
1. Butchart Gardens
Located a short distance from Victoria in Brentwood Bay, Butchart Gardens is a 55-acre garden that is tended to by a team of more than 50 gardeners. The garden oasis is home to at least 900 plant varieties and has a history going back 100+ years. Give yourself at least two hours to experience everything Butchart Gardens has to offer. It’s even more enchanting if you can make it during the holiday season.
2. Royal BC Museum
In downtown Victoria right by the city’s inner harbour, the Royal BC Museum showcases 550 million years of natural history and 9,000 years of human history in BC. Inside there are 7 million artifacts, specimens, and documents waiting for you, making this destination one of Canada’s leading museums and research centres. Be sure to take in an IMAX feature while you’re there.
3. BC Parliament Buildings
The BC parliament buildings are also in Victoria and are home to the legislative assembly of British Columbia. The buildings date back to 1864, and free tours are offered throughout the year. Visitors can also enjoy an afternoon in the park in front of the grounds, taking pictures and picnicking. This impressive site is a top attraction in BC’s capital city. You’ll find the BC parliament buildings in Victoria’s downtown inner harbour, next to the museum.
It’s worth noting that Victoria’s inner harbour is a Vancouver Island attraction on its own, with the picturesque Fairmont Empress Hotel, horse-drawn carriage rides, stunning views, whale watching excursions, harbour ferries and much more on offer.
4. Coombs Old Country Market
The Old Country Market in Coombs is home to the world-famous Goats on the Roof – which is exactly what it sounds like! Above the market are 2-3 goats living in peaceful harmony as thousands of shoppers browse the market below. The market is open daily from March to December, offering tourists and locals alike a huge selection of baked goods, deli delights, ethnic foods, children’s toys, local produce, and housewares.
Coombs is a small town in Central Vancouver Island on the Alberni Highway, near Parksville and Qualicum Beach. While the market is the focal point of the town, there are more shops and restaurants towards the back of the market, making a stop in Coombs more than just a quick pit stop.
Located on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, Tofino is a small coastal village that people come from around the world to experience. There is plenty to do in Tofino, including whale watching, kayaking, shopping, craft beer tasting, golfing, biking, hiking, fishing, and storm watching. There is beach on one side and plenty of forest nearby. Choose from a wide range of accommodations, or better yet, bring your boat!
Tofino is also a foodie’s paradise, with many top chefs establishing restaurants in the resorts.
Near Tofino there is also the breathtaking shorelines of Long Beach, Chesterman Beach, Mackenzie Beach, and others – with Long Beach being the longest sandy beach on the West Coast. Not far from Tofino is another town called Ucluelet, with equally beautiful beaches.
6. Cathedral Grove
On your way to Tofino, you’ll drive through Cathedral Grove, an old growth forest just outside of Port Alberni. Cathedral Grove is easy to miss if you’re driving too fast and not looking out for the huge, 800-year-old ancient Douglas firs and the red cedars. So, slow down and be on the lookout for parked cars and tall trees on the side of the highway.
Cathedral Grove is perfect for nature lovers and great for kids. It features well-maintained walkways, well-marked trails, free parking, and plenty of photo-worth backdrops. Challenge yourself and try to get an entire tree in one frame!
7. Horne Lake Caves
Horne Lake Caves on Central Vancouver Island near Parksville / Qualicum give you a unique opportunity to really get inside the island. At this provincially managed park, deemed “Vancouver Island’s hidden jewel” there is a wide variety of tour options on offer, catering to all different skill levels.
See more caves to explore on Vancouver Island.
8. Nanaimo & Victoria WildPlay
WildPlay in Nanaimo is an adventure park offering the Island’s only river canyon bungee jumping opportunity, along with an aerial obstacle course, ziplines, and a primal swing. It’s a not-to-miss attraction for the thrill seekers in your group, opened during the spring and summer. And if you’re in Victoria, there’s a WildPlay there as well!
9. Duncan Totem Poles
Duncan, known as The City of Totems, is home to more than 40 totem poles located throughout the town. Each beautifully carved totem pole contributes to the city’s First Nations culture and history. Follow the yellow footprints in the sidewalk for a self-guided walking tour or take the virtual tour to learn more about each totem before experiencing them in person.
Duncan is the economic hub for the Cowichan Region of Vancouver Island. Take in its heritage buildings and huge mix of restaurants and shops as you experience the totems.
10. Chemainus Murals
Stick to the main highway on Vancouver Island and you might miss the seaside community of Chemainus – but it’s definitely worth a trip off the beaten path! Chemainus is known as The City of Murals. There are 44 murals in the small town, many of which are a tribute to the area’s mining, fishing, and forestry heritage. Grab an official Souvenir Mural Map from the Visitor Centre to take a self-guided tour of the massive murals, or simply follow the yellow footprints on the sidewalks.
Along with the murals, Chemainus offers the famous Chemainus Theatre, tons of shopping, family owned restaurants and cafes, antique shops, artisan shops and several small parks. It gets bustling in the summer months, leaving us to believe the secret’s out with this island attraction!
More to See & Do
We suggest combining any of the above attractions with one or two of our recommended South Island Hiking Trails before picking up your boat from our marina – to give your legs one last workout on land before setting sail again. Then, if you still have time, be sure to check out the area’s boat-only access beaches for further Vancouver Island exploration.
And finally, if you’re coming to visit us here at Van Isle Marina in Sidney, BC, but don’t have time to explore more of Vancouver Island, there is plenty to see and do right here!
Read more: 15 Things to Do in Sidney, BC
The above attractions are just some of the exciting things Vancouver Island has to offer. Ask our staff for more ideas, including all the best places to experience by boat. Van Isle Marina is one of the largest full-service marinas in British Columbia – we know our boats and the island very well. Check out our new and used yachts and boats for sale.