With spring in full swing, the opportunities for exploring Vancouver Island are as abundant as the flowers at Butchart Gardens. From gorgeous forests to the ocean, there are plenty of activities available as the weather and calendar opens up
- Visit Tofino
Canada’s surfing capital is much more than that. Tofino expands on its natural environment in offering beach and biking trails, parks large and small, and from early spring to mid-autumn, wildlife tours.
Whale watching tours have been operating since February, Tourism Tofino spokesperson Samantha Fyleris says, as roughly 20,000 grey whales continue their migration back to the Bering Strait near Alaska. Fyleris says the season for spotting Vancouver Island black bears just fired up the first week of April and it’s a “really magical experience” to be on the water (all black bear sightings are at low tide in a boat) and see a black bear forging for food.
From Friday, April 20 to Sunday, May 6, Tofino’s showcases its bounty during the eighth-annual Feast Tofino. Farmers, foragers, restaurant owners, and other community members come together to celebrate the West Coast cuisine. Fyleris says it really celebrates the sustainable fisheries within the city. Events include “Ciders and Sliders” at the Long Beach Lodge resort, to the grand Sunday “Champagne & Caviar Brunch in the Shoreline Terrace” at the Wickaninnish Inn. For more information, visit: https://www.feasttofino.com/
2. Stroll through Butchart Gardens:
One of the most popular attractions on Vancouver Island, this National Historic Site of Canada has been attracting over one million visitors annually and continues to blossom as spring arrives. Jennie Butchart created the Butchart Gardens in 1904, while her husband created the Vancouver Portland Cement Company, using limestone deposits in the area for cement. After the Butcharts’ limestone quarry ran out, Jennie Butchart began transforming the land into the Sunken Garden. It took nine years and was completed in 1921. Throughout the years, several gardens have since blossomed, blooming into the world-renowned attraction it remains today.
Butchart Gardens is open every day of the year. Millions of flowers will be blooming as you amble through the 55-acre gardens, enjoy a cup of coffee, take a ride on their merry-go-round or even have dinner in the dining room. Keep an eye out for tulips, pansies, wallflowers, peonies, and -only in May and June- the alluring Meconopsis, or Himalayan Blue Poppy. The summer is where the Gardens really take off with weekly concerts, and fireworks happening Saturdays from June to September.
3. Hike along the Juan de Fuca Trail
Located in Juan de Fuca Provincial Park, the 47-kilometre trail stretches along the western shoreline of the southern Island. There are four trailheads: Juan de Fuca East (China Beach), Sombrio Beach, Parkinson Creek and Botanical Beach. Most of the trail is designed for day or multi-day hiking and camping, there are some easy to moderate day hiking opportunities to the beach. For more on the trail and camping reservations, visit the BC Parks website.
4. Do a Cowichan Valley wine tour:
A tour of one of the Cowichan Valley’s 14 wine tasting rooms can be a sweet reward during the summer. Due to a lack of frosty days, and greater dry weather than other parts of B.C., Vancouver Island’s weather conditions make it ripe for growing grapes for Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Ortega, and Maréchal Foch among others. While B.C. has slowly been making wine in the Okanagan Valley, the business spread to the Island when Duncan’s Zanatta Winery officially opening in 1992. Throughout the early 90s, Vancouver Island’s wine industry continued to grow and many wineries are open today. In Mill Bay Enrico Winery’s Tasting Room Manager Barb Milligan, she says Vancouver Island wineries are a little more family-oriented than the big commercial wineries.
“I think here on the Island we put off more of a family feel, we make everyone feel welcomed,” she says.
5. Visit Strathcona Regional Park:
Strathcona Park has opened two of its major campsites, Buttle Lake and Ralph River campground, for the season.This park is for all those wanting to explore the wilderness of central Vancouver Island. One of B.C.’s oldest provincial parks (and adjacent to Mount Washington resort), this 107-year-old beauty is filled with gorgeous hiking trails, and plenty of water-based activities like fishing, canoeing or kayaking. Contained within more than 250,000 hectares of the park are the swimming area of Buttle Lake and hiking areas such as the Forbidden Plateau, which is also a primary spot for those wanting to spend a day trip at the park. Trails for all experience levels exist (including the wheelchair accessible Centennial Trail) and there are more than 100 campsites.
One noteworthy adventure worth preparing for may be climbing the 2093-metre Mount Albert Edward, Vancouver Island’s sixth highest peak. At roughly 16 kilometres, some consider it a good introduction to summiting mountains. However, prepare for plummeting temperatures as you gain elevation; even in the summer snow can be seen on Mount Albert Edward’s peak.
As of Wednesday, April 11, visitors can reserve yurts at the Croteau Lake Backcountry Group Campsite for a social spot, as well as for rest. It’s a back-country hike and takes roughly an hour-and-a-half from the Forbidden Plateau trailhead. For more information, visit: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/strath/
- Fish in Campbell River:
Campbell River is called the “Salmon Capital of the World”, and with a title like that, well, what else can you do? Quite a lot, if you take a deeper look, (such as adrenaline-pumping Elk Lake Suspension Bridge, or a gentle stroll down the Discovery Pier) but for now, we’re going to focus on what keeps people coming season after season. The five Pacific salmon species (pink, chinook, sockeye, coho, and chum) can all be caught in the Campbell River and in the surrounding strait, and this activity can be enjoyed by the entire family. As May kicks off, it appears the coho are making a stop through Campbell River’s waters. Chinook and steelhead are available all-year round. Check the local Department of Fisheries and Oceans guide for more up-to-date information. Wanting to go out but not experienced in the sport? Fear not, the industry has you covered with plenty of charters available. For more information, visit: https://www.campbellriver.travel/adventure-tourism-outdoor-recreation/fishing/
- Go to the Coombs Old Country Farmer’s Market:
Goats on the roof might draw you in, but what will keep you in Coombs is its entire Coombs Old Country Farmer’s Market. What originally began as a fruit stand 40 years ago soon expanded into multiple shops for not just produce, but garden ware, surf merchandise, imported goods, and course, Coomb’s ice cream. There are 70 flavours of ice cream, as well as gelato and sorbetto at the Billy Gruff creamery. There is also Italian food via Cuckoo Trattoria and authentic Mexican food at Taqueria.Coomb’s fresh, local produce can be found at the Roots Cellar store. Just be sure to keep your own bags handy (or use some of their Root Cellar reusable bags), as the market does not offer plastic bags. While the Old Country Farmer’s Market is the town’s hub, Coombs is filled with other family-friendly activities like the Hamilton Hobby Farm. Guests say it’s a wonderful petting zoo, especially if you like baby goats.
By Felicia Santarossa, Intern at CHEK News