Island is the largest North American Island in the
Pacific Ocean, stretching over 450 kilometres from
the capital city of Victoria in the south to the rugged
Cape Scott Provincial Park in the north.
beach, southern Vancouver Island
Separated from the mainland of British Columbia by
the Queen Charlotte, Georgia and Juan de Fuca Straits,
the natural beauty and extensive wilderness of Vancouver
Island sets it apart as the jewel of Canada and the
The island boasts a magnificent chain of rugged, snowcapped
mountains, laced with pristine lakes and rivers and
pierced by a number of fjordic inlets on the Pacific
Coast. This backbone mountain range, rising to 2,200
divides Vancouver Island into two distinct and vastly
differing regions, with a dramatic effect on the climate.
systems off the Pacific slam into the mountain barrier,
rise, and release moisture on the west side of the
mountains. The east coast is in the rainshadow of
the mountains, and is drier to the extent that cactus
can be found on some of the neighbouring Gulf Islands.
rugged west coast boasts dense, ancient rainforests
and remote wind-battered shores, while the more forgiving
lowlands of the east coast are more populated, with
long stretches of beach, forests and provincial parks.
Poles in the Cowichan Valley's
City of Totems - Duncan, Vancouver Island
thousands of years before the arrival of Europeans
in 1778, the island was the home to the First Nations
people. The Kwakiutl (the Kwakwaka'wakw today) lived
in the north, the Nootka (Nuu-chah-nulth) lived along
the rainforests of the west coast, and the Coast Salish
communities flourished on the south coast.
They lived off the lands and the ocean, drawing their
every requirement from the substantial forests and
the marine world cradling the island.
The Kwakiutl were the more artistic of the First Nations,
producing magnificent totem poles and masks. The Nuu-chah-nulth
were the mighty whalers, harpooning humpbacks and
migrating gray whales, and the Coast Salish people
harvested the lands, the reliable salmon runs and
other bounty from the sea.
Today, Vancouver Island attracts millions of visitors
annually, drawn by the magnificent scenery, in pursuit
of fishing, hiking, camping, sea kayaking and other
outdoor recreation, lured by the mountains, parks,
and the sheltered waterways, lakes and rivers. Few
tourist destinations in the world can match Vancouver
Island for sheer beauty and diversity.