After the delays in getting to Prince Edward Island my trip to Vancouver Island last June/July got off to a good start as I was lucky enough to be driving onto the ferry 5 minutes after getting to the Tsawwassen terminal and that at 10 o'clock in the morning!
Once on Vancouver Island, the first stop was Butchart Gardens, conveniently situated on a well-signposted side road between the Swartz Bay terminal and Victoria, the capital of British Columbia.
The Sunken Garden in an old quarry (see photo) is still as impressive as it was some 15 years ago when I was there last. It is worth allowing plenty of time as there are lots of other garden areas to see including the Rose Garden, the Japanese Garden and the Italian Garden. You can also sit and watch the patterns made by the large fountain at the end of the quarry gardens or stop and listen to the Butchart Buskers Dixieland Jazz band on the Concert Lawn - a welcome halt about halfway round. Finally, the hanging baskets, dripping with begonias and fuschias, were as fantastic as ever. Definitely, a place not to be missed if you are at all interested in gardens.
Victoria proved a reasonable base for the first couple of days on the island. The Parliament Building has a splendid position by the harbour and in early evening there were numerous street entertainers and craft stalls on the nearby promenades on the waterfront to attract the tourists. There was also a jazz festival in Centennial Square when I was there at the end of June. But for peace and quiet with gardens and splendid views, I much preferred Beacon Hill Park in the early morning.
Duncan, renown for numerous totem poles, is not far from Victoria along the spectacular coastal Malahat Drive. I thought that the tour of the Native Heritage Centre was very worthwhile, especially the demonstration in the carving shed where totem poles are made and the Great Deeds multi-media presentation about the Cowichan people. If you are there at midday, you may be able to take the special tour which includes lunch with salmon cooked in the traditional way. There are also plenty of "shopping opportunities" for less hackneyed souvenirs.
I had been told that I shouldn't miss the murals at Chemainus a bit further up the coast and, although parking was difficult as it was a holiday weekend, I think this was good advice. You can get a walking tour leaflet at the tourist information centre and I recommend doing this as otherwise you may miss some of the best ones. There are over thirty dotted around the town and I especially liked Native Heritage (see photo), Chemainus 1891 and World in Motion. Once again there are numerous "shopping opportunities"!
My main reason for wanting to visit Vancouver Island again was to go to the Pacific Rim National Park so this was the next stop on the trip. Accommodation near the Park tends to get booked up so it is a good idea to make reservations as early as possible, especially as some travel agents seem to hold allocations of rooms making it more difficult for the do-it-yourself traveller.
The coastal scenery was certainly spectacular and I was lucky enough to see it in the sunshine at least part of the time. Inland there were several informative nature trails.
I was there on Canada Day which was celebrated on the beach with the singing of O Canada followed by kite-making for kids, a sand castle competition and other activities organised by the National Park staff plus, of course, a birthday cake. I shall also remember a Park Nauralist's talk on weather the next evening when he got all the kids to hold up poles showing the average rainfall at different places in British Columbia and then dressed up one youngster in oversize waterproof gear. I only wish I had taken a photo.
I've got lots of other good memories of the trip too - spotting a pileated woodpecker high up in a tree on a walk through the Cathedral Grove of ancient cedars, watching a fiery sunset over the Pacific, walking along a beach trail on a misty morning and so on... My only disappointment was that the closest I came to seeing any whales, particularly killer whales, was on the banners on lamp posts at Port Hardy before taking the ferry up the Inside Passage to Prince Rupert. Still that gives me a good excuse to go back again!
If you would like to find out more about Vancouver Island, you may like to take a look at the British Columbia Tourism pages. You can find lots of information about ferry routes, timetables, prices etc on the BC Ferries pages. If you are thinking of visiting Butchart Gardens, you may like to check out their pages.
I have not been able to find any unofficial web pages about the island by anyone that live there but if you know of any personal home pages, or if there is anything you think I should include on this page or needs correction, please let me know. You can contact me at: email@example.com
Where next? Back to my home page or somewhere else?