The Ultimate Vancouver Island Bucket List

When it comes to bucket list’s, people have varying ideas on what it should entail. For some, the list will include extravagant ideas, such as a hot-air balloon ride. For others, it will be a list of all the beaches they want to check out in a 30 km radius.

No matter how you fill your bucket list, I do feel it’s important to have one.

Writing a Bucket List

If you don’t already have a bucket list prepared, you might be wondering how you go about making one.

Start by jotting down whatever comes to mind when answering the following questions:

  • What experiences do you want to have?
  • What do you want to see in person?
  • What locations do you want to visit?
  • What new activities do you want to try out?
  • What would you do if you had unlimited time and money?

And most importantly…

  • What do you wish you could do before you die?

Think of your bucket list as a way of expressing your heart’s desires, no matter how big or small. And don’t be afraid to unshackle yourself from inhibitions. For example, maybe you have always had a desire to try bungee jumping, but you also have a fear of heights. Write it down anyway!

What’s on My Bucket List?

I have a bucket list specific to Vancouver Island. It includes all the places I have yet to explore, as well as local activities (and even restaurants and resorts) I wish to try.

Because of this website people often ask me, “Where are you off to next?”, which makes me think I should share my Vancouver Island bucket list with you.

But as mentioned above, a bucket list is a rather personal wish list of what is near and dear to your own heart. So my Vancouver Island Bucket List will most likely be very different from your own.

With that being said, passing on information and ideas is never a bad thing. And as you all know, inspiring my readers to get out and explore this beautiful rock is what I strive to do.

So I decided to combine ideas from my personal list with a few must-see locations I’ve already had the privilege of experiencing, to give you the Ultimate Vancouver Island Bucket List!

To try to appease everyone, the ideas are a mix of both extravagant items, as well as ones that will have more mass appeal.

Free Printable

I know you are excited to get reading, but before you do, print this first!

I created a blank list for you to use to help with writing your own Vancouver Island Bucket List. If something catches your eye while reading the ideas below, jot it down. Of course, you can use any old piece of paper, but this one is fun, and created just for you!

So before reading any further, print off this handy list:

Vancouver Island Bucket List – Blank

The Ultimate Vancouver Island Bucket List

Hatley Castle - one of the must see stops on the Ultimate Vancouver Island Bucket List
Hatley Castle

Southern Vancouver Island

Greater Victoria Area

  • Fireworks at Butchart Gardens – Everyone loves watching fireworks. Unfortunately, you usually have to wait for some monumental festivity in order to see them. Lucky for us, every Saturday night (in the summer) Butchart Gardens puts on a spectacular fireworks show, with both aerial and ground displays choreographed to music.
  • High Tea at the Empress – Experience one of Victoria’s grandest traditions. Choose among 21 of the finest loose teas available, while indulging on delicate pastries, scones, and other delicacies.
  • Horse Drawn Carriage Tour – View the sights of Victoria a little slower with this time-honoured tradition. There are several companies that now offer horse-drawn carriage tours, but this particular one has been in operation since the early 1900’s.
  • Explore The Castles
    • Craigdarroch Castle – take a walk through the Victorian era at this National Historic Site, and get a glimpse of what life was like for the privileged during the 1890’s.
    • Hatley Castle – now used as an administration office for Royal Roads University, this Historic Site was originally built in 1908.
  • Sea Glass Beach – search for beautiful treasures on this beach just off the Sidney pier.

Rugged Southern West Coast Area

  • Botanical Beach – Explore this natural jewel in Jaun de Fuca Provincial Park (near Port Renfrew) and discover the abundance of intertidal life, as well as fantastic sandstone formations.
  • Salt Spring Island Market – meander through Canada’s best-loved market held at Centennial Park in Ganges. With over 140 artisans and food producers, you are sure to find what you are looking for.
  • Hike through Carmanah Walbran –  This rugged and remote Provincial Park is home to some of the biggest and best trees Vancouver Island has to offer.

Cowichan Valley Area

  • View the Burl – Murfitt, as it is so lovingly called, weighs approximately three tonnes and is about 30 feet in circumference, and quite the sight (or so I’ve been told!).
  • Watch a Live Production – experience a world-class performance at the Chemainus Theatre. We have had the privilege of watching many plays here, and all have been spectacular!
  • Take in a wine tour – The Cowichan Valley is a mecca for foodies. Stop at any one of these locations on the Cowichan Valley Flavour Trail for a real treat.

Snorkeling with seals - one of the must see stops on the Ultimate Vancouver Island Bucket List.

Central Vancouver Island

Nanaimo Area

  • Brave the Primal Swing at WildPlay Nanaimo – catapult through the natural rock canyon above the Nanaimo River at speeds up to 140 km per hour.
  • Snorkel with the Seals – Don a wetsuit and head out to Snake Island with a reputable dive company to snorkel with the local wildlife.
  • Enjoy a Free Concert – pack a picnic and a blanket, and head to one (or both) of the two beautiful Nanaimo parks providing free entertainment this summer.
  • Kayak around Newcastle Island – launch the kayaks in the Nanaimo Harbour (somewhere around Maffeo Sutton Park), and paddle to and around Newcastle Island for some fantastic sights.
  • Malaspina Galleries – Explore the ancient rock formations overhanging the coastline of Gabriola Island.

Oceanside Area

  • Horne Lake Caves – Go underground for a fascinating view of crystal formations and other spectacular sights.
  • Fossil Tour – Using a chisel and hammer, dig for fossils with the Courtenay Museum and Paleontology Centre at a real fossil site.
  • Visit Hornby Island – Spread your toes in the white sandy beaches, swim in the warm ocean waters, and explore what is known as Canada’s “Little Hawaii”.

Campbell River Area

  • Elk Falls Suspension Bridge – For spectacular views of Elk Falls and the headwaters of Campbell River, walk across “the best suspension bridge on Vancouver Island”.
  • Hike Ripple Rock – Enjoy stunning views of Seymour Narrows, and learn about the history of the world’s largest non-nuclear underwater explosion.
West Coast of Vancouver Island - one of the must see stops on the Ultimate Vancouver Island Bucket List.

West Coast of Vancouver Island

  • Port Alberni Steam Train – Take a ride on one of the most powerful pieces of Port Alberni’s history.
  • Learn to Surf – Learn to ride the waves at one of the many surf schools located in Tofino.
  • Hike the West Coast Trail – Hike the full 75 km of this world-renowned trail, or a small portion of it, for some uniquely incredible sights.
  • The Wickaninnish Inn – With its amazing location, breathtaking views, and exceptional service, this five-star resort is without a doubt one of the most superb accommodations Vancouver Island has to offer.
  • Hot Springs Cove – For a truly unique experience, relax in the natural hot springs at Maquinna Marine Provincial Park.
  • Hike the Big Tree Trail on Meares Island – The star of this trail, the Hanging Garden Tree, was once considered the largest tree of its kind in Canada.
  • Kayak the Broken Islands – Take a day trip, or a multi-day trip, and explore the intricate waterways between more than 100 islands.
North Vancouver Island - one of the must see stops on the Ultimate Vancouver Island Bucket List.

North Vancouver Island

Visit Telegraph Cove – Walk the boardwalk, view the scenery, and go on a sea adventure from the whale watching capital of BC.

Go on a Grizzly Bear tour – Take a ride up Knight Inlet for a superb chance of seeing Grizzly Bears.

Explore Princess Royal Island – the location where Spirit Bears are found most frequently.

Cape Scott – Vancouver Island’s furthest most northwestern tip, and some of the most remote terrain and beaches found on the Pacific Coast.

Little Huson Park – Explore the spectacular cave formations and fascinating surrounding scenery.

Alert Bay – Visit the oldest community on Northern Vancouver Island, and view the world’s tallest Totem Pole.

Quatsino Lodge – Stay at this remote lodge for some of the best sport fishing, most personal service, and all around amazing experience.

Bere Point Regional Park – During July and August head to the viewing platform for your best chance at seeing Orca’s rubbing up against the rocks.

So there you have it…the Ultimate Vancouver Island Bucket List!

What would you add?

Need a Hotel?

If you are looking for accommodation options while on Vancouver Island, feel free to use this handy search tool:

Don’t forget to save this article to Pinterest for future use:

For the best things to see and do on Vancouver Island, check out this ultimate bucket list of ideas. Or use the list to create an epic Vancouver Island road trip.

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About the Author

on Jul 14, 2016

Comments (9)

  • Thank you for all your great suggestions! Is it worth taking a “tour” to see the bears? whales?.
    We are a family of grandparents, kids, grandkids (5 yrs & 9 yrs) travelling together for the first time to the West Coast. We have 2 nights in Vancouver , 1 night in Parksville (to avoid the kids having to travel a full day – ferry to Nanaimo and then rental car to Tofino). 3 nights to Tofina. Would you recommend we stay 3 nights in Vancouver and then ferry and drive to Tofino and skip the 1 night in Parksville??We could not get our accommodations in Tofino for 4 nights so we decided to spend a night in Parksville? But now we think we should just spend 3 nights in Vancouver instead? Thanks!

    • Kim

      Hi Angie, thank you for taking the time to contact me. Vancouver has lots to keep one occupied for three nights, and plenty for kids to do. But then again, so does Parksville. They are two totally different experiences. Vancouver is a big city, while Parksville is a small town with a laid-back vibe. It all depends on what kind of trip you are hoping for. I love them both, so have a hard time giving you a definitive answer. I think your best bet is to do some research on Vancouver and make a list of all you wish to see while there. If you don’t feel 2 nights is going to be enough time, then definitely stay the extra night. I hope that helps a little!

    • Kim

      Oops, I failed to answer your first question…if seeing wildlife is something your family enjoys then, yes, I highly recommend a whale watching tour or bear sighting tour. I’ve been on quite a few and would still jump at the chance to do it again.

  • Ruth

    Great list, I think I might add the inner harbour ferry mini rides for a great perspective being on the water, whale watching tours , IMAX theatre & museum for Victoria. In Parksvile in the summer over a 6 week period is the Sandcastle Competition with competitors world wide displaying great sculptures down on the community park.

    Happy travels,


    • Kim

      All amazing ideas! Thank you so much, Ruth.

  • Gizi McLeod

    You could add the bungee jump park on the tressel over the bridge.
    The caves just outside of Gold River are spectacular.
    And not much was said about the 100’s of beautiful other beaches, and swimming spots besides Tribune Bay beach. When I’m a tourist somewhere and it’s a hot sunny day, I get frustrated not knowing where the local best swimming spot is.. just a thought.
    I really enjoyed your list though. It’s all good on Vancouver Island..!! Born and bred there even though now I live in Edm due to the lack of jobs on the island. Now I’m retired and ready to move back to Comox Valley area but, due to lack of housing I’m being held up… lots of challenges..!!
    Thx again..!
    Gizi McLeod

    • Kim

      All great suggestions! Thank you Gizi. When curating this list, I found it so hard to narrow it to just this many. There really are so many fantastic things to see and do here. However, I had to stop somewhere. 🙂 Many of these places are written about if you search the website. There is a feature article on Little Huson Caves (if those are the caves you are referring to), and yes, they are pretty spectacular. There is also an article about Wildplay (the bungee jump park). However, I LOVE your suggestion about the best local swimming spots! I will definitely look into writing an article about that. Thank you so much! And I am sorry to hear about your challenges. Hopefully, you will be ever here soon. All the best to you!

  • Lynnette

    Thanks for the ideas, it has given me a lot of very different ideas from the usual travel agent ones.

    • Kim

      Thank you Lynnette! I am so glad to hear you say that. I always like to try to give unique ideas.

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