Towns & Villages on Vancouver Island

Cities on Vancouver Island

With towns like Victoria, Comox, Duncan, Nanaimo, Gibsons, Fort Langley, Kaslo, Golden, Port Hardy, Atlin, and Naramata it’s easy to understand why Vancouver Island is so popular with tourists. If you’re planning to explore Vancouver Island then you are in for a real treat, the untouched beauty of the lakes, rivers, and valleys on Vancouver Island will leave you feeling at peace with nature & all it has to offer, Comox Glacier, Cape Scott trail, Cowichan Valley are all popular spots that are worth exploring.

Map of Vancouver Island

This popular destination of British Columbia captivates its visitors with its breathtaking scenic beauty, lush rainforests, meandering streams, cascading waterfalls, and rock-strewn coastlines. The island is separated from mainland Canada by the Strait of Georgia and Johnstone Strait, the island is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. The Golden Hinde is the highest point on the Island and Comox Glacier is the largest glacier, the beauty of Vancouver Island is further enhanced by its many beautiful lakes such as Kennedy Lake.

Victoria, BC

The city of Victoria has the feel of the 19th century, this cozy and comfortable city portrays a perfect blend of the past with the present, the streets of this city are lined with several heritage buildings and it has quaint restaurants and many craft shops. Hire a horse-drawn carriage and take a ride on James Bay or if you love playing golf, the many golf courses at Victoria, why not spend time at the Royal British Columbia Museum too after having tea at the famous Empress Hotel?

Victoria, BC
Victoria, BC by Tjflex2 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Known as the “Garden City,” Victoria boasts stunning gardens and parks that will leave you in awe. The world-famous Butchart Gardens, with its meticulously manicured floral displays, is a must-visit attraction that will transport you to a botanical paradise. The Royal BC Museum is another gem in Victoria, where you can delve into the rich history and culture of the region through captivating exhibits and interactive displays.

Comox, BC

The city of Comox is situated on the east coast of Vancouver Island and rests in the beautiful Comox Valley, the valley stretches from Fanny Bay to Saratoga Beach, Comox is easily accessible and is well connected by rail, road, and air. Just below the snow-capped mountains, this city offers plenty of activities such as great fishing, hiking in the alpine meadows, or Scuba diving, one of the main attractions here is the Mount Washington Ski Resort which offers great winter skiing, Comox is a truly memorable location.

Comox BC
Comox BC by GerryT is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Duncan, BC

Duncan is a business hub for the farming and forestry industries of Cowichan Valley and is filled with innumerable totem poles that line the city streets, bird lovers will waste no time in visiting the Somenos Bird Sanctuary and the lakes that surround the city of Duncan offer the ideal place for boating and fishing while the nearby countryside of Duncan is ideal photographers, hikers, and bikers.

Quamichan Lake, Duncan, BC
Quamichan Lake, Duncan, BC” by Gerry Thomasen is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Nanaimo, BC

The city of Nanaimo is the second largest city on Vancouver Island and is more commonly referred to as the harbor city because of it’s spectacular view, it has one of the longest shorelines on Vancouver Island, Nanaimo you can experience true urban living, amidst the rugged wilderness. Stroll to the downtown area of the city and in no time you will be walking amidst a mix of restaurants, music shops, and lively nightspots, the largest shopping mall on Vancouver Island is in Nanaimo, and the city of Nanaimo offers very reasonable hotel rates.

Gilbert residence - Nanaimo, BC
Gilbert residence – Nanaimo, BC by Roy Ostling is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Step back in time as you explore Nanaimo’s fascinating history. The city’s roots date back to the 1800s when it served as a trading post for the Hudson’s Bay Company. Take a stroll through the charming Old City Quarter, where heritage buildings house trendy boutiques, art galleries, and cozy cafes. Immerse yourself in the past at the Nanaimo Museum, which showcases the city’s vibrant history through interactive exhibits and artifacts.

No visit to Nanaimo would be complete without indulging in its most famous treat – the Nanaimo bar. This delectable dessert consists of a delectable combination of chocolate, graham cracker crumbs, custard, and coconut, creating a melt-in-your-mouth experience that is sure to satisfy any sweet tooth. Explore the city’s culinary scene and sample these delightful treats at local bakeries and cafes, or even try your hand at making them yourself with a Nanaimo bar cooking class.

Beyond the city limits, Nanaimo serves as a gateway to even more hidden gems on Vancouver Island. Catch a ferry to Newcastle Island Marine Provincial Park and immerse yourself in the tranquility of this beautiful island oasis. Go wildlife spotting, hike scenic trails, or simply relax on the sandy beaches surrounded by nature’s beauty.

Fort Langley, BC

Fort Langley lies approximately 28 miles from the east of Vancouver Island and is a special place that has a rich heritage, historical monuments amidst a pastoral setting and is a national historic site. The original fort was constructed in 1827, you can learn more about the early settlement and its gradual development if you take advantage of the many tours available. While you’re here you can enjoy a paddle-wheeler cruise on the Fraser River as well as a walk through the local gardens or you can hunt for some antique items.

Naramata, BC

Travel to the north of Vancouver Island and discover the rugged wilderness of Naramata, Naramata has spectacular beauty with lofty mountains and surging rivers.

Nanaimo is a popular adventure hub located on the east coast of the island. From kayaking and exploring the rugged coastline to skiing in winter at Mount Washington, there are plenty of activities available to keep adventurers of all ages entertained.

Red Rooster Winery, Naramata, BC
Red Rooster Winery, Naramata, BC by Tim Buss is licensed under CC BY 2.0

If you are lucky you can capture a glimpse of the black bear, bald eagle or elk amidst their natural habitat. A visit to Naramata is ideal for relaxing or if you want to be more active you can enjoy many water sports on Okanagan Lake.

Port Hardy, BC

Explore and discover more while traveling and staying in the northern part of Vancouver Island at Port Hardy, this place has a lot to offer to its visitors and provides spectacular scenery, Port Hardy has several museums and many craft and art shops. Bird lovers will enjoy Port Hardy as it has some rare and exotic species of birds, you can always see kingfishers, herons, and eagles hovering amidst their natural habitat.

water taxi departing Port Hardy, BC
water taxi departing Port Hardy, BC by Rick McCharles is licensed under CC BY 2.0

10 Best Cities on Vancouver Island to Visit

Vancouver Island is a stunningly beautiful place to explore. With its lush forests, pristine beaches, and breathtaking mountain ranges, it’s no wonder why tourists flock here. Here are the 10 best cities on Vancouver Island that you should add to your bucket list.

Vancouver Island . Fisherman's blues
Vancouver Island. Fisherman’s Blues by Nick Kenrick.. is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

1. Victoria – The Capital City

Victoria is the capital city of Vancouver Island and a popular destination for travelers. This charming city features waterfront restaurants, museums, galleries, and historic buildings, making it an ideal spot for sightseeing. Don’t forget to take a walk along the Inner Harbour or visit the magnificent Butchart Gardens.

2. Nanaimo – Adventure Hub

Nanaimo is a popular adventure hub located on the east coast of the island. From kayaking and exploring the rugged coastline to skiing in winter at Mount Washington, there are plenty of activities available to keep adventurers of all ages entertained.

3. Courtenay – Home of the K’omoks First Nation People

Courtenay is located in the center of Vancouver Island and is home to the K’omoks First Nation people. Take a stroll through the town and learn more about its rich culture through art, music, and dance.

4. Qualicum Beach – Seaside Town

Qualicum Beach is a quaint seaside town perfect for relaxing by the ocean. Spend time fishing, paddle boarding, exploring the beaches, and sampling some of the delicious seafood dishes available at local restaurants.

5. Tofino – Surfing Mecca

Tofino is a mecca for surfers thanks to its stunning coastline with crashing waves and reclusive beaches. Whether you’re an experienced surfer or just learning, you’ll find plenty of great spots to practice your skills in this vibrant coastal town.

6. Campbell River – Nature Lover’s Paradise

Campbell River offers visitors an abundance of outdoor activities from fishing and whale watching to hiking, biking, and camping in its lush forests. It’s no wonder why it’s nicknamed “Nature’s Playground”!

7. Comox – Getaway Spot

Comox Valley is a picturesque little getaway just outside of Campbell River on the eastern side of Vancouver Island. This region is known for its food and wine scene as well as its outdoor activities like golfing, sailing, and skiing.

8. Port Alberni – Gateway to Canada’s West Coast

Port Alberni is situated in an inlet at the northern end of Vancouver Island and serves as a gateway to Canada’s rugged west coast. Explore Cathedral Grove – a giant old-growth Douglas fir tree forest – or see the whales float by from one of the many lookouts in this part of the island.

9. Parksville – Beach Town

Parksville is a small beach town located between Nanaimo and Qualicum Beach. Split between two lagoons, Parksville has tons of activities suitable for all ages, including swimming, kite flying, beachcombing, and fishing.

10. Cowichan Bay – Creative Community

Cowichan Bay is an artsy community that attracts creative minds with its unique shops, galleries, cafes, and breweries. Cast your eyes out onto the bay while browsing boutiques and grab lunch at one of the local eateries for a truly soul-stirring experience.

Gibsons, BC – Sunshine Coast

Gibsons is just a short 40-minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver, once here you can spend time shopping in the nearby galleries and shops, the place is a haven for artists, and you would be amazed to see the exquisite works of art in the log building or you could drive down to Gower Point to enjoy the oceanfront parks or take time out dining at Molly’s Reach Cafe, this cafe has become quite popular as it was there that the Canadian TV series The Beachcomber was filmed.

Gospel Rock Panorama - Gibsons Landing, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada
Gospel Rock Panorama – Gibsons Landing, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada by Daniel Peckham is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Top Attractions and Landmarks

If you’re planning a visit, make sure to add these top attractions and landmarks to your itinerary.

  • Butchart Gardens: Nestled in the heart of Brentwood Bay, Butchart Gardens is a horticultural masterpiece. With stunning floral displays, tranquil walking paths, and enchanting themed gardens, it’s a paradise for nature lovers and photographers alike.
  • Inner Harbour, Victoria: The Inner Harbour in Victoria is the bustling heart of the city. Take a leisurely stroll along the waterfront, admire the iconic Parliament Buildings, and immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere. Don’t forget to visit the Royal BC Museum and explore the historic Empress Hotel nearby.
  • Cathedral Grove: Located in MacMillan Provincial Park, Cathedral Grove is a majestic old-growth forest that will leave you in awe. Walk among towering ancient trees, some over 800 years old, and experience the serene beauty of this natural wonder.
  • Tofino and Ucluelet: These picturesque coastal towns on the west coast of the island offer breathtaking vistas, rugged beaches, and world-class surfing opportunities. Explore Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, go whale watching, or simply relax and enjoy the laid-back atmosphere.
  • Craigdarroch Castle: Step back in time as you visit the enchanting Craigdarroch Castle in Victoria. This Victorian-era mansion showcases stunning architecture, exquisite stained glass windows, and opulent furnishings, providing a glimpse into the island’s rich history.
  • Nanaimo Bastion: A symbol of the city’s history and resilience, the Nanaimo Bastion is a well-preserved 19th-century fortification. Take a guided tour, learn about the region’s fascinating past, and enjoy panoramic views of the Nanaimo Harbour.

Historic Neighborhoods

Exploring the historic neighborhoods of Vancouver Island is like stepping back in time. As you wander through the charming streets and immerse yourself in the rich history, you can’t help but feel the unique charm and character that each neighborhood possesses.

Old Town Victoria

One of the must-visit neighborhoods is Victoria’s Old Town, where history comes alive with its beautifully preserved buildings and cobblestone streets. Here, you’ll find a delightful mix of cafes, boutique shops, and art galleries nestled among the historic architecture. Take a leisurely stroll along Government Street and admire the stunning heritage buildings, such as the iconic Empress Hotel and the stately British Columbia Legislature.


Another hidden gem is the picturesque neighborhood of Chemainus, known for its outdoor murals that tell the stories of the town’s past. As you explore the streets, you’ll be captivated by the vibrant artwork that adorns the buildings, creating a unique open-air art gallery. Don’t forget to visit the Chemainus Theatre, where you can catch a captivating live performance amidst the charm of this small town.

chemainus wood carving vamc island
Chemainus wood carving Vancouver island by harrymoon is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Bastion Square

For a taste of history and culture, head to Bastion Square in downtown Victoria. This historic square was once a bustling hub of trade and commerce back in the 1800s. Today, it is home to a vibrant mix of shops, restaurants, and art galleries. Take a moment to admire the iconic Bastion, a fortification that stands as a reminder of the city’s colonial past.

Old City Quarter

If you’re a history buff, make sure to visit the city of Nanaimo and explore its Old City Quarter. This neighborhood is a treasure trove of heritage buildings, cozy cafes, and unique shops. Take a stroll down Wesley Street and discover the beautifully restored buildings that house local businesses, giving the area an old-world charm.

Hiking on the Cape Scott Trail

Vancouver Island is a hiker’s paradise with its cliffs, valleys, cascading waterfalls, ravines, and blue alpine lakes, there are some great hiking trails on Vancouver Island, like the Cape Scott trail which is quite long and challenging, but very rewarding, as you start hiking on the 48 km long trail, you will encounter remnants of Danish Settlements, along the trail you will see coastal wildlife such as seabirds, sea lions, seals, and sea otters. This hiking route is in the northwestern part of Vancouver Island and is about 40 miles from Port Hardy, this route is for advanced hikers as it’s not an easy route to take, if you want to guarantee safety then I would recommend that you go as part of a tour that will have guides who will know the safest routes.

An old supply road on the lighthouse trail, Cape Scott Provincial Park, North Vancouver Island, BC
An old supply road on the lighthouse trail, Cape Scott Provincial Park, North Vancouver Island, BC by brodieguy is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


Final Word

We hope you enjoyed our virtual journey through the charm of Vancouver Island, uncovering the must-visit cities and hidden gems that make this destination truly special. From the bustling streets of Victoria to the tranquil beauty of Tofino, each city offers its own unique experiences and attractions. Whether you’re a nature lover, history enthusiast, or simply seeking a peaceful escape, Vancouver Island has something for everyone. So grab your camera, pack your bags, and embark on an unforgettable adventure to this enchanting island. Don’t forget to share your experiences with us and let us know if you discover any hidden gems of your own!

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