One of the biggest draws to British Columbia (aside from perhaps the Rockies) is its beautiful coastline and islands. BC is home to no fewer than 40,000 islands, from tiny rocks, to the large Vancouver island which covers over 31,000 square kilometers.
BC’s islands are home to beautiful forests, lodges, hot springs, beaches, some of the best cold-water diving in the world, and are the perfect place to retreat to for a few days… Or longer.
Best time to Visit the Islands of British Columbia
Along with the rest of coastal BC, high season runs from May – September each year. Peak season is July and August, where Canadians and visitors from around the world flock to the islands for their summer vacations.
Outside of May – September, some Islands close down almost entirely for visitors (such as Haida Gwaii) while others (such as Vancouver Island, and especially the south of the Island) have plenty to do year-round.
We recommend shoulder season (May, June, September & October) as a great option for visiting with fewer fellow tourists and better accommodation prices.
Getting to BC’s Islands
BC Ferries run from near Vancouver (city) at Twassanen to Nanaimo and Swartz Bay (for Victoria) on Vancouver Island, which is the best way to get there, especially now that BC Ferries uses natural gas to power its crossings! There’s also a connector bus service that can be used in conjunction with the ferry and connects from downtown Vancouver to downtown Victoria.
There are also BC Ferries between the Gulf Islands in summer, and ferries connect Haida Gwaii with Prince Rupert on the mainland and Port Hardy on Vancouver Island via the Inside Passage. A clipper service runs from downtown Victoria to Seattle.More details on all ferry routes can be found here.
Alternatively, there are flights and seaplanes that operate between the mainland and islands, or you can charter your own yacht for the Gulf Islands.
Visiting Vancouver Island
Vancouver Island is the second largest island on the west coast of the Americas and spans 460 kilometers from north to south. Vancouver Island is home to the BC state capital, Victoria, and is known for its mild climate, wildlife and beaches.
There are plenty of opportunities to support community tourism with many of the First Nations groups on the island, with activities such as fishing trips, wildlife tracking, camping and glamping and visits to hot springs, which provide a window into indigenous culture. Or, take to the waves at Canada’s best surfing spot, Tofino, on the west coast.
Visiting the Gulf Islands
Lying in between the mainland and Vancouver to the east and Vancouver island to the west, the Gulf islands are a favourite destination for summer cottages, sailing trips, local organic markets and trendy bakeries, as well as quiet island life. Welcome to BC’s answer to the “Hamptons”.
For alternative accommodation, you can stay in a converted airstream trailer at Woods on Pender (Pender island).
Visiting Haida Gwaii
Formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands (before being changed to Haida Gwaii in the 1980’s in recognition of the Haida people and their culture), Haida Gwaii is one of the most remote and wild corners of British Columbia – perfect for natural born explorers.
Haida Gwaii is home to dramatic landscapes, the warm Haida people, and UNESCO listed Gwaii Hanaas National Park, only accessible by seaplane or boat. Haida Gwaii has been referred to, by some, as “Canada’s Galapagos” thanks to the rich abundance of wildlife and flora here.
We recommend a stay at the fully Haida owned Haida House Resort, the perfect place to learn about indigenous Haida culture.