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Vancouver Island
Vancouver Island contour map.png
Location Pacific Ocean
Coordinates 49°00′N 124°00′W / 49°N 124°W / 49; -124
Area 32,134 km2 (43rd)
Highest point Golden Hinde (2,198 metres (7,210 ft))
Province  British Columbia
Largest city Victoria (pop. 331,491)
Population 740,876 [1] (as of 2008)
Density 22 /km2 (57 /sq mi)
Vancouver Island is separated from mainland British Columbia by the Strait of Georgia and the Queen Charlotte Strait, and from Washington by the Juan De Fuca Strait.
A NASA image of Vancouver Island
Cities of Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island is a large island in British Columbia, Canada, one of several North American regions named after George Vancouver, the British Royal Navy officer who explored the Pacific coast of North America between 1791 and 1794.

The island is 460 kilometres (290 mi) in length and 80 kilometres (50 mi) in width at its widest point. It is the largest island on the western side of North America at 32,134 km2 (12,407.0 sq mi) and the world's 43rd largest island, Canada's 11th largest island and Canada's second most populous island after the Island of Montreal. The 2001 census population was 656,312. British Columbia statistics in 2008 estimated the population at 740,876.[2] Nearly half of these (331,491) live in Greater Victoria. Other major cities on Vancouver Island include Nanaimo, Port Alberni, Parksville, Courtenay, and Campbell River.


Geography and environment

Vancouver Island is located in the southwestern corner of the province of British Columbia. It is separated from mainland Canada by the Strait of Georgia, Johnstone Strait, and Queen Charlotte Strait, and from the United States by the Strait of Juan de Fuca. To the west of the island is the Pacific Ocean.

The Vancouver Island Ranges run most of the length of the island, dividing it into a wet and rugged west coast and a drier, more rolling east coast. The highest point in these ranges and on the island is the Golden Hinde, at 2,195 metres (7,200 ft). Located near the centre of Vancouver Island in 2,500 square kilometres (620,000 acres) Strathcona Provincial Park, it is part of a group of peaks that include the only glaciers on the island, the largest of which is the Comox Glacier. The Golden Hinde is also part of the Karmutsen Formation, which is a sequence of tholeiitic pillow basalts and breccias. The west coast shoreline is rugged and in many places mountainous, characterised by its many fjords, bays, and inlets. The interior of the island has many lakes (Kennedy Lake, northeast of Ucluelet, is the largest) and rivers. Vancouver Island formed when volcanic and sedimentary rock scraped off the ancient Kula Plate and plastered against the continental margin when it was subducting under North America 55 million years ago.

The climate is the mildest in Canada, with temperatures on the coast even in January being usually above 0 °C (32 °F). In summer, the warmest days usually achieve a maximum of 28-33 degrees Celsius. However, the rain shadow effect of the island's mountains, as well as the mountains of Washington's Olympic Peninsula, creates wide variation in precipitation. The west coast is considerably wetter than the east coast. Average annual precipitation ranges from 665 centimetres (260 in) at Henderson Lake on the west coast (making it the wettest place in North America) to only 64 centimetres (25 in) at the driest recording station in the provincial capital of Victoria on the southeast coast's Saanich Peninsula. Precipitation is heaviest in the autumn and winter. Snow is rare at low altitudes but is common on the island's mountaintops in winter.

A notable feature of Vancouver Island is the extension of Mediterranean-type summer dryness to latitudes as high as 50°N. Only in the extreme north of the island near Port Hardy is the rainfall of the driest summer month as much as one fifth that of the wettest months from November to March. West coasts of other continents at similar latitudes have a practically even distribution of rainfall through the year.

Vancouver Island lies in the temperate rainforest biome. On the southern and eastern portions of the island, this is characterized by Douglas-fir, western red cedar, madrone, Garry oak, salal, Oregon-grape, and manzanita; moreover, Vancouver Island is the location where the Douglas-fir was first recorded by Archibald Menzies;[3] Vancouver Island is also the location where the tallest Douglas fir was ever recorded. This southeastern portion of the island is the heavily populated region of Vancouver Island and a major area for recreation. The northern, western, and most of the central portions of the island are home to the coniferous "big trees" associated with British Columbia's coast — western hemlock, western red cedar, Pacific Silver Fir, yellow cedar, Douglas-fir, grand fir, Sitka spruce, and western white pine. It is also characterised by bigleaf maple, red alder, sword fern, and red huckleberry.

The fauna of Vancouver Island is similar to that found on the mainland coast, with some notable exceptions and additions. For example, grizzly bears, mountain goats, porcupines, moose, skunks, coyotes, and numerous species of small mammals, while plentiful on the mainland, are absent from Vancouver Island. The island does support most of Canada's Roosevelt elk, however, and one species — the Vancouver Island Marmot — is unique to the island. The island's rivers, lakes, and coastal regions are renowned for their fisheries of trout, salmon, and steelhead. It has the most concentrated population of cougars in North America.

Vancouver Island lies along the Pacific Ring of Fire,making it the most seismicly active region in Canada. In 1946, the Forbidden Plateau in the east of the Vancouver Island Ranges was the epicenter of an earthquake that registered 7.3 on the Richter scale, the strongest ever recorded on land in Canada. See 1946 Vancouver Island earthquake.[4]

Vancouver Island was the location of the observation of the episodic tremor and slip seismic phenomenon.



Indigenous people

Vancouver Island has been the homeland to many main indigenous peoples for thousands of years.[5] These are the Kwakwaka'wakw, Nuu-chah-nulth, and Coast Salish. Kwakwaka'wakw territory includes northern Vancouver Island, with parts of the mainland, then Nuu-chah-nulth spanning from the northern western part of the island, to the south, covering the west coast, and Coast Salish covering the lower eastern part. Their cultures are connected to the natural resources abundant in the area.

European exploration

Europeans began to explore the island in 1774, when rumours of Russian fur traders caused the Spanish to send a ship, the Santiago north under the command of Juan José Pérez Hernández. In 1775, a second Spanish expedition under the Peruvian captain Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra was sent.

Vancouver Island came to the attention of the wider world after the third voyage of Captain James Cook, who landed at Nootka Sound of the island's western shore on March 31, 1778, and claimed it for the United Kingdom. The island's rich fur trading potential led the British East India Company to set up a single-building trading post in the native village of Yuquot (Friendly Cove) on Nootka Island, a small island in the sound.

The island was further explored by Spain in 1789 by Esteban José Martínez, who built Fort San Miguel on one of Vancouver Island's small offshore islets in the sound near Yuquot. This was to be the only Spanish settlement in what would later be Canada. The Spanish began seizing British ships, and the two nations came close to war in the ensuing Nootka Crisis, but the issues were resolved peacefully with the Nootka Convention in 1792, in which both countries recognized the other's rights to the area. Supervising the British activities was Captain George Vancouver from King's Lynn in England, who had sailed as a midshipman with Cook, and from whom the island gained its name. In 1792, the Spanish explorer Dionisio Alcalá Galiano and his crew were the first Europeans to circumnavigate Vancouver Island. On April 8, 1806 Captain John D'Wolf of Bristol, Rhode Island sailed the Juno to Newettee, a small inlet in the northwestern promontory of Vancouver's Island. The Captain described Newette as one of the southernmost harbors frequented by American fur traders at lat. 51 degrees N. and long. 128 degrees. He relates that since Captain Robert Gray of Tiverton, Rhode Island sailed the Columbia River in 1792, the trade of the Northwest coast had been almost entirely in the hands of Boston merchants, so much so that the natives called all traders "Boston Men." [6] While we know this island today as Vancouver Island the English explorer had not intentionally meant to name such a large body of land solely after himself.[7] In his September 1792 dispatch log report for the British Admiralty, Captain Vancouver reveals that his decision here was rather meant to honour a request by the Peruvian seafarer Juan Francisco Quadra that Vancouver:

"would name some port or island after us both in commemoration of our meeting and friendly intercourse that on that occasion had taken place (Vancouver had previously feted Quadra on his ship);....and conceiving no place more eligible than the place of our meeting, I have therefore named this land...The Island of Quadra and Vancouver."[8]

If Vancouver had been vain as some writers had charged, he could have chosen to name the entire Island exclusively after himself instead of sharing its name with Quadra and placing the latter's name before his. The newly discovered "Quadra's and Vancouver's Island" was the most prominent name on maps of the coast, and appeared on most [contemporary] British, French and Spanish maps of the period. But as Spanish interests in the region dwindled, so did Quadra's name. The Hudson's Bay Company played a major part in the transition; by 1824 'Vancouver's Island' had become the usual designation in its correspondence for the island.[9] A quarter of a century later, Vancouver Island had become such a well known geographical feature, that the founding of the Colony of Vancouver Island in 1849 gave this name full official status.[10] Period references to "Vancouver" referred to Vancouver Island until the naming of the city of Vancouver in 1885.

British settlement

The British colonial flag of Vancouver Island. It is used today as a local representative flag.

Shortly thereafter, in 1846, the Oregon Treaty was signed by the British and the U.S. to settle the question of the U.S. Oregon Territory borders. It awarded all of Vancouver Island to what would be Canada, despite a portion of the island lying south of the 49th parallel. In 1849, the Colony of Vancouver Island was established. Following the brief governorship of Richard Blanshard, James Douglas, Chief Factor of the Hudson's Bay post, assumed the role in 1851.

The first British settlement on the island was a Hudson's Bay Company post, Fort Camosack, founded in 1843, and later renamed Fort Victoria.[11] Fort Victoria became an important base during the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush in 1858, and the burgeoning town was incorporated as Victoria in 1862. Victoria became the capital of the colony of Vancouver Island, then retained that status when the island was amalgamated with the mainland in 1866. A British naval base, including a large shipyard and a naval hospital, was established at Esquimalt, British Columbia, in 1865 and eventually taken over by the Canadian military.

The economic situation of the colony declined following the Cariboo Gold Rush of 1861-1862, and pressure grew for amalgamation of the colony with the mainland colony of British Columbia (which had been established in 1858). The colony's third and last governor, Sir Arthur Kennedy oversaw the union of the two colonies in 1866.


Scenery on Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island's economy outside Victoria is largely dominated by the forestry industry, with tourism and fishing also playing a large role. Many of the logging operations are for paper pulp, in "2nd growth" tree farms that are harvested approximately every 30 years. In recent years the government of British Columbia has engaged in an advertising program to draw more tourists to beach resorts such as Tofino.

Logging operations involving old-growth forests such as those found on Clayoquot Sound are controversial and have gained international attention through the efforts of activists and environmental organizations.

Between Vancouver Island and the Canadian mainland there are several high voltage power cables (HVDC Vancouver-Island).

There is also a developing IT field on Vancouver Island. High Speed Internet is delivered to the island from Shaw, Telus and CRTV. Wireless Internet connections can be found all over the island, many free for public use. Many coffee shops provide free wireless Internet access and charge an average of five cents a minute for using their computers.



Marine transport is very important to Vancouver Island for access to the mainland of British Columbia and Washington. There are no bridges connecting the island to the mainland, although the idea of building one has been brought up many times. The only vehicle access to Vancouver Island is via ferries operated by BC Ferries, Washington State Ferries and Black Ball Transport Inc. There are six vehicle ferry routes:

A BC Ferries vessel.
BC Ferries
Crossing time: 1 hour 35 minutes; 8 sailings per day in the fall, winter, and spring and more in summer)
Crossing time: 2 hours; 8 round trips daily.
Crossing time: 1 hour 35 minutes; Sailings every 2 hours with extra sailings during the summer and holidays.
Crossing time: 1 hour 20 minutes; 4 round trips daily.
Washington State Ferries
Crossing time: 3 hours (not counting stops in the San Juan Islands)
Black Ball Transport
Crossing time: 1 hour 30 minutes; 1 or 2 round trips daily
Passenger-only service

In addition, there are three passenger-only ferry services from the mainland to Vancouver Island:

Crossing time: 2 hour 45 minutes; 1 to 3 round trips daily
  • Victoria Express (Port Angeles, Washington - Victoria)
Crossing time: 1 hour (operates May through September)
Crossing time: 3 hours (operates one trip per day May through October)


There are two remaining major railways on Vancouver Island. The Southern Railway of Vancouver Island, which assumed control of the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway from RailAmerica in July 2006 offers general freight service on the Victoria–Courtenay main line (called the Victoria Subdivision by the railroad). The Port Alberni branch line (called the Port Alberni Subdivision by the railroad) has been out of service since late 2001.

SVI also runs passenger service under contract with VIA Rail. Western Forest Products operates the Englewood Railway which is Canada's last logging railway, running from Woss to Beaver Cove on the northern end of the island. The former Canadian National Railway out of Victoria to the Cowichan Valley was abandoned in the late 1980s/early 1990s, and the former grade between Victoria and Sooke, and Shawnigan lake and Lake Cowichan is now a multi-use trail. The BC Forest Museum has a narrow gauge railway winding around the park, and the Alberni Pacific Railway operates during the summer from the restored E&N Railway station in Port Alberni to the McLean's Mill on former E&N Railway trackage.


There is one major north-south highway system on the island, which runs along the eastern side. It begins as Highway 1 in Victoria, merging with Highway 19 in Nanaimo, which terminates at Port Hardy. East-west routes are:

In addition, Highway 17 connects Victoria with the Saanich Peninsula, terminating the Vancouver Island portion of its route at the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal.

Vancouver Island is well served by secondary routes, and a numerous active and decommissioned logging and forest service roads provide access into the back country.

Many communities are served by public transit. Greater Victoria is one of the few places in North America where double-deck buses are used in the regular public transit system.

Proposals have been made for a "fixed link" to the mainland for over a century. Because of the extreme depth of the Georgia Strait and potential seismic activity, a bridge or tunnel would face monumental engineering, safety, and environmental challenges at a prohibitive cost.


Victoria International Airport is the major airport on Vancouver Island. In 2005, it was the 9th busiest airport in Canada in terms of passenger movements (1,280,420).[12] Five major carriers (Air Canada, Air Canada Jazz, Horizon Air, Pacific Coastal Airlines, and WestJet) offer a variety of flights of short and medium distance including to and from Seattle, Calgary, Vancouver, and Toronto. The only other international airport on the island, CFB Comox, offers direct flights to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, on a weekly basis.

Other smaller airports on Vancouver Island include Nanaimo harbour and Campbell River. In 2008, WestJet started direct flight three times per week to Las Vegas, and United Airlines will begin direct flights to the San Francisco Bay Area; these will be seasonal flights.

Floatplane and helicopter traffic to and from Victoria's inner harbour accounts for approximately 300,000 additional passengers per year,[13] making it the second busiest airport on Vancouver Island. Much of the floatplane traffic is downtown-to-downtown services from Victoria harbour to Vancouver harbour or Nanaimo harbour, most of which is carried by the operations Harbour Air, West Coast Air, and Baxter Aviation. Harbour Air also flies to other areas around Vancouver. These carriers make several daily scheduled flights, weather permitting.

See also


  1. ^ Vancouver Island Population Figures 2008
  2. ^ BC stats, quoted at. "Invest British Columbia". Retrieved 2007-09-20.  
  3. ^ C. Michael Hogan (2008) Douglas-fir: Pseudotsuga menziesii,, ed. Nicklas Strõmberg)
  4. ^ Derek Sidenius (1999-01-24). "Shake, Rattle and Roll in '46 Earthquake". Victoria Times Colonist Islander Magazine. Retrieved 2006-07-14.  
  5. ^ "History and Heritage of Vancouver Island, British Columbia". Retrieved 2007-07-08.  
  6. ^ Tales of an Old Seaport ed: Wilfred Harold Munro, Princeton University Press, 1917, pp.109-114
  7. ^ The Voyage of George Vancouver 1791-1795, Volume 1, ed: W. Kaye Lamb, Hakluyt Society, 1984, p.247
  8. ^ George Vancouver, "A Narrative of my proceedings in HMS Discovery from 28 August - 26 September 1792"; the cited quote from Vancouver is given in the final section of his report here from Nootka and is dated 26 September 1792, P.R.O., C.O. 5/187, f. 114
  9. ^ The Voyage of George Vancouver in Lamb, 1984, p.247
  10. ^ The Voyage of George Vancouver in Lamb, 1984, p.248
  11. ^ "Hbc Heritage - Our History - Places". Retrieved 2008-03-08.  
  12. ^ "Air Carrier Traffic at Canadian Airports" (Catalogue no. 51-203-XIE), page 8. Statistics Canada, 2005
  13. ^ "Air Carrier Traffic at Canadian Airports" (Catalogue no. 51-203-XIE), page 8. Statistics Canada, 2005


External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

North America : Canada : British Columbia : Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island is part of British Columbia, Canada. As well as the island itself, it is also a region which includes the Gulf Islands in the Strait of Georgia. It is often referred to by the locals as simply 'The Island'. Vancouver Island is the largest island off the west coast of North America at about 450km long and up to about 90km wide. It has a population of over 700,000 people, with a little less than half of those living in the Greater Victoria area.

The development on the island primarily follows the north-south highway that goes along the east coast of the island from Victoria to Port Hardy.

  • Victoria - The capital city of British Columbia that markets itself as a piece of England.
  • Sidney - A relaxing city 20 minutes from downtown Victoria, 5 minutes from the Victoria International Airport, Quiet, on the Waterfront with quaint little shops. A tourist vacation and Retirement location with waterfront walkways and bicycle paths.
  • Port Renfrew - A 2 hour scenic drive from Victoria on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, Port Renfrew is a small west coast community originally built by logging and fishing. It is situated along 150 miles of rugged uninhabited coastline.
  • Nanaimo - The second largest city, and largest port on Vancouver island.
  • Port Alberni - Developed as a major forest industry town and a service town for the fishing industry, today it is a popular salmon fishing destination.
  • Tofino - Ecotourism center on the beautiful (if wet) west coast of the island. The main attraction is Long Beach which is part of Pacific Rim National Park.
  • Courtenay/Comox - The gateway to Mt Washington, Strathcona Provincial Park and some spectacular fishing. These two towns are a beautiful place to visit in summer and winter.
  • Campbell River - A salmon fishing destination.
  • Cowichan Bay [1] - A pretty little sea-side village.
  • Galiano Island
  • Port Hardy - Small logging town on the North tip of the island, gateway to Cape Scott Provincial Park.
  • Ucluelet - Small town on the west coast of Vancouver Island, service center for the fishing industry.
  • Duncan - Agricultural town between Victoria and Nanaimo, home of the world's largest hockey stick.
  • Saanich - A major suburb of Victoria, and a significant agricultural center.
  • Telegraph Cove - Voted one of the ten best "towns" in Canada to visit by travel writers (as published in Harrowsmith Magazine.
  • Chemainus - 10 minutes north of Duncan; known for it's tourist attracting murals, plenty of tourist shops and a world-class playhouse.
  • Ladysmith - 20 minutes south of Nanaimo, tourist town, many shops down main street. Heritage town with restored buildings and beautiful Transfer Beach. Known for its annual Festival of Lights during the third week in November. Also voted one of the top ten "towns" in Canada as published by Harrowsmith Magazine.
  • Zeballos - a small village (pop.~235) on the northwest coast
  • Sooke - a harbourside town located a 45 minute drive west of Victoria

Get in

By ferry

The most common way to get to Vancouver Island is by BC Ferries [2]. There is regular ferry service from Tsawwassen (near Vancouver) to Swartz Bay (Near Victoria), Tsawwassen to Duke Point (near Nanaimo) and Horseshoe Bay (Near Vancouver) to Departure Bay (in Nanaimo). These ferries generally run about every two hours with more frequent service on some of the routes in the summer.

There is a ferry service that runs from Powell River to Comox, and Port Hardy to Prince Rupert.

By plane

The Victoria airport has flights from various locations in Canada. There are also flights from Vancouver to many of the towns and cities on the island. Floatplane facilities located both in the Victoria and Maple Bay.

Floatplanes operated by Harbour Air,Salt Spring Air [3] fly frequently from-to downtown Vancouver, YVR and other destinations including the scenic Gulf Islands. Some of these float plane operators will also do tours of the city and nearby attractions starting at about $80-100 per person... a great way to see the island.

Direct flights to Comox on the east central coast of Vancouver Island are available from Calgary or Edmonton on Westjet. [4] . There is also a connection to Comox from Vancouver on Pacific Coastal airline.

Get around

The easiest way to travel around Vancouver Island is to drive.

There is coach bus service to most of the major cities on the island, but it is generally a patchwork, and travelling around by bus often involves inconvenient waits to catch connecting buses.

VIA also operates daily train service from Victoria to Courtenay on the Southern Railway of Vancouver Island, with stops at most of the towns in between. The service provides an alternative to the coach bus service. Unlike the coach buses, once you are on the train, there is no long layover or transfer required at Nanaimo. Monday-Saturday; the train leaves Victoria at 8:00 in the morning and gets to Courtenay 4 and a half hours later. It leaves Courtenay at 1:00 in the afternoon getting back to Victoria in the early evening. On Sunday the train leaves Victoria at noon and runs 4 hours later than the weekday schedule.

For high end traveling on Vancouver Island, Exposure [5] merges adventure and luxury to serve a niche group of travel connoisseurs who demand exquisite, authentic and meaningful experiences. Travelers can be wild in style choosing from gourmet kayaking leaving from Tofino, culinary cruising in the Southern Gulf Islands aboard an expedition yacht, or scuba diving with six gill sharks off Hornby Island, to name a few. All trips can be customized, are all-inclusive and fully escorted.


In the Parksville / Qualicum Beach region [6], see the giant old growth forest at Cathedral Grove, funky "goats on the roof" market at Coombs, and watch the tide go out for more than a kilometer at Parksville and Rathtrevor Beaches.


Go on a hiking or walking nature tour of ancient rainforests with their giant trees, visit alpine meadows and lakes or stroll along colourful sea side tide pools. Try bird watching or wildlife viewing in the area's diverse ecosystems. A mild climate means year round tour opportunities including winter surfing, storm watching, mountain skiing and fall salmon viewing into December. Journey on a whale watching or grizzly bear tour.

Out of Telegraph Cove on the North End of the island, kayak with the Orca. Half day to 7 day expeditions in Johnstone Strait & vicinity.

  • Golf at over 11 world-class courses
  • Sunrise Ridge, 1175 Resort Drive, Parksville, BC, 1-866-812-3224, [7]. Sunrise Ridge is a new Vancouver Island beachfront resort located in Parksville BC. Featuring luxurious accommodations, stunning views, swimming pools, and exercise facilities, visitors can ‘own’ a private residence within the resort. A 5-star beach resort or a vacation home, luxury awaits.  edit

Get out

BC ferries operates ferry service from Swartz Bay (Near Victoria) to the Southern Gulf Islands and from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert on the North Coast of British Columbia.

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Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Wikipedia has an article on:





The family name is from the Dutch place name Coevorden ("the place where cows ford the river") via the Dutch family name van Coevorden ("a person from Coevorden"). The place names are derived from the family name, being named after people with that family name.


Proper noun




  1. A family name.
  2. A large island off the coast of British Columbia, Canada.
  3. A large city and seaport in British Columbia, Canada
  4. A city in the State of Washington, USA.
  5. A mountain between Alaska and Canada in the Saint Elias Mountains.

Derived terms



  • The True Meaning of Vancouver, Joseph Jones, Vancouver Sun, 1994-12-31, which in turn cites Woordenboek der Noord — en Zuidnederlandse plaatsnamen

Simple English

Vancouver Island is in the province of British Columbia in Canada. You can go there by boat from Vancouver (across the Strait of Georgia) or from the state of Washington (across the Strait of Juan de Fuca). Over 750,000 people live on the island. The first people to live on the island, before Europeans came, were the Nuu-chah-nulth, Salish, and Kwakiutl. The University of Victoria is located on Vancouver Island.

Cities and Towns

Some cities and towns on Vancouver Island:

  • Victoria
  • Nanaimo
  • Courtenay
  • Comox
  • Duncan
  • Crofton
  • Port Alberni
  • Ladysmith
  • Chemainus
  • Port Hardy
  • Parksville
  • Cumberland
  • Tofino
  • Uclulet
  • Colwood
  • Sidney
  • Qualicum Beach
  • Coombs
  • Port McNeill


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