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Several years ago my husband and I took our nine and 10-year-old daughters on an adventurous, three week tour of British Columbia. We traveled by air, railroad, automobile, and ferryboat. We saw Vancouver, Jasper National Park, the scenic interior, and the Inside Passage, but of all the beautiful places we visited, Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands were the most enticing. The combination of rain forests, high mountain peaks and untamed beaches was irresistible. If at all possible, you should plan a trip to Vancouver Island apart from the mainland - it deserves a week or two (at least) of its own.
Books to Take with You
Moon Handbook Vancouver & Victoria lists just about everything you could want to see, do, eat, or stay at on Vancouver Island. Topics range from whale watching, kayaking and hiking to First Nations culture, fine dining and museums. Another excellent choice is Frommer's Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands & the San Juan Islands. This guidebook includes a little more detailed information than the Moon Handbook, while offering 12 lists of highlights, such as Best Family Vacations, Best Bed-and-Breakfasts, Most Scenic Drives, etc.
Good Online Sources
Tourism BC's webpage for Vancouver Island is user friendly and beautifully designed. Be sure to explore it fully, taking advantage of links to different locales, attractions, interactive maps, and more. The Tips from Travelers link is a neat feature, allowing site users to recommend great experiences. Tourism Vancouver Island offers a set of virtual travel guides that include general handbooks plus others that highlight special features of the island such as Golf Vacations, Flower Trails, Wine Islands and Art and Culture Trails.
Vancouver Island is not just a summer getaway! The ocean's influence keeps the coastal areas mostly free of snow and there are many glorious days even in the winter. Tofino and Ucluelet located on the wild Pacific Ocean front, are fabulous for winter storm watching, often from the warmth and safety of a B&B or resort hotel with picture windows. Mt. Washington Alpine Resort has one of the deepest snowpacks in North America and offers downhill skiing, a Nordic ski track that meanders through Strathcona Provincial Park, and even luge facilities and lessons.
Take It From Me
Vancouver Island's beauty and ease of travel from the Bay Area make it a tantalizing destination. I have to warn you, though, if you choose to vacation here- eventually, we bought land and built a house on one of the Gulf Islands, an adventure in itself!
Photo credit: Parliament Buildings, Inner Harbour, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada by adam79
Lucinda Abbott is an MLIS candidate at San Jose State University, completing an internship at Atherton Library. She lives most of the time in Palo Alto with her husband, two teenage daughters, and a middle-aged boxer. She spends a month each summer at her home on Denman Island, and dreams of the day that she is retired and can live there full time.