Please sign in to post.

Vancouver Island - why go anywhere else?

A well known doctor here in the UK - very knowledgeable and really helpful during the pandemic - Dr Sarah Jarvis, MBE, has finally taken a two week holiday and has written of how she dealt with a last minute change.

Normally I wouldn't quote a whole article, but if you will understand that this very inspiring trip report is hers and not mine, i will:

it reads,

Dreaming Big
I’d like to say that I’ve already been on my dream holiday – mostly because when I left for the airport in August 2023, I thought I was going on it.

I am a typical redhead – blue eyes, freckles and the kind of skin that has only two tones, translucent white and lobster red. In my childhood, there was so little awareness of the risks of skin cancer from the sun, and I grew up in a family of sun worshippers. The rest of the family lay on the beach getting tanned while I huddled under a sun umbrella, but I still experienced several episodes of severe sunburn.

Consequently, my aim on any holiday is to come back the same colour as I left, regardless of where I’ve been. That means large supplies of factor 50 sunscreen, floppy hats, long-sleeved cotton/linen tops and trousers and wrap-around sunglasses.

Fortunately, I’ve never had any desire to spend hours asleep on a beach – my idea of bliss is a walking holiday with spectacular views, new people to meet and good food at the end of a long day’s trek. I don’t need a fancy hotel but I’m too old for communal shower blocks and I do like a comfortable bed.

It takes a few days to wind down properly and during my long career, I’ve rarely had time to take more than a week. So while any time away is a treat, my perfect holiday would have to last at least 2 weeks.

That’s why 16 days in Canada, with 10 days spent driving and hiking our way through the Rockies really was (and is) my dream holiday. We had rented a motorhome for the trip and were due to collect it after a few days spent exploring Vancouver Island.

The holiday started off exceeding every expectation. Vancouver Island is bigger than Belgium and is home to only 850,000 people, of whom half live in one metropolitan area on the southern tip. Long and thin, it has a vast wild, deserted coastline packed with wildlife.

Our amazing hosts welcomed us to a home, set on a steep bank to the water, with views across the bay from every angle. Within hours we were kayaking across the bay, stopping to watch a baby seal fast asleep within feet of us until its mother nudged it to make us aware of our presence. Bald eagles swooped from the treetops as the sun set over the bay and chickadees and woodpeckers fluttered around the bird table.

The Unexpected Twist
In the morning, hummingbirds flocked to the sugar-water feeder right outside the kitchen window. Over the next four days we hiked up mountains where we felt on top of the world, cycled through shady forest paths, saw sea otters and many more seals and, one special morning, were called to our hosts’ porch for a view of a passing pod of Orca whales.

I had been determined that nothing was going to spoil our first proper holiday in years. Passports, airport parking, tickets and connections had been checked and checked again; travel insurance had been booked well in advance and the documents were safely in my hand luggage, along with my medication; campsites were booked and I knew I didn’t need any special vaccinations.

Vancouver Island
But the night before we were due to depart for the Rockies, the terrible wildfires in British Columbia meant that a ban of all non-essential travel to the Rockies was introduced – almost a first in summertime. This was one eventuality I could never have planned for.


Posted by
31513 posts


Thankfully, our extraordinary hosts, who had lived on the island for 40 years, were determined that we should still make the most of our trip. Fortunately, we had only explored a tiny corner of Vancouver Island, so we were able to redraw our plans and instead spent the rest of our trip travelling the island in our motor home.

Over the next ten days, we hiked through ancient forest; explored deserted beaches populated by exotic birds and vast stone ‘sea stacks’; watched salmon leaping up the falls to their spawning grounds; spotted bear tracks in the sand and even saw a black bear.

Unplanned Adventures...
Cormorant Island, just off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island, is home to many First Nation members, including the Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw Tribes of 'Namgis First Nation. We reached the main village, Alert Bay, via an impressively efficient and regular ferry service from the mainland and immediately set off down the boardwalk along the seafront, shrouded in picturesque mist, to the U'mista Cultural Centre, set up to ensure the survival of all aspects of the cultural heritage of the Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw.

Alert Bay
We wandered through rooms filled with masks and ceremonial objects, marvelling at the stories, traditions and images of this proud people. The extraordinary Potlatch Collection - filled with costumes and ceremonial masks from this opulent ceremonial feast when members of the community would gather for days, dancing, singing and giving away their wealth to enhance their prestige in the community - was breathtaking.

Alert Bay is sometimes known as the home of the Orca, so I was excited to catch another glimpse of these magnificent creatures. As we sat on the dock waiting for the ferry, my eye was caught by a splash in the water. Too close to land for Orcas, but as I watched, a dolphin emerged, followed by another…and another…and another. Within seconds, the whole pod was leaping – seemingly as if from pure joy – through the waves in front of us.

...and New Found Favourites
So was it my dream holiday? Well, I still plan to go back and hike in the Rockies – but I would recommend 2 weeks on Vancouver Island to anyone.

Posted by
31513 posts

Author: Dr Sarah Jarvis, MBE, General Practitioner (GP)
Dr Sarah Jarvis is the Clinical Director of the Patient Platform, an active medical writer, broadcaster, and the resident doctor for BBC Radio 2.

That was from the newsletter from my travel insurance company.

Posted by
3860 posts

What a rich experience she had even if it wasn’t what she had first planned. I like her ability to pivot and her positive attitude. Thanks for sharing, Nigel.

EDIT: Even though her writing style was clear and full of vivid descriptions, I hope your article had some great pictures of leaping dolphins and beautiful artifacts.

Posted by
4482 posts

Nigel, thank you so much for that article. I lived on Vancouver Island for many years, and this article brought back many happy memories of camping up island with our (then) young children.

Posted by
426 posts

Thank you for sharing! Her article highlights some of the reasons why a certain percentage of Canadians retire to Vancouver Island. It is a beloved part of Canada (and doesn’t have particularly cold or snowy winters).

Posted by
276 posts

Have had great experiences on Vancouver Island, particularly Tofino. Took a sailing trip one time from Port Hardy through the Gulf Islands and BC coast to Prince Rupert. As a kid in the 70s I remember going with my parents to Nanaimo then a ferry over to Quadra Island to visit friends. It felt so remote and wild. Always love to go to Victoria. Really enjoyed the southwest coast beaches too from Victoria to Port Renfrew.

Posted by
3797 posts

I like her ability to pivot and her positive attitude.

I was going to write the same thing. It's also a good case study of not dashing from place to place trying to see everything and ending up seeing nothing.

Posted by
1451 posts

Lovely spot. I worked on the island for a while in the early nineties. Might have stayed there if circumstances had been different.

Posted by
2102 posts

Thanks so much for sharing. What wonderfully written visualizations. It was relaxing just to read it and most of us would never have seen it.

Posted by
2861 posts

Thanks Nigel.
We can see Vancouver Island from the top of a nearby street to us….some of my family live there and love it.

Posted by
164 posts

I moved from Edmonton to Vancouver Island 11 years ago. It is a glorious place with the cleanest air you can imagine. A day doesn’t go by without seeing an eagle soaring above. I am lucky to be living beside an old growth forest and walk my dog there most days.

I don’t think anyone could go wrong planning a vacation here. The people are friendly and welcoming. The vistas are beautiful, and nature is a stone’s throw away.

Posted by
3036 posts

Thanks Nigel. I used to work for the Victoria Clipper, the fast boat between Seattle and the island. So many great things about this island. Butchart Gardens anyone?