While Canada is not typically somewhere thought of for an Island retreat, it has dozens of islands along its coastline that are just waiting to be explored. Whether it is the East coast or the West coast, islands in Canada offer an escape from the busy cities and some jaw dropping scenery.
Below you will find some of the most beautiful islands in Canada to help you plan your next getaway!
Beautiful Islands in Canada
Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands), British Columbia
Contributed by James Ian from Travel Collecting
Haida Gwaii, formerly called the Queen Charlotte Islands, is an archipelago off the coast of British Columbia, between Vancouver Island and Alaska. The two largest islands, both in the north, have several small settlements. The two main towns to visit are Skidegate on Graham Island, where there is a ferry to/ from Prince Rupert on the mainland and Vancouver Island, and Sandspit on Moresby Island, where there is an airport with daily flights to/ from Vancouver.
The southern islands are home to the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve. These remote islands, accessible only by boat or sea plane, are covered in woods and often shrouded in mist, giving them a haunting beauty. They are home to incredible wildlife such as black bears and Sitka Deer; marine life including sea lions, orcas and humpback whales; and birds like ospreys and bald eagles.
The other main reason to come here is to discover Haida cultural heritage. This is the Haida First Nation’s people’s home and it is a wonderful place to gain an insight into their culture. The Haida Gwaii Museum in Skidegate provides an informative introduction to the Haida people’s oral history, language, architecture, food and more.
The highlight of a visit to the islands, however, is a trip to the southern Anthony Island, which is home to SG̱ang Gwaay Llanagaay (often called Ninstints in English). This is a UNESCO World Heritage listed former Haida village. Long abandoned, it has been left to slowly decay and return to nature, in accordance with Haida beliefs. It has the largest collection of totem poles in their natural setting in the world, as well as ruins of village buildings. The ruins and totem poles, many still standing, next to a pebbly beach and surrounded the woods that cover the national park. Visiting it is a truly remarkable experience. It is best visited on a multi-day sea kayaking trip around Haida Gwaii, but there are also boat and sea plane trips available.
Victoria, Vancouver Island, British Columbia
Contributed by Alex Mergler – Get Out with Kids
Victoria is the capital of British Columbia and is found on the southern end of Vancouver Island. The best way to get there is by ferry. Not because it is quick, but because it is stunning! Once ashore and settled into Victoria, you will be spoilt for choice of the best things to do in the area.
If you are a fan of parks, gardens, colonial architecture and/or marine life, you can fill your boots with sight-seeing activities in Victoria. The pick of the parks right in Victoria itself is Beacon Hill Park. It is 75 ha and a mecca for walking trails, two playgrounds, a waterpark, playing fields, a petting zoo, tennis courts, ponds and landscaped gardens. Whilst beautiful all year round, it is simply stunning in fall.
If architecture is your thing, then you will want to check out the 19th century architecture of the Craigdarroch Castle, a historical mansion. It has been designated a National Historic Site. You will need to allow at least 3 hours to tour this gorgeous castle.
Love animals? Take a whale-watching tour or walk along the seawall and you are likely to spot seals feeding and playing in the water. Or visit the IMAX which is often playing nature-related movies for guests.
If you fancy watching the seaplanes flying in and out of the harbour, I recommend staying at the Inn at Laurel Point and requesting a harbour view room. Most definitely worth it! And if you are keen on seafood chowder in a bread bowl, the best place to find that is at Bard and Banker pub on the corner of Government street and Fort street downtown. One of the quintessential things to do in Victoria is to enjoy high tea in the city.
Victoria is a beautiful part of Vancouver Island. I would recommend a 3 day minimum stay. Victoria is also the perfect spot for shopping. Check out this post on souvenirs from Canada so you have an idea of what things you can only get in Canada as well as iconic souvenirs to buy.
Nanaimo, Vancouver Island British Columbia
Contributed by Lotte from Phenomenal Globe Travel Blog
Many people visiting beautiful Vancouver Island only explore Victoria and perhaps Tofino, but tend to skip Nanaimo, the second-largest town of Vancouver Island. Located on the east side of the island, Nanaimo is good place to base yourself to explore this part of Vancouver Island. There are lots of things to do in Nanaimo, as well as in the area around it.
When strolling through downtown Nanaimo you will come across Nanaimo Old Town features where you can admire several revitalized heritage buildings, dating back from the 1850s. Visit Nanaimo Museum and The Bastion, a city landmark, before crossing the water to Newcastle Island. Here you can go for a hike or engage in of the events organized by the Snuneymuxw people who manage the island. Alternatively, hop on a 10-minute ferry to Protection Island and grab a beer at the Dinghy Dock Pub, the Canada’s only floating pub.
Outdoor enthusiasts can hike the 5km Ammonite Falls track. The hike is lovely enough on its own, but please note that the waterfalls are at their peak in springtime and are much smaller throughout the rest of the year. Another excellent hike is the Mount Benson loop trail. This 8km trail leads to the top of 1000 meter tall Mount Benson and offers spectacular views from the top. On a sunny day, hop in your car and drive to nearby Qualicum Beach to enjoy an afternoon at the beautiful sandy beach of QB.
Insider tip: if you happen to be in town on Sunday, definitely visit Cedar Farmers Market located at 1984 Woodbank Road. This Farmers Market is held every Sunday from 10 am to 2 pm between May and October and is a great place to buy some local produce.
More Planning tips: Fun things to do in Nanaimo in October
Tofino, Vancouver Island, British Columbia
Vancouver Island has been getting a lot of attention, but that attention is well worth it! Tofino is a bit of a hidden gem, somewhere I have only in the last few years, experienced for myself!
Located on Canada’s West Coast, Tofino offers a surfer meets food lover vibe with some West Coast views that cannot be beat!
Make sure to grab a morning coffee and donut from Rhino Tofino. Tacofino is the place to grab lunch (and then dessert next door from Chocolate Tofino). For dinner head into town and try your luck getting into the Wolf and the Fog. Shelter and 1906 are other great places to try!
Getting to Tofino: Tofino is accessed by one main highway from Nanaimo. You can read about driving from Vancouver to Tofino or Nanaimo to Tofino and also information on Ucluelet to Tofino. You can also fly in or if you have a boat, there is a marina.
Accommodation Suggestions for Tofino:
Duffin Cove Resort Duffin Cove is newly renovated and is right in Tofino. They have a few A frame cabins right on the water that you can book as well. The nice thing about staying here is that you can leave your car and walk into town. Parking can be busy in town in high season.
Hotel Zed Tofino Hotel Zed is right off the highway and less than 500m from Chesterman Beach. It is 1.1 km from Mackenzie Beach. Your stay includes free parking and there is a restaurant on site. Hotel Zed is known for its eclectic styled accommodations. You cannot miss it! Pets are welcome at Hotel Zed.
Shoreline Tofino Shoreline Tofino offers a rustic feel with A Frame loft style cabins. it is close to the downtown core of Tofino and on the harbour side.
Pacific Sands Beach Resort Pacific Sands is the epitome of luxury. Featuring townhouse style accommodations and jetted tubs with a view, few other properties can walk right out to Cox Bay beach! Depending on your accommodation type, you can have a full kitchen and multiple bedrooms. If storm watching or walking the sandy beaches are your thing, choose Pacific Sands! It is perfect for families and getaways with friends!
Long Beach Lodge Resort Long Beach lodge features oceanfront rooms as well as cabins with hot tubs. There are surfing rentals and lessons right on site. It is situated on Cox Bay beach
Thousand Islands, Ontario
By Mayuri from Canada Crossroads
The Thousand Islands are an archipelago of over 1800 islands that lay along the US Canada border. These islands are located in the Canadian province of Ontario, and one can easily embark on road trips from Toronto to explore the same.
Technically, the islands are about 80 kilometers from Kingston, another Ontario city. The islands boast two world-famous UNESCO designated sites – Frontenac Arch Biosphere and Rideau Heritage Route. Coupled with that is the stunning lush greenery, the blue waters, and tons of cruise and aqua activities to indulge in.
The Thousand Islands are perfect for the outdoorsy families to embark on walking trails, all year round. There are amazing staycation options available both in Kingston and near the islands.
One of the must-do activities here is to enjoy the cruise ride, soaking in the views of all the islands! Discovery Cruises start at $36 CAD, and it is for 90 minutes. It is recommended that you make a reservation ahead of time, prior to your visit.
For hotels, stay at the Gananoque Inn & Spa. There is a grill, bar & restaurant – Muskie Jake’s Tap & Grill – which is a great spot to enjoy Canadian summers on their patio deck, and enjoy delicious cuisine. They are open all year round, and during winters they light up the place to ring in the festive spirit!
Prince Edward Island
Contributed by Kirsten Maxwell from Kids Are A Trip
There is no contest when it comes to the most beautiful island in Canada, as Prince Edward Island stands out from the rest. Located in the Atlantic provinces between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, its rolling green hills, yellow fields of mustard, and red sandstone cliffs make for some of the most spectacular scenery in Canada
The island might be known as the setting of Anne of Green Gables (one of the island’s main attractions), but that’s not the only reason to visit. Outdoor enthusiasts can explore PEI National Park and 23 provincial parks, the island’s scenic heritage roads, and stunning beaches. Families should try clam digging, trying the Off the Wallz obstacle course in Summerside, and visiting the local drive in theater. Everyone will love the island’s fresh seafood, shopping in Charlottetown, and finding lighthouses around the island (there are 63 of them).
We would highly recommend booking a vacation rental home on PEI, as there are some spectacular options with water views. Choose a home base that is centrally located, so you can take day trips to different places around the island. The homes near Cavendish offer easy access to plenty of attractions but can get crowded during the summer. We fell in love with Prince Edward Island and we think you will too
Lindsay Nieminen is the creator of UncoveringBC.com. She grew up and still lives in the suburbs of Vancouver with her family. She aims to inspire inform, and educate others about traveling in her home province of British Columbia. She is also the creator of carpediemourway.com which aims to show parents how to seek out adventure at home or abroad, with their children in tow!