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Although only a short journey away from one of Canada's largest cities and home to the regional capital of British Columbia, Vancouver Island feels a world away from urban life. Deserted beaches, forested mountains and rare wildlife cover the sparsely populated island, beckoning Victoria's visitors with its dramatic wilderness. Succumb to its call and experience it on skis, on bike or on foot.
Visit Victoria, the lively capital of British Columbia in the south of the island. A modern city that prides itself on its great food, drink and culture sits alongside beautiful heritage landmarks. The Royal BC Museum gives a compelling overview of the region's history. Wander the halls of two castles with elegant gardens: the Victorian-era Craigdarroch and Hatley Park, completed in 1908.
You can also tour the other towns on the island. Parksville is a charming collection of sandy beaches, heritage attractions and stylish dining spots. Port Hardy is a pocket of civilization surrounded by rugged wilderness that offers museums and sites of cultural significance for the island's First Nations.
Tie up your walking boots for energetic treks through Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and Juan de Fuca Provincial Park. Waymarked trails run around the coastline, leading to spectacular views and quiet beaches. Experienced hikers can try the famous West Coast Trail, a 47-mile (75-kilometer) route along the southwest Pacific shores.
Scan the waters for a sighting of black dorsal fins. Families of orcas enjoy the waters around Johnstone Strait and the Broughton Archipelago between June and October. Inland, black bears can be seen around Clayoquot Sound on a bear-watching tour.
Hit the slopes in winter at the Mount Washington Alpine Resort. Boarding, skiing and tubing are all available for speedy ways to get down the mountain, on routes used by international athletes.
Victoria International Airport is reached by Air Canada, United and other airlines. Perhaps the best way to reach the island, however, is by ferry from Vancouver, which provides unbeatable views of the mountains, woods and lakes when arriving on the water.
Overlooking Victoria's inner harbor, the condominium-style Victoria Regent Waterfront Hotel & Suites has a private dock; restaurants and nightlife surround the hotel, and many city attractions are less than 1 km (1 mi) away.
The Oswego Hotel is within 2 blocks of the Inner Harbour, Parliament Buildings, and the Royal BC Museum. Chinatown, the Maritime Museum, and the Victoria Royal Theatre are less than 2 km away.
Situated on a rise overlooking the city and harbor, this hotel is 3 blocks from Government Street, 3 blocks from the Royal BC Museum, and 4 blocks from Beacon Hill Park.
Located two blocks from Victoria's busy Inner Harbour, the European-style The Magnolia Hotel And Spa is one block from Government Street shops and three blocks from the Royal BC Museum.
Facing the Inner Harbour and adjacent to the Parliament Buildings, Hotel Grand Pacific is 2 blocks from the shops along Government Street and 5 blocks from Fisherman's Wharf.
This family-friendly Victoria aparthotel is located in the business district, within a 10-minute walk of St. Ann's Academy and British Columbia Parliament Building. Royal BC Museum and Miniature World are also within 5 minutes.
Situated on the waterfront, this hotel is within 1 mi (2 km) of Eagle Aerie Gallery, Tofino Bike Park, and Alternative Tofino's Indoor Climbing Gym. Tonquin Park and Tofino Botanical Gardens are also within 2 mi (3 km).
Located in the heart of Nanaimo, this spa hotel is within a 5-minute walk of Bastion and Nanaimo Museum. Old City Quarter and Petroglyph Park are also within 1 mi (2 km).