Now that the school year is coming to a close, you may be looking for things to do in Nanaimo and beyond—especially if this is your first summer on Vancouver Island. Here’s a list of activities to keep you occupied on your days off.
You can kayak almost anywhere there’s a source of water on Vancouver Island—which is, essentially, everywhere. Kayak lessons and/or guided kayak tours are located in Nanaimo, Parksville, Ladysmith, Victoria, Tofino, Maple Bay, Cowichan Bay, Lake Cowichan, and more. Kayak rentals are also available in the above locations, for those with prior kayaking experience. Some kayak companies are only open during the warmer months, and it’s best to plan your adventure in advance so you know what to expect.
Vancouver Island has some of the best surf in Canada. Surf lessons are available in Tofino, a world-famous destination for catching waves. If you’re an experienced surfer and are looking for a quieter beach, try Port Renfrew or Jordan River, which are located on Vancouver Island’s south-west coast. Surfboard rentals are located in Nanaimo, Tofino, Port Alberni, Parksville, and Victoria.
River tubing can be done anywhere there’s an inner tube and a calm patch of river. Nothing is more relaxing than grabbing a tube on a hot summer’s day and floating down a calm river. The town of Lake Cowichan is the most popular river tubing destination on the Island, as the section of the Cowichan River that flows from the lake and through the town is deemed very safe to tube. There are two tube rental companies located within the town, which also provide a shuttle service for busing tubers back to their cars. Tubers should be wary of tubing on any unknown sections of river, as conditions can quickly change from calm to hazardous.
Hiking is obviously a popular Vancouver Island activity. Some of our more famous hiking destinations are Strathcona Provincial Park, Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park, Pacific Rim National Park, the West Coast Trail, and the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail. However, every community on the Island boasts its fair share of hiking trails, so check with visitor centres and online to find your ideal hike.
The Pacific Marine Circle Route
If you’re in the mood for a road trip, the Pacific Marine Circle Route has you covered. The circle route loops from Duncan to Victoria to Sooke to Port Renfrew to Lake Cowichan and back to Duncan. The complete loop is just under five hours of driving time, but it can turn into a much longer trip depending on how many stops you make. Places to visit along the way include Cowichan Bay, Goldstream Provincial Park, Sooke Potholes Provincial Park, Sombrio Beach, China Beach, Botanical Beach, Avatar Grove, Fairy Lake, and Cowichan Lake.
Vancouver Island is home to many music festivals, ranging in size and genre. Tall Tree Music Festival, TD Victoria International Jazz Festival, Vancouver Island Music Festival, Islands Folk Festival, Laketown Rock Music Festival, Sunfest Country Music Festival, and Filberg Festival are just a few you can attend this summer.
Located in Duncan, The Raptors centre is home to birds of prey of all shapes and feathers. Staff at The Raptors help protect, conserve, and train the birds, which can be viewed at their visitor centre. Flying demonstrations occur daily during the summer.
Ever wanted to try spelunking? The staff at Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park in Qualicum Beach provide cave tours. In addition, there are more than a thousand caves on Vancouver Island, although not all of them are safe to explore, so ensure you do your research before embarking on any solo spelunking adventures.
If butterflies are something you find fascinating, head to Butterfly World Coombs and check out their butterfly garden. They even have an area where you can watch butterflies emerge from their cocoons; caterpillars no more.
The Cowichan Valley is well known for growing some of the best wines in the world, which can be sampled at its many vineyards. If you’re a wine enthusiast, try doing the Cowichan Valley wine route. A map of the route can be picked up in the Cowichan Regional Visitor Centre.
If forests are your thing, try WildPlay. An outdoor obstacle course consisting of zip lines, climbing, and more, WildPlay has two locations on the island—one just south of Nanaimo and one in Victoria. WildPlay is perfect for thrill-seekers and those just looking for a bit of fun. Bungee jumping is available at the Nanaimo location.
If WildPlay isn’t wild enough for you, try skydiving. Skydive Vancouver Island is located in Qualicum Beach—under an hour’s drive from the VIU Nanaimo campus.
Outdoor markets and farmers’ markets are incredibly popular on Vancouver Island. Nearly every community on the island has an outdoor market during the summer months. Some of the more well-known ones include Sidney Street Market, the Duncan Farmers’ Market, Moss Street Market, and Errington Farmers’ Market, although every market on the Island contains unique and interesting products. While not technically on Vancouver Island, Salt Spring Market and Hornby Island Farmers’ Market are also worth checking out.
You may have noticed that Vancouver Island is an outdoor recreation enthusiast’s dreamland. However, if you’re the type of person who would rather be locked in a room for an hour, escape rooms are the perfect activity for you. Gather a group of friends together or go solo and put your problem solving skills to the test. Escape rooms give you a series of clues to solve in order to exit the room within a time limit. They’re incredibly intense, but they’re also a fun and memorable way to spend an afternoon—whether or not you manage to claim victory. Currently, there is one escape room company in Nanaimo and multiple escape rooms in Victoria.
This list covers just a small sample of the activities you can do on the Island. For more ideas, explore Google or stop by a visitor centre in the community of your choice.