I'm pleased to introduce you to Judy, a long-time resident of Vancouver Island, an avid traveler, and a woman of many talents, from administration to jewelry design to writing to painting and more. Who better to provide us with suggestions for traveling solo on Vancouver Island?
Vancouver Island is an ideal destination for the solo traveler who loves the outdoors and all it has to offer. Rugged beaches, huge mountains, lush rainforests, and a haven for wildlife coexist in a unique setting that also includes a rich indigenous culture and a fitness friendly, cosmopolitan city.
There are some amazing trails and out-of-the-way spots to explore. Not far from even the most remote areas is a lively mix of nightlife, music, and art, with incredible culinary offerings drawn from the island's rich bounty.
I’ve made my home on and around Vancouver Island for many years and I still have so much to discover! There are far more than 10 things to see and do. Even if you do a couple of these, I guarantee that you will still have stories to tell and a desire to come back for more!
10 Great Options When You're Solo on Vancouver Island
Vancouver Island has so much that is geared to solo travelers, from hiking, camping, and fishing to scenic tours, whale watching, wine tours, art studio tours, glamping, and more. I've lived in the area for almost 30 years. Here are ten activities I recommend you consider adding to your itinerary.
1. Board the Ferry
Getting to Vancouver Island can be a highlight of your journey. Ferries from Vancouver and Seattle take you through the glorious waterways of the Salish Sea. From Vancouver, board with your vehicle or on foot. You can see whales, porpoises, and sea lions right from the passenger deck.
BC Ferries also connects to many of the unique Gulf Islands along the coast. Schedules are readily available online. It is definitely worth checking out these magical islands, with their small communities and laid-back feel. Check ahead as accommodation becomes scarce in the peak summer season.
2. Walk or Cycle Around Victoria
There is so much to see and do in Victoria, BC’s capital. On the southern tip of Vancouver Island, it offers an eclectic mix of historical buildings, abundant shopping, great restaurants, and pubs, crisscrossed with nature trails and beaches in a stunning ocean backdrop. Explore on your own or choose from an incredible variety of guided tours tailored to your interests, from gardens to museums to cultural sites. Even Cannabis tours are available! There is so much to choose from.
Two excellent routes for hiking and biking – the Galloping Goose and Lochside trails – are within the municipal region. Rent an ebike to see the sights. Or, pick up a latte or gourmet snack and stroll down to one of the clean, peaceful local beaches to enjoy a spectacular view. It often feels like you are far away from an urban center.
You could be completely satisfied if all you do is stay here. Of course, if the capital city is all you see, you will miss out on some really unique breathtaking sights and unforgettable adventures!
3. Drive the Pacific Marine Circle Route
This is a 289 km loop that starts in Victoria and runs through the seaside village of Sooke, the gateway to breathtaking scenery and wilderness activities that include surfing and whale watching. Highly recommended is the Zipline tour from Adrena Line. It’s a unique and green way to see the natural beauty from atop the treeline! Stay a couple of days in the area and enjoy the local distillery, cafes, and scenic cottage resorts.
The route turns into a former logging road after Port Renfrew, which is the head of the famous West Coast Hiking Trail. This is what we call “the real West Coast,” home to open ocean, old growth forest, and the magical Juan de Fuca Provincial Park. Be prepared to lose cell service, and make sure to fill your tank since there is only one gas station on this route.
Driving solo on Vancouver Island is easy if you are prepared. Check out our great tips on how to enjoy a solo road trip.
4. Climb the Malahat Skywalk
Heading north from Victoria, the spectacular Malahat highway takes you up a mountain along the Eastern coastline. Stop and climb the Skywalk, a spiral tower built in 2021, that leads to a 32-meter viewing deck. From this lookout you are able to view the unforgettable panorama of sea inlets & mountains of the Saanich Inlet and far beyond. The Skywalk also has the benefit of being wheelchair and stroller friendly!
5. Surf Tofino
Surfers come here in all weather to try out the grand waves of the open ocean and experience the true West Coast surf culture. Even if you don’t surf, visiting Tofino is a must. With 35 km of magnificent beaches, unique rock formations, and ancient forests, it is a jewel on Vancouver Island’s West Coast. Definitely not to be missed.
Always check road conditions before you go. The way here is a beautiful but often unpredictable route. On the way, stop by Cathedral Grove Park, one of the last enclaves of old growth forest.
6. Take a Culinary Tour
A delectable Vancouver Island feature is the abundance of healthy, fresh, local fare. You’re quite likely to find fresh caught seafood on your plate with crisp, organic veggies and seasonal wild mushrooms. We also have wineries, distilleries, and craft beer producers who all benefit from the mild winters and ideal growing conditions to produce high quality products.
Point your fork in any direction and you’ll likely find a rich bounty of locally grown and harvested treats. The Comox Valley, a little more than halfway up the Island, is home to a fertile and lush landscape. Book a tour with Island Gourmet Trails, run by locals who will guide you to the Valley’s delectable offerings.
Nearby Mount Washington hosts the annual BC Seafood Festival in June, where chefs, producers, and guests converge to celebrate the best of the province’s sustainable offerings.
No solo trip on Vancouver Island is complete without exploring the culinary options. Our post about food and wine travel planning tells you how to do it.
7. Go Fishing
You may like to get out there and catch your food! People come here to fish for salmon, rockfish, and lingcod. At the right time of the year, local guides will take you out to the open ocean for tuna and halibut. Freshly caught prawns and Dungeness crab are here in abundance and often on the menu.
Consider staying at a local fishing resort and get out on the water with experienced guides who know where the fish are! Quatsino Lodge, near the Island’s northern tip, is only accessible by boat. From the moment you are picked up at the dock, you enter a world of fishing enthusiasts. Private rooms are available to the solo traveler at no extra cost. Guests gather together to dine and see orcas, otters, and eagles through the large picture windows.
8. Do a Glamping Stay
From rustic cabins and seaside yurts to tents on platforms and geodesic domes, you can find a wide range of glamping sites up and down the Island. Prices and amenities vary wildly and it’s a good idea to do your research. It’s a unique way to stay in nature while experiencing some creature comforts. Pricier than camping by a longshot, but who would not want to experience staying in a treehouse sphere?
9. Explore Indigenous Culture
Learn about the rich history and culture of the First Nations people here through art, storytelling, cuisine, and wildlife viewing guided by the people whose ancestors have lived here for centuries. Vancouver Island has a thriving population of carvers, weavers, knitters, painters, filmmakers, and jewelers. You can find a stunning collection of ancient and contemporary artwork in virtually every community. The Indigenous owned Kwa’lilas Hotel in Port Hardy celebrates this, in its premier offerings of west coast inspired cuisine and craft cocktails, and prominent displays throughout the hotel and in its gallery.
10. Get to Cape Scott Park
At the northwestern tip of Vancouver Island, 563 km from Victoria, is the remote wilderness of Cape Scott. The Park is a destination for hikers and has over 100 km of backcountry trails through pristine rainforests, majestic beaches, and some of the most spectacular terrain found on this coast. It’s not for the faint of heart. Be prepared with proper survival gear, and make sure to leave no litter or food scraps behind. In this place, we know that we are the visitors to the natural home of bears, cougars, eagles, whales, and sea lions. It is an abundant symphony of nature.
New to camping? Read First Time Camping Solo? Don’t Worry – Here’s What You Need for useful ideas to make your experience safe and enjoyable. Considering hiking solo on Vancouver Island? Check out Solo Hiking: What You Need to Know to Hike Alone.
Vancouver Island is on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the Kwakwaka’wakw, Nuu-chah-nulth, and Coast Salish peoples.