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Vancouver Island

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Vancouver Island is part of the Canadian province of British Columbia. Its west coast is wet while the east coast is drier and rolling. Vancouver Island Ranges run most of the length of the island, with Golden Hinde its highest point at 2195 metres. Strathcona Provincial Park near the centre of the island is 250,000 hectares and is part of a group of peaks including some glaciers.

Being in a temperate rainforest biome, the southern and eastern parts of the island have Douglas fir, western red cedar, arbutus, Garry oak, salal, Oregon grape and manzanita in great quantities. The northern, western and central parts of the island have big trees similar to those on the mainland — hemlock, western red cedar, amabilis fir, yellow cedar, broadleaf maple and red huckleberry.

Vancouver Island's fauna is similar to that on the mainland coast with some exceptions and additions. Grizzlies, porcupine, moose and coyote are absent from the island, but you will find Canada's only population of Roosevelt elk, while the Vancouver Island marmot is endemic to the region. It also has North America's most concentrated population of cougar. River, lakes and coastal areas are teeming with fish — trout, salmon and steelhead.

Most people go to the island to enjoy the old-growth rainforests, sparkling beaches, majestic mountains and crystal waters. They can cycle along country lanes, enjoy seafood feasts, take in alpine meadows filled with wildflowers and rolling vistas of farmlands and vineyards.

Some people, however, make a point of going when the weather is cold, wet and miserable. Between November and March, they head for the west coast to experience the hospitality of Charles McDiarmid, owner of Wickaninnish Inn, known to most as Wick.

The inn's story began in 1955. The McDiarmid vision was to reflect the rugged and untamed surrounds but with all creature comforts and without making too great an impact on the environment. The architecture is typical northwest-coast style, utilising cedar, fir, driftwood and stone.

Wickaninnish Inn has direct access to Chesterman Beach, just outside Tofino, and has ocean or beach views from every room. Some rooms have a fireplace, soaker tub and balcony.

Pointe Restaurant seats 75 and has a glorious 240-degree outlook, with a menu focusing on local seafood and organic ingredients from nearby farms. Driftwood Lounge, on the property's beach level, offers drinks and snacks in front of a wood fire. There's even a boot dryer for those who've walked along the beach.

Ancient Cedars Spa is an Aveda destination spa offering treatments in a place nestled into the forest fringe, next to wave-dashed rocks. It offers relaxation, rejuvenation, wellbeing and harmony.

If you think storm-watching from the shore is exciting, try it from a boat! Subtidal Adventures offers scenic harbour tours taking you past the fish boat docks to the mouth of Ucluelet Harbour for a taste of the "rough stuff"— but only for a few minutes — before returning to the harbour. Feel the power of the mighty Pacific and appreciate the calm of the harbour in a short one and a half hour cruise on the Dixie IV. For a more extreme ride, choose the Discovery. Eagles, sea lions and seals are common in the harbour.

Tofino Sea Kayaking Company operates sea kayaking trips. Put on your yellow rainjacket, cross Tofino Harbour and island-hop the shorelines and cruise shallow eelgrass flats. Take a short stroll on Meares Island through ancient rainforest.


Off Canada's Pacific coast.


Wickaninnish Inn rooms start at around $310 a night.

Subtidal Adventures Perfect Storm Cruises cost around $60 for adults and $50 for children. They run between October and February.

Tofino Sea Kayaking Company has four-hour tours costing around $80 per person in a single or double kayak. They offer 2.5 and five-hour tours, with a 10-percent discount for children under 12.

Air New Zealand has flights to Los Angeles with connections to Vancouver. All taxes and surcharges are included. On sale all year and for travel between January 17-June 16, 2007.

Fares from;
  • Sydney, $2245
  • Melbourne, $2329
  • Brisbane, $2331
  • Adelaide, $2547
  • Perth, $2732

Prices quoted are correct on October 5, 2006.

More information

Wickaninnish Inn
Box 250, Tofino, BC
Canada VOR 2ZO
Ph: 0011 1 250 725 3100

Subtidal Adventures
Box 78
Ucluelet BC
Canada VOR 3A0
Ph: 0011 1 877 444 1134
E-mail: :

Tofino Sea Kayaking
320 Main Street
Tofino BC
Canada VOR 2Z0
Ph: 0011 1 250 725 4222
E-mail: :

Canadian Tourism Commission
Ph: 1300 300 576

Air New Zealand
Ph: 132 476

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