As well as seeing some of the magnificent Canadian wildlife, my recent visit to Vancouver Island gave me the chance to learn a little about the history and peoples of British Columbia – from the First Nations and the European settlers to the construction of the Rocky Mountain Railway and island life today.
In Chemainus, an outdoor gallery of murals depicts steam ships, tug boats and trains, as well as portraits of tribal braves, and scenes featuring settlers, Chinese labourers, pioneers and others who’ve contributed to the story of this small Cowichan town.
Totem poles, made by First Nation craftsmen, are another big Vancouver Island attraction. Around 80 of these can be seen in the nearby town of Duncan, the ‘city of totems’, with towering examples featuring carved figures ravens, whales and other animals as well as human figures.
Thunderbird Park in Victoria, the provincial capital, is another place to admire totem poles, but has lots more to offer visitors, as well. This attractive coastal city feels a bit like England with its manicured lawns, hanging flower baskets and colonial buildings such as the domed parliament building and the grand Empress Hotel that overlooks the harbour.
Named after Queen Victoria, it’s known as the ‘City of Gardens’ and makes a popular day trip from the city of Vancouver on the British Columbia mainland – reached via a scenic ferry ride or a short flight on a float plane, which lands in the harbour and provides passengers with stunning views of the Gulf Islands as you come in to land.