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Discovering Vancouver Island

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.

IMG_8731 Discovering Vancouver Island

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.

IMG_9051 Discovering Vancouver Island

IMG_9046 Discovering Vancouver Island

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.

IMG_8633 Discovering Vancouver Island

IMG_8625 Discovering Vancouver Island

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.

IMG_8558 Discovering Vancouver Island

IMG_8584 Discovering Vancouver Island

IMG_8592 Discovering Vancouver Island

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.

IMG_8704 Discovering Vancouver Island

Written by Duncan Mills

Duncan Mills is a journalist and editor with a passion for travel and photography, good food and the great outdoors. He’s visited more than sixty countries on six continents and was the deputy editor of Traveller magazine prior to joining the AB internal communications agency in 2013. He lives amid the scenic woodlands and rolling green hills of England’s South Downs National Park.


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  1. Fantastic photography. I am fortunate enough to be able to visit Vancouver Island and neighbouring Salt Spring Island on a yearly basis. Your photos have perfectly captured the area’s essence.

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