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Best Spots to Check Out on the Coast of Vancouver

Adventure, fun and new experiences await on British Columbia's famed island

Two people are walking side by side on a rocky beach. It looks grey and overcast. Behind them are tall trees in shadow. To the right side, are rock formations with moss growing on them.

With spectacular natural views, outdoor activities and cultural exploration all close by on Vancouver Island, here are five of our top picks for your next trip.

The Spirit Trail

There is a silver spiral at the centre of the image. Surrounding is a wooden wall that opens up to the sky. There is a mirror or reflection at the top of the right hand side, where it’s possible to see a few people.

This unique looped waterfront path winds its way through some of the island’s most breathtaking scenery along the coast, connecting many growing communities and new landmarks.

One of the key stops along the way is the towering Malahat SkyWalk, the newest year-round outdoor attraction, which is built upon land of the Malahat First Nations. You’ll learn their Indigenous stories throughout the visitor experience.

Stroll the 600-metre TreeWalk through beautiful evergreens to a gently sloped ramp that leads you to the viewing platform. There, you’ll see sweeping views of Mount Baker, Finlayson Arm, the Saanich Peninsula and islands in two countries from a height of 250-metres above sea level.

Enjoy the sights, sounds and rich depth of the coastal forest before descending on foot or going down the spiral slide.

“Visitors are looking for immersive, local experiences that showcase the real Vancouver Island and the people who live here. The Spirit Loop offers that,” says Ken Bailey, general manager of the Skywalk.

The Skywalk is a highlight on the loop, but visitors can also find plenty of other great spots nearby, too, like the Harbourside West Overpass, a 280-metre pedestrian bridge or Moodyville Park, which displays several pieces of public art.

Explore Sooke

The inside of a domed space with a single double bed that is partially cut off. There is a hite fireplace on one side of the bed with a small red bowl on top of the mantle. There is a dark brown leather arm chair next to the fireplace with an Indigenous-print throw. On the other side of the fireplace is a small wooden chest. Next to it is a small round side table with a single lamp on it.

Situated on the lands of the T’Sou-ke First Nations, the city is home to many lush parks, award-winning restaurants and talented local artisans.

Stop at Mom’s Café for a homemade apple pie or indulge in a brick-oven pizza topped with locally harvested ingredients at Wild Mountain.

Nature enthusiasts can rent a kayak to explore the nearby lakes or hike through Sooke Potholes Regional Park.

Look for the deep, polished rock pools and carved canyons popular for swimming along the Sooke River. Dip into the ponds of clear green water linked by waterfalls and gorges.

Stay the night at the Spring Salmon Place Campground, which has 67 RV sites and tent facilities run by the T’Souke First Nations.

Stop by Shirley

A lone white and red lighthouse is perched on some rocks. Behind it, a small white building with a brown roof is visible. Surrounding the rocks is dark blue water.

Just west of Sooke is the quaint hamlet of Shirley, B.C., where you can browse eclectic shops, dine at charming restaurants and wander nearby paths.

Sit down at Shirley Delicious for a cup of coffee and a bite to eat, then take a walk along the Juan de Fuca Trail, which leads to Mystic Beach, where you’ll find a small waterfall.

Don’t miss the 100-year-old Sheringham Point Lighthouse that stands above the rocky coastline on the southwest tip of the island.

See the grove

A lone person wearing a red and black checkered shirt, black pants and a light-coloured fedora is standing and looking up at some very tall trees. On the ground, there are a mass of criss crossing roots.

Near Port Renfrew is the old growth rainforest Avatar Grove, with its massive cedar and fir trees that date back hundreds of years. Some of the trees have trunks that are nearly 4.5-metres around. It’s also home to Canada’s Gnarliest Tree, a mammoth cedar that’s sure to impress.

Hike to new heights

The back of a person wearing a bright yellow coat and a light grey knit toque with a pom pom is looking at a map. The map is predominantly green with Mt. Finlayson marked in the top left corner in a series of circles. There is a legend in the top right hand side with several places identified, including Nature House, Park Trail and Park Boundary.

Enjoy scenic glimpses of southern Vancouver Island from Mount Finlayson in Goldstream Provincial Park.

The six-kilometre loop trail is a popular route with challenging, steep terrain, but the bird’s-eye perspective from the top is well worth the effort to get there.

After your hike, cool off with a swim in Langford Lake, a hidden gem for locals.

Be prepared

Before you head out for your next adventure, speak to a CAA Travel Consultant to help plan your trip and to discuss your travel insurance options for complete coverage. Or if you need to book a hotel or car rental, enjoy Member-exclusive discounts from CAA Rewards® partners. Don't forget to show your CAA card at popular attractions as you may get discounts courtesy of BCAA.

Image credit: Jordan Dyck/Tourism Vancouver Island, Milen Kootnikoff/Malahat SkyWalk, Indigenous Tourism BC/Alicia Haque/Fraser Canyon Teepee Escape, Tom Ryan/Destination BC, Ben Giesbrecht/Tourism Vancouver Island, Jordan Dyck/Destination BC