Spring has sprung on Vancouver Island. The rhododendrons are in bloom, the cherry blossoms are blowing in the coastal breeze, and the rainforest is covered in the wet dew of the changing seasons. The spring season is a gentle reminder of the sunny days to come, filled with longer days peppered with misty sun showers as we break from winter’s cold grasp. One of the best things about travelling to Vancouver Island in the spring is that there are a myriad of outdoor activities not to be missed- rain or shine.
What to Pack for Vancouver Island in the Spring
Spring on Vancouver Island is truly a basket full of weather surprises. In a single day, you’ll often see a morning of cloud coverage with wet roads and cold winds, followed by an afternoon of blissful moments basking in the sunshine. The weather on Vancouver Island, especially in the spring, leaves visitors and locals constantly on their toes. A well-versed local will advise travellers to “dress in layers” when visiting Vancouver Island in the spring. Here’s what we recommend packing on essentially any excursion when you’re visiting Vancouver Island this time of year.
- Rain jacket
- Mid-layer jacket (for example, a puffy jacket)
- Light, wool sweater
- All-weather pants (bonus if they are water-resistant)
- Everyday boots (Anything with a small tread that’s water-resistant)
In a single day, you’ll often find yourself shedding layers and bundling up throughout the day, so be prepared for all weather and you’ll find yourself comfortable and ready to spend the day outdoors.
Outdoor Spring Activities on Vancouver Island
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast who loves spending your time in nature, we have several ideas on how to spend a spring day outdoors (even if it’s raining). Whether you’re visiting Vancouver Island to explore the cities of Victoria and Nanaimo, perusing coffee shops and art galleries, or prefer to get out in nature surrounded by the rainforests of Tofino or Port Hardy- we’ve got a few top tips for spending spring outdoors.
Where to spend time in the city
Victoria Butterfly Gardens (Victoria): Many visitors flock here for the butterflies, but few know that there is so much more to discover in this tropical paradise on Vancouver Island. From flamingos to parrots, tortoises to spotted frogs, the Victoria Butterfly Gardens gives you the unique opportunity to get up close and personal with a tropical jungle full of interesting creatures.
Dinghy Dock Pub (Nanaimo): A marine pub and restaurant with a unique experience not to be missed. This dining experience brings a whole new meaning to the word waterfront, as it’s only accessible by boat. Dinghy Dock will pick you up in downtown Nanaimo and bring you over to their floating restaurant for a truly spectacular way to dine in Nanaimo. Take in the nautical views of passing sailboats, the occasional sea lion, and stunning views of Nanaimo from a perspective seldom experienced on Vancouver Island.
Where to find flowers in bloom
The Hailey Rhododendron Grove (Nanaimo): Situated in Nanaimo’s Bowen Park, the Hailey Rhododendron Grove is best seen in May while in full bloom, its most colourful and fragrant time. The beauty of the plants in this bountiful garden will inspire even the most reluctant gardener to consider planting the humble rhododendron and is an experience not to be missed for any lover of spring blossoms.
Milner Gardens (Qualicum Beach): This seaside garden in Qualicum Beach comes alive in a spectacle of colour each spring. We highly recommend stopping for tea at the Camellia Tea Room, surrounded by cherry blossom trees and other marvellous natural wonders. In addition to their wonderful display of flowers, the gardens are also home to several old-growth Douglas firs as one of the few remaining Douglas-fir biogeoclimatic zone forests of Vancouver Island.
Ronnings Garden (Holberg, North Island): Located in the heart of the rainforest, Ronnings Garden features a variety of domestic and exotic plants and is a wonderfully wild stop on any North Vancouver Island tour. In the spring, you’ll see daffodils and bluebells alongside rhododendrons and azaleas as you make your way through this hidden gem of rugged beauty.
Where to get culturally inspired
Cowichan Wine Country (Cowichan Valley): Vancouver Island’s own Okanagan-esque wine region is filled with plenty of grape varietals and winemaking traditions that make a wine tour on Vancouver Island a distinctively special experience. With plenty of options for any wine connoisseur, some of our favourites include the Island’s oldest estate vineyard, Blue Grouse Estate Winery, and the award-winning Averill Creek Vineyard. TwoFiveOTours, Vancouver Island Expeditions, and Explore Vancouver Island all offer guided wine tours that allow you to enjoy the fruits of the region without having to drive.
Totem Tour Walk (Duncan): Spring is a fantastic time to do this self-walk tour of Duncan (especially once the farmers markets start in May). This totem pole collection, located on the traditional lands of the Quw’utsun’ (Cowichan) people, is an on-going project that features one of the world’s largest outdoor collections of publicly displayed totems. Grab a coffee, and take a morning walk through town as you glance in awe at this collection of Indigenous art.
U’mista Cultural Centre (Alert Bay): Take the 30-minute ferry from Port McNeill to Alert Bay for a cultural experience not to be missed. U’mista Cultural Centre opens to the public in May and is home to Kwawaka’wakw history and regalia that’s truly remarkable to be seen. After your visit to the centre, walk around Alert Bay to take in the many other sights of the area, including the World’s Tallest Totem Pole carved by the Kwakwaka’wakw. We recommend exploring Alert Bay by bike for the best way to see the many small but wonderful hidden gems on the island.
Where to spend time with the family
Beban Park Pitch ‘n Putt (Nanaimo): Beban Park boasts a 3-par golf course, and is a fantastic place to spend a sunny spring day with those you love. The course is an easy 11 holes, so it’s friendly for kids and adults alike with the longest hole measuring 90 yards. There’s no tee time required, and club rentals are available at the club for those in need of gear. Find out more here.
Gabriola Saturday Farmers’ Market (Gabriola Island): Most farmers’ markets on Vancouver Island start in May, and this one happens to be one of our favourites. Every Saturday morning starting in May, this diverse market that celebrates Gulf Island diversity is a fun way to spend time discovering local artisans and farmers with the family. This market is dog friendly, so bring your pup along for the adventure.
Yellow Point Farms (Ladysmith): Every Friday and Saturday during the spring, Yellow Point Farms opens its doors to visitors, inviting you to visit their “interactive barnyard” full of miniature livestock. The farm has goats, sheep, mini donkeys, mini horses, and even Kune Kune pigs that can be found roaming the property in search of friendly pets and cuddles from visitors.
Where to go to capture an Instagram-worthy photo
Fisherman’s Wharf (Cowichan Bay): One of the most photogenic wharves in the province, Fisherman’s Wharf in Cowichan Bay boasts plenty of photo-ready opportunities. With a backdrop of jaw-dropping scenery featuring the mountains and islands surrounding the area, photographers will love the quirky storefronts and eateries that Cowichan Bay is known for.
Telegraph Cove (North Vancouver Island): There’s a reason why this tiny town attracts thousands of travellers each year- and it starts with its postcard waterfront setting of historical homes and spectacular natural beauty. Starting in May, grab a coffee from the General Store and take a self-guided historical boardwalk tour towards the Whale Interpretive Center, where you’ll glance in awe at some truly magnificent artefacts and treasures from the region. Photographers will love the colourful heritage homes that dot the coastline, and the natural beauty of the area’s many trails and forests.
Neck Point Park (Nanaimo): One of our favourite places to capture a sunset photo is Nanaimo’s Neck Point Park. With panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, there are countless ways to capture this beautiful park. The boardwalks that line the coast are a great starting point for your photographic adventure, followed by a view of the peninsula that juts out to the ocean, and if you visit a low tide, a chance to explore the tide pools and find starfish and other treasures to capture on your camera.
Where to explore nature’s hidden treasures
Honeymoon Bay Ecological Reserve (Cowichan): A preservation site located near Lake Cowichan seldom seen on any tourism brochures, this stunning natural area was preserved for its high concentration of Pink Fawn Lily that blooms in late April. Besides the stunning flower, expect to see moss-laden branches hanging gently over the creek and plenty of untamed lichen covering the trees.
Dionisio Point Provincial Park (Galiano Island): Accessible only by boat, this dreamy provincial park is covered with beautiful wildflowers and tide pools that offer countless opportunities to explore nature. Locals lovingly call to Coon Bay, and adventurous souls will love the scuba diving opportunities and sandy beaches for swimming.
Bog Trail (Pacific Rim National Park): When you think of Ucluelet and Tofino, you often think of magnificent beaches, surfing, and stormwatching. But there is so much more to see than you can find on the coast. One trail we love is the Bog Trail in Pacific Rim National Park, located between Florencia Bay and Wickaninnish Beach. Consisting entirely of boardwalks, this easy 0.8km loop is family-friendly and has plenty of chances to capture a unique photo at this popular area of Vancouver Island.
We hope these ideas help spark some inspiration for your spring trip to Vancouver Island, spending time outdoors no matter what the weather forecast says. The most important thing to remember is to travel smart, wear appropriate clothing, and bring your camera along the way to capture memories you’ll want to hold close forever.