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Extend Your Summer on Vancouver Island

Leave the cold weather behind and head to Vancouver Island to make the most of its mild fall season.

Cattle point at Oak Bay. / Photo Courtesy of Oak Bay Tourism

AUTUMN ON VANCOUVER ISLAND doesn’t mean the end of summer activities, beach trips or warm days. In fact, visiting Vancouver Island in the fall can feel like an extension of summertime. Thanks to the warm currents from the Pacific Ocean, fall days on Vancouver Island are mild and sunny, balanced with crisp mornings and cooler evenings.

So, whether you’re looking to hike or kayak, unwind on the beach or discover the local shopping, spa and culinary scenes, there is plenty to experience. And, with WestJet offering direct flights to Victoria, Nanaimo and Comox from Calgary and Edmonton, a fall getaway to Vancouver Island is just a quick plane ride away.

The dahlias are in bloom at The Butchart Gardens. / Photo Courtesy of The Butchart Gardens

Wineries, Cideries and Gorgeous Gardens

Discover the Saanich Peninsula

If your WestJet flight is scheduled to land at the Victoria International Airport, plan to explore the Saanich Peninsula. The airport is a 30-minute drive from Victoria’s city centre and there is plenty to do nearby, whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, wine-lover or foodie.

Make the most of the warm fall days by teeing off at the Glen Meadows Golf and Country Club or by hiking through the lush forest trails in John Dean Provincial Park, both of which are roughly a 10-minute drive from the airport. This area is also a rural paradise this time of year — drive south from the airport and into Victoria and you’ll pass fruit orchards, working farms and numerous wineries.

Stop for a tasting at a few spots favoured by locals, including Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse and de Vine Wines & Spirits.

Don’t leave this part of Vancouver Island without visiting The Butchart Gardens, an ideal way to spend a warm autumn day. Wander through the 55-acre gardens and admire the vibrant seasonal owners, including fuchsia, begonias and an incredible range of dahlias. Dahlias are particularly stunning here during the fall and are a favourite among visitors and locals alike.

Dine alfresco at Vis-a-Vis Wine & Charcuterie Bar in Oak Bay. / Photo Courtesy of Oak Bay Tourism

Relaxation and Shopping

Slow Down in Oak Bay

As you continue south down the Saanich Peninsula, you’ll reach Oak Bay — a picturesque, tree-lined coastal community on the doorstep of Victoria. Oak Bay is perfect for couples looking for a quaint, quiet spot to relax and recharge. Wander its picturesque main street, Oak Bay Avenue, and  trendy local cafés and restaurants, such as Vis-a-Vis Wine & Charcuterie Bar, as well as shops and galleries. Plus, with locals getting back into their fall routines, you can enjoy this friendly neighbourhood at your own pace. Take a leisurely walk along the sandy Willows Beach with a picnic lunch in hand or cycle down Beach Avenue and enjoy views of the Pacific Ocean.

The perfect hotel for couples looking to unwind is the Oak Bay Beach Hotel, a luxurious and romantic boutique resort right on the beach. After a day of exploring, treat yourself to an evening dip in the hotel’s heated seaside mineral pools with views of the Juan de Fuca Strait. Or indulge in a spa treatment at the on-site Boathouse Spa.

An Energetic City Getaway

Explore Vibrant Victoria

Victoria is the biggest city on Vancouver Island, and your trip here wouldn’t be complete without visiting Victoria’s picturesque Inner Harbour. Stop for a cocktail made with the purple-hued Empress 1908 gin at the Fairmont Empress Hotel’s restaurant, Q at The Empress.

Another must-visit location in Victoria’s Inner Harbour is the Royal BC Museum. The museum’s biggest exhibit of the year is Maya: The Great Jaguar Rises. This world-class exhibit, on display until December 31, is a thought-provoking celebration of the Maya culture. As you wander through, try to decipher ancient Maya hieroglyphs, discover the sports and games the civilization played and see more than 300 artifacts that previously had never left Guatemala. Afterwards, don’t miss the museum’s permanent exhibits, such as the Natural History Galleries and the First Peoples Galleries, and catch a film on the largest IMAX screen in B.C.

The Royal BC Museum’s Maya: The Great Jaguar Rises exhibit celebrates Maya culture. / Phot Courtesy of Royal BC Museum

Make sure to venture beyond the Inner Harbour, too, and wander down Government Street to Fort Street. Formerly known as “antique row,” Fort Street is ideal for foodies and anyone who loves local shopping. Enjoy Spanish tapas at Chorizo & Co. or Indian fusion at Fishhook, before browsing the numerous antique stores that pepper the street. You’ll also and local clothing boutiques, used bookstores and Idar Jewellers. Idar’s handmade jewellery pieces blend Nordic, West Coast and Celtic designs. Buy yourself something special from one of Idar’s unique collections for a one-of-a-kind souvenir.

Outdoor Adventure and Spa Time

Visit Mid-Vancouver Island

Reconnect amid gorgeous scenery at the Tigh-Na-Mara Resort. / Photo Courtesy of Tigh-Na-Mara Resort

Nanaimo is the ideal starting point for vacationers looking to kick-start the fall season with some outdoor adventure. Due to its central location, the Nanaimo Airport is the gateway to Vancouver Island. It is only a short drive to many areas attractive to adrenaline junkies. Horne Lake, which offers rock climbing and caving, is only an hour away from the airport, while Lake Cowichan, with kayaking, paddling and more, is less than an hour away. Plus, the Nanaimo Airport’s current terminal expansion project makes it even more attractive as a y-in destination. When the project is completed in 2020, it will increase the air terminal building by about 60 per cent to meet increasing passenger volume.

Nanaimo Airport’s terminal expansion project is slated for completion in 20202. / Rendering Courtesy of Nanaimo Airport

A 40-minute drive north of the Nanaimo Airport is Parksville, a quiet coastal town on the east of Vancouver Island known for its expansive sandy beaches, warm water and abundance of outdoor activity options. Nearby cycling, hiking and golfing options all continue well into the fall.

Parksville is also home to the Tigh-Na-Mara Resort, which has an award-winning spa that was voted the best in Canada in 2018 by Spas of America. The resort sits on 22 acres of lush forest and is adjacent to three kilometres of sandy beach. The rustic charm of the resort’s welcoming log guestrooms, and the inviting mineral pool and many spa options at the on-site Grotto Spa, will have you leaving feeling relaxed and rejuvenated. Tigh-Na-Mara is the ideal retreat for a romantic getaway or a memorable ladies’ weekend.

The Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet. / Photo by Landon Sveinson Courtesy of Tourism Ucluelet

Rugged Wilderness and Picturesque Views

Off the Beaten Path in Ucluelet

During the summer months, visitors flock to Ucluelet, a scenic, beachfront town that’s a two-hour drive west from Parksville. In the fall, you can enjoy all that this laid-back beach town has to offer without the crowds. Don’t miss the Wild Pacific Trail, an all-levels walking trail that passes through thick coastal rainforest and alongside rugged seaside rock with views of the Pacific Ocean.

Ucluelet is also appealing to foodies. Sample locally-made gin and vodka at Pacific Rim Distilling, enjoy a meal with seasonal foraged ingredients at the recently opened restaurant Pluvio (also a boutique hotel), and visit the upscale food truck Ravenlady Oyster Forte. Plus, in the fall, activities like surfing, paddling and biking are still in full swing, meaning you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to working up an appetite.

Black Rock Oceanfront Resort. / Photo by Michael Hack Courtesy of Black Rock Oceanfront Resort

To really connect with the rugged wilderness of this part of Vancouver Island, choose to stay at the luxurious Black Rock Oceanfront Resort. It was designed to reflect and enhance the area’s wild landscape. When not relaxing in your suite, treat yourself to a treatment at the on-site Drift Spa or enjoy an intimate meal packed with the native flavours of the West Coast at Black Rock’s Fetch Restaurant.

Chances are, after experiencing the breathtaking natural vistas, the inviting communities and variety of things to do on Vancouver Island, you won’t want to leave. Vancouver Island is a dream destination for property owners, and Macdonald Realty can make that dream of owning a home here into a reality. Macdonald Realty now has over 20 o ces across British Columbia, including in Vancouver Island’s real estate hot spots like Victoria, Parksville and the Saanich Peninsula.

Whether you’re looking to fit in a few more days filled with your favourite adventurous summer activity, spend quality time on the beach or want to shop, dine out and explore in the sunshine, Vancouver Island is the ideal spot for your early fall vacation.

[This advertorial appears in the September 2019 edition of WestJet Magazine.]