Snowcapped mountains pierce a blue dream of sky. Rocky shorelines and sandy beaches fringe busy waterways. Ancient old-growth forests and brilliant flower gardens overflow with color. Despite sharing this dramatic setting as well as a common history, Vancouver and Victoria offer two distinct personalities.
Big, brash, and ultramodern, Vancouver lies on Canada’s west coast mainland, sandwiched between the Coast Mountains and the sparkling Pacific Ocean. With a population of two million, this is the largest city in British Columbia. Explore gleaming world-class museums, vibrant nightlife, and creative cuisine here.
Across the Georgia Strait on Vancouver Island, the smaller, more refined provincial capital of Victoria also takes full advantage of its natural landscape, but in a more genteel form. Expect manicured gardens and afternoon tea. Victorians will be quick to tell you that the weather is nicer and the pace is slower than in Vancouver—and they are right on both accounts.
While Vancouver and Victoria get most of the attention, the call of the wild draws locals and visitors alike to venture beyond the suburban sprawl and into the surrounding wilderness. A scenic two-hour drive north of Vancouver is Whistler, best known for world-class skiing and snowboarding—including the possibility of glacier skiing even in midsummer. Vancouver Island also beckons visitors to the outdoors. Hike the rugged West Coast Trail, surf the waves at Tofino, or dive amid shipwrecks from Nanaimo.
The two cities and their easily accessible surroundings create a world of vacation opportunities. Make reservations at a historical bed-and-breakfast or wilderness lodge. Boil up a feast of crab purchased right on the dock. Try stand-up paddleboarding. Soak up the sights, sounds, and smells of these cities by the sea.