The largest island on the west coast of North America, Vancouver Island is 450 kilometers (300 miles) long and 100 kilometers (60 miles) at its widest. Its breathtaking scenery ranges from the expansive surf beaches of the western shores to the pastoral farms and protected bays on the eastern coast.
Vancouver Islanders enjoy Canada's mildest climate, warmed by the Kuroshio and Pacific Ocean currents. The wild and rugged west coast is lashed by at least 254 cm (100 in) of rain a year, contributing to the growth of some of the largest and oldest trees on the planet (some are over 1,000 years old and 90 m/300 ft high). Most of the eastern island lies in a rainshadow and receives considerably less rainfall. The largest city on the island and the capital of BC, sunny Victoria, receives only 68 cm (27 in) per year.
Vancouver Island is named after Captain George Vancouver who upon arrival called it "the most lovely country that can be imagined". James Douglas, a principal in the Hudson's Bay Company and later a governor of the island called it "the perfect Eden." Many visitors would agree as this island provides endless marine adventures including sailing, scuba diving, canoeing, kayaking, and windsurfing, as well as exceptionally beautiful hiking.
"...campaigns to protect more of the [region's] precious rainforest, including Carmanah and Clayoquot Sound, have continued to attract national and international attention."
The island was once covered by BC's southern rainforest, a more luxuriant and more productive rainforest than that found on the mainland. This rainforest, composed primarily of cedar, Douglas fir, hemlock, and Sitka spruce, has been intensely clearcut logged over most of the island. Because of the extent of this logging, most protected areas on Vancouver Island tend to be small. Despite their small size they are very important because of their high species diversity and the enormous size of the trees. The destruction of most of Vancouver Island's old growth forests has put many of the island's plants and wildlife on the threatened or endangered list; the most famous of these being the Vancouver Island marmot, which are found nowhere else in the world.
Strathcona is the largest park on Vancouver Island, composed mostly of subalpine environments. Other Vancouver Island parks such as Cape Scott, Brooks Peninsula, and Pacific Rim, are known for their spectacular beaches. Vancouver Island could be called the birthplace of the British Columbian environmental movement,as it was here in the early 1970s that the first citizens' campaign was fought in order to protect Nitinat Triangle. Since that beginning, campaigns to protect more of the precious rainforest, including Carmanah and Clayoquot Sound, have continued to attract national and international attention.
Access to Vancouver Island is either by air or ferry. BC Ferries provides service from Tsawwassen and Horseshoe Bay on the mainland (near Vancouver) to Victoria and Nanaimo on the island.