Location: tucked against the mainland edge of British Columbia and the north shore of Washington State's Olympic Peninsula in the US. British Columbia's other Gulf Islands lie in the protected waters of the Georgia Strait between Vancouver Island and the mainland, with around 200 of them extending northeast of Victoria to the fishing port of Nanaimo.
Getting there: regular scheduled air and ferry services between Vancouver and Victoria, the island's provincial capital.
Capital: Victoria was founded in the name of Queen Victoria in 1843 by James Douglas of the Hudson Bay Company as a fur-trading post. Now a busting metropolis with a commercial downtown area.
Highlights: Victoria's old town along Wharf Street and Bastion Square has been restored with many original buildings converted into restaurants, shops and galleries. Also has a Fisherman's Wharf area, English Village, Japanese gardens and Butchart Gardens, famed for its English roses.
Other island attractions: Newcastle Marine Park; Pacific Rim National Park (for whale watching); Campbell River; Hot Springs Cove; West Coast Trail and Strathcona Provincial Park for hiking; the boardwalk villages of Telegraph Cove; the fishing community of Tofino; Friendly Cove, where Captain Cook first met the west coast native Indians in 1778; and Port Hardy for salmon fishing, scuba-diving, kayaking and canoeing.
Accommodation: campsites, rustic lodges, English-style country houses and some small character hotels.
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