Vancouver Island’s serene surrounds are the perfect escape

The natural surrounds of Mount Douglas, Canada. Photo: Hike Victoria

The natural surrounds of Mount Douglas, Canada. Photo: Hike Victoria

It’s not long ago that Vancouver Island, off Canada’s Pacific Coast, was a drawcard for retirees chasing good weather. These days a younger, hipper crowd are moving in and they’re more likely to be doing goat yoga or forest bathing than booking in for high tea at the iconic Fairmont Empress hotel. And of course, the star attraction remains the great outdoors. Humpback whales splashing around within easy camera-shot anyone?

Here are some of the top reasons you should visit the serene surrounds of this part of Canada, just 97 km west of Vancouver.

Whale watching

The seas off Victoria are full of life, big and small. Up the Salish Sea, aboard the Prince of Whales’ catamaran, you might spot porpoises, sea lions, and, if you’re lucky, frolicking whales. Picture snow-capped mountains right into summer, uninhabited islands and isolated lighthouses. A humpback whale was the star of our voyage.

Goat yoga

 

Photo: Victoria Elliott

Photo: Victoria Elliott

The latest craze to sweep the yoga world, goat yoga is great for de-stressing and bonding with nature. Instructor Jackie Rioux runs classes at Victoria Lavender Farm, a short drive from Victoria City, where naturally playful Nigerian dwarf goats jump on laps and backs. Classes April to September.

Forest-bathing

The island’s ancient rainforests are the perfect place to reconnect with nature. The traditional Japanese practice of forest bathing (shinrin-yoku) is a cross between hiking and meditating. The pace is slow and you’re encouraged to use all your senses to tap into nature. Local guide Ryan LeBlanc of the Natural Connection will help you feel the breeze on your skin, smell the greenery and turn on your “deer ears”.

New brew

Canada’s love affair with craft brewing began on Vancouver Island and there are now 14 (and counting) boutique breweries. Category 12 is run by Karen and Michael Kuzyk, who quit his job as a biochemist to experiment with wild yeasts and IPAs – watch the magic happen from his tasting room.

Farm-to-fork feasts

 

10 Acres organic and locally sourced foods. Photo: Belinda Fontes Photography

10 Acres farm to table foods. Photo: Belinda Fontes Photography

Roost, in Vancouver Island’s food-bowl, exemplifies the farm-to-table philosophy. Hamish Crawford was the first to grow and mill wheat here and now has a bakery, vineyard, chef’s garden, chickens and a bistro, 10 Acres, with a please all menu. Think heirloom tomatoes, goats’ cheese and homemade prosciutto.

Mary O’Brien was a guest of Tourism Victoria (British Columbia)

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