Vacation Found on Vancouver Island

Take a few extra days to explore the islands that dot B.C.'s southwestern coast
IF YOUR IDEA OF A CANADIAN West-Coast adventure ends in Vancouver, it’s time to think bigger. Vancouver Island and the many smaller islands and inlets that dot its coasts hold untapped vacation potential. So, tack on a few extra days to your next board meeting, and explore.

> Victoria: It may be named after a respectable queen, but behind Victoria’s stiff-upper-lip reputation lies a city (pictured above) with an edge. You’ll find it in the incredible food, innovative craft brewing and continued commitment to the arts. Bring your sneakers for a jaunt along the 47-kilometre-long Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, opt for a cooking class at The London Chef, or simply take your time admiring more than 160 pieces of art by famed wildlife artist Robert Bateman at the gallery bearing his name. www.tourismvictoria.com

> Quadra Island: Just across the Discovery Passage from Vancouver Island you’ll find a land where hippies once roamed free. They’re older now, but their free spirit and love of the outdoors hasn’t waned, and the result is an island that feels a lifetime away from the cities you’ve left behind. Hop a ferry over and spend a night (or seven) in your own Gowlland Harbour Resort guest house, with stunning ocean views, a sun deck and barbecue. Fill your days with excursions organized by local outfitter Wildcoast Adventures, where you’ll be placed in a kayak and introduced to seals, urchins and whales a mere paddle away from shore. www.gowllandharbour.com; www.kayakbritishcolumbia.com

> Port McNeill: Head north from Campbell River toward Port Hardy and you’ll be rewarded with a long, winding drive. Then venture out to the inlets through Sea Wolf Adventures, along with a whale or grizzly bear watching expedition. You’ll have the chance to learn about the area’s aboriginal history from guides who belong to one of the many nations of the Kwakwaka’wakw indigenous people. Cultural tours include a visit to nearby Alert Bay — once home to a residential school — and offer a chance to see the fascinating U’mista Cultural Centre, where traditional masks and artefacts have found a permanent community home. www.seawolfadventures.ca; www.umista.ca