Living on Vancouver IslandIyna Bort Caruso
Pick your lifestyle. On Vancouver Island, just offshore from the mainland city of Vancouver in Canada’s British Columbia, is a collection of surfing towns, rainforests, vineyards and chic urban centers.
The island has one of the warmest climates in all of Canada and, hours-wise, some of the country’s highest numbers of annual sunshine.
Of Vancouver Island’s 775,000 population, about half live in and around Victoria, the capital of British Columbia and a city actually closer to the U.S. than to mainland Canada. Victoria has been awarded a host of honors: friendliest, most romantic and best small city, among them. Most know it as the “City of Gardens.” Dozens of parks grace Greater Victoria with showy year-round blooms. The city’s English heritage and architecture, most prominently the British Columbia Parliament Buildings and Royal British Columbia Museum, blend with First Nations and Asian traditions. Victoria has the oldest Chinatown in Canada.
Vancouver Island has long been a popular retirement destination for Canadians. By no means, however, does that mean life is lived in the slow lane.
The city is easy to explore on foot or bike. Bicycle paths loop around town. The most famous trail is the Galloping Goose. It follows an old freight railroad line 35 miles from Victoria southwest to Sooke and is used by commuters as well as recreational cyclists. There is a surprising variety to Victoria’s neighborhoods: seaside enclaves with resort vibes, heritage areas with old English feels, modern golf course communities and condominium developments with a triple bonus of city, mountain and ocean views.
Beyond Victoria, home buyers find secluded acreage and tucked-away estates in places like Cowichan Valley, about 40 minutes north. The valley has become a top culinary destination with dozens of wineries and a dynamic slow-food culture.
A substantial portion of home buyers are from mainland Canada, specifically from the Vancouver area, with the next-largest segment from Canadians outside the province.