Could a single island have both incomparable wilderness and a sophisticated, cosmopolitan city? Vancouver Island does. The island’s wilderness, however, is not for the faint-hearted. Often cold and wet, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve has miles of drift- wood-strewn beaches; intrepid surfers ride the lonely waves at Long Beach, near Ucluelet; and kayakers favor the Broken Group Islands in Barkley Sound.
The West Coast Trail between Bamfield and Port Renfew offers challenging hiking (it was built originally to give shipwrecked sailors a chance for survival, because the rainforest here is impenetrable) and Discovery Passage is one of the premier scuba diving areas of the West Coast.
For a more genteel approach to nature, visit world-famous Butchart Gardens, 50 acres of floral finery blooming in a former quarry 13 miles north of Victoria. A wonderful city set around a beautiful harbor, Victoria is anchored by stately early 20th- century buildings, including The Empress, one of the last of the grand railroad hotels. Victoria is the civilized answer to the wild world beyond.