Vancouver Island is an island that is located in British Columbia, Canada and is named after British Royal Naval officer, George Vancouver. The island covers an area of nineteen thousand square miles and has a population of approximately seven hundred and forty thousand residents. Vancouver Island is two hundred and ninety miles long and it is fifty miles across at its widest point. It is the biggest island on the Western portion of North America and the forty-third largest island in the world. It is also the eleventh largest island of Canada and the second most heavily populated island of Canada, with the most heavily populated island being Montreal Island. Located in the southwest portion of British Columbia, it is seperated from the United States by the Juan de Fuca Strait and by mainland Canada by the Georgia Strait, Queen Charlotte Strait and Johnstone Strait.
Vancouver Island has a very mild climate. Temperatures during the summer are usually around ninety degrees and winter temperatures are usually at or above freezing. There is a wide variation in the amount of rain that the island recieves, with some areas getting torrential rains and other areas being very dry. The western coast of the island receives around two hundred and sixty inches of rain per year and the eastern coast receives around twenty-five inches per year. There is very little snowfall on the island, except for the mountain ranges. Vancouver Island has a great variety of different trees which include Douglas Firs, Western Red Cedars, Oak, Madrone, Western Hemlock, Pacific Silver Firs, Yellow Cedars, Western White Pine, Big Leaf Maple, Red Huckleberry and Sitka Spruce. There is also a diverse variety of fauna on the island. Animal species here include mountain goats, skunks, moose, coyotes, elk, grizzly bears and porcupines.
Not surprisingly, the majority of Vancouver Island’s economy is based on the forestry industry. Forestry operations on the island include second growth trees that are harvest every thirty years and is used in the manufacturing of paper pulp. Unfortunately, there are also some old growth logging operations present on the island that have received much negative publicity from environmentalist over the last few years. Other important industries on Vancouver Island include fishing and tourism. Over the last few years, the government of British Columbia has launched ad campaigns that are designed to draw more tourists to the islands many beach resorts. Since there are no bridges connecting the island to the mainland, Vancouver Island can only be accessed by air or sea. But, visitors can reach the island via the many ferries which are operated by BC Ferries, Washington State Ferries and Black Ball Transport. Air travel on the island is handled by Victoria International Airport. There are also a number of smaller airports which include Nanaimo Harbour Airstrip and the Campbell River Airstrip.
The first European exploration of the island didn’t occur until the mid-eighteenth century. Between 1774 and 1775, two Spanish Explorers ventured to the island. These were Juan Jose Perez Hernandez and Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra. In 1778, the famed explorer James Cook visited the island and landed on its western shore. His reports on the large amount of wild game that was endemic to the island prompted the British East India Company to set up a fur trading post. In 1849, the Oregon Treaty awarded all land south of the 49th parallel to the United States, except for Vancouver Island which was awarded to Canada. Later that year, the colony of Vancouver Island was established.
A popular attraction on the island is Butchart Gardens. Butchart Gardens was founded by Mr. & Mrs. Robert Butchart in 1906. It started out as a Japanese garden and by 1921, the couple had made another garden in an exhausted limestone quarry. During the 1950s, wiring was added to the gardens to allow for night illumination. Ten years later, Ross Fountain was added. In 2004, the gardens were designated as a historic site and two thirty foot totems were installed. Another popular attraction is Victoria Butterfly Gardens. This garden is situated at Brentwood Bay. It features an indoor facility that is climate controlled to simulate a twelve thousand square foot rainforest. This indoor rainforest has over two hundred and fifty species of tropical plants. Victoria Butterfly Gardens has over three thousand butterflies in its collection taken from over fifty different species.
The Royal British Columbia Museum is another prominent attraction on Vancouver Island. This history museum was founded in 1886 and was given the royal title by Queen Elizabeth II in 1986. In 2003, it was merged with the British Columbia Provincial Archives. It is considered to be the crown jewel of Victoria’s tourist industry and contains an IMAX theater and three galleries. Permanent galleries at the Royal British Columbia Museum includes the First Peoples Gallery (this gives an overview of the culture of the island before the Europeans arrived), the Modern History Gallery (this gallery gives an overview of the history and culture of the island after the Europeans arrived) and the Natural History Gallery (this gallery showcases the ever changing landscape over its history).
Other prominent tourist attractions on Vancouver Island include Archipelago Wildlife Cruises, Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park, Eagle Wing Whale Watching Tours, Prince of Whales Whale Watching, Hatley Castle, Emerald Sea Adventures, Adrena Line Zipline Adventure, Remote Passages, SpringTide Charters Whale Watching, MV Lady Rose, Bear Mountain Golf Course, Oak Bay Marina, Vancouver Island Brewery, Miniature World, Mackay Whale Watching, Victoria Bug Zoo, Aviation Museum, Craigdarroch Castle, WildPlay at the Bungy Zone, Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park, Ucluelet Aquarium, Beacon Hill Park, Pacific Rim National Park, Mount Washington Alpine Resort, Mattick’s Farm, Goldstream Provincial Park, Abkhazi Garden, Courtenay District Museum & Paleontology Center, Fairmont Empress Hotel, Shaw Ocean Discovery Center, Chateau Victoria, Nanaimo Museum, Strathcona Park, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Chemainus Theater, Cowichan Native Village, Victoria Symphony Orchestra, Wild Pacific Trail, Royal London Wax Museum, The Museum at Campbell River, Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, Eagle Aerie Gallery, Tofino Botanical Gardens and the Maritime Museum of British Columbia.