A quick search of Victoria alone shows over fifty different hotels – how is one to make an informed decision about which resort to stay at on Vancouver Island?
Possibly the most important aspect to choosing a good place to rest your head is to narrow down your specific location within your preferred town or city first, and then begin your quest for the perfect hotel or resort after that decision is made. Think of it like choosing a micro-location. Ask yourself and your travel partners questions like:
- Do we want to stay in a hotel on or near the ocean?
- Will we have a vehicle? If not, do we want to stay at a resort that is within walking distance to the town or city’s main shopping area?
- How much privacy and open space would we like to have during our stay?
After you’ve narrowed down your micro-location preference, ask yourself a few of the following questions before researching different properties:
- What is the difference between a hotel and resort – which should I choose?
The answer, unfortunately, varies from property to property. It is usually the case that resorts offer additional services like an on site restaurant, or a spa facility. To make things confusing, accommodation providers labeled as a hotel may offer these extra services too. As always, do your research and don’t assume anything.
- What sort of nightly price range should I be looking for?
Nightly prices vary dramatically from season to season.
Summer on Vancouver Island is absolutely stunning. This is the best season for weather and ocean conditions and it’s a great time to vacation here. Naturally, this is also the most expensive time of year the stay in hotels. Expect rates from $120 – $500, depending on the location and amenities at the resort. Make sure to reserve your room well in advance if you are planning a vacation during July and August.
The winter season is almost always the most inexpensive season on the island, and – not coincidentally – is also the stormiest time of year. We think the winter on Vancouver Island is truly lovely: storms, snow on the mountains and the possibility of a calm, warm stretch of weather makes for a magical vacation. Expect rates from $60 – $300 and remember that it is rare to see fully booked hotels this time of year, so the properties definitely appreciate your business.
Spring & Fall
Expect variable weather in these two “Shoulder Seasons”. Temperatures will likely not drop be below freezing, but rain is a real possibility. It’s not unusual to have a week-long sunny stretch in these two seasons, at which time the phones at hotels and resorts across Vancouver Island start to ring. The island can be especially lovely in September and October, which is becoming a popular time to vacation here. The accommodation prices are usually in-between typical winter and summer rates (hence the phrase ‘shoulder season’). Expect room rates from $80 – $350, depending on your level of luxury.
- What are my options for different types of accommodation?
Hotels and resorts provide exceptional value and usually deliver fantastic service. But if you can’t find a hotel that suits your needs, remember that Vancouver Island has a tremendous variety of nightly rental options to choose from. While researching your best options, have a look at rental homes and cabins, which provide a different experience than hotels, but may suit your vacation goals just fine.
VACATION HOME RENTALS, CABINS & COTTAGES
Looking for a home to rent on the beach? Perhaps you’d like to snuggle up to the fireplace somewhere deep in the rainforest during the storm season. Or maybe you’re more suited to a condo or a secondary suite off someone’s private residence. All of these options and more exist on Vancouver Island, where vacation homes, cabins condos has become an industry within itself.
We’ve broken down the different rental options below for this type of independent nightly rental. Remember that these types of rentals are usually distinctly different than Bed and Breakfasts, in that they do not offer food service and the proprietor does not usually live on site.
Vacation Home Rentals
- Families or individuals may own second (or third) homes that lie dormant for much of the year. If these vacant homes are in popular destinations, it has become common to rent the place out on a nightly or weekly basis to travellers who would like the convenience and privacy of living temporarily in a private home.
- These types of accommodation are usually best suited to larger families or groups that need more than one bedroom and a large kitchen to prepare meals.
- It is common for these home rentals to be managed by a sole property manager or a vacation rental company that manages multiple properties.
Small Cabins & Cottages
- Similar to vacation homes, cabins or cottages may be split into a category of their own because of their small size.
- It is common for one property to have a cottage or cabin adjacent to the owner’s home.
- Hotels and resorts sometimes have clusters of cabins on the resort property. This type of accommodation may be the best of both worlds for some travellers, taking advantage of the hotel’s conveniences but maintaining the privacy of an independent cottage.
Condos & Secondary Suites
- This type of lodging is generally cost effective for the reasons listed below. You might find a great deal…
- Expect smaller units, starting around 200 sq. ft. But small is not always the rule here, larger suites and condos may be upwards of 2000 sq. ft. If the website doesn’t specify size, it’s best to ask.
- This type of accommodation is usually adjacent to another inhabited building. Make sure you know about noise constraints if you are planning a function.
There are so many accommodation options to choose from on Vancouver Island, that sometimes travelers can get confused. Fortunately, bed and breakfasts offer a clear choice: a home away from home.
According to Wikipedia, B&Bs in North America date back to the end of World War II. As travel to Europe become more ubiquitous, home owners from the New World discovered bed and breakfasts, which had been commonplace in Europe for many years. In a classic case of entrepreneurship, Canadians and Americans came home from their European travels and began to create small accommodation businesses with their spare bedrooms, serving breakfast in the tradition that they had learned during their travels. This post-war surge in home accommodation businesses coincided with a desire to preserve and showcase historic buildings, which were occasionally eligible for grants or tax incentives.
There was a tremendous boom in bed and breakfast businesses throughout the 1980s and different styles emerged: self-contained suites with en-suite bathrooms and private entrances, homes with shared kitchens and bathroom facilities and completely autonomous vacation rental homes. Today, we tend to categorize B&Bs as a home with a room or rooms for rent that include a private bathroom with breakfast served and included with the price. The breakfast may be served and delivered to the room on a tray, or often there is a communal breakfast each morning with the owners’ in the home’s kitchen.
Do your research
Sometimes home-based accommodation terminology varies from location to location. For example, a rental may refer to itself as B&B but not actually serve breakfast. Because of this large array of bed and breakfast styles, be sure that you research your choice of accommodation on Vancouver Island — often times folks will expect breakfast delivered to their bedroom door, only to find that a meal is not included in their stay. As always, buyer beware and most importantly, buyer be informed!
Cost of B&Bs
As you have likely observed, there is a huge range of accommodation prices on Vancouver Island. Usually, the most affordable option is a hostel or an inexpensive motel. Bed and Breakfasts are usually one step above this in the range of price options, sharing the mid-range room-rate with large hotel chains.
Often times B&Bs will have three different rates based on the season. The most expensive accommodation season on Vancouver Island is late June into early September. The shoulder seasons are usually during the spring and fall, with a mid-range price. If you are travelling in the midst of winter, then you will likely be able to find incredible accommodation deals on Vancouver Island, with rates starting well below $100/night.
Along the eastern side of Vancouver Island, the day begins with the sun rising slowly over the mainland mountains, its rays sparkling on the ocean and sandy beach just steps away from your campsite nestled in a grove of cedars.
Camping in the central island finds your campsite off the beaten path, a flat patch of land found after a day’s backpacking. During the hike through the second-growth forest you marvelled at the mountain peaks, stopped at bubbling creek for a cold drink, skirted the diggings of a black bear and ducked under a rock ledge during a brief rainstorm. On the west coast, your campsite is found on a rocky prominence jutting into the Pacific Ocean. Just before dusk, a grey whale lolled in the bay, the mist from its blowhole rising ten feet in the air. The day ends with a huge sun slipping below the watery horizon. Overhead, millions of stars twinkle in the blackest of skies.
On the north end of Vancouver Island, you pitch your tent in view of the lighthouse at Cape Scott. For the past eight hours, you have slogged through the muddy trails of Cape Scott Provincial Park, past the remnants of turn-of-the-century Danish settlements and the rotting poles of a 1913 telegraph line.
Tomorrow, when the sun rises, you will explore the sea caves, wonder about those who went down in the 1868 sinking of the Louisa Dawn, and clean the mud off your boots in anticipation of the hike out.
Private Campgrounds/RV Parks
Most private campgrounds offer water and electrical hookups at each site, sani-dump stations for RVs, playgrounds, laundramats, showers and flush toilets, and more. A cards, socialize or just sit and relax. Others even offer cable tv hookups. Many allownumber also have well-equipped common rooms where you can play pool, have a game of pets, but they must be kept leashed and on your site.
Sites are usually treed, quite private, have firepits and firewood and are on or have short access to a beach. Many are wheelchair accessible. Some have pools, hot tubs and boat launches.
The government operates a number of campground/RV parks in some of the more accessible provincial parks. While some of these campgrounds are quite basic, they usually have a common water supply, firepits and firewood and picnic tables. A number of the more developed provincial parks, such as Rathtrevor and Miracle Beach, have playgrounds, interpreter programs, organized events and nature houses. Provincial parks allow pets; however, they must be kept on a leash at all times and are not allowed in beach areas. There is a 14-day limit on occupancy in provincial park campgrounds. Reservations are accepted at a number of provincial park campgrounds. For more information, check out www.elp.gov.bc.ca/bcparks
It’s the interior, west coast and north tip of the island where you’ll find true wilderness camping. A number of the remote provincial parks have basic campsites with firepits, pit toilets and little else. The Ministry of Forests and the forest companies operate a number of free wilderness campsites that offer little in the way of amenities. You may find pit toilets. These remote campsites require you to pack in your food, water and everything else to ensure you are self-sufficient. Some of these sites are vehicle-accessible, usually over rough roads, many active logging roads. Many are only accessible by foot or boat. Maps of these remote campsites are available from Ministry of Forest and Provincial Park offices.