Despite both sharing the name “Vancouver”, they’re very different places. Geographically, the biggest difference is that Vancouver is a large cosmopolitan city while Vancouver Island is a 300 km long island full of rainforests, small cities, villages, beaches and wilderness.
Vancouver is a beautiful Metropolitan city, roughly 2-3 million people if you include the suburbs. Scenery is beautiful, lots to see, great shopping and attractions — but certainly a big city. I currently live in the Vancouver area, and cannot get over the mix of ocean and mountains so close in proximity — it is breathtaking!
Vancouver Island is more of a collection of smaller towns, all of which are closer to “un-spoiled” nature. Victoria is at the south, Capital of BC, and is about 350,000 people in size. Nanaimo is roughly 100 Km north and about another 100,000 in population. Outside of that you have a collection of small towns and villages on an island that takes 8+ hours to drive north to south. Some areas, such as Tofino, will offer some of the most amazing Ocean scenery anywhere in the world.
When you think of British Columbia, it’s all about beautiful landscapes, friendly people, and a vibrant history. People from all over the world consider the Canadian province their dream travel destination, and it’s not hard to see why.
In B.C., the two most popular cities are Vancouver and Victoria on Vancouver Island. Vancouver is the bustling metropolis of the region, home to tech innovation, video game development, and film production. Victoria, on the other hand, is a quaint university town, home to the provincial capital building, and full of outdoor adventure.
Choosing between these two dream cities is tough, so I put together this quick article to help you find the perfect match for you.
Do you like water sports?
Of course: Welcome to Victoria. Victoria is the southernmost city on Vancouver Island. While the island is one of the world’s 50 largest islands (and home to about 750,000 people), it’s still very much surrounded by water. Which means that no matter where you go on the island, you’re less than an hour from sailing, kayaking, or hanging out on the beach. You could even go whale watching.
Not really: Vancouver is your city. The great thing about Vancouver is that it’s located right on the water, so it makes it easy to enjoy the beach life, watersports, and go on a boat if you want to. But, you also have the chance to live a cool city life, so if watersports aren’t your thing, you can just enjoy the beautiful backdrop of the Pacific coastline.
How do you feel about cycling?
I love it: Victoria is where you want to be. The B.C. capital is home to more cycling routes than any other Canadian city. So, if you’d like to see the city by bike and enjoy all the benefits of a commute in the fresh air, Victoria could be your new home away from home.
It’s alright: Vancouver is also very friendly to cyclists, but it also offers some larger transportation options and airports that fly you nonstop to iconic North American destinations like Las Vegas, Los Angeles, or New York City.
What about seafood?
Can’t get enough of it: The region is especially known for its salmon, which is exported all over the world, but whether you want to stuff your face with sushi in Victoria or dine on fine shellfish in one of the trendy restaurants in downtown Vancouver, both cities are officially seafood paradise.
Nah, I’ll pass: In either city, you can easily stick to your dietary preferences. From established #brunchlife options to alternative vegetarian restaurants, B.C. has diverse a gastronomy landscape.
Do you like being outdoors?
All the time: If you love the outdoors, you’re in the right place regardless of which city you choose. From hikes to bikes, you can do anything outdoorsy in the area. Unlike some of the more northern parts of Canada, in both Vancouver and Victoria, the temperatures stay high enough for year-round adventuring.
Not at all: Well, that may change if you move to either of these cities. B.C. locals are hardcore about getting outside. Rain or shine – as they say in Canada, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” Don’t have the gear? No problem, stop in at Canada’s favorite outdoor store, MEC, and the friendly staff will get you all set up.
Are you a history buff?
Of course: As one of the oldest cities in the Pacific Northwest of North America, Victoria is home to a number of incredible museums and cultural experiences that tell the story of Native Americans, early settlers and the growth of trade in the region.
Not so much: That’s alright, Vancouver has been affectionately nicknamed “Hollywood North.” It’s one of North America’s most common film production locations. Some of the most famous projects filmed there include Juno, Once Upon a Time, The X-Files, and Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2, but you can see what’s being filmed in Vancouver any time.
Do you want to have more cultural experiences?
That’s why I’m here: I knew I liked you! And you’re definitely looking at the right part of the world. Even though both Vancouver and Victoria get high marks for their laid-back quality of life, they pack a lot of culture as well.
Victoria is the capital of British Columbia and home to a number of diverse communities, including the second oldest Chinatown in North America (just behind San Francisco). It hosts a number of cultural festivals and events throughout the year and is the temporary home to international students who come from all over to study at places like the Canadian College of Performing Arts and the University of Victoria.
Vancouver, on the other hand, is one of the most linguistically and ethnically diverse cities in Canada. There, you’ll have the opportunity to experience a truly global city, where more than 50% of the population speaks a language other than English as their native tongue.
So, to recap, both Vancouver and Vancouver Island are beautiful cities in the West of British Columbia. Both offer an outdoorsy lifestyle and front row seat to nature. They both offer culture, history, and a whole lot more. But which is right for you? Well, I hope my article helps you decide for yourself.