Trip Ideas

Vancouver Island & Gulf Islands Wineries

Treat all your senses at a Vancouver Island winery. Enjoy the crisp Pinot Gris, flavourful Pinot Noir and some delicious surprises along the way. Visit wineries in the laidback Gulf Islands, or pair Cowichan Valley wines with local baguettes and brie. Cideries, kayak tours, golf courses and spas round out the trip.


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MAP LEGEND
  1. Saanich Penninsula
  2. Cowichan Valley
  3. Gulf Islands
  4. Victoria 

Cowichan Valley Wineries

In Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley, wineries nestle along twisting country roads among forests, farms and quaint little villages. Visit Averill Creek Vineyard near Duncan, to savour the stunning view from the slopes of Mount Prevost and the award-winning Pinots. Bring an appetite to the Bistro at Merridale Ciderworks in Cobble Hill, where you can sample some of their seven varieties of cider, and linger over a decadent lunch prepared with locally sourced ingredients.

Also in charming Cobble Hill, try the blackberry port-style wine at Cherry Point Estate Wines. Don’t miss Venturi-Schulze Vineyards, which is as well-known for its authentic balsamic vinegar as its blended wines like the aromatic white Millefiori.

Visit the funky coastal village of Cowichan Bay for some shopping and snacking – try the chewy ginger cookies at True Grain Bread and the island cheeses at Hilary’s Artisan Cheese. Feeling energetic? Kayak in the harbour or hike through the hills. It’s a good way for you to work off a feast of local seafood, foraged mushrooms and just-picked greens at Amusé on the Vineyard located at Unsworth Vineyards in Mill Bay.

Saanich Peninsula Wineries

More wineries soak up the sun on Vancouver Island’s Saanich Peninsula, near the ever-blooming Butchart Gardens. Pay a visit to Church & State Wines, which has been winning awards for bold, complex blends like Quintessential. For a taste of something different, try Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse’s traditional ciders made from its own heritage apples and some from local growers, or sip some of Victoria Spirits’ wood-fired, copper-pot-stilled gin, vodka, eau de vies or bitters.

You can find luxurious accommodation at Brentwood Bay Resort & Spa – its Seagrille restaurant is excellent. Or, if you want to stay closer to Victoria, enjoy Italian-inspired cuisine at Bella Montagna restaurant after playing one of two world-class golf courses at the Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort & Spa.

Gulf Islands Wineries

Pender Island | Gulf Islands. Photo Credit: Andrea Johnson

Hop aboard a BC Ferries vessel to explore the growing number of wineries on the idyllic Gulf Islands. Sprinkled across Georgia Strait between Vancouver Island and the mainland, this cluster of bucolic isles are home to artisans’ studios, quiet beaches and forests laced with hiking trails.

On Salt Spring Island (the biggest of the southern Gulf Islands), try the award-winning Pinot Gris from Garry Oaks Winery, the sparkling Karma at Salt Spring Vineyards or the Rosé at Mistaken Identity Vineyards. Stay at the island’s sumptuous Hastings House Country House Hotel, which features gourmet goodies like local Salt Spring lamb and Dungeness crab.

Take a short ferry ride to Saturna Island to sample the apple, pear and, tropical fruit flavours of the Chardonnay at Saturna Island Family Estate Winery. Stay at the cozy and tranquil Saturna Lodge.

Or head to Pender Island for a taste of Morning Bay Vineyard & Estate Winery’s big, bold reds. Stay at the island’s luxurious Poets Cove Resort & Spa, where you can join a kayak tour and glide through the waters of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. Come evening, savour the sunset over some locally inspired, seasonal West Coast cuisine and a glass of island wine at the resort’s Aurora Restaurant. 

Gourmet Kayaking Trips

Prevost Island, Gulf Islands. Photo Credit: J. A. Kraulis/Masterfile

One of the most delicious ways to explore the Gulf Islands is with a gourmet kayaking trip hosted by Edible Canada. The weekend trips include gentle paddling among the islands with stops for lavish gourmet meals, BC wine and camping on peaceful beaches.

Wines in Victoria

Spinnakers Brew Pub

Can’t make it to the wineries? Get a taste of Island wines in Victoria, BC’s capital and the largest city on Vancouver Island. Try a glass of local Pinot Gris, Marechal Foch or a dessert wine like Venturi Schulze’s lush Brandenburg No.3 at restaurants such as Spinnakers Brewpub, Stage or Cafe Brio. Or stop by a downtown Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) shop like The Wine Barrel for a bottle or two to take home.

Vancouver Island Transportation

Victoria is a half-hour flight from Vancouver Airport or, more dramatically, via floatplane from the downtown Vancouver harbour. You can also reach Victoria by driving to Tsawwassen and taking a 90-minute BC Ferries trip through the Gulf Islands to Swartz Bay near Victoria – keep your eyes open for Orcas.

From Victoria, the Cowichan Valley is a 45-minute drive north on the Island Highway (Highway 1), while the Saanich Peninsula is about 20 minutes north on Highway 17.  (Tip: BC Ferries’ scenic Brentwood Bay-Mill Bay route links the two).

BC Ferries also sail to the Gulf Islands from Swartz Bay and from Tsawwassen (near Vancouver). Saltspring Air and Seair Seaplanes fly to the islands from Vancouver.