Vancouver Island is the largest island on the western side of the Americas.
This region has a varied climate that allows for diverse activities no matter the season. In fact, the weather is a microcosm of the province in general: influenced by mountains and ocean, mild along the south coast and more extreme as you move inland and north.
As you can see from the charts, precipitation, as well as high and low temperatures, can vary considerably within Vancouver Island. These two charts are most indicative of the weather within the region. Victoria is situated on the southern tip of the island; Tofino is found on the central west coast.
Spring is prime wildlife viewing time on the island: catch sight of Pacific grey whales en route to Alaska as well as grizzly or black bears emerging from hibernation to feed along the shoreline. Summers are ideal for exploring the island's extraordinary national and provincial parks by foot, bike or boat as well as for golfing at world-class championship courses. Fall, try a tour of the Cowichan Valley, renowned for its growing list of wineries and organic farms. This is also a wonderful season to view spawning salmon. Winter brings the thrill of storm watching along the island's rugged west coast as well as downhill skiing and boarding on mountains famed for their powder, or cross-country skiing through snow-laden provincial parks.
The south coast of Vancouver Island enjoys extremely mild temperatures year round. Victoria, the province's capital, boasts the mildest winter in Canada and the lowest rainfall on the province's West Coast. Spring arrives early here: hundreds of thousands of blossoms and bulbs are blooming by late February. As for golf, there is no such thing as off season: many of the courses found here are open twelve months of the year.
Most of Vancouver Island's communities and destinations are located on the east side of the Vancouver Island Mountains, where precipitation is just 700-800 mm per year. However, the west coast of the island, exposed to the moisture-packed westerly winds blowing off the Pacific Ocean, receives copious amounts of precipitation from October to March (prime storm watching season). Summers are relatively dry.
Spring is always a wonderful time to visit Vancouver Island. Daily temperatures range from 11-15 ºC. Hiking season in mountains above 1,110 m usually doesn't begin until July, as routes can be snow-covered or muddy until then.
From June through September, Vancouver Island is typically sunny and mild. Daytime temperatures in the southern region of the island (from Nanaimo to Victoria), range from the low-to-mid 20s ºC, with evenings cooling down to about 10º C.
Fall brings average highs of 12 ºC to most communities. By November, storm season has kicked into full gear on the west coast: Tofino can expect about 475 mm during this month alone, more than three times that of Victoria. The Vancouver Island Mountains usually receive some snowfall by mid-November.
Vancouver Island enjoys the most temperate winter climate in BC, which allows for outdoor pursuits such as fishing, hiking and golfing in the south-coastal areas even in January. The west coast is on storm watch through March, an ideal time to watch as surf pounds the rugged Pacific coastline. Winter also brings vast snowfalls to the Vancouver Island Mountains: Mount Washington Alpine Resort receives 860 cm of snow in an average season.
What to Wear
No matter the season, it's advisable to bring wet weather gear, particularly if you plan to visit Vancouver Island's west coast.
Summer temperatures are warm enough for t-shirts and shorts, although sweaters and pants are useful for the evenings, particularly at higher elevations. This is an island – pack your bathing suit as well as rubber beach shoes or sandals for wading near rocky shores. A wind jacket will also come in handy.
A raincoat or medium-weight waterproof jacket is a must for winters on Vancouver Island, preferably worn over a jacket and/or sweater as well as pants and accompanied by an umbrella. You'll find micro-fleece and/or light-weight down is a popular layer as a vest or jacket for many of the local residents during this season. The west coast of the island experiences awesome storms from November through March: if you want to watch, come prepared with waterproof rain gear (some hotels will lend you rain gear if you didn't bring your own).
If you're venturing into the mountains pack along wind-and-water-resistant winter wear, including a warm coat or jacket, gloves or mitts as well as a scarf and hat.