The Best Islands in Canada in 2017

Killer Whales near Pender Island, BC, Canada
Photo: Chris Cheadle/Getty Images/All Canada Photos

Rugged beauty, friendly people, and still waters that run deep. These are only some of the reasons that people hold Canada’s islands in high regard, but perhaps the strongest draw is that they seem untouched by modernization. Year after year, visitors return to gaze upon the same quaint fishing shacks, abundant wildlife, and craggy landscapes. Which doesn’t mean that nothing changes on these islands, including our sentiments about them: This year there is a new destination on the list, the Gulf Islands, an archipelago between Vancouver Island and British Columbia’s mainland. The Gulf Islands may lack beaches and water warm enough for swimming, but they are ideal for those who are less about tanning, and more about hiking, biking, and kayaking. The same can be said for fans of Vancouver Island — which won top honors in this category for the third year in a row. As one reader described it, Vancouver Island is paradise for adventure- and culture-focused travelers, with the province’s thriving capital, Victoria, and pristine wilderness that feels frozen in time. “The combination of the mountains, electric-blue water, wild animals, First Nations culture, untrammeled wilderness, and centuries-old trees makes for a phenomenal retreat from the world. The locals are super-friendly, too.” Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated islands according to their activities and sights, natural attractions and beaches, food, friendliness, and overall value. Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island is another World’s Best favorite. With its Celtic, Acadian, and aboriginal history and friendly locals (after Trump’s win, the tourist office offered up a warm welcome to those considering a move north), Cape Breton is home to the famed Cabot Trail, a 185-mile road that passes through Cape Breton Highlands National Park along the coastline and down into the Margaree River Valley. Whales are worth keeping watch for on one of the many boat excursions offered, and there are multiple museums to visit. Ready to fly north? Pack a fleece instead of a bathing suit, and prepare yourself for adventurous outings that get you up close to nature.

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3. Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia

Cape Breton shoreline on the west coast of the island.
Ron Pettitt/Getty Images

Score: 84.98

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2. Gulf Islands, British Columbia

Killer Whales near Pender Island, BC, Canada
Chris Cheadle/Getty Images/All Canada Photos

Score: 85.37

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1. Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Long Beach, Pacific Rim National Park
Getty Images/Perspectives

Score: 85.95

There’s no need to rough it any more than you care to on this island, which is beloved as much for its extraordinary restaurants, shops, galleries, and hotels as for its history and natural grandeur. On land, glorious hikes abound, while offshore, whales seem to appear by invitation. It’s an easy transition from the sophisticated, historic city of Victoria to the feeling of getting away from it all, as evidenced by reader comments: While some praised Victoria’s gardens, castle, museums, and restaurants, another added, “Remote, yet worth the effort, the scenery is spectacular. Whether you just want to look, or explore the island on foot, kayak, or boat, you will be delighted.”

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