The Best Vancouver Island diving is really a matter of personal preference - however with some of the world's best, award winning, cool water diving located between Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia, you are sure to find the best Vancouver Island dive site for you.
With hundreds of dive sites all around Vancouver Island - natural wrecks, artificial and purpose sunk wrecks, wall dives, shore dives, charter boat dives, critter dives, drift dives, big-animal dives, macro and wide angle photography dives, deep dives - you are sure to find a dive site that will allow for a scuba diving vacation of a lifetime - it truly is a great dive destination.
We will start north of Vancouver Island and work our way down, providing a summary of some of the best dive sites in the areas.
We also have a list of upcoming BC dive charters you can check out...
The dive area beyond the northern tip of Vancouver Island, home to culturally significant and majestic areas such as the Haida Gwaii (formerly Queen Charlotte Islands,) is generally reserved for more adventurous and trained divers and is referred to as the Northern or Central Coast.
The best way to dive the Northern Coastal area of British Columbia is on board a liveaboard dive boat, such as the popular MV Mamro, which typically departs from either Port Hardy on Vancouver Island or sometimes from Prince Rupert on the mainland.
While heading to the best Northern Central coast dive sites, you will typically see incredible scenery and plenty of wild life (maybe even one of our mysterious Kermode or 'Spirit Bears') so ensure you have your camera ready.
Once there you will typically visit some of the best wreck dives in the area, including the 100 meter (330 foot ) iron steamship Ohio, which sank in 1909 during the Alaskan goldrush after hitting an uncharted rock in Swanson Bay.
The captain was able to save a number of lives by steering the Ohio to shore, and parts of the wreck can still be seen above the waterline at low tide while the hull is underwater to a depth of around 25 meters (75 feet.)
Another best Vancouver Island diving site and very nice wreck is the Transpac, a 53 meter (175 foot) fishing boat which was accidentally t-boned and then sank in a deep (500 meter, 1500 feet) ravine in 1986.
Thankfully the Transpac landed on a ledge with the bow at around 35 meters (115 feet) and her stern at around 80 meters (275 feet.) There are tons of interesting features from the fishing boat to look at, as well as great wall life on the way down, so there is no need to go to the 80 meter depth to enjoy this dive.
With the Transpac being submerged since 1986, you can expect to see a lot of invertebrate and other life, including numerous fields of tube worms, cloud and boot sponges, brittle stars, various crabs and other life. Also swimming around, you may see groups of black, copper and other types of rockfish, as well as possibly octopus, or wolf eels watching you from crevaces in the wall.
There are many divers who are convinced that the best Vancouver Island diving sites and best British Columbia dive sites can be found on the northern tip of Vancouver Island in the Port Hardy area.
While the Port Hardy local dive shop has closed, there are many Vancouver Island dive retailers located along the drive to Port Hardy where you can purchase or rent any dive gear you may need.
With some of the best Port Hardy and Vancouver Island dive sites being around 15 miles beyond the town of Port Hardy, most diving is done by staying at one of several popular dive lodges in the area, such as the legendary Browning Pass Hideaway or Gods Pocket resort, or via a popular liveaboard such as the Mamro.
Reservations must be made ahead of time and pick-ups are typically arranged from a location near Port Hardy.
Our favorite Port Hardy/Northern Vancouver Island dive site is 7 Tree Island, and there are popular wreck dives such as the Themis, drift/rapid dives such as Nakwakto Rapids, and many reef and wall dives such as the famous Browning Wall, Hunt Rock, Hussar Point, Dillon Rock, North Wall, Rock of Life, Eagle Rock, and many more sites.
With prior planning, drysuit certification and other Port Hardy PADI courses can be completed while at the Hideaway, and with so much life between the surface and around 60 feet, there are plenty of best Vancouver Island diving sites for divers of all levels.
But keep in mind, there can be very strong currents at many of these Vancouver Island diving boat dive sites so only dive with an expert who can place you in the water at slack tide.
We consider the rectangular area between Campbell River to the north, Nanaimo to the south, with Courtenay/Comox inbetween, and Powell River, the Sunshine Coast and the Gulf Islands and the lower mainland to the east, to be a fantastic Vancouver Island dive hub for divers of all skill sets and dive sites of all types.
With numerous central Vancouver Island shore dive sites and dive charter boat dives that can take you to current dependent natural and artificial wrecks, drift dives, wall dives, seal and sealion dives, reef dives and more, there is something for everyone.
There are numerous central Vancouver Island dive stores to visit, as well as Vancouver Island charter boat operators, a liveaboard operator (the Mamro,) and several British Columbia dive lodges and resorts that provide dive services in the area.
We used Courtenay/Comox as our convenient base and used GreenSea Diving as our charter operator who put a great central Vancouver Island dive package together for us on our recent Vancouver Island dive get-away.
Over time we will be adding more of the best or most popular Campbell River, Courtenay/Comox, Nanaimo, Sunshine Coast and Gulf Island dive sites to our list, but some of the best Vancouver Island diving sites in this Vancouver Island diving area include:
- Heron Rocks, Norris Rocks, Chrome Island, MV Alpha wreck and Wolf Eel Alley in the Courtenay/Comox areas
From unique and colorful nudibranch, fields of strawberry anemones, walls full of life, crabs, sponges and invertebtates of all shapes and sizes, to numerous wolf eels, giant pacific octopus, seals, sealions, orca, grey and humpback whales, this Vancouver Island dive hub (and mecca) has something for everyone.
Famous since the days Captain Cook first came ashore at Friendly Cove in Nootka Sound, this best Vancouver Island diving area has lots of best dive sites and history to explore above and below the surface.
The main dive operator in the area can provide boat dives, some spare dive gear, air fills, and also help arrange accommodation - Tahtsa Dive Charters, and can take you to popular west coast Vancouver Island dive sites like Mozino Point, Boulder Alley, The Zoo, and Shark Point.
And just south of the popular Tofino and Ucluelet area with Long Beach inbetween, you will come across another popular west coast dive area of Barkley Sound, with the well known Rendezvous Dive Adventures Lodge being the best place in the area to stay and dive.
With popular Barkley Sound dive sites such as Renates Reef, this best Vancouver Island diving area is already popular with divers.
However recently there also appear to be numerous six gill shark sightings, so this Vancouver Island westcoast dive site is becoming even more popular.
Large puget sound king crabs, ancient sponges, giant gorgonian corals, floors covered with anemones, and lots of invertebrate and other marine life, big and small, can be found, along with popular wrecks such as the Vanlene and Thiepval, Mahk Reef (Ratfish City) and Kyen Point dive sites.
Here, several of the best Vancouver Island dive sites include the popular sunken 737 airplane which rests on stands about 15 feet off the ocean floor at an altitude/ depth of around 30 meters below sea level, Thetis Island, wrecks of the Del Norte, Point Gray and Robert Kerr, Augusta Point, Bare Rock, Porlier Pass, and Fake Reef.
These best Vancouver Island dive sites are frequented by Peter Luckham and 49th Parallel Dive Charters, and well known author and biologist Andy Lamb (author of Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest) can sometimes be found onboard or operating his nearby Cedar Beach Lodge.
There are two areas of the Salish Sea that are popular here for diving - Stuart Channel which is a low current area that is parallel to Vancouver Iisland where we find both shallow and deep reefs on both the Vancouver Island side and on the Thetis/Kuper Island side of the Channel.
Rocky mountain peaks rise up from the bottom and support a variety of fish and invertebrate species such as cloud sponge, giant pacific ctopus, wolf-eel and loads of rock fish including black rockfish, brown rockfish, tiger rockfish and vermilion rockfish.
And Trincomali Channel has many current dependent dive sites including Porlier Pass, Alcala and Galiano wall. 49th Parallel Dive Charters have found numerous sites to visit as a second and third dive pre or post slack to give you a full days diving in this best Vancouver Island diving area.
With the good tidal exchange in Trincomali Channel, you will find many species of rockfish, giant lingcod, soft corals, nudibranch, starfish and anemones.
Just north of beautiful Victoria, our capital city, and where the ferry arrives from the mainland, are the best Vancouver Island diving areas of Sidney and nearby Brentwood Bay/Saanich Inlet.
It is near Sidney where the non-profit organization, the Artificial Reef Society of British Columbia, sank the GB Church, their first carefully prepared wreck to serve as a safe haven for marine life and scuba divers.
The GB Church is a 53 meter (175 foot) coastal freighter located on the border of the Princess Margaret Provincial Marine Park that was sunk in 1991.
The mast is at 5 meters (15 feet) and the keel of the former WW II supply ship lies at about 27 meters (90 feet) where the average visibility is around 12 meters (35 feet).
This dive site is teeming with colorful marine life, and should only be penetrated by certified and experienced wreck divers.
In addition to tons of colorful marine life, you can sometimes see giant pacific octopus and wolf eels in this easy access Vancouver Island diving area.
The former HMCS MacKenzie, another one of our 7 local artificial reefs and another great dive site near Sidney, is a 112 meter (366 foot) Canadian anti-submarine destroyer that was sunk September 16, 1995 by the ARSBC.
The ship's keel lies in around 30 meters (90-100 feet), the radar tower stands in 10 meters (30-40 feet) and the upper deck at around 18 meters (55-65 feet). There are mooring buoy's attached near the bow, bridge and stern for an easy descent.
The Shaw Discovery Center is nearby and worth a visit after your dives too.
Christmas Point is a boat dive on the south-west shore of Saanich Inlet, with a buoy marking the dive site.
Rockfish Divers are the main charter operator in the Saanich Inlet area, another best Vancouver Island diving area.
Since most of the best life to see is at depths over 60' (at around 100'-120'), it is considered an intermediate to advanced dive site.
Being in the Saanich Inlet, strong tides and currents are generally not an issue, but algae blooms and plankton can be a problem in the summer months, as with most areas in BC.
As you swim down the slope by the buoy you will come across a wall that drops straight down from about 70-80 feet.
At around 100 feet you'll see lots of unique cloud sponges.
Be very careful with your buoyancy as these amazing sponges are very fragile and take hundreds of years to grow as big as they are.
Unfortunately, many have been damaged by fishermen and their downriggers that frequent this Vancouver Island dive area.
They are also extremely sharp and can be very irritating to the skin so be double careful not to touch.
You will also see lots of quillback rockfish, lingcod, crabs, starfish, swimming anemones, nudibranchs,solitary tunicates, jelly fish, and sometimes seals come to visit this Vancouver Island diving area.
You may also see wolf eels, octopus or even six gill sharks in the area.
Depending on the time of year and the weather, visibility can be 100' or more in this best Vancouver Island diving area.
There are also some great cloud sponge sites at nearby dive locations in the Saanich Inlet, such as:
- McCurdy Point
- Senanus Island
- Wain Rock
- Arbutus Island
- Repulse Rock
And on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, with so many awesome dive sites to the north, is the best Vancouver Island diving site areas of Victoria and Sooke, where the nutrient rich waters of the Strait of Georgia and the Strait of Juan de Fuca meet creating fantastic dive opportunities.
With numerous local Victoria dive stores, and several Victoria and Sooke dive charter operators, such as Pinnacle Scuba Adventures, it is easy to gear up for some fantastic Vancouver Island shore dives or boat dives.
Some of the best Vancouver Island diving sites in the Victoria and Sooke area to consider include the shore dives of 10 Mile Point and the Ogden Point Breakwater, as well as Swordfish Island, Race Rocks, the wrecks of the Barnard Castle and Diamond Knot, Church Island, Albert Head, Beechy Head, Possession Point and many more.
Contact us for more information on best Vancouver Island diving, to provide us with your recommended Vancouver Island dive site, or to help plan a dive escort or private dive lessons, dive charter, dive certification lessons, or to help plan accommodation or Vancouver Island scuba diving vacation packages.
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