Vancouver Island Travel Guide

The Meghan and Harry Guide to Vancouver Island

PHOTO: Background image: James Chen/Dreamstime

As the Sussex Royals are leaving England, all eyes are on their destination: Vancouver Island, Canada.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle quit the family royal business in January seeking “a more peaceful life.” And they may have found it on gorgeous Vancouver Island, Canada. Located about 60 miles from the city of Vancouver off the coast of mainland British Columbia, this Pacific paradise has lured the royal couple with gorgeous scenery, lush forests, outdoor recreation on land and water, locally-grown and raised food, plus wineries and craft beer, cider, and spirits. The island is known for its surf and solitude, mixed with a laid-back, friendly vibe—it’s perfect for those wanting to escape the limelight.

The Sussexes, whose “About” page at their sussexroyal.com website shows them walking hand-in-hand along what appears to be a Vancouver Island forest path, announced they’ll spend their time between the United Kingdom and North America. Harry and American-born Meghan chose North Saanich for their first getaway and perhaps their new part-time home.

A half-hour drive from B.C.’s capital city, Victoria, it has about 12,000 residents and features lush farmland, beaches, ­­­­and miles of hiking trails. It’s a place where you drop a few bucks in the honor box at roadside farm stands and pick up fresh free-range eggs, flowers, or veggies.

John Crux/Shutterstock

With a winding, ocean-side road called Lands End and neighbors determined to protect the couple’s privacy from the tabloids, this is the perfect spot for former royals to ditch Megxit snark and pushy paparazzi back home in Britain. Plus, the region boasts the best weather in Canada, with mild winters, early springs, and dry, temperate summers.

Canada is also familiar to Meghan, who spent seven years living part-time in Toronto—on the other side of the country—while filming the TV legal drama Suits.

Weeks before Harry’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, made it official that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will no longer be working members of the royal family and become private citizens, the couple, baby Archie, and Meghan’s mom, Doria Ragland, arrived on Vancouver Island. They spent six weeks at a rented $14 million-oceanfront villa at the top of the Saanich peninsula. They headed back to London briefly, but Meghan was back within days. Harry followed soon after.

Courtesy of Destination Greater Victoria

Their favorite spot on the island seems to be the trails at Horth Hill Regional Park, not far from the villa. They hiked and ran here and took their two dogs for walks, sometimes with Archie and friends who were visiting them. The views from the rocky, mossy summit include the Gulf Islands and San Juan Islands.

Meghan even volunteered to take a photo for a Victoria couple on New Year’s Day, who were stunned when they figured out who the photographer was. The starstruck couple said they also saw Harry and Meghan’s bestie, her former Suits co-star Abigail Spencer.

The royal couple stuck close to their temporary home while on the Island. They were seen in the nearby village of Deep Cove, at the Deep Cove Market. It’s a fantastic little store with weathered hardwood floors, a cozy seating area, and everything from local meats and cheeses to artisan bread, pastries, and groceries. Harry and Meghan were said to have picked up some eggs and clubhouse sandwiches from the Market Kitchen counter. But the staff aren’t interested in gossip and there’s a sign on the front door off the wraparound porch reading “press free zone.”

Courtesy of Victoria Distillers

Harry and Meghan were also reported to have been at nearby Fickle Fig Farm Market. A large group of cyclists was having lunch on the covered patio on a sunny Saturday when I stopped by; cycling is huge on the Island, with dedicated bike lanes throughout downtown, some with their own traffic signals, and miles of rider-friendly, multi-use trails that run west and north of the city.

The Fickle Fig has a farmers’ market, bakery and bistro, excellent pastries (the coffee cake is amazing), breads and pasta, as well as craft soap and cozy items made from wool provided by the farm’s sheep. Craft beer-maker Howl Brewing opened next door in 2018.

Harry and Meghan also did some browsing in at least one shop in the quaint oceanside town of Sidney, dubbed Sidney by the Sea by locals. It’s not clear whether they were seen in Booktown, a downtown stretch of a half-dozen new and used bookstores, or at craft gin-maker Victoria Distillers, which makes signature deep purple Empress 1908 gin for the Fairmont Empress Hotel.

Courtesy of Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea

If they had Archie with them, the best place to go would have been Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea, an interactive and immersive aquarium with a touch that pool kids love. It also has a resident octopus which is returned to the sea every six months and replaced with a new guest octopus.

Water or air are the only ways to get to Vancouver Island. Harry and Meghan were close to two gateways in North Saanich, including the newly expanded Victoria International Airport, where both were spotted. The other option, also in North Saanich, is via BC Ferries, which sails from Swartz Bay to Vancouver and the Gulf Islands.

Harbour Air

But many visitors and locals prefer the amazing views and convenience of floatplanes. Meghan was photographed at the Victoria Harbour Airport Terminal in downtown Victoria where she boarded a Harbour Air floatplane for the 30-minute flight to Vancouver to visit the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre.

As for where Harry and Meghan will put down part-time roots, the latest rumor has them heading to her hometown of Los Angeles for a few weeks this summer. Will they be house hunting, job hunting, or both?

No matter where they end up, beautiful British Columbia will likely figure into their futures. Harry and Meghan have clearly fallen in love with the Saanich peninsula. There’s a good chance you will, too.