Vancouver Island Bucket List - What to do on Vancouver Island
VANCOUVER ISLAND - Where to Next?

War Bunkers to Crash Sites: A Tour of Vancouver Island’s WWII Past

written bySteven Eckert

Last ModifiedNovember 20, 2023

The crash site of the Dakota WWII plane crash just outside of Port Hardy

Discover WWII-related sites on Vancouver Island and where to find them.

Vancouver Island isn’t just a haven for outdoor enthusiasts; it’s also a living museum with stories etched into its landscapes.

a map displaying locations around Vancouver Island that have a history related to World War 2
WWII Historic Locations

I would like to take a moment to reflect on the impact of World War II and share with you some of the sites that serve as reminders of the sacrifices made during this tumultuous period. These sites can be found across the Island, and they offer a glimpse into the lives of those who lived through the war.

As we explore Tofino’s WW2 Bomber, Dakota Crash Site, Fort Rodd Hill, BC Aviation Museum, and Estevan Point Lighthouse, we are reminded of the bravery and selflessness of those who stood up for our freedom. We pay tribute to the fallen soldiers and honour their memory by visiting these historical sites.

 

#1 – Tofino WW2 Bomber Hike

Tree fallen over into plane years after it crashed

Nestled in the lush forests near Tofino is a relic from the past that you wouldn’t expect to find— the remains of a Canso Bomber. This aircraft was part of the Royal Canadian Air Force during WWII.

The Role it Played During WWII and the Story Behind the Crash

In 1945, the Canso Bomber was on a routine patrol mission filled with fuel and four 100-kilogram depth charges when it faced engine failure. The crew had no choice but to make an emergency landing in what is now known as Radar Hill.

Thankfully, all 12 crew members survived and were rescued eleven hours later. The army salvaged the guns and electronics and detonated the depth charges – leaving a crater that still exists today.

The bent metal body still lies in the trees as it serves as a war memorial and a testament to the resilience and bravery of those who served.

How to Get There and What to Expect

This unique site is only a 10-minute drive from Tofino and is located in a reasonably convenient location. To visit it, you’ll need to access it by car and embark on a 1-2hr round-trip hike through the forest.

The trail is well-marked and now has boardwalks to keep you above the bog. As you approach, the sight of the bomber emerging from the foliage is a little surreal. You can walk around and even peek inside. 

 


#2 – Dakota Crash Site Hike – Port Hardy

Not far from Port Hardy lies another aviation relic— the Dakota 576. This site is a bit different from the Canso Bomber with a tragic ending.

The crash site is not visited as often, is a little harder to get to, has less graffiti and is more compelling for those interested in wartime history.

The Role it Played During WWII and the Story Behind the Crash

The plane is a Douglas C-47 Skytrain, commonly known as Dakota in the British Royal Air Force. The Dakota aircraft played a crucial role during the war, used for troop transport, cargo delivery, and even paratrooper drops.

The Dakota 576 was on a navigation mission when experienced bad weather it missed the first approach, sadly on the second attempt the plane ran out of fuel and crashed.

Unfortunately, the pilot and navigator were both killed. The wireless air gunner was found by a search party several hours after the crash. The wreckage serves as a reminder of the risks faced even in peacetime.

How to Get There and What to Expect

Located ten minutes from Port Hardy, just down the road from the Port Hardy ferry terminal.

To reach the Dakota Crash Site, you’ll need to hike a moderate 4.5km, 2hr hike with some elevation gain. Once you arrive, you’ll find a memorial plaque in front of the intact fuselage.  It’s possible to walk around the twisted metal of the aircraft scattered among the trees.

It’s a haunting yet fascinating experience, offering a tangible connection to the past. 

 


 


#3 Fort Rodd Hill – Victoria

Fisgard Lighthouse from Fort Rodd Hill

Located near Victoria, Fort Rodd Hill is a coastal artillery fort that predates WWII but played a significant role during the conflict. It’s now a National Historic Site, offering a well-preserved look into military history.

The Role it Played During WWII and Its Strategic Importance

During WWII, Fort Rodd Hill served as a crucial defence point for the naval base at Esquimalt Harbour. The fort was upgraded and equipped with gun batteries, underground magazines, and command posts to protect against potential enemy naval attacks. While it never saw combat, its very presence acted as a deterrent and showcased the preparedness of Canadian forces.

How to Get There and What to Expect

Getting to Fort Rodd Hill is straightforward, with easy access by car from Victoria.

Once there, you can explore the various installations, including the gun batteries and the underground bunkers. It’s like stepping into a time capsule, complete with historical displays and even some original artillery pieces. Walking along the shoreline, you can see the steel nets that once protected the harbour from unseen submarines.

As an extra bonus, access to the park includes the historic Fisgard Lighthouse, built in 1860

 


 

Ucluelet Tour Pacific Rim Expedition jeep
We are Island locals and we want to share some of our wilderness with you! Experience breathtaking mountain viewpoints, amazi...
cb
The Canadian city of Victoria has a rich British colonial history dating back to the Victorian era, which is evident in its s...
zodiac whale watching
Admire native marine wildlife in the waters of British Columbia on this 3-hour whale-watching adventure in Victoria. Hop aboa...
f8
This fascinating audio guided tour will show you the beautiful west coast city of Victoria. You'll learn about the region's h...
scavenger hunt and walking tour
This private, self-guided, scavenger hunt tour is ideal if you enjoy the structure of guided tours but want the independence ...
Rent this bright red pickup truck outfitted with a rooftop tent in an open field, the tent partially unfolded against a backdrop of forest and blue sky, with FarOut Wilderness branding and contact details on the vehicle
Discount Code - VIBL5 - Use our custom discount code to save 5% when booking your overland truck rental. Pick your dates for ...
Seattle ferry
Taking a day trip from Seattle to Victoria, Canada has never been easier. Leave from downtown Seattle to Vancouver Island abo...
Beacon Hill Park Horse Drawn Carriage Tour 4
Victoria has striking architecture, stunning parks, and British colonial history dating back to the Victorian era. On this to...
tofino photography
Return from your Tofino trip with the best souvenir ever—high-quality vacation photos to share. Our local, hand-picked profes...
Victoria Hiking tour
Hike through Vancouver Island's towering rainforest on a private, guided hike from Victoria that explores a fascinating ecosy...

#4 BC Aviation Museum

BC Aviation Museum

Located in Sidney, the BC Aviation Museum is a treasure trove for aviation enthusiasts and history buffs alike. It’s not just a collection of aircraft; it’s a tribute to the role aviation played in shaping our world, including during WWII.

The Role of Aviation in WWII and How the Museum Preserves This History

Air power was a game-changer in WWII, and the BC Aviation Museum does an excellent job of capturing this essence. One of the highlights is a Lancaster FM104, currently under restoration.

The Lancaster bombers were a cornerstone of the British Royal Air Force’s strategic bombing campaign, making them an iconic symbol of the war effort.

Highlights of the Museum

The museum offers both indoor and outdoor displays, including a 5,000 sqft restoration facility where you can see aircraft being brought back to life, with thousands of artifacts on display, including WWII planes such as the Avro Anson, Bristol Bolingbroke MkIV, North American Aviation Harvard and the Supermarine Spitfire. 

 


 


#5 Estevan Point Lighthouse

Black and white aerial view and location map of the Estevan Point Light House 1942
SOURCE:Royal BC Museum / BC Archives, C-07859

Although the Estevan Point Lighthouse is not accessible by car, we have to include this historic WWII location as it’s more than just a beacon for ships. 

The Estevan Point Lighthouse experienced a unique event during WWII, as the only Canadian west coast location was attacked during WWII, making it a point of interest for history enthusiasts.

The Role it Played During WWII and the Story of the Japanese Submarine Attack

In June 1942, a Japanese submarine targeted the coastline of British Columbia, including a wireless station and the Estevan Point Lighthouse.

While the attack resulted in no casualties or significant damage, it marked the first time enemy forces had fired upon Canadian soil since the War of 1812. The event also sparked various theories and debates, adding another layer of intrigue to the site.

Some believe it is a hoax thought up by Prime Minister Mackenzie King to gain support for conscription. In recent years shells have been found and Japanese naval recorders, note the event, debunking the theory. Source

 


Vancouver Island and WWII 

Although far from the front WWII frontline small hits into history can be found across Vancouver Island.

From the resilient Canso Bomber in Tofino to the strategic fortifications at Fort Rodd Hill, each site offers a unique window into a time that shaped our world. These locations serve not just as historical landmarks but as reminders of the sacrifices, bravery, and complexities of a war that touched every corner of the globe.

So, whether you’re a history enthusiast or just someone looking to add a layer of depth to your Vancouver Island adventures, these WWII sites offer an experience that’s both educational and emotionally impactful. As you stand in these places, you’re not just witnessing history; you’re connecting with it.

 

6b
Vancouver is remarkable—the nature at its doorstep even more so. Experience it for yourself on this 4-day private tour, your ...
Victoria Photographer
Localgrapher is the largest network of professional photographers and videographers with more than 600 destinations around th...
Victoria Food Tour
Explore Victoria's history and culinary scene on this walking tour of the British Columbian city. Follow a guide to highlight...
dd
Enjoy a day of paddle boarding on gorgeous Thetis Lake, a popular hang for families with a beautiful sandy beach. After a few...
halloween ghostly walking tour victoria
You might not guess from the pretty gardens and charming streets, but the city of Victoria is full of ghosts, or at least gho...
Sunset Whale Watching Tour Victoria 2
Discover a new perspective on Victoria’s striking coastal scenery—and have the rare chance to spot giants of the deep, as wel...
41
Explore Vancouver Island's magnificent scenery on a full-day, private tour from Victoria to Englishman River Falls, Little Qu...
cd
Marvel at the majesty of Canada’s marine wildlife on this 3-hour whale-watching adventure in Victoria. Hop aboard your boat, ...
dc
Get a comprehensive introduction to Vancouver Island with this two-day sightseeing tour, including one night of accommodation...
zodiac whale watching
Admire native marine wildlife in the waters of British Columbia on this 3-hour whale-watching adventure in Victoria. Hop aboa...

Where to this Weekend?

Vancouver Island Map with Cities
cd
Marvel at the majesty of Canada’s marine wildlife on this 3-hour whale-watching adventure in Victoria. Hop aboard your boat, ...
Nature Walks in Pacific tour
Join us on a scenic tour along the Old Growth forest and the picturesque Pacific Ocean. Our expert guides will lead you throu...
Ucluelet Tour Pacific Rim Expedition jeep
We are Island locals and we want to share some of our wilderness with you! Experience breathtaking mountain viewpoints, amazi...
Victoria Hiking tour
Hike through Vancouver Island's towering rainforest on a private, guided hike from Victoria that explores a fascinating ecosy...
Craigdarroch Castle exterior in spring with cherry blossoms in Victoria, BC, Canada, showcasing the historic building's stone facade, conical towers, and arched windows against a clear blue sky.
photo-camera-icon-selfie-spot
icon-single-HISTORY-H
Museum icon

Craigdarroch Castle

Explore the grandeur of Craigdarroch Castle in Victoria, BC. This historic landmark offers a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of the 19th century
Niagara Falls Victoria
Hiking Icon
Picnic Icon
Waterfall icon

Goldstream Park

Goldstream Park, Only 16 km from Downtown Victoria massive trees and 150-foot waterfall
jumping in sooke potholes
swimming icon
Beach Icon
Picnic Icon
Hiking Icon

Swim At the Poth...

The Sooke Potholes Regional Park is one of the most beautiful parks on Vancouver Island.

Thank you for visiting – I hope you found the information you were looking for at VIBL (Vancouver Island Bucket List) please continue to discover all of the great places that makes Vancouver Island so great! 

Vancouver Island Guides & Maps
snorkelling Adventures Vancouver Island
Snorkelling Adventures Around Vancouver Island
lonely planet
Vancouver & Victoria - Lonely Planet
adventure road map
Vancouver Island Folded Map
Back road maps
Backroad Map - Vancouver Island

Discover new places and find your way around Vancouver Island. Many areas do not have cell service so maps and guidebooks can be very helpful for the curious.

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Email