• If you plan to explore beyond the celebrated southern city of Victoria, rent a car. It's the only way to get to the island's far-flung corners. Rent one in Vancouver and drive it right onto the BC Ferry, which departs from several mainland points, often, for the island.
• Don't sleep or read on the BC Ferry. Oh, it's tempting -- the large, uncrowded boats have big, clean, quiet, warm lounges, comfy couches and alluring cafeterias -- but you'll miss some maritime wilderness scenery, maybe even a glimpse of a whale or seal, if you don't hit the windy decks or climb up to the sheltered area where you can scan the horizon through Plexiglas walls.
• Take binoculars -- everywhere.
• Bring sunscreen. Sure, it's deceptively cool and windy in this northern place, but the sun is intense around solstice time, and you'll fry if you're not slathered.
• Do wander in your car -- take a good map, but don't be afraid to turn onto gravel roads and visit villages not mentioned in the guidebooks. People are wonderfully friendly.
• Don't wander if you're hiking. Know where you're headed, how long and vertical the trail is and what to expect along the way. Take plenty of food and water. This is wilder country than you think it's going to be.
• Study up on the flora and fauna of Vancouver Island before you go. You'll find yourself recognizing and appreciating things you otherwise might not have noticed, things you won't have seen before and won't forget.
• Read about the First Nations people who live on the island, and be respectful, as they will be to you.