Top 10 Places to Go
British Columbia is a place of immense natural beauty that boasts dozens of spectacular places to explore. Below is a sampling of some of the best the province has to offer.
1. Haida Gwaii
Mystical islands with a rich cultural history
Rainforest on Graham Island (Ian Holmes photo)
This remote and rugged archipelago is steeped in the ancient culture of the Haida First Nation. Here glorious old-growth rainforest is surrounded by an incredibly rich marine environment, both home to unique subspecies found only on these magical islands. Gwaii Haanas, a highly protected area overseen jointly by Parks Canada and the Haida Nation, is home to extraordinary natural scenery and cultural treasures, including ancient totems that are slowly decaying and being reclaimed by the land. Allow yourself time for contemplation, and leave with a renewed sense of wonder. Learn more....
Urban playground in the heart of nature
View of Vancouver from atop Grouse Mountain (Getty Images/Flickr photo)
In Vancouver, Mother Nature beckons. Whether you’re strolling along the seawall, shopping on Robson Street or exploring historic Gastown, you can catch a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean or the rainforest-covered Coast Mountains from almost anywhere in the city – so close you can practically reach out and touch them. Rent a kayak and paddle scenic waterways, hike or ski in the North Shore Mountains, or just chill at the beach. At the end of the day, gaze out at the scenery over a locally inspired meal on a waterfront patio, and find inspiration for the next day’s adventure. Learn more....
3. Canadian Rockies
Awe-inspiring peaks, impossibly blue lakes
The Milky Way, as seen above Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park (Callum Snape photo)
The Rockies evoke images of towering, snow-capped peaks, turquoise lakes, cascading waterfalls and dense evergreen forests. In BC, that jaw-dropping, Rocky Mountain scenery – the kind that stays with you long after you’ve returned home – stretches the entire length of the province. UNESCO established the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site along the BC/Alberta border, in part because of this spectacular beauty. The area is also globally significant because of the Burgess Shale fossil site, which shows in amazing detail what the Earth was like more than half a billion years ago. Learn more....
- Gaze at stunning Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies
- Hike in Yoho National Park for a couple of hours or a couple of days
- Keep an eye out for wildlife along the highway
- Immerse yourself in luxurious hot springs at Radium, Fairmont and Lussier
- Experience the thrill of rafting the Kicking Horse River
4. Great Bear Rainforest
Home of the elusive Spirit Bear
Spirit bear in the Great Bear Rainforest (Getty Images photo)
The planet’s largest intact coastal temperate rainforest, the Great Bear is a revered and protected wilderness area. This section of BC’s Central Coast is remote and there are few roads within its boundaries, which contributes to a feeling of peace and serenity - of truly being in nature - for all who visit. BC’s First Nations have called this stretch of coastline home for thousands of years, and their influence is strongly felt. It is also home to an abundance of marine life, from whales to dolphins to sea otters. Add the fact that it is the only place in the world to see the rare white Kermode (Spirit) bear, and a trip to the Great Bear Rainforest is an experience unlike any other. Learn more....
- Book a sailing tour in search of the magnificent spirit bear
- Hike to a waterfall in the Bella Coola Valley
- Explore the Big House and learn about First Nations culture in the coastal village of Klemtu
- Cruise the Inside Passage with BC Ferries
Arguably the planet's top all-season resort
Skiing at Whistler Blackcomb (Robin O'Neill photo)
Whistler Blackcomb is consistently named North America’s #1 resort, and it’s not hard to understand why. Skiers and boarders can explore more terrain here than anywhere else on the continent, with the summits of two legendary mountains – Whistler and Blackcomb – connected by the spectacular PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola. In summer, the pedestrian village is alive with hikers, mountain bikers, golfers and people watchers. Even the drive will make your heart skip a beat: access from Vancouver is via the Sea-to-Sky Highway, which follows a stunning coastline for much of its length. Learn more....
6. Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
Pristine wilderness and endless beaches
Surfer riding a wave near Tofino on the Pacific Rim (Jeremy Koreski/All Canada Photos photo)
This magnificent park on the west coast of Vancouver Island consists of three sections: Long Beach, home to flawless beaches and a thriving surf culture; the West Coast Trail, an epic, multi-day hike along what was once a rescue trail for shipwrecked sailors; and the Broken Group Islands, a kayaker’s paradise made up of more than 100 islands and islets. In summer the area is alive with thrill seekers, families, and everyone in between enjoying the beach and hiking through the old-growth rainforest. Fall and winter months bring dramatic storm watching, and in the spring tens of thousands of grey whales migrate through these waters. Learn more....
- Sample fresh-off-the-boat seafood and admire the work of local artists in the hip community of Tofino
- Hike Ucluelet’s rugged coast on the Wild Pacific Trail
- Sign up for a surf lesson on Long Beach
- Hop on a boat or a seaplane bound for restorative Hot Springs Cove
- Take a water taxi or paddle a kayak to Meares Island and hike among some of the biggest, oldest trees on the planet
7. Alaska Highway
Remote wilderness, home to some serious wildlife
Wildlife at Muncho Lake
Driving the Alaska Highway is a significant undertaking, to be sure, but the payoff is huge. Literally. First there’s the distance covered – almost 1,000 km (600 mi) of this historic route are in BC alone. Then there’s the scenery – the towering Rocky Mountains and mile after mile of pristine wilderness virtually untouched by humans. And the wildlife – chances are excellent that you’ll see herds of massive bison roaming alongside the road, bighorn sheep sampling the highway’s mineral licks, and possibly mountain goats, moose and bears. Oh my. Add to this the unique history of the road’s construction, and adventurous travellers can’t resist the call of the wild. Learn more....
Old world charm with an ocean view
Victoria's scenic Inner Harbour (Reuben Krabbe photo)
Situated on Vancouver Island, Victoria is a dynamic city that offers a seamless mix of the past and the present. The charismatic Inner Harbour serves as the hub of BC’s capital city, whether you’re looking to linger over an ocean-view meal at one of many innovative restaurants, or heading out on the water in search of resident pods of Orcas. Victoria is well known for its beautifully maintained gardens, and it boasts more cycling paths than any other Canadian city. Learn more....
9. Okanagan Valley
Award-winning wineries set against a dramatic backdrop
View of Okanagan Lake from Cedar Creek Estate Winery (Andrew Strain photo)
No place in BC says summer quite like the Okanagan Valley. The sun shines brightly on sparkling lakes surrounded by soft sandy beaches, providing the perfect backdrop for an endless array of activities for the young and the young at heart. Hike or bike in the mountains, tee off at one of many championship golf courses, or splash in the lake. Need a little sustenance? Okanagan Valley wineries have won major national and international awards, and many offer lake-view dining inspired by the valley’s agricultural riches. Winters here come with lots of soft, fluffy snow, and plenty of ways to enjoy it. Learn more....
- Sip stellar wines with an equally impressive view along the Naramata Bench
- Stick ‘em up on the Kettle Valley Steam Railway’s Great Train Robbery
- Take a detour to Keremeos, the self-described “Fruit Stand Capital of Canada”
- Cycle over Myra Canyon’s towering trestle bridges
10. Kootenay Ski Towns
Unsurpassed powder and a funky, small town vibe
Stunning view of the mountains from downtown Fernie (Henry Georgi/All Canada Photos photo)
Looking for the ultimate ski vacation? Succumb to the lure of the Kootenay Rockies, where the snow is soft and deep, lift lines are short, and a free-spirited counterculture prevails. Locals here are by and large outdoorsy, creative types who are quick to chat you up - whether on the hill or over an après-ski pint – and make you feel welcome. The mountains, most of which are within shouting distance of town, are renowned for an annual snowfall of up to 12 m/40 ft of perfect powder. Summer brings stellar hiking and mountain biking, and local museums tell the tales of how these colourful towns came to be. Learn more....