Choosing a top 10 in British Columbia is tough with breath-taking wonders at every turn. This is where the Pacific Ocean is met by bustling cities and towering forests; where soaring snow-capped mountains give way to picturesque valleys, and where lively urban life blends in beautifully with the nature that surrounds it.
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.
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.
- Cycle the nine-km/six-mi Stanley Park seawall
- Browse artisanal food vendors, fresh produce stalls and original artwork at the Granville Island Public Market
- Get elevated on the Capilano Suspension Bridge and the Grouse Mountain Skyride
- Learn about BC’s First Nations at the Museum of Anthropology
- Kick back in the sand at Kitsilano Beach
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.
- 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
Great Bear Rainforest
The planet’s largest 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.
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.
- Test your endurance along the ultra-scenic Peak to Creek downhill ski run
- Unleash your inner Olympian as you fly along the bobsleigh and skeleton tracks at the Whistler Sliding Centre
- Take in one of Whistler’s renowned festivals and events
- Visit the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre to learn about the area’s Aboriginal people
- Ride the world-record breaking Peak 2 Peak Gondola, spanning the distance between Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
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.
- 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
Driving the Alaska Highway is a significant undertaking, to be sure, but the payoff is huge. Literally. First there’s the distance covered – almost 600 miles 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.
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.
- Indulge in afternoon tea at the 19th century Fairmont Empress hotel
- Book a whale-watching adventure departing from the Inner Harbour
- Check out the Royal BC Museum’s many fascinating exhibits
- Visit the Butchart Gardens, a National Historic Site
- Stroll Canada’s narrowest street in Victoria’s vibrant Chinatown
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.
- 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
Kootenay Ski Towns
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 metres of perfect powder. Summer brings stellar hiking and mountain biking, and local museums tell the tales of how these colourful towns came to be.
- Follow the Powder Highway to access eight ski resorts
- Heli-ski or cat-ski from the base of Revelstoke Mountain Resort
- Ride the rails on Kimberley’s Underground Mining Railway
- Mountain bike Rossland’s “epic” Seven Summits Trail
- Soak in the region’s many outdoor mineral hot springs
- Enjoy art and a locally roasted coffee in culturally vibrant Nelson