Whether you prefer urban pleasures or you feel the call of the wild, British Columbia has something for everyone. Here are the top 5 ways to spend 150 hours (or, six days and six hours) in this west coast wonderland.
Explore the Cities
Vancouver, Victoria, and Whistler
Start in Vancouver, BC’s largest city, and dig into the hot culinary scene. Feast on local seafood like oysters, salmon, or sablefish, grab a seat a sushi bar, or have dim sum at one of suburban Richmond’s stellar Chinese restaurants. Admire the Northwest Coast First Nations art at the Museum of Anthropology, shop Gastown’s chic boutiques, and stroll through the rainforest at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. Then take a scenic BC Ferries ride to Victoria, the provincial capital on Vancouver Island. After exploring Victoria’s craft-beer scene and drinking up the beauty of the Butchart Gardens, head back to the mainland. Finish with a drive on the Sea-to-Sky Highway to Whistler, home of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, where you can ski or hike the mountain and soak up the village’s lively après scene.
Drive the Alaska Highway
From Dawson Creek North
Start at the beginning: Mile 0 at Dawson Creek in northeastern BC, where you can brush up on your history at the Alaska Highway House. From there, embark on the 1,522 mile drive to Fairbanks, Alaska. Along the way, stop at Liard Hot Springs Provincial Park for a dip surrounded by lush boreal forest, and Muncho Lake Provincial Park for its jade waters and wildlife spotting, including stone sheep, moose, caribou, and mountain goats. Another reason to go: unforgettable Northern Lights.
Journey from the Rockies to the Pacific
Calgary to Vancouver
Take time to savour the trip from the rugged Canadian Rocky Mountains to sea level (or the reverse), perhaps travelling by RV or camping along the way. The most popular route follows the Trans-Canada Highway 1 through the Rockies (stopping at Banff, Alberta) and Kamloops, located in semi-arid grasslands at the confluence of the South and North Thompson rivers, and then on to the metropolitan city of Vancouver. Or, you could take the southern route on BC’s Crowsnest Highway (Highway 3), which heads west through the mountain town of Fernie. The terrain changes dramatically through the South Okanagan, where Osoyoos beckons with Canada’s pocket desert. After wine-tasting and splashing in the lake, continue on for hiking or fishing in E.C. Manning Provincial Park before arriving in Vancouver for multi-ethnic cuisine and oceanside walking trails.
Follow the Ocean
Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast
Maximize your intake of fresh ocean air on a circle tour of BC’s charming coastal communities. From Vancouver, take a scenic BC Ferries ride to Vancouver Island and visit seaside Victoria. Then, drive north through the fertile Cowichan and Comox valleys. (Don’t forget to build a sandcastle in the holiday destination of Parksville.) From Comox, board another ferry and sail to Powell River, the hub of the upper Sunshine Coast. After paddling through Desolation Sound and exploring Powell River’s historic Townsite, head to the lower Sunshine Coast to wander through the laidback waterfront towns of Sechelt and Gibsons. One final glide across the ocean brings you back to Vancouver.
Soak Up the Hot Springs
Kootenay Rockies Circle Tour
Begin in Cranbrook, the gateway to the Kootenay Rockies. From there, drive an 528-mile loop of the region at your leisure, stopping to luxuriate in eight of BC’s most impressive hot springs. These include Lussier Hot Springs, situated beside the Lussier River in Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park, and Fairmont Hot Springs, the largest natural mineral pools in Canada. Near Nakusp, you’ll find Halcyon Hot Springs on beautiful Upper Arrow Lake with views of the Monashee Mountains. And south of Kaslo, Ainsworth Hot Springs offers a unique soak with its horseshoe-shaped cave lined with stalagmites and stalactites, plus a lovely view overlooking Kootenay Lake.