When you touch down in British Columbia (also known as “BC” to locals) you’ll notice that all of their license plates say “Beautiful British Columbia”; that’s because it is truly the gem of Canada’s west coast. From quaint islands, you’ve probably never heard of to the laid-back yet big city vibe of the lower mainland, the great outdoors of the northern Rocky Mountains and through the beautiful lakelands & forests of the interior, there is never a dull moment to be had. BC has literally got you covered, no matter what type of vacation you are after. Here is a quick guide to what this multi-faceted province has to offer:
LOVE BEING IN THE CITY?
Make sure you head over to the gateway to Canada from the Pacific: Vancouver. With an eclectic mix of cultures and a variety of terrain at its doorstep, it’s no wonder it continually makes the list of any Most Livable Cities in the World survey. Make sure you check out Granville Island, a small peninsula teeming with local shops and restaurants, Robson St & Granville St if you are feeling a downtown shopping and clubbing vibe, and Gastown for the history and old city feel. If you’re after something more active, hop on a tandem bike and go for a ride around Stanley Park and the seawall at English Bay. Head over to beautiful North Vancouver and admire the houses amongst the giant trees on the way to the Grouse Mountain cable car, or try something totally different and hop the ferry to Vancouver Island’s main city, Victoria, from the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal.
*DON’T MISS: Pride Week festivities on Davie St.
LOVE BEING ACTIVE?
The Grouse Grind is a popular mountain climb amongst Vancouverites, accessible from the city – just make sure you get up early to beat the traffic across the beautifully scenic Lions Gate Bridge. If the Grind is too much, test your fear of heights while getting a great view and a bit of a history lesson at the Capilano Suspension Bridge. For a change of pace, rent a car and hit the Sea to Sky highway and stop through Squamish for a quiet hike and an overnight camp on your way to the infamous Whistler Village, known for its fresh mountain air and incredible nightlife.
*DON’T MISS: The Whistler Ski & Snowboard Festival during Winter.
LOVE THE ISLANDS?
Get off the lower mainland and over to Vancouver Island and its surrounding inlets. Just a quick an hour and a half jaunt from Vancouver, you will be transported to a place where you are surrounded by nature and everything laid-back that BC is known for. Victoria is usually the main attraction due to its larger population, but don’t pass up the opportunity to head to Ladysmith or Parksville for the quaint, small-town cabin holiday, or Tofino if you want to do a bit of surfing, fishing, or having a good ‘ole Canadian bonfire on the beach.
*DON’T MISS: The Discovery Islands, an archipelago of small islands accessible by seaplane, for a dip into Canada’s First Nations culture
LOVE THE MOUNTAINS?
You’re in the right place! Although Whistler-Blackcomb is known internationally, there are a ton of other ski towns that have just as much to offer. Kimberley, Salmo, Fernie, Nelson and Fairmont are a few of many other tried and true go-to destinations for those who want to avoid the insanity of Whistler. All of these resorts are open year-round and offer many types of activities such as skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, hiking, fishing, rafting, kayaking, canoeing & camping. Perfect for those who love a getaway that is far from the city and immersed in nature!
*DON’T MISS: Fairmont hot springs, and the Shambhala Music Festival in Nelson every summer.
LOVE A GOOD ROAD TRIP?
BC is a great place for all things off the beaten path, and road trips are no exception. Starting from Vancouver, you can hop on the Coquihalla Highway as a starting point to get you to where you need to go. Snake through the southern interior of the province and find yourself along tree-lined roads to Kamloops, Kelowna, Penticton, Osoyoos, Revelstoke, Golden, Radium and Cranbrook, to name a few. This region (also called the Okanagan) is known for its massive amount of lush boreal forest and large lakes and beautiful natural surroundings, great for watching sunsets and if you’re lucky, the Northern Lights. You can cross the border over to Alberta if you want to continue on to some of the Canadian Rockies’ largest national parks, Jasper & Banff.
*DON’T MISS: Peachland Wine Tours; renting a houseboat in Kelowna
It is a common misconception that Vancouver is the only real destination in British Columbia worth checking out – the entire province is exploding with amazing travel opportunities for every style of traveller. It’s hard to come by a destination that can quench your thirst for all things land and sea, urban and rural, active and relaxing. Make sure you jump off the beaten path and try something different. I promise you’ll be glad you did!
By Lydia Tsang