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British Columbia is famous for being a paradise for nature lovers, but this westernmost province of Canada has a lot to offer travelers who are into pretty much anything. The mountainous region is ideal for skiing, mountain biking and backpacking. But there’s also a lovely wine region, opportunities for whale watching, unbelievable scenic drives, and top-notch culinary scene that’s raved about by foodies around the world.
There are big cities in British Columbia, as well as cute little mountain towns with breathtaking views. Since British Columbia is a large province, the most convenient way to get around is by air, but taking a road trip through the province can be an exciting adventure all its own. So get excited to explore this bucket list vacation spot and check out these top destinations in British Columbia!
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Stretching from Langdale to Lund, there are lots of coastal communities to visit and explore when you spend time on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast. A ferry will take you to this region, which is an absolute joy to visit in the spring and summer. For example, you can check out the Lund Shellfish Festival in May, the Pender Harbor Blues Festival and the Gibsons Landing Jazz Festival in June, and the Powell River Blackberry Festival in August. This is a fun spot to visit for foodies who want to try local specialties and a relaxing place if you’re looking to get away from it all.
Vancouver is like many large cities with business centers, museums, and cultural performances scheduled throughout the year. One unique thing about Vancouver is Stanley Park, which is an enormous green space that begins in the city’s downtown area. This park makes getting outdoors and active on a city trip easy with a wonderful paved path for biking, jogging, and walking. Plan to spend a day in this park and check out the attractions along the path as well, such as the Vancouver Aquarium, gardens, and beaches. Other highlights of a trip to Vancouver include the Capilano Suspension Bridge, the Museum of Anthropology, and the produce and art vendor stalls at the Grandville Island Public Market.
Head just west of the city of Vancouver by a 1.5-hour ferry ride or short flight to reach the largest island on North America’s Pacific coast. This is where British Columbia’s capital, Victoria, is located, but also lots of other picturesque towns and outdoor adventure opportunities. The coastal beaches here are perfect for surfing near the town of Tofino. There are lots of lodges and resorts here along the island’s east and west coasts to ensure a comfortable stay at the end of adventurous days.
While on Vancouver Island, a tour around the capital city of Victoria is a must. The majestic Empress Hotel is located in the Inner Harbor, and the waterfront area is wonderful to spend time in the summer. Look at some local restaurant menus and scope out an outdoor patio to dine at while in Victoria. With the diverse mix of tourists, locals, and street performers, this is an excellent spot for people-watching.
Whistler gained international fame when it hosted the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, but this is an awesome place to be no matter what season it is. Whistler is an outdoor adventure capital of British Columbia and a perfect place to go mountain biking, biking, hiking, kayaking, and of course any and all forms of snow sports. If you like to marvel at the beauty of nature more than anything else, take a drive down the scenic Sea-to-Sky Highway.
As if Whistler didn’t offer enough outdoor adventure, Squamish is the small-town version of big things when it comes to getting active in nature. With a population of just around 19,000 people, Squamish is hardwired for adventure in the sea, sky, and everywhere in between. Some of the many things you can do in Squamish are camping, whitewater rafting, helicopter sightseeing, kite surfing, rock climbing, and mountain biking.
Kamloops has a very interesting designation in British Columbia: the tournament capital of Canada. This is because it hosts more sports tournaments than any other place in the country! Athletes and fans travel from far and wide Kamloops every year, and even if you’re not a sports fan you’ll still definitely enjoy the many sunny days that this town enjoys each year. Fossil hunting and rockhounding are also popular activities to try while visiting Kamloops.
The town of Penticton is nicely situated between two lakes in the Okanagan Valley and is a popular summer destination for boaters and travelers who love water sports. Another great reason to visit Penticton is that it’s in the heart of the region’s wine country. Visit some local vineyards to get a taste of how amazing homegrown British Columbia wine really is.
Nelson is often referred to as the Queen City and it’s located in a beautiful area near Kootenay Lake and the Selkirk Mountains. The town was once known for its mining industry but is now a haven for young artists. Make sure to visit Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park near Nelson, including the towering Kokanee Peak. There’s also a provincial park nearby with beaches and campgrounds if you’re looking for a more relaxing time in the Nelson area.
The Okanagan Valley is full of beaches, lakes, mountains, and orchards, and the town here to visit is Kelowna. It’s located on the eastern shore of the lake and a popular retirement destination because of its mild winters and dry summers. It’s also a summertime retreat destination for people all across British Columbia and Alberta, especially among those who enjoy spending time at the beach, golfing, and relaxing on houseboats. There are quite a few great wineries in the Okanagan Valley that have won national and international awards, and many of them offer lake-view dining with beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. Other sites worth checking out in the valley are the Mission Hill Family Estate and the O’Keefe Ranch.
If crowds and touristy spots aren’t your thing, plan to check out the Queen Charlotte Islands, which are remote islands of British Columbia that often get passed over by tourists. They are also called the Haida Gwaii and are comprised of over 150 islands, the most popular being Moresby and Graham. Here you can learn about the native Haida Indians who called these islands home for thousands of years. These islands have a mystical and magical vibe that’s perfectly suited for their rugged landscape and fascinating history. Highlights of a trip to these islands include the UNESCO World Heritage Site of SGang Gwaay, kayaking through Burnaby Narrows, and walking along the Naikoon Provincial Park beaches.