British Columbia is Canada’s four-season playground. With mild winters and balmy summers, BC is filled with beautiful places to visit from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Coast it has an endless supply of outdoor adventures, world-class vineyards, and beautiful scenery. If you are planning a trip to Canada’s West Coast, these are the best places to visit in British Columbia to add to your travel bucket list.
We’ve been lucky enough to have lived in British Columbia and even though we aren’t BC residents anymore, we make a point of going back regularly. In fact, I think we travel more to British Columbia now that we don’t live there anymore. We have explored all corners of the province and these are some ideas to spark your wanderlust to explore Canada’s West Coast.
Places to Visit in British Columbia
Vancouver is one of the best cities in Canada that offers the perfect blend of urban and outdoor adventures. When planning your travels to British Columbia, chances are you will start in Vancouver. This beautiful city has everything you would want in an urban center yet, it is filled with outdoor activities. Stanley Park is home to the famous sea wall that is perfect for cycling and hiking. There’s the Vancouver Aquarium which is a top attraction in Stanley Park and there are plenty of walking trails, a marina, and the Stanley Park Totem Poles.
Granville Island is a not to miss destination in Vancouver with art galleries, restaurants, cafes, and exhibits on a bustling island in the heart of the city.
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It’s Canada’s winter destination, but Whistler is one of the best places to visit in British Columbia in summer too. Make your way to Whistler Village to enjoy the great outdoors of the coastal mountains. Home to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, Whistler is an outdoor lover’s playground with World Cup ski hills, a bobsleigh track, and endless cross country ski trails.
In the summer, there’s fantastic hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing and Whistler Village is a year-round retreat filled with restaurants, cafes, and plenty of activities.
Located between Vancouver and Whistler, Squamish is often overlooked as a quick stop on the Sea to Sky highway road trip, but this town is worth spending a few days. It’s a rock climbing Mecca with professional climbers flocking to tackle the Squamish Chief (Stawamus Chief Mountain ).
The Britannia Mine Museum is a fascinating walk through time and there are plenty of waterfalls and hiking trails and whitewater rafting around Squamish. If you don’t want to hike or climb to the top of Squamish Chief, you can take the Sea to Sky Gondola up for high views of Howe Sound, where you can test your nerves by crossing the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge. There’s excellent dining and Squamish is one of the best places in British Columbia to see bald eagles.
4. Sunshine Coast
This drive up the rugged and remote stretch of the BC coast is one of Canada’s best-kept secrets. The Sunshine Coast is located north of Vancouver along the Straight of Georgia. Located on the mainland of BC, one would think it is an easy drive, but the only way to access the Sunshine Coast is by taking a ferry, helicopter, or plane. Taking the ferry from Horseshoe Bay transforms you to one of the most beautiful coastlines in BC.
As you drive north, you’ll come into Gibsons Landing, home to the filming location of the legendary Canadian TV Show, the Beachcombers before you begin the drive up to Lund where you can jump on excursions to Desolation Sound. The Sunshine Coast is also known for some of the best mountain biking in British Columbia.
Read More About The Sunshine Coast
4. Desolation Sound
Lund is the jumping-off point for Desolation Sound and it is easy to book tours from the Lund Resort at Klah a Men or from Terracentric Coastal Adventures in the Marina. From here you can go out to Hernando and Savory Island which are known as the Hawaii of the North thanks to its sandy beach and Major Rock which is home to a colony of sea lions and to see a large colony of sea birds as well.
It is easy to book water taxis to the islands around Desolations Sound. Prices start at $12 per person one way. Check rates and times here. Or if you want a real adventure, you can hike all the way up to Desolation Sound as part of the Sunshine Coast Trail.
If you visit Lund, a great place to stay in the Lund Resort at Klah ah men. This boutique resort is the first of fully-run Indigenous resort on the Sunshine Coast and it was named the Most Outstanding Indigenous Accommodations by Indigenous Tourism of Canada.
6. Okanagan Valley
The Okanagan Valley is one of Canada’s premier wine-producing regions. Located in Southern British Columbia, it is a year-round vacation destination. It’s also one of the premier places in Canada to retire. Consisting of Kelowna and Penticton and Vernon BC, there are plenty of things to keep you busy as you explore this expansive valley that is 200km long and 20 km wide. Okanagan Lake is the main lake of the region.
Considered the fruit basket of British Columbia, there are plenty of vineyards and fruit farms that grow cherries, plums, pears, peaches, and apples. Read more about this region on Best British Columbia Road Trip – Vancouver to Revelstoke
One of our favourite cities to visit in the Okanagan Valley is Kelowna. This town not only has a glorious wine scene but there’s also a fabulous food scene, distilleries, and outdoor activities galore. One of the best things to do in Kelowna is to hike or cycle the Kettle Valley Railway trail at Myra Canyon.
The trestle bridges of the Kettle Valley Railway in Myra Canyon offer one of the most spectacular views in British Columbia, let alone the Okanagan Valley. The Kettle Valley Rail Trail itself runs from Hope to Castlegar and is actually 650-kilometers long, but the most beautiful views are located just outside of Kelowna in Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park.
Located on the eastern shore of Okanagan Lake, there are plenty of watersports in the summer and you can rent paddleboards, kayaks, and jet skis to explore the gorgeous scenery from the beach in downtown Kelowna. Read more at Best Things to do in Kelowna British Columbia
Another major city in the Okanagan Valley, Penticton should also be added to your list of places to visit in British Columbia. Surrounded by mountains and located between Okanagan Lake and Skaha Lake, Penticton is a nature lover’s dream. This lovely Okanagan Valley city has lakeside promenades, beaches, hiking trails, and skiing at nearby Apex Mountain. Apex was the first place Dave and I went skiing in British Columbia. Like Kelowna is in the heart of wine country with vineyards and orchards to visit nearby. Watch our flight over the beautiful countryside.
When looking for places to visit in British Columbia, Kamloops doesn’t pop at the top of mind, but it is a popular stop on the Rocky Mountaineer so many people may have heard of it. As with so many places in British Columbia, Kamloops has plenty of outdoor activities and it should definitely be added to your list. Stay at the Sandman Signature Hotel on the waterfront.
Another nature-lovers escape, Kamloops has everything you could want to get outside. Hiking through its desert-like valleys is a unique experience with Hoodoos and sandstone canyons lining the way. There are 100 lakes nearby, endless hiking and biking trails and you can learn about BC wildlife at the Wildlife Park which rescues and rehabilitates local wildlife. Check out more at The Rocky Mountaineer Experience – Vancouver to Banff
Revelstoke is often overlooked for Whistler, but this mountain playground is a great alternative to the more popular ski resorts of British Columbia and Alberta. Revelstoke Mountain Resort houses North America’s longest vertical descent at 1713m (5,620 feet) and has some of the best ski conditions in Canada with an average of 10.5 meters (34 feet) of powder each winter. Make sure to stay at The Sutton Place Revelstoke Mountain Resort right in the village next to the hills for optimal adventure and luxury in Revelstoke.
While Revelstoke is known for its exceptional skiing and snowboarding, it is also an amazing place to visit in the summer too. Revelstoke Mountain Resort has adventures for everyone from downhill mountain biking, hiking, an aerial adventure park, and a mountain coaster. But there are plenty of things to do in downtown Revelstoke with an aspiring food scene, shopping, museums, and outdoor adventures in Mount Revelstoke National Park.
11. Glacier National Park
Yes, Canada has its own Glacier National Park and it is located near Revelstoke National Park. Located just 35 minutes from Revelstoke, you can tick off two Canada National Parks while making a base in Revelstoke. It is a year-round adventure paradise. One thing not to miss in Glacier National Park is to hike the Canadian Pacific Railway Line. The Rogers Pass Discovery Centre is a national historic site that has a replica of a historic railway building with a theatre, and an avalanche exhibit and you’ll also learn about the history and wildlife of the area.
12. Yoho National Park
British Columbia is blessed with parks and wide-open spaces and Yoho National Park is another beautiful place to visit in BC. Located in the Canadian Rockies, it offers exceptional hiking and biking and stunning scenery with crystal clear lakes and snow-capped mountains. Yoho National Park creates a Rocky Mountain triangle with Kootenay National Park to the south and Banff National Park to the East in the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Canadian Rocky Mountains Park. Check out: Where to Stay in Banff, The Best Areas
The top sights to see here are the natural bridge, emerald lake, Wapta Falls, and Burgess Shale Fossil Site. As with all of the national parks in Canada, you can go camping in the backcountry (with a permit). Permits and passes can be purchased at Parks Canada. One of the more unique things to do at this Canadian National Park is taking a guided fossil hiking tour to see the fossil remains of an ancient sea. Read: The Rocky Mountaineer Experience – Vancouver to Banff
13. Kootenay National Park
Another place to visit nearby is Kootenay National Park. Joining Yoho National Park with Banff National Park this trio makes up the UNESCO-designated Canadian Rockies. Located in the town of Radium, it is snuggled alongside the Alberta border. It’s known for its abundance of hot springs. (including Radium Hot Springs where you can enjoy the hot pools in luxury) and abundance of wildlife. A highlight of Kootenay National Park is Marble Canyon where you can hike through the narrow gorge.
14. Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park
We can’t leave out British Columbia’s Provincial Parks and this Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park is one of the oldest provincial parks in Canada. Located in Southeastern British Columbia, it houses two glaciers, Kokanee and Woodbury that feed 30 lakes including Kootenay Lake. Located in the Selkirk Mountains of British Columbia, Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park is unique in the fact that most of the park sits above 1,800 meters in elevation. Be prepared when visiting this provincial park, with the high elevation, weather conditions can change frequently.
Make a base in the city of Nelson, British Columbia where you’ll be able to view the peaks of the Kokanee glacier from downtown. Located on the shores of Kootenay Lake, Nelson is a historic downtown is filled with restored heritage homes helping to contribute to it being referred to as the Queen City.
15. Fraser Canyon – Hells Gate
When taking the Rocky Mountaineer through the Canadian Rockies from British Columbia to Alberta, our train journey weaved along the Fraser River through Fraser Canyon. This was our first time witnessing Hells Gate in Fraser Canyon. Located in the heart of Gold Rush country, Hell’s Gate can be visited by taking a gondola down into the Fraser Canyon. The rapids of Hell’s Gate are furious with over 200 million gallons of water squeezing through the narrows of Fraser Canyon each minute. There are observation decks, a cafe, a suspension bridge, and a gift shop so it is well worth the visit.
Taking the Rocky Mountaineer was an amazing way to witness the stunning scenery of British Columbia while taking in its natural beauty from the comfort of a train.
Hope was once famous for being the filming location of Sylvester Stallone’s First Blood, but what makes visiting this town in British Columbia worth it is the Hope Tunnels. The Othello Tunnels in hope are one of the top tourist attractions in interior BC. Similar to the Trestles of Kelowna, the tunnels of hope are a series of trestle bridges and tunnels cutting through the mountains. This was a feat of engineering as the 5 tunnels were blasted and built-in 1914. It is just a 3.5 km round trip, but completely worth stopping to see.
Tofino has become someone of a magical destination in British Columbia. A surfer’s paradise, UNESCO Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Region is a biodiverse ecosystem with old-growth rainforests and dramatic coastlines. Its coastal beaches attract sun lovers and surfers in the warmer months and storm chasers in the winter.
Located just north of the Pacific Rim National Park Tofino’s sandy beaches stretch to wooden boardwalks and stairs winding through ancient, moss-covered cedar and hemlock trees, making you feel as if you’ve reached the end of the earth. Take a kayaking trip to Clayoquot Sound, learn to surf, or head out to view some of the spectacular wildlife. Take a whale watching tour to see as Gray Whales, Humpback Whales, and Killer Whales, frequent these waters. You’ll see grey wolves, sea otters, black bears, and countless bird species.
18. Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
Speaking of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, this is an adventure lovers’ playground. Located on Vancouver Island, Pacific Rim National Park is home to the 100 sheltered islets of the Broken Group Islands and the famous 75-kilometer multi-day West Coast Trail this is the place to go for outdoor adventures. You can make a base in Tofino or Ucluelet, or you can head into the backcountry for camping, hiking, kayaking, and wildlife viewing. Read more about adventures in the Pacific Rim at Kayaking to the Broken Group Islands – How to Survive as a Family
19. West Coast Trail
There are few epic trails that can compete with British Columbia’s West Coast Trail. It is Canada’s most iconic hiking trail and is on every hiker’s bucket list. The 75-kilometer (47-mile) backcountry trail is as rigorous as it is beautiful. During this multi-day trek, hikers need to carry everything in and out while climbing more than 100 ladders and navigating through waist-deep flowing rivers. If you want the ultimate hiking bragging rights, book a trip to the West Coast Trail. Reservations are mandatory at Parks Canada. Read more: Best Hikes in Canada to Add To your Bucket List
The Capital City of British Columbia is located on Vancouver Island and is named after Queen Victoria with tudor-style buildings lining its waterfront. This beautiful city is British Columbia’s provincial capital but has a population of fewer than 100,000 people making it feel like a small town, with all the amenities you’d need. Victoria is one of the prettiest cities in Canada with the historic Fairmont Empress Hotel dominating the picturesque Inner Harbour.
Victoria is the second oldest city in the Pacific Northwest and here you can enjoy afternoon tea and feel like the royalty it was named after for a few hours. There is truly a historic feeling with the parliament buildings, Canada’s oldest China town, and the narrowest street in Canada. Its mild year-round temperatures have made Victoria a popular retirement destination for decades.
21. Vancouver Island
Despite its name, Vancouver Island is two hours away from the city by ferry and is one of the best places to visit in British Columbia. Vancouver Island is filled with gorgeous scenery. The two-hour journey features a ferry ride from the city and ends at the largest island on the Pacific Coast of North America. Must-see spots include Victoria, the Pacific Rim National Park in Tofino (also great for surfing), and the impeccable Butchart Gardens.
Book this Vancouver to Victoria tour that includes a ferry ride across the Strait of Georgia and through the Gulf Island to Vancouver Island to explore the beautiful Butchart Gardens followed by a sightseeing tour of downtown Victoria. Butchard Gardens is a 55-acre garden where you’ll be able to peruse its Italian Garden, Japanese Garden, Rose Garden, and nearly 1000 plan varieties.
22. Barkerville Historic Town
While Dawson City in the Yukon may be the most famous Gold Rush Town in Canada, Barkerville Historic Town is another legendary historic town that you must visit in British Columbia. There are 125 heritage buildings that transport you back to the 1800s. This Canadian National Historic Site is a fun place to visit spread across more than 1000 acres. Actors and street performers dressed in historic costumes walk the streets putting on performances and storytelling presentations. There is accommodation and camping nearby so you can make a weekend out of it!
23. Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands)
Located off the coast of British Columbia, Haida Gwaii was briefly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands. After the 2010 Haida Gwaii Reconciliation Act, they were changed from the colloquial Queen Charlotte Islands to their traditional name for the people who have inhabited these islands for 2000 years.
Haida Gwaii is a system of 150 remote islands in the Pacific Ocean that take you well off the beaten path. Haida Gwaii is a wildlife lover’s dream with an abundance of bald eagles inhabiting the islands. They are often called the Galapagos of the north with unique wildlife species endemic to the islands. From whale watching to indigenous experiences, this is a destination in BC that is not to be missed.
24. Great Bear Rainforest
British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest is a massive chunk of land lining the Pacific Ocean for 400 km up the west coast of BC. This is one of the premier places to go on a grizzly bear safari. The annual salmon run from August to September is the best time to visit the Great Bear Rainforest for grizzly viewing and there are several companies that offer adventures from Bella Bella, Klemtu, and Prince Rupert. There is whale watching in the Great Bear Rainforest as well with Johnstone Strait and the Broughton Archipelago being one of the best places in the world to see orcas. This area has an abundance of wildlife and you’ll also be able to witness bald eagles in their natural habitat.
So there you have it from the Pacific Ocean to the Canadian Rockies, these are some of the best places to visit in British Columbia. BC is a massive province with an area larger than France and Germany combined. It could take a lifetime to see it all, but that is all the more reason to visit British Columbia again and again. Where should we go next?
Read more about British Columbia
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