13 things to do in British Columbia, Canada

The 15 most popular tourist attractions in British Columbia

British Columbia, Canada’s farthest western province, is one of the country’s most popular regions. The province has islands, rainforests, beautiful coastlines, mountains, lakes, two picturesque towns and numerous attractive towns and ski villages. Most visitors to the province go to Vancouver, but the smaller and more remote town of Victoria is another gem that should also be on everyone’s itinerary. The Okanagan Valley in the interior attracts visitors year-round with Lake Okanagan beaches, golf courses and numerous ski resorts. Other British Columbia attractions include the mountain village of Whistler and several national and provincial parks, which provide easy access to some of Canada’s most inspiring natural areas.

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The famous Whistler ski resort, at the foot of Mount Whistler and Blackcomb , is the center of Canada’s largest winter sports area. In 2010, it garnered a lot of international attention when it hosted skiing events at the Winter Olympics. While it is closely associated with skiing, Whistler is a year-round destination with biking, golf and plenty of beautiful scenery to explore in the summer. Its proximity to Vancouver, just two hours from the city, means it’s also easily accessible.

Whistler Village is a modern, upscale town with upscale hotels and plenty of stores and restaurants. Visitors don’t even need to ski or be active to enjoy this beautiful town. One of the main attractions is Peak 2 Peak Gondola, which connects Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. The distance covered is a record 4.4 km. The trip takes only 11 minutes. The hotel offers spectacular views of the surrounding area.

Accommodations: Where to stay in Whistler

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2 Yoho National Park

Yoho National Park.

Yoho National Park is home to some of British Columbia’s rugged and scenic mountains. Snow-capped peaks, waterfalls, rivers and beautiful lakes, including the spectacular Lake O’Hare attract visitors to this park, especially during the summer months. Hiking trails make for easy backcountry access, but even a ride through the park provides ample opportunity to appreciate the scenery. Those with time to explore the park will want to take the drive up to Tuckau Falls , one of the highest in North America.

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3 Okanagan Valley.

The Okanagan Valley, most commonly referred to as the Okanagan, is deep in the province and is a lush, sunny valley with lakes, beaches, rocky mountains and gardens. At the center of the region is the 120-kilometre-long Okanagan Lake and the town of Kelowna on the eastern shore of the lake. The Okanagan has hot, dry summers and mild winters, making it a popular retirement destination and an outstanding summer getaway for people from all over British Columbia and neighbouring Alberta. Some of the most common summer activities are swimming, playing golf and time at the beach. Several ski resorts, especially Big White as well as Silver Star, attract visitors to the area year-round.

Accommodations: Where to stay in the Okanagan Valley

4 Vancouver Island.

Located just west of the city of Vancouver, and reached by either a short flight or a 1.5-hour ferry ride, this is Vancouver Island, the largest island on the Pacific coast of North America. It is home to British Columbia’s capital, Victoria, as well as many other interesting cities and picturesque mountains, inland lakes and a beautiful coastline. Coastal beaches provide year-round surfing, especially near the town of Tofino And in Pacific Rim National Park , Resorts and lodges can be found on both the east and west coasts of the island.

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5 Vancouver Stanley Park.

Stanley Park is one of the unique features of Vancouver that sets it apart from other major Canadian cities. This huge green space on the edge of downtown offers a beautiful retreat of nature from the city for visitors and locals alike. The park is home to tall cedars and Douglas firs, with all kinds of walking trails in the forest and paved seawalls for walking, running or biking. Inside the park is the Vancouver Aquarium as well as various other attractions including totem poles, gardens, and beaches.

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6 Butchart Gardens.

Butchart Gardens, located in the dramatic setting of an old quarry, offers a stunning display of plants, trees and flowers. The mild climate near Victoria is perfect for changing seasonal displays. Spring to fall is outstanding, with spring flowers, a fabulous display of summer color and the changing leaves of fall. Themed gardens and water features span 20 acres.

7 Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwaii)

Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwaii)

The Queen Charlotte Islands are one of Canada’s undiscovered treasures, at least when it comes to tourism. These remote islands provide rich culture and natural beauty but are often missed by tourists.Also known as the Haida Gwaii, the Queen Charlottes are an isolated group of more than 150 islands lying in the Pacific Ocean at the western edge of the continental shelf. The two main islands, Graham and Moresby, are located approximately 50 kilometers and 150 kilometers respectively off the coast of British Columbia.

Native to the Queen Charlottes, the Haida Indians are thought to have lived on these islands for at least 8,000 years. They were known as proud warriors and brave navigators. With their huge 20-foot military canoes, they crossed the length of the inner passage as far south as Puget Sound. They are now better known for the skill and craftsmanship of their carvings. Their totem poles and intricate argillite carvings can be found in every ethnographic museum on the Canadian Pacific coast.

Accommodations: Where to stay in Haida Gwaii

8 Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park.

Glacier National Park, along with Mount Revelstoke National Park a few miles further west, is a very scenic area and a favorite with climbers and tourists. The parks are located in one of Canada’s most inhospitable mountain areas, the nearly inaccessible northern village of Selkirk in the Columbia Mountains. The landscape is one of jagged peaks, steep descents and narrow valleys cut deep into the rock. There are about 400 glaciers in and around Glacier National Park. At lower elevations, about 1,300 feet, the dense forests are home to some huge old growth trees – western red cedars, hemlock and spruce – as well as a ground cover of ferns. Mountain goat, woodland caribou, black bears and grizzly bears can be found in the park. Most visitors just drive through, but there are many hiking and camping trails. The Rogers National Historical Museum is also located in Glacier National Park.

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Accommodations: Where to Stay in Glacier National Park

9 Salt Spring Island.

On the Gulf Islands between Victoria and Nanaimo, Salt Spring Island has a small population and is known for its laid-back Bohemian lifestyle. Around the island are artists’ studios; farms selling cheese and homemade produce; funky stores, some of which sell clothes and trinkets you’d find in Southeast Asia; and lots of beautiful scenery. The main town on the island is Ganges , where visitors will find ice cream stores, cafes and restaurants, as well as more traditional shopping establishments and souvenirs. There is a provincial park on the oceanfront with walking paths, camping and day-use areas. The island also offers hotels and other lodging options.

Ferries run from Tsawassen to the mainland (Vancouver), Swartz Bay (Victoria) or Crofton (Nanaimo).

10 Kootenay National Park

Kootenay National Park

Kootenay National Park, in southeastern British Columbia, adjoins the more famous Banff National Park and Yoho National Park, and takes in the magnificent western flank of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The main mountain range in Kootenay National Park reaches an elevation of more than 3,000 meters, and the landscape features rugged rocky ridges and sawtooth peaks, snow and ice-covered mountains, cirques, glaciers, hanging valleys and narrow gorges cut deep into marble limestone. The park has numerous day hikes that take some of these unique sites. Key highlights in Kootenay are the narrow Marble Canyon Gorge , hikes around Sinclair Pass , and Stanley Glacier .

Official website: http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/bc/kootenay/index.aspx

11 Nelson.

Nelson TracyLay? / photo modified

Nelson is beautifully situated on the western shoulder of Kootenay Lake, surrounded by the snow- and ice-covered peaks of Mount Selkirk, a former mountain town that grew in the late 19th century and quickly became a tourist destination. The town still has many carefully preserved Victorian buildings, which give it all its charm. Nelson is also known for attracting artists and young people interested in alternative lifestyles.

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Nearby is the wilderness of Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park, containing numerous scenic mountain lakes. Most of this unspoiled mountain region is located at an altitude of over 2100 meters above sea level. The Kokanee Peak, at 2774 meters, towers majestically over the rest of the Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park. Also nearby is Kokanee Creek Provincial Park with sandy beaches and campsites.

12 Victoria Inner Harbour

Victoria Inner Harbour

Victoria, located on Vancouver Island, is the capital of British Columbia and one of Canada’s most picturesque cities. Removed from the mainland, it has the feel of a small city but is home to many attractions. Downtown for locals and tourists alike is the Inner Harbour, dominated by the great Hotel Empress , built in 1908 for the Canadian Pacific Railway. This area is always alive with visitors and locals enjoying the waterfront, especially in summer when restaurants open their patios for outdoor dining and street performers take to the sidewalks.

13 Mt. Robeson Provincial Park

Mt. Robeson Provincial Park.

Near the BC-Albert border, just north of Jasper , Mt. Robson Provincial Park is home to Mt. Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, at 3,954 feet. The remoteness of this park means it doesn’t see many tourists. This magnificent mountain landscape, with its waterfalls and glacier-covered peaks, was designated a provincial park in 1913.Even in those days, climbers and hikers were drawn to the area, regardless of distance.

One of the most popular hikes here is the 25-kilometre route through the “Valley of a Thousand Falls” to the beautiful turquoise lake at the foot of Mount Robson. On rainy days, the name ” A Thousand Falls ” becomes obvious as streams of water pour down the cliff.

Official website: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/mt_robson/

14 Historic Barkerville Township.

Pentabox in the historic town of Barkerville / photo modified

The historic town of Barkerville has an interesting history. In 1858, when news spread that gold had been discovered on the river sand of the Fraser River, there were soon thousands of people on the river and its tributaries throwing gold. In the summer of 1862, Billy Barker made his sensational find here at Williams Creek, and a typical gold digging town of simple wooden huts, tents, saloons and stores sprang up almost overnight. Until it burned in 1868, Barkerville was “the largest town west of Chicago and north of San Francisco.”

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Although the city was immediately rebuilt, the end of the gold boom was already evident. The introduction of technology meant that fewer men were needed. After the gold rush ended, Barkerville continued, but was populated by settlers and loggers.

Today, visitors will find a restored gold mining town with some 75 historic buildings. In the summer, costumed interpreters dressed in period costumes exhibit “living history,” allowing visitors to visit a print shop or blacksmith shop, a typical general store, a barbershop or the Barkerville Inn and feel completely transported back to gold rush times.

Official website: http://www.barkerville.ca/

15 Hell’s Gate Aerodrome in Fraser Canyon

Hell’s Gate Aerodrome in Fraser Canyon

Three hours east of Vancouver is one of Canada’s most spectacular canyons. Here the raging torrents of the Fraser River wind their way through a narrow passage known as Hell’s Gate between rocky walls rising almost vertically above the river. Airtram Hell’s Gate is the best way to view this part of Fraser Canyon. In days gone by, the Indians found the dangerous path using ladders. Today, a cable car with spectacular views of the wild gorge below leads down to the lower bank 150 feet below. There are souvenir stores, a restaurant, and a small information center at the base. A few minutes’ climb takes visitors up a reasonable road to the white, frothy river below. The opposite bank can be reached by means of a swinging suspension bridge.

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