Top 10 things to do in British Columbia
No matter whether you've been there or not, just the words 'Pacific Northwest' usually conjure up a enough positive images to make you feel exhilarated and excited even before you've had a chance to contemplate getting on a plane.
This stretch of North America is made up of the Rocky Mountains, the Pacific coastline and an amazing array of natural beauty in between and one such area that falls within this remit is the Canadian province of British Columbia.
BC as it's more familiarly known, is pretty much up there with the best of them when it comes to mountain backdrops, wonderful wildlife and adrenaline-fuelled outdoor activities so if you're looking to find a perfect piece of Pacific paradise then you know where to head.
From the gardens and architecture of Victoria to the coffee shops and contemporary culture of Vancouver, wherever you base yourself you're guaranteed a blend of sightseeing, night life and good times however, it's often days spent out of the city that are the most memorable.
Whales, seals, porpoises and dolphins make a day spent on the water a simply thrilling prospect and explore a little inland and you'll discover seven of Canada's national parks, including: Yoho and Glacier, which promise a real wilderness treat to remember.
Whatever brings you to British Columbia, I can promise you that you'll never forget your first glimpse of the Canadian Rockies and no matter how far you're willing to explore there are bound to be innumerate moments that will remain with you for many years to come.
For more things to do in BC, check out the top 10 things to do in British Columbia below and don't forget to send a postcard!
Inner Harbour, Victoria
If you find yourself on Vancouver Island whilst touring British Columbia then it would be rude not to pay the capital of Victoria a visit as from wide open green spaces (Beacon Hill Park) to some superb shopping potential (the Bay Centre), this is a great city for a base or at least a day trip. One of the top locations in Victoria is the Inner Harbour area which has some excellent walkways which pass by many of the city's most famous landmarks, including: the Royal BC museum, the Parliament buildings and the Empress hotel. Inner Harbour is a great place to soak up some rays and watch the world float or stroll by on a sunny day in the capital.
Royal BC Museum
Talking of the Royal British Columbia Museum, this is a fabulous reason to visit Victoria within its own right and if you're into your history then prepare to have your socks knocked off as there are thousands of artefacts and exhibits just waiting your attention. Natural, human and modern history are all covered and there are numerous workshops, lectures and interactive tours taking place which are perfect if you're visiting with kids or knowledge-hungry adults. The museum's IMAX cinema shows are particularly worthwhile and if you're faced with a rainy day in BC then this is an excellent place to head to whilst things blow over.
Away from Vancouver Island and further inland you'll be treated to some incredible natural sights and nowhere is this more in evidence than within the 500sq mile borders of Yoho National Park. As you'd expect from a place that's name means awe and wonder, in the native language of Cree, Yoho is blessed with some fabulous Canadian Rocky mountain highs including numerous lakes, waterfalls and rushing rivers. One such water feature that you simply 'must see' whilst visiting Yoho is Lake O'Hara as this is reflective alpine heaven and an absolute joy to behold for hikers and thinkers seeking peace and tranquillity far from the beaten track.
Pacific Rim National Park, Tofino
Meanwhile, back on Vancouver Island, heading to the west coast via Highway 4 will bring you to the beaches and camp sites of Tofino which are ideal stomping grounds for hikers and surfers looking for perfect Pacific swells to accompany their tour. One such Tofino location with natural appeal is the Pacific Rim National Park which combines Long Beach, the Broken Group islands and the 50 mile long West Coast trail which is considered to be one of the best walks on the planet. As the park's entire perimeters stretch to roughly 200sq miles it's probably advisable to spend at least a couple of days exploring however, if you're longing for rough and ready coastlines combined with lush emerald forests then you certainly won't be found wanting.
If you're wishing to ramp things up a notch then just a couple of hours north of Vancouver lie the awesome Coast Mountains which contain none other than BC's numero uno resort for outdoor pursuits, Whistler. Packed full of all-year-round recreational radicalness, Whistler is a world-famous ski and hiking area which is guaranteed to get your blood pumping within some incredible snow and alpine pasture-covered landscapes. One such activity to get your heart pounding is the mind-blowing bungee jump which can be found around 160 feet above the fast-flowing Cheakamus River. With some spectacular scenery which you may or may not want to see before you jump, the Whistler bungee is one of those experiences that you'll no doubt appreciate just that little bit more once it's all over.
Sea to Sky Highway
Anyone who wants to get their road trip on will probably already have heard of the 250 mile drive from the US border to Cache Creek (220 miles north of Vancouver) however, for those who haven't, check out Highway 99 and don't forget the coffee and bagels. More commonly known as the Sea to Sky Highway, this is a brilliant means of incorporating some of the major sights of Vancouver (Stanley Park and the Lion's Gate Bridge) as well as numerous: fjords, beaches and deserted bays, which all make for some excellent rest-stops on a road trip to remember.
Peak 2 Peak Gondola
Heading back to Whistler is always a great idea and if you've already survived the bungee jump then why not consider a slightly more sedate mode of transport by undertaking the Peak 2 Peak Gondola ride? This is a fabulous way to see the sights between the Whistler and Blackcomb mountains and if you're looking for superlatives then the Peak 2 Peak currently holds the title of lengthiest unsupported distance between towers - 1.88 miles. With a total length of almost 3 miles and a capacity for over 4000 people an hour this is one of the most popular and best used gondolas in the whole of Canada and no matter what the time of year, there's no better way to spend 11 minutes so jump on board and enjoy the ride.
Tofino Island beaches
As mentioned, the west coast area of Vancouver Island, Tofino, is well-known for its potential for surf and strolls which is why the locals are so keen to keep it in as pristine and tip top condition as possible. The beaches are pretty much immaculate and if you're bringing along your binoculars then keep them trained on the ocean for signs of spurting as this is one of the best locations in BC to get your first glimpse of a passing whale. After a good day spent at the beach you'll find numerous cafés and restaurants from where to shelter from the breeze and if you can picture yourself cupping a mug of hot chocolate whilst the sun sets over the Pacific then Tofino beach life is calling, ignore it at your peril!
Laid-back, diverse and spilling over with fun things to do, Vancouver is probably one of the best loved cities on earth so make sure you add it to your BC itinerary. This is just about as good as urban life gets as from film festivals and fringe events to art galleries and maritime museums, combining cultural days in the city with the natural beauty of the Pacific coast is what a trip to British Columbia is all about. As you may already have guessed, outdoor recreation is big business in Vancouver and if you're looking to kick back or chuck a ball about then Stanley Park offers 1,000 acres of green and pleasant loveliness as well as loads of beaches from where to rest and relax with the locals. Gastown, Granville Street in particular, is probably your best bet for a night out however, Davie Village is always hot on the heels so choose to suit your mood.
Wild Pacific Trail
Finally, to finish off this fabulous top ten of things to do in British Columbia, there's nowhere better to experience the quintessential beauty of the ocean than Tofino and the Wild Pacific Trail which can be found within the Pacific Rim National Park. Running for just over five miles this truly awe-inspiring walk starts from the car park on Marine Drive before combining forest shade with rugged coastal views as you meander through the Brown Beach area always within ear-shot of the crashing ocean waves. Although this isn't a circular trail, as such, there is an alternate route if you don't fancy retracing your steps so make sure you allow for an extra five miles to get you back to Marine Drive before the sun sets.
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Emerald Lake Lodge
British Columbia Cities & Wilderness self-drive
Vancouver Island by Motorhome