Located on the West Coast, British Columbia, affectionately known as BC, is one of the most visited provinces in Canada for Australians. BC's largest city - Vancouver, is also one of the Canada's main international gateways.
British Columbia is home to some of Canada's most iconic nature and wilderness experiences. Home to ski resorts, hiking and biking trails, emerald lakes and verdant forests, wildlife experiences and luxury lodges, if adventure is your thing, BC certainly delivers!
Vancouver: Spectacular by nature!
A vibrant, multicultural city ringed by snow-capped, forested mountains that descend towards sandy beaches, Vancouver is the perfect destination for those who wish to combine outdoor pursuits and urban adventures.
Take advantage of the city's oceanside location by kayaking beside skyscrapers or retreat to Stanley Park, a 400ha/1,000ac urban oasis that features the Vancouver Aquarium, horse-drawn carriage rides and the 10km seawall, a paved loop with stunning mountain, ocean, forest and city views. For a more urban adventure, shop and stroll through the city’s eclectic neighbourhoods or visit one of the many museums and attractions. After a busy day, linger over a glass of BC wine and a locally inspired meal, or unwind at one of Vancouver's unique spas.
While the city is known for its temperate climate, the surrounding snow-covered slopes are ideal for winter sports and breathtaking city views. Vancouver is one of the few places in the world where it's possible to ski in the morning and sail or golf in the afternoon.
Located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, Victoria is a dynamic city that offers a seamless mix of the past and the present. At its centre is the bustling Inner Harbour, which serves as the hub of BC’s capital city. Stroll along the waterfront promenade, dotted with local artists and buskers; hop on a water taxi for a unique vantage point; join a whale-watching tour and head out in search of resident pods of Orcas; or linger over an ocean-view meal at one of many innovative restaurants.
Victoria is home to some of Western Canada’s best museums, and the city’s British ancestry is evident wherever you look, from its heritage architecture, double-decker buses and horse-drawn carriages, to its many tearooms and its unsurpassed formal gardens, including the world renowned Butchart Gardens. Collectively, these attractions add a dose of old world charm to an otherwise contemporary city.
Everywhere you look the view includes ocean and mountains, which offer all manner of outdoor adventure. Explore tidepools along the rocky shoreline, kayak calm waters in search of abundant seals, otters and bald eagles, hike to the top of a mountain, or take advantage of Victoria’s many kilometres of cycling paths (more than any other Canadian city).
There’s a reason that Travel + Leisure magazine named Vancouver Island one of the world's top ten islands in its 2014 World's Best Awards. The island is very large – approximately 460km long – and it offers a range of attractions and experiences that is remarkably diverse. There is a rich Aboriginal culture here, with the island’s First Nations welcoming visitors at a number of cultural centres, museums, galleries and historically significant sites.
Due to its stunning natural scenery, Vancouver Island has attracted the attention of artists and artisans, many of whom operate galleries and studios open to the public. And the island’s warm climate makes it an ideal food- and wine-growing region. Local restaurants capitalize on easy access to the freshest produce, meats, cheeses and award-winning wines.
Outdoor lovers can indulge in epic, multi-day hikes, such as the well-known West Coast Trail; explore extensive mountain bike trail networks; and set up camp alongside some extraordinary scenery. For a taste of local wildlife, join a whale watching tour to see resident Orcas, as well as humpbacks, grey whales and minkes. Bear watching tours also offer an unforgettable experience, and the fishing here is second to none, with all five species of salmon in abundance. The coastline boasts some spectacular beaches, and surfing is popular on the island’s west coast, where big waves roll in from the open Pacific Ocean.
Consistently ranked as the #1 ski resort in the world, Whistler also offers a full range of outdoor activities year-round, as well as all the amenities of an urban centre.
With over 200 runs, 3,307ha/8,171ac of diverse terrain and award-winning terrain parks, the skiing at Whistler is unparalleled. During the summer, the chairlifts and gondolas remain open and the mountains become an outdoor paradise for hikers and mountain bikers. Hikers can walk past glacial lakes, waterfalls and stunning alpine meadows. Prefer something a little more fast-paced? Whistler is home to hundreds of kilometres of bike trails ranging from the paved Valley Trail that winds for 35km/22mi through and around Whistler Village to the more than 50 downhill trails that make up the Whistler Bike Park.
Off the mountain, Whistler is home to four award-winning golf courses that feature stunning scenery and challenging play. For those looking to unwind, there are close to a dozen spas offering a variety of treatments. The pedestrian-only village is also home to more than 200 shops, restaurants with award-winning chefs and cuisine from around the world and a vibrant nightlife.
A scenic, 40-minue ferry ride from just outside Vancouver puts you on the Sunshine Coast, a 180km stretch dotted with quaint seaside communities.
The region boasts more artists, crafters and artisans per capita than almost any other area in Canada. Be sure to look for the more than 70 purple banners (flags) found throughout the area. The banners mark galleries and home studios, and indicate spaces open for public viewing. Take guided tours of galleries and studios: watch painters, potters, sculptors, woodworkers, fibre artists and Aboriginal artists at work.
The oceanside setting allows kayakers to explore protected waterways bordered by mountains that rise dramatically out of the ocean as well as channels, inlets and island teeming with wildlife. Dock on one of the many beaches for a relaxing picnic or a refreshing swim. Those who prefer to stay on land can choose between an array of hiking and biking trails ranging from short walks suitable for small children to all day adventures for adrenalin seekers.
The Sunshine Coast ends in Lund, a small, peaceful coastal village that is a haven for boaters. From here, you can make your way back to the ferry or water taxi to Savary Island, whose white sand beaches have earned it the nickname “the Hawaii of the North.”
Thompson Okanagan (Kamloops, Sun Peaks, Kelowna)
No place in BC says summer quite like the Okanagan Valley. The sun shines brightly on sparkling lakes surrounded by soft sandy beaches, providing the perfect backdrop for all manner of water-based fun. The region’s mountains offer scenic hikes and bike rides, and golfers can tee off at one of many championship courses. Need a little sustenance? Okanagan Valley wineries have won major national and international awards, and many offer lake-view dining inspired by the valley’s agricultural riches. Local orchards are brimming with luscious fruit for most of the year.
The region’s biggest city, Kelowna, sits along the shores of stunning Okanagan Lake. Kelowna’s fertile land means that locally sourced produce and local wines are never far from any restaurant table, and Kelowna’s vibrant arts scene promises excellent galleries, museums, and performing arts.
Kamloops, two hours northwest, is home to sandstone canyons, grasslands and evergreen timberlands that play host to incredible hiking, mountain biking, golfing and camping. More than 100 lakes and two major rivers nearby provide great fishing. And nearby Sun Peaks Resort is a year-round resort surrounded by three mountains. Summers at Sun Peaks include hiking, golfing and lift-accessed mountain biking, and winters here come with lots of soft, fluffy snow, and plenty of ways to enjoy it.
A visit to British Columbia is not complete without a trip to the Rocky Mountains, one of Canada's most iconic and inspirational destinations. The Rockies evoke images of towering, snow-capped peaks, turquoise lakes, cascading waterfalls and dense evergreen forests. In BC, that jaw-dropping, Rocky Mountain scenery – the kind that stays with you long after you’ve returned home – stretches the entire length of the province.
UNESCO established the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site along the BC/Alberta border, in part because of this spectacular beauty. The area is also globally significant because of the Burgess Shale fossil site, which shows in amazing detail what the Earth was like more than half a billion years ago.
From Vancouver, direct flights to the Rockies operate frequently, and car rentals are readily available. Alternatively, a week-long driving trip takes you through British Columbia's varied landscape, across the Continental Divide to the Rocky Mountains. Along the way, depending on the route you choose, you may pass rocky canyons, fertile valleys, natural hot springs, and even Canada’s only desert environment. And always keep an eye out for BC’s four-legged residents.
The Infinity Experience
False Creek, VancouverTourism Vancouver
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, Vancouver
Whistler Blackcomb Ski ResortDestination BC/Randy Lincks
Destination BC/Tom Ryan
BC's Sunshine CoastDestination BC/Albert Normandin
Salt Spring Island, Vancouver IslandDestination BC/Andrea Johnson
Stanley Park, Vancouver
Butchart Gardens, Victoria