Majestic mountains, tranquil rivers, lakes and abundant wildlife are some of the things that make British Columbia an awe-inspiring place to visit. Home to the tranquil fjord-like Inside Passage, islands, the serene inlets of the Discovery Coast Passage and one of the most picturesque cities in the world, here are 20 amazing things to do in British Columbia.
1-Explore Vancouver’s outdoors
There are so many things to do in Vancouver you could spend weeks exploring. A visit to Grouse Mountain is a chance to see bears and breathtaking views of the city. There’s also the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which stretches 137m (450 feet) across a plunging canyon and the Capilano River. It’s a magical walk on a series of elevated suspension bridges in the Treetops Adventure. Or if you’re feeling energetic try hiking The Lions.
2-See grizzlies in the wild
Home to more than 50% of Canada’s grizzly bears, British Columbia’s wilderness is prime bear-viewing country. Opportunities to spot bears range from chance roadside sightings to luxury wilderness adventures. Join a day tour to see the grizzlies pounce on spawning salmon from the safety of a viewing platform or stay in a lodge that specialises in bear-watching tours, such as Knight Inlet Lodge in Glendale Cove.
3-High Tea in Victoria
Double-decker buses, horse-drawn carriages and English gardens are some of the attractions that will charm you in British Columbia’s capital. Victoria is also famous for its tearooms, famous for dainty finger sandwiches and scones. Start at the historic Fairmont Empress then eat your way around Victoria for a visit to remember.
4-Fly to a glacier for lunch
British Columbia’s landscape is a breathtaking backdrop of snow-capped mountains and glaciers. The glaciers are retreating due to climate change. The Helm Glacier in the south west and the Illecillewaet Glacier in the interior have retreated by over 1,100m in the last century. Fly to a glacier in a helicopter and land on a rocky ledge for lunch. It’s a wonderous experience, especially after a day of salmon fishing in the wilds around Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort.
5-Explore the Kootenay Rockies
Hike or bike this stunningly beautiful region for breathtaking views of valleys, rivers, lakes, waterfalls and snow-capped mountains. The Kootenay Rockies is home to four of British Columbia’s seven national parks and is an area teeming with wildlife.
6-Tour Okanagan Valley wineries
Sample the award-winning wines of the Okanagan Valley while gazing at spectacular scenery. There are options for self-guided or guided wine tours and plenty of excellent wineries to visit. One of the region’s newest wineries, the Tuscany-style Grizzli Winery is opening in spring 2016.
7-Ride the Sea to Sky Gondola
The Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish rises to over 885m in just eight minutes. The ride provides spectacular views of mountains, forest and Howe Sound. Stretch your legs at the top on a hike along one of the trails and snap a selfie on one of the cantilevered viewing platforms or while crossing the suspension bridge. Shuttle services are available to Squamish from Vancouver between May and October.
The world-famous Buchart Gardens is a gorgeous spot to wander among the roses. A nirvana for gardening fans, the garden started out in 1906 as a Japanese garden by the seaside and has grown into a National Historic Site of Canada. Buchart Garden’s newest addition is the Dragon Fountain, with its bronze and granite sculpture weighing over 2700kg (a gift from the People’s Republic of China and the City of Suzhou).
9-Celebrate Whistler Blackcomb’s 50th
Whistler Blackcomb’s 50th anniversary is a great reason to go skiing in Canada during the 2015/16 season. The big bash (50th anniversary party) is at the Roundhouse Lodge on December 12 but there will be plenty of other festive activities this season. Christine’s on Blackcomb Restaurant has been totally revamped. There’s a new menu and a brand new chef, Steve Ramey.
10-Ski powder at a BC ski resort
Hit the slopes of British Columbia, host to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games and home to 13 major ski resorts. Most of BC’s ski resorts offer ski-in ski-out accommodation and cater for all levels of skiers. Besides Whistler Blackcomb, other popular mountains include Sun Peaks, Silver Star and Big White.
11-Compete in the Gold Rush Trail Sled Dog Mail Run
A race in the northern Cariboo region that has been attracting adventurous types for 23 years, the Gold Rush Trail Sled Dog Mail Run (21 to 24 January 2016) is a three-day race from Quesnel to Barkerville. It recreates the postman’s trail during the Gold Rush era. The novelty is that trail participants actually carry official Canada Post mail from Quesnel Post office to Barkerville Post office. It’s open to sled dog teams, skijorers, cross-country skiers, snowshoers and just about anyone (with self-propelled transportation) who can negotiate a packed snow trail.
12-Visit a ski resort in summer, spring or autumn
Out of ski season many mountain resorts offer plenty of outdoor diversions, such as hiking, biking, fishing and kayaking. The Whistler Blackcomb gondola is an experience worth putting on your list. And if you’re looking for another activity that will save your knees or hips try the Sun Peaks Segway Safari (debuting in summer 2016).
13-Ride the Rocky Mountaineer
The Rocky Mountaineer is a spectacular two-day train journey through British Columbia’s stunning countryside. Choose from the “Journey Through the Clouds”, which connects Vancouver and Jasper in Alberta, “Rainforest to Gold Rush” route from Whistler to Jasper and the “First Passage to the West” between Vancouver and Banff or Calgary in Alberta.
14-Hop aboard VIA Rail
If you love trains then Canada’s national passenger rail service is also worth ticking off your list. In British Columbia, VIA Rail’s “The Canadian” is a four-day trip from Vancouver to Toronto via Kamloops while “The Skeena” is an enchanting two days of daylight travel from Jasper to Prince Rupert.
15-See aboriginal carvings at Alert Bay
The heart of aboriginal culture, Alert Bay is a fascinating place to see carvings and hear stories. Visit the U’mista Cultural Centre, a museum that showcases the cultural traditions of the Kwakwaka’wakw. ’Namgis Burial Grounds is one of a few places in British Columbia where memorial totem poles are still in their original location.
16-Stroll Stanley Park
Vancouver’s Stanley Park has more than 64km of trails. The most famous is the Seawall, an 8.8km (5.5-mile) paved route looping around the park. Created in 1917 to stop erosion, the Seawall took 60 years to complete and is a popular exercise trail that connects Stanley Park to downtown Vancouver. Along the way are some iconic views of Vancouver.
17-Snorkel with salmon
Snorkelling with salmon on Vancouver Island is an adventure with nature. Each year hundreds of thousands of salmon, including steelhead, chinook, coho and white-bellied pink salmon swim upstream along the Campbell River to their birth place. You’re carried along by the fast-flowing current in the opposite direction to the salmon.
18-Glamping on Vancouver Island
Experience the natural beauty of Vancouver Island while glamping safari-style in the Clayoquot Sound World Biosphere, near Tofino. Clayoquot Wilderness Resort has 12 luxury tents on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Well, you can hardly call them tents. They have ensuite bathrooms, king-sized beds and you’ll be waited on like a king. Activities include horse riding, kayaking, fishing, whale watching and bear watching.
The wind whips your hair; the spray of oceans and waterfalls sprinkles your face as you fly from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Take a flight-seeing tour of Canada without leaving the ground with Flyover Canada in Vancouver. You’re strapped into a chair when the floor falls away and you lift-off on this inspiring 4-D tour of the best of Canada.
20-Sleep in the clouds
Be the first to stay at the new Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver when it opens in August 2016. At 57 stories, it’ll be the second tallest building in Vancouver and will feature a twisting tower that maximises the views from every suite. It’ll also have Vancouver’s first pool bar nightclub.
Christina Pfeiffer visited British Columbia as a guest of Canadian Tourism Corporation