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, it’s not surprising there are so many amazing things to do in British Columbia.
Hello British Columbia! Home to Vancouver and Whistler, British Columbia is a natural jewel with 10 mountain ranges west of the Canadian Rockies. It’s the only province where you can golf and ski on the same day. You could spend a month travelling around British Columbia and still want more!
- 20 Things to do in British Columbia
- 1- Explore Grouse Mountain
- 2- See grizzlies in the wild
- 3- Go glamping or camping on Vancouver Island
- 4- Travel on the train across Canada
- 5- Enjoy High Tea in Victoria
- 6- Fly to a glacier for lunch
- 7- Explore the Kootenay Rockies
- 8- Tour Okanagan Valley wineries
- 9- Ride the Sea to Sky Gondola
- 10- See the Spring flowers in Butchart Gardens
- 11- Party at Whistler Blackcomb in winter
- 12- Hit the powder at a ski resort
- 13- Join the Gold Rush Trail Sled Dog Mail Run
- 14- Visit a ski resort in summer, spring or autumn
- 15- Ride the Rocky Mountaineer
- 16- See the totem poles at Alert Bay
- 17- Stroll Stanley Park
- 18- Snorkel with salmon
- 19- Flyover Canada
- 20- Horseback riding in Muskwa Kechika
- 5 things to do in British Columbia for locals
- Movies filmed in British Columbia
- 10 Secret Places To Visit in British Columbia
20 Things to do in British Columbia
1- Explore Grouse Mountain
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- Go glamping or camping on Vancouver Island
Experience the natural beauty of Vancouver Island while glamping on Vancouver Island.
Clayoquot Sound World Biosphere, near Tofino, is a fabulous spot.
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. Here are more Vancouver Island resorts to check out.
4- Travel on the train across Canada
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.
Another train trip in BC, “The Skeena” is an enchanting two days of daylight travel from Jasper to Prince Rupert.
5- Enjoy 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.
6- 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 wondrous thing to do in British Columbia, especially after a day of salmon fishing in the wilds around Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort.
7- 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.
8- Tour Okanagan Valley wineries
Sample the award-winning wines of the Okanagan Valley while gazing at the spectacular scenery.
There are options for self-guided or guided wine tours and plenty of excellent wineries to visit.
There are more than 200 wineries in the Okanagan Valley and about 30 wineries in Kelowna.
Enjoy a wine tour in the valley or cycle along the Kettle Valley Rail Trail, over trestle bridges for stunning views of craggy canyons.
Some tours take five days but you can also rent a bike and explore for a day.
9- 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.
10- See the Spring flowers in Butchart Gardens
The world-famous Butchart 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.
Butchart 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).
11- Party at Whistler Blackcomb in winter
Hit the slopes at Canada’s biggest and busiest ski resort, Whistler Blackcomb.
It’s an exciting winter destination to visit, with runs for all levels of skiers and snowboarders.
The two side-by-side mountains is Canada’s premier ski resort with plenty to offer both on and off the slopes.
It has a thriving nightlife, with lots of diverse culinary experiences.
12- Hit the powder at a 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.
13- Join 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 (in January) 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.
14- 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.
15- 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.
16- See the totem poles at Alert Bay
The heart of aboriginal culture, Alert Bay is a fascinating place to see carvings and hear stories.
Fly from Victoria, Prince Rupert or Vancouver to the mystical Haida Gwaii (formerly known as Queen Charlotte Islands).
The flight is an experience in itself, with views of the British Columbia coastline leading to the curve of Haida Gwaii islands.
The pristine islands are covered in rainforest, beaches and home to ancient totem poles.
Don’t miss the Haida Heritage Centre at Ḵay Llnagaay, Louise Island and visit the U’mista Cultural Centre.
The latter is a museum that showcases the cultural traditions of the Kwakwaka’wakw’Namgis Burial Grounds and one of a few places in British Columbia where memorial totem poles are still in their original location.
17- 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.
18- 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 birthplace.
You’re carried along by the fast-flowing current in the opposite direction to the salmon.
19- Flyover Canada
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- Horseback riding in Muskwa Kechika
Go on a horseback riding adventure through the stunning British Columbia wilderness.
British Columbia’s Muskwa-Kechika region is a sprawling region of 6.4 million hectares (roughly the size of Ireland) in northern BC.
Ride through alpine meadows, wind-tossed ridges and enchanted forests for an experience of a lifetime.
Ride for 11 days through magnificent valleys across the Continental Divide and swim your mounts through tumbling turquoise rivers.
Sleep in tents and take turns cooking meals on an open fire. Help catch and saddle their horses, as well as help look after them at day’s end.
This is serious backcountry, and the riding goes through grizzly, moose and mountain goat territory.Hardly off-the-beaten-track itself, nonetheless,
5 things to do in British Columbia for locals
By Katharine Fletcher
Most first-time visitors to British Columbia usually spend time exploring Vancouver’s main sights before venturing to Vancouver Island or British Columbia’s ski fields.
With an area of 944,735 km², it’s challenging to pick favourites in magnificent British Columbia.
So if you’re looking for lesser-known off-the-beaten-track destinations, here’s my shortlist of lesser-known places in British Columbia.
21 – Kayaking in Vancouver’s Horseshoe Bay
One of Vancouver’s fun activities is to go kayaking in Horseshoe Bay, where you will discover views of the Georgia Strait from the water.
Alternatively, you could hire a motorboat for the day and find a spot to anchor the boat for a swim and a picnic.
22- Exploring Lynn Canyon Park
Most tourists have heard of the Capilano Suspension Bridge (which is fun) but if you’d like to experience something a little less touristy, venture to Lynn Canyon Park and Suspension Bridge.
Wander forested trails such as the Baden Powell Trail, marvel at waterfalls (make sure you take your swimsuit), cross the suspension bridge and swim in the enormous pool on its far side.
23- Exploring Steveston Village
Richmond is south of downtown Vancouver and is home to the International Airport and famous for its night market, the largest in North America.
Of course, it draws an enthusiastic crowd to the lights, the fun of sampling street foods, and just enjoying the vibe.
Richmond’s territory now includes Steveston Village.
A former cannery town on the mouth of the Fraser River that is now a safe harbour for fishing boats, it’s a cool place to hang out.
Tour the Gulf of Georgia Cannery museum.
Rent a bike at Village Bikes and cycle the dykes protecting Richmond and Steveston village from being swamped ocean water.
Dine on fabulous seafood at the uber-casual Pajo’s Fish & Chips on the floating wharf where you can buy fresh salmon, halibut or cod and dine al-fresco by the water.
24- Canoeing in Bowron Lake Provincial Park
Paddle the five to seven-day circuit chain of lakes known as the Bowron Lakes Circuit, where you have the chance to see moose grazing in the shallows.
Drive north to Quesnel, stock up on provisions for the week, and head off on a stunning backcountry experience in this British Columbia Park.
25- Sleeping with ghosts in Barkerville
While in the north and still near Quesnel, visit Barkerville, an old gold mining town that’s now a living museum.
Stay overnight at Kelly and King House B&Bs, both of which are restored homes in the heart of the village.
Movies filmed in British Columbia
- This Means War with Reese Witherspoon was filmed in Vancouver.
- Tomorrowland with George Clooney was filmed in Enderby, Armstrong, Richmond, Surrey, Burnaby, Delta, Langley and Vancouver.
- Five Easy Pieces featuring Jack Nicholson was filmed on Vancouver Island in Victoria and Saanich.
10 Secret Places To Visit in British Columbia
By Ilona Kauremszky
In this age, where travellers will pay top dollar to visit destinations they never heard of and to participate in activities and excursions they have only read about, the province of British Columbia can count a net full of these undiscovered places.
In fact, there are so many amazing places to visit in British Columbia you’ve probably never heard of you’ll need months to explore.
Canada’s most westerly province hugs the Pacific coastline and has prime spots perfect for wander lusters. If you’ve done it all, you’ll find plenty more things to do in these 10 surprising places in British Columbia.
26- Gulf Islands
A cluster of 15 islands located in the dramatic Strait of Georgia, between Vancouver Island and Vancouver, has been named by National Geographic Traveler as one of the world’s best coastal destinations.
What’s cool: Interested in seeing orcas, porpoises, sea lions, and otters in abundance?
Head to one of their home turfs, the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve.
The weather is a big bonus too.
The warm dry summers and warm winter climate is similar to the Mediterranean so don’t bring your skis.
There is no hint of snow in this neck of Canada’s woods.
Things to do:
- Expect lazy days of kayaking through a natural oasis of sheltered waterways.
- You are also sure to come across landmarks (totem poles) considered sacred by the Coast Salish First Nations, the first residents to these islands who have a rich heritage.
27- Princess Royal Island
No wonder you’ve never heard of this fjord-rich islet. Located along a forgotten Canadian coastline, the remote island for good reason has been dubbed “Princess Royal.”
It’s a wilderness sanctuary to some of Canada’s precious wildlife.
Picture a deserted island where no humans live, and to boot, an island only accessible by boat or floatplane.
Yes, you have now discovered Princess Royal Island.
What’s cool: The Kermode (or spirit bear) is found here. Often mistaken for a polar bear or an albino, the spirit bear is a special paler looking black bear. The island is the home of this rare, endangered species.
These four-legged furry creatures once used to roam wild and free on the mainland of British Columbia in the Great Bear Rainforest, which is an area from Bella Coola to Prince Rupert.
Things to do:
- Arrive in August or October when the bears are creekside, feasting on spawning salmon.
28- Great Bear Rainforest
The planet is blessed to have one of these final frontiers, home to grizzly bears and other big mammals.
But not many know this chunk of paradise is a vast wilderness that is revered as the Amazon of the North.
Few roads, fewer people, it’s a land abundant in fjords and archipelagos.
Environmentalists like Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., have labelled the Great Bear Rainforest as: “The planet’s last large expanse of coastal temperate rainforest.” We think so too.
What’s cool: The great bears
Things to do:
- Local tour operators like Blue Water Adventures offer Great Bear Rainforest cruises
- Eco-lodgers like The Great Bear Lodge provide Great Bear tours.
29- Saltspring Island
Among The Gulf Islands, Saltspring has long attracted resident hippies, artists and musicians.
Some big names are musician Randy Bachman from the Guess Who fame and wildlife artist Robert Bateman.
Many Canadians have Saltspring on the radar due to its fame as a green way of living and easy going Western coastal lifestyle.
But to outsiders, most don’t know about the riches found here.
What’s cool: The better known Gulf Island is a magnet for health and wellness seekers. Much of the enthusiasm can be attributed to the rich history of the Coast Salish people going back 5000 years.
Things to do:
- For hiking and kayaking and cultural intoxication hit the many arts festivals and culinary cook-outs.
- There’s a great dining scene too.
30- Bugaboo Provincial Park
Deep in British Columbia’s alpine meadow mountain country in the province’s south-east, just south from a town named Golden, lies the Purcell Mountains.
The big deal here is this remote park, known more among the locals and die-hard climbers has been easily forgotten since the Bugaboo is in stiff competition with the neighbouring six national parks in the area.
What’s cool: You are in British Columbia’s ‘Columbia wet belt’ due to the snow heavy, rain heavy climate patterns. See the famous granite spires believed to be up to 1-billion years old.
Things to do:
- The Bugaboos which are geographical rock formations are popular bucket-list peaks for rock climbers. The highest peak is the Howser Spire. Remember this is total wilderness at its finest and that means no supplies or equipment are available for sale within the park.
There are no stop lights and no malls. So it’s highly likely you’ve probably never heard of this place.
Once a thriving hub in the mining world (it was a gold rush haven in its heyday). But these days, the gold is found in the colour of snow-white powder.
What’s cool: You’ll find the best value in backcountry skiing and a local ski resort bills itself as the last great unspoilt resort.
Skiers who head to Red Mountain Resort are in for a treat because these slopes are the first in Canada’s famous “Powder Highway,” a popular span of ski resorts clustered in the British Columbia’s southeast.
Things to do:
- Come winter go for the Big Red Cats, home of the world’s largest cat skiing operation but come summer you can hit the golf links or off-road in adventurous mountain biking.
32- Haida Gwaii
If you were to imagine what the edge of the world looks like, look no further than this region in British Columbia.
Amid the world’s tallest natural skyscrapers created care of Mother Nature it’s easy to get lost cranking your head skyward in the ancient growth forests.
Haida Gwaii is a collection of remote islands on the north coast of B.C., home to the ancient Aboriginal Haida people.
A definite must-see doc is Haida Gwaii: On The Edge of the World
What’s cool: Tree huggers can’t get enough of the beauty of the giant Sitka and Red Cedar trees. Mild winters and cool summers make this area an ideal place to visit year-round.
Things to do:
- Do the Canadian thing and canoe. There are numerous spots from which to launch one. The Masset Sound and rounding up by Kumdis Island is one recommendation.
- Kumdis is a relatively flat island located at the bottom of temperamental Masset Sound where the tides switch resulting in stronger currents, making paddling interesting, to say the least.
- Fishing, camping, and hiking are other top activities, of course.
33- Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park
When you think of white swans, perhaps fairytales and old Shakespearean plays come to mind.
But did you ever think there might be a park around named after the elusive bird?
This pocket-sized provincial park tucked in the Kootenay Region of British Columbia might not be high on the radar but should be.
While it might be tough to spot the waterfowl you will most likely see a moose or two lakeside.
The other discovery is the under-developed Lussier Hot Springs one of the finest hot springs in the area accessible by traversing a steep craggily trail.
What’s cool: You are completely off-line here. That means no cell phone service, no public telephones. It’s just you and Mother Nature in isolated back-country.
Things to do:
- Hike, canoe, fish and camp. And by night, watch the night sky with its celestial carpet twinkling away.
34- Oliver BC
What place in the nation dares call itself, “The Wine Capital of Canada?”
This tiny hamlet tucked in the southern region of agri-rich Okanagan Valley does.
Oliver is in the heart of three distinct Thompson Okanagan winemaking regions.
Home to roughly 4,000 residents, Oliver is also close to the USA border.
Its mild winters mean this year-round tourism destination is very favourable to those fleeing the white powder snow belt regions.
What’s cool: Oliver sits in Canada’s only desert region.
Things to do:
- Hit the winery tours. Last winery count noted there were 39 in the area.
35- Clearwater BC
Sunseekers are most likely familiar with that other city named Clearwater, a popular Florida beach town.
But there is a city in Canada also called Clearwater you have probably never heard of.
Located in a valley where the Clearwater River spills into the North Thompson River it’s one of Canada’s newest municipalities.
Established in 2007, you’ll want to head here to discover some of its finer attributes.
What’s cool: The valley people (the town is home to nearly 2,400 residents) have a fabulous natural backyard of forests. It’s also a whistle stop for Canada’s iconic cross-country train known as The Canadian.
Things to do:
- It’s a great spot for outdoor lovers. Think of just about any activity from bird watching to wildlife viewing to hiking, it’s all here.