Set between rugged mountains and a spectacular Pacific coastline, British Columbia is one of Canada’s most captivating provinces. It’s an adventure tourism paradise, with magnificent national parks and offshore islands to explore as well as a fascinating indigenous heritage. But British Columbia also boasts vibrant cities and charismatic towns to discover, with an enticing food and wine culture. Still not convinced? Here are just 7 reasons why BC should be at the top of your vacation bucket list.
1. Spectacular Wilderness Areas
British Columbia is home to hundreds of national parks which protect its magnificent wilderness areas. From soaring mountains to pristine rainforests and picture-perfect lakes, BC will satisfy any outdoor enthusiast’s wildest dreams. Go hiking and mountain biking in Yoho National Park, located within the Rocky Mountains, to discover its towering waterfalls and alpine lakes. Or explore the rugged Kootenay Rockies, renowned for its snow-capped peaks, wildflower meadows and mineral hot springs. If you want an unrivaled white water rafting experience, head to the Tatshenshini-Alsek Wilderness Park to experience what has been dubbed the “Holy Grail” of rafting.
2. Exceptional Whale Watching
British Columbia’s Pacific waters are famed for their whale encounters, with orcas, minkes and Pacific gray whales all spotted here. Humpback whales are also known to visit as they migrate between Alaska and Hawaii from May through to October. The Johnstone Strait is home to the Northern Resident Orca population who put on an incredible aquatic display each summer during the salmon runs. Or just off the coast from Prince Rupert you can explore Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands), one of the best places for up-close whale encounters. You can even set out on a whale watching tour to explore the BC coast from several points around Vancouver Island.
(Photos from - Orca Base Camp Tour)
3. Fascinating First Nations Culture
British Columbia is home to the greatest diversity of aboriginal cultures in Canada, including First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities. Discover the unique traditions of almost 200 different First Nations groups, with more than 30 different languages spoken. To better experience the fascinating heritage and culture of BC’s original inhabitants, you can plan your BC vacation to coincide with National Aboriginal Day and Aboriginal Awareness Week in June.
4. Unique Bear Watching
Home to more than half of Canada’s grizzly bear population and around a quarter of its black bears, British Columbia is perhaps the best place in the country for bear watching. Visit the Great Bear Rainforest along BC’s Pacific coast, which is one of the largest remaining tracts of untouched temperate rainforest in the world. Witness rare white Kermode (Spirit) bears--a unique subspecies of black bears--in their natural environment or view grizzly bears as they hunt for spawning salmon. For the most accessible grizzly sightings, head to Grouse Mountain, which is just a 15 minute drive from downtown Vancouver and home to a refuge for endangered wildlife where orphaned bears are looked after.
5. Fantastic Food
You’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to dining in British Columbia, with the paddock-to-plate ethos seen it its gourmet cafes, farmers markets and celebrated restaurants. Vancouver boasts a vibrant food truck and cart scene, with everything from hot-smoked salmon sandwiches to Korean-inspired burritos redefining what makes great food. But no matter where you travel across BC, you’ll be treated to delicious local fare drawing on seasonal produce and presented in innovative ways.
6. Wonderful Wine
The Okanagan Valley of south-central BC is blanketed in orchards growing peaches and apricots as well as vineyards that radiate from the shores of Okanagan Lake. The valley’s wide-range of microclimates has allowed for the growth of more than 80 different grape varieties, and today around 200 wineries and cellar doors where you can sample the best wine around can be found here. Be sure to visit the Nk’Mip Desert Culture Center that recreates a traditional desert village as well as being home to North America’s first indigenous-owned winery, Nk’Mip Cellars.
7. Indulgent Hot springs
British Columbia is blessed with natural hot springs whose geothermal waters have long been revered for their therapeutic qualities. Head to the magnificent Lussier Hot Springs within Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park to soak in its natural wilderness setting or the rustic pools of the Liard River Hot Springs, which are surrounded by tropical plants and orchids. If you’re after a resort-based experience, visit the Ainsworth Hot Springs nestled at the base of the Purcell Mountains or the Halcyon Hot Springs that overlook the tranquil waters of Arrow Lakes.