Oh, Canada… the land of frigid winters, humid summers, mountainous terrain, and endless wilderness. It’s a country with a hearty history and a wicked sense of adventure. If you’re looking to find your next adrenaline rush, it’s the perfect place to let loose and experience all that nature has to offer. They may not wrangle polar bears or live in igloos, but they know how to have a good time. Who wouldn’t, when you live in a place with so much to offer?
The untouched, natural beauty of the country can be an overwhelming venture for visitors. The land seems to extend endlessly in all directions, and every square kilometer has its share of sights, sounds, and smells.
If you’re looking to truly experience Canada (perhaps without minus 40-degree weather or thousands of black flies), look West. Now many might wonder: Where do I start with so many things to do in British Columbia?
BC is a favorite among travelers, and for good reason. It’s coastal, which makes way for tons of water-based fun, as well as beautiful coastline hikes and the like. If you aren’t within sight of saltwater, chances are you’re not too far away from a lake; they’re everywhere inland, and most come with plenty of exciting outdoor opportunities. No matter the season, BC has got you covered. Skiing, snowboarding, kayaking, swimming; the list, the fun, and the opportunities are endless.
Hoping to get to know the beauty of this Canadian province a little better? Check out some of the best places to visit in British Columbia.
Found in the southern region of BC, this enormous lake attracts campers and adventurers alike throughout the year.
Whether you visit for the day or spend a few at a local resort or campground, Harrison has endless fun activities. Harrison Lake is never short on good times. In the summer, you can find numerous floating water parks, with slides and trampolines to keep you bouncing all day. On top of that, they’ve got fishing, boating, kayaking, windsurfing, canoeing, water skiing, and more. If you’re over the water sports, there are tons of hikes nearby, like the beautiful Bear Mountain Trail.
The activities are extensive, the mountains are breathtaking, and the water is glacial and pure. What more could you ask for?
After all, that excitement, make sure to relax at the renowned Harrison Hot Springs, which are considered by the local natives to be a natural place of healing. The mineral-rich water can reach temperatures of up to 105 degrees F. Not bad for Canada, eh?
“The Island”, as it’s referred to by locals, is a shining gem in the crown of BC.
Just off the coast of Vancouver, it’s home to some of the most incredible Canadian scenery; gorgeous coastlines, quaint, historical buildings, and sprawling wilderness sanctuaries.
Check out Tofino, a quiet, coastal district surrounded by old-growth rainforests and misty waves. Grab a wet suit and head down to the beach for some surfing or stand-up paddleboarding. They even have zip-lines and skydiving, if that’s your style. Along with the wildest of activities are hikes, like the challenging Lone Cone, kayaking and canoeing, and cycling along the extensive beaches or through town. While you’re there, spend some time wandering through Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park, or Pacific Rim National Park, both home to old-growth rainforests, camping, and coastal hiking trails.
Many hike the West Coast Trail, in which you can find the Tsusiat Falls, a gorgeous waterfall along the coast. Once you’ve finished strolling through the wilderness of the Island, or perhaps before your adventure begins, pop by the capital city of BC, Victoria, where you can find the BC Parliament Buildings, the Botanical Gardens, and tons of quirky, locally-owned shops and eateries.
Also known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, Haida Gwaii provides a rare opportunity to truly experience natural, undisturbed land.
It’s old-growth forests as far as the eye can see, it’s wild calls like you’ve never heard, it’s quaint neighborhoods, and best of all, it’s just north of Vancouver Island. The locals love to see visitors throughout the year, as they have tons of fairs, concerts, and events across the island. If you visit in the warmer months, however, stay in one of the cozy, locally owned cabins and take advantage of hikes that wind throughout the National and Provincial parks, stopping at beautiful, ancient viewpoints inland and along the water. See if you can find the Pesuta shipwreck from 1928 or one of the islands ancient totem poles.
There’s also kayaking, canoeing, and fishing aplenty. Haida Gwaii offers something hard to find these days: A true sense of calm.
Get away from it all and experience nature uninterrupted.
If there was a tagline for this incredible part of BC, it would be “All-season, All-weather, All-the-Time”.
Whistler Mountain is never short on things to see and unique ways to see them. Visit in the winter and you’ll find forested, snow-capped mountains as far as the eye can see. You can explore by way of skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and the like.
If you can’t make it for the snow sports, fear not; Whistler has tons of hikes ranging from an hour or so, up until a full day. The summer also brings with it whitewater rapids just waiting to be rafted down, tons of wicked mountain biking trails (including bike and walking parks raised among the trees), zip-lines, bear-viewing, and more.
Many visitors of Whistler opt to stay in the neighboring district of Squamish during their visit, which is just as bountiful and only an hour south. In the summer, it’s home to world-famous outdoor rock climbing and bouldering, mountain biking, stand-up paddleboarding, fishing, and snorkeling. Make sure to hike up the infamous Chief, which offers an incredible view.
Halfway between Whistler and Squamish is Garibaldi Lake, which is a glacier-fed body of water surrounded by snowy mountains and volcanic structures. It makes a great day hike or a perfect camping destination. Whistler and Squamish are hotspots for adventure. Make sure to visit the next time you’re in Canada!
City of Vancouver
Not to be confused with Vancouver Island, this sprawling, bustling city is found inland, right along the southern coast of BC. It’s the largest city in the province, with endless activities for visitors and locals alike.
Check out Stanley Park, which can be found downtown nestled on the water. There’s always lots going on within the beautiful park, like outdoor movies or carnivals. It has a trail along its border, which runs through and around the park, alongside the ocean. This path extends outside of the park and becomes the seawall, which runs along the border of a good portion of Vancouver. This makes for a great way to explore on wheels! Rent a single or tandem bike, or perhaps a pair of rollerskates, and roll your way through the sights of the city.
Another must-see in the city is Pacific Spirit Regional Park, also found downtown. It’s 750 hectares of beautiful forest, with trails 1-3 hours in length. Who knew there could be so much natural beauty in the midst of a busy city?
Lynn Valley Canyon
Located in North Vancouver, Lynn Valley is a long, winding canyon with trails along the rushing water and through the forest.
Visitors can spend time hiking through the beautiful scenery or pop in the water for a splash. There’s no camping, but it makes a great day hike. Bring some lunch and a swimsuit, and get ready for a peaceful day in the forest.
Golden Ears Provincial Park
This is another beautiful destination, just northeast of the City of Vancouver. It’s a must-see for those who love the BC outdoors, as it’s one of the largest parks in British Columbia. It is home to beautiful glacier mountains, crystal blue lakes, and lush forests.
Nestled within the park is Alouette Lake, a very popular spot for campers, paddleboarders, and swimmers, with canoes and kayaks for rent.
Close by is Rolley Lake, which is gentle and warm, available swimming and fishing, and nearby numerous hikes. Make sure to check out the many trails throughout the park, like Mike Lake Trail (about 2 hours) and Golden Ears Trail (about 7 hours). They all range in elevation and length, so make sure to come prepared.
Whether you’re a snow bunny or a forest-fairy, Grouse has something for you. It’s located just north of Vancouver and is a bit smaller than Whistler, but just as much fun.
Visit in the winter and you’ll find skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling and snowshoeing. They’re also equipped with a gondola, as well a zip line.
If you stop by in the warmer months, it’s home to some amazing mountain bike trails and hikes, like the Grouse Grind, one of the best hikes in British Columbia, which is sure to test your limits. If you’re looking for something different, take a guided eco-walk, or try tandem paragliding. Whatever season you visit, you’re sure to have a full day of fun!
There’s something magical about Smithers.
Maybe it’s the towering British Columbia mountains surrounding the town, which prove to be both inspiring and humbling.
Perhaps it’s the people, who are always kind and gentle.
It’s an unsettled debate, but there’s one thing everyone agrees on: Those who visit Smithers leave in a permanent state of awe. Although it’s in the Northern region of BC, a rarity on this list of outdoor destinations, it’s worth a visit. It’s got everything you might need for a memorable experience.
In the winter, there are snow sports aplenty, like skiing, snowshoeing and snowboarding; in the warm months, there’s hiking, mountain biking, canoeing, and kayaking. In between activities, check out the quaint town, home to amazing local artists and dining. It’s truly a town worth visiting.
Do you know any other stunning places to visit in British Columbia? Let us know in the comments below!