The province of British Columbia in Canada is a must place to travel. Known for its rugged coastline, stunning forests, outdoor hikes, and trails, British Columbia is a province that will never disappoint.
In addition, we also have to mention the small towns, big cities, and island destinations that are also beautiful and unique. As someone who has grown up in BC, I will list the best things to do in British Columbia and the most beautiful places there for you to discover.
National and Provincial Parks in British Columbia
These are all the beautiful national and provincial parks in British Columbia that many deem beautiful. Remember to leave no trace behind; pick up everything you bring, including your garbage.
Before visiting national or provincial parks, you must pay any fees, passes, and reservations.
Garibaldi Provincial Park
Garibaldi Provincial Park, also called Garibaldi Park, is only 70 km (43 miles) North of the main city of Vancouver. Garibaldi Park is one of the most beautiful hiking locations closest to the city.
Beautiful snow-capped peaks and blankets of snow during the winter, pockets of snow stay almost year-round, and lush vegetation grows between rocks and the mountainsides in the summer.
There are popular hikes and backcountry campgrounds while you are in Garibaldi Park. But as a note, they are considered intermediate to difficult hikes that will take a day or two days to complete.
The 18-kilometer (11.3 miles) is the most popular out-and-back trail, which takes approximately six hours to complete to Garibaldi Lake. The Black Tusk is another popular hike with substantial elevation gains. The 27 kilometers hike will take about eight to 12 hours to complete, and you should camp in between.
Joffre Lake Provincial Park
Another hike around two hours and 40 minutes away from Vancouver is Joffre Lake Provincial Park. It is another popular hiking spot highlighting three lakes, Lower, Middle, and Upper Joffre Lakes.
You can expect to see blue-turquoise water, ice fields, rushing glacier streams, and jagged peaks. It is no wonder why many people love to explore the beautiful park.
The moderate 9.5-kilometer (5.9 miles) round-trip hike will take around three and a half hours to four and a half hours to complete, that is, without stops in between.
Glacier National Park (Canada)
If you are thinking of Glacier National Park in Montana, no, it is not that one but the one in Canada! The Glacier National Park, Canada, is located within the Rocky Mountains, roughly an hour and 40 minutes from the British Columbia and Alberta province border and six hours and 40 minutes from Vancouver.
The beautiful alpine scenery with ancient forests and deep valleys is open year-round for anyone interested in exploring the backcountry.
Yoho National Park of Canada
Another national park near the British Columbia and Alberta province border located within the Rocky Mountains is the Yoho National Park of Canada.
This national park is unique because it is home to one of the world’s richest deposits of Burgess Shale fossils that are amazingly detailed and more than half a billion years old. Also, you have to marvel at the incredible views of the Rocky Mountains.
Wells Gray Provincial Park
In Clearwater, British Columbia, Wells Gray Provincial Park is another location in the Rocky Mountains. The provincial park is known as “Canada’s Waterfall Park” because of the 41 named waterfalls inside the park.
Some of the top waterfalls in the provincial park are Helmcken Falls, Spahats Creek Falls, and Dawson Falls.
In addition, there are other outdoor activities to do, such as canoeing on Clearwater and Azure Lake, whitewater rafting, or hiking the Trophy Mountain flower meadow, which only blooms twice a year.
Great Bear Rainforest
The Great Bear Rainforest is one of the most beautiful locations along the coast. It stretches along the northern and central coast of British Columbia, covering over six million hectares (16 million acres) of land.
Exploring the quarter of the world’s temperate rainforest is home to cedar and spruce trees over thousands of years old. It is also home to the Kermode, or the “Spirit Bear,” a black bear with all-white fur.
The easiest way to access Great Bear Rainforest is through Bella Coola by car (driving along Highway 20 from Williams Lake), flying on scheduled flights from Vancouver, or departing from Northern Vancouver Island by boat on daily tours.
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
The 511 square kilometers (197 square miles) national park is on Vancouver Island. The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is separated into three regions: Long Beach, Broken Group Islands, and the West Coast Trail.
The national park has many beaches, rugged mountains, and coastal hikes worth checking out. It is also home to small towns such as Port Alberni, Port Renfrew, and two other locations that will be mentioned further in this blog post.
Cities, Towns, and Islands
Now that we have covered the most beautiful national and provincial parks, we will move on to the most beautiful cities, towns, and islands in British Columbia.
On British Columbia’s west coast, the archipelago island of Haida Gwaii is rich with wildlife, lush green vegetation, and tranquillity. The remote island is part of the Haida Nation, and visitors are strongly encouraged to take the Haida Gwaii Pledge and learn how to visit the island respectfully.
Other activities on Haida Gwaii include the Haida Gwaii Museum, Gin Kuyaas – Haida Art Studio & Gifts, and the North Beach Surf Shop, which has all your outdoor water activities like surfboards, stand-up-paddle boards, boogie boards, and more.
Southern Gulf Islands
The Southern Gulf Islands are between the coast of British Columbia and Vancouver Island along the Strait of Georgia. They are all beautiful and known to have stunning rugged coastlines and beaches and lush green hiking trails.
While there are hundreds of small inlets that are a part of the Southern Gulf Islands, there are only a handful that are populated.
Mayne, Pender, Saturna, and Gabriola Islands are the other beautiful islands people live on or like to explore. However, there are two islands that gain the most foot traffic of people visiting.
Salt Spring Island
Salt Spring Island is the largest and most populated Southern Gulf Island. Year-round, people love to visit the island to focus on their health and wellness, agriculture, the artisan community, and environmental sustainability.
In addition, the island itself has beautiful scenery, natural spaces, and stunning coastlines. Activities like kayaking, paddle boarding, cycling, and more, can help you see the island from different perspectives.
The long and narrow island of Galiano is known for its wild west coast beaches, with many access points to almost all of them. There are many hiking spots with stunning viewpoints, wildlife such as the local Black Tail Deer, and home to hundreds of bird species.
The beautiful Sunshine Coast covers 180 kilometers of British Columbia’s coast (112 miles). There are hectares of forest and what seems like endless coastlines. It is a location where many small towns and communities in British Columbia are only accessible by float plane, ferry, or boat.
While the Sunshine Coast is a beautiful location, here are a couple of towns to check out while exploring the Sunshine Coast.
Gibsons is the gateway to the Sunshine Coast, as it is the first major town you will come across. It is a beautiful location, and the waterfront is only minutes away.
The picturesque coastal town is also a famous location in Canada. From the 1970s to the 1990s, the town’s background was the setting for the favorite Canadian comedy-drama television show, The Beachcombers.
Surrounded by the forest and coastline, Sechelt is an excellent spot for adventure-goers exploring the vibrant art scene and year-round activities.
One of the most talked about locations that any local, including myself, brings up when visiting Vancouver Island is visiting Tofino. It is also a coastal town in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and overall one of the best places to visit in British Columbia.
Tofino is known as the surf capital of Canada, and rightfully so, as many surf enthusiasts from around the world travel to Tofino to experience the large swells that nature creates.
While the town is not only famous for surfing but for its stunning beaches too, such as Long Beach, which stretches approximately 16 kilometers (9.9 miles), or Cox Bay Beach and Chesterman Beach, where you can watch the best storms unfold on the coast.
Sometimes Ucluelet is overshadowed by Tofino. Even though Ucluelet is only a 30-minute drive from Tofino, the small coastal town has its own beauty and charm.
While part of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, you can expect Ucluelet to have similar breathtaking views of its sister town. Ucluelet has a laid-back environment, more trails and hikes in the surrounding area, and more rugged black rock coastline cliffs.
If you are looking for beautiful spots in Ucluelet, I recommend checking out Big Beach during sunset; it is a stunning photo-op location.
Or the Wild Pacific Trail, also known as the Lighthouse Loop, where the Amphitrite Point Lighthouse is located, and enjoy a fantastic walk along the coast and into the forest.
Victoria is the capital of British Columbia. While you may think, is Victoria worth visiting? Yes, it is! The downtown core of Victoria is considered beautiful because of the Victorian architecture, heritage charm like the Fairmont Empress Hotel, and sunset views of the Inner Harbour. And there are so many things to do in Victoria that would be a big mistake to not include it on your itinerary!
There are other locations outside the downtown core where you can be immersed in greenery, such as the Victoria Butchart Gardens or Thetis Lake Regional Park.
It is no wonder that Victoria was voted as the 2nd most beautiful small city in 2022 by Condé Nast.
The port city of Prince Rupert was long ago known as the Halibut Capital of the World. There is an excellent blend of rural and urban experiences and attractions, whether in the wilderness or the ocean in Prince Rupert.
Many tours will give you a closer look at the wildlife around Prince Rupert. Whether seasonal or year-round, such as grizzly bears in the Khutzeymateen Valley or whale watching tours, you will be captivated by these majestic mammals.
The Kootenay region is full of beautiful small mountain towns and outdoor adventures. Many seek backcountry adventures like mountain biking, while others like exploring snowy peaks, pristine lakes, and waterfalls.
These are a couple of the most beautiful places in the Kootenay region.
Revelstoke is a popular and beautiful stop when people travel from British Columbia to Calgary, Alberta. There is also abundant wildlife that chooses Revelstoke as their home because of the rich ecosystem of hemlock and cedar tree, and in fact that it is also an inland temperate rainforest, a biome considered one of the rarest in the world.
When it comes to winter, many people love to trek to Revelstoke for winter activities such as snowboarding, nordic skiing, heli-skiing, and more. In the summer, The Pipe Mountain Coaster, mountain biking, hiking, and more.
Nestled in the Selkirk Mountains, known as “The Queen City” and one of Canada’s gems, is Nelson, British Columbia. Nelson has over 350 heritage buildings in the city, gaining the reputation of one of the finest heritage cities in Canada.
While there are many walking tours to explore and expand your knowledge about the heritage town, there are also many other outdoor recreational activities year-round, such as fishing, caving, and backcountry skiing.
While British Columbia has over 900 vineyards, the Okanagan Valley, also known as the wine region of British Columbia, contributes to producing the second most amount of wine in Canada.
The Okanagan is classified as a semi-arid desert, and it is the only subcategory unique biome that exists in Canada. There are many towns and vineyards in almost every direction you turn in the Okanagan.
The Okanagan Valley is a popular wine region and many locals love to visit, typically in the summer or winter; people known as snowbirds – a group of travelers that travel to stay in warmer climates during winter months.
Even though many types of grapes are being grown across the province, the most planted red and white grapes that British Columbia produces are for Merlots and Pinot Gris. If you are a wine connoisseur, love drinking wine, or looking for somewhere to relax, you should check out these places in the Okanagan Valley.
Kelowna is one of the largest cities in the Okanagan. It is situated on the eastern shores of Okanagan Lake and is surrounded by vineyards, orchards, and pine forests. Also, it has more outdoor recreational things to do during the winter.
If you are looking for somewhere to stay in the Okanagan, Kelowna would have the most options for places to stay. However, it will be much busier.
Penticton is one of my favorite locations in the Okanagan because it is where my family travels the most. It is smaller than Kelowna but a popular location with a growing community. There are many nearby vineyards and orchards where you can pick fresh fruit in the summer.
Situated between Skaha and Okanagan Lake, the canal connects the two lakes where you can ride inner tubes from one end to the other.
If you are looking for wineries, Naramata, 20 minutes from Penticton, has many award-winning wineries.
Another location that also has a special place in my heart is Osoyoos. It is much quieter than Penticton and surrounded by vineyards and Osoyoos Lake. If you are looking for more of a desert surrounding, Osoyoos is much more desert-looking than Kelowna and Penticton.
Now if you are a wine connoisseur, you must check out Oliver. While Oliver is a small town, some may consider Oliver the “wine capital of Canada.” Still, I think it is the “wine capital of British Columbia” because Ontario produces more wine. However, despite that debate, Oliver has many award-winning wineries, such as the Burrowing Owl Estate Winery.
Whistler is approximately an hour and 45-minute drive from Vancouver. It is a world-renowned ski resort – a great choice to spend a full winter season there! – that has many domestic and international visitors year-round. Surrounded by ski mountains and forests, the summer months attract many mountain bikers when the snow melts.
Not only is Whistler beautiful, but the drive to Whistler along the Sea to Sky Highway also contributes to Whistler’s beauty. It was voted one of the best scenic routes in Canada.
Last but not least, Vancouver. Easily one of the most, if not the most, beautiful city in Canada due to the city’s natural surroundings between the ocean and the mountains, perfect for hiking!
Vancouver blends urban and nature seamlessly to where you can find local parks in the middle of the city like Queen Elizabeth Park or a park along the waterfront like Stanely Park.
You are also not far from exploring the mountains of Cypress, Grouse, and Seymour — or provincial parks such as Golden Ears Provincial Park. Almost everywhere you go, you can always expect beautiful views from Vancouver.
Be sure to plan your trip accordingly, as visiting Vancouver during the fall season is highly recommended for day trips.
Wildfire Statement From A Local
Facing wildfires has been the most challenging event many British Columbians have to cope with, especially in rural areas. Wildfire activity has grown immensely in recent years due to climate change (and irresponsible people contribute a small percentage).
If you plan to visit any of these locations in British Columbia or anywhere in British Columbia, please put out your campfires properly, throw your cigarette butts in the proper disposal bins, listen to when campfire bans are put into regulation, and report a wildfire if you see one. Thank you.
As you can see, British Columbia has many beautiful locations throughout the province. Whether you are looking for stunning hikes, scenic road trips, sipping wine by the lake, or exploring a coastal town, British Columbia is a place where you can enjoy the great outdoors no matter where you visit.
Kelena is a curious Canadian travel blogger who loves exploring her backyard and traveling to other countries worldwide. Sharing her experiences and details for others to enjoy is what she loves to do through her writing at writtenbykel.com.