British Columbia is big and beautiful. Every corner of the province offers outstanding wildlife, gorgeous panoramic views, or unique cultural experiences that make it worth visiting. But why stop at one?

 

There are a multitude of scenic drives around BC that will bring you from one amazing stop to another. Whether you want to hit the road for a few weeks with friends, or need to cram in as much scenery as possible into a few days, here are seven routes that show off the best of BC.

The Sea-to-Sky Highway - Credit: Destination BC

1.  The Sea-to-Sky Highway

That old saying that it isn’t about the destination but the journey, starts to make sense as you drive the Sea-to-Sky Highway. This stretch of winding road between Vancouver and Whistler is true to its name. With the blue waters on one side, soaring cliffs on the other, and nothing but open skies ahead, you’ll feel like you’ve left civilisation in your rear view mirror. The Sea-to-Sky passes waterfalls, rivers, canyons, and mountains, as well as several towns, so keep an eye out for those “Tourist Attraction” signs. Finally, if you want to learn the First Nations history of the area while you’re at it, there are also seven interpretive kiosks, designed in the shape of cedar-bark hats, where you can reads stories about the region’s first residents.

 

Starting point: Vancouver
Length: 162 kilometres
Time: < 1 day
Essential stops: Britannia Beach, Shannon Falls Provincial Park, the Stawamus Chief, Squamish, Sea to Sky Gondola, Whistler Blackcomb. Click here for more on these stops.

 

2. The Pacific Marine Circle Route

 

A good choice for time-pressed foodies, the Pacific Marine Circle Route packs in surf-tossed beaches, old-growth forest, BC's second-largest wine country, some of Canada's best restaurants and all the delights of the capital, all within just a few hours of driving. Starting in Victoria, on Vancouver Island's southern tip, the route heads west, past the culinary hot spot of Sooke, to the big surf beaches of the southwest coast and the rolling vineyard-draped hills of the Cowichan Valley wine country. The panoramic views of the Juan de Fuca Strait alone are worth the drive.

 

Starting point: Victoria
Length: 158 miles
Time: 1 to 3 days
Essential stops: Sooke Potholes Provincial Park, Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, BC Forest Discovery Centre, Totem Tour. Click here for more on these stops.

Surfing in Tofino

3. Vancouver to Tofino

 

Rent an old Volkswagen bus, fill the roof with surfboards, and hit the road from Vancouver to Tofino. This scenic drive brings you from the big city to the big waves. You’ll leave Vancouver, hop on a ferry to Vancouver Island, and drive right through massive old growth forests on the way to the surf capital of Canada. Along the way you’ll want to stop half a dozen times for incredible hikes, sandy beaches that stretch on forever, and consistently breathtaking scenery.

 

Starting point: Vancouver
Length: 300 kilometres
Time: 1 to 3 days
Essential Stops: MacMillan Provincial Park, Ucluelet Aquarium, the Wild Pacific Trail, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. Click here for more on these stops.

 

4. The Coastal Circle Route

 

You can look forward to seascapes, beaches, and driftwood all the way along the Coastal Circle Route, winding up Vancouver Island's eastern shore and back down the famous Sunshine Coast. This trek includes at least four ferry rides—more if you opt to explore some of the smaller islands on the way—and can take anywhere from a few days to a week. Visit BC's artists and artisans in the studios where they live, work, and showcase their art. Galleries, funky little artsy towns, stunning gardens, intriguing First Nations sites, wineries, organic farms, and two major cities are all highlights of this seaside odyssey.

 

Starting point: Vancouver
Length: 560 kilometres
Time: 3 to 7 days
Essential Stops: Butchart Gardens, Comox Air Force Museum, Historic Lund Hotel, Sechelt. Click here for more on these stops.

 

 

Mission Hill Family Estate Winery Vineyards

5. The Mountains & Vineyards Circle Route

 

The Mountains & Vineyards Circle Route is all about indulgence. The drive takes you deep into wine country with a tour of the hot springs resorts. Starting in Golden, an outdoor adventure center in the Kootenay Rockies, this tour of southeastern BC follows the lakes and vineyards of the Okanagan Valley, through Canada's only true desert, and past the peaks and glaciers of the Rocky Mountains. Championship golf courses, lift-accessed hiking and mountain biking, historic towns, mountains resorts and, of course, hot springs and wineries, make it tough to get back in the car.

 

Starting point: Golden
Length: 1260 kilometres
Time: 7 to 10 days
Essential Stops: Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, Yoho National Park, Kimberley Alpine Resort, Columbia Gardens Vineyard & Winery. Click here for more on these stops.

 

6. The Hot Springs Circle Route

 

Seven days, seven hot springs. The Hot Springs Route through BC's Kootenay Rockies region visits a string of natural pools, from lavish resorts to secret dips in the woods. Cruise through some of the world's most stunning lake and mountain scenery, with plenty of railway history, mountain resorts, wildlife viewing, and outdoor adventure thrown in.

 

Starting point: Cranbrook
Length: 851 kilometres
Time: 7 days
Essential Stops: Fairmont Hot Springs, Kootenay National Park, Mount Revelstoke, Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area. Click here for more on these stops.

The Northern Lights on the Great Northern Circle Route

7. The Great Northern Circle Route

 

We saved the longest for last. The legendary Alaska Highway is the stuff of bucket lists! It's also the beginning of the odyssey through Northern BC and into Yukon Territory. The Great Northern Circle Route is home to stone sheep, moose, grizzly and black bear, a natural hot springs pool, ancient totem poles, legendary fishing, glaciers, the shimmering northern lights, First Nations culture, and fur trade history. The route starts and finishes in Prince George, with road and air access to the rest of the province.

 

Starting point: Prince George
Length: 3190 kilometres
Time: 10+ days
Essential Stops: Muncho Lake Provincial Park, Boya Lake Provincial Park, Bear Glacier, Salmon Glacier, Fort St. James National Historic Site. Click here for more on these stops.

 

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