1. Haida Gwaii
Mystical islands with a rich cultural history
This remote and rugged archipelago is steeped in the ancient culture of the Haida First Nation. Here old-growth rainforest is surrounded by a rich marine environment, both home to unique subspecies found only on these magical islands. Gwaii Haanas, a highly protected area overseen jointly by Parks Canada and the Haida Nation, is home to extraordinary natural scenery and cultural treasures, including ancient totems that are slowly decaying and being reclaimed by the land.
Urban playground in the heart of nature
In Vancouver, Mother Nature beckons. Whether you’re strolling along the seawall, shopping on Robson Street, or exploring historic Gastown, you can catch a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean or the rainforest-covered Coast Mountains from almost anywhere in the city — so close you can practically reach out and touch them. Rent a kayak and paddle scenic waterways, hike or ski in the North Shore Mountains, or just chill at the beach. At the end of the day, gaze out at the scenery over a locally inspired meal on a waterfront patio, and find inspiration for the next day’s adventure.
3. Canadian Rockies
Awe-inspiring peaks, impossibly blue lakes
The Rockies evoke images of towering, snow-capped peaks, turquoise lakes, cascading waterfalls, and dense evergreen forests. In BC, that jaw-dropping, Rocky Mountain scenery—the kind that stays with you long after you’ve returned home—stretches the entire length of the province. UNESCO established the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site along the BC/Alberta border, in part because of this spectacular beauty. The area is also globally significant because of the Burgess Shale fossil site, which shows in amazing detail what the Earth was like more than half a billion years ago.
4. Great Bear Rainforest
Home of the elusive Spirit Bear
The planet’s largest intact coastal temperate rainforest, the Great Bear is a revered and protected wilderness area. This section of BC’s Central Coast is remote and there are few roads within its boundaries, which contributes to a feeling of peace and serenity—of truly being in nature—for all who visit. BC’s First Nations have called this stretch of coastline home for thousands of years, and their influence is strongly felt. It is also home to an abundance of marine life, from whales to dolphins to sea otters. Add the fact that it is the only place in the world to see the rare white Kermode (Spirit) bear, and a trip to the Great Bear Rainforest is an experience unlike any other.
Arguably the planet's top all-season resort
Whistler Blackcomb is consistently named North America’s #1 resort, and it’s not hard to understand why. Skiers and boarders can explore more terrain here than anywhere else on the continent, with the summits of two legendary mountains — Whistler and Blackcomb — connected by the spectacular PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola. In summer, the pedestrian village is alive with hikers, mountain bikers, golfers, and people watchers. Access from Vancouver is via the Sea-to-Sky Highway, which follows a stunning coastline for much of its length.
6. Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
Pristine wilderness and endless beaches
This magnificent park on the west coast of Vancouver Island consists of three sections: Long Beach, home to flawless beaches and a thriving surf culture; the West Coast Trail, an epic, multi-day hike along what was once a rescue trail for shipwrecked sailors; and the Broken Group Islands, a kayaker’s paradise made up of more than 100 islands and islets. In summer, the area is alive with thrill seekers, families, and everyone in between enjoying the beach and hiking through the old-growth rainforest. Fall and winter months bring dramatic storm watching, and in the spring tens of thousands of grey whales migrate through these waters.
7. Alaska Highway
Remote wilderness, home to some serious wildlife
Driving the Alaska Highway is a significant undertaking, to be sure, but the payoff is huge. Literally. First there’s the distance covered — almost 1,000 km (600 mi) of this historic route are in BC alone. Then there’s the scenery — the towering Rocky Mountains and mile after mile of pristine wilderness virtually untouched by humans. And the wildlife — chances are excellent that you’ll see herds of massive bison roaming alongside the road, bighorn sheep sampling the highway’s mineral licks, and possibly mountain goats, moose, and bears. Oh my. Add to this the unique history of the road’s construction, and adventurous travellers can’t resist the call of the wild.
Old world charm with an ocean view
Situated on Vancouver Island, Victoria is a dynamic city that offers a seamless mix of the past and the present. The charismatic Inner Harbour serves as the hub of BC’s capital city, whether you’re looking to linger over an ocean-view meal at one of many innovative restaurants, or heading out on the water in search of resident pods of Orcas. Victoria is well known for its beautifully maintained gardens, and it boasts more cycling paths than any other Canadian city.
9. Okanagan Valley
Award-winning wineries set against a dramatic backdrop
The sun shines brightly in the Okanagan Valley on sparkling lakes surrounded by soft sandy beaches, providing the perfect backdrop for an endless array of activities for the young and the young at heart. Hike or bike in the mountains, tee off at one of many championship golf courses, or splash in the lake. Need a little sustenance? Okanagan Valley wineries have won major national and international awards, and many offer lake-view dining inspired by the valley’s agricultural riches. Winters here come with lots of soft, fluffy snow, and plenty of ways to enjoy it.
10. Kootenay ski towns
Unsurpassed powder and a funky, small town vibe
Looking for the ultimate ski vacation? Succumb to the lure of the Kootenay Rockies, where the snow is soft and deep, lift lines are short, and a free-spirited counterculture prevails. Locals here are by and large outdoorsy, creative types who are quick to chat you up — whether on the hill or over an après-ski pint — and make you feel welcome. The mountains, most of which are within shouting distance of town, are renowned for an annual snowfall of up to 12 m/40 ft of perfect powder. Summer brings stellar hiking and mountain biking, and local museums tell the tales of how these colourful towns came to be.