6 ultimate BC experiences that should be on your travel bucket list

Jul 16 2020, 6:42 pm

Travel awakens the soul, but what gets the spirit moving looks a little different for everyone. For some, travel could mean seeking out adventures like a horse-packing trip through the backcountry, while for others it could mean sipping BC wine on a patio as the sun sets over the lake.

Whatever your preference, we’re lucky to live in a province where you can do it all, especially this year. As BC moves through its phased restart plan, we’re invited to safely and responsibly explore beyond our neighbourhoods and rediscover the beauty, culture, and destinations that have drawn travellers here from throughout the world (after all, for one, Vancouver Island was named one of the world’s top places to visit in 2020).

The possibilities are plentiful, and to help narrow down your choices for an unforgettable experience, we’ve teamed up with the travel experts at Destination BC to inspire your trip planning this year. Here are six unique experiences that deserve to be on your travel bucket list.

Discover mountain peaks and towns


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Beyond Vancouver, there is an enormous amount of terrain to cover in BC. Take the southeastern part of the province for example, with its seven parks that make up a UNESCO-designated world heritage site. Exploring the great outdoors is a way of life out here, so settle into places like Fernie, Golden, Nelson, and Cranbrook and experience life like a local. That means days chock-full of outdoor adventure, foodie finds, breweries, and thriving arts and indie scenes.

Hit up mountain biking trails at Revelstoke Mountain Resort, be a kid at the fairytale-like Enchanted Forest, trek in the trees at SkyTrek Adventure Park, or go paddling on Kootenay Lake (or do it all!). Explore Yoho and Glacier national parks, perhaps from a lux stay overlooking Emerald Lake. You can even book a relaxing stay at Halcyon Hot Springs to access the rejuvenating hot springs pool.

Further north, Wells Gray Provincial Park has a lot to offer BC explorers. Only a 90-minute drive from Kamloops, it’s home to glacial-fed lakes and hikes through the Trophy Mountain alpine meadows. For even more awe-inspiring views, including the highest point in the Canadian Rockies, visit Mount Robson Provincial Park near Valemount. The Berg Lake Trail is open for day use and takes you past everything from gushing waterfalls to glistening lakes.

Once you’ve worked up an appetite, kick back with a picnic sourced from one of many local farmers’ markets or follow the BC Ale Trail and pair your adventure with local craft beer.

Wine and dine by vineyards, valleys, and lakes


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If your ideal vacation is inspired by delectable food and wine, your toughest decision will be choosing where to go. Explore lush valleys, vineyards, and farms in the Fraser Valley, or pick one of many scenic routes headed east and get to know a new part of BC (like the Shuswap, Boundary Country, or the Similkameen Valley, BC’s up-and-coming wine hub).

In the Okanagan, visit Burrowing Owl or Tinhorn Creek wineries for tastings in Oliver and discover what sets the local blends apart. Further south, in Similkameen, book a tasting at Corcelettes Estate Winery or Orofino Vineyards and get a crash course on terroir with every tasting. Wherever you choose to go, look out for delectable farm-to-table food served up on spectacular terraces and patios overlooking wineries and orchards.

To experience lake life, add a visit to the beautiful region of Shuswap in south-central BC to your list. Lounge by the water at Shuswap Lake or rent a stand-up paddleboard to discover the water at your own pace. Find a lakeside dining spot where you can savour the sunset with a glass of local wine.

In Boundary Country, hike a section of the Kettle Valley Rail Trail, cycle over trestles in Grand Forks, or try fishing for the very first time on the calm waters of glistening Jewel Lake.

Immerse yourself in northern wild


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Up north, BC’s spectacular scenes continue. Picture raw nature, vast wilderness with ancient valleys carved by water and wind, and wide-open spaces beckoning you to explore.

If you’re taking an RV (or camping) road trip, consider starting your tour of the north in Prince George. From there, take one of BC’s most famous routes — the historic Alaska Highway — to explore heritage sites and the surrounding scenery of the Peace Region and Northern Rockies. Visit Tumbler Ridge, Western Canada’s only Global GeoPark (and one of only three in North America) and go back in time to the age of dinosaurs.

Or, drive east to west along the scenic Route 16 backdropped by incredible wilderness and postcard scenes and stop in quaint BC towns like TerraceSmithers, and Burns Lake. Order lunch for takeout at local cafes and find picnic spots with stunning views. All three towns are renowned mountain biking hubs with everything from easy cross-country trails to technical downhill routes and offer gear rentals. From there, visit the ‘Ksan Historical Village and Museum in Hazelton to discover Indigenous culture.

These are some of the most scenic roadways in our province, so sit back and enjoy the drive.

Ride through ranchlands and follow rivers 


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Buckle up and saddle up: You don’t need to go far in BC to travel back in time and experience the essence of cowboy life, BC’s Gold Rush past, and Indigenous history. Drive the Gold Rush Trail all the way to Barkerville, stopping in at historic sites and provincial parks along the way. Or, base yourself in Kamloops to experience excellent outdoor adventure opportunities and a growing craft beer and wine scene.

Then settle in at one of BC’s unforgettable ranches and roam peaceful pastures that allow you to feel an undeniable connection to the wild. In Kamloops, let an experienced wrangler lead you on an adventure at Erin Valley Riding Stables (reserve ahead of time). In the Lower North Thompson Valley, under an hour’s drive from Sun Peaks, book a stay at the Jandana Ranch and join a horseback riding clinic.

Another adventure that’s next-level is a guided multi-day horse pack trip into the wilderness. Stay at cozy huts and appreciate life’s simple pleasures on the move (maybe even take a digital detox while you’re at it). Traverse mountain valleys and meadows on horseback taking in once-in-a-lifetime views before settling in at the next camp for dinner under the stars.

Experience laid-back coastal culture


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There is beauty to be found where the land meets the sea in BC. The unique topography of BC’s coast also makes the journey to places like the Gulf Islands and the Sunshine Coast as much as part of the vacation as what happens when you get there.

Consider taking a float plane direct to Victoria from Downtown Vancouver to maximize your time on the Island (and maximize the views on the way over). If riding with BC Ferries, reserve ahead to secure a spot for your car or bike and take the stress out of renting wheels once you get there. Once there, rent a kayak or join a whale watching tour for more time on the water.

Seaside towns throughout BC boast a laid-back vibe, and many are home to artisans and local purveyors. In the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, see producers selling their handcrafted products at markets and local stores, and visit wineries, breweries, and cideries. You’ll find Indigenous cultural landmarks and sculptures at many coastal destinations in BC, like Thunderbird Park in Victoria, and on the Sunshine Coast.

There’s also nothing quite like a stay on the coast, waking to the sound of waves and breathing in the fresh sea-salty air as you open your cabin window or unzip your tent. Consider one of these accommodation options on the Sunshine Coast or Vancouver Island.

Find new passions along the Sea-to-Sky


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Once back in the city, commit to some urban exploration and be a tourist in your own town. Take a self-led tour of the murals adorning buildings in a neighbourhood you’ve never visited before and immerse yourself in their social commentary. Stop in at the Museum of Anthropology to see original artworks by Indigenous artists. Instead of beelining it through Stanley Park, get your ticket to stop and listen to the talking trees. On the North Shore, try out a wild mushroom identification course.

Looking to get around on two wheels? Bring your bike to Langley and cycle through Nicomekl Flood Plain, spend the day in Squamish and try the Ray Peters Trail, or see what the mountain biking trails have to offer near Pemberton and Whistler. North Vancouver has a wide selection of biking and hiking trails to choose from, too, including the Baden Powell Trail and Capilano Pacific Trail, which both pass through lush forests — perfect for slowing down for some healing shinrin-yoku.

To reinvigorate your senses at foodie hubs in the Lower Mainland, follow the Dumpling Trail in Richmond. Or, eat your way around the world in Mount Pleasant with scrumptious offerings for Japanese fare, French treats, Mexican morsels, and Spanish tapas, to name a few. Follow up a day of discovery outside the city with the Squamish Craft Tasting Trail, or indulge in fresh mountain grub (and the world’s only organic potato vodka) in Pemberton. One thing is for sure: adventuring is hungry work.

Rediscover BC this summer, whether by visiting your favourite places and experiencing them with new eyes, or by exploring a new part of our province. Start planning your visit at ExploreBC.com.

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