British Columbia is the third largest and most westerly province in Canada. Sitting between the Pacific Ocean and the Rocky Mountains, the province is commonly referred to as “Beautiful British Columbia” – for a very good reason.
British Columbia is known for its breathtaking mountains, lush forests, and rugged coastline. It’s the only province in Canada where you can go skiing or to the beach in the same day.
From bustling cities to beautiful islands to wine country, British Columbia has something for everyone. In fact, many Canadians (myself included!) have the ultimate goal of living in this beautiful Western province.
Want to know what makes British Columbia the best province ever? Keep reading!
Located two hours north of Vancouver, Whistler is a popular resort town that attracts thousands of locals and visitors year-round. Known for its world-class skiing and winter sports, Whistler hosted a number of events in the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics. Be sure to check out the huge Olympic rings at the Olympic Plaza!
Whether you are looking to hit the slopes, relax at a spa, or enjoy the amazing culinary scene, Whistler has so much to offer visitors.
Experienced skiers can head up to Whistler Blackcomb – one of the best mountains in North America. The après-ski bars in Whistler Village are the perfect place to celebrate your day in the mountains. Sip on some local beers as you warm up, and enjoy live music with friends.
While known to be a winter paradise, there is still plenty to do in Whistler during the summer months. Spend your days hiking to epic waterfalls, zip-lining through an ancient forest, or mountain biking to the highest peaks.
I could probably dedicate an entire post to Whistler but for now, it’s my number one must-see in British Columbia!
2. Victoria Inner Harbour
The Victoria Inner Harbour is located in British Columbia’s capital city of Victoria and is one of the prettiest harbors in the world. This busy port is home to many ferries, fishing vessels and houseboats.
Popular landmarks around Victoria’s Inner Harbour include the castle-like Empress Hotel, and Government Street – the city’s main street for tourist shopping and restaurants. It’s also home to historical buildings like the Royal British Columbia Museum and the Parliament Buildings.
Take a walk along the waterfront after dark when the Parliament Buildings are lit up and reflect in the harbor waters.
3. Okanagan Valley
One of the most fabulous things to do in British Columbia is to visit the Okanagan Valley. Home to 86% of the province’s vineyard acreage, this region is a wine lover’s dream destination.
From small boutique wineries to world-renowned operations, the Okanagan Valley produces some of the world’s best wines.
The best way to sample as many as you can? Take a wine tour! From Lake Country to Naramata, each sub-region has its own wine trail to explore. You will find a variety of wines, award-winning restaurants, and stunning backdrops on your tasting journey.
Beyond the wine tasting, the Okanagan Valley boasts beautiful lakes and beaches. It’s also home to one of the fastest-growing cities in all of Canada, Kelowna, which receives abundant sunshine and is the largest urban center in the Okanagan Valley. With surroundings like this, it’s easy to see why.
4. Yoho National Park
Yoho National Park is a spectacular National Park located alongside the border with Alberta and Banff National Park.
The park’s landscape is virtually untouched – making it the perfect place to enjoy true solitude and tranquility. If crowds and tourists aren’t your thing, consider driving the extra hour from Banff to spend some time at the gorgeous Yoho Park.
The park features beautiful glacier lakes, snow-covered mountains, and an abundance of wildlife. Yoho National Park is home to the second-largest waterfall in Canada – Takakkaw Falls -, and to one of the most photographed lakes called Emerald Lake.
5. Salt Spring Island
If you are looking for the ultimate island vibe, then a trip to Salt Spring Island should be at the top of your list. Salt Spring sits between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia, so you’ll have to take a quick ferry ride to get there.
From kayaking and hiking to a vibrant arts and crafts scene, there is plenty to discover at Salt Spring. One of the best ways to experience island life is by getting out on the water for a paddle. Check out Salt Spring Adventure Company for kayak rentals and guided tours.
For some slow-paced relaxation, visit Lavender & Black – a lavender farm where you can learn how the flowers are grown, cultivated, and turned into lovely essential oil.
If you are short on time, I highly recommend taking the Salt Spring Studio Tour. This self-guided experience allows you to meet and watch artists while they create beautiful works of art. The tour is a great opportunity to support the local makers that make Salt Spring such a special place!
6. Mild Climate
British Columbia is known for having the mildest climate in all of Canada. While northern regions of the province can see colder temperatures, winter in BC is pretty desirable compared to the rest of the country.
The climate in British Columbia is influenced by the ocean and mountain ranges.
Although coastal regions rarely see temperatures drop below zero, they do see rain – and a lot of it. If you’re visiting BC, you’ll probably want to pack an umbrella over a winter parka!
Did you know that half of all British Columbians live in the Metro Vancouver area? Or that Vancouver has been rated as one of the most livable cities in the world? Both are true – and for good reasons!
Vancouver is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in Canada. In fact, about 20% of its residents were born outside of Canada. Its urban vibe and proximity to nature make Vancouver a desirable location for many.
Some city highlights include the historic Gastown neighborhood, Grouse Mountain, Kitsilano Beach, and the Capilano Suspension Bridge. If you’re a hockey fan, head downtown to catch an NHL Vancouver Canucks game.
I should mention that Vancouver is also the most expensive Canadian city to live in – and not by a little, by a lot. The average home price is over a whopping $1.2 million!
Find out what this city has to offer on the post about what Vancouver is known for.
8. Nanaimo Bars
Did you know that this popular dessert square hails from Nanaimo, British Columbia? That’s right, the first known recipe for Nanaimo bars appeared in a 1952 Nanaimo hospital cookbook!
The Nanaimo bar is a three-layer no bake treat made of yellow custard, chocolate ganache, and a coconut-graham crust.
Needless to say, there are plenty of places to grab this sweet treat in the harbor city – check out the Nanaimo Bar Trail for unique variations like a Nanaimo bar waffle or Nanaimo martini!
9. Film and Television
British Columbia is famous for its major film and television industry. It has even earned the nickname “Hollywood of Canada”.
Offering a wealth of scenic landscapes and distinct neighborhoods, many movies and TV shows are shot in the Greater Vancouver area.
A few famous movie series that were filmed here include Planet of the Apes, Deadpool, and the Twilight Saga. The industry employs more than 25,000 BC residents.
10. Sea-to-Sky Highway
British Columbia is famous for its sea-to-sky highway – one of the most gorgeous drives in the world. This legendary route from Vancouver to Whistler is a journey in itself.
While the drive up to Whistler is approximately two hours, you can spend an entire day stopping at all of the viewpoints, trails, museums, and waterfalls along the way.
On the drive, you’ll also pass through the town of Squamish, a mecca for outdoor adventure lovers.
11. Granville Island
If there is such thing as an urban island, this is it! Whether you are looking for food, shopping or art, you’ll find it all on Granville Island.
British Columbia is known for its fresh harvest and local food scene, and a stop at Granville does not disappoint.
You will find tons of farmers, butchers and makers selling their offerings at the public market. From scrumptious pastries to fresh seafood, you can literally spend hours exploring all the food options. If you’re thirsty, be sure to stop for a brew at The Granville Island Brewing Co.
Home to the Emily Carr University of Art and Design, there are countless performing arts, festivals and exhibits to check out year-round.
12. Stanley Park
In the middle of Vancouver’s urban landscape lies Stanley Park, a green oasis that stretches over 28 kilometers. It’s the third-largest public park in North America and is often compared to New York City’s Central Park.
Stanley Park is full of beautiful gardens, lakes, and biking trails. The park is also home to some remarkable First Nations monuments like the story pole display at Brockton Point. There are numerous ways to keep the kids busy at Stanley Park including a waterpark, miniature railway, and the Vancouver Aquarium.
The famous Vancouver Seawall is the park’s big draw and attracts thousands of residents and tourists each day. This nine-kilometer path circles Stanley Park’s perimeter, and is a popular spot to bike, jog, or simply walk around the wall.
The Seawall offers a rare opportunity to admire mountain, ocean, and forest views all at once!
13. BC Roll
British Columbia is famous for its BC roll, a type of sushi containing barbecued salmon and cucumber.
The Canadian delicacy was created in 1974 by famous Japanese chef Hidekazu Tojo and has surged in popularity across the world.
Inspired by wild Pacific salmon, this roll is so West Coast that it was named after the province!
14. University of British Columbia
The University of British Columbia ranks among the top 20 universities in the world and is ranked third in Canada. With two main campuses in Vancouver and Kelowna, UBC welcomes thousands of international students each year.
Aside from its academic excellence, UBC has its own Quidditch team based on the game from Harry Potter, and has been the backdrop to dozens of movies including Fantastic Four and Night at the Museum.
No wonder students flock here to study!
15. Okanagan Fruit
In addition to the grapes that grow the wine, British Columbia is famous for its fresh Okanagan fruit. The region’s climate provides a long, hot growing season for everything from berries to apples to peaches.
The Okanagan Valley is full of orchards, fruit stands, and farms that serve up some of the juiciest fruit you will ever taste. You can easily spend an entire day checking out all the local markets in the region.
Best of all, you won’t have to feel guilty for indulging in nature’s candy!
I would highly recommend checking out Davison Orchard in Vernon. The family farm has been operating for over 80 years, and uses their own produce for baked goods and preserves of all kinds.
16. Bear Population
British Columbia is known for its abundant wildlife and its bear population in particular. The province is home to half the grizzly bears in Canada, a quarter of the black bears in Canada, and to the legendary Spirit bear.
With a vast area of forest land, most of the bear population lives within the dense trees and remote corners throughout the province.
For us humans, it’s important to be bear aware! If you are camping or hiking in British Columbia, make sure you are prepared and informed about bear safety at all times.
Nowhere in the world will you find forests, mountains, beaches, and ocean in your backyard. I can guarantee that a taste of British Columbia will only leave you wanting more.
Is there something you’d like to add to the list? Leave a comment below!