16 Places Every Adventurer Needs to Visit in BC (2024 Updates!)
It’s not called “Beautiful British Columbia” without reason. With so many amazing locations to see, it’s hard to narrow down which are the best places to visit in BC.
There is no shortage of places to explore, from stunning mountain ranges and breathtaking coastlines to the deep, lush rainforests. Here are our favourite and most unique places to see in British Columbia.
The 16 Best Places to Visit in BC
1. Haida Gwaii
Best for surfing (October – May), hiking (June – August), and bird watching (year round)
An archipelago of about 150 islands scattered off the coast of British Columbia, roughly 450 km northwest of Vancouver, the islands are home to dramatic landscapes and diverse flora and fauna – so much so that it is often called the Galapagos of Canada.
While you can fly to Haida Gwaii from Vancouver, part of the adventure is the remoteness of the area, which you will certainly understand if you take the ferry from Prince Rupert. The trip takes about eight hours one way (in good weather).
The combination of expansive beaches, dense forests with giant trees, and abundant wildlife, surrounded on all sides by the Pacific Ocean, is surely an off-the-beaten-path experience you’ll never forget.
Best for surfing (October to May), perfect for families and whale watching (March – October)
Enjoy this sleepy little coastal town that lies on the rugged, battered west coast of Vancouver Island. In the quiet winter, the swells are big and pummell the coastline in dramatic storms, bringing surfers from all over Canada.
The population of Tofino is approximately 2,000, with a quaint surfer-town feel. It grows to many times its winter size in the summer months, attracting surfers, hikers, nature lovers, bird watchers, campers, whale watchers, fishers, and anyone else just looking to be close to nature.
You will fall in love with this quiet surf shanty town, from its unique camping spots to luxury accommodations on the beach. Make sure to stop at the famous and original Tacofino food truck. You won’t be disappointed.
Best for stag and stagette (it’s wine country!), adventures, and those looking to escape into nature.
Roughly a five-hour drive east of Vancouver, Vernon may not immediately come to mind when one thinks of adrenaline junkie destinations. Think again, though—with nearby Silverstar Mountain Resort and Skydive Okanagan, you’ll be sure to find something here that gets your blood pumping.
Silverstar not only offers skiing and snowboarding in the winter but also fat biking, cross country skiing, and 16 acres of terrain park. Silverstar turns into a mountain biking mecca in the summertime with a lift-assisted downhill mountain bike park (just like in Whistler) and cross-country riding, including the 35 km-long XC epic “Beowulf.”
With Skydive Okanagan, you can also get a bird’s eye view of the copious number of wineries open to the public. Take this opportunity to view the Okanagan from a unique perspective: 10,000 vertical feet up!
Best for families, skiing (November – May), mountain biking (June – September), and those looking for an easy trip from Vancouver
You may have heard of it. This mountain town is about two hours north of Vancouver on the famous Sea-to-Sky Highway, and it is fair to say that Whistler and “extreme” are practically synonymous. Extreme sports. Extreme natural beauty.
You can try your hand at a myriad of adrenaline-inducing activities and adventures in Whistler amongst the stunning setting of the rugged Coast Mountains. Alongside the world-famous skiing and snowboarding, Whistler is also well-known for downhill mountain biking, hiking, and bungee jumping.
Other activities, like axe-throwing, are becoming crowd favourites in Whistler, with Forged Axe Throwing being Whistler’s top-rated activity. Forged is also located next to popular locals’ spot Coast Mountain Brewing, so it’s perfect for adults looking to unwind.
Best for mountain climbing, biking, easy accessible hikes, and eagle watching (November – March)
A small town with a big reputation on the Sea-to-Sky Highway, Squamish is often overshadowed by Whistler and Vancouver, but it isn’t called Canada’s adventure capital without reason. Squamish is a mecca for rock climbing, and the Stawamus Chief Mountain towers above this quaint mountain town.
Jutting nearly 700m above the waters of nearby Howe Sound, this stunning geological feature is said to be the second largest granite monolith in the world. The abundance of climbing “The Chief” provides is one of the reasons that Squamish is referred to as the “Yosemite of the North.”
Squamish’s other activities are not to be overlooked, including world-class mountain biking, white-water kayaking, white-water rafting, and hiking.
Best for mountain climbing, biking, easy accessible hikes, and eagle watching (November – March)
6. The Shushwap
Best for camping, lakes, nature walks and disconnecting from society
Pronounced shoe-sh-wap, this is the place to go when you need to get away from it all. Located 460km east from Vancouver, between Kamloops and Revelstoke, this area is one of the best places to visit in BC if you are looking to escape.
With over 40 recreation sites and campgrounds in the Shushwap and a variety of options (RVs, cabins, etc.), there will certainly be something to suit your needs. So relax at the lake, take the canoe out for a paddle and go fishing – walk to the beat that nature intended.
7. The Sunshine Coast
Take the ferry from Vancouver at Horseshoe Bay and land at the Langdale Ferry Terminal on the Sunshine Coast. It’s practically like stepping into ‘Island Time’ without technically ever leaving mainland British Columbia.
Camping is the perfect way to take in the Sunshine Coast, with a number of fantastic campgrounds dotting the 180km stretch of paradise. Explore the laid back charm of the quaint seaside towns or set off on the Sunshine Coast Trail, a 180km backcountry hut-to-hut hiking experience that stretches the length of the Sunshine Coast from Sarah Point in Desolation Sound to Saltery Bay.
Hidden away in Sechelt is some of BC’s best mountain biking as well as Coast Mountain Gravity Park. If you are looking for a quick escape from Vancouver, the Sunshine Coast is a great option.
Best for a coastal destination, biking, sea kayaking, and camping.
Best for skiing, mountain biking, hiking, and families.
Yet another mountain town! This one is situated along the banks of the Columbia River where the Selkirk and Monashee mountain ranges meet.
With the six- to seven-hour drive east of Vancouver along the Trans-Canada highway, it is definitely worth the effort to make it to this stunning destination.
Enjoy the unique experience of driving a winding 26 kilometre-long road uphill along the Meadows in the Sky Parkway, which takes you through cedar and hemlock forests, spruce, and fir to the renowned subalpine wildflower meadows of Mount Revelstoke National Park.
Along with its quaint, small-town charm, Revelstoke offers a range of mountain activities, from skiing and snowboarding at Revelstoke Mountain Resort to hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing.
Best for hiking and viewpoints
Field is a community of fewer than 300 people located in the Kicking Horse River Valley of southeastern British Columbia, Canada, within the boundaries of Yoho National Park.
‘Yoho’ comes from the Cree word for awe and wonder, and you will understand this perfectly when you drive along the Trans-Canada Highway through the awe-inspiring vistas towards Field.
First established in 1885 as an outpost for the Canadian Pacific Railway, Field is still an important stop for the train. It was CPR train track workers in Field who discovered the first fossils of the Burgess Shale locality, now one of the most important fossil sites in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Other recreational activities in the area include mountain climbing, hiking, cross-country skiing, fishing, ice-climbing, horseback riding, and canoeing.
Best for mountain sports, hiking, and wildlife areas
Among mountain folk, this is the epicentre of BC mountain culture. Valemount is the community closest to Mount Robson Provincial Park, with Mount Robson being the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies.
If you have time, the moderate 42km-long Berg Lake Trail ike is a favourite multi-day trip that will take you through diverse landscapes, which include turquoise lakes, waterfalls, and glaciers, before arriving at the toe of Mount Robson itself.
Hiking, skiing, snowmobiling, and horseback riding are common activities in Valemount, and Via Rail’s Canadian passenger train stops in Valemount two or three times per week in each direction depending on the season.
Best for city experiences, families, and gardens
Don’t forget to visit the Forged Victoria Location while you’re there!
Not as mountainous as our other suggestions, Victoria boasts a unique experience with its Victorian architecture and beautiful gardens. Nestled at the southern end of Vancouver Island, it’s easy to see why this city is a popular BC tourist attraction.
Enjoy a coastal experience while still having city-like amenities at your fingertips as well as cultural attractions such as the Royal BC Museum and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria
Be sure to get out on the water and enjoy the warmer temperatures of Canada with amazing kayaking and paddle boarding on the inner harbour. However, if staying on the land is more your style, the Malahat SkyWalk could be for you with its 600m walkway through an arbutus and Douglas fir forest.
12. Powell River
Best for scuba diving, camping, and farmers markets
Sitting at the top of the Sunshine Coast, Powell River makes up the most northern part of the Sunshine Coast Trail we referred to earlier. Sometimes easily overlooked, we recommend making time to stop here on your visit to the coast.
Being the most accessible and largest community along the Sunshine Coast makes it easy to enjoy all there is to offer. Its rich heritage, beautiful lakes, and beaches as well as hiking, camping, kayaking, and scuba diving bring those from all over Canada to visit.
You can catch a ferry from Courtenay to Powell River if you are looking to make the trip from Vancouver Island. It’s a lot cheaper to sail this route rather than come from Nanaimo, making Powell River the perfect pitstop on a trip to the Sunshine Coast.
13. Salt Spring Island
Best for quiet and relaxing getaway, families, and something off the beaten path.
Offering a lot of charm and character, Salt Spring Island is a unique place to visit in BC. One of the Gulf Islands in the Strait of Georgia, just off Duncan on Vancouver Island, it’s an easy escape from the city.
This quaint island is small enough to enjoy a leisurely bike ride around it, or take on the Mount Erskine hike, which is home to fairies. Yes, we are serious—on the hike, you will spy several mini doors as you make your way to the fantastic viewpoint.
Arts and crafts are also a big part of this small community. It will blow you away how much there is to see., with over two dozen galleries on the island as well as a self-guided Salt Spring Studio Tour for those looking to see them all.
14. Okanagan Valley
Best for groups, families, and people who like boating.
When you think of BC wines, the Okanagan Valley is the first place that should come to mind. Making up the Okanagan Valley is Vernon, Kelowna, and Penticton, some of the best places to visit in BC.
But the valley is more than just one of the largest producers of fruit and wine in Canada; it’s also home to unique farmers markets, the Okanagan Lake which is perfect for boating, the amazing Kettle Valley Rail Trail, and yes, of course their wine festivals.
This is definitely a perfect place to stop if you are looking to break up a long road trip, or you could spend a long weekend here sampling all there is to offer.
Best for adventurous, families, and those looking for an alternative to Whistler
Hidden away on the West Arm of Kootenay Lake lies a sleepy little mountain town that is home to roughly 10,000 people who all cherish an outdoor lifestyle. Nelson has been called the prettiest town in all of Canada due to its stunning mountains, the Kootenay Lake, and heritage buildings.
Hiking up to Pulpit Rock is a must-do as it is a short hike with rewarding views. Or for those visiting in winter, skiing at Whitewater Ski Resort will feel like you are taking a step back in time. However, don’t let this small hill fool you, as it averages 12 metres of snowfall annually.
You can then warm up with the Ainsworth Hot Springs, a historic village on Kootenay Lake. It’s a one-hour drive from Nelson but will be well worth it when you are relaxing in a natural spa.
Being a mountain town, it’s no surprise that there is also mountain biking, copious amounts of hikes, and Class 4 rapids to test your skills out on the Salmo River.
16. Bella Coola
Best for bear watching, rainforest hiking, and getting away from crowds.
This is a small community nestled at the mouth of the Bella Coola on British Columbia’s North Coast. Here, the mountains rise dramatically from the ocean and the lush coastal rainforest, known as the Great Bear Rainforest, home to a diversity of flora and fauna including grizzly bears and the“Spirit Bear.”
The Spirit, or Kermode, Bear, is a black bear with a stunning all-white coat. This unusual colouring is the result of a recessive gene that occurs in approximately one in 10 bears in the area. The Spirit Bear is woven deep into the fabric of the legends of the local First Nations people who have lived in the area since time immemorial.
Bella Coola is accessible by a 454 km, mostly paved road to Williams Lake. This road includes a 15 km descent to the Bella Coola Valley floor, which drops 1600m from the Chilcotin plateau. This scenic descent is known as Heckman Pass, which includes a number of steep grades and switchbacks.
While the drive may offer stunningly beautiful views, it is also a challenging one with grades of up to 18 percent, no guard rails, and sheer drop-offs of many hundreds of feet. You may choose to access Bella Coola via ferry, with two options running a few times a week – the Nimpkish from Bella Coola to Bella Bella and the Northern Expedition to Port Hardy.
Exploring BC, There Is so Much to See
From the sea to the mountain summits, British Columbia’s untamed beauty speaks to the soul. There are countless paths to explore, lakes to paddle, and forests to discover. The vast landscapes inspire personal journeys and unbridled adventures, and we’re confident these are some of the best places to visit in BC. They will spark the fire of adventure within you. So pack your bags and hit the road – there are adventures to be had!