Bordering the Pacific Ocean, British Columbia is debatably one of the most stunning provinces of Canada. It connects the flow of the ocean with sandy coastlines to flourishing rainforests, glassy lakes, and towering mountain peaks for impeccably picturesque viewpoints and outdoor recreational opportunities.
There is so much waiting to be explored and things to do in British Columbia, no matter the season. From skiing at world-famous resorts like Whistler Blackcomb to kayaking the waters at Pacific Rim National Park, British Columbia is a memorable adventure waiting to happen!
The province is just made for outdoorsmen, but those who prefer a more cosmopolitan atmosphere will find it here, too. Some of the best places to visit in British Columbia include Victoria, its capital, and Vancouver, its biggest city. These cities are home to world-famous attractions and renowned sights that welcome millions of visitors annually.
Map of Places to Visit in British Columbia
You can also visit towns founded during British Columbia’s very own gold rush or learn more about the culture of Canada’s indigenous peoples, known as the First Nation. If you’re into fine dining and a vibrant arts and cultural scene, British Columbia will not disappoint you.
17. Mount Robson Provincial Park
Adjacent to Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rockies, Mount Robson Provincial Park is British Columbia’s second oldest provincial park.
Within the grounds of this majestic park is the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, Mount Robson, which is a part of the Rainbow Range. The peak towers over the others nearby, making for an imposing yet powerful sight. The first-known and recorded European mountaineers climbed to the summit of Mount Robson in 1913, a great feat for taking on the climb of the mighty mountain.
The park features many scenically rewarding trails, including the world-famous Berg Lake trail. This trail is an overnight trip, crossing along the park with breathtaking views of glacial lakes, roaring waterfalls, and rugged mountains. Hikers can walk amongst the trails of Mount Robson Provincial Park, where fur traders, First Nations, and treasure seekers once walked centuries ago.
16. Salt Spring Island
Salt Spring Island is one of the Gulf Islands located in the Strait of Georgia. It is found between the mainland of British Columbia and Vancouver Island. The history of the island backtracks to the Salishan people. It was taken over in 1859 when immigrant pioneers settled on it, later renamed Admiral Island.
The island is notorious for many things, such as its natural beauty, but more so is the island’s sheep-rearing. There are more than 200 farms on Salt Spring Island, its rolling pastures sprawling endlessly as the eye can see, dotted with sheep as they graze.
For years the island has lured artists, a sanctuary for all, including one of the most well-known of them, Canadian painter and naturalist Robert Bateman.
The island’s allure has swiftly made it a tranquil getaway for friends, family, and lovers looking to reset in nature and the charming ambiance of Salt Spring Island. Travel around the island by bike, find the faerie doors while hiking up to Mount Erskine, or kayak along the waters for a therapeutic adventure.
15. Joffre Lakes
The famously stunning Joffre Lakes is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in British Columbia for its picturesque scenery. It takes a hike to reach the lakes, but it’s worth the trip with a reward waiting at the end that’ll take your breath away!
Located north of the small village of Pemberton, Joffre Lakes Provincial Park consists of three lakes by order of which they are reached on the hiking trail: Lower Lake, Middle Lake, and Upper Lake. The hiking trail to Joffre Lakes, all three of them, is an up-and-back trail that takes around four to six hours to complete. At the end of the hiking trail past Upper Lake is the campsite for those looking to stay the night and bask in the park’s beauty longer.
Along the route to Joffre Lakes are impeccable viewpoints of three notable glaciers: Tanzil Glacier, Matier Glacier, and Stonecrop Glacier. The scenery on the hiking trail is out of this world, with views of these glaciers, the valley, and the bright blue water of the lakes.
14. Butchart Gardens
Welcoming millions of visitors yearly, the Butchart Gardens in Brentwood Bay near Victoria on Vancouver Island is a National Historic Site of Canada. The expansive gardens are over a century old!
Cultivated by Jennie Butchart, the gardens remain in the family, privately owned and operated to maintain the cultivation that all started with one woman. The vision of Jennie Butchart was to create a haven of beautiful blooming flowers out of an old limestone quarry that was her backyard. It would soon become a canvas of vibrant colors and natural magnificence as Jennie designed a Rose Garden, Italian Garden, and Japanese Garden in the following years.
Her grandson, Ian Ross, was gifted the Gardens for his 21st birthday. Ian would succeed in transforming the Gardens into the world-famous Butchart Gardens we know today. Most notable are the famous outdoor concerts, the Magic of Christmas event for the winter, and dazzling summer night lighting.
13. Kootenay National Park
Comprising a big chunk of the Canadian Rockies, Kootenay National Park is well-known as the land of fire and ice for its contrasting natural wonders. Its impressive glaciers, dipping valleys, steamy hot springs, alpine lakes, and lush grasslands have made it one of the top places to visit in British Columbia.
One of the most popular attractions in the park is Marble Canyon. The hike to the canyon is short and easy, with opportunities to see breathtaking viewpoints of glacial waters, towering mountains, and roaring waterfalls. From the top of Marble Canyon are impeccable vistas with backdrops of Vermillion Peak, which was named after the rich scarlet pigment.
The Stanley Glacier Trail is one of the most popular hikes heading to an up-close view of the glacier of its namesake. The shale beds in the area were once the ocean floor, meaning if you have a good eye, you can find a prehistoric fossil. Head to Radium Hot Springs to get a good soak to end your Kootenay National Park trip perfectly!
North of Vancouver, Squamish is a town encompassed by imposing mountains such as the granite monolith Stawamus Chief. The town is touted for its prosperous wildlife, mild year-round climate, rock climbing, and hiking trails. Its desirable proximity to the mountains, ocean, and rivers makes it a hot spot for outdoor recreational activities, with hiking, skiing, kite surfing, and kayaking opportunities.
Within the town is Shannon Falls Provincial Park, featuring two spectacular waterfalls sourced from Mount Sky Pilot and Mount Habrich. The waterfalls are the third highest in British Columbia. Not far from downtown Squamish is Brohm Lake, a popular swimming and summer hangout spot.
The lake is encompassed by an ancient old-growth rainforest called Brohm Lake Interpretive Forest, setting an impeccable scene for a rejuvenating getaway. Another popular attraction to visit is Howe Sound, a fjord named after a British Naval Officer. The fjord is speckled with hidden coves and islands, great for paddleboarding, kayaking, and sightseeing for local wildlife.
11. Glacier National Park
One of seven national parks in British Columbia, Glacier National Park was established in 1886 to become one of the first few in Canada. It encompasses part of the Selkirk Mountains, part of the Columbia Mountains, and the largest cave system in the country, Nakimu Caves.
The park has two main transportation routes, the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Trans-Canada Highway. These routes are the best way for visitors to Glacier National Park to witness the glorious vistas of the Columbia Mountain Range and the Canadian Rockies. There are also magnificent sightings of the tallest mountain in the park, Mount Dawson, and the most scenically stunning, Mount Sir Donald.
Sightseeing through Glacier National Park is incredibly popular for seeing local wildlife such as caribou, timber wolf, moose, and golden eagles. Along the established trail system are great opportunities for a spectacular experience of this scenic park.
10. Barkerville Historic Town
The Barkerville Historic Town is a National Historic Site of Canada and the largest living-history museum in Western North America.
When William “Billy” Barker failed to find success in the California gold rush, he headed north to central British Columbia. After he struck it to rich there in 1862, the town that grew up near his claim was named after him.
Today, you can relieve the glory days of British Columbia’s gold rush at Barkerville Historic Town. It’s now a historic park with 107 heritage buildings and 62 replicas, with activities for all ages. You can see women cooking over wood stoves, maybe even getting to sample the results; learn about gold field justice, visit museums and, of course, try your luck at panning for gold.
9. Okanagan Valley
Snow-covered mountains and sandy beaches meld like ham and eggs when it comes to Okanagan Valley, a year-round recreation destination in southern British Columbia. Despite mountains that offer great skiing, the Okanagan is one of the warmest regions in Canada and is frequently called the “Palm Springs of Canada.” Gorgeous scenery abounds, from Osoyoos on the U.S. border, north to Salmon Arm.
In-between you’ll find several lakes; Okanagan Lake is the largest, with Kelowna, the valley’s largest city, on its shores. Highway 97 is a springtime treat with thousands of blossoming fruit trees. The Okanagan has a growing wine industry, with 82 percent of BC’s grapes grown here.
A favorite summer escape for Canadians, the thriving valley is teeming with activities. Most popular is to experience the many wineries and tastings of locally-produced wines, such as Mission Hill Family Estate Winery. Its rich culture and art scene are showcased through its numerous art galleries and museums to tour.
8. Fraser Canyon
Arizona may have its Grand Canyon, but British Columbia’s Fraser Canyon is just as impressive in its own right. The views are stupendous from the highway, as the canyon rises 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) above the Fraser River. Fraser Canyon is actually a series of canyons, many of which have different names.
At Boston Bar, you can take an air tram down to the river at Hell’s Gate with its fish ladders. As you drive the highway, you’ll pass through seven tunnels, one of which is one of the longest in North America. Take time to explore Hope, where the original Rambo movie, First Blood, was filmed.
Fraser Canyon has become a white-rafting hub for locals and tourists to travel through the rugged landscape of rushing rivers and imposing mountains. Crossing over the Fraser River is the Alexandra Bridge, a stunning steel arch adjacent to the park of the same name.
A city in the Selkirk Mountains on the west side of Kootenay Lake, Nelson is a beloved travel destination full of hospitality and charm. Throughout the city are many historical buildings and architecture from the silver rush era that has clocked Nelson’s nickname as “The Queen City.”
The mountain backdrop of the city, the twinkling lights decorating the trees, and the flowers dotting the street welcome all for an undeniably impactful visit. During the summer, people flock to Nelson to adventure at Kootenay Lake and join in on one of the city’s famous festivals, such as the Shambhala Music Festival. In the winter, skiers and snowboards rush to Nelson to hit the snow at Whitewater Resort to experience world-renowned courses.
Nelson’s Baker Street was refreshed to its former charm. The overhaul was so successful, that Steve Martin filmed Roxanne here. Today, walking Baker Street through the historic district is a top tourist attraction.
One of the most popular things to do in Nelson for locals and tourists is hiking to Pulpit Rock. The short hike presents awe-inspiring vistas of the city and the river valley below for an enriching adventure.
6. Haida Gwaii
The Queen Charlotte Islands, more frequently known as Haida Gwaii, is an archipelago off the west coast of British Columbia.
Nicknamed the Canadian Galapagos, the islands are lush with endemic wildlife, like the Sitka deer, and are home to the Haida First Nations. The archipelago is untamed nature, the ultimate retreat for nature lovers, adventure seekers, and those interested in learning about the ancestral home of the Haida Nation.
More than 500 archaeological sites dot Haida Gwaii, preserving the rich heritage of the islands. Along the Queen Charlotte Highway, formally known as Highway 16, Sitka deer graze along the meadows as eagles soar across the skies. The Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site feature thriving rainforests, ancient carved poles, and fallen longhouses.
The capital of British Columbia, Victoria, is located on Vancouver Island’s southern side. This travel destination is an enigmatic step into the capital’s rich ancestral ties to British history. Visitors can experience this through its inspiring architecture, pristine gardens, and thriving food, culture, and arts scene.
Victoria is said to be one of the most picturesque cities in British Columbia. Horse-drawn carriages stroll down the streets sprinkled with tearooms, museums, and art galleries. The Royal BC Museum received the honor of the “Royal” title after approval from Queen Elizabeth II in 1987. The primary focus is on the people and land of coastal British Columbia, with world-famous exhibitions and artifacts from big names such as Leonardo da Vinci.
North of Vancouver, Whistler is a frequently visited town thanks to its impeccable winter recreation sports. It is home to one of the largest ski resorts in North America, Whistler Blackcomb. The Guinness record-breaking Peak 2 Peak Gondola connects the Blackcomb and Whistler Mountains with breathtaking panoramic views of the summits, ancient glaciers, and volcano peaks.
Another top attraction in Whistler is Olympic Park, one of the locations used during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. The park offers recreational opportunities for ski jumping, snowboarding, tobogganing, and more for an irrefutable magnificent attraction to visit for excitement and fun.
A Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Center tour is a great way to connect with local culture and history. The First Nation’s People run the center, who have lived in the area of Whistler for hundreds of years. The center’s opening is a means to welcome and educate visitors of the ancestral land through songs, galleries, and exhibitions.
3. Pacific Rim National Park
Pacific Rim National Park is a good place to visit in British Colombia to enjoy nature: rugged coastlines and lush rainforests. About 700,000 people find their way to one of its three sections – Long Beach, Broken Group and West Coast Trail – annually. Long Beach is accessible by car, Broken Group only by boat or ferry, and the West Coast Trail by both.
The reserve is located on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The untainted land protected by the park is a sight for sore eyes with its lush temperate rainforests and long sandy beaches. The iconic West Coast Trail is the hike of a lifetime, an ancient path once used by the First Nations for travel and trade. Along the route are man-made bridges, ladders, beachside campsites, and the rich flora and fauna of Vancouver Island for an impeccably rewarding hike.
The Broken Group Islands inside the park are the perfect camping spot with plenty of outdoor recreational opportunities like kayaking and hiking. With over a hundred islands, there is more than enough adventure awaiting in the scenic vistas of sugar-sanded beaches, glassy waters, and a mountain-speckled backdrop.
The Long Beach Unit of Pacific Rim National Park features the longest beach on Vancouver Island. The swells on the beach are notoriously known amongst surfers, attracting them worldwide to head to the park to the paradise of waves.
The seaport city of Vancouver is British Columbia’s largest city and the third largest metro area in Canada. It’s a scenic cosmopolitan city where residents enjoy a high quality of life. Dine on ethnic cuisine in the international district, explore the very beautiful forested Stanley Park and walk across Capialano Suspension Bridge.
One of the most popular travel destinations in Canada, the city is overflowing with tourist attractions and activities that connect nature and city life. The Museum of Anthropology is a good place to learn about the First Nations, as Canada refers to its native peoples, and see giant totem poles carved and decorated by West Coast tribes. You can also take in the Granville Public Market or the Vancouver Aquarium.
There are three nearby mountains perfect for hiking and sightseeing: Grouse Mountain, Cypress Mountain, and Mount Seymour. Cypress Mountain, a favorite for skiers and snowboarders, was part of the 2010 Winter Olympics. During summer, Vancouver is a hot spot for soaking in the sun’s ray beachside at its many beach locations, such as Jericho Beach and Kitsilano Beach.
1. Yoho National Park
Located in the Rocky Mountains of eastern British Columbia, Yoho National Park is nestled on the western slopes of the Great Divide. The world-tilting vistas of mountain peaks, glaciers, and roaring waterfalls make for an impactfully rewarding trip.
As one of the most beautiful places in British Columbia, it’s no wonder the park is a popular travel destination for those looking to hike and sightsee. The park’s name, “Yoho,” is derived from Cree terminology, translating to “awe,” a spot-on expectation of what visitors experience when visiting Yoho National Park.
Emerald Lake is an excellent example, one of the finest lakes in the Canadian Rockies. Its waters have a splendidly vibrant color that draws the eye that intertwines with the mountain and forest backdrop painting an out-of-this-world picture.
Unwind in nature at Yoho National Park on the expansive hiking trails available to experience the natural beauty of alpine lakes, towering mountain peaks, and rushing waterfalls!