Top 7 Spots for Nature Lovers in British Columbia

From the towering green mountains of the Sunshine Coast to the abundant pristine islands, Canada’s most outdoorsy province offers endless year-round options to the savvy traveler who knows where to go. Here are seven favorite ways the locals take in the best of British Columbia nature.

By: Clayton Maxwell

Photo By: Kristin Piljay

Photo By: Jason Poole

Photo By: Steve Glass

Photo By: Danita Delimont

Photo By: Don Weixl

Photo By: JTB Photo

Photo By: Design Pics / Deddeda

Go From Sea to Sky in Squamish

While Whistler, the much-praised ski resort just north of Vancouver, certainly has its charms, don’t blaze past the little town of Squamish on the road to get there. Low-key Squamish is now home to the Sea to Sky Gondola, a ride that soars 3,000 feet from the ocean to the peaks of the Coast Mountains, allowing everyone access to jaw-dropping views of glacial lakes, fjords, rain forests and the occasional bald eagle sighting. Once you get to the top, set out on one of eight different hiking trails, rock climb, traverse the 100-meter-long suspension bridge, stop for lunch at the Summit Restaurant or watch a glowing sun set over snow-topped mountains at the Edge bar.

Take a Boat to the Sunshine Coast

At just 45-minutes, the ferry ride across the shimmery blue sound from Vancouver to the Sunshine Coast is minimal, but the transformation it sets off is anything but. This aptly named 50-mile stretch of coastline north of Vancouver, typically sunnier than the rest of the province and only accessible by ferry, feels so removed and brimming with nature even locals forget they are still on the mainland and not a remote island. Head up to the laid back town of Egmont, a seafarer’s nirvana and point of departure for the five-hour boat ride through the Princess Louisa Inlet, where you can glide through pine-covered cliffs to the thundering Chatterbox waterfalls.

Hike Skookumchuck Narrows

Just outside of Egmont on the Sunshine Coast, take the easy hike to Skookumchuck Narrows to see tidal changes so extreme that even surfers can catch waves on the rushing waters. The billions of gallons of ocean that gush through the narrow inlet here has become a playground for expert kayakers; they perform 360 flips to the cheers of onlookers who have hiked an hour through the lush forest of Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park to watch their tricks. Kayakers and audience alike taste the thrill of interacting with the wild Skookumchuck – a word that means “strong waters” in Chinook, a local native language. 

Get Back to Nature at the Gulf Islands

Vancouver is celebrated as one of the greenest cities in the world, but it is the verdant islands that surround Vancouver – where orca whales breach and blackberries seem to pick themselves for you – that transport its visitors to the Garden of Eden. For a quiet retreat, try Galiano, one of the Gulf Islands between mainland B.C. and Vancouver Island. Visit unspoiled beaches only accessible by kayak, watch seaplanes come in for a landing at the marina, but most importantly, watch the sun set over Montague Harbour, an unforgettable spectacle of color.

Ski at Big White

While many Canadians claim that Whistler is the best ski resort in North America, it’s certainly not the only place to click into your bindings in British Columbia. If you want to have a far more affordable ski experience and almost no lift lines, head to the more remote ski slopes of Big White, just outside of the town of Kelowna in the Southern Interior of B.C. Without the crowds and the hefty lift fees, but ample first rate amenities to make you feel at home, the whole family can ski with ease. Perhaps go fully Nordic by dog sledding or snow shoeing on their 25 kilometers of cross-country trails.

Bike the Seawall in Vancouver's Stanley Park

Vancouver is one of the densest metropolises in Canada, but when sitting by the edge of Beaver Lake, a calm refuge deep in the heart of Stanley Park, you forget entirely about the buzz of the city. This 1,001-acre park that borders the city’s downtown is a rarity amongst great urban parks: huge swaths of it are undeveloped and home to towering coastal forests and abundant wildlife. And Stanley Park is almost entirely surrounded by water, making the bike ride along its 6.2-mile sea wall a series of one stunning ocean view after another. Whether you catch its renown cherry blossoms in the spring or the crimson big leaf maples in the fall, nature’s bounty is here, minutes from the busy sidewalks of the city.

Surf in Tofino

Take Vancouver Island’s Highway Four all the way to its end on the very tip of the westernmost side of the island, and you will find yourself in Tofino, a small town with a very big reputation. The outdoor adventurer’s paradise with a temperate climate, the town has adopted the moniker of “Tree Loving Capital of the World,” and is also known for its excellent whale and storm watching. But its biggest claim to fame is its unofficial title as the surf capital of Canada. With consistent waves to accommodate all levels of surfers and decent year round weather, it’s become Canada’s most appealing place to catch a swell.

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