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British Columbia travel guide

Welcome to beautiful British Columbia, Canada!

This is our home – when not accidentally getting sand in our suitcases on trips.

Oh, bad joke!

British Columbia Travel Guide

But seriously, having lived in BC for years (first Vancouver, now Victoria), we know the province really well.

And we can tell you that BC is absolutely one of the most stunning places in the world! Many Canadian bucket list destinations are right here in our home province.

So we’re jazzed to share with you all the best places to visit in British Columbia – including popular tourist attractions and lesser-known local spots – in our British Columbia travel guide.

Below, you can find specific BC travel tips plus information on the best places to go in BC, accommodation, restaurants, what to do in various destinations and getting around BC.

Contents: British Columbia travel information

Practical BC travel tips

  • When to visit BC
  • What to pack

Victoria (the capital)

Vancouver

Whistler

British Columbia gems

  • Southern Gulf Islands
  • Okanagan Valley
  • Parksville + Qualicum Beach
  • Telegraph Cove

Beautiful gardens in British Columbia

Practical BC travel tips

When to visit British Columbia

Prime time:

The best time to visit British Columbia is from May to September.

July and August are the peak months, with warm sunshine and bluebird skies (but also more visitors and higher hotel costs). Early September is ideal.

Winter:

You don’t really want to visit between November and February. Of course, there are always exceptions.

You could visit the wild west coast of Vancouver Island in February for winter storm watching in Tofino – and be unexpectedly blessed with sunshine and 60 F temps (this happened to us).

And if you like the white stuff, Whistler is famous for skiing and snowboarding in winter.

Spring:

March and April? That’s when spring blossoms are out in full bloom in Vancouver and Victoria. But you’ll need a rain coat – and you should expect some showers.

What to pack

In summer, pack a sweater or jacket. Evenings can be cool.

A brollie is always useful in case it rains.

Check out the best travel sandals for the beach, city and adventure!

Unmissable British Columbia destinations

Victoria

Things to do in Victoria BC

Located on Vancouver Island, Victoria is the capital of BC.

Tour Craigdarrach Castle. Go whale watching. Step out on these nine easy scenic Victoria walks. Sip afternoon tea at the Empress Hotel.

And don’t forget to explore the Gorge waterway on a fun pickle boat ride with Victoria Harbour Ferry.

Really, there are so many great things to do in Victoria!

Is it a hot summer day?

Cool off at one of the many lakes and beaches in Victoria.

Taking the ferry to Victoria?

See our complete guide on the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria.

Learn all you need to know – from the most convenient Vancouver terminal to bus-and-ferry options.

Where to stay in Victoria

See our reviews of the best hotels in Victoria, BC.

For something more like home, check out these five utterly charming Airbnbs in Victoria.

Where to eat in Victoria:

Hungry? But don’t feel like going out?

These 12 great restaurants in Victoria offer takeout and delivery of Indian food, sushi, pasta, pizza and Thai curries.

Vancouver

Vancouver, Canada

One of the world’s most beautiful cities, Vancouver is famous for its ocean-fringed vistas, mountain backdrop, fresh local salmon, delightful neighborhoods and healthy outdoor vibe.

(And just to confuse you, it’s not on Vancouver Island, but on the mainland.)

Wander around the cobbled streets of Gastown, possibly Vancouver’s trendiest district.

Maybe catch a musical or play at the historic Stanley Theater?

Don’t miss Granville Island!

For Vancouverites, Granville Island is to weekends what ham is to eggs.

Actually a mini-peninsula, the corrugated-metal sheds of this former industrial site have been recycled into a thriving public market surrounded by artists’ studios, shops, theaters and coffee bars.

You can pick up everything from hand-carved stone sculptures from Zimbabwe and 24-karat gold, diamond-studded toe rings to local Salt Spring Island brie for snacking in your hotel room.

Cruise from Vancouver:

Vancouver is a major gateway for cruises to Alaska. See what it’s like sailing away from the Vancouver cruise port.

Where to stay in Vancouver

The Pinnacle Hotel at the Pier | A 4-star hotel in North Vancouver (with a cool shipyard vibe)

Whistler

Whistler is one of the best places to visit in British Columbia

Skiing and snowboarding:

The resort is home to two epic mountains. How to choose? Whistler or Blackcomb: Which has better skiing?

Canoeing and kayaking:

Summer is perfect for canoeing and kayaking in Whistler. You’ll love paddling Whistler’s River of Golden Dreams!

Hiking:

Hike Joffre Lakes, an amazing hike to three beautiful lakes.

Or if you’re looking for a short picturesque forest walk, Brandywine Falls is a walk in the park.

British Columbia gems

Tofino is one of the best places to visit in British Columbia

Southern Gulf Islands:

Want to hike through forests with fairy houses? What about bioluminescent kayaking at night?

These are just two of the magical things to do in Salt Spring Island.

Close by is Galiano Island, where you can also kayak, hike and go beachcombing.

Okanagan Valley:

Sniff, swirl and sip your way through 200+ Okanagan wineries!

Many have seriously good vineyard restaurants overlooking Okanagan Lake, serving organic food with local ingredients. (There are some especially good restaurants in Naramata.)

Parksville and Qualicum Beach:

Hey, you can see goats on the roof on a store in Coombs, splash about in warm shallow waters and explore Horne Lake Caves.

There are more crazy fun things to do in Parksville and Qualicum Beach too.

Telegraph Cove:

Kayaking with orcas? Grizzly bear viewing? You bet!

These are just some of the amazing things to do in Telegraph Cove, located at the top of Vancouver Island. Driving Telegraph Cove itself is unique – it’s one of the last boardwalk communities in North America.

Fun way to explore Vancouver Island

Do a Vancouver Island road trip from Victoria (at the bottom of the island) all the way up to Telegraph Cove and Port Hardy (at the top of the island).

BC’s gorgeous gardens

Beautiful gardens in British Columbia

We have lots of beautiful gardens in British Columbia.

In Vancouver, get your flower fix at VanDusen Botanical Garden and Queen Elizabeth Park.

And for the mother of all urban parks, don’t miss Stanley Park!

The best way to explore it? Rent a bicycle and go biking around Stanley Park on its oh-so scenic Seawall.

You’ve probably also heard about the famous Butchart Gardens, right? It’s one of the five best gardens in Victoria on Vancouver Island.

More information on British Columbia

See: All our British Columbia posts

BC guide books:

See the Lonely Planet, Fodor’s and other British Columbia travel guides on Amazon. (As an Amazon associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.)

Ready to book your trip?

See the following helpful services:

Our Travel Resources Guide | Get airline booking tips. Discover great travel, tour and car rental companies. And find crazy useful trip planning info!

Booking.com | Score a “wow” hotel – or at least a decent one.

GetYourGuide | Check out local guided tours and book tickets to attractions.

Our Travel Shop | Find the best travel gear.

CDC website | We follow the CDC travel guidelines to determine what medications and vaccines are needed for international trips. You can get vaccines at your pharmacy, travel medical clinic or doctor’s office.

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