Whistler Mountain ski resort in British Columbia

Travel Guide: Top Rated Tourist Attractions in British Columbia

British Columbia is a Canadian province with a lot to offer to visitors. It is home to beautiful national and provincial parks, rainforests, islands, attractive towns, and some of Canada’s best ski resorts.

Most visitors to British Columbia begin their vacation in Vancouver, which makes a great starting point for touring the province. A short plane ride or ferry trip from here will take you to Vancouver Island and the province’s capital, Victoria. Less than a two-hour drive from Vancouver is a resort town and ski destination, Whistler. In central British Columbia, the Okanagan Valley is another popular spot for tourists, with beaches on the shores of Okanagan Lake, golf courses, and numerous ski resorts.

Keep reading to discover the top-rated tourist attractions you need to visit on your next trip to British Columbia.

Whistler

Located at the foot of the Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains, Whistler is the center of the biggest winter sports in Canada. In 2010, this world-class ski resort gained international attention when it hosted the downhill ski events for the Winter Olympic Games.

Whistler Mountain ski resort in British Columbia
Source: Lance Anderson from Unsplash

While most people associate this resort with skiing and snowboarding, Whistler is a year-round destination with hiking trails, mountain biking trails, golfing and beautiful scenery to explore in the summer. Visitors don’t even need to ski or be active to enjoy a lovely afternoon at this resort. One of the main attractions in Whistler is the Peak 2 Peak Gondola, which joins Whistler and the Blackcomb mountains. The ride only takes 11 minutes and offers spectacular views over the entire area.

Whistler Village is a modern, upscale town with luxury hotels, high-end shopping, and fine dining. However, you can still find many casual restaurants and grocery stores in the village.

Whistler Village is located a two-hour drive from the city of Vancouver. The drive to Whistler from Vancouver along the Sea-to-Sky Highway is stunning. Popular stops on this route include the town of Squamish and Shannon Falls.

Accommodation: Where to stay near Whistler

Yoho National Park

Yoho National Park is home to some of British Columbia’s most rugged and scenic mountain landscape. Snowcapped peaks, waterfalls, rivers, and crystal-clear lakes draw large numbers of visitors to this park every summer.

Turquoise-coloured lake in Yoho National Park, British Columbia
Source: Linford Miles

This park has some incredible hiking trails that allow easy access to the backcountry. However, even a drive through the park offers enough exposure to appreciate the scenery. If you are touring Yoho National Park by car, be sure to check out Takakkaw Falls, one of the highest waterfalls in North America.

Accommodation: Where to stay near Yoho National Park

Vancouver Island

On Canada’s far western coast, Vancouver Island is home to spectacular coastal scenery, mountains, lakes, small towns, and the provincial capital of Victoria. Coastal beaches provide year-round surfing, particularly near the popular tourist town Tofino and Pacific Rim National Park.

Hot springs cove on Vancouver Island, there is a body of water and trees in the far right corner
Source: Mathijs Deerenberg from Unsplash

Vancouver Island is the largest island on the Pacific coast of North America. Much of it is very remote with limited access. If you take time to explore the island, you’ll find some amazing hiking trails, including the famous West Coast Trail. There are also plenty of campgrounds spread across the island for those who enjoy camping.

Vancouver Island is located west of the city of Vancouver and you can easily get there by a short plane or ferry ride. Ferries or flights will take you into the Victoria area or Nanaimo, another popular town on the island.

Accommodation: Where to stay near Vancouver Island

Okanagan Valley and Kelowna

Found in the interior of British Columbia is the Okanagan Valley. The Okanagan Valley is a lush, sunny valley with lakes, beaches, rolling mountains and orchards. At the heart of the region is the 120-kilometer long Okanagan Lake and the city of Kelowna on the eastern shore of the lake. Other popular towns in the area include Summerland, Peachland, Penticton, and Vernon.

View of Okanagan lake and valley in the summer with a swimming pool in the foreground
Source: Jamie Edwards from Unsplash

The Okanagan Valley has hot dry summers and mild winters, making it a popular retirement destination and the perfect summer getaway spot for people in British Columbia and the neighbouring province of Alberta. Some of the most common summertime activities here are houseboating, golfing, and spending time at the beaches.

In the winter months, many people come here to enjoy some of BC’s best ski resorts, including Big White Ski Resort and SilverStar Mountain Resort.

Accommodation: Where to stay in Kelowna 

Tofino and Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

This small tourist town on the edge of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is the perfect spot for nature lovers looking for a coastal retreat. This town is loaded with beaches and attracts surfers all year-round. However, most people come here to simply stare at the waves, storm watch, or go for long walks in the sand.

Surfers walk along the shore of Tofino, British Columbia, at sunset hour
Source: Shlomo Shalev from Usplash

Off the beach, visitors can hike through old forests or camp along the oceanfront in some of the most stunning coastal scenery in British Columbia.

Couples often come here for a romantic getaway and to relax at one of the luxury seaside resorts and lodges. A variety of tours are also offered in the area, including kayaking and whale watching.

Tofino has an extremely remote feel to it, but it’s relatively easy to access from places like Victoria or Nanaimo. Nearby, Ucluelet is another small town that is a nice day trip from Tofino.

Accommodation: Where to stay in Tofino

Vancouver and Stanley Park

Stanley Park is one of the great features of Vancouver that sets it apart from other big cities across Canada. This huge green space on the edge of downtown Vancouver offers a beautiful nature retreat for visitors and locals.

Pedestrians in Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia
Source: Max Harylnking from Unsplash

There’s a lot to do around and within the urban park. Visit the Vancouver Aquarium, bike or take a walk along the Seawall, relax at one of its beautiful beaches, see the totem poles at Brockton Point, or go exploring along the paths that can be found around the park.

Accommodation: Where to stay in Vancouver

Victoria and the Inner Harbour 

Located on Vancouver Island, Victoria is the capital of British Columbia and one of Canada’s most beautiful cities. This city has the feel of a small town, but is home to many attractions and things to do.

The Inner Harbour in Victoria, British Columbia
Source: PlanetWare

One of the biggest attractions in the city for both locals and tourists is the Inner Harbour, dominated by the Empress Hotel, built in 1908 for the Canadian Pacific Railway. This area is always alive with visitors and locals enjoying the waterfront, especially in the summer when restaurants open their patios for dining and street performers take to the sidewalks.

If you are looking for things to do in Victoria, check out some of the hiking trails where you’ll witness some incredible mountain and ocean views. For something a little less strenuous, consider High Tea at the Empress Hotel or walk along the Parliament Buildings.

Accommodation: Where to stay in Victoria 

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens attraction in Victoria
Source: Ariana Kaminski from Unsplash

An award-winning attraction in Victoria on Vancouver Island, Butchart Gardens is 22 hectares of impressive landscape. Inside, discover the Sunken, Rose, Italian, Japanese, and Mediterranean Gardens. Butchart Gardens is a great place to visit during all seasons, as there’s always something new to look forward to. This includes winter, when Butchart Gardens is decorated with thousands of colourful lights over the holidays.

Official site: Butchart Gardens

Haida Gwaii

Haida Gwaii, also known as the Queen Charlotte Islands
Source: PlanetWare

Haida Gwaii, also known as the Queen Charlotee Islands, is an archipelago off British Columbia’s west coast. Wildlife-rich Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site includes remote islands and temperate rainforest. Centuries-old totem poles stand in the remains of the Haida Nation village known as SGang Gwaay Linagaay, Naikoon National Park, on Graham Island, has trails and beaches.

Official site: Haida Gwaii

Accommodation: Where to stay near Haida Gwaii

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park, along with Mount Revelstoke National Park a few kilometres further west, is a scenic area and a favourite for climbers and hikers. The parks lie in one of Canada’s most harsh mountain regions, the almost inaccessible northern Selkirk Range of the Columbia Mountains.

The mountain ladscape in Glacier National Park
Source: PlanetWare

The landscape is filled with jagged peaks, steep descents, and narrow valleys cut deep into the rock. There are approximately 400 glaciers in and around Glacier National Park. At lower levels, up to about 1,300 metres, the dense forests are home to some enormous ancient trees – western red cedars, hemlocks, and firs – as well as a ground cover of ferns. Mountain goats, caribou, black bears and grizzly bears are some of the wildlife species that can be found in the park.

Official site: Glacier National Park

Accommodation: Where to stay near Glacier National Park

Salt Spring Island

In the Gulf islands between Victoria and Nanaimo, Salt Spring Island has a small population and is known for its laid-back Bohemian lifestyle. Around this beautiful island are artists’ studios and farms selling cheese and homemade items. Unique shops sell clothes and other items you might expect to find in Southeast Asia.

The valley in Salt Spring Island
Source: PlanetWare

The island’s main town, Ganges, has ice cream shops, cafes and restaurants, and more traditional retail businesses and souvenirs for visitors. There is a provincial park with an oceanfront with walking trails, campgrounds, and day-use areas. The island also has many hotel accommodations available for visitors.

Ferries run from Tsawwassen on the mainland (Vancouver) Swartz Bay (Victoria), or Crofton (Nanaimo).

Accommodation: Where to stay on Salt Spring Island

Kootenay National Park

Kootenay National Park, in southeastern BC, adjoins Banff National Park and Yoho National Park, and takes in the magnificent western flank of the Canadian Rockies. The main mountain range in Kootenay National Park reaches heights of over 3,000 metres. The landscape features rugged rocky ridges and sawtooth peaks, snow and ice-covered mountains, glaciers, hanging valleys, and narrow gorges.

Upper Twin Lake at Kootenay National Park, BC
Source: Aleesha Wood from Unsplash

Numerous day hikes in the park pass some of these unique sites and natural features. Some of the key highlights in Kootenay National Park are the narrow gorge of Marble Canyon, hikes at Sinclair Pass, and Stanley Glacier.

Official site: Kootenay National Park

Accommodation: Where to stay near Kootenay National Park

Mt. Robson Provincial Park

Near the border of BC and Alberta, north of Jasper, Mt. Robson Provincial Park is home to Mt. Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, at 3,954 meters. This spectacular mountain landscape includes glacier-capped peaks and huge waterfalls.

Mount Robson, BC, Canada
Source: Lennart Heim from Unsplash

One of the most popular hikes here is the 25-kilometer trail through the “Valley of the Thousand Falls” to the turquoise lake at the foot of Mt. Robson. On rainy days, the name “thousand falls” becomes obvious as the streams of water tumble off the cliff walls.

The area was appointed a provincial park in 1913. Even in those days, mountain climbers and tourists were drawn to the area, not discouraged by the long distances involved. Today, the remoteness of the park means that it does not see the great number of tourists seen by parks to the south.

Official site: Mount Robson Provincial Park

Barkerville Historic Town and Park

It’s not every day that a town can be described as an attraction, but Barkerville is a little unique. The Barkerville Historic Town and Park is a National Historic Site located in central British Columbia.

Houses in Barkerville Historic Town
Source: PlanetWare

About 60,000 people visit the 1,130-acre park annually, which has 107 heritage buildings from its gold rush days, and 62 replica buildings. There are daily tours, shows and performances, blacksmith demonstrations, gold panning and many more activities.

Official site: Barkerville Historic Town and Park

Accommodation: Where to stay near Barkerville 

Capilano Suspension Bridge

People walking on the Capilano Suspension Bridge in BC
Source: John Xiao from Unsplash

Capilano Suspension Bridge is one of Vancouver’s top attractions. The lengthy suspension bridge stretches for 137 meters (450 feet) above the treetops and the Capilano River, but that’s not the only thing to see at the Suspension Bridge Park. There’s also the Treetop Adventure Park, the Cliffwalk, the Story Centre, and Canyon Lights during the holidays. There are also many places to eat and shop. It’s the perfect day trip from Vancouver.

Official site: Capilano Suspension Bridge Website

Great Bair Rainforest

The Spirit Bear in the Great Bear Rainforest
Source: British Columbia Magazine

The Great Bear Rainforest is one of the largest coastal rainforests in the world. Here, you’ll find a rare species of black bear called the Kermode (spirit) bear because of its unique colouring. There are only 400 of them in the world. Along with the bears, you can see many different species of wildlife throughout the area, or spend some time learning about the First Nations traditions and culture.

Official site: Great Bear Rainforest 

Royal BC Museum

The Royal British Columbia Museum
Source: Viator

The Royal BC Museum was established in 1886. It is British Columbia’s primary natural and human history museum, as well as home of the British Columbia Provincial Archives. Prince Philip bestowed the royal title on the museum in 1987, during that year’s royal tour. Its three main exhibitions and galleries focus on natural history, modern history, and First Nations history.

Official site: Royal BC Museum 

Final Thoughts 

And that concludes our list of the top-rated attractions in British Columbia! I hope this article was informative enough to help you plan your next itinerary to this beautiful Canadian province. Stay tuned for more pieces on Canadian travel, culture and history.

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