Things to Do in British Columbia
As you walk gingerly out on to the world's longest (140m/460ft) and highest (70m/230ft) suspension bridge, swaying gently over the roiling waters of tree-lined Capilano Canyon, remember that the thick steel cables you are gripping are safely embedded in huge concrete blocks on either side. That should steady your feet - unless the teenagers are stamping across to scare the oldsters...
The region's most popular attraction - hence the summertime crowds and relentless tour buses - the grounds here also include rainforest walks, totem poles, and a swinging network of smaller bridges strung between the trees, called Treetops Adventure. This series of open-ended suspension bridges link eight towering Douglass fir trees. At heights of up to 25m/80ft above the forest floor, the bridges have viewing platforms where Capilano’s naturalist hold court on the area’s ecological attributes.
British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley is the hub for western Canada’s growing wine industry, with nearly 200 vineyards and wineries dotting its sun-baked hills. Kelowna, the region’s largest city, sprawls along the shores of Okanagan Lake and offers all the services you need for a wine-touring holiday.
In downtown Kelowna, a good place to start your explorations is at the Laurel Packinghouse Building, which houses two museums. At the British Columbia Wine Museum – part exhibition space and part wine store – you can learn about the Okanagan wineries and the types of wines you’ll sample as you visit local producers. The Okanagan has long been BC’s main fruit-growing region, too, a history that’s on view at the British Columbia Orchard Industry Museum. The Kelowna Art Gallery, a small contemporary art museum nearby, is also worth a visit.
British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley is a popular Canadian holiday destination, famous for its warm dry summers, lakeside beaches, vineyards and mountains. Nicknamed the “Napa Valley of the North,” millions of juicy grapes ripen among the rolling hills around Okanagan Lake, and summertime temperatures are generally hotter than they are in Napa itself. Okanagan’s wine scene is dominated by sweet whites, and the local ice dessert wine is a must-try; it is made using grapes that have frozen on the vine during Canada’s chilly winter nights.
Orchards bursting with juicy peaches, apricots and cherries are also in abundance in Okanagan Valley, as well as plenty of outdoor activities. Popular among watersport aficionados, golfers, mountain bikers and hikers, the valley hosts more than 300,000 people, with the liveliest and largest city being Kelowna. Other popular cities to stay in around the lake are Vernon and Penticton.
The Capilano Salmon Hatchery is a fish farm that was established in 1971 to save the strongly declining salmon stocks in the Capilano River, which was then threatened by the construction of the Cleveland Dam. Today, the hatchery not only breeds Coho Salmon and Steelhead Trout, but has also introduced Chinook salmon into the system to provide for the ceremonial as well as food fishery of the Squamish First Nation. The facility is also open to the public and invites people to learn more about Canada’s most popular fish.
Visitors are guided around the hatchery largely via a self-guided tour and witness the fascinating and tragic life cycle of the salmon, beginning with their development from eggs to their release into the river in spring and their heroic efforts as adults to reach their spawning grounds upriver, after which they promptly die. Displays and exhibits explain the whole fascinating process as well as inform about the hatchery’s operations.
Grizzly bears, a grey wolf, birds of prey and hummingbirds all live and play at the Grouse Mountain Refuge for Endangered Wildlife. The refuge has plenty of interpretive programs, too, which allow visitors to learn about these exciting species and their habitats.
The main attractions, undoubtedly, are the two gfrizzly bears, Grinder and Coola. Both were orphaned in 2011; Grinder was found along a logging road in BC’s Kootenay Mountains, while Coola was scooped up off the roadside near Bella Coola. At the Grouse Mountain Refuge for Endangered Wildlife, both bears coexist despite their unique personalities. A variety of interpretive programs, from the Bear Discovery tour to Breakfast with the Bears, help teach visitors all about these enormous animals. Alpha, the only grey wolf at Grouse Mountain, is often spotted right from the parking lot as he explores his personal protected habitat.
More Things to Do in British Columbia
Bowen Island is a quiet, forested island of about 20 square miles (52 square kilometers) that is home to approximately 3,500 year-round residents. Due to its popularity as a location for Vancouverites’ vacation homes, that number swells to 5,000 in the summer. The common theme of the island’s inhabitants is a commitment to laid-back, rural living. Bowen Island is easily accessible by ferry (from Horseshoe Bay) or water taxi (from Granville Island). Ferries and water taxis land in Snug Cove, a short stroll away from shopping and dining in Village Square, Artisan Square, and the Marina on the Pier.
In the summertime, you can enjoy kayaking around the island’s sheltered bays and swimming at the island’s sandy beaches. Hiking and mountain-biking trails also abound on the island. The artistic community on Bowen Island celebrates its culture and history at festivals and events all year long.
Just outside British Columbia’s largest city lies a tall-sided glacial fjord, carved into the landscape during the last Ice Age. Because road access is limited, Indian Arm provides some of the most dramatic mountain scenery and wildlife in the region. The calm, salty waters are surrounded by steeply rising granite cliffs and heavily wooded hillsides. There are also dozens of waterfalls and creeks, which can freeze in entirety during the winter season. The largest accessible waterfall is Granite Falls, on the eastern side.
A rough hiking trail extends around the perimeter of Indian Arm, with the possibility of viewing local wildlife such as bald eagles, seals, black bears, and salmon. Many choose to take in the natural beauty from the water, with a variety of boat trips offered through the fjord. You may even pass by one of the area’s many islands or secluded beaches.
Get a bird’s-eye view of everything British Columbia, from mountains forests to oceans and rivers, aboard the Sea to Sky Gondola. The 10-minute ride takes up to eight passengers at a time just over 2,900 feet (885 meters) above sea level, all in a gondola with floor-to-ceiling glass windows for the very best views. Upon arrival at the top, there are a number of outdoor activities to choose from, including the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge and various hiking trails.
There are three easily accessible main viewing platforms to take in views of the coastal mountains and fjord, and the Summit Lodge Viewing Deck is the closest to the gondola’s unloading station. It’s attached to Summit Lodge, which has a restaurant and bar.
From 1900 to 1974, the Britannia Mine was a major copper source on the eastern shore of Howe Sound, and until the railway and highway were constructed in 1965, Britannia was an isolated community. Today, the site's museum, housed in the original mine buildings, is both a National Historic Site of Canada and a Canadian Tourism Commission Signature Experience.
Whether chugging into an early haulage tunnel aboard a mine train or panning for gold (keep what you find!), you'll discover the mine's rich history. It's Mill 3 that leaves most visitors speechless; the massive cathedral-like interior was once considered the heartbeat of the community because it’s where ore was produced before being shipped off to nearby ports.
The mine closed in 1974, and by 1978, it was sold to a real estate company that realized its potential as a tourism attraction along the rapidly developing corridor now known as the Sea-to-Sky Highway.
Situated some 10 miles outside of Downtown Vancouver and nestled at the base of Mount Seymour, Deep Cove is an interesting village and resort. The resort area is located to the east of North Vancouver on a deep water bay within the upper arm of Burrard Inlet.
Traditionally, this land belonged to the Coast Salish First Nations people. They are said to have lived in this region for thousands of years, and many still call this cove home. However, the region has developed tremendously over the years and has become a hot spot for Vancouver residents hoping for a quick escape from the bustle of city life. Despite the growth and development of Deep Cove, the rugged natural setting has allowed the village and area to maintain its outdoorsy, natural feel. Outdoor activities are thus abundant, with sea kayaking, mountain biking and hiking all available out at the resort areas.
While the biggest reason for a visitor to head out to Horseshoe Bay might be the ferry terminal, the picturesque community of just 1,000 year-round residents is worth a trip all on its own. In addition to being the West Coast ferry terminus for BC Ferries going to Vancouver Island, Bowen Island and the Sunshine Coast, the little village located at the entrance to Howe Sound is also the starting point of the Sea to Sky highway, one of British Columbia’s most notable attractions. The coastal highway winds along the coast through Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton, offering world-class views of the region’s unique evergreen islands and tall mountains.
Although Horseshoe Bay is mainly a bedroom community for nature-loving Vancouverites, it does offer a variety of unique shops, bistros, and a pub. The marina is home to boats big and small, and with the ocean at your feet and the North Shore mountains at your back, the outdoor opportunities are boundless.
Home of the beloved Nanaimo Bar and the typically splendid panoramas of British Columbia, Nanaimo has become a must-visit destination over the past couple of years. Whether it’s outdoor recreation (biking, zip lining, scuba diving at the artificial reefs, boating on the protected scenic waters, paddling the historical harbor, fishing for crab or salmon or trout, hiking to the summit of Mount Benson, snorkeling and exploring the sea life of the Georgia Strait), festival hopping (Maple Sugar Festival, Dragon Boat Festival, Nanaimo Bar None, Summertime Blues and more) or getting art-ed out (Cedar Yellow Point artisan trail, art galleries and Gabriola Arts Council), Nanaimo has plenty of activities to keep visitors busy and entertained. Not to mention the topnotch dining, the Cowichan Valley wineries and the legendary nightlife – Nanaimo has, after all, gained the nicknamed of Pub City because of the numerous watering holes found in the city.
In the 1800s, fur traders were at the forefront of the ever advancing British Empire and Fort Langley was one of the trading posts built by the powerful Hudson’s Bay Company, which back then functioned as a de facto government in the Pacific Northwest. Originally, the fort was established due to the British interest in sea otter pelts and to once and for all assert control over the Columbia District in the face of American competition, but soon the site’s purpose shifted to a more supportive one. What is today known as the Fort Langley National Historic Site moved on to influence history in profound ways, helped establish the international border with the United States and due to its strategic location, became the birthplace of British Columbia. Visitors can step back in time at the restored and reconstructed Fort Langley to interact with costumed fur traders or dress up themselves, get introduced to blacksmithing in a working forge.
Things to do near British Columbia
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