West Coast Canada Travel Tips and Recommendations British Columbia Adventure Travel Road Trips
Updated: Mar 14, 2019
One of my good friends from the West Coast wrote this fantastic nostalgic overview of a great road trip through British Columbia, Canada. It is great for backpackers or really anyone that wants to explore. Let us know what you think and any of your other favourite spots.
I grew up just outside Victoria (in Brentwood Bay) and my grandmother lived in *Rocky Mountain House, Alberta*, so the parts of BC that I'm most familiar with are along that corridor.
Every summer, we used to take the ferry across from Vancouver Island to the mainland and drive to Hope, BC (where the original Rambo movie was shot). We'd camp there (pretty sure it was this one, then drive through Kamloops and up the Coquihalla to Jasper and camp again (really nice campground there in the park; and then finish the drive to Rocky the next day.
It's a great route if you're driving: the traffic is not as heavy as if you take the Transcanada highway the whole way; the scenery is beautiful and you get a pretty full range of BC's landscapes from the coast and the foodplain, through the coastal mountains, to the quasi-desert between the mountain range, and right over the Rockies. It takes you past Mt Robson,, the most prominent mountain in the North American Rockies and the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies; and the Columbia Icefield, the largest icefield in the North American Rockies. Banff and Lake Louise are a short drive from Jasper which is a beautiful national park in its own right. If you want to do some slightly adventurous hiking, Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies is the definitive guide. For an easy hike, we frequently visited the Angel Glacier on Mt Edith Cavell.
If you wanted to make a loop out of it, you could consider going through places like Radium (hot springs with traces of Radon), Nelson (restored 19th century silver rush town), Kelowna (heart of the Okanagan, lots of fruit trees and wineries), Osooyos (on average, one of the hottest part of Canada in the summer).
Closer to Vancouver, there's Whistler and Squamish, best for skiing/mountain biking and rock climbing (respectively). In Vancouver, you have to get a Japadog -- now that I've thought of that, I want one right now SO BADLY. I like to visit Granville Island and Stanley Park; both are typical tourist stops in Vancouver, and they're actually really nice to visit.
On *Vancouver Island, *Butchart Gardens is a major attraction. It's a short walk from my childhood home, so I used to be jaded and think it was overrated (because we always took people visiting us to see it); but I went last year and really enjoyed it (maybe because I'm now old and overly nostalgic about it). Also on the Saanich Peninsula, I love the hike up Mt Work -- on a sunny summer day, the view over the peninsula is fantastic. Rebar was always my favourite restaurant in Victoria; I usually got the Monk Curry. Kind of amazing to see they're still doing that 20 years later. Barb's Fish and Chips is another place I remember from when I was a kid; sit on the dock, feed chips to the seagulls... amazing. There's good salmon fishing off Sooke, you can hire a boat and go out pretty easily, from what I understand. Botanical Beach is also great to visit, the anemones and other sea life are right there on display in the tide pools, like a huge, wild aquarium.
Further afield is Long Beach, which is absolutely incredible for its natural beauty; surfing is an option if you don't mind cold water. You can stay in either Tofino or Uclulet, but I prefer the latter -- it's a little more offbeat and quiet and funky, the former is a little more developed and touristy. There's an interesting hot spring you can visit by boat or seaplane from Tofino. The quintessential park protecting Pacific Temperate Rainforest is Carmanah Valley, where you'll find Canada's tallest tree and many trees over 1000 years old. When you're driving around that area, it's usually worth stopping at Coombs to see the goats on the roof (though it sounds like it's not quite what it once was). To get "up island" from Victoria, you can either drive the Malahat or take the Mill Bay Ferry. The ferry is beautiful and relaxing on a calm, early morning, while the Malahat offers great views. If you take the Malahat, you'll pass Goldstream Park, which is particularly interesting when the salmon are spawning.
The gulf islands are also interesting; they're kind of the pinnacle of the laid-back hippie west-coast lifestyle. Saltspring is the largest and easiest to visit; it's probably a full-day trip, but worth it if you have the time.
Jeez... I feel like I can go on an on. The thing about BC is it's just incredibly non-stop beautiful everywhere. The sunsets over the Malahat, the mists over the Gulf Islands, the mountains, the smell of the sea air... I can't believe how much I miss it. I haven't even gotten into describing northern BC, or the more remote costal areas like Princess Louisa Inlet. Or all the great, weird little parts of Victoria... even UVIC with its "ring road" layout and the happy face on the Elliot building is worth a visit, in my opinion. Or the Cadborosaurus at Gyro Park. Or Fan Tan Alley, the narrowest street in Canada. And so on and so on and so on...
Most importantly, best of travels, discovery and adventure to you!
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