51 of the best things to do in British Columbia

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The province of British Columbia is a place of awe-inspiring natural wonders, vibrant cities, and a rich cultural heritage. Nestled between the majestic Canadian Rocky Mountains and the picturesque Pacific coast, Canada’s most western province offers a diverse range of activities that cater to every taste. Whether you seek thrilling outdoor adventures in the rugged wilderness, want to immerse yourself in vibrant urban life, or wish to delve into indigenous cultures and history, this province has it all. Here is our ultimate guide to 51 of the best things to do in British Columbia.

From wild outdoor adventures to urban exploration and Indigenous culture, check out our guide of 51 best things to do in British Columbia.

Things to do in Vancouver BC

Explore Stanley Park

Stanley Park is one of the best places to visit in Vancouver. It’s the city’s first urban park with over 400 hectares of rainforest, beaches, historical landmarks, and of course, the famous Seawall. 

You can explore the park on foot or hire a bike or e-bike from one of the park’s bike shops. To dive deep into its history, take a Stanley Park tour or join an Indigenous Talking Trees with Talasay Tours.

Take a Sunset Cruise

If you’re visiting Vancouver with a loved one, there’s nothing more romantic than enjoying a delicious dinner and drinks on a sunset cruise in Vancouver. Watch the sun sink over the horizon and enjoy the local scenery. Your cruise will sail past the cityscape and landmarks like the Lions Gate Bridge.

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Shop at Granville Island

There’s so much to do at Granville Island! This destination that consistently ranks as one of the best things to do in Vancouver in summer.

On this pedestrian-friendly island, watch street performers, and walk around the island – it takes just 20 minutes. Sample craft beers at the island’s brewery and check out the bustling Granville Island Public Market. You can buy everything from fresh produce to souvenirs and crafts, before enjoying lunch from the food and drink stalls. 

Some of my favourite places to eat on Granville Island include; Popina, Alimentaria Mexicana, Tap & Barrel which has one of the best patios in the city. Or shop for fresh bread and fixings for the perfect picnic lunch on the grassy hill on the eastern park of the island. Or choose a bench outside of the Market to watch the False Creek ferries go by.

kayakers and ferry at granville island british columbia

Take a Scenic Flight

For the best view of Vancouver, hop on board a Harbour Air seaplane to see Vancouver from the air. Your thrilling flight will take off and land from Coal Harbour near Stanley Park. You’ll enjoy a stunning aerial view of the city, as well as Howe Sound and North Shore mountain peaks.

Visit Vancouver Aquarium

Vancouver Aquarium is the largest aquarium in Canada. It’s a great place for adults and kids to learn about marine life. The Aquarium is highly respected for its marine research and rescue work.

This is one of the most popular things to do in Vancouver BC, and it’s always busy. My personal advice is to go early and book your tickets in advance if at all possible.

Brave the Capilano Suspension Bridge

The 140m long Capilano Suspension Bridge stretches high above the Capilano River and surrounding evergreen forest in north Vancouver. 

The Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is one of the most popular attractions in British Columbia. In addition to the suspension bridge, Capilano features the seven footbridges of the Treetops Adventure Park and thrilling Cliffwalk attraction. During the holidays, don’t miss the sparkling Canyon Lights extravaganza.

Visit Grouse Mountain

Just 15 minutes from downtown Vancouver, Grouse Mountain is a top Vancouver place to visit. It’s a popular venue for skiing, riding, snowshoeing and festive Christmas events during the winter months. And in summer, an excellent place to go mountain hiking or to enjoy the scenic views from the Skyride gondola. 

If you’re up for a challenge, tackle the Grouse Grind. ‘Nature’s Stairmaster’ is an upward climb of 2,830 steps (distance of 2.5 km) to the summit. Be sure to have some pocket change for the ticket to download on the Skyride Gondola. The Grind is a one-way hike.

Stroll through VanDusen Botanical Garden

This beautiful VanDusen Botanical Garden is a perfect oasis of calm in the bustling city. Explore 55 acres of gardens that feature over 7,500 plant species from around the world, including an impressive collection of plants native to British Columbia.

There’s also a Japanese Garden, carved totem poles, stone sculptures and a fabulous hedge maze that’s perfect for kids.

Another excellent garden is the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classic Chinese Garden, a calm oasis in the heart of Vancouver’s Chinatown.

Join a Vancouver Walking Tour 

A walking tour of Vancouver is a fun way to discover more about Vancouver’s past and present. There are options to suit every taste, so you could explore the gastronomic side of the city with a Vancouver food tour. Or learn about the city’s gruesome past with a ‘dark historyLost Souls of Gastown Vancouver tour.

Explore History at the Museum of Anthropology

The Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia is an important place to see in Vancouver. One of the best museums in Vancouver, MOA is famous for its world culture exhibits. It houses a massive collection of ethnographic items, including the stunning permanent exhibition focusing on the First Nations of the Pacific Northwest.

Note: This attraction is temporarily closed until late 2023 

Go Whale Watching in Vancouver

British Columbia is a superb location for whale watching. The province is on the migratory route for orcas, humpbacks and gray whales. So a Vancouver whale-watching tour is a great way to see these majestic creatures. 

You’ll be accompanied by an expert guide during your trip. And, while there’s no guarantee, you do have an excellent chance of seeing orcas, grey whales, eagles, seals, and other aquatic animals.

Drive the Sea to Sky Highway

Driving the Sea to Sky Highway is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in British Columbia. Starting at Vancouver, you’ll drive past stunning coastal scenery and landmarks like the historic Britannia Mine Museum, Shannon Falls, and the Sea to Sky Gondola on route to the thriving mountain towns of Squamish and Whistler.

This is one of the best drives in British Columbia. The scenic road trip takes around two hours if you go all the way to Whistler. Having done this drive hundreds of times over the years, I recommend planning a full day for the drive. That way, you can soak in the scenery and enjoy the many fun stops along the way.

Visit Whistler

Whistler is a short 1.5 hour drive from Vancouver, and a fantastic day trip or weekend destination. Whether it’s ski season, fall or summertime, you’ll need a few days to explore the many things to do in Whistler. And it pays to book accommodation at a great Whistler hotel well in advance. 

This is Canada’s largest ski resort area, and Whistler in winter is pretty incredible. You can enjoy all your favorite winter sports, including skiing, snowboarding, skating, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. And don’t miss taking a thrilling ride on the Peak 2 Peak gondola. It’s the world’s longest unsupported span of its kind, at over 3 km or 1.88 miles.

Whistler in summer is hopping with music and cultural festivals, mountain biking, ziplining, hiking mountain trails, paddling canoes and SUPs, and enjoying patio time in Whistler Village.

whistler blackcomb at night british columbia

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Things to do in Victoria BC and Vancouver Island

Wander around Butchart Gardens

Created over 100 years ago, Butchart Gardens is a massive 55-acre garden visited by over 1 million people every year. 

There are over 900 plant varieties on display, along with fountains, ponds and 26 greenhouses. Treat yourself to gelato or afternoon tea, or stay late for one of the summer evening concerts. Don’t miss the gardens – you can even bring your fur baby to stroll through the gardens. Butchart is pet-friendly.

Explore the Royal BC Museum

Just a short walk from Victoria’s harbour, the Royal British Columbia Museum is one of the best places to visit in Victoria BC. The Royal BC Museum is where you can discover the natural and human history of British Columbia. 

The cultural treasures are displayed in three permanent galleries, covering Natural History, Becoming BC, and the First Peoples. There’s also an IMAX theatre showing both educational and commercial films. And it’s right next to the BC Parliament Buildings. They are another important Victoria landmark located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island.

downtown victoria bc harbour at dusk

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Join a Victoria Food Tour

A food tour is always a fun and delicious way to explore a city. And a Victoria Food Tour is one of the best things to do in Victoria BC. There are various tours on offer year round. You could explore downtown Victoria or discover the food and history of Victoria’s Chinatown, including narrow Fan Tan Alley.

Step back in time at Craigdarroch Castle

Craigdarroch Castle is a Victorian-era mansion. Once home to a wealthy family, it was designed in the Scottish Baronial style and built in the industrial age of the late 1800s. 

The four floors of this National Historic Site are filled with beautiful examples of exquisite stained glass, woodwork, and Victorian decor. 

Visit Fisherman’s Wharf

This popular Victoria BC tourist attraction is the go-to place for shopping at independent stores and dining on freshly caught seafood. 

You can also check out the floating homes moored here, watch the fishermen unloading the day’s catch and maybe spot a seal or two. Fisherman’s Wharf is also the departure point for various excellent eco-tours. 

Take a Grizzly Bear Tour

As well as orcas and humpback whales, British Columbia is home to grizzly bears, and you can see them in their natural habitat on a Homalco First Nations grizzly bear tour in Campbell River

You’ll travel in a small group by boat to safe, raised viewing platforms, where expert guides will help you spot the bears. 

Drive the Pacific Marine Circle Route

One of the best Vancouver Island sightseeing road trips is the Pacific Marine Circle Route, a 263-kilometre (163 mile) scenic loop road through southern Vancouver Island from Victoria to Port Renfrew, Duncan and back. 

We’ve done this road trip a few times and the gorgeous southwestern coast of Vancouver Island never ceases to impress. 

Be sure to stop at Sooke Pot Holes, the tiny hamlet of Shirley, watch surfers at China Beach and Jordan River, explore tide pools in Botanical Beach, and wander the shops and streets of Duncan.

Go for a walk in Port Renfrew

The wild beauty of Port Renfrew, a self-proclaimed ‘tall tree capital of Canada,’ can be astonishing for first-time visitors. 

 From the hamlet, you can visit Avatar Grove, on the unceded territory of the Pacheedaht First Nation, and see Canada’s Gnarliest Tree and Big Lonely Doug, impressive old growth red cedar and Douglas Fir trees. 

Port Renfrew is also the trailhead for the historic West Coast Trail, a challenging hiking trail built in 1907 to save shipwrecked sailors.

Little Qualicum Falls Park

If you love the great outdoors, Little Qualicum Falls Park is a delightful place to spend the day. It’s known for its breath-taking waterfalls that cascade into a rocky gorge, surrounded by forests and mountains. There are several easy walking trails, picnic facilities, and some idyllic spots for swimming and fishing. 

Visit Port Alberni

There are plenty of fun things to do in Port Alberni, like exploring the Maritime Discovery Centre or enjoying the views from the Waterfront Clocktower. Harbour Quay and Victoria Quay have shops, bars and restaurants, and on autumn evenings, you may even spot black bears hunting for fish.

Go Salmon Spotting in Campbell River

Campbell River is a medium-sized city on the east coast of Vancouver Island. Between July and November every year, thousands of salmon return to this area to spawn, and you can see this amazing spectacle up close by taking a boat trip or even snorkelling with salmon in the Campbell River.

Explore Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park

On the east coast of Vancouver Island, Parksville and Qualicum Beach offer summer activities and beach fun galore. Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park is one of our favourite spots for camping in BC

There’s a rocky beach and a sandy beach where the tide goes way out, leaving lots of space for play and enjoying the summer sun. Be sure to reserve a campsite in advance at this busy provincial park, whether tenting or camping in an RV.

green tent in forest in summer

Go Scuba Diving

While Canada might not be the first place you think of for scuba diving, Vancouver Island is an excellent scuba diving destination. 

Sure, the water’s colder than in tropical diving spots, but that cold water nurtures incredible sea life. You can spot a variety of fish and underwater flora, as well as the massive wolf eels that grow up to 2.5m long.

Try Surfing in Tofino

Tofino is known as the most westerly point of Canada (although that’s actually Kluane National Park in the Yukon). And here on the country’s Pacific coast, you’ll find beautiful beaches and waves perfect for surfing in Tofino.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced surfer, this is the ideal destination to catch some waves, with plenty of surfing schools and places to rent a board.

Visiting Tofino with kids? It’s a great place for hiking, walking along Long Beach in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, and cycling along Tofino’s multi-use pathway.

people walking in downtown tofino British columbia

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Feel Small in Cathedral Grove

Officially known as MacMillan Provincial Park, Cathedral Grove is home to some of Canada’s largest and oldest trees. The temperate rainforest is filled with towering 800-year-old trees, including Douglas Fir, Grand Fir and Western Red Cedar trees, some of them up to 80m tall. 

Cathedral Grove is a humbling experience and one of the best things to see in British Columbia and on Vancouver Island.

Visit the Southern Gulf Islands

Vancouver Island is a great jumping off point for visiting the nearby Southern Gulf Islands. Board a ferry at Swartz Bay near Victoria and explore the beautiful, ‘quiet leisure’ of islands like Salt Spring, Galiano, Mayne, Saturna or Pender.

Pender Island is one of my personal favourites. Two islands joined by a small bridge, you can hike, boat, kayak with seals or just chill at its many quaint accommodation options, like glamping in a renovated Airstream at Woods on Pender.

Things to do in Kelowna, BC

Go on a Kelowna Winery Tour

The Okanagan Valley is one of the top wine region destinations in Canada, so a Kelowna winery tour is an excellent way to try out the local produce. You can visit both large wineries and small family businesses, see how the grapes are grown and the wines are made, and of course, sample the wines.

Take a Helicopter tour of Kelowna

A view from the skies gives you a whole new perspective on an area, and a Kelowna helicopter tour is a thrilling way to see this beautiful region. Several companies provide tours of the Okanagan Lake area, and the large glass windows in your helicopter will allow you to take fantastic photos to remember your trip.

Go Sailing on Okanagan Lake

Okanagan Lake dominates the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, measuring 135 km long and between 4 and 5 km wide. So a sailing cruise on Okanagan Lake is the perfect way to enjoy the beautiful surroundings and see landmarks like the Floating Bridge, Hot Sands Beach and downtown Kelowna.

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Explore the Kettle Valley Rail Trail by bike

Biking the Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) is one of the top things to do in Kelowna and the Okanagan valley. Once an old, abandoned railway bed, the route has been transformed into a fabulous recreational biking and walking trail.

The full KVR Trail length is 600 km, but you can cycle sections, like Penticton to Naramata’s Little Tunnel, or from Kelowna to Chute Lake, which passes through Myra Canyon’s highly scenic 19 wooden trestles.

myra canyon trestle kelowna bc

Steam along the Kettle Valley Railway 

Let the train take the strain as you view the beautiful Okanagan Valley from your seat on board the Kettle Valley Steam Railway. Sitting in an Open Air Car or Vintage Coach, your 90-minute journey travels along the only remaining stretch of the historic Kettle Valley Railway, built at the start of the 20th century. 

Take to the slopes at Big White Ski Resort

Planning to visit Kelowna in the winter? Then skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing or skating at Big White Ski Resort is a must. With a mountain summit at 2,319 metres and over 2,700 acres of skiable terrain, this is one of the most popular ski resorts in British Columbia and Canada’s largest ski-in-ski-out resort village.

big white ski resort with kids

Unwind at Kasugai Japanese Garden

For a moment of peace during your visit to British Columbia, visit the Kasugai Japanese Garden in downtown Kelowna. The garden demonstrates the relationship between Kelowna and its Japanese twin city of Kasugai. It contains traditional elements of Japanese gardens like waterfalls, traditional Japanese lanterns and a peaceful koi carp pool.

Things to do in the Rocky Mountain Region BC

Visit Emerald Lake

The iconic green waters of Emerald Lake make it one of the must see places in BC, and the surrounding mountains of Yoho National Park make the sight even more breath-taking. Even if you don’t have time to fully explore the Park with its hiking trails, kayaking and canoeing, you’ll surely want to catch this dramatic view.

Zoom down the Revelstoke Mountain Coaster

A great treat for thrill seekers, the Pipe Mountain Coaster in the mountain town of Revelstoke takes you through more than 1.4 km of twists and turns, descending 279 m through ski runs and glades. 

You control your own speed up to a maximum of 42 km/h, making it a family-friendly ride. I loved riding the Mountain Coaster, which in addition to being great fun, provides scenic views of the town.

This truly exhilarating experience is Revelstoke’s top summer attraction, and you will work up an appetite for lunch or dinner at one of Revy’s many great restaurants.

pipe mountain coaster in revelstoke

Go White Water Rafting

The Kicking Horse River is one of the best places to go white water rafting in British Columbia. A Kicking Horse River Whitewater Rafting tour will take you down Class 2 to Class 4 rapids with names like Cable Car and Table Saw, with all equipment provided and an expert guide on board. 

Visit Kicking Horse Mountain Resort

Kicking Horse Mountain Resort in Golden an excellent place for outdoor adventures all year round. In the summer, you can go mountain biking, hiking and take on the thrilling Via Ferrata experience. And Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is one of the best places to visit in British Columbia in winter, offering some of the best skiing in British Columbia. 

Soak in a Hot Spring

Once you’ve finished hiking, cycling or skiing, why not relax and revive yourself in a natural hot spring? Head to the Radium Hot Springs in Kootenay National Park, where you can lay back and relax in the naturally heated, mineral-rich waters. It feels terrific at any time of year, but in winter, the snowy surroundings make it extra special.  

Explore the backcountry at Purcell Mountain Lodge

The best way to enjoy BC’s beautiful mountain ranges is to stay at one the province’s 30 backcountry resorts. One of our favorites is Purcell Mountain Lodge, a short helicopter ride or longer hike from Golden. Enjoy off-grid luxury with daily guided hikes in summer, ski touring in winter, and gourmet cuisine and wood-fired sauna visits in every season.

Drive Roger’s Pass

Roger’s Pass is a high mountain pass running through the highest point of Glacier National Park. This impressive stretch of the Trans Canada Highway takes you through the stunning Selkirk Mountain range, including alpine meadows and cedar forests. 

Stop at the Rogers Pass Discover Centre to explore the history of this Canadian National Historic Site.

Things to Do in Northern British Columbia

Unwind at Liard River Hot Springs

The second-largest hot springs in Canada can be found in the Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park. The hot spring has water that ranges from 42°C to 52°C, and the facilities include a changing house and composting toilet. If you want to extend your visit to Liard River, the park also has a campground. 

highway in northern bc near liard hot springs

Get Outdoors at Muncho Lake Provincial Park

The 88,420-hectare Muncho Lake Provincial Park is perfect for anyone who loves outdoor activities like hiking, fishing, horse riding, scuba diving or rafting. The beautiful location is surrounded by limestone mountains, and although it’s close to the Alaska highway, it feels peaceful and secluded.

Explore history at Dawson Creek

The small city of Dawson Creek is an ideal destination for history lovers. Pick up a map from the Visitor Centre and explore the town’s quirky history from pioneer times to World War II. Downtown Dawson Creek has plenty to see, including the Alaska Highway House, the Train Station Museum and some amazing wall art. 

Visit Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark

If natural history and geology interest you, you’ll surely love Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark. North America’s second Global Geopark has 41 different sites linked by a network of hiking trails. You can see lakes, mountains, canyons and waterfalls, or visit the Dinosaur Discovery Gallery and discover the fossils found locally. 

Go back in time at Fort St. James National Historic Site

Fort St. James National Historic Site is Canada’s largest collection of wooden buildings, which have been preserved and restoredto the fur trade era. It’s a fascinating exploration of life at the turn of the 20th century. You can even stay overnight in one of the tents at the fort or in the luxurious 1896 Murray House.

Explore Aboriginal culture at ‘Ksan Historical Village

The village of ‘Ksan was home to the Gitxsan people for over 8000 years, and the ‘Ksan Historical Village and Museum is one of the most fascinating things to do in Northern BC.

Located in Hazelton, the ‘Ksan gives you a glimpse into the Gitxsan people’s life through historical artifacts, including totem poles, a carving area and traditional song and dance. Take a guided tour of the village or stay overnight in the campground at ‘Ksan Historical Village.

Visit Gitanyow Historic Village

The village of Gitanyow (formerly known as Kitwankul) is a typical Gitxsan village and is home to the largest collection of totem poles in British Columbia. Around 20 original totem poles can be seen at Gitanyow, each telling about the history, territory, rights and responsibilities of the people who carved them. 

Get back to nature at Spatsizi Plateau Wilderness Park

Spatsizi Plateau Wilderness Park is one of Canada’s largest and most naturally significant parks. This park has a true wilderness atmosphere, with beautiful scenery and wildlife, including bears, wolverines and beavers. Come here to go hiking, fishing, canoeing or just enjoy the unspoilt surroundings. 

Explore the Museum of Northern British Columbia

The Museum of Northern British Columbia is one of the top Prince Rupert attractions and celebrates the cultural diversity of the Northern BC region. Inside this traditional cedar wood longhouse, the museum’s exceptional collection contains thousands of maps, photographs and other cultural artifacts related to the Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest.

British Columbia FAQ

How big is British Columbia?

British Columbia is the third-largest province in Canada in terms of land area, covering approximately 944,735 square kilometers (364,764 square miles). This makes British Columbia larger than any U.S. state except for Alaska.

What’s the weather like in British Columbia in winter?

The weather will depend on where you are in the province. In general, coastal regions tend to experience milder winters compared to the interior and mountainous areas. Coastal areas like Vancouver and Victoria have relatively mild winters with temperatures averaging around 0 to 10 degrees Celsius (32 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit). These areas often receive more rain than snow, but occasional snowfall can occur.

In the interior and northern mountainous regions, winters are colder with temperatures dropping below freezing. Temperatures can range from -5 to -10 degrees Celsius (23 to 14 degrees Fahrenheit) in the Okanagan to well below -10 to -25 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit) in the north.

Heavy snowfall is common in these areas, and winter tires are required for all highway travel between October and April.

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Photo Credits: Destination British Columbia

Claudia Laroye
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