Discover British Columbia, Canada's westernmost province! BC boasts sophisticated cities in the south, wilderness parks in the north, the salty spray of the Pacific Ocean to the west, and the snow-cloaked peaks of the Rocky Mountains to the east, gifting residents and visitors alike with breathtaking landscapes and diverse terrain. Whether your passion is mountain-climbing, skiing, fishing, beach-combing, hiking or simply lounging in the warm sunshine, BC has it all — and so much more.
The province enjoys a relatively temperate climate, making it a hotspot for outdoor recreation. A land of lakes, marshes, rivers and streams, BC has a highly celebrated system of parks, created to protect its diverse ecosystems for conservation, recreation, education and scientific study. Easy walking trails and challenging backcountry routes abound, leading to such natural sites as crashing waterfalls and ancient lava beds.
In April, the province's flora bursts into bloom with the colors of spring, and in September, BC glows with the intense colors of the autumn foliage. In winter, you can experience the thrill of alpine and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, heli-skiing, and snowmobiling on mountains known for their copious snowfalls, champagne powder and big verticals. As such, the province is home to more than a dozen world-class resorts, including Whistler.
Regarded as one of the top four-season resorts in North America, Whistler shone at the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic games. Whistler is also just a two-hour drive from Vancouver along the Sea to Sky Highway. This stretch of Highway 99 is ranked as one of the world's top five road trips, as it boasts one scenic landmark after another. On your journey, you'll see the sparkling waters and wooded islands of Howe Sound, the tumbling Shannon Falls, and the rugged Coast Mountains.
The coastal seaport city of Vancouver is a magnificent ode to the outdoors, with mountains, the ocean, lakes, rivers and beaches. Cycle, hike, camp, kayak, ski and go snowboarding; the recreational activities are endless, and you can indulge in them nearly all year long. In fact, the climate here is so mild compared to the rest of the province, you can often accomplish a West Coast special — ski in the morning, then golf or sail in the afternoon.
The capital city of Victoria features many historic buildings and some of the most fascinating museums in western Canada. Victoria also enjoys some of the country's most exhilarating scenery; there's an ocean or mountain vista around every corner, while the city's flower gardens are famous all over the globe. Go golfing, biking, shopping and dining, or head to any of the city's theaters — there are no end of delights in Victoria.
By stark comparison, northern BC's vast wilderness comprises more than half the province. This is a land of jagged mountain peaks, roaring rivers, serene lakes, green valleys, craggy coastlines and ancient island archipelagos. The region is known for its magnificent freshwater and saltwater fishing, canoeing, kayaking, whitewater rafting and, in the winter, powder skiing.
You won't want to miss the Queen Charlotte Islands, an untamed land rich in Haida culture and with unique flora and fauna that has evolved over thousands of years. A vibrant arts community also exists on these islands, and some of the best fossilized footprints in North America can be found in northern BC, including the world's oldest bird footprints.
It has been said that "BC" stands for "Bear Country." Two of the best places to view black and grizzly bears, particularly during salmon-spawning season, are Knight Inlet in the Great Bear Rainforest and the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary in northern BC. To catch a glimpse of the rare, white Kermode (Spirit) bear, head to Princess Royal Island off BC's central coast by boat or floatplane. In Vancouver, bears reside at the Refuge for Endangered Wildlife on Grouse Mountain.
No visit would be complete without viewing some of the exquisite work of the First Nations, or BC's Aboriginals, especially the cedar longhouses, canoes and totem poles. Excellent collections are housed within the University of British Columbia's Museum of Anthropology, the Royal BC Museum in Victoria and the Queen Charlotte Islands, home of the Haida First Nation.
BC isn't just an outdoor enthusiast's haven; with cosmopolitan culture, world-class exhibitions, uptown shopping and fabulous dining, there's something for everyone. Marvel at the mountains, explore the province's rich history, gaze at priceless works of local art, stroll the soft beaches, or spend a day in the spa — the choice is yours in British Columbia!