Things to do and see in British Columbia
National parks British Columbia’s true magnificence is to be found in its national parks. Top among those you should consider visiting are:
- Toho National Park and Kootenay National Park in the southeast; these two parks form part of the larger Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
- The Glacier National Park, which includes the rugged peaks of the Columbia Mountains and Rogers Pass, a high mountain pass and surrounding valley in the Selkirk Mountains.
- Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, for true wilderness on the Haida Gwall, previously known as the Queen Charlotte Islands.
- The Pacific Rim National Park, for its rugged coastline and lush rainforest.
Cosmopolitan Vancouver may feature skyscrapers and plenty of options for shopaholics, but it’s still very much in touch with the outdoors. You can walk on the city’s beaches, stroll along part of the city’s 22-kilometre sea wall and spend time in the 1000-acre Stanley Park, much of which is densely forested. Also take the Skyride to the peak of Grouse Mountain, for magnificent views of the city and the Pacific Ocean.
Vancouver is a good place to learn about the First Nations (or native American) people who lived in this part of the world before the arrival of British settlers. Don’t miss the collection of totem poles at Brockton Park, and visit the Vancouver Anthropology Museum for a good introduction to First Nations art and culture.
Highlights not to miss in and around Victoria include:
- The 19th Century British Columbia Parliament Buildings, which are a Victoria landmark.
- The Royal British Columbia Museum, which is often cited as one of the top museums in the country.
- The Pacific Undersea Gardens, an aquarium that showcases marine life from the surrounding Pacific waters.
- Canada’s oldest Chinatown.
- The deservedly famous Butchart Gardens, with its magnificent floral displays and sunken garden.
- Beacon Hill Park, which overlooks the Juan de Fuca Strait and includes hiking trails and an attractive stretch of coastline.
About 125 kilometres north of Vancouver, the resort town of Whistler includes magnificent mountain scenery, lakes, forest and plenty of recreational activities, whether you’re there in summer or winter. One attraction not to miss is the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola, the highest and longest gondola lift of its kind in the world, covering a distance of just over 3 kilometres at a staggering height of 436 metres. The lift spans the distance between the peaks of the Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, offering spectacular views.
If you’re at Whistler in winter, try bob sledding, snow tubing, skiing, snowboarding, heli-skiing and skating. In summer, you can walk, hike, cycle, play golf, try your hand at a range of watersports, go horse riding and even bungee jump amidst the beautiful scenery.
British Columbia shopping
In Vancouver, there’s no shortage of shopping opportunities. For high fashion boutiques and famous designer brands, don’t miss Robson Street in downtown Vancouver. Also investigate the surrounding streets for a large selection of shops and department stores; including The Bay, the Pacific Centre Mall, Tiffany and Brooks Brothers.
About 15 minutes from downtown Vancouver is the Metropolis at Metrotown, which is British Columbia’s largest shopping mall. It features close on 400 shops, as well as cinemas and a wide range of restaurants and cafés.
Victoria, too, is a shopper’s paradise. Browse a wide range of local specialty shops in Market Square, buy handcrafted items directly from the artists on the Inner Harbour and check the gift shops that line Trounce Alley for souvenirs. Also visit Antique Row for an interesting range of popular antique shops.