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British Columbia: Insider’s Guide

Marc Telio | February 5, 2015

The insider advice on this page is from Wendy’s Trusted Travel Expert for Western Canada: Marc Telio of Entrée Canada.

Trusted Travel Expert
Marc Telio

Born in Montreal and now based in Vancouver, Marc is most passionate about helping travelers discover Canada’s wildest places, most jaw-dropping landscapes, and most thrilling activities. His favorite itineraries combine unusual outdoor excursions (think grizzly-bear sightings and heli-hiking) with character-rich accommodations (think luxury tented camps and sumptuous wilderness lodges). Marc and his team are like special-ops agents—pros at logistics, taking into account weather patterns, tides, seaplane schedules, and dozens of other details to ensure a hassle-free backcountry experience. Their tight-knit relationships with top outfitters, guides, and hotels translate to V.I.P. treatment for you.  And if you’re looking for kid-friendly adventures, Marc has plenty of ideas up his sleeve—he regularly brings his wife and their two kids on scouting trips. Marc was also included in Perrin’s People, Wendy’s award-winning list of top travel specialists, which was published annually in Condé Nast Traveler magazine from 2000 to 2013.

Travel arrangements start at $750 per day for two travelers. This is the minimum you should expect to pay.

Canoeing. Photo courtesy Dave Heath

Where to Stay and Eat

Best bang-for-your-buck hotel
Fairmont Chateau Whistler is an outstanding hotel with genuine hospitality and a ski-in, ski-out location at the base of British Columbia’s Blackcomb Mountain. It’s also my favorite place in Whistler to send families—the façade looks like a French castle, but it’s as homey-as-can-be inside. My kids love swimming between the indoor and outdoor sections of the pool and sipping hot chocolate with marshmallows in one of the three outdoor hot tubs, while my wife and I appreciate the inexpensive meals we can pick up at Portobello Market, a kind of high-quality cafeteria. All Entrée Canada’s guests enjoy complimentary breakfast and room upgrades at the hotel.

As wilderness lodges go, it’s hard to beat the value for dollar you get at the Sonora Resort, a Relais & Chateaux property on Vancouver Island. Unlike other similar properties, Sonora doesn’t require a minimum stay, and its rates include the room, meals, and beverages, but you pay extra for the activities you want. And there are plenty to choose from! The resort has excellent wildlife programs, where you can see whales, grizzlies, seals, sea lions, eagles, or dolphins. You can also choose to go sea kayaking or salmon fishing, a just hang out at the fabulous spa. Our guests who book here get a complimentary two-hour wilderness excursion by zodiac.

Restaurant the locals love
The line out the door every night of the week proves that Vij’s is the place to be in Vancouver; they don’t take reservations, but the Indian fusion cuisine is well worth the wait. The lamb popsicles with fenugreek curry cream—Chef Vikram’s signature dish—are out of this world.

Meal worth the splurge
Hawksworth Restaurant, inside the Rosewood Hotel Georgia, is a three-time winner of Vancouver Magazine’s Best Upscale Restaurant award. Chef David Hawksworth mixes European techniques with local and seasonal ingredients, and like the city itself, the restaurant’s atmosphere is both sophisticated and approachable.

Prime picnic spot
Spanish Banks Beach, a nearly two-mile stretch of beach and parkland, with dramatic mountain vistas and a stunning view of Vancouver’s city center.

Photo courtesy Marc Telio

What to See and Do

Don’t miss
Whistler during the summer. Everybody knows this is a world-class ski destination, but in the warmer months it offers infinitely more outdoor activities—hiking, mountain biking, ATV rides, river rafting, golfing, kayaking, fishing, zip-lining, seaplane and helicopter touring, to name a few. And the hotels and resorts are considerably cheaper than in winter.

The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, which comprises three southern sections of Vancouver Island’s coastline. This area is wild and dramatic, backed by the Vancouver Island Ranges and facing the Pacific Ocean. It has everything from lush rainforest to pristine beaches, with endless hiking trails and excursions for whale watching, bear watching, bird watching, and kayaking. You can also learn about the culture of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations, who have occupied this area for centuries. The park is a lovely full-day drive from Vancouver, a half-day trip from Victoria, or a brief flight from either.

Don’t bother
Every summer day, hundreds of tourists surround the famous steam clock in the heart of Vancouver’s Gastown neighborhood. Yes, it’s a nice-looking clock, and every hour steam comes out of it, along with a lovely chime…but I can think of many more interesting ways to spend my time in this vibrant city.

Cheap thrill
Granville Island in Vancouver. It’s a bustling shopping district full of funky stores, artisans’ workshops, food producers, a dedicated children’s section, a collection of wonderful restaurants, and a thriving Farmer’s Market. The island is full of buskers, musicians, and artists, making it a truly cultural experience. You can drive there from downtown, or walk to False Creek and take the Aquabus (a cute little ferry that looks more like a bathtub than a boat).

Bragging rights
Spend the day exploring Clayoquot Sound, off the west coast of Vancouver Island, with one of the area’s few First Nations guides. We can arrange a day of whale- and bear-watching by kayak or zodiac where you’ll land on the ultra-pristine and secluded Meares Island (accessible by permit only). Your guide will lead you on a nature walk through the rainforest, pointing out the healing properties of various herbs and plants as you go. Then you’ll enjoy a delicious picnic on the beach that includes traditional native dishes like salmon jerky and bannock (a kind of quick bread), while you hear stories that convey the role of spirituality, wildlife, and music in indigenous culture.

Heli-hiking at Kinuseo Falls in Monkman Provincial Park

Heli-hiking at Kinuseo Falls in Monkman Provincial Park, British Columbia. Photo: Hello BC

Best for thrill-seekers
Heli-hiking high up in the Canadian Rockies near Banff or Jasper. Taking a helicopter to start your hike might sound like the lazy person’s way to go for a walk in the woods, but the real advantage is getting to a remote, pristine location so quickly. The helicopter will drop you and your guide—even a yoga instructor, should you wish—off with a picnic lunch, picking you up a few hours later. It’s the most civilized way to get off the beaten path.

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Best Times to Go

For warm-weather activities in British Columbia, June, July, and August are your best bets. The days are usually clear and sunny (ideal for seaplane and helicopter flights) and the seasonal wilderness lodges, which typically open in mid-May, have been operating long enough to work out any kinks. The summer months are also prime time for kayaking, hiking, fishing, and river rafting, not to mention bear- and whale-watching.

January and February has the most reliable snowfall, making it ideal for not just skiing, but also dogsledding, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. You also have a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights. March brings warmer temperatures—nice for spring skiing but not ideal for other winter sports.

Worst Times to Go

November and April. The wilderness lodges are closed, wildlife viewing is almost non-existent, skiing conditions are spotty, and the weather is unpredictable.  That said, Vancouver is beautiful every month of the year!

Scam Alert

Beware of buying so-called native artwork. Original pieces compete with knock-offs that are often produced overseas. Check any art that you plan to purchase for the Authentic Indigenous logo, which ensures that the piece has been designed and produced locally.

Downtime

As a Vancouverite, one of my favorite things to do on the weekend is walk or bike the beautiful Stanley Park Seawall, taking in the harbor and mountain views from this 13-mile path which lines the city’s stunning waterfront. At the entrance, you’ll find a handful of companies that rent bikes by the hour.

 

Perfect Souvenir

Aboriginal art. British Columbia has a huge community of talented native crafting everything from carved masks and canoe paddles to soapstone sculptures and intricate weavings. Some of the top galleries showcasing this kind of work in Vancouver are Coastal Peoples Fine Arts Gallery, Douglas Reynolds Gallery, Hills Native Art Gallery, and Lattimer Gallery. Also see “Scam Alert.”

Reviews

Great job making the trip special

Bill Hiatt | September 21, 2017

A cut above "standard VIP"

Carina Amparo | October 24, 2016

A very memorable trip

Janette Gill | October 2, 2016
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