Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

In Search of the Extraordinary in British Columbia: Got Recommendations?

Wendy Perrin | June 29, 2015

This summer I’m taking Tim and the kids to Canada. I know what some of you are thinking. Canada? A big yawn. The frozen north. So bland even its sports award is gray (get it? the Grey Cup). Why Canada when there are so many exotic places in the world?

Well, you can keep your preconceptions about Canada because while you’re scorching in the heat and fighting traffic to the beach, I’ll have all that wide-open space, natural air-conditioning, and dramatic nature to myself—not to mention melting-pot cities, scrumptious food, and an exchange rate that buys me 20% more for my U.S. dollar than it did last summer.

My trip goal is, of course, to find out how not boring Canada can be. I found the exotic, dramatic, and colorful in Newfoundland the summer before last, and this time I’m seeking it at the other end of the country: British Columbia. It’s been a while—ten years since I was last in Vancouver, five since I was last in Victoria—so I’d love suggestions from any of you who’ve been to B.C. lately: How should my family and I make this trip extraordinary? Better yet, give us things to test for you—and if we can squeeze it into our itinerary, we will. Can’t wait to hear your recommendations—and challenges!

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9 Comments

  1. Shelley Fry

    The west coast of Vancouver Island is one of my favorite places on the planet! This is a hidden gem for lovers of wild, uncrowded beaches and lush temperate rainforests. For many years I took my daughter to Terrace Beach Resort in Ucluelet, and we’ve even camped in Pacific Rim National Park a couple times. The Wickaninnish Inn is lovely, though, and next to Chesterman Beach—one of my favorite beaches for low tide. The guided whale watching, bear watching, and kayaking trips we’ve done have been great and there are good trails in the national park. Surfing (if you can brave the cold water in a wetsuit!) and sport fishing are popular as well. One last tip…check out SoBo for lunch or dinner. They started out by serving “sophisticated bohemian” cuisine from a purple food truck at the botanical gardens, but they’re now in a permanent location in Tofino.

    If you stay in Vancouver, by the way, my favorite hotel is the sleek Fairmont Pacific Rim. The Granville Island Public Market is lots of fun (similar to Pike Place Market in my hometown of Seattle), and you may want to check out the Eye of the Wind on Grouse Mountain if you have time. I haven’t been yet, but the views look unparalleled!

    Enjoy!

  2. Shelley Fry

    The west coast of Vancouver Island is one of my favorite places on the planet! This is a fantastic place to go if you love wild, uncrowded beaches. For many years I took my daughter to Terrace Beach Resort in Ucluelet, and we’ve even camped in Pacific Rim National Park a couple times. The Wickaninnish Inn is lovely, though, and next to Chesterman Beach—one of my favorite beaches for low tide. The guided whale watching, bear watching, and kayaking trips we’ve done have been great and there are good trails in the national park. Surfing (if you can brave the cold water in a wetsuit!) and sport fishing are popular as well. One last tip…check out SoBo for lunch or dinner. They started out by serving “sophisticated bohemian” cuisine from a purple food truck at the botanical gardens, but they’re now in a permanent location in Tofino.

    If you stay in Vancouver, by the way, my favorite hotel is the sleek Fairmont Pacific Rim. The Granville Island Public Market is lots of fun (similar to Pike Place Market in my hometown of Seattle), and you may want to check out the Eye of the Wind on Grouse Mountain if you have time. I haven’t been yet, but the views look unparalleled!

    Enjoy!

  3. whitney

    You’ve GOT to visit my hometown of Kelowna. It’s a really beautiful lakeside town in the Okanagan Valley, and is famous for its beautiful and plentiful wineries. Stay at the Eldorado Hotel in Kelowna and book a wine tour – be sure to visit Mission Hills, Cedar Creek and Summer Hill.

  4. Ellen Steinberger

    Uclulet!!! Rugged and beautiful, this “hidden” part of British Columbia is reminiscent of Maine. If you can, have a local take you through the mountains on his 4X4 to catch a glimpse of the bears and to take in the beautiful lookout over the ocean.There are very few tourists there, if any at all, so you will find tranquility. Enjoy!

  5. Jody Lorenz

    Hello Wendy

    I’d like to invite you and your family to visit Bowen Island. Technically, Bowen is part of Vancouver – we’re less than one hour from the heart of the city – but once you’re here you will feel like you are a world away. Bowen Island is situate at the mouth of Howe Sound, a particularly picturesque part of the Salish Sea. The island is surround by majestic mountain vistas and blue waterways, often providing sightings of whales, dolphins, seals, eagles and other wildlife. The island is lushly forested, with many wonderful nature trails to explore, and there are many beaches, of course. The island has a fun history as an old seaside resort and the town centre of Snug Cove is quaint and charming. We may be a small island, but we are culturally rich, with a nice selection of restaurants, shops, and art galleries to enjoy.

    Part of the fun of visiting Bowen is the journey to and from the island. There are a number of options, from small water taxis to seaplanes, but the most popular route is by car or bus to Horseshoe Bay then a short, picturesque ferry ride to the island. Bowen is one of Vancouver’s best day-trip and getaway destinations and provides visitors with an accessible, authentic West Coast island experience.

    Wendy, I’d be happy to provide you with more information and to give you and your family a Bowen Island tour. Wishing you happy travels throughout beautiful British Columbia!

    Jody Lorenz
    Bowen Island Tours, proprietor
    Tourism Bowen Island, director

  6. TAFFY LOCK

    As a native Victorian of many years, I am just going to focus recommendations on Victoria , southern Vancouver Island and Tofino

    – visit the local neighbourhood villages – OAK BAY VILLAGE/ ESTEVAN VILLAGE/ COOK STREET VILLAGE AND SIDNEY BY THE SEA
    – Butchart Gardens are famous but very touristy – try to visit ABKHAZI GARDENS in the lovely Fairfield area or take a stroll through Government House gardens which are free to the public and located in the established Rockland neighbourhood
    – stop for a drink on the Veranda at the Fairmont Empress – our grand old hotel on the causeway
    – stand in line early (no reservations) at Brassiere L’Ecole – the Frites with parmesan garlic and parsley truffle oil will surely delight !
    – as will a sushi feast at the Marina
    – take a drive from mile 0 on Dallas road all the way around the waterfront to ten mile point area and checkout the real estate on Seaview Drive
    – stop at Pure Vanilla Bakery and Cafe on Cadboro Bay Road and have them pack you a picnic to take out to AYLARD FARM in East Sooke park – one of our many Capital Regional parks (CRD) and enjoy the ocean and gorgeous hiking paths and scenery everywhere including eagles and whales – most tourists never go here and it is spectacular
    – on a longer drive – head out to the little village of SOOKE – drive onward stopping at POINT NO POINT RESORT for tea or lunch and continue on to Port Renfrew stopping along the Juan de Fuca Marine trail to sample some local beaches (Sombrio/Mystic/China) to name a few. Port Renfrew is being discussed as the next Tofino and you can now make a circle route around through to Cowichan Lake and into Cowichan Bay and return home down the Malahat drive into Victoria – this would be a full day activity
    – Ucluelet (Tofino’s neighbour) has a beautiful new hiking path called the Wild Pacific Trail and a great resort called BlackRock
    – I have not missed an annual visit to the west coast beaches and Tofino for over 35 years and have been going there since the late sixties – it is a magical place still and the addition of all types of accommodation and great restaurants truly make it a world class destination. There are many bed and breakfasts and private rentals – everyone has their favourites – Wickanninnish at the high end – enjoy a meal in the Pointe restaurant and watch the sunset and Long Beach Lodge and Resort at the mid-range is situated right on Cox bay and Middle Beach Lodge is casual and great for families on a fantastic point of land with views everywhere – there is single rooms and cabins for families – their cinnamon buns at breakfast are delicious!
    – the new restaurant in town is Wolf in the Fog and getting great reviews – will try it this coming fall
    – there is so many hikes and beaches to take in at Pacific Rim National Park – a delight for all!

  7. WENDELA ROBERTS

    You could do a whole lot worse than spending a few days at Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, which we did a year or so ago. It’s a short boat ride from Tofino, or a magical 45-minute seaplane flight from Vancouver. The setting is spectacular, the accommodations are in wonderful tents which are more luxurious than most 5-star hotels. The food is outstanding, and is available all day long. The excursions are terrific, and even though we didn’t have kids with us, we’d love to go back with our grandkids. There’s zip-lining, archery, bird and whale watching, riding, and helicopter outings into the high-mountain lakes. We’d go back in a heartbeat.

    Also in the Kootenays, there’a a cute waterfront town called Kaslo, not far from Nelson. A very engaged and friendly town full of writers and artists. If I wanted to chill out for a month in the mountains., I’d rent a place there.

  8. Sharon Blackwell

    Most people will tell you about Vancouver, Vancouver Island and the Kelowna area so I will give you some lesser-known but worthwhile areas to visit.
    My favourite place in B.C. is Haida Gwai (formaerly called Queen Charlotte Islands). It is a galapagos . some years ago I went Kayaking around the islands. There are places where you cannot walk around without stepping on a rainbow of starfish. Lush moss. and a canopy of cedar. This is First Nations territory. wonderful culture and history and gorgeous scenery. I went wild strawberry picking and met other locals doing the same. Ninstits is an island that you can only get to by high tide in a small boat. Some of the totems and welcoming figures are at the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver–another place ( in Vancouver, this time) most tourists miss.
    Check out the Cariboo/ Chicoltin area. Paddle a canoe around the Bowren Lakes and try to portage before the bears or Ravens find your goodies.. It takes usually, seven to ten days to go around the circuit. To get there you will pass by Barkerville , an old gold mining town with its old cemeteries from the Gold Rush days and nearby town of Wells . While you are up that way, take a trip from Williams Lake to Bella Coola on the coast. it is a heart-stopping drive down the mountain and you will find friendly people and ancient native petrogliphs.
    The Kootenays (like around Nelson) are part of the Rockies. They had to re-brand themselves as the Kootenay- Rockies before anyone would go there. Again, quirky towns, unstoppable scenery and some scary roads because of the mountainous area.
    When going into the interior take “Highway” one through the canyon, which is mostly two lanes. At times you can look up but can’t see the top of the mountains around you while, if you look down, you cannot see the river either Prairie people tremble to drive this canyon.
    There are numerous possibilities in B.C. so I just named a few . Enjoy!

  9. Jerry Huller

    Recommendations for British Columbia for Vancouver Island: walking on the bottom of the bay at low tide (e.g., Parksville on east coast, Tofino on west coast), mineral pool at Grotto Spa at Tigh-Na-Mara resort (Parksville), Cathedral Grove (old growth forest, near Parksville, on the drive from Parksville to Tofino), Old Country Market with “Goats on the Roof” (on the same drive), bear watching with Browning Pass Charters in Tofino., whale watching with Jamie’s Whaling Station in Tofino, or Eagle Wing Tours in Victoria, Victoria Carriage Tour in Victoria, Butchart Gardens in Victoria

    Place to stay: Wickaninnish Inn at Tofino (a Relais & Chateaux property). They provide bikes, rain gear. There is a nature walk on the property on Saturdays. There are tidal pools on the adjacent beach. Gorgeous views.

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