If you ask most people why they visit Canada, most will say they’re attracted by its incredible scenery, wildlife and outdoor lifestyle. And the good news is, there are plenty of ways to experience all these things—especially in British Columbia. Whether you’re tempted by a journey across the Rockies on the famous Rocky Mountaineer train, or you’re keen to witness the sights of Vancouver Island from a seaplane, you can take your pick of a wealth of activities on offer here.
Vancouver is lucky enough to have some of the best summers in the whole of Canada, making it a popular spot for beachgoers and outdoor enthusiasts. Kitsilano Beach (known more commonly as ‘Kits Beach’) is arguably one of the city’s best and the perfect place for paddling around on the water, taking in the sights as you go. Paddleboards—or SUPs—can be rented from Vancouver Water Adventures. From there, we recommend heading out to Spanish Banks, or towards Granville Island, home to the city’s popular outdoor market.
Biking is undoubtedly one of the best ways to explore British Columbia, with an extensive network of bike paths across the province. The 10 km (6-mile) trail along the Stanley Park Seawall is a great cycling route for all abilities and promises plenty of incredible sightseeing opportunities. An easy ride from Vancouver Harbour to English Bay, many visitors rent bikes from a selection of bike rental stores on Denman Street where the trail starts but you can, of course, bring your own. We recommend stopping at Second or Third Beach, the rose garden, and the Lost Lagoon along the way.
The Rocky Mountaineer Train
If you haven’t heard of it previously, the Rocky Mountaineer train is a luxury train running through the Canadian Rockies via a range of routes. From Vancouver, take a ‘Journey through the Clouds‘ to Kamloops and then over to Jasper, Alberta. Alternatively, venture further on the Rocky Mountaineer train to Banff and Lake Louise on the most popular route, ‘First Passage to the West‘. You’re guaranteed to see views you won’t experience any other way while on board, with glacier-fed lakes, old-growth forests and abundant wildlife awaiting you. And for an extra special service, upgrade to GoldLeaf.
With 27,200 km waiting to be discovered, British Columbia certainly isn’t short of water-based activities. Explore the province’s vast number of lakes, rivers and ocean inlets by kayak or canoe between the months of May and September for the most calming experience possible. One of our favourite spots to kayak is Deep Cove in North Vancouver, where you can rent from the Deep Cove Kayak Centre, before hiking to Quarry Rock and grabbing a delicious sweet treat at the famous Honey’s Doughnuts. Bowen Island, located in Howe Sound, is another great place to kayak—an idyllic destination, just a 20-minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver. There, you can rent from Bowen Island Sea Kayaking.
Vancouver Island is world-renowned for its scuba diving, thanks to its great climate, clear water and abundance of marine life, including the legendary giant Pacific octopus, harbour seals and wolf eels. Nanaimo, located on the east coast of Vancouver Island, has plenty of choices for both boat and shore diving and snorkelling. Nanaimo Dive Outfitters offer guided dives, boat tours and rentals. And if you’ve never tried scuba diving before, you can take a course to learn. Elsewhere on the Island, the wreck of Del Norte is one dive spot that’s particularly good for sea life sightings. The remains of the 190-foot ship, which sunk in October 1868, is now intertwined with corals, urchins, anemones, and marine life and is definitely worth a visit.
As well as connecting you to over 12 destinations across the west coast and beyond, Harbour Air seaplane tours provide a view like no other across British Columbia. See everything, from Victoria Harbour to Salt Spring Island—one of the Gulf Islands in the Straight of Georgia between British Columbia and Vancouver Island. Panoramic tours range from 10-minute flights to day trip adventure packages and are a must-do experience. We recommend arriving as soon as possible for boarding to bag yourself an all-important window seat.