British Columbia (BC) is a western province of Canada, between the Pacific Ocean, and the Rocky Mountains.
British Columbia is about four times the size of Great Britain with 4.6 million inhabitants. Several north-south mountain ranges cross through the province, such as the Rockies, the Selkirks, the Purcells and the Coastal Range. BC has great scenery along the coast and inland, and is a rewarding destination for outdoor life, especially downhill snowsports and wilderness backpacking. It is a land of contrasts with the metropolis of Vancouver, a progressive global hotspot, against a rich backdrop of the heritage of the First Nations of British Columbia.
Vancouver Island (Northern, Central, Southern, Southern Gulf Islands, Discovery Islands)
Home of British Columbia’s capital, Victoria, and all sorts of marine adventures.
Lower Mainland (Vancouver, Eastern suburbs, Southern Suburbs, North Shore, Sea to Sky, Sunshine Coast, Fraser Valley)
The world-class city of Vancouver and world-class skiing in Whistler.
Thompson-Okanagan (Okanagan, Thompson-Nicola, Shuswap, Similkameen)
Sun and fun, wineries and beaches in the Okanagan, summertime boating in the Shuswap and rivers, waterfalls and mountains in the Thompson River valley.
Kootenays (West Kootenays, East Kootenays, Columbia-Rockies)
Lakes, deep valleys, hot springs and world famous cat skiing.
Retrace history and explore the ranchlands and remote parks.
North and Central Coast
Untouched wilderness and native culture. Famous for fishing.
Northern British Columbia
Large region with mountains, forests and wilderness in the east, the start of the mighty Fraser River in the south and limitless vistas and the Alaska Highway in the northwest.
Listed below are just nine of the province’s most notable urban destinations. Links to others will be found in the various regional articles.
1 Victoria is the provincial capital, on the south tip of Vancouver Island.
2 Kamloops is called the tournament Capital of Canada.
3 Kelowna is the largest city in the British Columbia interior.
4 Nelson is “The Queen City” of the Kootenays, renowned for its tourism, culture and outdoor activities.
5 Penticton is a popular summer destination on Okanagan Lake.
6 Prince George is the largest city in Northern British Columbia and the center of the BC Forest Industry.
7 Prince Rupert , Canada’s rainiest city, is the hub of the North Coast.
8 Vancouver is by far the largest city in British Columbia, and the largest metropolitan area west of Toronto.
9 Whistler is a summer and winter outdoor destination and the site of many events in the 2010 Winter Olympics.
With its abundance of mountains, coastline and wilderness, British Columbia has many destinations outside of its cities and towns. Listed below are nine of the province’s most notable other destinations.
1 Glacier National Park
2 Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve
3 Kootenay National Park
4 Manning Provincial Park
5 Mount Robson Provincial Park
6 Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
7 Salt Spring Island
8 Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park
9 Yoho National Park
Understand : BC was the sixth province to join the Confederation of Canada, in 1871. This was done at least partly on the basis of a promise by the Federal Government to build a railway linking BC to the rest of Canada. Significant geographical barriers and political feuding delayed the completion of this railway until 1885 when the last spike was driven home at a place called Craigellachie in the Eagle Pass area in the interior of BC.
Being on the Pacific, there has always been a strong Asian influence. Many Chinese men arrived in the early part of the 19th century to work in the gold rush of that era and later many more worked on the construction of the railway through the mountains.
The indigenous people of BC have been called Indians or Native Canadians, but now the generally accepted term is First Nations.
Prior to arrival of Europeans BC was a very prosperous area. This was largely due the abundance of salmon. This was demonstrated by the advanced culture that existed in BC. More than thirty languages belonging to seven different language families were spoken in BC. The arrival of Europeans began as a positive relationship. However, the Europeans brought smallpox and other diseases, which decimated the First Nations population.
Many First Nations people were encouraged or even forcibly required to send their children to residential schools during the early to mid 20th century. These schools were government sponsored. The primary intent of the schools was to assimilate the First Nation population. Children were taught that their culture was backward and evil and were not allowed to speak their native languages. This systemic problem is finally being addressed and discussed openly.
Many of the First Nation communities have been trying to revive their culture and are now often the center of much of the ecotourism industry.
With a few exceptions, the First Nations of BC (unlike the rest of Canada) have never signed treaties or ceded their territory to Canada. Therefore, the official ownership of much of the province is contested as the First Nations claim much of the province as their territory. The courts have generally acknowledged that there is a basis for the claims based on historical use of the land and have urged the governments to negotiate a settlement to these claims. Settling these land claims has been a complex issue that is still ongoing. The first modern treaty signed was by the Nis’ga in Northern BC. In 2007, the Tsawassen and Maa-Nulth First Nations signed treaties with the Province and the federal government.
Access : Coordinates: 54, -125 / By plane : Vancouver airport is the major international airport of the province, which is served by most major international airlines. Victoria, Abbotsford, Cranbrook, and Kelowna also have international airports that have service to a number of locations within Canada and to some destinations in the United States.
By car : There are a number of land border crossings from the United States into BC from Washington (state). See the Lower Mainland (BC) and Northwest Cascades (WA) articles for details. There are also land border crossings into BC from Idaho, Montana and Alaska. BC is also connected to Alberta and the Yukon by a number of major highways.
By boat : There are ferries from Washington into Victoria and Sidney, and from Alaska into Prince Rupert.
By rail : VIA Rail offers several different passenger trains. “The Canadian”, a piece of railway history, no longer runs on the Canadian Pacific Railway line. Travellers can still take VIA Rail along the historic and scenic Canadian National Railway which runs north and before it heads east through Jasper and on into Alberta. Between Mission and Ashcroft, BC, the eastbound VIA train runs on Canadian Pacific track due to a directional running agreement between Canadian Pacific and Canadian National. VIA Rail also offers passenger rail service between Jasper (Alberta), Prince George (BC) and Prince Rupert (BC) on the north coast with “The Skeena” that runs over Canadian National’s former Grand Truck Pacific BC North line, “The Skeena” connects with BC Ferries’ Inside Passage and Queen Charlotte routes at Prince Rupert. Amtrak offers rail service by between Seattle and Vancouver.
Rocky Mountaineer (Rocky Mountain Rail Tours) offers an elite-class, expensive passenger tour service to Prince George and Jasper, returning to Vancouver via the another CN line via Kamloops. It does not pick up passengers along the route. In Prince George, where guests are placed in local hotels, as again in Jasper.
Get around : By air : BC is a large province. The most convenient way to get to much of the province is by air. However, this can be quite expensive. It is often more expensive to fly to some point in BC than it is to fly to Europe. Vancouver is the regional hub for most air service within BC. Float planes can also be convenient for accessing many coastal locations.
By car : Getting around here is not always easy. Many worthwhile destinations are outside of the cities and not accessible by public transportation options. This makes renting a car quite a popular option for getting around, although there is some bus service to be found. Bear in mind when travelling by car that headlights should be used both day and night, regardless of conditions. If driving during the winter, plan your route carefully as British Columbia experiences some hazardous weather.
If you drive or rent a vehicle, be aware that provincial law requires fuel to be prepaid before filling up. If you use a “pay-at-pump” interface, the station may place a hold on an available amount in your account which may last for a few days. It is wise to ensure you have adequate funds or credit limit room on your payment cards before visiting.
Sunshine Coast-Vancouver Island Circle Tour – a good way to see Vancouver, the neighbouring Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island
Driving between the Pacific Coast and the Rockies
By bus : Pacific Coach Lines offers service between Vancouver and Whistler.
Ebus connects Vancouver, Abbotsford, Kelowna, and Kamloops.
Tofino Bus and Island Link Bus provide a network of intercity bus routes on Vancouver Island.
Rider Express. Bus service along the Trans-Canada Highway from Winnipeg to Vancouver, twice daily. Service between Revelstoke, Salmon Arm, Kamloops, Hope, Abbotsford, and Vancouver, and to Calgary, Canmore, Lake Louise, Banff (Alberta) Strathmore, Medicine Hat, Swift Current, Moose Jaw, and Regina (Saskatchewan); and Whitewood, Moosomin, Brandon, and Winnipeg (Manitoba).
Radiating from Prince George, BC Bus North serves routes to Prince Rupert, Valemount, Dawson Creek and Fort Nelson. Service is two return trips per week except one trip per week to Fort Nelson.
Moose Travel Network runs a unique service on less travelled routes that is a combination between “just getting you there” and a tour of some very worthwhile destinations. They have a number of quite flexible packages available, many of them connecting the coast with popular destinations in the Canadian Rockies like Jasper, Banff and Calgary. There is also daily bus services to Vancouver Island and Whistler.
Locally BC Transit operates city buses in Victoria, Nanaimo, Kamloops and in other cities and towns throughout the province while Translink operates buses, the SkyTrain rail and the West Coast Express (WCE) commuter rail in the Greater Vancouver metropolitan area.
You will also find that the ferry service (provided by BCFerries) is the only way to access many island and coastal communities. Some of the smaller islands can be visited on foot or by bicycle, but in many cases additional road transportation is necessary. Although ferry service is generally reliable, taking an automobile on board is rarely cheap, and you will likely find it less expensive to take the ferry as a foot passenger and rent an automobile at your destination. If you are taking bus service across a ferry, you should confirm when buying your bus ticket that the ferry fare is included.
- International Buddhist Temple. In Richmond is the most authentic example of traditional palatial Chinese architecture in North America. It is an edifice straight out of the Chinese past, as it resembles any authentic temple that can be found along the banks of the
- Yangtze River, where one of the world’s oldest civilizations originated. Come explore traditional Chinese art, culture, and the Buddhist philosophy inside this magnificent place. Free admission.
- Yoho National Park is in eastern BC bordering Banff National Park on the Trans Canada Highway.
- Emerald Lake : A lake located in Yoho National Park at an elevation of 1,300 meters.
- Takakkaw Falls is a waterfall located in Yoho National Park, near the town of Field.
- Glacier National Park takes in part of the Selkirk Mountain Range where the Trans Canada Highway crosses the range through Roger’s Pass.
- Butchart Gardens. Near Victoria offers over 50 acres (22 hectares)of gardens and floral display.
- Stanley Park (Vancouver) — is not just your average urban park! You can stroll through the park on the seawall, check out the aquarium, take a look at the totem poles, and stop at various historical points of interest.
- Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria
- Science World. Vancouver — nice for kids of all ages. Also has an IMAX Theater.
Vancouver Art Gallery Vancouver
- Capilano Suspension Bridge and Park North Vancouver
Backpack the West Coast Trail, the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail closer to Victoria, or the BC sections of the Trans Canada Trail.
Kayak Desolation Sound, Telegraph Cove, the Broken Islands, the Queen Charlotte Islands.
Scramble the Rockies!
Rock climb the world-famous Stawamus Chief in Squamish.
Winter surfing in Tofino.
Go skiing at Whistler-Blackcomb, North America’s largest ski area, or the other excellent ski areas throughout the province in destinations near Kimberley, Fernie, Nelson, Kelowna or Rossland.
Roam the open range on horseback or try world-class fly-fishing in the Cariboo-Chilcotin.
Go next :To the south is Washington (state) in the U.S.A. which is home to the Olympic Peninsula, Mount Ranier National Park, the North Cascades mountain range, a highly developed agricultural region and the vibrant cities of Seattle-Tacoma on the Pacific coast.