British Columbia Travel


British Columbia is the star of Canada being an outdoor haven with lush forests, snowcapped mountains, and stunning coastal cities. If you’re planning a trip to Canada, BC should be at the top of your list! Bursting with natural beauty from the Pacific Ocean to the famous Rocky Mountains, this Canadian province really does have it all.

As is typical in Canada, BC has a large land mass with a relatively small population leaving tons of area for nature and wildlife to flourish – and flourish it does! Lakes, mountains, rivers, oceans, and forests combine to make the province an outdoor playground that is an absolute must see for any adventurous traveler. Exploring the best cities in BC is a great way to really get a feel for all Canada has to offer. Too many tourists restrict their exploration to simply Vancouver or Toronto when really Canada has so much more to offer.

British Columbia is a large province so when planning your trip, you may wonder where are the best places to visit. To help you plan your trip, we’ve listed all the best cities in BC and have given you a rundown of what to expect from each place.

Best cities in BC

1. Vancouver

downtown vancouver skyline

We can’t make a list of the best cities in BC without including the biggest city in the province. Vancouver is one of a kind bustling city set on a picturesque mountain backdrop where urban metropolis meets an outdoor adventure paradise. Whether you are looking to do some great shopping, indulge in some tasty eats, get lost in the forest, or scuba dive in the ocean, Vancouver has it all.

A series of totem poles found at Stanley Park in Vancouver BC with a woman in the foreground

The city’s lush green rainforest does come at a price though. Affectionately referred to as Raincouver by locals, Vancouver receives approximately 169 days of rain a year. It’s best to plan for rain and pack accordingly when visiting.

There are so many things to do in Vancouver, you will have no problem spending at least a week in the city. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, you can get lost in the city’s tall mountains and lush forests. The Seawall at Stanley Park, a 405 hectare waterfront park located right downtown, is one of the best areas to explore in Vancouver. That’s the size of 506 football fields!

Downtown Vancouver skyscrapers with an ocean foreground

Walk across one of the impressive suspension bridges or take a gondola ride up to the city’s beautiful Grouse Mountain to meet some bears and enjoy dinner with some impressive views. You can even take to the sea to enjoy Vancouver whale watching and get up close to orcas and humpback whales.

Historic neighborhoods such as Gastown and Chinatown offer a great look into Vancouver’s culture and history. Popular Vancouver attractions like Granville Island house an eclectic arts scene with beautiful ocean views and the freshest seafood you’ll ever eat. This is a great place for a cold beer in one of over 70 craft breweries in Vancouver. If you’re traveling with kids, a trip to Science World is a must!

The Vancouver Public Library is a staple of the Vancouver skyline. This beautiful building is a top things to do in Vancouver BC.

Getting around downtown Vancouver is easy. Relatively flat and almost completely surrounded by the ocean, walking around Vancouver is not only easy but offers up some incredibly rewarding views. There is also a Skytrain that connects Vancouver to many of the surrounding suburbs. The Skytrain is a very popular way to get from Vancouver International Airport (YVR) to downtown Vancouver.

2. Victoria

Situated off the coast of Vancouver on Vancouver Island, Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia. The city is known for its historic charm, thriving arts scene, stunning oceanfront location, and funky eclectic vibes. Located on the southern end of the island, Victoria is known for its ideal climate boasting some of the most moderate weather conditions in the country.

There are so many fun things to do in Victoria, you will have no problem filling up a weekend in the city. The Fairmont Empress Hotel is one of the most iconic Victoria landmarks on the island with its impressive ivy covered building being where the British Royal Family stays when they visit.

Home to BC’s beautiful Parliament Buildings and the stunning Butchart Gardens all built around Victoria’s stunning harbor, you will have plenty to explore. If you’d rather have a more nature inspired experience, this is a great place to get lost in the many forest trails or take to the ocean for some excellent scuba diving and whale watching.

If you plan to do a road trip to other popular Vancouver Island destinations, I recommend allowing at least a week to explore the island. While there is public transportation on the island, I highly recommend having a private vehicle and doing a road trip.

More than 31,000 km² (12,400 m²), like the rest of BC, most of the island’s landmass is covered in forested, beach and mountainous landscapes. Other top Vancouver Island destinations include Nanaimo (home of the delicious Canadian dessert: Nanaimo bar), Sooke, and the laid back surfer town of Tofino.

3. Kelowna

Kelowna, our favourite city in the province, is BC’s slice of sunny paradise. Sometimes called Kelownafornia, this city is known for its long hot summers and short mild winters. A must visit for wine lovers and golf pros alike, Kelowna exudes a laid back lifestyle full of sunshine, beer, and good vibes.

Kelowna is situated in the middle of the Okanagan Valley in BC’s interior and is built around the stunning Okanagan Lake. The city is known as an outdoor paradise and is a prime spot for hiking, biking, and watersports. Kelowna is split into two areas: Kelowna and West Kelowna, which are separated by the huge Okanagan Lake.

The city of Kelowna is built for tourism attracting about 2 million annual visitors. It is packed full of fun things to do no matter what season you visit. In the summertime, the city comes to life with patios opening all around the city between May and October to welcome visitors to enjoy a nice glass of vino with stunning lake views. Downtown Kelowna is a hotspot for upscale restaurants, stunning beaches, boutique style shopping, and lots of events.

Kelowna is a city that likes to drink, with more than 40 wineries in the city, visiting some of the best wineries in Kelowna and taking one of the many Kelowna wine tours is a must do when visiting. As is typical with BC, Kelowna also has a budding craft brewery scene. Winter receives far less tourism with the nearby ski hill Big White being the main draw to the area.

downtown kelowna, rhapsody kelowna, kelowna art, sculpture in kelowna

The city of Kelowna is located about 390km (242 miles) northeast of Vancouver. You can expect a beautiful 4 hour drive through the BC mountains to get to this sunshine town. Downtown Kelowna is best explored on foot. If you are looking to get around the rest of Kelowna, you can do so on an electric bike or scooter, private car, or with public transit.

4. Whistler

If you’re looking for a stunning mountain getaway, look no further than Whistler, BC. Whistler is tucked away in the BC mountain coast about 2 hours north of Vancouver. Home to the 2010 Winter Olympics, Whistler has attracted global attention as being a world class skiing and snowboarding hotspot.

Consisting of two mountains, you will have the choice of exploring both Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. Together, the mountains offer 8,171 acres of terrain to explore including 3 glaciers. The side by side mountains are connected by a stunning Peak 2 Peak Gondola that is open year round. Whistler Village is a thriving little mountain town that allows access to this outdoor playground.

Whistler has 2 hot tourism seasons:

  • In the summer months, from June to August, Whistler Village comes to life with mountain bikers, hikers, and adventurers looking to take in the beautiful wilderness of the area.
  • The alpine village is set in its full glory during the winter, with a peak in tourism between December and January, when skiers and snowboarders from around the world flock to the area. The postcard worthy village turns into a snow covered winter wonderland that is truly one of a kind.

No matter what season you visit, Whistler offers so many great things to see and do for adventurers. Much like the rest of BC, Whistler has a small craft brewery scene in a hipster style neighborhood called Function Junction. Trust me, the only thing better than a cold craft beer is sipping one after a long day on the slopes. Last time we were in Whistler we visited the light show at Vallea Lumina which we can’t stop recommending to everyone we talk to.

Winter is one of the best times to come to this snowy village when you can try your hand at skiing or snowboarding down any of the 200 marked runs on the mountains. If you’re not a skier, taking a snowmobile tour is a great way to explore the terrain.

If you’re visiting during the summer months, the slopes turn into epic mountain biking trails. There are many adrenaline inducing Whistler outdoor activities available including rock climbing with Whistler’s Via Ferra experience or swinging through the trees on a zipline adventure.

Whistler Village in winter

With a good mix of top tier luxury mountain resorts and affordable motels, Whistler attracts every type of traveler. Located 120 km (75 miles) north of Vancouver through the stunning BC mountains, getting to Whistler is easy. Whistler Village itself is a very walkable area with most of the shops and restaurants having pedestrian access only. Getting around the rest of Whistler, to the slopes, surrounding lakes, and wilderness trails, is accessible on foot, with private car or public transit.

5. Kamloops

If you’re looking for a slower paced city that will introduce you to all BC’s interior has to offer, Kamloops is a great option. This sleepy town, known as the Tournament Capital of Canada, acts as a great central place to explore some of the best areas in the Thompson region. Kamloops is known for its dry semi arid climate that is surrounded by many great lakes and forests to explore.

The beautiful Thompson River separates the north and south end of the town and flows into nearby Kamloops Lake. Known as the friendliest city in Canada, Kamloops is one of the best places to visit in British Columbia where you can enjoy the welcoming small town vibes.

Kamloops offers lots to see and do being a hotspot for outdoor adventure such as fishing, hiking, mountain biking, and off roading. With a very unique landscape, Kamloops natural beauty feautres dry rolling hills and picturesque canyons. Kamloops is rich in Indigenous culture and history from the Tk’emlúps peoples.

The city has an up and coming brewery scene with a few wineries opening up around town. Downtown Kamloops is lined with restaurants and boutique style shops that can be a lot of fun to explore. Nearby Sun Peaks Mountain is a must visit for epic skiing and snowboarding in winter.

When doing some Kamloops sightseeing, I recommend exploring outside of the city limits as well. There are a lot of great areas to visit within a short drive of Kamloops. The city of Salmon Arm is a popular destination just over an hour east of Kamloops where you will find the stunning Shuswap Lake.

One of our favorite lakes in the area is Johnson Lake, a stunning crystal clear paradise just over an hour north of Kamloops. Wells Gray Provincial Park is another favorite of ours located 90 minutes north of Kamloops and home to 41 waterfalls, lakes, and amazing forest trails. This park is packed full of wildlife. We’ve visited Well Gray 5 times and every single time have seen bears.

Johnson Lake is the clearest lake in Canada and one of the best lakes in BC.

Do you need a car to explore BC?

You don’t need one, but it sure is nice! The best places to visit in British Columbia are not necessarily in big cities. One of our best British Columbia travel tips is to have a private car to explore the best cities in BC. It’s a big province, almost 4 times the size of Great Britain. Traveling between the different cities in the country can take hours and while there are some buses you can take, BC is really best explored with a big road trip.

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British Columbia is Canada’s outdoor playground with almost 64% of the province (95 million hectares) being forest and more than 20,000 lakes. No matter which city you choose to explore, you are guaranteed to get beautiful natural landscapes with plenty of outdoor activities offered. From the urban streets of Vancouver to the wine soaked paradise of Kelowna, BC promises an unforgettable vacation. Now that you know the best cities in BC, all that’s left is to book your trip!

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The picturesque mountain village of Whistler BC has become a world renowned international vacation destination. Nestled in the mountains of British Columbia about 120 km (75 miles) north of Vancouver, this ski and snowboard town is one of BC’s top destinations. Out of all the great things to do in Vancouver, one of the best is taking a trip to nearby Whistler, BC nestled in the mountains of Fitzsimmons Range. For those visiting BC for the first time, visiting Whistler is one of our highest recommendations.

Whistler has so much to offer to its visitors no matter what season you visit. Home to the 2010 Winter Olympics, it has built up quite the reputation for being the best ski mountain in BC and Canada. In the summer, the area turns into a mountain biking heaven offering beautiful lakes and hiking trails to be explored in addition to its world renowned downhill mountain biking.

There are two points of entry to Whistler. The most popular one is from Vancouver via the Sea-to-Sky Highway. The less popular way to get to Whistler is from the north through Lillooet (a small town in BC’s interior). Either way you get there, Whistler is the ultimate destination for adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts.

If you’re curious about all the best ways to get to Whistler, we’ve got you covered. Below are all your Whistler transportation options. Regardless of how you choose to get there, you can count on an unforgettable experience delivering breathtaking views.

Wondering what Whistler offers? Check out our other articles:

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How to get from Vancouver to Whistler?

Getting from Vancouver to Whistler takes about 2 hours, depending on your route and how many stops you make (there are so many to choose from!). Your options for getting to Whistler are extensive – you can drive, bus, fly, or book a day tour. No matter how you choose to get to Whistler, the important thing is you go! Trust me, Whistler is a must see when you travel to Vancouver.

How to drive from Vancouver to Whistler?

By far, the most popular method of getting to Whistler is to enjoy the scenic drive to Whistler via a beautiful British Columbia highway. The mountain town of Whistler is about 120km (75 miles) north of downtown Vancouver and should take just under 2 hours along the Sea to Sky Highway (Highway 99).

This is one of the most beautiful drives in BC and will take you up the Howe Sound. You’ll see spectacular views of islands, mountains, and ferries along the way. The drive will turn into lush forests with tons of Forest Service Roads (FSRs) where you can find some great free campsites in the summer.

If you’re renting a car, you will be able to enjoy freedom with your time being able to stop to check out the many sights in between Vancouver and Whistler. Being able to drive around Whistler is the best way to see the city and the surrounding area. Keep in mind that the majority of the parking in Whistler is paid and can get quite pricey. It is worth checking if your hotel has free parking.

Whether you are driving your car or renting a car you will want to make sure that your vehicle has winter tires between October and April. This is a BC law and you can face significant fines if you do not follow this rule for the safety of everyone on the road.

While this is certainly a beautiful drive in BC, it is important to take precautions on this road. As you make your way up to the mountain, you will weave through mountains on this alpine road, and weather conditions can change quickly. I highly recommend checking road conditions before you go, especially in the winter. Much of the road is single lane and windy making congestion, especially closer to Vancouver, a big possibility.

Road to Whistler in the Winter on a calm day

What are the best stops to Whistler from Vancouver?

If you’re looking to break up your drive, there are a lot of great stops to take along the way.

  • If you want to explore waterfalls, Shannon Falls is a great stop.
  • There are lots of beaches including Porteau Cove that you can stop at to take in the ocean views.
  • Looking to take in some unbeatable views? Consider taking a ride up the Sea to Sky Gondola for stunning aerial views of the whole area.
  • If you’d like to stretch your legs, the Stawamus Chief Trail is one of the best hikes in Vancouver.
  • When you get low on gas, Squamish will be the biggest town you drive through and has a few restaurants and takeout places to fuel up.
  • There are a lot of great lakes and river pull offs you can take to enjoy the outdoors. Alice Lake Provincial Park is a beautiful place to stop.

Is there a Shuttle Bus from Vancouver to Whistler?

Yes! Taking a Vancouver to Whistler shuttle is another excellent option for those looking for a more laid back experience. This will allow you to soak in the sights and not have to keep your eyes on the road while you drive.

One of the best options is to take the Skylynx shuttle bus to Whistler from Vancouver International Airport (YVR). This shuttle costs $79 CAD ($ USD) for one person or $47 CAD ($36 USD) each way per person if booking for two people. Sometimes you can get it for a lower price depending on the time of year.

Pro Tip: Sit on the left side of the bus from Vancouver to Whistler and the right side of the bus from Whistler to Vancouver for the best views!

Being able to sit back, relax and enjoy the view along the way makes the money completely worth it. You might even be able to snap a photo out of the window. This shuttle bus makes it so you don’t need to get lost in Vancouver before heading to Whistler. Skylynx offers transportation to and from Whistler from both downtown Vancouver and YVR.

Another option would be to use a company called Epic Rides. At $43 CAD ($32 USD) for a roundtrip transfer from downtown Vancouver to Whistler and back this ride option comes in at a steal. They even allow you to bring along any luggage and gear (even bikes) included in that price.

Are there any private cars to Whistler from Vancouver?

Yes. This private transfer from Whistler to either Vancouver Airport or downtown Vancouver is perfect for those traveling in a group. Whether you are traveling alone or in a group of up to 11 people, this shuttle will accommodate you.

Prices vary on the type of vehicle and group size but can be a great way to get to Whistler Village. These private transfers work out to be quite affordable, especially with a large group, and allow you the freedom to move at your own pace.

Can you fly to Whistler from Vancouver?

Yes. Even though there is no airport in Whistler you can fly from Vancouver to Whistler. If you’re wanting an epic way to experience your trip to Whistler you could start your adventure in Whistler with a float plane.

These seaplanes are offered between late spring and early fall when you can safely land on the alpine lakes. You will depart from Vancouver’s Coal Harbour and fly up the Georgia Strait landing in Green Lake in Whistler.

In total, you will spend an incredibly scenic 35 – 40 minutes in the air flying over ocean, city, and mountains with amazing views along your way. You will then take a complimentary shuttle bus from Green Lake to Whistler Village. Costing $222 CAD ($170 USD), this is a great way to take in all the best sites of Vancouver.

Don’t forget to book your return float plane from Whistler to Vancouver.

Whistler for the day

If you’re looking to see Whistler for the day, you can book this round trip seaplane sightseeing tour for $500 CAD ($382 USD). This tour is perfect for those who want to maximize the amount of time they get to spend in Whistler while taking in stunning aerial views on a seaplane to and from Whistler.

You will leave Vancouver at 9 am taking a 35 minute flight up to Green Lake where you can choose between a shuttle or a bicycle rental to get you to Whistler Village. You will have the day to explore through Whistler at your own pace until your plane leaves at 6 pm from Green Lake back to Vancouver.

Don't want to plan it? Book a day tour.

If you’re short on time but still want to get a taste of Whistler, you can take a day tour from Vancouver to Whistler. No matter what time of year you are visiting, a trip to Whistler is one of the best things to do in Vancouver.

Booking a full day tour to Whistler from Vancouver will include the shuttle to Whistler Village. This tour allows 4 hours of free exploration of Whistler Village where you can take in all the sights of this quaint mountain town.

You‘ll also stop at two of the best sights along the way including a scenic ride up the Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish as well as a walk to the base of Shannon Falls. This tour with round trip transfer costs $220 CAD ($170 USD) and is guaranteed to be a memory you will never forget.

How to get to Whistler from Seattle?

Seattle is located about a 3 hour drive south of Vancouver, Canada. The 231 km (144 miles) drive will have you crossing the USA – Canada border. This takes some time and requires a passport for entry for both Canadians and Americans.

In total with the border crossing, you should expect the drive from Seattle to Whistler to take about 5 hours, depending on traffic, border lines, and weather.

From Seattle, you’ll start by traveling north through Washington State on the I-5 until you get to the border crossing between Blaine, WA, and White Rock, BC.

Once in Canada, you will drive through Vancouver suburbs towards West Vancouver. Once on Highway 1, it will transition into Highway 99 which will take you into Whistler Village.

Is Whistler Safe To Travel?

Yes, Whistler is safe to travel to. Whistler is a popular mountain town which receives over 2 million tourists every year from all around the world. As with most other areas in Canada, Whistler is perfectly safe to travel to, whether you are traveling with a family or as a solo traveler.

Is it worth driving from Vancouver to Whistler?

Yes. It is definitely worth driving from Vancouver to Whistler. Getting to Whistler with a private car is the best option. The drive on the Sea-to-Sky Highway to Whistler is absolutely beautiful and there are lots of spots to stop along the way.

When you get to Whistler with a private car, you’ll be able to access many lakes and trailheads in the area which are worth exploring. The only downfall is that parking can get expensive so check to see if your Whistler Hotel includes free parking.

Can you do a day trip to Whistler from Vancouver?

Yes. The drive from Vancouver to Whistler is only an hour and 45 minutes. If you only have a single day to spare, I’d highly recommend exploring Whistler. Take to the slopes or explore Whistler Village, either way, any time spent in Whistler will impress you.

If you want an exhilarating day trip you can catch a flight to and from Whistler.

Final Thoughts

No matter what time of year you visit, Whistler has something to offer. One of my favorite vacation destinations in BC, exploring Whistler Village should be on everyone’s travel bucket list when visiting British Columbia.

  • The summer months invite epic wilderness adventures with many lakes, hiking, and biking trails throughout.
  • In winter, this mountain town is in its prime transforming into a postcard worthy winter wonderland.

I hope this article has made you confident with the many different ways you can get to Whistler from Vancouver.

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