In our completely biased opinion, British Columbia, well Canada in general, is a really cool place. This massive heap of land is home to such a small relative population leaving most of the landmass free to be explored. In fact, only 5% of British Columbia’s land is privately owned. After decades of travelling our home province both together and apart, we have compiled the top 6 unbelievable places in BC.
What does that mean? This province is massively spread out which makes it the perfect place to plan a BC summer road trip.
Also, read about the top US cities that aren’t on your radar but should be.
Coombs – Vancouver Island
The first spot on our list has everything to do with animals (typical us). When making your way to Vancouver Island you will not want to miss this quirky spot. It’s right on the way for those that are making their way to the popular vacation spot, and surfers paradise, Tofino. The closest main city to this stop is Nanaimo. Heading just north of Nanaimo to Parksville this quirky city is about 10km to your west.
A Norwegian couple who immigrated to Vancouver Island is responsible for the hype in this area. They have a market area that they designed to be like their homes were in Lillehammer, Norway. Here, many homes were built into the hills with sod roofs acting as an extension to the land. This feature provided the houses with exceptional insulation bringing forward the eco-friendly green roof. To top it off (see what we did there 😉 ), there are goats on the roof to help “maintain” the roof’s grass levels.
This market is more of a small community. With many stores ranging from fresh fruits, small boutiques and surfing stores, there are many things to do and see. While this is a fun family-friendly place, it is more of a stop-through town than a final destination. We recommend adding this stop to a Vancouver Island road trip.
Wells Gray Park – Kamloops
Check out more about Kamloops here: Epic Road Trip Through BC
Roughly an hour and a half north of Kamloops (around 5 hours north of Vancouver) you will find the small town of Clearwater, BC and the impressive Wells Gray Park. 1.3 million acres of protected provincial park is home to 41 known waterfalls (more are constantly being discovered). In Wells Gray Park you will find all your adventure needs met with expansive hiking and biking trails, massive waterfalls and an immense amount of wildlife.
In fact, the wildlife is so dense in this area you are practically guaranteed to see all kinds of animals – everything from deer, cougars, bears and moose. Wells Gray is a great summer vacation destination as the large lakes and ample tree coverage offer more moderate summer temperatures.
While the area is packed with beauty, the biggest draw is the many impressive waterfalls. Some are located mere steps from the road offering easier accessibility while others require a dedicated hike to reach. The range of accessibility to the various waterfalls varies as some are much bigger than others. While some offer distant viewing areas, others you can become more intimate with, even climbing behind. Helmcken Falls is one of the main ones in this area and is the fourth largest in Canada. This is saying something if you consider we are also home to Niagara Falls.
We recommend staying in this area for a few days as there is much to do and see. Anything less than this and you’ll surely miss something.
This area offers everything from hotels, cabin rentals, and quaint B&Bs but the best way to travel is to immerse yourself in nature at a campground. You can even find some free campsites around the park. There are lakes in this area where you can rent water sports like stand-up paddle boards and canoes. Nothing says getting into nature as much as paddling out to the middle of a lake and listening to the eagles and loons. If you are riding close to the shore, you are likely to encounter some even bigger wildlife.
Penticton is the perfect small beach town. Being completely surrounded by lakes, this dog-friendly city is incredibly laid back giving it the ultimate beach bum vibe. With exceptional rock climbing, biking and hiking trails all around, this city offers something for everyone. Penticton is keeping up with the Okanagan vibes, offering many fresh local restaurants and hipster breweries to give you that typical Okanagan lifestyle.
Heading to the Okanagan? Be sure to check out all the best of Kelowna as well.
On the north end of Penticton, you have the massive Okanagan Lake that stretches all the way up to Vernon. While this lake is quite large in size, you will be pleasantly surprised by how warm the water is in Penticton. If there weren’t enough reasons to love the beach, the city of Penticton even sets up fire rings on their beaches to allow you to have a campfire on the beach. Okanagan Lake Beach even has a little slide in the water.
On the south end of Penticton, there is another large lake called Skaha Lake which has a great beach life. If the two lakes weren’t enough, there is also a lazy river channel here that you can float down. They even have tube rentals and shuttle services. Penticton weather is great in the summer and is one of the first places to get warm in BC after long cold winters.
If you like wine, be sure to visit the resort town of Naramata located less than 20 minutes up the lake from Penticton. Here you will find some of the best views in the Okanagan with many amazing vineyards all housing their own impeccable Okanagan views. Along the way, we recommend visiting the many delicious fruit stands – or better yet head straight to the local farms.
Ucluelet – Vancouver Island
Located on Vancouver Island, Ucluelet is a smaller city on the island that often mistakenly gets overlooked by tourists who flock to the nearby beach town: Tofino. While Tofino is definitely worth a visit, Ucluelet has so much to offer it deserves its own shout-out.
This small coastal town has a laid back homey vibe that we found to be very authentic. The lighthouse loop trail is a must-do hike in the area. Less than 3km in length, this loop hugs the water delivering consistent breathtaking ocean views. A great family-friendly hike offering different routes depending on your family’s needs. As the name suggests there is an iconic lighthouse that you will encounter along your path. With a rocky shore, we recommend wearing solid shoes that will allow you to climb your way all across the uneven terrain.
The Lighthouse at Ucluelet
When we visited we spent hours sitting on the rocks watching the waves crash against the shores with the changing times. Pack a picnic and spend the entire afternoon in this beautiful area. This was an experience you will NOT want to miss.
If you are a fish like us, you may also like reading about our first-time scuba diving in Thailand.
A bit of a drive from Vancouver, this town is located around 8 hours east, situated in an area of BC called the Kootenays. While this destination is quite remote, it is a sweet mountain town that has a lot to offer. Submerged in the outback, it is fairly common to be rewarded with lots of wild animal encounters including bears, vultures and moose.
Nelson is an old hippie town that is truly after our hearts. It has old VW vans everywhere, tie-dye shirts, old Victorian houses and small local businesses. Don’t come here expecting a Starbucks – you sure won’t find one. Instead, you will find tons of vegan and gluten-free health-conscious cafes and restaurants. Rocking a boho-chic vibe, this city is an eclectic haven.
With a river going through this town and tons of nearby lakes, this is a great summer destination. Nearby you will find a lot of small quaint towns that are also worth a visit. No trip to the area is complete without heading to Ainsworth Hot Springs, a resort offering natural mineral waters and even a beautiful underwater cave you can swim through.
Sooke – Vancouver Island
Another spot on Vancouver Island that we love is Sooke. Located at the southern point of Vancouver Island, Sooke is quite an isolated area of the island with only a few access points that aren’t 4-wheel drive. Well worth the drive, you will be rewarded with many amazing spots driving all around this area.
This is another coastal town and has countless pull-offs for free campsites around it. While there isn’t much in terms of city life in this area, this is a great place to escape. There are lots of quaint B&B’s around to stay at in addition to our favourite spot: the Sooke potholes.
The potholes are located along the Sooke River. You will find easy walking trails leading up to these stunning rock formations and will be rewarded with crystal clear waters ready to swim through. You will sit in awe when learning that these stunning rocks were formed during the last Ice Age – 15,000 years ago! While the water is admittedly quite cold, the crystal clear waters are the perfect destination on a hot summer day.
Have you ever visited one of our favourite spots in BC? Tell us what you thought of them in the comment section below. If we missed your favourite spot, let us know about it below.
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