to holiday in British Columbia:
Best weather: May-September or for winter sports, December-March.
Worst: Oct-March unless you're there for winter sports.
Main holiday attractions
One of the best cities in Canada for arts, culture and waterside lifestyles, Vancouver is a peaceful, relaxed place in a dramatic location at the junction of the Rocky
Mountains, the Fraser River and the Pacific Ocean, spoilt only by the mostly dull architecture and frequent rain.
Winters are invariably wet in the city but nearby mountain snowfall is excellent and summers
are warm with plenty of sports facilities and recreational areas available both inland and along
16,000 miles of British Columbia's coastline. And BC is English-speaking.
SeaWorld orca show, Vancouver
Vancouver has a lively ambience and plenty of sensational eating and drinking establishments, particularly in ex-Victorian Gastown and ex-industrial Granville Island. Granville is the place for an art attack, stroll around quaint shops, colourful market stalls, watch some street entertainment and eat fine street food.
Free Walking Tours
Vancouver downtown framed by the Rocky Mountains.
When the sun deigns to show its face there is a variety of fine beaches nearby
in Kitsilano, as well as 200 lush green spaces such as Queen Elizabeth Park's city centre high point and morning tai chi exercise location or the massive and must-stroll Stanley Park, a Vancouver icon with great views, rose garden, magnificent totem poles, varied exercise facilities and walking, biking and roller-blading along the 5 mile (8km)
Stanley Park totem poles, Vancouver
Culture vultures (or rain refugees) should tear a lump off the superb Museum of Anthropology in the University of British Columbia and its wonderful cultural artifacts or for kid's entertainment try Science World's interactive exhibits and shows.
Another family favourite attraction is the swaying Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver via Lions gate Bridge, leading to a Tree Top Adventure walkway high in the rain forest canopy.
Alternatively, equally beautiful but less touristy and FREE Lynn Canyon Park also offers a suspension bridge along with some lovely canyon walks.
Kayaking is another well-rewarded activity just half an hour from downtown Vancouver, launching from the sheltered Deep Cove islands (with dozens of varied kayaks and canoes for hire) and heading for Indian Arm fjord area.
Whistler Mountain skiing
Overlooking the city Grouse, Cypress and Seymour Mountains offer
good ski runs and awesome views and are just 30 minutes away from the city centre. Grouse Mountain can be reached by a short tram ride.
Alternatively two hours (76 miles/123 kms) from Vancouver via the awesome Sea to Sky Highway (one of the best drives in North America, aka Highway 99, the Squamish or Whistler Highway) is some of North America's finest winter sporting at Whistler Mountain - and not bad for the usual summer activities too. Whistler Winter photos | Whistler summer photos
Hard-core drivers may wish to continue on 99 through more forests and mountains as far as gold-rush Lillooet.
Late July- early August is an explosive time in Vancouver as the four day Celebration of Light hits the English Bay part of town at 10pm. This wild pyro-musical fireworks competition is watched by up to half a million people each night. Best viewing points are English Bay, Kitsilano, Vanier Park and Jericho Beach.
Best sunset spot: from English Bay beach near Denman and Davie streets.
Vancouver Distances to west Canada destinations and USA. Vancouver photos
Victoria's Parliament building, Vancouver Island, BC
More English than London (probably wetter too), the capital of British
Columbia is small, genteel, very photogenic and sits discreetly on Vancouver Island.
Restored 19th century architecture is liberally scattered around, the Inner Harbour in summertime is the city's lively social centre, though inevitably suffering from tourist overload syndrome, and afternoon tea at the elegant Empress Hotel is simply the done thing,
my dear, but do book ahead, tourists get everywhere.
The weather is usually mild and the gardens are rampant; the Butchart Gardens in particular are justifiably famous and colourful while waterfront paths are tempting routes to walk off the sherry and cucumber sandwiches.
Serious hikers may want to head for Tofino (see below) and visit Long Beach, a super-wide, 10 mile long stretch of wild sand backed by rainforest and frequented by eagles, seals and distant whales.
If the weather is inclement - which is not unusual - then take in the Royal British Columbia Museum and its splendid, interesting displays and exhibits.
Some of Victoria's 19thC buildings
Whale Watching tours off Vancouver Island are popular from April to October as a large group of orca (Killer Whales)
hang out in the Strait of Georgia and sightings are actually guaranteed by many boat operators, but choose your boat with care.
Larger boats are more comfortable and less bouncy so better for seasick-prone passengers, but tiny Zodiac inflatables are more thrilling and offer eye-level contact with orca though regulations forbid any craft from motoring closer than 100m; waterproof coveralls are provided!
Other wildlife that may be encountered on boat trips are bald eagles, dolphins, porpoises, seals and grey, minke, or humpback whales.
The ferry trip to Vancouver Island passes through the pretty Gulf Islands, occasionally accompanied by dolphins.
Don't bother with Highway 3 near the American border, it's deadly dull. Take Highway 6 instead. Another stretch of bland land is Highway 97 from Prince George to Vancouver.
On the Pacific coast of Vancouver Island 200 miles (320 kms) from Victoria is the ex-fishing village of Tofino, beautifully situated in the midst of truly wild nature and recently popular as an eco tourism centre, with beaches, surfing (the best in Canada), whale watching (grey whales and a Whale Festival in March), hiking (great trails and plenty of wildlife) and hot springs (via boat and a walk) as primary attractions and camping as a necessity due to the shortage of regular accommodation.
Get to Tofino by bus from Victoria or car ferry from Vancouver to Nanaimo (the hub city of Vancouver Island), then drive 129 miles (208 kms).
Festivals in British
Mid April, World Ski and Snowboard Festival, Whistler, big snow and
mad music combined!
June, Vancouver International Jazz Festival.
Late July- early August, Vancouver's four day Celebration of Light (see above)
July/August, Vancouver International Comedy Festival.
August, Victoria Fringe Festival, wacky theatre of all
End of August, Tofino Lantern Festival, Vancouver Island.
November, Whistler Winterstart Festival, carnival and events
The Okanagan Valley (aka Okanagan Country) is a dry and sunny region of BC where world-class vineyards flourish, as do wine lovers who can spend many bucolic hours tasting the produce and enjoying the wine festivals. However, it is increasingly overcrowded and busy.
It's 312 miles(500 kms /4.5 hours) north-east of Vancouver to Okanagan capital city, Kelowna. More.
The Kootenay Rockies (aka Kootenays) is a lush and lovely camping and activities area offering the best of the Rocky Mountains, from snowy peaks to alpine meadows, picturesque rivers, cute little beaches and dramatic waterfalls.
With four national parks, a clutch of historic towns and dozens of lodges, ranches and campsites the Kootenays is a superb destination for activity freaks in summer or winter.
Some of the favoured summer sports are mountain biking, windsurfing, white water rafting, fishing, canoeing and of course hiking with one eye on the rampant wildlife ranging from grizzlies to moose and cougars. Get there via the Canadian Rockies International Airport. More.
North British Columbia's massive wilderness area is well known for superlative hunting, fishing and kayaking in particular but they also organise many other activities. More.
Guides: Alberta | Ontario | Quebec | Atlantic Provinces | Northern Canada
Canada Pictures | Vancouver photos | Whistler Winter photos | Whistler summer photos
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