British Columbia: Main Sights

From the Capital Victoria to Largest City Vancouver

British Columbia Main Sights

British Columbia’s unique top sights can be easily reached by foot when you're in towns or cities such as Vancouver or Victoria but outside the cities, destinations are best reached by driving, the train, ferry or flying. Travellers will instantly pick up the natural beauty and a love of the outdoors in British Columbia as you will enjoy one of Canada's most scenic provinces with exceptional provincial parks, rugged coastline, pristine mountains and two world class cities full of local eateries, a lively nightlife, shopping and galleries in Vancouver and Victoria. British Columbia has many main sights in its distinct regions certain to please even the most discerning visitor.

Vancouver Island

The largest island off the North American coast, Vancouver Island provides the pleasures of an island retreat mixed with the hustle of a provincial capital (Victoria) and the bustle of busy fishing, mining and logging towns.

Victoria, the picturesque capital-city is often considered the most English city in Canada. Home to a rich British heritage, Victoria features the Royal British Columbia Museum (one of the best in Canada and the best in BC), Parliament Buildings, and Chinatown (one of Canada’s first Asian neighbourhoods). Other noteworthy attractions include Craigarroch Castle, Beacon Hill Park and Emily Carr House. In Victoria you can enjoy whale watching, scuba diving, kayaking and cycling.

From Victoria you can easily explore the best of the island. Plan a trip to the Pacific Rim National Park to see mist covered forest and ocean crashing waterfront. You can also access the West Coast Trail here for superb hiking. Nearby Tofino is a must for anyone visiting Vancouver Island. A surfer’s paradise, Tofino is eco-friendly and boasts rainforests, rolling waves and beaches. Cape Scott Provincial Park, located at the northwestern tip of the island is also a truly magnificent area of rugged coastal wilderness. Look for bears and enjoy the unusual salt marshes.

Lastly, Vancouver Island’s largest park, Strathcona Provincial Park entices visitors with its high vantage point – Mt Golden Hinde. This is an excellent area for hiking.

The Gulf Islands

Self-proclaimed artist havens, the Gulf Islands off the east coast of Vancouver Island host small communities. Open markets and inviting studios display the wares of the Island’s creative residents. Enjoy a tranquil and serene atmosphere on Salt Spring Island featuring Salt Spring Vineyards and Ruckle Provincial Park. If you have time stop at the Pender Islands, Saturna Island or Galiano Island.


Western Canada’s largest city, Vancouver is both laid back and cosmopolitan, and features undeniable natural beauty. Often ranked as one of the world’s best cities to live in, visitors to Vancouver will have no problem finding outdoorsy things to enjoy, excellent eateries, world-class shopping and indoor attractions certain to appeal to everyone. Downtown features the waterfront area and the shop lined promenade – Robson St. Top sights include the Vancouver Art Gallery, Canada Place and Vancouver Lookout (head to the top for panoramic views of the city and most notably Stanley Park). Stanley Park is an attraction in itself; enjoy a walk around the seawall, or picnic at the Lumberman’s Arch. Look for totem poles, gardens, swimming pools, access to the beach and the star of the park, the Vancouver Aquarium. Other areas to check out are Gastown with historic cobblestone streets complete with steam clock and Chinatown. One of North America’s largest Chinatown’s you will see exotic fruits at the bustling markets, lively streets and many eateries. Granville Island and Kitsilano with its trendy beaches and UBC featuring the Museum of Anthropology are worth paying a visit.

North Vancouver

Pass over the soaring Lion’s Gate Bridge to explore the best of North and West Vancouver, visitors will understand why the main attraction is the Capilano Suspanesion Bridge. At 140 m long the cabled walkway sways over Capilano Canyon. Take a rainforest walk and enjoy the totem poles. The ‘Peak of Vancouver’ is not far away. Grouse Mountain can be reached by cable car in summer for visitors to take alpine hikes or enjoy lunch overlooking amazing views of the city. In winter the peak becomes a ski run with an ice-skating rink at the top. Visitors can also head to Richmond, a thriving town featuring the Richmond Night Market, with over 350 vendors selling Asian wares and goods.

If you are heading to Whistler pay a stop in Squamish. Situated halfway between Vancouver and Whistler this town boasts the BC Museum of Mining, West Coast Heritage Railway Park and one of BC’s largest waterfalls – Shannon Falls.


One of the world’s prettiest alpine villages, Whistler is co-hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics. Enjoy the celebrity status of Whistler while downhill skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, bobsledding, cross country skiing or ski jumping. In summer visitors can mountain bike, hike or go rafting. If you have time head to the Sunshine Coast and visit Robert’s Creek or Powell River, a hotspot for outdoor activities.

Cariboo, Chilcotin and Coast

Cariboo is located in central British Columbia, bordered on the east by the Cariboo Mountain Range and on the west by the Pacific Ocean. There are two noteworthy provincial parks: Wells Gray and Bowron Lake. This unspoilt landscape is inhabited by moose, ranches and aboriginal villages. In the mid 19th century the region was famous for gold; to tap into this tradition visit Barkerville. Canoers should head to the lakes of Bowron Lake Provincial Park for over 10 lakes and a 116 km canoe circuit. Also worth a visit is Bella Coola Valley, a spiritual place home to many bears and lush trees.

BC Rockies

The B.C. Rockies consist of four imposing mountain ranges stretching across the region: the Rocky Mountains and the Purcells in the east, and the Selkirks and Monashees in the west. The mountain parks in this area include: Mt. Revelstoke, Glacier, Yoho and Kootenays. Both Yoho and the Kootenays are Unesco World Heritage Sites. Within these peaceful mountain regions you will find snow capped mountains with deep river valleys and white water rivers, alpine meadows, glaciers and remote wilderness. Look for bears, elk, moose and mountain goats. The main towns in this area are Golden, Nelson, Fernie, Kimberley and Cranbook. Outdoor activities are year round including, white water rafting, skiing, mountaineering and hiking. For a treat head to Radium Hot Spings or Canyon Hot Spings for a hot dip on a cold day.

Northern BC

A remarkable region, Northern British Columbia stretches from awesome Mt. Robson and the plains of Alberta in the east, across the Rocky Mountain Foothills to the Coast Mountain range in the west. In the area's rivers and streams lie roaring rivers that fill the Pacific Ocean with record-setting Sockeye, Chinook, and Coho salmon during yearly spawning migrations, while nature lovers enjoy the bears and eagles the fish attract. Steelhead, yellow perch, whitefish, and a variety of other fish are also found in abundance here. Highlights include the world reknown Queen Charlotte Islands and World Heritage Site Gwaii Haanas National Park. Main towns include Prince Rupert and Prince George. Enjoy any number of activities here from kayaking, whale-watching, fishing and the Haida Heritage Centre at Qay’llnagaay. Northern BC is also the gateway to Alaska.

Fraser & Thompson Valleys

The highlight of this interior escape is EC Manning Provincial Park, and the beautiful Fraser Canyon. In the park hike the Canyon Nature Trail or Lightning Lake Loop. Campgrounds are abundant here. If you’re in the Fraser River Canyon you can raft the Fraser River. For a city break stop in Kamloops. Sun Peaks Resort is close by; excellent for skiing and mountain biking.


This beautiful valley boasts orchards, farmer’s markets and wineries in abundance. In the south of the valley at Osoyoos you will find BC’s only desert, visit the Heritage Centre or try your luck at spotting a rattlesnake. Kelowna is the highlight town situated idyllically on lakeshore surrounded by parks. Not far from Kelowna you will find Big Ski Resort with excellent downhill ski facilities.