BRI­TISH COLUMBIA: WILD BEAUTY ON THE EDGE

Travel Guide to Canada - - Table Of Contents - BY JOANNE SASVARI

“Beau­ti­ful Bri­tish Columbia,” the li­cence plates read. And who can ar­gue with that? Tow­er­ing moun­tains, lush val­leys, crys­talline wa­ters, vi­brant cities—ev­ery cor­ner of the prov­ince, it seems, is an In­sta­gram­able one.

All that nat­u­ral beauty of­fers plenty of op­por­tu­nity for ad­ven­ture, ski­ing, sail­ing, surf­ing and sim­ply soak­ing in the scenery. But there’s also a dy­namic cul­tural life here, from the an­cient tra­di­tions of the First Na­tions Peo­ples to the joy­fully in­ter­na­tional in­flu­ences in the cui­sine.

Canada’s west­ern­most prov­ince is a gate­way be­tween Asia to the west and the rest of the coun­try to the east. It is an im­por­tant cen­tre for trade and com­merce with vi­brant cos­mopoli­tan cities and flour­ish­ing creative in­dus­tries. It is, above all, a place where work and play, na­ture and cul­ture, co­ex­ist beau­ti­fully.

GET­TING VANGROOVY

Van­cou­ver is the prov­ince’s big­gest city, a mod­ern, mul­ti­cul­tural me­trop­o­lis that is reg­u­larly rated one of the world’s most liv­able cities. Bor­dered by moun­tains and ocean, it has an easy­go­ing life­style that com­bines out­door ad­ven­ture with ur­ban so­phis­ti­ca­tion. Van­cou­ver is home to Canada’s largest and busiest port, as well as thriv­ing film, tech, tourism and green busi­nesses. It is also a cen­tre for culi­nary ex­cel­lence, cel­e­brated for its ob­ses­sion with fresh, sea­sonal farm-to-ta­ble in­gre­di­ents. From Van­cou­ver, it’s just a short drive to the farm­ing com­mu­ni­ties of Fraser Val­ley, the ex­cep­tional Asian cui­sine of Rich­mond and the sea­side com­mu­ni­ties of the Sun­shine Coast.

IS­LAND HOP­PING

Es­cape to the idyl­lic isles along the Pa­cific coast. The largest is Van­cou­ver Is­land, a ninety-minute ferry ride from the main­land; it is home to B.C.’s his­toric cap­i­tal city, Vic­to­ria, as well as vine­yards, moun­tain parks and the surf­ing mecca of Tofino. Be­tween Van­cou­ver Is­land and the main­land are the Gulf Is­lands, pop­u­lated by a quirky mix of ar­ti­sans and fish­er­folk. Fur­ther north is Haida Gwaii, a re­mote ar­chi­pel­ago of un­spoiled nat­u­ral beauty and tra­di­tional Indige­nous cul­ture.

PEAKS OF PER­FEC­TION

Think of B.C. as wave upon wave of tow­er­ing moun­tain ranges: the Coastal Moun­tains, Cas­cades, Selkirks, Koote­nays and Rock­ies, just to name a few. Those moun­tains are not only scenic, they are also pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tions for out­door en­thu­si­asts of all sorts. Many are lo­cated in the prov­ince’s more than 1,000 parks and pro­tected ar­eas. Oth­ers, like Whistler Black­comb, Sun Peaks and Big White, are world-class ski re­sorts with full-ser­vice vil­lages and year-round ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing dozens of top-notch golf cour­ses.

COW­BOYS AND CHARDON­NAY

The sunny Thomp­son and Okana­gan val­leys stretch through the mid­dle of the prov­ince. To the west is the cowboy coun­try of the Thomp­son re­gion, with its dude ranches and vast grass­lands. To the east, the Okana­gan is B.C.’s wine coun­try, with its vine­yards, or­chards and so­phis­ti­cated culi­nary cul­ture. Both of­fer plenty for out­door en­thu­si­asts to do, whether it’s house­boat­ing on Shuswap Lake, scal­ing the Skaha Bluffs or cy­cling along the tres­tles of the aban­doned rail­way line that hur­tles across Myra Canyon.

INTO THE WILDER­NESS

Back in the 1860s, gold was dis­cov­ered up in the Cari­boo re­gion, and the Rush was on. To­day, peo­ple are more likely to visit the wide open spa­ces of B.C.’s north for un­par­al­leled wilder­ness experiences. That could mean bear watch­ing along the north­ern coast, fly fish­ing in a rush­ing river, pad­dling through the still wa­ters of the Bowron Lakes, camp­ing out un­der the north­ern lights, or panning for gold in his­toric Bark­erville.

WHAT’S NEW?

On re­mote, misty Haida Gwaii, the 12-room fly-in float­ing lux­ury lodge, Ocean House, will open mid-year. It joins sis­ter prop­erty Haida House in of­fer­ing au­then­tic First Na­tions experiences and wilder­ness ad­ven­ture (www.ocean­house.ca).

Eat, play and stay at Parq Van­cou­ver, a brand-new ur­ban des­ti­na­tion resort with two lux­ury ho­tels, eight restau­rants, a casino, spa and city block-sized roof gar­den lo­cated next to BC Place Sta­dium (www.par­q­van­cou­ver.com).

In Oc­to­ber, the Sa­lute to the Sock­eye fes­ti­val cel­e­brates one of the cen­tury’s big­gest salmon runs when mil­lions of scar­let sock­eye re­turn to the Adams River

to spawn (www.salmonso­ci­ety.com).

Hop aboard BC Fer­ries’ new­est ves­sel, the North­ern Sea Wolf, for a scenic 10-hour wildlife view­ing ad­ven­ture along the rugged coast­line from Port Hardy to the Great Bear Rain­for­est (www.bc­fer­ries.com).

From moun­tain heights to ocean depths— Head-Line Moun­tain Hol­i­days flies guests from Whistler’s spec­tac­u­lar glaciers to a pi­loted sub­ma­rine for an un­der­wa­ter ad­ven­ture (www.head­linemoun­tain­hol­i­days.com).

Love the fresh com­fort food White­wa­ter Ski Resort is fa­mous for? Now you can en­joy it along with a new lift, lodge and restau­rant at the re­fur­bished Nel­son resort (www.ski­white­wa­ter.com).

CITY LIGHTS

Beauty and per­son­al­ity—Van­cou­ver has it all. Think craft beer and food truck fes­ti­vals, yoga on the beach and glitzy shop­ping des­ti­na­tions such as North Amer­ica’s only McArthurGlen De­signer

Out­let (www.mcarthurglen.com). Em­braced by the ocean and moun­tains, the city fea­tures a liv­able mix of high-rises and her­itage homes, grace­ful gar­dens and funky neigh­bour­hoods. At its heart is the lushly forested 400-ha (1,000-acre) Stanley Park, one of the world’s great ur­ban parks. But Van­cou­ver is also the glit­ter­ing glass tow­ers of down­town; the mul­ti­cul­tural neigh­bour­hoods of Chi­na­town, Lit­tle Italy and Lit­tle In­dia; the hip­ster cool of Gas­town and the trendy restau­rants of Kit­si­lano; as well as at­trac­tions in­clud­ing Science World, the North Shore ski hills and Capi­lano Sus­pen­sion Bridge Park (www.tourism van­cou­ver.com).

Across the Strait of Ge­or­gia, at the south­ern tip of Van­cou­ver Is­land, Vic­to­ria is a city of his­toric charm, pas­sion­ate food­ies and end­less out­door ac­tiv­i­ties. It is con­sid­ered by many to be Canada’s most cy­cling-friendly city, and is home to sev­eral spec­tac­u­lar gar­dens, in­clud­ing the world-renowned Butchart Gar­dens. Many of the city’s at­trac­tions clus­ter around the bustling In­ner Har­bour, in­clud­ing the float­ing homes of Fish­er­man’s Wharf, the Royal BC Mu­seum and the neo-baroque BC Par­lia­ment Build­ings (www.tourism vic­to­ria.com).

Head in­land to the Okana­gan Val­ley and you’ll come to Kelowna, a bustling cen­tre of com­merce, tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tion and wine cul­ture (www.tourismkelowna.com).

THE GREAT OUT­DOORS

In Bri­tish Columbia, the great out­doors truly is just that—great: from ocean play­ground to moun­tain peaks, windswept plains and fer­tile farm­land.

Head for the hills. This moun­tain­ous

prov­ince boasts 13 ma­jor ski re­sorts (and many smaller ones) with epic pow­der, heart­stop­ping de­scents and pris­tine back­coun­try bowls, as well as miles of trails for those who pre­fer skinny skis and snow­shoes. In sum­mer, the re­sorts turn their lifts and trails over to dare­devil moun­tain bik­ers and hik­ers ea­ger to ex­plore the alpine mead­ows.

But you don’t have to climb a moun­tain to find ad­ven­ture here. Awash as it is with rivers, lakes and the Pa­cific Ocean, B.C. is pop­u­lar for water sport en­thu­si­asts. You can sail along­side or­cas in Des­o­la­tion Sound, pad­dle the Bowron Lakes, raft down the Fraser Canyon, surf the waves near Tofino or cast for trout in Lake Coun­try.

Those who pre­fer to stay on dry land can also hike through dozens of na­tional and pro­vin­cial parks or ride a horse un­der the end­less skies in the grass­lands. Even city slick­ers can find moun­tains to climb and wa­ters to sail right in their own back­yard.

HER­ITAGE AND CUL­TURE

First there were the Abo­rig­i­nal Peo­ples who fished, hunted and traded for some 10,000 years in what is now Bri­tish Columbia. Then the Euro­peans ar­rived, fol­lowed by new­com­ers from Asia. To­day, the three cul­tural strands are wo­ven to­gether here, vi­brantly and in­deli­bly.

First Na­tions cul­ture is pre­served in many gal­leries and mu­se­ums, in­clud­ing the renowned UBC Mu­seum of An­thro­pol­ogy (www.moa.ubc.ca), and thrives in au­then­tic experiences such as the Kam­loopa Pow­wow (www.in­dige­nousbc.com). Sto­ries of the Euro­peans who ar­rived to ex­tract B.C.’s vast nat­u­ral re­sources in the 18th and 19th cen­turies come to life in Bark­erville, a former Gold Rush town turned liv­ing mu­seum (www.bark­erville.ca), or the Fort Lan­g­ley Na­tional His­toric Site (www.parks canada.gc.ca/lan­g­ley). The Asian ex­pe­ri­ence is cap­tured in the his­toric Chi­na­towns of Vic­to­ria and Van­cou­ver, as well as in the City of Rich­mond, with its mod­ern Asian shop­ping malls (www.vis­itrich­mondbc.com). And all three tra­di­tions come to­gether at the Gulf of Ge­or­gia Can­nery Na­tional His­toric Site (www.pc.gc.ca/en/lhn-nhs/bc/ ge­or­gia/in­dex).

MUST SEE, MUST DO

Climb the Via Fer­rata—an “iron road” of ca­bles, lad­ders and hand­holds up Whistler Moun­tain (www.whistler.com). Then swing over to Whistler’s Au­dain Art Mu­seum to take in a re­mark­able col­lec­tion of works by B.C. artists (www.au­dainart­mu­seum.com).

Quick Fact

MORE THAN A MIL­LION BIRDS VISIT B.C. EACH YEAR—IN­CLUD­ING THE DES­IG­NATED IM­POR­TANT BIRD AREA (IBA) BOUND­ARY BAY—WHEN THEY MI­GRATE ALONG THE PA­CIFIC FLYWAY

FROM ALASKA TO PATAG­O­NIA.

In Van­cou­ver, take the foot pas­sen­ger ferry across False Creek to Granville Is­land and its gal­leries, shops, restau­rants, the­atres and pop­u­lar Pub­lic Mar­ket (www.granville is­land.com).

At the Great Bear Rain­for­est on B.C.’s north­ern coast, First Na­tions guides will take you on a search for the elu­sive white ker­mode spirit bear (www.spir­it­bear.com).

Go faster, higher, stronger at the Rich­mond Olympic Ex­pe­ri­ence, North Amer­ica’s first and only of­fi­cial mem­ber of the Olympic Mu­se­ums Net­work (www.rich­mon­doval.ca/ therox).

Join a whale watch­ing tour from Tofino. You’ll spot dol­phins, or­cas, sea li­ons and, if you’re lucky, ma­jes­tic hump­backs frol­ick­ing in the wa­ters off Van­cou­ver Is­land (www.tourismtofino.com).

Tak­ing tea at the Fair­mont Em­press

Ho­tel is a long­stand­ing Vic­to­ria tra­di­tion. Even bet­ter? Cock­tails. Stop by for the royal pur­ple Q 1908 cock­tail at the ho­tel’s chic Q Bar ( www.fair­mont.com/ em­press-vic­to­ria).

SCENIC DRIVES

From the rush­ing wa­ters of Hell’s Gate to the First Na­tions her­itage vil­lage of Tuck­kwiowhum, the wind­ing Fraser Canyon scenic drive along High­way 1 of­fers a thrill a minute, with de­li­cious stops en route.

The open road of Route 97 takes you from the windswept grass­lands of the Thomp­son River Val­ley cowboy coun­try through the boun­ti­ful Okana­gan Val­ley vine­yards (www.route97.net). The Pa­cific Ma­rine Cir­cle Route me­an­ders from Cowichan Val­ley’s winer­ies to the tow­er­ing rain­forests of re­mote south­west Van­cou­ver Is­land, with panoramic ocean views along the way.

Take the week-long Hot Springs Cir­cle Route through the Koote­nay Rock­ies and soak in the re­gion’s spec­tac­u­lar moun­tain views as well as its min­eral-rich hot springs.

For info on these and other driv­ing trips visit: www.hel­lobc.com/bri­tish-columbia/ trans­porta­tion-maps/driv­ing-routes.aspx

FAM­ILY FUN

Lit­tle ones (and big ones, too!) will love meet­ing Bri­tish Columba’s wilder res­i­dents. Whale watch­ing off Van­cou­ver Is­land is an epic adren­a­line rush, but you can also hang with sea li­ons and other ma­rine crea­tures at the Van­cou­ver Aquar­ium (www.vanaqua.org). Learn about cougars and coy­otes at the BC Wildlife Park in Kam­loops (www.bcwildlife.org), go bug-eyed at the Vic­to­ria Bug Zoo (www.vic­to­ri­abug­zoo. ca) and The Ex­plo­ration Place Mu­seum and Science Cen­tre in Prince Ge­orge (www. the­ex­plo­rationplace.com), or visit the res­i­dent griz­zlies at Grouse Moun­tain (www.grouse­moun­tain.com).

/BROOKE ARNOLD

TOFINO • DES­TI­NA­TION CANADA

VIC­TO­RIA, BC • SHUT­TER­STOCK/MARC BRUXELLE

4,817,200Vic­to­riawww.hel­lobc.comVic­to­ria In­ter­na­tional Air­port, 25 km (16 mi.) from down­townVan­cou­ver In­ter­na­tional Air­port, 15 km (9 mi.) from down­townAb­bots­ford In­ter­na­tional Air­port, 5 km (3 mi.) from down­town and 64 km (40 mi.) from Van­cou­verKelowna In­ter­na­tional Air­port, 12 km (7 mi.) from down­town

BLASTED CHURCH VINE­YARDS, OKANA­GAN VAL­LEY • DES­TI­NA­TION CANADA

WHISTLER • TOURISM WHISTLER/ERIC BERGER

KIT­SI­LANO BEACH PARK, VAN­COU­VER • SHUT­TER­STOCK/KARAMYSH

LI­ONS GATE BRIDGE, VAN­COU­VER • SHUT­TER­STOCK/FILIPE SAVIOLI

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