Where to Visit in British Columbia in the Summer?
March 27, 2016 3:10 PM   Subscribe

In mid-August this summer, my family is planning on spending a week and a half in British Columbia, driving from Seattle. We’ve been to Vancouver. Where else should we go?

There will be three of, us myself, my wife, and our 11-year-old son. We’re looking to do outdoor activities, see interesting sites and museums (we’ve been to the awesome Britannia Mine Museum), and just nice and beautiful places to relax. We’re looking to stay in cabins/hotels/B&Bs, so probably no car camping. Staying a few days at a family-oriented resort would be good option too.

The only thing on our agenda is to end our trip at the Abbotsford International Airshow (which we went to last year). We're going to skip Vancouver on this trip.

One option a friend recommended is a loop with the Gulf Islands, Victoria, Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast. Another option would be to head east to Kamloops and the Okanagan.

Let me know your suggestions on where to go and where to stay.
posted by ShooBoo to Travel & Transportation around British Columbia (23 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I'm biased because I live here, but Victoria is a great place to visit. You could make this your home base for day trips to places like Port Renfrew or any of the Gulf Islands. Saltspring is the most popular but my favourite is Saturna (feral goats!).
posted by atropos at 3:26 PM on March 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

posted by ageispolis at 3:28 PM on March 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

My friends went to Tofino and the pics they sent back were beautiful.
posted by praemunire at 3:52 PM on March 27, 2016

I would suggest either Vancouver Island or the interior, but not both unless you want this to be a driving-heavy trip.

For the island: there's a direct ferry from Port Angeles which looks more direct than going via Tsawassen. Tofino, as noted above, is awesome, and Cathedral Grove is worth stopping at on the way -- I've heard good things about Strathcona Provincial Park as well. If you go to Tofino, there's nice coastal hiking in the national park, and I've heard good things about the kayaking as well.

For the interior: I had a great time in Nelson ages ago -- it's weird little hippie mountain town a long way from anywhere. Ainsworth Hot Springs is nearby, if that's your thing. Could be combined with a trip to the weird desert-like area around Osoyoos (which apparently has a bunch of wineries now) and maybe some hiking in Manning Park.
posted by irrelephant at 4:21 PM on March 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think your friend's recommendation of Victoria/Vancouver Island/Gulf Islands is a really good one. Very doable, not too long a drive. (The Okanagan is great too, but would be a much longer drive from Seattle.)

The Island/Gulf Islands are really family friendly, beautiful and fun. There's tons to do in and around Victoria.

If you do head to Tofino, stop at Coombs Old Country Market on the way and look at the Goats on the Roof! We stayed Ocean Village beach front cottages in Tofino and they were lovely. It truly is how it looks in the pictures!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:24 PM on March 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

The Tantalus Range is north of Vancouver and very beautiful to see, don't know what is there.
posted by Oyéah at 6:12 PM on March 27, 2016

Another possible way to kick it off is taking the Washington State Ferries from Anacortes through the San Juan Islands. That would put you near Victoria, and would be an interesting part of the trip, too. (If you were flexible about it not being an all-BC trip)
posted by ctmf at 6:46 PM on March 27, 2016

VANCOUVER ISLAND. Heaven on earth. Drive from Nanaimo to Tofino (3-4h of gorgeous scenery, plus it passes through Coombs and Cathedral Grove (old growth rainforest) as mentioned). Don't forget the hot springs when you get there! If you're brave you can also take a surfing lesson there too (we did). Black Rock Resort in Ucluelet is amazing. Rath Trevor beach near Parksville has sand dollars. So many sand dollars.

Nanaimo is beautiful - hike mount benson, visit Gabriola Island or hike New Castle Island, visit the harbour front. Departure bay beach is great when the tide is out or Pipers Lagoon for amazing tide pool investigations.

Memail me if you need more info - I've spent many summers on the island.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:36 PM on March 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Do the island, yes.

In Victoria don't miss The Bug Zoo, also Victoria has a plethora of amazing breakfast places, John's Place and The Blue Fox to name two that are outstanding.

When you head through Coombs stop at Coombs Country Market as other have said but also make time for the hike around Little Qualicum Falls, gorgeous hike around several waterfalls, not too long and not too tough, so lovely, I never drive through in summer without stopping for a loop around the falls.
posted by Cosine at 8:24 PM on March 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you love books and bicycles as well as hiking you can't beat Victoria.
Also, kayaking, whale watching, and depending on the week, free outdoor B movies in gorgeous beacon hill park.
Saanich is the largest municipality in Greater Victoria and has excellent hiking opportunities check out this site to search parks for what features suit you.

For short <2>
Also good: cycling the blenkinsop trail to Sidney and back (day trip), bike rentals available at the trail head.
Foot ferry to Sidney Spit
Sooke Park

And breakfast at The Village is my recommendation!

The Royal BC museum is world class.

But if you go further north I would like to give a shout out to Cumberland's fine museum (where my parents built the display on old phones and they have a mie shaft you go into) as well as the beautiful lake and mountain biking right there in the tiny town.

Finally, while Butchard Gardens is deservedly famous let me put a word in for touring the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific, and abkhazi garden.

OK one more thing, the dominion astronomical observatory, if you are around on the right dates, has star gazing nights. it's an awesome facility that had funding cuts by the previous government but kept going by volunteers the Royal Astronomy Society , which I linked. Excellent if they end up with an agent when you are here.
posted by chapps at 10:29 PM on March 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

The short hikes got cut offin my post: Swann Lake, thetis Lake, nd Mt Doug park/PKOLS mountain are all great hikes or nature walks in 2 hours or less in Greater Victoria
posted by chapps at 10:49 PM on March 27, 2016

And OK sorry one more thing, my friends have a reasonably priced suite they rent on protection island, just off nanaimo by foot ferry. It's a kitchenette. There is a floating pub on the islands dock if you don't want to bring food and cook.
posted by chapps at 11:19 PM on March 27, 2016

Don't go to Tofino! I might be going there and I don't want it any more crowded than it already is!

Without being facetious Victoria is a beautiful city. The Royal BC Museum and nearby Beacon Hill Park are great visits. The Royal BC Museum has very fine First People's exhibits. Canada in general has beautiful city parks. Pagliacci's Restaurant has very good Italian food in an intimate setting. The homemade pasta is delicious.

In Victoria get yourself a Tilley hat on the main drag up from the Empress Hotel if you like that neo-Australian outdoors nerd look.

The dollar exchange rate for Canada is US tourist friendly at the moment.
posted by WinstonJulia at 2:19 AM on March 28, 2016

Tofino can be crowded and expensive in August - you might consider staying just down the road in Ucluelet. The little aquarium there is worth checking out and with a car, you've got easy access to the beaches, hiking trails and Tofino.
posted by kuma440 at 6:03 AM on March 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

It's one more museum, but in Victoria I really liked the Maritime Museum of British Columbia, and I think 11-year-old me would have liked it too.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 6:53 AM on March 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Victoria is way fun. I was totally skeptical about Butchart Gardens and resisted going for literally years: I was totally wrong, it was fascinating and breathtaking.

Also, if you haven't picked your route north, you can take a car ferry from Port Angeles on the northern coast of the Olympic peninsula (or go that route when headed south, for that matter). On the bluff above the town, there is a fantastically interesting sculpture park, which is totally worth a visit.
posted by mwhybark at 8:48 AM on March 28, 2016

Oh, and although you mention being done with Vancouver, it took us several trips to get around to driving aaaaallll the way west to the UBC anthropology museum, another error in planning on my part.
posted by mwhybark at 8:52 AM on March 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also vote for Tofino! Book early. Take a surfing lesson. If you're game and have the budget for it, it can be fun to go out in a small boat with a local guide and pull spot prawns/crab traps up.

While you're on the island, you can also shoot west of Victoria for a couple hours to Botanical Beach in Port Renfrew. Your kid will go nuts for the tidal pools.
posted by lukez at 2:43 PM on March 28, 2016

Just a note: The Maritime Museum closed and the fate of its exhibits is up in the air. There's still the Bug Zoo and the Royal BC Museum, though.
posted by atropos at 4:17 PM on March 28, 2016

Is that true? Their site indicates they moved but shows regular hours and upcoming events.
posted by mwhybark at 6:31 PM on March 28, 2016

Hey, mwhybark is right! The museum in Bastion Square is closed but they've found exhibit space. That's a relief after all the back-and-forth about where they were going to go. Thanks for correcting me!
posted by atropos at 6:37 PM on March 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Still, a shame about the old building, loved that place. One of the best streets in the old part of the town.
posted by mwhybark at 8:50 PM on March 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Kamloops is often smoking hot in August; a week or two of 35+ temperatures is not unusual. There is plenty of hiking, fishing, and camping down in the valley and at higher elevations but generally it means a good deal of driving around to different locations if you want a lot of variety without melting.

Having said that a lot of the little lakes within an hour or so town have commercial fishing lodges and/or cabins of varying rusticness.
posted by Mitheral at 9:30 PM on March 28, 2016

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