Highlights of British Columbia.
British Columbia is Canada’s south-western province bordering the Pacific Ocean and Alaska. There are vibrant cities, towering mountain peaks, blue ocean waters dotted with islands, and sun-baked desert. You can hike coastline or mountain trails, go whale or bear watching, visit award-winning wineries and relax at great resorts. Here are some suggestions:
This world-class city takes full advantage of its water-side location, has some good urban attractions, plenty of green space and many recreation opportunities in the mountains 20 minutes north of downtown. Visit Granville Island’s covered Public Market, a smorgasbord of culinary delights. Walk the 8.8km Stanley Park seawall, take a leisurely horse-drawn cart ride through the lush forest or relax at the ever-busy, family-friendly Second Beach on the park’s western side.
Gastown, one of the oldest areas in the city, is a place to stroll down cobbled streets, explore its historic buildings and courtyards and enjoy its unique shopping, nightlife, and attractions. Don’t miss the statue of “Gassy Jack” and the wonderful steam clock that announces the quarter hours with a whistle chime.
Capilano Suspension Bridge
The first Capilano suspension bridge (www.capbridge.com/) was built at this North Vancouver location in1889. The present challenging bridge stretches 137m across and 70m above the Capilano River and is extremely popular . The bridge is what has made the park famous but there are several other excellent attractions. A highlight is the opportunity to see, touch and learn about the temperate rainforest with its 1000 year old trees, from both ground and treetops levels.
The twenty-seven acre privately-owned park provides tranquillity, adventure, thrills, meals, souvenirs and an unforgettable experience all at the same time. Cliffwalk is the park’s newest attraction and here you are challenged by a cantilevered walkway clinging to the granite cliff high above Capilano Canyon. You will experience exhilaration or fear but are likely to have a sense of achievement on finishing.
Whistler (http://www.whistler.com) booms in winter but at other times it is still a delight. The pedestrian village has won numerous design awards and Whistler has been regularly voted among the top destinations in North America by major ski magazines. The vibrant Village Stroll is a perfect place for people watching, shopping, dining or just kicking back. Grab a drink on an outdoor terrace and take in the glorious mountain scenery before indulging in a gourmet meal.
If you are into mountain biking there are plenty of opportunities for adventure. If not, take the Whistler Gondala ride to the top of Whistler Mountain then the amazing Peak to Peak journey between the top of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. You won’t be disappointed.
This is a 525 kilometre north-south road in the southern part of the province. South of Kamloops, it is a 186 km freeway. North of Kamloops the two-lane road follows the North Thompson River valley through the isolated forested hillsides and grasslands of the Thompson Plateau. This is a quiet, lightly populated region, with Clearwater the first significant settlement. This is the closest town to Wells Grey Provincial Park, with its stunning vistas of high mountains, deep canyons, volcanic cones, brooding old-growth forests and raging white-water rivers.
The highway continues north to the small settlement of Valemont. In winter this is the base for superb alpine snowmobiling with groomed trails and spectacular scenery. At other times there is white-water rafting, fishing or observing the wildlife in the Cranberry Marsh Sanctuary. The Mount Robson Provincial Park is 35 kilometres further north and a viewing point provides glorious views of Mount Robson, the highest point in the Canadian Rockies.
Field, Golden, Glacier National Park
Highway 1 climbs Kicking Horse Pass, the point where the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Trans Canada Highway cross the continental divide between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Near the top is a viewpoint where you see the famous spiral loop on the railway. If you are lucky you are rewarded by a view of an enormous freight train crossing over itself. Field, an historic railway town with a dramatic river outlook, provides a reason to stop as does Golden, a tidy town just off the highway.
There are two national parks here; the Yoho National Park and the Glacier National Park. The country is spectacular and it is tempting to stop at every turn. At the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre you learn about the intrepid railroaders who built the railway through this wilderness and the avalanche scientists and others who keep this wintery pass open today. Further on, the Hemlock Grove Trail, an interpretive boardwalk through the world’s only non-coastal cedar-hemlock rainforest, and the Skunk Cabbage Trail, through a unique wetland, are both great places to stretch the legs.
The Okanagan Valley (http://www.okanagan.com/) has lakes, world-class golf, mountain and wellness resorts, great beaches and trails, and outstanding mountain biking, and it is also Canada’s best wine country. Vernon and Penticton are significant towns and Kelowna is the largest city in BC’s interior. The area has something like 90 wineries, many of them clustered between Peachland and Osoyoos and it’s here that Oliver lays claim to being Canada’s wine capital.
Throughout the valley you pass through cherry and stone fruit orchards and are tempted to explore many of the wineries. Greta Ranch Winery is attractively set high above the lake. At Dirty Laundry Winery you pass under a washing line hung with underwear to get into the tasting room and restaurant. Poplar Grove Winery has a beautiful building high above Penticton and a great cabernet franc wine. There are spectacular mountain and lake views everywhere and plenty of accommodation and other facilities. No wonder this region attracts so many visitors.
Watermark Beach Resort
The splendid Waterfront Beach Resort (http://www.watermarkbeachresort.com/) has lake frontage in the main street of Osoyoos and the views from our huge balcony are stunning. This is Canada’s warmest lake and the area calls itself Canada’s only desert but for many visitors it is simply paradise. The luxury resort has space, a lovely restaurant with an innovative menu, and excellent spa and massage facilities. The surrounding area has many wineries and several attractions including a desert boardwalk, a huge model railway and the spectacular Desert Cultural Centre which has a museum and an interesting walk with First Nations guides.
West Coast Railway Heritage Museum
Located in Squamish, this impressive outdoor museum (http://www.wcra.org/) has interesting authentic railway equipment and the magnificent Royal Hudson steam locomotive restored to its full beauty and housed in a huge hall. There are many items to climb over and there is an opportunity to learn how Canada’s mail was processed on rails. The park has 90 pieces of heritage railway rolling stock; the oldest are the business car British Columbia (1890) and a rare Canadian Pacific Colonist sleeping car (1905).
There are several buildings making up the park centre including Brightbill Heritage House and the Squamish Station, designed in 1915 but not built until 2000. This is one for the whole family and if you are a railway buff you will be in heaven.
Words: Len Rutledge
Pictures: Phensri Rutledge
Len Rutledge (www.LenRutledge.com) is an author and travel writer who has written thousands of newspaper and magazine articles and over 25 travel guide books. He currents writes the e-book Experience Guide series available from Amazon and has written the popular Bangkok Bargain Shopping app for Android and Apple devices.
He has worked with Pelican Publishing, Viking Penguin, Berlitz, the Rough Guide, and the Nile Guide amongst others.
Along the way, he has started a newspaper, a travel magazine, a Visitor and TV Guide, and completed a PhD in tourism. His travels have taken him to more than 100 countries and his writings have collected a PATA award, an ASEAN award, an IgoUgo Hall of Fame award, and other recognition.
He is the author of the Experience Guidebook series which currently includes Experience Thailand, Experience Norway, Experience Northern Italy, Experience Myanmar, Experience Istanbul, Experience Singapore, Experience Melbourne, and Experience Ireland. They are available as ebooks or paperbacks from amazon.com