Nature lovers rejoice! British Columbia vacations are for you. With beautiful lakes, majestic mountains, scenic bays, hot springs, and alpine forests, you’ll have a tough time choosing exactly where to go when you’re in British Columbia. You can have a very active vacation filled with hiking, skiing, fishing, and other outdoor activities, or you can simply choose to stay in one spot and soak up the breath-taking vistas that surround your British Columbia vacation rental. Travel to this province is popular with people of all ages because there are so many activities to do and so many beautiful places to visit. You’ll be excited as you read about the many natural and man-made attractions this area has to offer. Please let us know if you think that we’ve left out something important from our guide.

What to Do in British Columbia

We’ve tried to hit the high points in this guide, but we also realize that you could spend two months in this province and just get a taste of what this region has to offer. It’s no wonder people choose British Columbia vacations time and again.

Vancouver Shopping

Out on the Town in Vancouver

The bustling city of Vancouver is a metropolitan area that brings together a diverse collection of neighborhoods filled with people of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. The food and shopping are fun in Chinatown. With its cobblestone streets, art galleries, and antique shops, Gastown is a favorite neighborhood for tourists. It's home to the first-ever steam-powered clock, a destination in and of itself for camera-wielding visitors. Granville Island boasts a series of markets where vendors sell a variety of goods and souvenirs. There’s even a Kids Market specializing in unusual toys and games.

The cultural arts are alive in Vancouver. Spend a couple of hours at the Vancouver Art Gallery. You’ll find a nice mix of contemporary and historic art. Head over to the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art. The gold and silver jewelry, sculpture, and other crafts by Reid are the focus of this collection, but you’ll find works by other contemporary artists as well. The Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia showcases massive totem poles and other aboriginal works of art. The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra presents popular and classical music concerts that appeal to a broad audience. If you’re in town during the Vancouver International Fringe Festival, you’ll get to choose between more than 400 live theatrical performances.

The natural beauty of the area surrounding Vancouver is readily visible when you stroll or jog through Stanley Park. There's a paved six-mile loop in the park that's very popular with residents and visitors alike. Also in the park, you'll find the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre. It's one of the largest aquariums in North America featuring more than 70,000 creatures. This attraction is open every day of the year.

Boating

Discover Vancouver Island

You’ll be charmed by the British feel of Victoria, the capital of British Columbia. Its location next to the sea makes it a place of natural beauty. While some businesses here go overboard in embracing the town’s British culture, it's still a fun place that many tourists enjoy visiting and kids tend to get a kick out of it.

There are ample chances to enjoy water activities while on the island. Many people come here for sea kayaking and scuba diving. You’ll also find yourself wanting to explore the diverse ecosystems of the island. From beaches to mountains to rainforests, this island sustains all kinds of wildlife. Whale watching and fishing are also favorite activities for visitors to the island.

Hitting the Slopes

The resort town of Whistler, nestled in the southern ranges of the Coast Mountains, is a major draw for skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels. After a day of racing down the mountain, you’ll enjoy browsing through the shops, sipping a warm drink inside a small café, or relaxing your sore muscles with a massage at a local spa. British Columbia takes pride in Whistler’s reputation as a perfect destination for couples, families with kids, and large groups. The southern Rocky Mountain Trench is also a favorite place for people who love to ski. A number of small communities in this area offer access to slopes. There are all-natural ski bases in the Beaufort Mountain Range on Vancouver Island.

Shuswap Lake

Located in south central British Columbia, Shuswap Lake offers your family the chance to enjoy some wonderful outdoor activities. Bird watching, hiking, biking, fishing, and rafting are all on the agenda when you visit this pristine lake that’s surrounded by lush parks.

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What to See in British Columbia

Outdoor Vacation BC

The Canadian Rockies

Mountain parks such as Mount Robson, Glacier, and Kootenay give you great access to the natural beauty of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Take your pick among a variety of activities like backpacking, canoeing, mountain biking, fishing, horseback riding, and rafting. You’ll be invigorated by a day of outdoor adventure in the Canadian Rockies. Besides taking in the awe-inspiring mountains, you may get to see some wildlife. Bears, moose, and elk are plentiful in this region.

Soak in Hot Springs

Hot springs can be your reward at the end of a long hike to an undeveloped area in British Columbia. However, you don’t always have to go so far into the wilderness to see a hot spring. For example, Fairmont Hot Springs is a community located outside Kootenay National Park that claims to have some of the cleanest and most therapeutic waters in North America. An admission fee is charged to visitors who want access to the main bathing areas, but check around for the free pools outside the resort area.

In the Garden

If you’re spending time in Vancouver, stop by Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Chinatown. The harmony and beauty of this garden exemplify the kind of gardens that were popular in China during the Ming Dynasty. You’ll enjoy stepping back into another place and time with a visit to this garden.

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Where to Shop and Eat in British Columbia

British Columbia DiningSooke Harbour House is one of the most renowned restaurants in the entire country. Make a point of eating here. You’ll discover that the scrumptious, fresh seafood is just part of the attraction. You’ll have amazing views of the Olympic Mountains.

Another top-rated restaurant serving up delicious seafood and breath-taking views is the Blue Crab Bar and Grill in Victoria. Masthead Restaurant in Cowichan Bay on Vancouver Island gives you plenty to see while you dine perched over a marina. Cloud Nine in Vancouver lets you eat in a rotating restaurant at the top of the city’s tallest building.

For a change of pace, try Refuel in the Kitsilano neighborhood of Vancouver. It’s a hip joint that offers comfort food in a casual atmosphere at reasonable prices. If you’re craving sushi, check out Tojo’s in Vancouver. Sitting at the bar where you can watch the sushi being prepared is a must. For gastropub fare, check out Pourhouse in the Gastown neighborhood. Fresh ingredients presented in a simple but delicious manner set this restaurant apart.

Trendy clothing shops, quirky gift boutiques, and inviting sidewalk cafes are a mainstay of Robson Street in Vancouver. It’s definitely one of the hipper parts of town and it’s a real haven for shoppers seeking something other than the usual offerings of shopping centers. Another chic part of Vancouver that attracts shoppers is Yaletown. Wander through clothes stores and furniture shops and then unwind at a cozy brew pub in this neighborhood.

If you’re staying in a small town in British Columbia, be sure to eat at a local restaurant. Many of these quaint establishments serve delicious dishes made with fresh, local ingredients. You’ll also find boutique and antique shopping at its best in many of the smaller communities of British Columbia. If you’re in the market to buy some native arts, Vancouver Island offers the best selection.

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When to Visit British Columbia

Snow is common in the higher elevations throughout the winter months. British Columbia winters can be mild with temperatures not getting quite as cold as you might think. Spring begins in March, but dreary skies can hang around through early summer. From July through October, the weather tends to be dry, except in the Canadian Rockies where rain can dampen your plans. However, these rainy weather systems usually don’t linger more than a couple of days.

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What to Bring to British Columbia

If you're coming here in the spring or summer, pack some insect repellent. Bug bites are not the kind of souvenir you want to take home with you. Pack appropriate clothes for the season and areas you plan to visit.

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Local Services in British Columbia

British Columbia is a huge place, so the kinds of service you’ll be able to access depends on where you’re staying. If you’re in or near Vancouver, almost anything you need is going to be close at hand. That includes things like medical services, pet care, childcare, auto repair shops, hair salons, dry cleaning, and more. However, if you’re staying in back country areas, you may have a lot further to go for these kinds of services. If there’s a specific service you anticipate needing during your trip, it pays to check in advance to see if that service will be available near your British Columbia vacation rental. Many places, even smaller communities, offer you the chance to rent outdoor equipment, including kayaks, bicycles, and ski gear.

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What to Know About British Columbia

Canada’s currency is the Canadian dollar. If you’re coming from the U.S., find out the exchange rate a couple of days before your trip. It’s worth familiarizing yourself with Canadian money. The country has replaced one- and two-dollar bills with coins called loonies and twoonies. Sometimes you get a better exchange rate if you make purchases on your credit card instead of converting your U.S. currency and paying cash. Visa, Mastercard, and American Express are widely accepted in Canada. Be sure to check with your credit card company to see if there are any transaction fees for purchases made in other countries. Such fees could undercut any savings you’d achieve with a slightly better exchange rate.

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Getting to British Columbia

If you’re flying into British Columbia, travel through Vancouver International Airport is common for many people. There are other international airports in the province in Abbotsford, Victoria, the Canadian Rockies, and Kelowna. There’s also an entire network of regional and local airports that allow you to fly directly into the places you want to go. The big airlines that service this part of Canada include Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, and Delta. Most of these airports, even the smaller ones, will offer taxis and rental cars to get you from the airport to your vacation rental.

Some people find cheaper fares flying into Seattle, Washington. It’s about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Seattle to Vancouver. That’s not bad if Vancouver is your final destination, and there’s a significant difference in the price of plane tickets.

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Why British Columbia Vacation Rentals?

It doesn’t matter what part of British Columbia has captured your imagination, there’s a good chance that you’ll find the perfect vacation rental there for your vacation. Whether you want a spacious house or a cozy cabin, vacation rentals offer more options than any hotel in the province. If you’re bringing hiking, skiing, or any other gear with you, a vacation rental provides you with enough space to store your equipment. Unpack, unwind, and discover what it means to feel at home when you’re on vacation. You’ll have the luxury of doing laundry at your vacation rental or preparing your own meal when you’re tired of eating out. Make sure your British Columbia travel plans include the kind of accommodations that will ensure that your vacation is restful and enjoyable.

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