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10 Secret Places to Visit in British Columbia

Thanks to Canada’s 150th-anniversary celebrations, U.S. tourists are finally starting to take note of the spectacular offerings from the North. British Columbia (or BC) is no exception, with most visitors flocking to its main city of Vancouver.

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But the province’s greatest charms are found in its less crowded spots, as I discovered on a recent trip to the archipelago of Haida Gwaii.

Secret Places to Visit in British Columbia

To learn more, I talked to local resident Sabrina Robson of Destination British Columbia (the province’s tourism board) to uncover her favorite little-known places to visit in British Columbia.

The Sunshine Coast

This coastal retreat is just a 40-minute ferry ride from Vancouver and is one of the best places to visit in British Columbia for water activities like fishing, sailing, and kayaking. The inlets even have a white sandy beach located on Savary Island.

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Port Renfrew

port renfrew waterfall on beach

You’ll find this hidden gem two hours south of Victoria, on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Robson loves Port Renfrew for its essential BC features: “Think big trees, beautiful beaches, surfing, and friendly locals!” Similar to better-known Tofino, Port Renfrew also has awesome storm watching.

Nelson

Located along Kootenay Lake and the Selkirk Mountains in BC’s southern interior, Nelson is known for its outdoor offerings. But Robson notes it also has a trendy culinary scene, with more restaurants per capita than Manhattan.

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Salt Spring Island

Tucked in between mainland BC and Vancouver Island, Salt Spring is home to mountain vistas, beaches, and forested trails. Here you can kayak, hike, golf, swim, and cycle all in one day. Plus, don’t miss the farmers’ market and coffee shops!

Osoyoos

Did you know there’s a desert in Canada? Located in the Okanagan Valley, known for its bold red wine, Osoyoos is surrounded by desert, vineyards, and mountains. It’s also one of the best places to visit in British Columbia with kids; Osoyoos Lake is known for its warm water, as well as beaches and an abundance of water activities. 

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Haida Gwaii

This remote archipelago is an off-the-grid experience. Come to learn about the indigenous Haida people, explore mossy rainforests, and become one with the ocean. The island chain just south of Alaska is about a two-hour flight from Vancouver. Often referred to as the “Canadian Galapagos,” the region is home to an array of wildlife, from orcas to puffins.

The Great Bear Rainforest

As its name suggests, the Great Bear Rainforest is one of the largest coastal rainforests in the world and is home to a black bear species called the Kermode (or “spirit”) bear. This type of black bear has a recessive gene which actually gives it a white fur coat.

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The Skeena Train

For an offbeat experience, take a ride on “The Skeena”—a rail journey that travels between Prince Rupert in BC and Jasper in Alberta. You’ll get a chance to see quaint mountain towns like Smithers, which has a trendy craft beer, music, and arts scene. The trip takes two days, with an overnight stop at Prince George. Book the Touring Class service for access to the Panoramic Dome Car, with jaw-dropping views.

Squamish

Also known as the “Outdoor Adventure Capital of Canada,” Squamish offers kiteboarding, hiking, backcountry skiing, and mountain biking. It’s just 45 minutes north of Vancouver, making it one of the best places to visit in British Columbia for its accessibility.

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Fly-In Lodges

According to Robinson, fly-in lodges are a true BC experience. The province offers “a robust collection [of luxury fly-in lodges], where you can be in the heart of the wilderness without compromising any comforts,” says Robson. She recommends Sonora Resort, Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort, and Great Bear Lodge.

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Ashley traveled to Haida Gwaii courtesy of Destination BC. Follow all of her adventures (big and small) on Instagram and Twitter.

By Ashley Rossi

Ashley Rossi is always ready for her next trip. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram for travel tips, destination ideas, and off the beaten path spots.

After interning at SmarterTravel, Ashley joined the team full time in 2015. She's lived on three continents, but still never knows where her next adventure will take her. She's always searching for upcoming destination hotspots, secluded retreats, and hidden gems to share with the world.

Ashley's stories have been featured online on USA Today, Business Insider, TripAdvisor, Huffington Post, Jetsetter, and Yahoo! Travel, as well as other publications.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "A reusable filtered water bottle—it saves you money, keeps you hydrated, and eliminates waste—win-win."

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: "A week in a bamboo beach hut on India's Andaman Islands."

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