Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Rocky Mountains, British Columbia stands out as one of the most beautiful provinces in Canada. British Columbia offers quite a diversity of climate and scenery, from rocky coastlines to sandy beaches, lush forests to serene lakes, and even inland deserts. 

If you are planning your first trip to this province, I have already covered all you need to know before travelling to British Columbia in another article, from the best time to visit to what to expect. 

Now, remember, British Columbia is huge, like four times the size of Great Britain! So, realistically, you can't explore it all in one go. I know it might feel a bit overwhelming when planning your BC journey and deciding where to go, what to see and do. That's why I've put together a list of the absolute best places in British Columbia. And guess what? We managed to see almost all of them in a 16-day trip around BC. If you want all the details, don't forget to check out our BC travel series on YouTube.

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Top places to visit in British Columbia

1. Vancouver 

Most likely Vancouver is the first place you land in British Columbia since Vancouver International Airport is the main gateway to this province. As the largest city in British Columbia, Vancouver offers the perfect blend of cosmopolitan delights and breathtaking outdoor adventures. 

This city is a paradise for foodies, you can basically find a diverse array of cuisines from around the world. One of the best places to visit in Vancouver is the Granville Island Public Market, a vibrant hub for colourful food and unique handcrafted souvenirs. If you want to feel special you can book the VIP Access Granville Island Market tour. 

While in Vancouver, Stanley Park is an absolute must-visit. This 44-hundred-hectare urban oasis is considered one of the world's greatest urban parks. One of the best ways to explore the park is through a bike tour. Cycling around the park takes about an hour, but if you prefer to walk it can take you 2 to 3 hours. 

In Vancouver, you'll find a range of accommodation options to suit your preferences. For a touch of luxury, consider the highly-rated Paradox Hotel Vancouver. If you're seeking top-notch experiences, L'Hermitage Hotel and Rosedale On Robson Suite Hotel stand out as excellent choices for your stay in Vancouver.

2. Gibson

Gibsons is one of the prettiest towns in British Columbia. And guess what? It's the main gateway to the Sunshine Coast from Vancouver. But here's the catch - the only way to reach this beautiful town is by water. Don't worry, though, the ferry ride from West Vancouver to the Langdale Ferry Terminal is only a 40-minute long and it is absolutely free!

Gibsons isn't just a pretty face, it's got some serious star power too! You might recognize it as the iconic setting for the once-popular CBC Television series "The Beachcombers”.

But let's talk about the real charm here - the vibes, the climate, and the outdoor adventures that await! Gibsons treats visitors to a temperate coastal climate, which means mild winters and warm, dry summers - perfect for year-round fun!

And you've got to check out the sea walk! It's just a hop, skip, and jump away from the pier. You should also definitely try seafood in one of the restaurants in the town.

3. Garibaldi Lake

Garibaldi Lake is a turquoise-coloured alpine lake in British Columbia, located inside Garibaldi Provincial Park. This lake is one of the most beautiful places in British Columbia. 

But here's the catch, to see the lake, you'll need to embark on a 9-kilometre hike to the lake, and yes, another 9 kilometres for the return journey. Don't worry though, the hike is not overly challenging. It falls under the moderate category, and if you're in good shape, you can easily do it.

The view on the Garibaldi Lake path

Now, here's a pro tip for you, Garibaldi Lake is a popular trail, so to avoid any disappointment, be sure to book your hike and car park in advance.  

4. Whistler

Just a quick two-hour drive from Vancouver, you will find the village of Whistler.  This place is a hotspot for tourists in both summer and winter! You probably heard of Whistler. In the winter months, it's all about skiing and snowboarding on the slopes. During the summer, it transforms into a mountain biking and hiking wonderland.

Whistler consistently earns the title of North America's #1 resort, and it's totally deserved. Whistler is a modern and upscale town, boasting luxury hotels, high-end shopping, and fine dining experiences. And don't worry, there's a little something for everyone. You can still find casual restaurants and regular retail and grocery stores if you prefer a more laid-back vibe.

Whistler boasts a lineup of top-rated tours, including the breathtaking Glacier Tour by Seaplane, the thrilling Off-Road Buggy Adventure tour, and the exciting eBike Adventure tour.

Whistler is a popular destination. So, if you're planning a visit, make sure to book your hotel well in advance, and be prepared to splurge a bit. Whistler isn't known for being a budget-friendly spot.

5. The Train Wreck 

While in Whistler, you should check out the Train Wreck! This hidden gem has been a long-time favourite among hikers and mountain bikers alike. The trail was built many decades ago and became a local legend. 

However, in 2013, it gained even more attention when people started crossing the CN train tracks illegally. But don’t worry, in 2016, a suspension bridge was added over the river, making this hike a breeze to access. The area has gained immense popularity since the bridge was installed, and it's not hard to see why!

The Whistler Train Wreck hike is perfect for all skill levels, offering an enjoyable one-hour stroll through picturesque scenery. 

6. Victoria 

Victoria, a true gem in the south of Vancouver Island, proudly holds the prestigious title of the capital of British Columbia. Step into this charming city, and you'll find yourself in a real-life postcard, where stunning views await at every turn.

At the heart of Victoria, you will find the lively Inner Harbour. During the summer, the place comes alive with visitors and locals alike, savouring the enchanting waterfront vibes. And here you can see the grand Empress Hotel, a historical gem built in 1908 for the Canadian Pacific Railway.

And here's a bonus treat, you can take a free tour inside the parliament to learn about the secrets and stories that lie within those grand walls. Here's more! one of the absolute best experiences you can have in Victoria is embarking on a whale-watching tour. Seeing whales jumping up and down in their natural habitat was something I will never forget. 

To get to Victoria, you can take a ferry from Vancouver, or you can take a seaplane. Victoria can be the perfect starting point for your journey through Vancouver Island!

7. Joffre Lakes 

You’ve probably come across the bright blue waters of Joffre Lakes on your Instagram feed, and trust me, they're even more stunning in person! And guess what? There's not just one, but three stunning lakes - Lower, Middle, and Upper Joffre Lakes, each more captivating than the next!

You can see all the lakes on a one-day hike, and it's considered one of the most beautiful hikes in all of British Columbia. The views are out of this world, and no wonder it's so popular.

The lakes are located in Joffre Lakes Provincial Park, a 2.5-hour drive from Vancouver or a quick hour's drive from Whistler.

Let me give you a heads-up, to see all those lakes and make your way back, you'll need between 4 to 6 hours. Trust me, though, this is no ordinary hike, it's a scenic wonderland! So don't be surprised if you end up stopping a gazillion times to capture those picture-perfect moments.

Now, here's the deal - because it's such a hit, the number of people allowed on the trails is limited. So, make sure you book your day pass in advance to secure your spot. And here's a little secret, plan to arrive early in the morning or head there late in the afternoon to avoid the crowds. 

8. Campbell River 

Let me spill a little secret, Campbell River is an absolute treasure waiting to be discovered! It's just a bit over a 4-hour journey from the bustling city of Vancouver, but trust me, every second of the trip is so worth it! Why? Because Campbell River's prime location on Vancouver Island makes it the perfect paradise for nature lovers like us. 

Campbell River is still flying under the radar for many tourists. That's right, it's one of the best-kept secrets in all of British Columbia! And that means you can score accommodation at a more reasonable price - now, who doesn't love that?

One of the best things to do in Campbell River is hiking at Elk Falls Provincial Park. Get ready to be blown away by a massive waterfall and a brand-new suspension bridge. The walk is easy and just 1.4 kilometres long, so everyone can do it. 

And while you're in the area, don't miss the chance to visit the Quinsam River Hatchery. It's one of the largest salmon-rearing hatcheries in all of Canada. But wait, there's a little heads-up here - this place is a hotspot for black bears. Campbell River is renowned for offering exceptional Grizzly bear sightings. For added safety, consider taking the Bute Inlet Grizzly-Watching Tour

9. Gabriola Island 

Gabriola Island is one of the Gulf Islands and a hidden gem in British Columbia.  Gabriola Island is the perfect escape for a day trip from Vancouver Island. It's just a short ferry ride away from Nanaimo, tucked away on the eastern side of Vancouver Island.

It's sometimes known as the "Isle of the Arts". Why, you ask? Well, it's home to over 200 talented artists and artisans, but it's not just about the art - there's so much more to uncover! 

The island is famous for its peaceful bays and beaches, hiking trails and unique rock formations.

And here's a little hidden treasure you simply can't miss - the Malaspina Galleries. These stunning curved sandstone formations are tucked away at the end of a small dirt road in the northwest corner of the island. They're like a piece of art crafted by Mother Nature herself.

And here's a fun fact, you can walk around the entire island! It's relatively small, just 5 kilometres long, so distances are short.

10. Landslide Lake 

Landslide Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes in British Columbia, but there is no easy access to this lake. So let me warn you - this hidden beauty doesn't come easy. You've got to earn it with a very long hike, and it is worth it!

I won't sugarcoat it, the route is considered challenging, but trust me, every step is worth the pain. As you ascend gradually, climbing up 800 meters, the anticipation builds, and finally, you'll be rewarded with the stunning Landslide Lake. it's like stepping into a dream, where time stands still, and you'll want to pinch yourself to believe it's real.

The pristine lake invites you to pause, have a delightful picnic, or take a refreshing swim in its crystal-clear waters. It's like a piece of paradise tucked away in the wilderness.

The best times to visit this trail are from June through August. Camping is not allowed at the lake itself, but fear not! Two cosy campsites are waiting for you at km 6 and km 9 along the trail, right next to the river.

And there you have it, the top 10 places to visit in beautiful British Columbia! But this is just the beginning. British Columbia is a kind of place you can return to again and again and every time discover something new.