A Two-Week Travel Itinerary to British Columbia

Vancouver sunsets | © Hayley Simpson
Vancouver sunsets | © Hayley Simpson
Photo of Hayley Simpson
Writer17 August 2017

British Columbia, like all Canadian provinces and territories, is a large province to explore. It would definitely take more than two weeks to see all of the beautiful and unique landscapes, including Haida Gwaii and the Canadian Rockies. So this itinerary focuses on southern British Columbia. It begins in the Okanagan Valley and ends in Vancouver, with stops in Whistler and Vancouver Island along the way.

Day 1: Arrive in Kelowna

As it’s the furthest east destination, it’s best to begin your British Columbia adventure in Kelowna. To get to Kelowna, you can fly from several North American destinations, or drive from Vancouver. This two-week itinerary is based on having a vehicle, so keep that in mind.

It takes just over four hours to get to Kelowna from Vancouver. Once you’ve arrived, spend your afternoon exploring Kelowna. Walk along the Okanagan Lake waterfront, and have dinner at one of the city’s popular farm-to-table eateries. Krafty Kitchen + Bar uses only the best Canadian ingredients, and is home to Kelowna’s only duck fat fryer.

Downtown Kelowna | © GoToVan / Flickr

Days 2 and 3: Tour the Okanagan Valley

There are so many options for things to do and see around the Okanagan Valley, including visits to towns like Penticton and Vernon. In winter, spend the day at the region’s two ski resorts: Silver Star and Big White. Visitors can also go to a Kelowna Rockets ice hockey game, or cross-country ski and snowshoe at the Kelowna Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Club. The club is home to 75 kilometres (47 miles) of both ski and snowshoe trails.

In the summertime, spend the day relaxing by the beautiful Okanagan Lake, or visiting one of the region’s award-winning wineries and orchards. New York Times called Mission Hill Winery the “Versailles of the Valley,” thanks to its exquisite architecture and sweeping lake views. Summerhill Pyramid Winery is another favourite that produces organic and biodynamic wines, including icewine. Don’t forget to see the view from Knox Mountain Park, either!

Knox Mountain Park views | © GoToVan / Flickr

Day 4: Drive to Vancouver

It’s time to head west to Vancouver now. Spend your afternoon/evening here exploring the downtown area. There’s so much to see and do, whatever you don’t see today, you can experience tomorrow. Bike around Stanley Park, watch the sunset from one of its beautiful beaches, and have dinner in one of the city’s cool neighbourhoods. Yaletown and Gastown are both walking distance from downtown Vancouver, and have too many quality restaurants to choose from.

Vancouver sunsets | © Hayley Simpson

Day 5: Explore Vancouver

Spend a day exploring what makes Vancouver one of the world’s most livable cities. There are so many free attractions to enjoy, such as Stanley and Queen Elizabeth Parks, Granville Island, and Kitsilano Beach. For museum buffs, check out the Museum of Vancouver, Science World, and the Museum of Anthropology. If you enjoy shopping at independent boutiques and thrift stores, spend the afternoon exploring Main Street, which is also home to some of the city’s best local restaurants. Otherwise, visit Commercial Drive’s Little Italy community for dinner.

Exploring Vancouver | © Hayley Simpson

Day 6: See a different side to Vancouver

The Greater Vancouver Area is comprised of cities such as Richmond, Burnaby, and North and West Vancouver. Step out of the city and see a different side to Vancouver. Steveston in Richmond is one of British Columbia’s cutest seaside towns, while Burnaby has Burnaby Mountain, Burnaby Village Museum, and Metropolis at Metrotown Mall to keep people busy. North Vancouver is home to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, Lonsdale Quay Market, Deep Cove, and Grouse Mountain, which is great to visit year-round. Pick the place that suits you best.

Steveston’s Pier | © Hayley Simpson

Day 7: Take the Sea to Sky Highway to Whistler

It’s time to leave Vancouver and head north to Whistler. Fortunately, the drive along the Sea to Sky Highway is one of the most beautiful in Canada. Definitely stop at the Sea to Sky Gondola along the way, which has amazing views of Howe Sound, plus a suspension bridge and trails. Another great place to visit is Shannon Falls, BC’s third largest waterfall. Stop in Squamish for lunch, which is another cute coastal town too. Once in Whistler, head to Whistler Village for dinner.

Suspension bridge views at the Sea to Sky Gondola | © GoToVan / Flickr

Days 8 and 9: Enjoy Whistler

Now it’s time to enjoy Whistler, which is one of the best ski villages in North America. If your visit is in winter, you will probably want to spend two days hitting the slopes at Whistler Blackcomb — the largest ski resort in North America. There’s also plenty of adventure on the mountain in summer as well, like mountain biking and ziplining.

Other popular things to do in Whistler include hiking in the nearby provincial parks, visiting Whistler’s many lakes, relaxing at Scandinave Spa, and playing a round of golf. Whistler is also as well-known for its après-ski spots as it is for its mountainside ski spots. The village is the only place to be at night, with its world-class restaurants, cheap eats, and nightclubs. There’s a restaurant to suit everyone.

Visit Joffre Lakes Provincial Park near Whistler | © Mark Burge / Flickr

Day 10: Drive to ferry and onto Vancouver Island

Drive back down the Sea to Sky Highway to Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver. From here, it’s time to hop on a ferry to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. Once you arrive in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, drive down the coast to Victoria, British Columbia’s capital. Stop along the way in Cowichan Valley, which is known for its vineyards and orchards as well. There probably won’t be too many hours left in the day to explore Victoria. So instead, simply head to the city’s Inner Harbour for sunset and dinner.

BC Legislature Building at night | © Wilson Hui / Flickr

Day 11: Explore Victoria

Today is the day to explore Victoria. Some of the top things to do in the city include visiting Craigdarroch and Hatley Castles, exploring Butchart Gardens (one of the world’s most beautiful gardens), wandering around Fisherman’s Wharf and Inner Harbour, and checking out the Royal BC Museum and BC Legislature Building. Afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress is world-renowned, and has even been enjoyed by visiting royal family members.

The ivy-covered Fairmont Empress | © achinthamb / Shutterstock

Day 12: Drive to Tofino

It takes about four hours to drive from Victoria to Tofino, as you have to go back up the coast to Nanaimo, and then west towards Tofino. But its location in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is worth the hassle. Popular stops along the way include the world famous Old Country Market in Coombs, which is known for its goats on the roof. Here you will find ice cream, baked goods, imported gifts, and a restaurant and deli.

Then it is onto Cathedral Grove in Macmillan Provincial Park, where you will find a rare plot of an ancient Douglas fir ecosystem. Next you will be in Tofino, Canada’s surfing capital and the “jewel of Canada’s west coast,” according to Tourism British Columbia.

Tofino Dock | © Fyre Mael / Flickr

Day 13: Enjoy Tofino

Tofino is a nature lover’s paradise. Thanks to its location within the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, take your pick of ecological adventures. Surfing, hiking, fishing, whale watching, storm watching and camping are all popular activities in Tofino. Learn more about the area’s First Nations history through ceremonies, displays, and galleries. Drive down the coast to Ucluelet as well. Two renowned takeout dinner options in Tofino include Wildside Grill for fish and chips, and the original Tacofino food truck, for the best tacos in British Columbia.

Long Beach in Tofino | © Kenny Louie / Flickr

Day 14: Back to Vancouver

That brings us to day 14, which means heading back to Nanaimo and getting the ferry back to Vancouver. If there is time, why not eat some treats on the Nanaimo Bar Trail? Once the ferry returns to West Vancouver, there’s the option to explore this area, which has two parks with perhaps the best views in town. Whytecliff Park and Lighthouse Park are very picturesque photography stops. Then it’s back to Vancouver, and the end of your two weeks around southern British Columbia.

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