The 12 Most Non-Touristy Experiences in British Columbia

Cortes Island | © Sun Metron / Flickr
Cortes Island | © Sun Metron / Flickr
Photo of Hayley Simpson
Writer1 December 2017

British Columbia is a popular travel destination in Canada. It has both the urban cities perfect for weekend getaways and the breathtaking natural landscapes for which the country is known. Next time you visit British Columbia, check out these non-touristy experiences.

Stay in a tree house on Vancouver Island

Free Spirit Spheres is a new alternative glamping accommodation option available near Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island. There are three spherical tree houses to choose from (Eve, Eryn and Melody) that stand in an enchanting coastal rainforest. Staying in a tree house is not a typical experience in British Columbia, but it is an unforgettable one. Qualicum Beach is about halfway between Tofino and Victoria, two of the best places to visit on Vancouver Island.

Free Spirit Spheres | © Kyle Greenberg / Flickr

Visit Haida Gwaii

This remote archipelago of islands in northern British Columbia doesn’t receive many tourists. But it should, because it has a lot to offer visitors. Haida Gwaii (formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands) is home to the Haida Heritage Centre, where you can learn more about the Haida First Nations history and culture. There’s also world-class salmon fishing available off its shores, the Pesuta Shipwreck, and SGang Gwaay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Haida Gwaii, BC, Canada

Go on a wilderness adventure in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park

BC Parks calls Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, located near Bella Coola, “one of North America’s most magnificent wilderness areas.” It also says the outdoor recreation opportunities are unlimited within the park and include boating, camping, hunting, wildlife spotting, and fishing. However, due to its remoteness, visitors should either be prepared to be completely self-sufficient or employ a professional guide when visiting Tweedsmuir. Fortunately, there are places such as Tweedsmuir Park Lodge that organize an array of wilderness adventures for guests year-round, including grizzly bear viewing via river drifts or nature walks.

Bear spotting near Bella Coola | © Dan Kosmayer / Shutterstock

Be charmed at The Enchanted Forest

A must-visit attraction in the middle of British Columbia, The Enchanted Forest sits off the Trans-Canada Highway near Revelstoke. The Needham family built this attraction in the 1950s and ’60s. They created everything by hand, including all of the hand-crafted figurines, the Candy Cane House, and the castle. Another family now runs The Enchanted Forest, but it’s always been a magical place to visit with the entire family.

Discover the Discovery Islands

The Gulf Islands in British Columbia (such as Salt Spring, Pender, and Hornby Islands) are a bit more popular than the Discovery Islands, which lie farther north of the Gulf Islands. Quadra and Cortes Islands are the two main and inhabited islands. Popular activities and things to do in the Discovery Islands include golfing, fishing, hiking, biking, kayaking, diving, and wildlife spotting.

Cortes Island | © Sun Metron / Flickr

Ski at RED Mountain Resort

RED Mountain Resort calls itself the last unspoiled skiing and snowboarding resort in British Columbia. Located in Rossland off the Powder Highway, RED is one of North America’s oldest ski hills. It sits on the Granite, Grey and Red Mountains and has over 2,500 acres of skiable terrain and 110 runs. Its season usually runs from December until April, and its slopes are geared towards intermediate to experienced skiers.

Be adventurous at The Bugaboos

The Bugaboos are a mountain range located in the Purcell Mountains of southeastern British Columbia, between Golden and Radium Hot Springs. The large granite spires that constitute The Bugaboos were made from glaciers. It’s an excellent destination for climbers and mountaineers. People can also go heli-hiking or heli-skiing—depending on the season—at The Bugaboos thanks to Canadian Mountain Holidays and Bugaboos Lodge.

Spires of The Bugaboos | © Edna Winti / Flickr

Canoe in Bowron Lake Provincial Park

The Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit is a great non-touristy experience in British Columbia. It is also one of Canada’s top canoe trips. Located within the Bowron Lake Provincial Park, the 116-kilometer (72-mile) circuit takes canoers through the Cariboo Mountains and a chain of lakes and waterways. Only a certain number of people can go canoeing annually between May and September, and the trip usually takes people between six and 10 days to complete.

Courtesy of Bowron Lake Provincial Park

Visit a unique museum in Vancouver

Most visitors to Vancouver will check out either the Art Gallery, Science World or the Vancouver Museum. But the Vancouver Police Museum is the most fascinating and underrated museum in the city. It is North America’s oldest police museum and lies in Vancouver’s original Coroner’s Court and City Morgue. It houses many artifacts and information about Vancouver’s police force, current initiatives, and the city’s most notorious crimes. The spookiest part, though, might be their Movies in the Morgue.

Inside the Vancouver Police Museum | © Kenny Louie / Flickr

Stargaze in Osoyoos

Stargazing is a popular thing to do in a place like Canada, where there is so much open space with minimal light pollution. Osoyoos happens to be one of the best places to do this activity in British Columbia. As Canada’s only desert, its landscape and dark skies are perfect for gazing at the stars and planets every day. The town also hosts the Mount Kobau Star Party every August, when astronomy enthusiasts descend on the town near the United States border.

Osoyoos, BC, Canada

Go swimming in secret

British Columbia is home to an infinite amount of lakes, which vary in color, size, and location. Locals love spending their summers swimming and floating on them. But if you want to escape the crowds, visit one of the province’s secret swimming holes. Mystery Lake lies in Mount Seymour Provincial Park near Vancouver, but you have to hike three kilometers (1.86 miles) to visit it. Heisholt Lake—a turquoise stunner located in an old quarry on Texada Island—is very remote, but as this photo demonstrates, it’s worth the ferry rides.

Beautiful Heisholt Lake | © Pierre Leclerc / Shutterstock

Experience a BC Dude Ranch

Have a memorable horse-riding holiday at one of the many guest ranches and dude ranches located across British Columbia. National Geographic named the luxurious Siwash Lake Ranch one of the world’s most unique lodges. Crystal Waters Guest Ranch sits in the heart of BC’s cowboy country. Meanwhile, Big Bar Guest Ranch prides itself on being an all-inclusive experience the whole family will enjoy.

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