Southern British Columbia is packed with things to do. The landscape alone makes for a great road trip. There’s the natural beauty with oceans, mountains, and forests juxtaposed with buzzing city life. If you’re keen to venture off the beaten track and experience Southern BC as a local rather than a tourist, here are few must-sees to add to your itinerary.
Vancouver: Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge
Most tourists make a stop at the popular Capilano Suspension Bridge. Not as many visit Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge, less than a 15-minute drive away. The scenery is as breathtaking here and you can enjoy the views for free rather than pay the 54 Canadian dollars admission fee at Capilano. The suspension bridge at Lynn Canyon Park is 50 meters (164 feet) high and crossing the swaying bridge can be a little nerve-racking. The views are well worth it and once across, you can enjoy the park’s 617 acres of forest with hiking trails, natural pools, and waterfalls.
Vancouver: Commercial Drive
Vancouver offers world-class shopping but if you want to avoid the “touristy” mainstream shops, head to Commercial Drive. The Drive, as locals call it, covers 22 blocks featuring over 300 unique shops, boutiques, restaurants, bakeries, specialty food stores, coffee houses, tap houses and craft breweries, and bars. In the summer, locals frequent the farmer’s market which is open from May to October. This ethnically diverse community has an authentic and slightly bohemian quality to it. It’s also home to the designated Little Italy neighbourhood that celebrates the city’s Italian heritage.
Whistler: Train Wreck Trail
If you are up for venturing away from Vancouver, take the family on a drive to Whistler, about 125 km north of Vancouver. There’s a popular and unusual tourist attraction here the kids will love: the Whistler Train Wreck. This is the site of a train that derailed in 1956. To get to the train wreck, you’ll follow an easy hiking trail that takes you across a suspension bridge to the site located near the Cheakamus River. Seven box cars lie among the tall trees. Local graffiti artists have turned the train wreck into a colourful “art gallery” with each boxcar featuring a different design.
Beacon Hill: Moss Lady
Sleeping peacefully in a shady part of Beacon Hill Park in Victoria is a giant-sized sculpture called The Moss Lady. Gazing at her is oddly calming and you’ll want to “shush” any noisy person nearby so as not to disturb her slumber. The Moss Lady is an identical twin to the Mud Maid in Cornwall’s Lost Gardens of Heligan in England. She measures 11 metres (36 feet) long and 1.7 metres (5.5 feet) high and is covered by a layer of moss that makes it look like she is covered by a warm fuzzy blanket. With the sound of a babbling brook nearby, it’s a great place to stop and de-stress for a while.
Rocky Mountains: Yoho National Park
British Columbia is known for its natural beauty and nowhere is this more evident than at Yoho National Park. The word, Yoho, is the Cree word for awe and wonder and couldn’t be more appropriate. The park draws increasing numbers of visitors each year who marvel at the breathtaking snow-capped mountain peaks, towering vertical rock walls, and abundant waterfalls. Hiking through the park is a visual treat. You can also explore the shale fossil beds where some of the oldest fossils in the world have been uncovered.
Hedley: Mascot Gold Mine
For a truly memorable experience that’s literally off the beaten track, take a tour of Mascot Gold Mine. This historic mine sits perched on a cliff 1.4 km (4,900 feet) above the town of Hedley. Reaching the mine requires a brisk hike. Once there, you’ll explore the historic mine buildings and learn how gold was mined. You’ll then descend 583 steps to the main mine site where you’ll be treated to an incredible light and sound effects show. The tour takes 4.5 hours. Note that the hike followed by climbing up and down the 583 steps requires that you are fit and in good health.
Dine on Geoduck
Despite the misleading name, geoduck is not a duck — it’s a clam. It’s also not pronounced “gee-oo” but “gooey-duck,” yet there’s nothing gooey about it. Yes, it’s all a little confusing but don’t let that put you off. This is something you must try when visiting Southern BC. The geoduck is the world’s largest burrowing clam. It’s only found in the coastal waters of Southern BC and Washington state in the U.S. and is highly prized by locals who considered it the culinary crown jewel of the Pacific Northwest.
Southern British Columbia hides a treasure trove of gems just waiting to be discovered. If you’re not in the mood for the usual tourist traps, then take some time to scratch beneath the surface. You’ll uncover an endless amount of unique things to do and see along this southern part of Canada’s west coast.