With gems like The Rocky Mountains, Whistler, and the West Coast Trail, British Columbia (BC) is an adventure traveler’s dream. Combined with incredible parks and wildlife, a strong aboriginal presence, and relatively close proximity to Asian Pacific nations, BC is definitely a ‘bucket list’ destination.
Destination BC aptly and eloquently describes the province as follows: “We have ten mountain ranges that push west from The Rockies in a crowded parade until they fall into the Pacific. Thousand year old trees that deftly divide the light falling on an impossibly green forest floor. Glacier-fed streams that pour through steep valleys to join swollen rivers. Higher up, mountain passes link whole ecosystems, and watersheds. It’s a wild place where Mother Nature creates the boundaries. Not man. And while she demands respect, her handiwork offers massive rewards for those wild at heart. This abundant, nurturing landscape has sustained our ancient societies for 10,000 years. And today, some of those settlements have grown into cities that cling to the edge of wilderness, and won’t let go. Because the people here, are here for a reason: to live within arm’s reach of nature’s richness. To ski world-renowned resorts, surf Pacific swells, swim in shockingly clear mountain lakes, hike to a glacier and back in a day. And all that activity breathes energy into our culture of hospitality.”
British Columbia is Canada’s westernmost province (although Yukon Territory is directly to the north and technically farther west) with over 27,000km of Pacific coastline. Alaska has taken a bite out of the northern half of its coastline, but BC still holds onto approximately 40,000 islands including Vancouver Island (not to be confused with the city of Vancouver), the Gulf Islands, and Haida Gwaii (Formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands).
BC shares its southern border with the American states of Washington, Idaho, and Montana; and its eastern border with the province of Alberta. This eastern edge follows the ‘straight’ 120th meridian from the north, and then continues to the US border via the craggy spine of the Continental Divide in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
Victoria (on Vancouver Island) is British Columbia’s pretty capital city, however the city of Vancouver is its largest and serves as the international gateway to the western half of the province (Calgary, Alberta can get you closer to the Rocky Mountain action on the eastern half). Vancouver has been chosen on multiple occasions as the world’s ‘Most Liveable City’ largely due to its ocean-side location, proximity to mountains, many recreation opportunities, and its temperate climate.
Since the retreat of the great glaciers about 10,000 years ago, Aboriginal populations have inhabited the BC landscape. BC's first people may have journeyed to the region from Asia via a land bridge across the Bering Sea. It is thought that BC's coastal region became one of the most densely populated areas in North America.
Prior to European contact, BC's First Nations populations may have numbered some 300,000. The Aboriginal way of life would continue undisturbed for thousands of years, until the arrival of the British in 1778 and then the rest of the world in the 1860’s when gold was discovered in the Fraser River and the Cariboo, and the Aboriginal people lost their ancestral lands and, in general, their human rights.
In 2000, the Nisga'a Treaty came into being. The Nisga'a Nation, who has lived in the Nass area since time immemorial, negotiated with the provincial and federal governments to achieve BC's first modern-day, constitutionally protected self-governance agreement. This marked a momentous achievement in the history of the relationship among British Columbia, Canada and First Nations.
Today, BC's population is diverse. More than 40 major Aboriginal cultural groups are represented in the region. The province's large Asian communities have made Chinese and Punjabi the most spoken languages after English. There are also sizeable German, Italian, Japanese and Russian communities – all creating a vibrant cultural mosaic in which distinct cuisine, architecture, language and arts thrive.
BC has a number of different climatic zones: Coast Mountains & the Islands, The Interior Plateau, Columbia Mountains & Southern Rockies, Northern and Central Plateaus & Mountains, and the Great Plains. This diversity causes wide variations in average rainfall, snowfall, temperature and hours of sunshine, sometimes over very short distances
Spring & Fall can often be very warm and pleasant, especially in June and September. Daytime temperatures – particularly in southwestern BC and the southern interior – allow for dresses, shorts and short-sleeved shirts; however, it is advisable to have sweaters, trousers and a light coat or jacket on hand as well.
Summers are hottest in BC's interior, particularly in the south where temperatures frequently surpass 30°C/86°F. Nearer the coast, temperatures range from 22 to 28°C/72 to 83°F. Recommended clothing for both regions in summer is the same: shorts, short-sleeved shirts and light dresses in daytime and sweaters and trousers in the evenings.
Winters on the coast are temperate, and if snow falls it doesn't stay long. A warm coat and umbrella are sufficient weather protection in these mild coastal climes. Most of BC's interior, on the other hand, experiences freezing temperatures and snow lasting from November to March, so full winter wear is necessary for comfort: a heavy coat, a warm hat and gloves or mittens.
We recommend visiting Environment Canada’s website for information specific to the region in which you are travelling.