10 Essential Experiences on the West Coast of Canada
Famous for its staggering natural beauty, abundant wildlife and rich culture, the west coast of Canada is a true bucket list destination. Here are 10 epic experiences not to miss.
Hit the Spice Trail
Part of Metro-Vancouver, Surrey is one of Canada’s most welcoming and culturally diverse cities. It’s also where your tastebuds can experience a carnival of tastes and textures. Anchored in South Asian and regional Indian cuisine, Surrey’s Spice Trail is a pathway of more 75 multicultural partners whose traditional and creative use of spices flavour their cultural cuisine. Sample dosas from the south, tandoori meats from the north and momo (aka dumplings) from the east. Or, opt for an 11 course chef’s dining experience with celebrity chef Vikram Vij at My Shanti.
Cross the Golden Skybridge
Although a stroll across the suspension bridges at Golden Skybridge screams high adventure, it’s actually one of the most impressive ways to take in sweeping views of the Rocky and Purcell mountain ranges. Located just outside the town of Golden, B.C., along the TransCanada Highway, these engineering marvels hold the record as Canada’s highest suspension bridges, stretching 130 metres above an expansive canyon. The site also features an all-ages ropes course, 300-metre zip line and playground for kids.
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Take a One-of-a-Kind Winery Tour
Winery tours in the Okanagan region are what dreams are made of. More than 180 licensed wineries provide the opportunity to sniff, swirl and sip, but that’s only half the fun: Inventive tours allow wine lovers to get a taste for adventure in addition to a new take on grapes. Cruise your way to four lake country wineries on an E-bike tour in Kelowna, or earn your samples on a winery hiking tour guided by a naturalist. Really want to make a splash? Head out on a wine-tasting kayaking tour with local outfitters Hoodoo Adventures.
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Spot the Salmon
The upstream journey made by millions of salmon from the ocean back to their freshwater birthplaces to spawn is one of nature’s most fascinating phenomena. Head to Tsútswecw Provincial Park northeast of Kamloops the first three weeks of October to catch one of the largest sockeye salmon runs in North America during the Salute to the Sockeye Festival. Fancy a bite? Salmon fishing season on the west coast of Canada typically runs from late April until mid-October, depending on the species.
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Soak up Indigenous Culture
Of all the ways to discover Indigenous culture, paddling your way through the eastern arm of the Strait of Georgia on a traditional-style ocean canoe has to be one of the most refreshing. On Vancouver’s Takaya Tours cultural canoe excursions, paddlers gain an understanding of the region and culture of the Coast Salish People and their distinct way of life. From the massive 35-foot canoe (similar to those historically used by the Tsleil-Waututh Nation), you’ll see ancient village sites, brought to life by the guides’ historic songs and inspiring legends.
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Catch a Wave in Tofino
No matter the season, the surf’s always up in Tofino. Although the water is definitely chillier than in other surf spots across Canada, Tofino has a well-earned reputation for the best waves in the country, and surfing here is just as rad as in warmer climes. Local surf schools take tide charts, wave size and wind direction into account, and are your best resource for hanging ten for the first time. Dry off along ʔapsčiik t̓ašii, a new multi-use path connecting Ucluelet to Tofino through the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.
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The west coast of Canada is flush with wildlife, but a remote section of B.C.’s north coast is home to some truly spectacular mammals. The giant kelp beds of Northern Inside Passage attract feeding humpback and grey whales, while migrating salmon attract orcas. This is one of the most consistent locations to view whales in North America on a boat tour. Exploring along the ocean in the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary north of Prince Rupert affords the opportunity to spot bears prowling the water’s edge in search of food and mates, in addition to an abundance of marine mammals.
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Ski Whistler Blackcomb
Part of the draw of Canada’s West Coast is the ability to surf in the morning and ski in the afternoon. Not only is Whistler Blackcomb one of the largest ski resorts in North America, it’s also fringed by a quintessential ski village that doles out epic après all year long. Lifts spin for skiers from the end of November until May, and with the new and improved Creekside Gondola and high speed Big Red Express lift, uphill capacity will increase by 30 per cent. You don’t need poles to appreciate the rugged mountain scenery, either: Non-skiers can take the Peak 2 Peak Gondola to experience jaw-dropping 360-degree views.
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Climb Malahat Skywalk
One of the most accessible attractions on the west coast of Canada, Malahat Skywalk is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in nature, safely—while also enjoying a thrill. Sitting on Malahat Nation land, and only a 30-minute drive from Victoria, this family-friendly experience begins with an elevated boardwalk platform framed by an arbutus forest. At the end of the boardwalk lies the Skywalk, a spectacular spiral ramp that looks a little like an upside-down badminton birdie. Stroll up the 250-metre tower for panoramic views of mountains, island, inlets and the ocean. Take the adventure up a notch with a dash across the Adventure Net, followed by a whiz down the 20-metre slide to the base.
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Explore Great Bear Rainforest
Unbeknownst to many, the largest intact temperate coastal rainforest in the world lies on the west coast of Canada in the Great Bear Rainforest. Home to cougars, wolves, black bears and grizzlies, it’s here that intrepid travellers can also search out the elusive spirit bear. Wildlife and Indigenous cultural tours are best experienced at the Indigenous-owned Spirit Bear Lodge, as some areas of the rainforest are only accessible with a Kitasoo/Xai’xais guide. Amidst the old-growth forest, transformative adventures await as visitors set off on expeditions that enhance the conservation efforts and stewardship of this traditional territory.
Looking to expand your visit beyond the west coast of Canada? Check out the 10 places in Canada every Canadian needs to visit.