British Columbia is known for its coast. In fact, the stretch of where the water meets the land along Canada’s West Coast makes up almost 10% of Canada’s coastline. And with coast comes beaches, waves, and the opportunity to explore the area by sea. Even better, BC is also packed with rivers, lakes, and waterfalls, meaning there’s plenty of opportunity to explore all sorts of places, from major cities to remote islands.
Though we definitely recommended walking tours and seeing BC by foot, experiencing this West Coast province by water is one of the best ways to truly experience the culture and scenery, while throwing a little bit of adventure into the mix too.
Whale watching on Vancouver Island
One of the best parts about being out on the water is experiencing wildlife — especially whales, seals, and dolphins. See the rugged BC coastline, lighthouses, and breaching orcas and humpback — all aboard a boat on one of many whale watching tours on Vancouver Island. Running from May through October, you’ll have plenty of time during your visit to see these majestic mammals in their natural habitats.
Kayaking through the Gulf Islands
If you’re up for a bit of exercise, kayaking around the Gulf Islands — a cluster of islands of various sizes off the east coast of Vancouver Island — is a great way to experience the shores of many tucked away places. Trips vary from easy to challenging, meaning that there’s an option for every traveler and guided tours definitely come recommended. Whether you choose a day trip, or an overnighter (at a campsite of B&B on a local island, like Saltspring, Galiano or Hornby), you’ll be able to spot whales, eagles, and all sorts of sea life, while experiencing the tranquility of the Pacific waters.
Ferrying around False Creek in Vancouver
Why take the bus when you can take a boat? In Vancouver, traveling from the ever-so popular Granville Island to many other spots around the city is as simple as hopping on and off a harbor ferry — like the Aquabus or False Creek Ferries. These little boats are a great way to explore False Creek on a sunny day — plus the boat ride can be part of your adventure. If you want to explore the North Shore instead, you can take the SeaBus from Downtown Vancouver to Lonsdale Quay, which is another unique way to travel.
You can also check out the Harbour Ferries and Water Taxis in Victoria the next time you visit. There’s even a ferry pub crawl and the infamous water ballet (where ferries perform a coordinated “dance” on Sunday mornings).
Rafting rapids in Squamish or the Interior
Thrill seekers, this one is for you. BC offers a variety of river rafting options. Whether you head into the interior of the province or up to Squamish, you’ll find tons of awesome rafting companies that will teach you the ins and outs of the rivers they raft on. Plus, you’ll have an awesome time rolling over waves and making your way through forested areas and rugged canyons.
Whether you go on a day trip in big waves, or choose a multi-day option, you’ll not only have a lot of fun, but you’ll have a lot to brag about when you head home. Plus, some of the rafting companies offer really cool accommodations like canvas tents and cabins.
Standup paddle boarding in the Okanagan
See what the hype is all about. Standup paddle boarding (or SUPing) is a great way to cruise around a lake at a comfortable pace, while getting some exercise, soaking up some sun, and seeing secret spots that boats can’t get to. If you’re new, we recommend taking a lesson. If you’re adventurous, try SUP yoga — the ultimate test of balance. Head to Naramata, Vernon, or another spot in BC’s Okanagan to SUP by day and taste wine by night.
Surfing in Tofino
Tofino is synonymous with surfing (and maybe tacos), meaning it’s a prime spot to literally dive into this ocean sport. Though the waters aren’t exactly warm, they provide a perfect place for newbies to learn. Plus, you’ll become intimately acquainted with the waves of the Pacific Ocean and its sealife.
If you’re not into surfing, comb the beautiful beaches of Tofino, including Chesterman Beach, Long Beach, and Cox Bay. Even if it’s not sunny, the beaches are great to explore. In fact, Long Beach is known for spectacular storm watching.
Flying from Victoria to Vancouver
You might not think flying would allow you explore the waters of BC, but trust us on this one. If you’re looking to travel between Victoria and Vancouver, check out a float plane. Not only do you get a spectacular view of both cities from above, but you’ll also see the city’s harbors from a new perspective. Not to mention this route is quicker than hopping on a ferry, meaning more time to explore.
Beachcombing in Haida Gwaii
Perhaps this activity isn’t exactly by the water, but this beach is too good to pass up. Off the northwest coast of Vancouver Island, you’ll find the rustically beautiful Haida Gwaii. Rich in nature and culture, it’s no surprise that National Geographic chose these islands as one of the 20 best trips of 2015. On its lush shores, you’ll find Naikoon Provincial Park and Agate Beach — the perfect place to collect rocks. Overlooking an expanse of unsheltered Pacific Ocean, you’ll find all sorts of treasures, including things that have washed ashore from Japan.
Boating absolutely everywhere
Whether you set out on the sea by Zodiac from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver, by sailboat in Victoria, or by motorboat in the Okanagan, there are plenty of opportunities for all types of boating all over the province. Of course, there are the old fashion options of rowing or canoeing too. Essentially, anywhere you travel in BC, you’ll be able to find an opportunity to get out on the water, and we definitely suggest you take it!
The water is quintessential to most BC experiences. Choose your favorite and get to know the West Coast as a local would.
Find more ways to explore by visiting Hello BC’s website.