Ten of our favourite B.C. Summer Getaways

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We asked our network of writers and freelancers to tell us their favourite getaways in B.C. Their responses range from mountain tops to valleys to beaches. Is your summer vacation spot one of the selected? If not and you want to let us know where your summer getaway is please email the Travel Editor at dpottinger@postmedia.com

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The secret of Comox Valley

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You won’t find it in the usual Best-of BC lists, but my summer secret is Courtenay and the Comox Valley. Ferrying in from the city and flying up Highway 19, the pace is relaxed, the outdoor attractions abundant, and the locals friendly. I’ll take my kids fossil-hunting for dinosaur bones in nearby river beds (we first learned about it with an excellent tour at the Courtenay District Museum and Paleontology Centre), take floaties down the Puntledge River, hike to the suspension bridge in Elk Falls Provincial Park, or along the expansive beach in Miracle Bay Provincial Park.

Kids love fossil-hunting for dinosaur bones in the river beds near Courtenay.
Kids love fossil-hunting for dinosaur bones in the river beds near Courtenay. Photo by Robin Esrock

We might drive up the highway for an adventure in the cool Horne Lake Caves, bike the Forest Loop in Seal Bay Nature Park, or just relax at beautiful Comox Lake. The Gladstone Brewing Co is fantastic, and there’s always something to eat on 5th Street. Each time I visit Rawthentic Eatery my body wants to thank me. It doesn’t get nearly as much attention as other destinations on Vancouver Island, but Courtenay is a taste of B.C. summer living at its best.
– Robin Esrock

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Hornby Island  – A family tradition

The first time I visited Hornby Island it was 1984 and I was four years old. My parents, brother and I set off for our first adventure to the Gulf Islands, and two-and-a-half hours of highway driving and three—Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo, Buckley Bay to Denman, Denman to Hornby—ferry rides later, we were unpacking our bags in our sun-beaten waterfront cabin.

Lise Boullard at Hornby Island circa 1990.
Lise Boullard at Hornby Island circa 1990.

That first summer turned into annual trips where we’d spend the last week in August relaxing on the white-sand beaches—(could this really be B.C.?)—fishing, playing tennis, picnicking and eating my mom’s homemade blackberry pies.

As my brother and I grew older, the family trips grew few and far between, and the last time I visited Hornby was three years ago. Yet, Hornby’s whimsical spirit remained intact. The turquoise waters and fine white sand at Tribune Bay. The Mars-like sandstone formations at Ford’s Cove and Whaling Station Bay. The Saturday Farmers’ Market, and Movie Night at the community hall. The scent of pine needles, arbutus trees and dried grass filling the sea air as you walk along the cliffs overlooking the sparkling sea at Helliwell Park.

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If you’re still wondering, the answer is yes: Hornby Island is worth every one of those three ferries.
– Lise Boullard

Enjoy the wilds at Whistler

I’ve always loved what Whistler has to offer in the wintertime, but I’ve increasingly found myself, and my family, enjoying the summertime more.

And while there is no shortage of in-town and on-mountain activities to keep you busy during B.C.’s long daylight hours during the summer — from golf to shopping, from dining to mountain biking — it is exploring the outskirts of the municipality that I’ve really come to appreciate. Namely, the wilderness.

Go off the beaten path for spectacular views in Whistler.
Go off the beaten path for spectacular views in Whistler. Photo by Tourism Whistler

One of my best recent memories in Whistler was a half-day spent on the Crater Rim Trail around Loggers Lake, a 4.5-kilometre intermediate loop hike that descends into the cauldron of an extinct volcano. Then there is the myriad trail system in Callaghan Lake Park, a backcountry area which became much more accessible with the establishment of Whistler Olympic Park. And the hike up to Black Tusk should be on everyone’s Whistler bucket list.

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After a day in the splendid and rugged wilds, there’s nothing like spending some quality patio time in the Whistler Village, enjoying a cold drink, great food and prime people watching.
– Andrew McCredie

Somewhere between Tofino and Ucluelet

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve has a multi-use pathway that just opened last year that lets you cycle or walk from Tofino almost all the way to Ucluelet. The 25-kilometre pathway, in the ḥaḥuułi (traditional territories and homelands) of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation and Ucluelet First Nation, is called ʔapsčiik t̓ašii and pronounced ups-cheek ta-shee. The name means “going the right way on the path” as well as “make sure you speak the truth.”

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve trilingual welcome to multi use pathway.
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve trilingual welcome to multi use pathway. Photo by Jennifer Bain

Here in the park reserve’s Long Beach Unit, most visitors drive to the beach, so to combat that, Parks Canada allows pedal assist electric bicycles on ʔapsčiik t̓ašii. The bikes max out at 32 kilometres an hour on level ground. I rented from T̓iick̓in (Thunderbird) E-Bike Rentals at the Ucluelet/Tofino junction. The meandering but well-marked pathway crosses rainforests, bogs, official and unsanctioned hiking trails and surfing beaches. It boasts trilingual directional signs and zig-zags to protect old-growth trees, cultural sites and amphibian areas.
– Jennifer Bain

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Head to ‘The Star’

SilverStar, just a 20-minute drive from Vernon. SilverStar’s varied terrain transforms in summer into a mountain biker’s delight, with over 100km of downhill trails suitable for all abilities, a vast, purpose-built single-track cross-country network, and an adrenaline-pumping progressive bike park.

SilverStar is home to the second biggest bike park in B.C.
SilverStar is home to the second biggest bike park in B.C. Photo by Robb Thompson

Hikers can choose from over a dozen hiking trails, or ride the Des Scheumann Summit Express gondola to the summit for spectacular views of the Monashee Mountain Range and Okanagan Valley. And after a day of outdoor play, you can relax and soak up the laid-back, family-friendly vibe in SilverStar’s charming pedestrian-only village, which hosts several seasonal festivals.

For my money, it doesn’t get any better than ‘The Star’ in summer, which makes it my first resort when I want to get away from the city.
– Mark Sissons

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Golden rules

My favourite place to be during the summer is on a hiking trail, exploring the beautiful backcountry of B.C. Surrounded by six national parks and two mountain ranges, Golden is the perfect base for exploring the giant mountains along the eastern edge of B.C. Golden is a hidden jewel that takes outdoor activities to the next level. Whenever I’m there, I try another adrenaline-filled adventure that pushes me out of my comfort zone – like whitewater rafting on the Kicking Horse River or walking across Canada’s highest suspension bridge on the Golden Skybridge.

Spanning 140 metres long and 130 metres high, the Golden Skybridge is Canada’s highest suspension bridge.
Spanning 140 metres long and 130 metres high, the Golden Skybridge is Canada’s highest suspension bridge. Photo by Pamela Roth

At Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, a scenic gondola ride takes you to an elevation of more than 7,700 feet, providing instant access to backcountry hikes above the clouds. The star attraction on the mountain is a 650-pound grizzly bear named Boo, who lives in the largest enclosed grizzly bear habitat in the world. There’s also a decent dining scene for a small town, affordable accommodation and a craft brewery with delicious beer.
– Pamela Roth

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Sun Peaks’ bike trails

Last August, I visited Sun Peaks with my daughters and even though we are all novice riders, we had an amazing time on the mountain bike trails. The lifts that take skiers and boarders up the mountain in winter carry mountain bikers and hikers in the summer.

Debbie Olsen, her daughters and instructor ready to hit the trails at Sun Peaks.
Debbie Olsen, her daughters and instructor ready to hit the trails at Sun Peaks.

We also hiked the Top of the World and Juniper Loop trails, two of the 15 designated hiking trails, to see beautiful wildflowers. We joined a “Yoga on the Mountain” class and went kayaking and paddle boarding on nearby McGillivray Lake. We enjoyed great meals at local restaurants and we relaxed in comfy mountainside accommodations with wonderful views. Our girls’ getaway at Sun Peaks helped us step out of our comfort zones and left us feeling confident and empowered.
– Debbie Olsen

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Blissfully remote Bamfield

One of my favorite B.C. summer getaways is Bamfield a laidback hamlet on a protected inlet near Barkley Sound on Vancouver Island. I love its remote location, reachable by float plane or ferry from Port Alberni (a new road will be completed in fall 2023), and its compact village center, where I stroll along a raised boardwalk past brightly painted wooden cottages.

Bamfield is on the Pacific Rim of Vancouver Island.
Bamfield is on the Pacific Rim of Vancouver Island. Photo by Claudia Laroye

The tiny village is on the traditional territory of the Huu-ay-aht First Nation, which offers guided tours to Kiix?in, a National Historic Site and the only traditional First Nations village remaining on the southwestern coast of B.C.

A short walk from Outer Shores Lodge brings me down to Brady’s Beach, one of the loveliest sand beaches in the province and a great spot to watch the sunset on a summer’s night. With its prime oceanfront location, Bamfield’s an ideal base for experiencing marine activities. I can’t resist climbing into a zodiac for a bit of wildlife spotting between the Deer Group Islands, where we hit the jackpot with sightings of playful sea otters, braying sea lions and soaring bald eagles.
– Claudia Laroye

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Cowichan Valley’s Flavour Trail

For a quick getaway, I love taking a road trip along Vancouver Island’s bucolic Cowichan Valley. I opt for the scenic route across the Saanich Inlet on BC Ferries’ cute Mill Bay ferry from Brentwood Bay on the Saanich Peninsula to Mill Bay at the valley’s southern end. From there it’s easy to wind past the organic farms and wineries that have blossomed into one of North America’s fastest growing wine regions.

Touring is easy: I’ll simply follow the burgundy and white Wine Route signs or grab a map from a local tourist office. But it’s not all about the grapes: English-style craft cidery, brandy, craft distillery gin, and even tea, are among the local specialties.

Wineries, English-style craft cidery, brandy, craft distillery gin, and even tea, are among the local specialties in Cowichan.
Wineries, English-style craft cidery, brandy, craft distillery gin, and even tea, are among the local specialties in Cowichan. Photo by Vanessa Pinniger

Finding places, hidden down winding country lanes, tucked between farm stands, is part of the fun. Most are small, family-run, labour-of-love operations, such as Ampersand Distillery, which produces craft gin and vodka, and Emandare Vineyard, both in Duncan.

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I’ve had some of the area’s best lunches al fresco on winery patios, at places such as Unsworth Vineyard in Mill Bay, whose charming bistro is set in a restored 1900s farmhouse, and in Cobble Hill at Cherry Point Estate Wines’ La Terraza and the Eatery at Merridale Ciderworks, where a Spirits and Brandy Tour and Tasting nicely rounds off a meal.

I recommend starting at Mill Bay’s Enrico Winery and wending north, with stops along the way at Venturi Schultz Vineyards in Cobble Hill, now known for its slowly aged balsamic vinegars, and Rocky Creek Winery in Cowichan Bay.

Once in Duncan, visit Zanatta Winery, Averill Creek Vineyard, and Blue Grouse Estate Winery and Vineyard; sample flights of small-batch beer at Red Arrow Brewing Company, or cap it off with a cuppa at Westholme Tea Company, Canada’s first commercial organic tea farm.
– Vanessa Pinniger

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Revelstoke and its Enchanted Forest

Like countless other Canadians who’ve barrelled across the Trans-Canada Highway, Revelstoke evokes happy childhood memories for me. Situated smack-dab on the highway, The Enchanted Forest is a great reason to get out of your vehicle. While those kitschy fairytale figurines scattered throughout the old-growth forest have been there as long as I can remember, visiting them always feels fresh. Nowadays, SkyTrek Adventure Park is right next door, with enough zip lines and rope challenges to tire out both tots and teens before heading into town.

Ride the Revelstoke Mountain Coaster for an adrenaline rush.
Ride the Revelstoke Mountain Coaster for an adrenaline rush. Photo by Revelstoke Mountain Resort

Whether you’re searching for outdoor adventure or looking to calm the senses, resorts like Revelstoke Mountain Resort have you covered. High-octane mountain bike thrills are easily achieved via a sprawling trail network. And it’s even easier to get your adrenaline rush by whooshing down The Pipe Mountain Coaster, an individual ride where you control the speed. On mountain, there’s a massive outdoor pool at The Sutton Place Hotel or you can cool off at Williamson Lake which sports a beach and plenty of trees for shade.
– Jody Robbins

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Victoria is a kayaker’s paradise

My idea of a great summer holiday doesn’t include busy airports and flights, so my preferred seat assignment is in my Delta kayak on the waters surrounding my hometown, Victoria. The capital is a kayaker’s paradise, with scenic flatwater routes, rugged ocean coastline and offshore islands.

The Fairmont Empress Hotel is a dramatic backdrop to a Victoria harbour paddle.
The Fairmont Empress Hotel is a dramatic backdrop to a Victoria harbour paddle. Photo by Glen Petrie

Favourite paddles? The famously picturesque inner harbour, abuzz with seaplanes, ferries and yachts, with the iconic Empress Hotel in the background. (Get a harbour map to stay out of trouble.) I’ll tie-up at Fisherman’s Wharf for lunch at the locally renowned Barb’s Fish & Chips. From there, the Gorge Waterway cuts a calm route through the city center, or I can point the bow seaward and skirt offshore rocks where seals sunbathe. A little further west lies Fisgard Lighthouse, the oldest on Canada’s west coast.

From Oak Bay, a three-kilometer paddle leads to Discovery Island Marine Park in the (often turbulent) Haro Strait, where the rocks teem with seals, sea lions and seabirds. Follow the Marine Trail (bcmarainetrails.org) for a multi-day tour of islands near Sidney that allow camping.

Not travelling with a kayak? Rent boats or book a tour with oceanriver.com or victoriakayak.com.
– Glen Petrie


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