Canada’s British Columbia province is synonymous with unbridled natural beauty. Some 75 per cent of its nearly one million square kilometres is covered in mountain ranges, where glacier-fed rivers weave among open valleys and pristine lakes. On the coast, snow-tipped mountains cascade into old-growth rainforest.

Don’t let the mind-blowing scale intimidate you. BC’s vibrant cities and towns, world-class resorts and farm- and sea-to-table food scene make it a traveller’s paradise. The gorgeous wilds are criss-crossed by routes and itineraries to combine for the ultimate holiday any time of the year. The only question is, what sort of experience are you looking for?

For a winter wonderland…

Fresh, deep snow. Rugged back-country trails, ski steeps and gentle slopes. North America’s tallest (Revelstoke, 1713 serviced vertical metres) and largest (Whistler Blackcomb, 3306 skiable hectares) ski resorts. It is no secret that BC is a dream for powderhounds but this is also a wonderland for those who go more for the après experiences than the skiing.

Revelstoke’s best après-ski venues are right next to the slopes – within minutes of your final swoosh you can be toasting with a pint of microbrew at the Mackenzie Common Tavern. If cocktails and a wood fire are more your vibe, Chubby Funsters in the centre of Revelstoke is a 10-minute drive away, with regular shuttles running between the town and the resort.

If you seek an enriching experience, the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre, a five-minute walk from the Blackcomb Gondola, exhibits Indigenous carvings and artefacts in front of floor-to-ceiling windows with a mountain backdrop. Every hour between 10am and 4pm, hand drum songs sound the welcome before guided tours are led by a Squamish Nation and Lil’wat Nation Cultural Ambassador.

Whistler has also cemented its profile as a fine-dining destination, with restaurants such as Araxi and Rimrock Café leading the way with menus that put BC-sourced fruit and vegetables, wild seafood and locally reared meats front and centre.

Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia, Canada

The true beauty of a BC winter is that the best ski fields – including Whistler Blackcomb and Revelstoke – give you so many ways to conquer the snow, whatever your skill set. Feel the wind on your face as you carve up trails on a traditional dog sled or a snowmobile. Gaze at the sparkling night sky or disappear into a shimmering forest on a snowshoe hike. Kids will get a kick out of spinning down mountainsides on a bouncy tube. And when it’s time to unwind, there’s no shortage of spas where you can pamper yourself with a soak, steam or massage.

For glamping in the wilderness...

Clayoquot Wilderness Lodge, British Columbia, Canada

There are no roads into Clayoquot Wilderness Lodge (pictured at top), where 25 luxury canvas tents with king-sized beds, cast-iron wood stoves and wraparound decks sit between the banks of a serene sound and a steep mountain covered in temperate rainforest. It’s untouched, otherworldly wilderness at its finest on the central west coast of Vancouver Island, reached by a 45-minute seaplane ride from Vancouver. You’ll land on the water before a horse-drawn wagon delivers you to the resort (and your first glass of champagne). The itinerary from here is up to you: get a massage in your tent, hike among old-growth conifers to a waterfall (or along the coast to spot whales in the wild) or take in the mountain scenery via kayak or horseback. You can even try your hand at archery. Food and wine is also an experience: executive chef Asher Blackford takes an “earthy, witty and wise” approach, bringing foraged mushrooms, freshly caught fish and local maple syrup to life on menus that give you something a little different every day.

Epic adventure in British Columbia comes easy with flights into Vancouver. Discover great year-round fares at qantas.com

For wildlife...

Klahoose Wilderness Resort, British Columbia, Canada

Newly reopened and Indigenous-owned Klahoose Wilderness Resort is another secluded spot that can only be reached by boat or private seaplane. If you aren’t greeted by seals on the large floating dock upon arrival, you will most likely see them lying about in the morning before the sun rises over the misty peaks. The welcome also includes a traditional song in the Salish language, sung to the beat of a painted hyde drum by a Cultural Interpreter from the Klahoose First Nation. Between the last week of August and the first week of October, grizzly bears roam these wilds and Klahoose’s expert guides know where to spot them. On the 45-minute boat ride to the viewing location, keep your camera ready to snap orcas and porpoises.

For an eco adventure...

Maple Leaf Adventures, British Columbia, Canada

As a “conservation-based enterprise”, Maple Leaf Adventures takes deliberate steps to minimise the impact of its voyages around the Gulf Islands that sit between Vancouver Island and the mainland, including limiting the number of guests. It’s extra special knowing that the close-to-nature experience also supports local ports and organisations such as the Raincoast Conservation Foundation. Onboard the Maple Leaf, a 28-metre schooner, you can sail by coastal mountains spotting seabirds and marine life or tightening the sheets and taking the helm (no sailing experience required). When you do pass by a whale, you’ll hear it – the boat features a hydrophone that plays underwater sounds up on deck.

For mountain biking...

Tyax Adventures, British Columbia, Canada

The South Chilcotin Mountains are as famous for having more than 200 kilometres of biking tracks as they are for the rugged, mid-elevation peaks and alpine meadows you’ve seen on postcards. Tyax Adventures runs back-country adventures that will take you through technically challenging tracks across a variety of terrain that you can only access by mountain bike. The rides are epic and the accommodation is in comfy camps – one has solar power and hot showers and another a wood-fired sauna next to a lake.

For food and wine...

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada

All over BC you will find innovative, fresh cuisine that draws on its abundant coastline, verdant forests and farmlands. But for a getaway where food and wine manages to trump the scenery as the main event, drive to the Okanagan Valley, about five hours’ drive east of Vancouver. Positioned between two vast mountain ranges, this patch of green has an almost Mediterranean microclimate that blesses it with a longer and warmer growing season than most other places in Canada. As a result, orchards and vineyards abound – there are more than 170 licensed wineries and a line-up of distilleries and breweries that turn local apples, cherries and grapes into ciders and spirits. The city of Kelowna alone has at least 15 microbreweries within its city limits, plus 40 wineries within a 20-minute drive.

For a city holiday...

Vancouver, Canada

Vancouver isn’t just the gateway to BC; it’s a stunning natural wonder in itself. In one day you could be sitting on a beach with views of epic peaks or standing high on Grouse Mountain looking down at the twinkling city. The restaurant scene is one of Canada’s best thanks to the west coast seafood (cases in point: sushi in fine-dining style at Tojo’s or with a harbour view at Miku). On Granville Island, you can eat goods from local artisans, while in Richmond, discover what has been described as one of the world’s most enticing dumpling trails. Stanley Park is a sprawling urban forest that’s right in the city centre but couldn’t feel further away; Talaysay Tours runs First Nations-guided walks here, highlighting important cultural and natural landmarks.

For an epic rail journey...

Find a flight to Vancouver, Canada, on Qantas

Find a flight to Vancouver

The iconic The Rocky Mountaineer pulls out of Vancouver, travelling right across BC on mountain routes that end either in Jasper or Banff in Alberta. Inside glass-domed coaches, you’re surrounded by dramatic scenery as it changes like a reel: sky-touching peaks, mirror lakes and forests of foliage you can see budding in spring, blooming in summer or changing to red and yellow in autumn. If you fancy the romance of a rail journey in winter, The Canadian, operated by Canada’s national passenger rail service VIA Rail, snakes through the snow, stopping at small towns on its way to Jasper. You can even ride it all the way to Toronto.

SEE ALSO: 5 Reasons Canada is the Ultimate Ski Destination

Image credits: Clayoquot Wilderness Lodge/Jeremy Koreski (lodge exterior); Clayoquot Wilderness Lodge (luxury tent interior); Grant Gunderson and Destination Canada (Whistler ski fields); Karla Courtney (seal and grizzly bears at Klahoose Wilderness Resort); Maple Leaf Adventures (sailing tour); Destination Canada (Tyax Adventures Mountain Biking); Rocky Mountaineer (glass-domed train coach).

 

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