If your notion of a perfect vacation involves taking high tea in an elegant dining room in Victoria and racing headlong on a Rocky Mountain river-rafting expedition, British Columbia can deliver. The provincial capital, Victoria, overflows with its European legacy, while Vancouver sizzles with city energy: sidewalk cafes, fashion boutiques and cutting-edge architecture. Surrounding it all is the tranquil beauty of the province's snow-capped mountains, sheer fjords and the regular sightings of whales, sea lions and bald eagles.
Vancouver is surrounded by natural beauty: lush green parks, the sparkling English Bay and snowy mountain peaks. British Columbia's Pacific jewel, however, remains intensely urban, its neighborhoods buzzing with sidewalk cafes in Yaletown and dotted with eye-catching, eco-friendly architecture in Kitsilano. Victoria retains more of the province's British heritage. The island city welcomes visitors with stately provincial government buildings and the palatial Fairmont Empress Hotel, set on the picturesque Inner Harbour.
Venture along Vancouver Island's coast, stopping to explore the sea creatures in tide pools and scan the water for porpoises and whales. One spectacular mountain vista after another emerges along the Sea to Sky Highway, which hugs Howe Sound from Vancouver to the heavenly ski village of Whistler. The MV Northern Adventure ferry weaves through the Inside Passage all along the British Columbia coast, where hidden fjords and Pacific cliffs are otherwise visited only by bald eagles and orcas.
Eating and Drinking
The Pacific Ocean laps against British Columbia's entire coastline, making fresh-caught ocean fish king of provincial menus. The fertile Okanagan Valley supplies all of British Columbia with fresh organic fruit and veggies as well as award-winning wine. In the Vancouver area, visit one of the largest Chinatowns outside of Asia to taste steaming dim sum in family-owned restaurants. Tea time is still an honored tradition in Victoria. Sip yours with scones, cucumber sandwiches and plenty of elegance at the Fairmont Empress Hotel.
Mountains and Lakes
In a province known for its vistas, Whistler competes with the best. In summer, ascend the Canadian Rockies via chair lift to take in breathtaking mountain views; in winter, those chair lifts will introduce you to Canada's most awe-inspiring skiing and snowboarding. Charge downstream in a river raft just outside Jasper National Park in nearby Alberta, or take in a mountain vista at a slower pace, bicycling through the cedar and hemlock trees in Vancouver's Stanley Park.