Trip Ideas

Nature and Wildlife Viewing in BC

Bald eagles, bears, moose, Orcas and more make their home in British Columbia’s wilderness. Take a wildlife-watching journey to see these animals in their natural habitats – mountains, rivers, beaches and deserts – without having to venture too far from civilization.


49.237131,-121.962751|50.138783,-123.114726|50.54529,-126.832999|49.040776,-119.433694|48.525871,-124.44344

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6 49.237131,-121.962751|50.138783,-123.114726|50.54529,-126.832999|49.040776,-119.433694|48.525871,-124.44344
MAP LEGEND
  1. Kilby Provincial Park
  2. Whistler Olympic Park
  3. Telegraph Cove
  4. Osoyoos
  5. Botanical Beach
     

Bald Eagles at Kilby Provincial Park

Bald Eagles

Each Fall, bald eagles migrate to Kilby Provincial Park to feast on salmon spawning in the Harrison River; the raptors settle in the cottonwood trees on Kilby’s beachfront to eye the water for prey.

Join Fraser River Safaris for a jet boat tour of the river, or stop at Weaver Creek fish hatchery to see salmon swimming upstream to spawn. A great time to visit is during the annual Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival each November, when expert talks, salmon feasts and a host of viewing sites draw eagle watchers to the area.

Next to the park is the charming Kilby Historic Site, where a 1906 general store, post office and hotel recall life in the valley a century ago. Need a picnic? Stop at Harrison Mills, Agassiz or Harrison Hot Springs for local hazelnuts, heirloom vegetables and artisan cheeses.

Kilby Provincial Park is only 90-minutes east of Vancouver, but why not stay a while? Settle into the Sasquatch Crossing Eco-Lodge, a historic First Nations owned and operated country inn near Agassiz, or feel the stress melt away at Harrison Hot Springs Resort & Spa.

Bears at Whistler Olympic Park

A legacy of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games has been a boon for black bears in Whistler’s Callaghan Valley.  After trails were built for the Games’ Nordic events, the landscape was restored and filled with native plants, including protein-rich grasses and wildflowers. Every summer since, increasing numbers of black bears have been seen grazing within sight of the ski jumps.

A similar scene occurs on Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, where berry bushes flourish on open slopes attracting dozens of bears.

To learn more about the 70 or so black bears living in the Whistler area, you can try joining a 4X4 bear-watching tour with Canadian Outback Adventures, or visit Whistler Olympic Park in mid-summer to watch the bears from the safety of the Gate House. 

Orcas at Telegraph Cove

See the ocean’s biggest attraction at Telegraph Cove, where approximately 265 Orcas populate nearby Johnstone Strait between Vancouver Island and the mainland.

In summer, Orcas (killer whales) congregate near Robson Bight (Michael Bigg) Ecological Reserve to feed on returning salmon runs and to rub their bellies on the area’s pebble beaches. Whale-watching boats and kayak tours can take you from Telegraph Cove, Port McNeil and Alert Bay to see these magnificent mammals in their natural habitat, although they keep a safe distance to protect both the whales and the watchers.

Take to the water with Stubbs Island Whale Watching (they’ve been running boats from Telegraph Cove since 1980), or go for a paddle with North Island Kayak – they offer a variety of day trips. And don’t miss Telegraph Cove's Whale Interpretive Centre. Set in one of the village’s historic boardwalk buildings, it’s home to a massive fin whale skeleton. Telegraph Cove is four hours north of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.

Desert Wildlife in Osoyoos

Nk'Mip Desert Centre Osoyoos. Photo Credit: Dannielle Hayes/Aboriginal Tourism Association of BC

Come eye to eye with a western rattlesnake or hold a Great Basin gopher snake at the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre in Osoyoos. Across the narrow valley lies the companion Osoyoos Desert Centre, where you can take the 1.5-km/0.9-mi self-guided boardwalk tour through arid shrub lands and grasses.

Each desert centre offers wildlife viewing on a scale both small and large. Interpreters are on hand to answer questions and provide intriguing facts about such local wildlife as spadefoot toads and burrowing owls, and about the desert’s crust – a living organism in this sagebrush kingdom.

The area, known as “Canada’s pocket desert”, is in BC’s Thompson Okanagan region, two hours south of Kelowna on the BC-Washington State border.

Tidal Pools at Botanical Beach

Tidal Pools. Photo Credit: Tom Ryan

Marine life along BC’s coast comes in rainbow shades, from orange starfish to purple sea urchins, blue mussels to green anemones. Botanical Beach offers one of the best opportunities to view intertidal marine creatures and plants on Vancouver Island.

Visit at low tide when the retreating ocean exposes tidal pools resembling jewelled boxes with colourful sea stars, chitons and anemones clinging to the walls. Venture out onto the flat, kelp-covered rock shelves to peer into deep, crystal-clear pools.

Botanical Beach is near Port Renfrew, two-hours west of Victoria on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island. Make sure to visit Parks Canada's West Coast Trail office in Port Renfrew (open May to September) or the Sooke Region Museum and Visitor Information Centre for details on tide times and sea life.