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Woman looks at the rocky shoreline from a viewpoint along the Wild Pacific Trail.

3 BC Fall Road Trips to Feel Good About

October 24, 2023
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Just in time for the autumn leaves, harvest festivals, cider season, and sweater weather, regions hard-hit by summer wildfires have bounced back and are laying out the welcome mat for visitors.

There’s no better way to support their recovery and no better time than now for a slow-paced, stop-often, windows-down drive around BC’s picturesque coastlines, peaks, rainforests, lakes, and towns.

From beaching it in western Vancouver Island, to going local in Shuswap, to sipping sustainably in the Okanagan, we’ve selected three road trip destinations that not only make for great fall traveling but also support resilient communities at the forefront of climate change.

Cathedral Grove | Graeme Owsianski

Beaching It on Vancouver Island

Weather sunny and mild? Great! Dark and stormy? Even better! Vancouver Island’s west coast gets more appealing the wilder the weather. It’s in Tofino and neighboring Ucluelet that the spectator sport of storm-watching was invented and on their waves that a quirky surfing culture was born. Here’s the perfect cozy-season road trip:

From West Vancouver, take the two-hour ferry across the Strait of Georgia to Nanaimo. This unassuming town on Vancouver Island is the home of the much-loved chocolatey dessert bar (try Hearthstone Artisan Bakery or one of the many stops on the Nanaimo Bar Trail). Once fueled, make your way out to the west coast via Highway 4 over the next four or five hours, stopping at the Old Country Market in Coombs for groceries and to catch a glimpse of the goats on the roof (yes, really, but only until around October).

Plan another 30-minute stop at Cathedral Grove, a majestic stand of 800-year-old native Douglas firs in the rainforest. Hit up Bare Bones Fish House and Smokery in Port Alberni for a late lunch.

In Tofino, a luxuriously romantic stay at the world-famous Wickaninnish Inn offers a front-row lounge chair to the crashing waves that roll onto the rocky, sandy coast.

For a fun ‘70s vibe only a 10-minute walk from 2.7-km-long (1.7-mile) Chesterman Beach, stay at the Hotel Zed with its sunken living room and bike-through lobby. You’ll want at least a couple of days to explore this town surrounded by the natural expanse of Clayoquot Sound and the traditional homeland of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation.

Every year more businesses are joining a four-year-old program to support the tribal parks. Stop in at the Roy Henry Vickers Gallery to view the work of the renowned Indigenous printmaker and carver. Pop into the Tofino Clayoquot Heritage Museum to view two recently donated Arthur Lismer paintings. A member of the famed Group of Seven, Lismer visited Long Beach and painted ocean and forest scenes. Considering its small size, Tofino is a great place for breakfast (try the “bro” nut at Rhino Coffee), brews (locally sourced Kelp Stout and Spruce Tip Ale at Tofino Brewing), and seafood (cod tacos at Wildside Grill).

Ucluelet—a 40-minute drive south along the coastal road—is even more chill. Stay at the newly renovated, adults-only Francis Inn. Watch storms from your room, the lobby, or the spa at Black Rock Oceanfront Resort. Dine on seasonal and foraged wild ingredients at Pluvio Restaurant and Rooms. Sip vodka from Pacific Rim Distilling. And don’t miss the benches-with-a-view on a guided or self-guided hike along the spectacular Wild Pacific Trail.

View from Sicamous Lookout | Darren Robinson/Shuswap Tourism

Get Friendly With The Shuswap

A four-hour drive from Vancouver or quick hop from Kamloops, this under-the-radar region of eight communities surrounding Shuswap Lake and its more than 1,000-kilometres (621-miles) of shoreline is the perfect place to make new friends and support local businesses. You’ll explore mom-and-pop shops, farmers markets, galleries, and festivals to meet the region’s friendly folk—the makers, bakers and producers who call this place home.

In Salmon Arm, visit the 116-year-old wharf; at 440 feet, it’s the longest wooden freshwater wharf in North America. Then, drop into the Innovation Centre; inside, the maker space always has something creative going on, whether it’s a repair cafe or an intro to 3D printing. And pick up some small-batch soft Italian cheese made by cheesemaker Luigi Ornaghi with milk from Tanto Latte.

Hike the lakeside loop trail at Wild Rose Bay in South Shuswap, or drive to Sicamous Lookout for the soaring cliffside views. And under the more-fun-than-it-should-be category: Journey along the Geocaching Trail of the town of Sicamous.

There are farmers markets (like the one in Sorrento Village) and festivals (Haunting of Falkland), some lasting through the fall months; consult DoTheShu’s calendar of events. To cap off your visit, swing by a community hall for a craft fair, bake sale, or benefit dance (old-fashioned bingo at Blind Bay Memorial Hall, anyone?).

CedarCreek Estate Winery | Andrew Strain

Sipping Sustainably in the Okanagan

A four-hour drive (or short flight) from Vancouver to Kelowna is the Okanagan Valley, a fixture on B.C. ‘s wine map with some 150 wineries. The Okanagan has become a standout for its deepening commitment to organic and sustainable viticulture and winemaking. Grape growers and wine sellers understand the need for stewardship of the land and the natural resources for future generations as they make wines that delight the senses. The region—an excellent terroir which shares the same latitude as northern German and French vineyards—is on track to have 20 percent of its vineyards certified organic, outpacing the rest of the world. Plan a relaxed and responsible drive through the vineyard-dotted countryside, sipping on eco-conscious wines and feasting on farm-fresh meals. Get to know the viticulturists, vintners, and oenologists dedicated to preserving both the art of winemaking and the land on which it flourishes.

From solar-powered cellars, biodynamic practices to delicious wines, the Okanagan offers a glimpse into a sustainable future. One of the old stalwarts, Summerhill Pyramid Winery and Beaumont Family Estate has been producing organic wines for almost three decades; check out their gatherings around a sacred fire each solstice and equinox and on full and new moons. Okanagan Crush Pad, in Summerland, is the first Canadian winery to join the International Wineries for Climate Action, a collective taking action to decarbonize the wine industry.

Start your Fall season with culinary classes paired with wines at Mission Hill Family Estate Winery.

At CedarCreek Estate Winery, one vineyard tour showcases the unique terroir and organic winemaking style of the Okanagan and features five “expressions” of Pinot. At the Indigenous World Winery, purchase wines produced with respect to the land that has sustained the Syilx people for more than 10,000 years.

At Kalala Organic Estate Winery in West Kelowna, growing grapes with minimal interference is part of the family heritage; owner Karnail Sidhu was inspired by his grandparents’ story of a village in India that embraced harmony among all living things. Today, the vineyard boasts one of the largest portfolios of organic Icewines in BC.

It’s not just about Earth-friendly wine. Tin Whistle Brewery, in South Okanagan, has become BC’s first carbon-neutral brewery. And Upside Cider, with its own organic farm, has debuted Kelowna’s first organic cider. Enjoy it with a wood-fired pizza on its rooftop patio.