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11 BC Coastal Towns to Visit This Fall

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Autumn surfing at Cox Bay in Tofino

They say salt water is the perfect salve for most things, whether it comes from tears, sweat, or the sea. Opt for the latter—we’ve had plenty of the former this year—and let the cool Pacific Ocean wash your worries away when you visit one of BC’s coastal cities or seaside towns this fall. 

You’ll find wide open spaces and friendly (but fewer) faces in BC’s West Coast towns. Looking for a physically distanced hideaway? Check. Craving a rugged outdoor adventure on the remote coast? Check. Seeking a bustling getaway full of culture, food, and fun? Check.

What’s more, restaurants, accommodation providers, and tour operators have worked hard to ensure Covid-19 protocols are in place for guest safety and comfort. While your visit to the West Coast may look a little different this autumn, there are still plenty of ways to safely explore BC’s eclectic oceanside communities. Here are a few ideas. 

People walking along Fisherman's Wharf in Victoria| Jordan Dyck

Victoria

This fall, rediscover BC’s beloved capital city. From its historic architecture to its youthful energy, Victoria makes for a fun and relaxing coastal city escape. Book a hotel in the heart of downtown Victoria, where you’ll be within walking distance of eclectic markets, boutiques, and galleries. Take a guided walking or bike tour to discover hidden gems and fascinating tales from the past, or experience Indigenous culture at the Royal BC Museum. The vibrant dining scene is brimming with breweries, pubs, and eateries serving West Coast fare and farm-to-table menus. Drive just a little out of town and you can sample Cowichan Valley wines or the enjoy radiant fall gardens at The Butchart Gardens in Saanich. Stay in the heart of the action at the Parkside Hotel. You can also book a private marshmallow roast on the cozy rooftop fireplace—need we say more? 

Nanaimo

Pay a visit to this classic maritime city for mountain biking, craft beer tasting, island hopping, and forest bathing. Nanaimo, fringed by the Salish Sea (Strait of Georgia) and temperate rainforests, is where the adventurous come to play: go bungee jumping and ziplining at Wildpay Element Parkhike to a breathtaking waterfall, or go for a paddle. Saysutshun/Newcastle Island Provincial Park, just a 15-minute ferry ride away, offers a fascinating glimpse into the living culture of the Snuneymuxw people. Meanwhile, artsy Gabriola Island, with its beautiful beaches, sandstone rocks, and abundance of farm-fresh food, is an adventure-seekers’ haven. Get a feel for the city’s maritime roots by staying on the harbour at the Coast Bastion Hotel, located near the bustling Old City Quarter. And, don’t forget to check out the Nanaimo Bar tasting trail while you’re in town. Get more inspiration for a three-day getaway to Nanaimo. 

Views just outside the Beach Club Resort | @glamouraspirit_

Parksville

This is the land of fresh Fanny Bay oysters, goats on the roof, and quirky adventures.  Book a relaxing seaside escape in Parksville, complete with beach walks, rainforest walks, culinary treats, and pampering. The stunning Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort, with its oceanfront views and Grotto Spa, is a spectacular setting for a spa-cation (and delicious meals to boot). Meanwhile, the luxurious Beach Club Resort offers panoramic ocean views of the beach. The Parksville and Qualicum Beach coastline is dotted with provincial parks and wildlife reserves beckoning to be explored. Take a private rainforest or wildlife tour (you may even see the spawning salmon if you visit in October or November). Or, steal a moment of tranquility at Milner Gardens and Woodland, where you can stroll through the autumnal gardens. This place is made for R&R—start planning your stay

Comox

There’s just something about Comox. Maybe it’s the quaint, beachy high street that’s dotted with little boutiques, java joints, and a bike shop. Perhaps it’s the expansive ocean views seen from Goose Spit or the rolling farmland of the Comox Valley, home to vineyards, fresh produce, and artisan provisions. Foodie-minded neighbour Courtenay, is home to Locals Restaurant, an essential stop if you want to sample the best of Vancouver Island producers. Nearby Cumberland adds a historic and adventurous flavour to the valley, with heritage buildings, tasty local eateries, and an extensive mountain biking trail network (tip: take a guided tour). There’s a healthy selection of breweries and a honey distillery in the area, to boot. If you’re looking for waterfront luxury, try the Kingfisher Oceanside Resort and Spa, where you can slurp oysters, soak up ocean views, and rejuvenate in the spa. It’s hard to pick just one favourite town, so why not try all three? There are plenty of accommodation options throughout the Comox Valley.

Campbell River

The scenic oceanside community of Campbell River is deeply connected to its tidal waters and Indigenous roots. Sample an abundance of freshly harvested seafood, direct from the ocean to your plate: dockside fish and chips, Dungeness crab, oysters, fresh-caught salmon—you name it. As the Salmon Capital of the World, Campbell River is the perfect place to take a guided fishing tour. But, there’s so much else to explore: sample the local libations (a craft brewery, distilleries, and vineyards); visit nearby Elk Falls Provincial Park; buy hand-crafted art and provisions from local shops; take the 10-minute BC Ferries ride to neighbouring Quadra Island. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for an unforgettable wildlife viewing experience, Klahoose Coastal Adventures offers Grizzly Bear tours now through October. Painters Lodge, with commanding views of the Pacific Ocean, makes for a scenic stay, though there are plenty of great hotels, bed and breakfasts, and campsites to choose from

Wandering the beach in San Josef Bay in Cape Scott Provincial Park | Shayd Johnson

Port Hardy

Take your time exploring Northern Vancouver Island (including a stop at Telegraph Cove) as you make your way to Port Hardy, a town on the edge of a wild and ragged coastline that is rich with Indigenous culture. Stay in Kwa’lilas Hotel, owned by the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw people, where you can sample food, view art, and participate in cultural activities. Immerse yourself in the natural wilds of Port Hardy by land, sea, and air: hike through Cape Scott Provincial Park; head for a paddle or surf; visit windswept beaches and remote wilderness with an Indigenous cultural tour; or go flight-seeing. Start planning a memorable and adventurous visit to Port Hardy. You can also book a wildlife and bear viewing journey to the Great Bear Rainforest with Indigenous-owned Seawolf Adventures now through October—the operate out of Port McNeill, which is a 30-minute drive away. 

Tofino

Tofino, with its expansive beaches, thriving food and drink scene, and surf shops, is a soothing fall escape filled with adventurous days and cozy nights. With the bustling energy of summer in the rear view mirror, you may find a more relaxed atmosphere with fewer crowds in town. Take a surf lesson (it’s warmer than you think) or head out for a rainforest hike; then, swap adventure tales over a small-batch brew at Tofino Brewing Co. In late autumn, powerful Pacific storms roll in, hammering Vancouver Island’s wild West Coast. Don your wet weather gear and hit the beach to stormwatch (at a safe distance of course)—you may just spot local pro surfers catching a wave or two. Stay at the Tofino Resort and Marina right downtown, where you can book a day excursion and sample sea-to-table fare at their in-house restaurant, 1909 Kitchen. Book a fall stay and let the Pacific Ocean do the rest.

Ucluelet

Ucluelet, rugged, remote, and pristine, is a laid-back fishing village with plenty of coastal charm—and its fair share of adventure, too. The spectacular Wild Pacific Trail offers peak-a-boo views of untouched inlets and archipelagos, with the crown jewel being Amphitrite Point Lighthouse (a great place for stormwatching). Take to the water with a guided kayak tour on the quieter harbour side of town (weather dependent) or book a wildlife viewing excursion. Located on Canada’s most Westerly point, the sleepy town has an unassuming, but burgeoning culinary scene, with a new brewery, eateries, food trucks (try: Ravenlady Oyster Forte), and upscale dining (think: Pluvio). Though it may have blue collar roots, Ucluelet is also a place for luxury—take, for instance, Black Rock Oceanfront Resort, perched on a rocky point overlooking the vast coastline. There are plenty more accommodation options for a tranquil stay in Ucluelet. 

Checking out Gibsons Marina, @folkfotos

Gibsons

The town of Gibsons may have been an idyllic coastal backdrop for the popular TV show The Beachcombers, but it’s even more charming in real life. Just minutes from the BC Ferries Langdale terminal, Gibsons is a gateway to exploring the southern Sunshine Coast, with its parks, beaches, and hidden gems. Foodies will delight in the countless restaurants and eateries sprinkled throughout the picturesque seaside town, with a focus on global flavours, fresh seafood, and local ingredients (plus: there’s great coffee and donuts). Procure picnic items at Gibsons Public Market: artisan cheeses, locally-cured meats, fresh-baked bread, and chocolate (of course). Visit the village of Roberts Creek, just 15 minutes up the highway, an artists haven with a scenic waterfront pier and historic general store. From here, you can explore Roberts Creek Provincial Park, go mountain biking, hike to waterfalls, and visit secret beaches. With waterfront views and an on-site restaurant at Bonniebrook Lodge, you may just never want to leave. 

Sechelt

Just 30 minutes from the BC Ferries Langdale terminal, Sechelt is a launchpad for outdoor play, cultural experiences, and great dining (El Segundo and Batch 44 Brewery and Kitchen are new this year). Davis Bay, which offers views of the Salish Sea and eastern shores of Vancouver Island, is the perfect spot for a beach picnic. On the other side of the peninsula, Sechelt Inlet, home to Porpoise Bay Provincial Park, is prime for a kayak or boat tour, while neighbouring Coast Gravity Park is a mountain biking paradise. Sunshine Coast Art Tours is a great way to experience the coast’s thriving arts community and craft tasting rooms that have popped up in recent years. Check out the Sunshine Coast Art Crawl October 23-25 to explore the Sunshine Coast’s artsy community (they have re-imagined this annual event for 2020). Stay just 10 minutes out of town at the Pointhouse Suites on Sargeant Bay, nestled on a granite rock face overlooking the ocean.

Bella Coola

Bella Coola, a town in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest, is a doorway to raw, untouched wilderness. The Bella Coola Valley, with its glacial rivers, jutting fjords, and vast forests, stretches 100 kilometres inland, with temperatures typically remaining mild into the early fall. The vibrant living culture of the Nuxalk people is deeply embedded here, and you can experience it for yourself: totems, contemporary art, carvings, museums, and heritage landmarks. Visiting in the fall means that you may be lucky enough to witness the salmon spawn or go bear viewing when you stay in a rustic cedar lodge with Bella Coola Grizzly ToursGet an intimate tour of these vibrant coastal waters with a sailing charter, as you sail along ancient coastlines peppered with waterfalls, old growth forests and hot springs—wolves, whales, bears, and other wildlife are often seen on the trip. Fly into Bella Coola by airplane or helicopter to get a bird’s eye lush valley on the way in, or take in the dramatic beauty of the coast along the BC Ferries voyage from Port Hardy to Bella Coola (advance booking is required).

 

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Featured Image: Autumn surfing at Cox Bay in Tofino | Brian Caissie

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The Parkside Hotel & Spa

The Parkside Hotel & Spa features some of the largest guest rooms in Victoria. Conveniently located two blocks from the world famous Inner...

Phone: (250) 940-1200

View Listing

Hotels

Coast Bastion Hotel

The Coast Bastion Hotel is located in the heart of charming Nanaimo, near the ferry terminal and within walking distance to the seawall walkway,...

Phone: (250) 753-6601

View Listing

Spas & Wellness, Hotels, Resorts & Wilderness Lodges

Kingfisher Oceanside Resort and Spa

Nestled in a coastal forest on the eastern shore of Vancouver Island, the Kingfisher Oceanside Resort and Spa offers breathtaking ocean and...

Phone: (250) 338-1323

View Listing

Fishing, Hot Springs, Whale Watching, Wildlife Tours, Resorts & Wilderness Lodges

Tofino Resort + Marina

Adventure seekers coming to battle the waves, foodies drawn to the unique tastes of Tofinos incredible culinary scene, and ocean lovers looking...

Phone: (250) 725-3277

View Listing

Storm Watching, Hotels, Resorts & Wilderness Lodges

Black Rock Oceanfront Resort

Set in Nature, Designed for ComfortVancouver Islands most awe-inspiring oceanfront resort, Black Rock Resort offers a spectacular escape from the...

Phone: (866) 762-5011

View Listing

Indigenous Culture, Hotels

Kwa'lilas Hotel

The Kwalilas Hotel (meaning a place to sleep) is a premier First Nations four-star destination hotel located on the North Island. The hotel...

Phone: (250) 949-8525

View Listing

Bed & Breakfasts

The Bonniebrook Lodge

Historic Bonniebrook Lodge since 1912 features 7 luxury suites, comfortably appointed in a contemporary West Coast style. Bonniebrook Lodge is...

Phone: (604) 886-2887

View Listing

Cabins & Cottages

Bella Coola Grizzly Tours Inc.

Private Log Cabins with sundecks and full facilities offer panoramic views of the Bella Coola Valley. Kitchenettes, wireless internet, satellite...

Phone: (250) 982-0098

View Listing

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Amber Turnau in Squamish
WRITTEN BY: Amber Turnau

From: Squamish
Amber is a freelance storyteller and outdoor adventurer who has spent nine years living in the beautiful Sea-to-Sky Corridor. When she's not writing, she spends her spare time snowboarding, hiking, biking, and SUPing her way through the wilds of BC. Fun Fact: Amber spent the first seven years of her life living on a sailboat and travelling the world with her family. Now, she has the best of both worlds, splitting her time between ocean and mountains—and loving every minute of it.