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Experience the Soothing Effect of BC's Coast

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Let the steady cadence of ocean tides bring comfort and restore your vitality. British Columbia’s shoreline, with sprawling beaches bordered by lush rainforests and spotted by constellations of scenic islands, provides ample breathing space when life begins to swell.

Hollyhock on Cortes Island | DM
Let BC’s coastal landscapes buff away at life’s tensions.
Telegraph Cove | Nathan Martin

It’s a bit like being swaddled in a refreshingly cool, soft blanket. Spend a few days or a week or two on the remote shores of BC, tap into the flow of your surroundings, and take in healing—through all your senses.

Note: This story (originally published in January 2020) was updated for the unique travel circumstances of 2021. Information is accurate at the time of publication; we recommend you contact businesses directly to confirm availability and familiarize yourself with their COVID policies.

Sunrise at the Wild Pacific Trail | Ben Giesbrecht

Sight

BC’s mild-weathered coasts are bursting with life and vibrant shades of green throughout the year. There are endless ways to enjoy their beauty, and the soft coastal light can have a pacifying effect. The deep greens, blues, and slate greys signature to the region make us feel calm with their cool, natural palette.

Take an ocean excursion from Prince Rupert and scan the blue horizon of Northern BC’s misty waters to spot humpback whales and orcas, or hike Vancouver Island’s Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet to reap the benefits of coastal colours as your feet crunch along this 8-km, oceanside trail. For a mainland adventure, tackle some of (or all of) the 180-km Sunshine Coast Trail that takes you through diverse coastal landscapes.

Quadra Island | Graeme Owsianski

Sound

When it comes to sounds that relax us most, nature does it best. The meditative sounds of the coast echo the body’s natural rhythms, which helps rebalance the nervous system. The gentle sound of the tide shifting at the shoreline, the pounding surf, or the tip-tap of rain on the coastal canopy all help move you toward a restful state.

Experience this soothing effect from under the boughs of ancient trees as you forest bathe on around Vancouver Island or near Vancouver, or listen to the crashing waves as they lull you to sleep from an oceanview campsite or oceanfront cabin.

Tofino | Ben Giesbrecht

Smell

Breathing in the cool, crisp, coastal air leaves you feeling as buoyant as the chilly saltwater. Catching a whiff of the sea breeze feels almost therapeutic, as the smells of old-growth cedar, hemlock, and fir trees along the coast fill your lungs and uplift your spirit. Coniferous scents can even bolster physical health by supporting the production of immunity-boosting cells, which inspired the healing practice of forest bathing.

A unique place to experience the signature aromas of BC is Haida Gwaii, an archipelago off the north coast that is home to the Haida people. The Haida’s deep connection to the ocean is tangible, and the smell of cedar from exquisite hand-carved canoes and 100-foot totem poles in historic Haida village sites hangs heavy in the air.

Naikoon Provincial Park | John Scarth

Touch

Surfing, swimming, bathing, and even dipping your toes in the ocean all have therapeutic benefits. Water enthusiasts have used exposure to seawater for generations to support good health, and given the mild climate of much of BC’s coast, you can play in the water year round.

Come in the offseason to experience the jolt of your first duck dive in Canada’s surfing capital of Tofino. While the ocean water is cold in this part of the world, you can find plenty of remote and tucked away marine hot springs to soak away your stress. For more gentle exhilaration, board a water vessel: Cross the Salish Sea by boat, or try sea kayaking the conveniently-located Broken Group Islands. Don’t forget to drop your fingers in as you glide through the water. From the northern areas of the Island, you can access the outer reaches of the Great Bear Rainforest on a wildlife watching tour from the water into beautiful Bute Inlet.

When and Where to Go

With more than 25 thousand kilometres of shoreline, discover unique areas of BC’s Pacific coast and find your home base for renewal.

Vancouver Island, the Discovery Islands, and the Gulf Islands are a great year-round choice for travellers, while Northern Vancouver Island, and more remote areas like Desolation Sound and Haida Gwaii, are a fantastic option in the spring, summer, and fall. The central and north-central coast from the Sunshine Coast up to Prince Rupert, with their small-town hospitality and separation from the quicker pace of the southern coastline, make for a restorative trip any time of year.

BC’s coasts can soothe us, teach us, and assure us that we are exactly where we need to be. The changing tide mimics life’s ebbs and flows and brings us back to our most natural self.

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