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6 West Coast Experiences
Every BC Resident Should Have

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As British Columbians, we sometimes forget how incredible it is to have vast stretches of Pacific shoreline at our fingertips. As the weather turns fine, it’s time to celebrate our good fortune and rediscover old favourites—and seek new adventures—with some quintessentially West Coast experiences.

Otter seaplane over Bowen Island | Harbour Air Seaplanes

Enjoy Scenic Views From the Sky

Hopping on a floatplane is a novel way to explore the drama and beauty of the West Coast. View the colourful landscapes from a bird’s-eye view as you soar above the Salish Sea and its secluded inlets and scattered islands. Point out familiar places etched into the patchwork: glassy harbours, hidden lakes, and ant-like cabins sprinkled along rocky points.   

Harbour Air Seaplanes flies between Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo, Tofino, and the Gulf Islands, offering a scenic and speedy 35-minute flight to and from the mainland. While in Victoria, you can also take a panoramic city tour or do a Fly ‘N Dine Tour to The Butchart Gardens. Scenic tours of Nanaimo are also available.

Based in Sechelt, Sunshine Coast Air also offers a variety of scenic flightseeing tours and packages that explore plunging waterfalls, sprawling coastline, and seaside communities. 

Learn more about Sunshine Coast Air and Harbour Air Covid-19 safety measures.

Kayaking off the coast of Victoria, Reuben Krabbe

Savour Ocean Vistas

The West Coast is as much a state of mind as it is a geographic area: there’s nothing like salty ocean air to leave you feeling fresh-faced and alive. Immerse yourself in the elements and attune your body to the timing of the wind and waves.

With its expanse of forest-fringed beaches, the Sunshine Coast offers plenty of opportunity to look out over the cool waters of the Pacific. Stop by one of the many oceanside parks that dot the coast, or take in panoramic views from high atop the mountain peaks as you hike the Sunshine Coast Trail

With one of the longest shorelines in Canada, Vancouver Island’s eastern coastline is best explored from Nanaimo. Grab a coffee at oceanfront Drip Café, then cross the road to sit on Departure Bay beach, or head to Neck Point Park for a stroll. Or, take the 10-minute ferry to Saysutshun (formerly known as Newcastle Island) to explore village sites of the Snuneymuxw people, as well as walking trails and campsites. Head further north up the coast to Parksville and take a walk along the expansive shoreline of Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park, where the Pacific Ocean meets the land.

Grab a picnic lunch in Victoria before venturing off for a day trip to Mystic Beach in Juan de Fuca Provincial Park. Stroll the beach at low tide, and listen to the barnacles bubble as you inhale the primordial scent of the sea; feel the buzzing energy of a thriving ecosystem and run your fingers over neon ferns. 

Black bear with a fish on the rocky coastline in Port Hardy | Yuri Choufour

Discover Coastal Wildlife

The West Coast’s towering forests and moody shores are home to a rich and biodiverse array of sea and land creatures. Eagles swoop from tree to tree, surveilling the shorelines. Seabirds dive below the surface in search of their next meal, and opalescent jellyfish glide gently through the emerald depths. On shore, coastal land dwellers move swiftly and silently at dawn and dusk.  

Taking a guided nature viewing tour is a great way to discover secret wildlife havens and learn about the ecology and history of the area. Groups of up to six people can explore the Sunshine Coast’s Sechelt Inlet by Zodiac with Pedals and Paddles. Harbour seals, bears, and occasional orcas frequent these waters. 

Coastal Rainforest Adventures offers spectacular wildlife viewing out of Port Hardy, where you can see whales, bears, sea otters, and more.

Head deep into Broughton Archipelago, the traditional territory of the Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation, with Sea Wolf Adventures. Departing from Port McNeill (North of Telegraph Cove), these tours offer an intimate and immersive opportunity to learn about the land and culture from Indigenous guides, while spotting local wildlife, including grizzly bears, eagles, and whales.  The Kwakwaka’wakw  people have a deep connection with all wildlife, but particularly orcas, who often appear in ceremonial masks, songs, and stories. 

A kayaker explores the Desolation Sound coastline, Andrew Strain

Spend Time on the Ocean

Indigenous people have been paddling the coast since time immemorial, protectors of our waterways. We often experience the coast by looking out at the ocean from the comfort of land—a beach, a scenic viewpoint, a rocky perch. But what do we see differently when we change our vantage point and look back at the land from the water? 

Egmont, a small village located about one hour north of Gibsons, is a gateway to exploration along the wilder side of the Sunshine Coast. The Egmont Adventure Centre offers jet ski and kayak equipment rentals, as well as a host of exhilarating tours. Explore the serene waters of Hotham Sound and Sechelt Inlet, or zip through the Skookumchuk Rapids by speed boat in search of waterfalls.

Take a guided fishing charter with Coastal Wilderness Adventures in Campbell River, known as a salmon hotspot. While the goal is to find a tasty salmon, memorable experiences come from looking at BC’s coastal landscapes, breathing in the salty air, and bearing witness to the thriving marine environment.

Listen to the gentle pull of a paddle through the ocean as you steer your nimble kayak through glassy waters. Take an interpretive tour of the coast with Blue Dog Kayaking just outside Victoria—you might even see a regal Great Blue Heron. Or, glide through the waters of the Sunshine Coast with Footprint Kayak & Hike Explorations. 

Cabana Desolation Eco Resort | Adam Vallance

Enjoy A Seaside Stay

Staying at an oceanfront accommodation offers a cozy perch from which to witness the many moods of the West Coast. With the ebb and flow of the tides, there’s always something new and interesting to see at the water’s edge: a boat passing by, a coastal creature, or a new way the sunlight illuminates your favourite viewpoint. 

Stay off the grid in rustic cabins in the heart of Desolation Sound Marine Provincial Park at the Cabana Desolation Eco Resort, located on a remote island near Lund. Explore the calm waters by SUP and kayak, enjoy an evening dip in bioluminescence, and savour fresh-caught seafood. 

 

The Kingfisher Oceanside Resort & Spa in Comox adds a touch of luxury to your seaside stay, though there are plenty of oceanfront accommodations in BC to choose from. The Comox Valley is set against the backdrop of pristine beaches, waterfalls, and nature trails. Adventure during the day, then treat yourself to the spa, including their signature hydrotherapy experience in sandstone caves.  

Tucked away in Madeira Park in Pender Harbour, the Painted Boat Resort Spa & Marina makes for a comfortable and cozy waterfront stay. Watch the resident eagles fly overhead and enjoy a sunset cocktail on your deck overlooking the harbour. Dubbed the “Venice of the North,” Pender Harbour is known for its intricate network of waterways, perfect for casual paddling. Watch for the bronze mermaid statue on the rock out front that reveals itself at low tide.

 

Two people at the Royal BC Museum, Jordan Dyck

Immerse Yourself in West Coast Culture

You may already have explored some of the sleepy seaside villages and buzzing cities that pepper our expansive coastline, but there’s always something new to see—and it’s just a scenic BC Ferries ride away. 

Head to Victoria to rediscover favourite haunts and see the city through fresh eyes. Discover culinary gems, cocktail bars, and craft breweries; or rent a bicycle or scooter and head to Beacon Hill Park and Fisherman’s Wharf. If you haven’t been—and even if you have—don’t miss The Butchart Gardens to see why your fellow BC residents love it here.  

The lush Cowichan Valleywith its bounty of vineyards, orchards, and farmland, has the added bonus of sitting close to the sea. Sample fresh, coastal cuisine and savour craft beverages at local farmers markets and eateries dotting fertile valleys. 

Explore wild coastal landscapes and the Indigenous culture of northern Vancouver Island with a visit to Port Hardy, located on the traditional territories of the Kwakwaka’wakw people. For a deeper cultural connection, stay at the Indigenous-owned Kwa’lilas Hotel, which boasts First Nations-inspired west coast cuisine and a curated selection of stunning artwork and carvings by the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Nations. 

Featured image: Coastal Victoria overlooking the sea | Tourism Vancouver Island/Ben Giesbrecht

MENTIONED IN THIS STORY

Sightseeing, Airlines, Accessibility

Harbour Air Seaplanes

Founded in 1982 with two small seaplanes, Harbour Air is North Americas largest and first fully carbon neutral airline. The companys international...

Phone: (800) 665-0212

View Listing

Airlines

Sunshine Coast Air

The Plane is waiting to take you on a spectacular Flightseeing Tour adventure. Soar over stunning coastline, islands and the Sechelt Inlet...

Phone: (604) 740-8889

View Listing

Boating, Paddling, Sightseeing, Wildlife Tours

Pedals & Paddles Adventure Sports

Spectacular West Coast BC scenery is offered in a 2 hour kayak tour in Sechelt Inlet. Our friendly, knowledgeable guides will take you and your...

Phone: (604) 885-6440

View Listing

Boating, Indigenous Culture, Bird Watching, Whale Watching, Wildlife Tours, Accessibility

Sea Wolf Adventures

Sea Wolf Adventures connects travellers to destinations in the Broughton Archipelago and the Great Bear Rainforest for grizzly bear viewing,...

Phone: (250) 902-9653

View Listing

Fishing, Accessibility

Coastal Wilderness Adventures

We are a full time, year-round fishing charter company striving to give you the best in the industry. We offer both Saltwater and Freshwater...

Phone: (250) 205-0022

View Listing

Attractions, Accessibility

The Butchart Gardens

Come enjoy our breathtaking 22 ha (55 acres) of gardens year around. In Spring, countless tulips, daffodils and hyacinths will give you a buffet...

Phone: (250) 652-4422

View Listing

Cabins & Cottages, Resorts & Wilderness Lodges

Cabana Desolation Eco Resort

Cabana Desolation Eco Resort is a comfortably designed, exclusive eco resort located on an uninhabited island in the heart of Desolation Sound,...

Phone: (604) 483-2160

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

Sightseeing, Airlines, Accessibility

Harbour Air Seaplanes

Founded in 1982 with two small seaplanes, Harbour Air is North Americas largest and first fully carbon neutral airline. The companys international...

Phone: (800) 665-0212

View Listing

Airlines

Sunshine Coast Air

The Plane is waiting to take you on a spectacular Flightseeing Tour adventure. Soar over stunning coastline, islands and the Sechelt Inlet...

Phone: (604) 740-8889

View Listing

Boating, Paddling, Sightseeing, Wildlife Tours

Pedals & Paddles Adventure Sports

Spectacular West Coast BC scenery is offered in a 2 hour kayak tour in Sechelt Inlet. Our friendly, knowledgeable guides will take you and your...

Phone: (604) 885-6440

View Listing

Boating, Indigenous Culture, Bird Watching, Whale Watching, Wildlife Tours, Accessibility

Sea Wolf Adventures

Sea Wolf Adventures connects travellers to destinations in the Broughton Archipelago and the Great Bear Rainforest for grizzly bear viewing,...

Phone: (250) 902-9653

View Listing

Fishing, Accessibility

Coastal Wilderness Adventures

We are a full time, year-round fishing charter company striving to give you the best in the industry. We offer both Saltwater and Freshwater...

Phone: (250) 205-0022

View Listing

Attractions, Accessibility

The Butchart Gardens

Come enjoy our breathtaking 22 ha (55 acres) of gardens year around. In Spring, countless tulips, daffodils and hyacinths will give you a buffet...

Phone: (250) 652-4422

View Listing

Cabins & Cottages, Resorts & Wilderness Lodges

Cabana Desolation Eco Resort

Cabana Desolation Eco Resort is a comfortably designed, exclusive eco resort located on an uninhabited island in the heart of Desolation Sound,...

Phone: (604) 483-2160

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

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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.