After a late spring and months of pandemic travel restrictions, it finally feels like summer has arrived in British Columbia. The provincial travel ban has been lifted and everyone is packing their cars to seek out greener pastures (for a few days anyway). It’s a busy time for popular summer spots, but these less touristy travel destinations will help you avoid the crowds.
Remember to always check your route ahead of time for road work and forest fire updates.
Northern Vancouver Island
Located roughly six hours from Victoria and a four-hour drive from Nanaimo, the northern tip of Vancouver Island is decidedly the end less travelled. Given its remote location relative to other parts of the island, it’s the perfect escape for vacationers looking for a quiet getaway.
At the northernmost tip of the island is Cape Scott Provincial Park, 115 kilometres of old growth forest and remote beaches. At low tide, visitors can wander between the sea stacks that jut out of the sand. The park is also home to wolves, an allure for some campers, but one that requires caution. If you prefer keeping four walls between you and the wildlife, the town of Port Hardy offers a variety of lodging options.
A few kilometres south sits the charming settlement of Telegraph Cove. Whether you spend the night here or are just passing through, this little bay is worth a stop. Not only is it one of the best places for spotting orcas on the island, it’s one of the last remaining boardwalk settlements on Vancouver Island and feels largely untouched by modern life.
For a less ambitious island road trip (but one that’s certainly no less stunning) the quiet community of Port Renfrew is a perfect choice. While it’s located just two hours from Victoria by car, it’s easy to spend a day (or a couple nights) exploring the beautiful beaches along the way. Notable stops include China Beach, Mystic Beach, Sombrio and Jordan River, where surfers can be spotted throughout the year catching waves.
When you get to the end of the highway, you will have reached your destination. Port Renfrew is the furthest settlement on the southwest side of the island accessible by the Juan De Fuca Highway. Once you arrive in Port Renfrew, there are plenty of recreation and RV camping sites available, as well as seaside cottages for rent. Spend your days exploring the coastal trails, whale watching or fishing, and at least one of your evenings posted up at the Renfrew Pub.
If you’re trying to avoid the summer ferry rush, don’t worry, we have recommendations on the mainland too. Lillooet Lake is located just half an hour from Pemberton and features four campsites, all located on the northeastern shore just up the In-SHUCK-ch Forest Service Road.
While the lake is glacier fed, it’s a welcome refuge for campers on hot days. If you’d rather avoid cold water altogether, you can visit Skookumchuck Hot Springs another 60 kilometres down the service road, or Sloquet Hot Springs, 37 kilometres past it. On your way back to Pemberton, treat yourself to a delicious Chicken Caesar or Gomae Tuna sandwich at Mile One Eating House.
No longer a small railway town but a world-class ski resort, we can’t categorize Revelstoke as a secluded destination. However, an hour-and-a-half down the road, situated between six of Canada’s most spectacular national parks, is Golden. Surrounded by Yoho, Glacier, Banff, Jasper, Kootenay, and Mount Revelstoke, Golden is a hub for incredible hiking, mountain biking, heritage sites, waterfalls, canoeing, fishing, rafting, and golfing.
There’s a never-ending list of things to keep you busy once you arrive in Golden, but the drive itself is also peppered with unique sights and activities to break up your journey. Just a 40-minute detour from Hope up Highway 1 is Hell’s Gate, the narrow section of the Fraser River where Simon Fraser famously wrote “No man should ever pass through here it was truly like passing through the Gates of Hell!” Luckily, you can experience this infamous section of the river from a safe distance, by a suspended gondola that passes over its treacherous waters.
A few hundred kilometres up the highway is another iconic stop, the Enchanted Forest in Malakwa, just 40 minutes from Revelstoke. Back in 1960, Doris and Ernest Needham began transforming the 40 kilometres of forest into a home for Doris’ larger-than-life fairy tale figurines. Today, their retirement project remains a beloved roadside attraction for people passing through.
Bella Coola Valley
Stationed at the entrance to the Great Bear Rainforest, on the indigenous territory of the Nuxalk Nation, is the community of Bella Coola. Once the site of a Hudson’s Bay Trading Post, today residents rely primarily on fishing, logging, and tourism. Bella Coola proper features an art gallery, gift shop and the historic Kopas Store. Bella Coola Harbour is the only port between Vancouver and Prince Rupert, which provides an important supply route to Interior B.C. In addition to the natural beauty, incredible wildlife, and horseback riding, one of the most unique aspects of Bella Coola is the window into the indigenous cultural history of the area. There are many opportunities to immerse yourself, including petroglyph tours, cultural gatherings, and art workshops.
As Bella Coola is an extremely secluded community, please plan your trip ahead of time and educate yourself about their COVID-19 protocol here.