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Best adventure experiences in British Columbia
Best adventure experiences in British Columbia
How to cruise the British Columbia Coast in style
For travellers seeking a highly personalised and truly authentic experience, V2V Vacations promises to provide a uniquely beautiful, comfortable and convenient journey between downtown Vancouver and downtown Victoria in British Columbia, Canada.
Step up your next trek by adding a chopper to the mix in BC’s Bugaboos
Want to go heli-hiking in British Columbia? Leave the gear at home but bring your sense of adventure, writes Katrina Lobley.
Would you walk amongst grizzlies with a BC bear whisperer?
In order to not just see grizzly bears but walk with them, one has to get up early and develop a strong olfactory fortitude, writes Birgit-Cathrin Duval. It absolutely reeks here. There are dead salmon everywhere: on sand banks, on the riverbanks, in the water. Red-white bodies, half rotten and chewed at. They travelled for weeks on end, swimming thousands of kilometres upstream and, here in the Mitchell River, in the endless forests of the Cariboo Mountains in British Columbia, they returned to the place of their birth, only to spawn here and die here – and become a feast for grizzly bears. The nights are short at the Pyna-tee-ah Lodge owned and run by Ecotours BC in the unlikely town of Likely, British Columbia. A handful of houses surrounded by thick rain forests, high mountains and wild rivers, this is a wilderness only familiar if you watch a lot of nature docos on TV. Despite the protracted night, there’s no sleep-in on the cards; the alarm buzzes at 4:30 and, in pitch black, we set off on the motorboat to cross Quesnel Lake into a region only very few tourists ever get to see. [caption id="attachment_26223" align="alignnone" width="667"] A mother bear and its cub hunting along the salmon-rich Mitchell River (photo: Ecotours BC).[/caption] At over 450 metres deep, this body of water is the deepest fjord lake on Earth, and the thought makes us a little dizzy. We reach the mouth of the Mitchell River in the dawn light and our guide, Gary moors the boat so we can board an even smaller dinghy to travel further up the river. Into the water At 70, Gary Zorn is still fit and wiry. He has spent half his life in this wilderness, and his steely blue eyes are sharp and always alert. He used to use his eagle eyes to guide bear hunters until he came to detest the senseless shooting. He then founded Ecotours BC with his wife Peggy to specialise in animal sightings and, certainly, it’s more like animal encounters as he takes guests closer to bears than anyone else would ever dare. [caption id="attachment_26224" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Discarded salmon carcasses along Mitchell River draw in a bald eagle (photo: Ecotours BC).[/caption] It’s only possible to do in small, exclusive groups; Gary, his employee Ryan Simmonds and we three travellers are the lucky participants (or could it be victims?) today. It is an unbelievable experience: while most sane people would never walk towards a known bear feeding ground, we don waders and Gary leads us forward up the Mitchell River. The current is so strong that it almost lifts me off my feet. There is that overpoweringly pungent stench of old fish as we wade upstream in slow motion. I step on something soft. My foot is standing on a half-rotted salmon. I can’t avoid stepping on countless slippery bodies as I scan the riverbank, surrounded by dense undergrowth, occasionally broken by tunnel-like passages – bear picnic spots. Chewed carcasses are piled up here, many with part of their head missing. The bears are gourmets and only bite off the nourishing brain. It all becomes suddenly real and, for a moment, panic rises. What would happen if a bear suddenly appeared from one of the tunnels? [caption id="attachment_26225" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Still fit and with nerves of steel at 70, Gary Zorn is the founder of Ecotours BC with his wife Peggy (photo: Birgit-Cathrin Duval).[/caption] I push the thought to one side and concentrate on Gary. The riverbed has become deeper, the water now reaching far above my hips. We link arms and wade together step for step through the current. It is an unbelievable feeling to know that we are walking through grizzly bear territory. We have come to observe bears, but now I am the one who feels she is being watched. Gary stands as safe as a steel girder in the current – without him, I would have stumbled countless times in a stinking baptism of decaying fish. Circle of life I ask myself if I will ever be able to eat a salmon steak again, with a glance at the dead and rotting fish. However, their death brings new life. With their mass dying, a lifecycle is completed, for the rotting bodies of fish are full of nutrients including complex proteins, containing nitrogen compounds. These, in turn, form an excellent fertiliser for the trees in the rainforests, and of course cheer the bears up with a sumptuous feast. However today we do not see any of the shaggy brown hides. Are all the bears lying in the bushes after eating their fill? Gary takes us back to the boat. He remains in the water and drags the boat along behind him. We wait, and hope, until we reach a sand bank. A dead salmon is lying on the bank, and an eagle sits calmly atop it. I am holding my camera at the ready: my instinct tells me that something is just about to happen. Then it all happens very quickly: a wild splashing, the eagle flying off startled. A young grizzly bear storms into the water right in front of us, running to the sand bank, snatching the salmon, dropping the catch and jumping impetuously back into the water. He doesn’t notice us, even when Gary moves the boat closer. After a couple of minutes he trots back into the undergrowth without hunting for salmon, nor even deigning to give us a backward glance. We are very close to the pulse of this wild, untamed nature doco come to life, in which the grizzly bear still continues to be the uncrowned king. This isn’t television: we are here live, and very much alive although, once the adrenalin calms down, we are all very quiet. Only the cold rain, which has been whipping me in the face on the journey to the landing stage, lets me sense that this was anything other than a dream. Travel information The Cariboo Chilcotin Coast area (landwithoutlimits.com) lies in British Columbia (hellobc.com) between the Pacific and the Rocky Mountains, characterised by rainforests, lakes, cliffs and precipitous mountains. It is the wild west of Canada, where they are still prospecting for gold today. There are fascinating opportunities here for nature-lovers to observe grizzly bears up close. The largest population of grizzly bears in the interior of British Columbia lives in the Cariboo Mountain Provincial Park. Interested in Canada? We've got an amazing amount of information on Canada, don't forget to check it out.
Find rustic royalty at Clayoquot Wilderness Resort
Action and beauty abounds at Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, one of Canada's most unique.
Escape the Aussie crowd on Canada’s secret ski highway
We discover the true heart of Canada in amongst some of its greatest snow spots. This morning a ‘granola type’ (as they call them around here) on the laidback streets of Nelson asked if I’d like a hug because he was giving them out for free. Now a lumberjack type (think Russell Crowe between movie roles) is spitting tobacco ‘juice’ from the corner of his mouth and telling me I’m putting the wrong fuel in my vehicle – except he calls it a ‘vee-hick-al’, like he’s watched far too much Deliverance. I’m guessing he’s not likely to give me any hugs, free or otherwise, and it’s not the first time on this road trip I’ve felt a hell of a long way from the sanctuary of Banff. Enter the Powder Highway Yep, the Powder Highway might be home to one of the highest concentrations of ski resorts on the planet, but you wouldn’t know it here. [caption id="attachment_26181" align="alignnone" width="1024"] The Powder Highway wraps itself around 1000km of the prettiest alpine landscape in North America (Photo: Tourism BC).[/caption] It's called a highway, but it’s actually a collection of five roads that run 1000 kilometres in a circular direction in the very south-eastern corner of British Columbia, and along these roads are ski resorts almost nobody’s ever heard of… hmmm, Red Mountain, anyone? And there’s some that almost nobody’s ever been to – when was the last time Whitewater Mountain came up in your Canadian ski conversation? All up, there are actually eight alpine resorts here, 11 Nordic ski centres, 15 cat-skiing operators and nine heli-ski operators in some of the prettiest alpine landscape on this Earth. [caption id="attachment_26178" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Ski resorts along the Powder Highway are famously low key and offer perfect untracked snow far from crowds (Photo: Tourism BC)[/caption] However there’s far more to the Powder Highway than high-country thrills and spills. No, being here feels like a genuine cultural experience, for I’m not surrounded by Australians here as I am at Whistler. Here, locals wear flannelette even when it’s 30-below, and there are towns on this road that sound like Dr Seuss had some thing to do with naming them – though try rhyming with Spillimacheen and Skookumchuck. [caption id="attachment_26170" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Kimberley reinvented itself with some of best skiing in BC and transformed its town into a little piece of Bavaria (Photo: RCR)[/caption] Find 'secret' Canada I’m avoiding some of the better-known resorts on the road, like Fernie Alpine Resort (see our Ultimate Guide to Fernie), simply because I’d like to disappear into a Canada that’s completely different to Australia, and where no Australians tread. So I start my journey as far south as the highway goes, at Red Mountain – in fact, it’s just six kilometres north of the US border. It’s the oldest ski resort in western Canada. There’s only six chairlifts here, and they sure move slowly. If you’re in a rush, you should avoid this place because nothing, and nobody, moves fast around here. [caption id="attachment_26171" align="alignnone" width="668"] The Kimberley cuckoo clock is the largest freestanding closk of its kind in Canda. (Photo: Herb Neufeld Flickr)[/caption] Locals are a mix of lumberjack types and ski bums who never really grew up and got real jobs. I love the old hippies with their flowing beards that look a little like Willie Nelson – though when I try to follow them down ski runs I discover 50 years of riding these mountains has turned them into backcountry hellraisers who’d ski rings around wannabes 40 years their junior. Happy hours at the Flying Steamshovel are legendary, though for those chasing a tad more culture than four-buck beers, aim your vee-hick-al north another 50 kilometres and visit Canada’s most famous counter-cultural town. [caption id="attachment_26177" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Ski gear lining the platzl at Kimberley (Photo: Mark Eleven Photography for Ski RCR).[/caption] You’ll find Nelson right beside Whitewater Ski Resort. Nelson has to be one of North America’s prettiest towns – built as it is right on the edge of Kootenay Lake and in the shade of the towering Selkirk Mountains. It may look sleepy, but the place buzzes with life – it has the most famous small-town arts community in Canada. Everyone around here is an artist, it seems, except perhaps the guy on Baker Street trying to sell me an ounce of “Canada’s best weed” (or maybe he’s the biggest artist of all). Caution: you may want to stay Nelson is one of those rare towns you feel you could live in within minutes of walking its main street. It has over 350 heritage buildings and a fully restored street car, though mostly it’s the people who make it – while Canadians are famous for their friendliness, Nelson takes the friendly scale to dizzy new heights. [caption id="attachment_26176" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Sunrise at Revelstoke (Photo: Ian Houghton)[/caption] Locals round here favour hemp over flannelette, Birkenstocks over logger’s boots; though just east of here I find a street where people wear Bavarian-style lederhosen. Few Australians head into Kimberley (see our Ultimate Guide to Kimberley), but it’s as stunning a town as you’ll see in western Canada, with its views out over the Purcell Mountains. It was once the site of the world’s biggest lead-zinc mine, but when it closed Kimberley faced economic ruin. To promote tourism, Kimberley re-invented itself as the ‘Bavarian City Of The Rockies’, building a downtown platzl (city square), Canada’s largest free-standing cuckoo clock and introducing the world’s biggest annual accordion championships. Yessiree, you’ll see a little of everything on the Powder Highway. Further north, I find a local out walking his pet pig in the historic streets of Revelstoke (see our Ultimate Guide to Revelstoke): the kind of town where barmen remember your drink, your name and where you come from. Once not much more than a stop on Canada’s Union Pacific railway link, these days Revelstoke is the epicentre of the world heli-skiing industry. But somehow town never forgot its humble working-class origins, even though many of the visitors here are forking out $2000-plus-a-night to stay in five-star heli-ski hotels. [caption id="attachment_26175" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Red Mountain is just 6kms from the US and the oldest ski resort in Western Canada (Photo: Ryan Flett).[/caption] And in this way I think Revelstoke epitomises the Powder Highway. Somehow, in an area of the Rockies so spoilt for ski mountains and stunning alpine scenery, nothing got spoilt at all. Towns still feel decades from being over-run. The road is yours to ride alone, and it’ll take you into the breathing soul of Canada – if you’ll just let it. Exploring the Powder Highway: The Powder Highway stretches from Revelstoke in the west to Fernie in the east, and Red Mountain in the south to Kicking Horse (see our Ultimate Guide to Kicking Horse) in the north. There are three gateway airports to start your Powder Highway adventure: Kelowna in British Columbia, Calgary in Alberta and Spokane in Washington. [caption id="attachment_26173" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Nelson main street. One of the prettiest towns on the Powder Highway, Nelson is built right on the edge of Kootenay Lake. (Photo: Tourism BC)[/caption] If you fly to Spokane, your journey will begin at Red Mountain; if you fly to Calgary you’ll start in Kicking Horse; and if you fly to Kelowna, you’ll begin in Revelstoke. Hire cars are available at all three airports. For more information on the Powder Highway, check out hellobc.com, and the town of Nelson.
Dust off your boots for Vancouver’s incredible West Coast Trail
Stroll along a hikers paradise in British Colombia's West Coast Trail. Originally established in 1907 along Vancouver Island’s wild south-western edge to serve as a means for shipwreck survivors to travel to safety, the Dominion Lifesaving Trail was incorporated into the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve in 1973, and re-dubbed the West Coast Trail. [caption id="attachment_21020" align="alignnone" width="667"] Hikers on the West Coast trail.[/caption] These days it’s more famous as one of the best hiking trails in the world, allowing you to walk the same paths once (and still) trodden by the First Nations’ groups of the Ditidaht, Pacheedaht and Huu-ay-aht. Stretching for 75 kilometres, you have the option of spending anywhere from four to seven nights making this iconic journey – you’ll climb ladders, make your way through forests, pass waterfalls, ford rivers and carefully navigate slopes to reach your destination. [caption id="attachment_21021" align="alignnone" width="1024"] The West Coast trail ferry arrives.[/caption] It’s an ideal trip for those who like to challenge themselves. Guided tours off the main path are also available, taking you into a variety of First Nations’ cultural sites. [caption id="attachment_21022" align="alignnone" width="1024"] A waterfall on the West Coast trail.[/caption] For experienced hikers, Canada doesn’t get any better than this. GET GOING: The West Coast Trail (westcoasttrail.com) is accessible year-round, but its “season” is May 1 to September 30. Hikers visiting outside this period must be aware that not all facilities, including search and rescue, may be available. LOCATION: The West Coast Trail is in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve in Vancouver Island’s wild south-west, spanning 75 kilometres between Port Renfew at its southern end, and the fishing village of Bamfield to the north. The closest major cities are Port Alberni and Duncan, both of which are about two to three hours’ drive away. [caption id="attachment_21023" align="alignnone" width="1024"] One of the beautiful spots on the west Coast trail.[/caption] “Wild, pristine country – you'll feel you’re in the middle of nowhere. With beaches, lakes, rivers, tall mountains and wild rainforest, this is one of the best wilderness areas in North America.” – Craig Tansley << Previous | Next >> Return to the ‘100 Things to do in Canada Before You Die’ countdown var axel = Math.random() + """"; var a = axel * 10000000000000; document.write('');
Float alongside grizzlies at British Columbia’s Great Bear Lodge
Get all the grizzly you can bear.
Lodge in style at the Great Bear Rainforest’s Nimmo Bay Resort
Live wild, and also wildly pampered at a totally unique resort.
Nature vs Media: is Canada’s wilderness being threatened by Instagram?
In this digital age, where travel has become synonymous with social media and selfies, what are our responsibilities to the places we photograph and post about? Alissa Jenkins recently found out first hand in Canada’s BC wilderness.
Forget the snow and follow Whistler locals to Russet Lake
Venture to an alpine lake that just begs to be plunged into.
Ply the Inside Passage with British Columbia Ferries
Venture through the intricate waterways of British Colombia's Inside Passage.
Go grizzly cub spotting at British Columbia’s Knight Inlet Lodge
Meet one of Canada's most gorgeous animals - the grizzly cub.
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