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British Columbia

British Columbia at a Glance

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Vancouver Travel Guide | Vancouver Island | Guided Tours in British Columbia

British Columbia (BC) is Canada's most western province. It is a tourist draw for its wide range of outdoor adventures, mountains, long coastline and islands.

Regions

Photo © Hello BC
British Columbia is divided into six regions:
  1. Vancouver Coast & Mountains includes the most populous BC city of Vancouver and Whistler.
  2. The sparsely populated Vancouver Island region includes Vancouver Island, other small islands and part of the mainland.
  3. The Thompson Okanagan is famous for its vineyards but also features skiing, golf and more.
  4. Vast and sparsely populated, Northern BC attracts hardcore adventurers to its mountains, rivers and rugged coastline.
  5. The gorgeous Cariboo Chilcotin Coast stretches from the Pacific Coast to the Cariboo Mountains and is popular for its dude and guest ranches, Gold Rush Trail and outdoor adventures.
  6. Fine powder skiing, hot springs, and four provincial parks are some highlights of the Kootenay Rockies.

Major Cities

Vancouver is BC's most populous city (pop.2.1 million+). Vancouver is surrounded by water and mountains, a 3 hr drive from Seattle and a 12-14 hr drive through the Rockies from Calgary.
Victoria is the provincial capital on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. Getting to Victoria requires a ferry or plane/helicopter ride.
Kelowna (pop. 118,000+) is in BC's Thompson Okanagan region.
Abbotsford (pop. 135,000) is in the Fraser Valley 5km/3mi from the U.S. border.
Kamloops (pop. 86,000) is located where the South and North Thompson rivers meet in BC's semi-arid grasslands.
Nanaimo (pop. just under 80,000) is a harbour city gateway to Vancouver Island.
Prince George is the largest city in Northern BC.

Population

Photo © Ross Anania / Getty Images

Just over 4.1 million people live in British Columbia, half of whom live in the Metro Vancouver Area. The next highest concentration of people is on Vancouver Island around the British Columbia capital of Victoria.

The BC population is diverse. More than 40 Aboriginal cultural groups are represented as well as significant Asian and European communities. In fact, the province's large Asian population have made Chinese and Punjabi the most spoken languages after English.

Climate

Photo © Stuart McCall / Getty Images

BC's climate varies by region, but BC weather often refers to Vancouver (where the climate is temperate and famously rainy) because that is where most of the population lives and where most tourists visit.

In general, temperatures are warmer in the south than in the north, and rainfall is heaviest along the coast and lightest in the southern interior.

Winter: Snow doesn't stay around long in Vancouver, but the interior sees plenty of snow and freezing temperatures.
Spring & Fall: Warm days and cool nights. Layers and water-resistant wear.
Summer: The interior, especially in the south, is more typically hot summer weather, with the coast being slightly cooler. Evenings can still be cold so jackets for the evening.

Things to Do

Photograph: Kevin Arnold / Getty Images

British Columbia generally attracts a more adventurous, outdoorsy type of visitor. Although Vancouver and other BC cities have plenty to offer in the way of big city charm, like shopping and fine dining, on the whole, the province is more famous as a ski, paddling and hiking destination. The most popular things to do in BC include:

Check out British Columbia Magazine's 50 Things To Do Before You Die

Aboriginal Culture

Photo © Rob Atkins / Getty Images
British Columbia has the highest diversity of distinct First Nations in Canada, with more than 50 First Nations in more than 200 communities. The Aboriginal Tourism Association of British Columbia (ATBC) offers visitors the opportunity to experience the rich culture of the many Aboriginal communities of BC through interpretive centres, museums and tours.

Getting around British Columbia

There are several international airports serving British Columbia with Vancouver being the biggest. Most major destinations in BC can be accessed by air.

Another way to get to BC from the Unites States is out of Seattle; instead of flying into BC, fly into Seattle and either take the train, ferry or drive two hours north. Read Getting to Vancouver from Seattle.

With all that coastline, ferries are a major mode of transportation among BC destinations - especially the islands. BC Ferries sail up the BC Pacific Coast to Prince Rupert stopping at islands along the way. Negotiating the BC Ferries schedules takes some planning.

Train travel is popular given the scenic geography of BC. The Rocky Mountaineer has several famous routes.

BC Holidays

BC has nine official holidays throughout the year when most employees get the day off with pay.

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