Family road trips are the stuff of legend. Adventure, togetherness, and a few comical mishaps are the inputs you need to create a lasting memory.
Not only are summer road trips memorable, they’re also budget-friendly because they eliminate flight costs and open up the possibility of RVs or camping.
BC has many alluring family road trip destinations. With summer just around the corner, it’s time for a round up of the best road trips in BC.
Distance: 20 km from Vancouver
This pretty little fishing village is an easy win if you are short on time and yearning for quaint seaside character, fresh fish and chips, and some scenic bike trails.
Visitors head straight to Pajo’s Fish and Chips on the harbourfront at Fisherman’s Wharf to get their salty seafood fix. Next, if you’re feeling lazy, stroll the quaint village streets and check out the independent shops. Or make your way to Garry Point Park, where you can see all the way to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.
If you’re after adventure, set sail from Steveston for whale watching and eco-tours or rent a bike explore Richmond’s shores from it’s miles of dykes and trails.
Steveston is also home to the Gulf of Georgia Cannery where visitors can learn what it was like to can salmon, or the Britannia Heritage Shipyards, which tell the tale of the thousands of immigrants and First Nation workers who built Steveston into a prominent North American port.
Distance: 50 km from Vancouver
Bucolic and rich with history, Fraser Valley is a convenient road trip destination to visit when you need a last minute escape for a day trip or a weekend.
Start with the history. Fraser Valley’s Fort Langley National Historic Site is a fortified trading post where BC’s creation was officially announced in 1858. Historical reenactments, including the chance to pan for gold, bring it all vividly back to life.
Move on to enjoy farm to table snacking on self-led a Circle Farms Tour through Langley, Abbotsford, Chilliwack. Parents: don’t miss out on the many new craft beer producers and talented wine makers in the region. Details for these can be found on the Fraser Valley tourism site listed below.
If you have more time look into booking pony trail rides, a trout or sturgeon fishing trip, or a visit to Cultus Water Park — BC’s biggest splash centre.
Distance: About 390 km from Vancouver. The whole Okanagan Valley is 180 km long.
Nothing says summer like the warm, dry heat of the Okanagan. This unique region has it all: rolling vineyards, sparkling lakes with tempting beaches, mountains, and even desert terrain.
There are many sunny swimming spots in sunny Okanagan. For gorgeous family-friendly beaches near dining and other activities, visit the city beaches in Kelowna, Penticton and Osoyoos. If you prefer wilderness, check out a provincial park such as Haynes Point or Shuswap Lake.
Parents will want to visit the award-winning wineries in the area, especially along the Naramata Bench. Take the detour to detour to Keremeos, the “Fruit Stand Capital of Canada” for a stop at a road-side stand for sweet, juicy peaches.
Distance: 64 km from Vancouver
Whistler gets most of the out-of-country tourists, but BC residents head to Squamish. The Sea to Sky Highway drive is part of the experience on the short trip to BC’s year-round “playground,” where thrilling attractions, hiking, biking, rock climbing and water sports await.
By far the most popular attraction is the thrilling Sea to Sky Gondola which takes passengers 1920 m up a mountain for panoramas of coastal mountains and ocean that justify the use of the oft-overused descriptor “amazing.” At the top there’s more fun, from a suspension bridge, to trail hikes, and a restaurant with a view.
Don’t miss the waterfalls at Shannon Falls Provincial Park, the museum plus underground train ride at the Britannia Mine Museum, and the family-friendly brew pub restaurant at Howe Sound Brewery.
Tofino & the Pacific Rim National Park
Distance: 283 km from Vancouver. Includes a ferry.
Old growth rain forest, wild beaches, surf culture, and an impressive culinary scene make this area on the west coast of Vancouver Island immensely appealing.
Tofino makes the perfect base camp with destination restaurants and a tightly knit year-round community of surfers, artists and other wild souls. From there explore Pacific Rim National Park Reserve‘s legendary 75km/47mi West Coast Trail. You don’t have to hike the whole thing to feel awe-inspired by the vast beaches with ancient and lush rain forest backdrop.
The Broken Group islands just off the coast are extremely popular with kayakers. Surf lessons are readily available in Tofino for all ages.
You can also just kick back at the beaches at Long Beach, Schooner Cove and Wickaninnish Bay. Don’t miss a taco from Tacofino or award-winning grub at Wolf in the Fog.
Distance: 46 km including a ferry ride.
A welcoming chain of low-key, coastal communities spans the 180km of land from Langdale to Lund.
The easy pace of the small towns along the Sunshine Coast, especially Sechelt, Gibsons, Powell River, and Roberts Creek, offer a welcome respite from the urban playground lifestyle of Vancouver. Pick up a map from any of the local tourism offices, hit a farmers market for a picnic, decide between kayaking, canoeing, or hiking. Take your time. Noody hurries out here.
Distance: 660 km from Vancouver
Four of British Columbia’s seven national parks are located in the Rocky Mountain region, so there’s endless camping, hiking, and wildlife watching opportunities. UNESCO established the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site along the BC/Alberta border because of this spectacular beauty. Night stargazing will dazzle.
The quaint heritage town Nelson with its red brick and Victorian buildings is worth exploring both for history and dining.
Yoho National Park is a must-visit; it’s named for the Cree expression of ‘awe and wonder’ and it does not disappoint. The park’s peaks, glaciers and thundering waterfalls have drawn visitors for over a century. Check out Emerald Lake and Wapta Falls. Aspiring archaeologists will appreciate a guided hike around a billion-year old fossils in Burgess Shale fossil beds.
Other fun activities include a stop in Golden for educational wildlife viewing at a Grizzly refuge or a thrilling day spent rafting down Kicking Horse River. If you have time, make your way north to Mt. Robson — the tallest peak in the Canadian Rockies mountain range and, in some folks’ opinion, the most spectacular mountain in the province.
Lead image: Flickr/Clive
Last modified: July 15, 2020