British Columbia is Canada's Westernmost province and arguably, the most beautiful. The temperate climate, enthralling mountain ranges, glacial lakes, and infinite Pacific coastline make it a wondrous place to live or visit. The well-known cities of Vancouver, Kelowna, and Victoria are not to be missed, but en route, there are so many pretty towns to settle into for an afternoon or a lifetime. Here are a dozen spots to consider programming into your GPS.
Part vagabond surf-town, part luxury vacation spot, the District of Tofino unites all types in this soothing and majestic place. Located at the tip of the Esowista Peninsula on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, Tofino enjoys a stunning natural surrounding. The peaceful beaches are perpetually smoothed by the rhythmic tides, and a network of zen rainforest trails can connect each one.
Located just south of Tofino, The Resort Municipality of Ucluelet is the slightly lesser-known sister settlement - an excellent destination on its own or a perfect alternative when Tofino experiences its peak tourism. The community of Ucluelet is perfectly situated between the long and narrow Ucluelet Inlet and the wild North Pacific Ocean. Like Tofino, Ucluelet is blessed with lovely, albeit slightly more rugged, inlet beaches and exploratory woodland trails.
The District of Invermere, or "Invermere on the Lake," is a fitness and tourist-centric town in Southeastern BC. Its prized location on Windermere Lake, between the Purcells and the Rocky Mountains, draws the crowds throughout the summer, particularly from the neighboring province of Alberta. The unique shops along 7th Avenue combined with the regular pop-up markets sprinkle in some welcomed social energy.
Crawford Bay is a tiny town between Kootenay Lake and Crawford Bay (the body of water). It acts as the Eastern terminal for the Kootenay Lake Ferry, which is a great way to punctuate an already scenic route through the province's interior region. The calm waters, quiet surroundings, and artisan shops/restaurants make Crawford Bay magical enough for the other kind of fairies.
Port Renfrew is a hamlet at the Southern entrance of Pacific Rim National Park. Because of its ancient rainforests full of Douglas Fir, Cedars, and Spruce Trees, Port Renfrew is known as the "Tall Tree Capital of Canada." This fishing village acts as the jumping-off point for hikers heading Northbound on the acclaimed West Coast Trail and Southbound on the equally magnificent Juan de Fuca Marine Trail.
Technically a small city (but with a population of just over 8,000 people), Revelstoke still more than qualifies for this list of pretty places. The community is situated on the banks of the Columbia River, between the Monashee and Selkirk Mountain Ranges, in Southeastern BC. This is a popular, year-round getaway for outdoor recreation enthusiasts. Aside from fresh powder slopes, Mount Revelstoke National Park also hosts the only inland, temperate rainforest in the world. Be sure to stop at the Giant Cedar Boardwalk Trail, just off the Trans Canada Highway, on your way in or out of town.
This classic one-horse town is beautifully located on the Western shore of Kootenay Lake. The village of Kaslo consists primarily of a few blocks centered around the commercial action of Front Street. The mom n' pop establishments along this stretch offer a glimpse into the silver-mining boom of the late 19th century. On the outskirts of town, the Kaslo River Trails and many other off-shoot networks weave through the lush and peaceful forest.
The city of Nelson is the core of the West Kootenays. Even though it has a modest population of around 11,000, Nelson still serves as interior BC's commercial, residential, and cultural hub. The focal energy of Baker Street and the artistic vibes and gorgeous scenery make Nelson the perfect blend of bigger city appeal and small-town goodness. Enjoy a day at the park or cruising little shops, and then try to decide which of the 50 restaurants/cafes to recharge at.
This historic Rocky Mountain town is in the Southeastern portion of BC, not far from the Alberta provincial border. This is one of the towns on this list that is best visited in the wintertime. The glorious slopes call out to visitors from all directions. After an exhilarating day of skiing/snowboarding, Fernie offers plenty of craft food/drink options to cap things off. These same mountains also make a great summertime playground for mountain bikers and hikers.
Squamish is known as "The Outdoor-Recreation Capital of Canada." This title is well-deserved for the active municipality, given the plethora of hiking, running, climbing, cycling, and paddling opportunities that abound throughout the many surrounding provincial parks and waterways. All of these outlets center around the iconic Stawamus Chief - a sheer granite mountain that watches over the town. Squamish is roughly equidistant from British Columbia's capital city, Vancouver, and the next fun and gorgeous spot on this list, Whistler.
With one of the longest ski seasons in North America, The Resort Municipality of Whistler is the premier place for winter sports. In 2010, the world got to witness this fact during the Vancouver Winter Olympics - much of which was held in the Coast Mountains of Whistler. Though a wintertime mecca, there is no shortage of summertime fun in this town. From high-octane activities, such as mountain biking and zip-lining, to laid-back days at the various lakes and beaches, and even a vibrant nightlife, Whistler has it covered.
The relaxed community of Peachland stretches along the pristine Western shore of Okanagan Lake. Like much of the Okanagan Valley in South-central BC, Peachland is known for an extended fair-weather season, a bounty of orchards, and award-winning wineries. Roughly 4.5 miles of beaches parallel Beach Avenue, a pleasant stretch of open concept cafes and restaurant patios. Peachland is a place for quiet, sun-soaked leisure and enjoying the delicious bounty of the long growing season.
Whether you are looking for a chilled-out vacation or hardcore outdoor recreation, a place to work for a season, or a dream retirement spot, the smaller towns of British Columbia offer something for everyone. From mountains to the ocean, desert to rainforest, classy restaurants to food trucks, the communities of British Columbia are as varied as they are pretty. And this list just scratches the surface.