Moon British Columbia

Including the Alaska Highway


By Andrew Hempstead

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British Columbia is filled with vibrant cities, secluded beaches, and old-growth rainforests. Experience the best of this wild and beautiful province with Moon British Columbia. Inside you’ll find:
  • Flexible itineraries, from one week in Vancouver and Victoria to a two-week tour of the entire province
  • Strategic advice for outdoor adventurers, foodies and wine lovers, families, and more
  • Must-see highlights and unique experiences: Try to spot wild bears, moose, and elk, go whale-watching on the Pacific, or snorkel with seals. Learn about the First Nations tribes’ colorful totem poles and sample indigenous foods, or sip your way through the wines of the lush Okanagan Valley. Kayak through icy fjords, ski Whistler’s world-class slopes, or drive the famed Alaska Highway
  • Reliable tips from BC local Andrew Hempstead on where to eat, where to stay, and how to get around
  • Full-color photos and detailed maps throughout
  • Background information on the landscape, culture, history, and environment
  • In-depth coverage of Vancouver, Victoria and Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast, Sea to Sky Highway, Whistler, Gold Nugget Route, the Okanagan Valley, the Kootenays, the Canadian Rockies, Glacier National Park, Revelstoke, Kamloops, Mount Robson, Cariboo Country, Prince George, Prince Rupert, Haida Gwaii, Stewart-Cassar Highway, Alaska Highway, and the Yukon
With Moon British Columbia’s practical tips and local know-how, you can plan your trip your way.

Hitting the road? Try Moon Vancouver & Canadian Rockies Road Trip. Craving more of Canada’s incredible wilderness? Check out Moon Banff National Park or Moon Canadian Rockies.


Vermilion River in Kootenay National Park

waterfalls in Fraser Valley

DISCOVER British Columbia

Planning Your Trip


The Best of British Columbia


The Best of Vancouver and Victoria


Okanagan Wine Tasting


Getaways to Adventure

The Trans-Canada Highway


kayaking on Vancouver waterway.

British Columbia, the westernmost province of Canada, stretches from the Pacific Ocean to the towering heights of the Rocky Mountains. Sandwiched between is some of this planet’s most magnificent scenery: an enormous variety of terrain, including towering mountain ranges, ancient glaciers, endless rivers, crystal clear lakes, old-growth temperate rainforests, rugged coastline, hundreds of islands, and even a desert. Wildlife is abundant: The forests provide a home for bears, moose, deer, and elk, while the ocean is alive with whales, dolphins, and all manner of other sealife.

Settled by Europeans just over 200 years ago, this landscape has been home to civilization for thousands of years. World-class facilities such as the Museum of Anthropology at UBC and the Royal BC Museum preserve the culture of the First Nations, which can also be experienced by visiting abandoned villages, tasting indigenous dishes, and learning about meaningful art, such as colorful totem poles.

wagon wheel on Historic Hat Creek Ranch

Yukon shopfront

Sherbrooke Lake in Yoho National Park

The province’s largest city is Vancouver, a splendid conglomeration of old and new architectural marvels, parks and gardens, and sheltered beaches. Just across the Strait of Georgia is the provincial capital, Old World Victoria. But the soul of British Columbia lies away from the cities, in the surrounding vastness. Continuing north along the Alaska Highway through the Yukon Territory, the wilderness grows wilder and more remote.

British Columbia is one of the most beautiful, exciting, and inspirational places on this planet. You have to experience it for yourself.

grizzly bear

gold panner statue.

powder skiing in Whistler

Planning Your Trip

Where to Go

Dramatic snowcapped mountains rise high above a modern city clinging to the coastline. A downtown core of century-old buildings and steel-and-glass skyscrapers overlooks busy waterways. Sandy beaches and rocky shorelines fringe manicured suburbs. Magnificent old-growth forests and brilliant flower gardens overflow with color. And residents in love with the outdoors eagerly take advantage of its magnificent natural surroundings.


The elegant capital of British Columbia couldn’t be more different from its much larger neighbor, Vancouver. Well-preserved buildings line the streets. Totem poles sprout from shady parks. Restored historical areas house trendy shops, offices, and exotic restaurants. Meanwhile, double-decker buses and horse-drawn carriages compete for the summer tourist trade. Beyond city limits, the rest of Vancouver Island beckons, with outdoor experiences ranging from hiking the rugged West Coast Trail to whale-watching at Telegraph Cove.


Exploring southwestern BC is like taking three very different vacations. The Sunshine Coast spreads out to the north, attracting families, scuba divers, and sun-loving Canadians. The Sea to Sky Highway leads to Whistler, an upscale, outdoorsy resort town of epic proportions. Traveling east from Vancouver, the road forks—head upstream through the scenic Fraser River Canyon to central British Columbia or to a winding mountain highway through Manning Provincial Park.


Around 180 kilometers (110 miles) from end to end, the gorgeous Okanagan Valley is dotted with orchards and wineries, the latter a major attraction. But if the only thing you know about wine is that you like it, no worries—wine-tasting in the Okanagan Valley is a completely unsnobby affair. The entire valley brims with bustling tourist towns, world-class golf courses, marvelous resorts, and enough warm lakes to keep the kids busy for an entire vacation.


Named for its original inhabitants, the Kootenay region is monotonous—in an overwhelmingly beautiful, mountain-and-lakes kind of way. Alpine snowfields feed mighty rivers and massive lakes, creating a recreational playground for anglers, canoeists, and kayakers. Several parks merit special attention: White Grizzly Wilderness for the opportunity to view grizzly bears, Kokanee Creek to watch fish spawning along a shallow creek bed, and Akamina-Kishinena for its solitude.


Welcome to the Canadian Rockies, a vast wilderness where wildlife is always abundant and hiking trails always scenic. The region is at its most breathtaking at Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park, while adjacent Kootenay National Park offers up more magnificent Canadian wilds, along with hot springs.


Cutting a swath across the province, the central region of British Columbia is extremely diverse. To the east, a series of glaciated mountain ranges are protected by Glacier and Mount Revelstoke National Parks, which offer accessible adventure. The scenery changes dramatically west of Salmon Arm, as mountains recede into sagebrush-covered hills. In the heart of this desert landscape is Kamloops and the ranching country of the Cariboo.


Northern BC is a long way from anywhere else. You won’t see famous attractions. Instead, you’ll find lakes and forest and lots of both. Small towns provide excellent access to outdoor activities, as well as a little bit of pioneering history. The coastline is mostly inaccessible, but where highways push down to the ocean, Prince Rupert and Stewart offer scenic rewards. For a real adventure, jump a ferry to Haida Gwaii, where totem-pole villages are slowly being reclaimed by nature.


Linked to British Columbia by the Alaska Highway, the Yukon is a continuation of the forested wilderness. Many visitors pass right through on their way to Alaska, but it’s worth lingering to explore the natural wonders of Kluane National Park, the modern frontier delights of Whitehorse, and the world’s most famous gold rush town, Dawson City.

Mount Robson Provincial Park rainbow

Know Before You Go
When to Go

The high season is most definitely summer, or more precisely July and August. The parks come alive with campers, the lakes and streams with anglers, the mountains with hikers, the woods with wildlife, and the roadsides with stalls selling fresh produce.

While April-June is considered a shoulder season, in many ways the province is at its blooming best in spring. Crowds are at a minimum, the days are long, golfers hit the links in shirts and shorts, and lodging rates are reduced. Fall (Sept.-Nov.) can also be tremendous, particularly September, with lingering warm temperatures and a noticeable decrease in crowds.

Vancouver and Victoria can be visited year-round, with some outdoor activities—golfing, biking, hiking, and more—possible in the dead of winter on southern Vancouver Island. Alpine resorts throughout the province begin opening in December, with seasons extending through March.

Passports and Visas

To enter Canada, a passport, passport card, or NEXUS card is required by citizens and permanent residents of the United States. For further information, see the website For current entry requirements to Canada, check the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website (

All other foreign visitors must have a valid passport and may need a visa or visitors permit, depending on their country of residence and the vagaries of international politics. At present, visas are not required for citizens of the United States, Commonwealth countries, or Western Europe. The standard entry permit is for six months, and you may be asked to show onward tickets or proof of sufficient funds to last you through your intended stay.


Visitors to British Columbia have the option of arriving by road, rail, ferry, or air. The main gateway city for flights from North America is Vancouver, which is also the main Canadian gateway for flights originating in Asia and the South Pacific.

Driving, whether it be your own vehicle or a rental car, is by far the best way to get around, although all cities have airports and most towns are served by buses.

The Best of British Columbia

Two weeks in British Columbia allows the opportunity to travel throughout the province, including to the northern region. Of course, you can always add to your itinerary with more time in Vancouver and Victoria—but you’ll find more adventure traveling farther afield.

Day 1

Arrive in Vancouver for a two-night stay. Spend the rest of your first day exploring Gastown and the waterfront area, including English Bay. Rent a bike for an evening ride around Stanley Park.

Day 2

Spend the day in the bustling resort town of Whistler, a 90-minute drive north of Vancouver along Highway 99, returning to Vancouver in time for dinner atop Grouse Mountain.

Day 3

Take the 90-minute ferry ride across to Vancouver Island and visit Victoria sights such as the Royal BC Museum and Butchart Gardens, then explore the urban oasis of Goldstream Provincial Park.

Butchart Gardens

Day 4

Make Tofino, a three-hour drive from Victoria along Highways 1 and 4, your final destination on Day 4. Even with a visit to Cathedral Grove and a short walk along the driftwood-strewn beaches of Pacific Rim National Park, you will have time to enjoy a relaxing evening in Tofino.

Day 5

Rise early and make your way north up the island to Telegraph Cove, a four-hour drive from Tofino via Highways 4 and 19. Go whale-watching in the afternoon and continue north for 60 kilometers (38 miles) to Port Hardy.

Day 6

The morning ferry from Port Hardy gets into Prince Rupert in the late afternoon, linking up with the overnight ferry to Haida Gwaii.

Day 7

Even after 24 hours and two ferry trips, you’ll be invigorated by the uniqueness of the First Nations history and total wilderness of Haida Gwaii.

Day 8

You have all day on the island to explore the beaches of Naikoon Provincial Park and First Nations attractions like the Haida Heritage Centre. Ferries depart Haida Gwaii for Prince Rupert in the evening (book a cabin to get a good night’s rest on board).

Day 9

Arriving in Prince Rupert at dawn, take breakfast at the Cow Bay Cafe while waiting for the Museum of Northern British Columbia to open. Head west, stopping at ‘Ksan Historical Village. Aim for an overnight stay in Prince George—an eight-hour drive from Prince Rupert—but don’t push it; the more driving you get done today, the quicker you will reach the mountains the following day.

Day 10

After the long haul across northern British Columbia, the first views of the Canadian Rockies, two hours’ driving beyond Prince George, are a relief. As Mount Robson comes into view, you will be wowed. Short hikes to viewpoints and waterfalls will fill your afternoon.

Mount Robson

Day 11

Drag yourself away from Mount Robson and head south on Highway 5 for four hours to the river city of Kamloops, then east along the Trans-Canada Highway to Revelstoke. Even if you’re not a railway buff, Craigellachie (site of the last spike on the transcontinental railway) is a pleasant stop along this two-hour stretch of road.

Day 12

Drive the Meadows in the Sky Parkway near Revelstoke and continue east along the Trans-Canada Highway for two hours to Yoho National Park. This may be the night for a splurge at the Emerald Lake Lodge (at the very least, walk around this beautiful lake).

Day 13

Head south along Highway 95 for three hours through the Columbia Valley. Stop at the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area before veering west along Highway 3 to the artsy city of Nelson.

Day 14

It’s a seven-hour drive to Vancouver from Nelson via Highway 3. En route, the wineries, golf courses, and abundance of water sports in the Okanagan Valley will tempt you to linger a day or two longer.

The Best of Vancouver and Victoria

In British Columbia, metropolitan centers thrive alongside sublime wilderness. Start in Vancouver and ferry to its namesake island to enjoy the best of both worlds. This itinerary balances a little bit of everything: cities, mountains, and ocean.

ocean scenery in Victoria

Day 1

Head north from Vancouver airport and loop around Point Grey to the Museum of Anthropology, a wonderful introduction to the history of the Pacific Northwest. Duck through the old-growth forest behind the museum to get a feel for the city’s natural splendor. Check in to your hotel and take an evening stroll through Gastown to the Water Street Café for dinner.

Day 2

Even if you hit Stanley Park as the sun first rises, you’ll find that many locals have beaten you on their morning jog. Cross to the North Shore and take the Grouse Mountain Skyride. Drive Highway 99 to Whistler, which takes around 90 minutes. After dinner at award-winning Araxi, spend the evening exploring the resort village.

Day 3

Catch the ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island. Drive Highway 4 for the two-hour journey across the island to Tofino, making a stop at Cathedral Grove. Splurge by staying at the Wickaninnish Inn and dining in-house.

Day 4

Book a Tofino whale-watching tour for the morning, enjoy an outdoor lunch at Tacofino, and then take a beach walk in Pacific Rim National Park before returning along Highway 4 to Nanaimo for the night.

Day 5

Heading south from Nanaimo along Highway 19 for 45 kilometers (28 miles), detour at Crofton Bay to catch a ferry to Salt Spring Island. Enjoy lunch at an outdoor café in Ganges, then make the short ferry hop to Swartz Bay, gateway to Victoria and home to the centrally located Magnolia Hotel and Spa.

Victoria’s parliament building at night

Day 6

Make your way to the Inner Harbour on foot. The Royal BC Museum is a must-see, Market Square and the surrounding streets are interesting to explore, and the fish-and-chips at Barb’s Fish & Chips is perfect for lunch. Still hungry? Head to Oak Bay for afternoon tea.

Day 7

Arrive at Butchart Gardens at opening time—before the bus-tour crowd arrives—then return to Vancouver by ferry. You’ll get there in time for an afternoon flight home.

Okanagan Wine Tasting

The Okanagan Valley is a four-hour drive (or a short flight) from Vancouver, making it an ideal destination for a weekend getaway. Wineries are spread from one end of the valley to the other, so it’s best to spend your time in just one or two of the following growing regions, taking winery tours, renting a bicycle for road touring, or simply doing nothing more than relaxing in one of the country’s most appealing climates.

wine tasting in Okanagan Valley

Okanagan Valley grapes

Osoyoos and Oliver

This arid region is at the south end of the Okanagan. Make reservations at Spirit Ridge at Nk’Mip Resort,


On Sale
May 29, 2018
Page Count
512 pages
Moon Travel

Andrew Hempstead

About the Author

Kayaking around Bowen Island, enjoying a powder day at Whistler Blackcomb, chowing down on pancakes at the Elbow Room, joining the mid-day crowd at Butchart Gardens, and surfing on the west coast – Andrew Hempstead has done all of this and more. He’s out there not because it’s part of compiling a guidebook, but because he loves Vancouver and Victoria. These diverse experiences, coupled with a deep respect for nature and an interest in local history, have been essential in his creation of Moon Victoria & Vancouver Island.

Andrew spends as much time as possible out on the road, and rather than having an itinerary laid out for him by local tourism offices, he travels incognito so he can experience the many and varied delights of Vancouver and Victoria the same way his readers do.

Since the early 1990s, Andrew has authored and updated over 60 guidebooks, contributed to dozens of major magazines, supplied content for online clients like Expedia and KLM, and been employed as a corporate writer for Parks Canada. His photography has appeared in a wide variety of media ranging from international golf magazines to a Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum. Andrew has spoken on guidebook writing to national audiences, and he has contributed to a university-level travel writing textbook.

Andrew and his wife Dianne own Summerthought Publishing, a regional publisher of nonfiction books. He and his family live in Banff, Alberta.

Learn more about this author