Summer in B.C. has an uncanny way of making you forget the rest of the dreary, drizzly year. Blue skies, crisp air, warm sunshine on your cheek”¦ Those are the days to remember. While you may question it in November, B.C. really does feel like the best place on Earth in June, July, and August. So why vacation anywhere else when there’s so much to offer close to home?
Whether you want to escape to a cold, clear lake, a warm beach, or a refreshing forest—or all of the above—here are 10 activities and events to inspire your vacation. Grab the calendar and mark off some holiday time. You’ll thank us come the rains of Remembrance Day.
Beachcomb on the Sunshine Coast
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with renting a cabin somewhere on the Sunshine Coast—preferably one with a sparkling ocean view—and doing nothing but sit out on the deck with a good book. But if you choose to venture further and explore the communities along Highway 101, you’ll be rewarded with beach after picturesque beach, including pebbly, driftwood-strewn Roberts Creek Beach and sandy Davis Bay. Both lie within a 45-minute drive of the Langdale ferry terminal.
Celebrate small-town Lumby
What, you’ve never heard of Lumby? It’s a village of 1,681 residents located in the Okanagan 25 kilometres east of Vernon, or about a 40-minute drive from the Kelowna airport. From June 11 to 13 this year, Lumby is holding its 55th Annual Summer Family Festival. With such a long history, we’re guessing the fair is long on charm. The scheduled events are tantalizing: a parade, lawn tractor races, show and shine, a miniature railroad display”¦ What’s not to love? Not to mention a midway, a pancake breakfast, and the 4-H club’s Guess the Beef Weight contest. If that’s not enough, a mile north of town you can watch the Canadian National Hang Gliding Championships, which kick off June 13 and run for a week.
Chill out in Vernon
Brand-spanking-new, Vernon’s Sparkling Hill Resort is all about the bling. Swarovski crystals are used everywhere, from the hotel rooms’ cabinetry to the “starry sky” ceiling over each bathtub. The resort’s spa is also unusual. In addition to an array of hot saunas, it offers a cold sauna, chilled to a temperature of –110? °?C. Patrons can stay in it for up to three minutes. According to the spa’s Web site, “Guests report a pleasant warm feeling throughout the whole body [and] feeling happy, strong, and full of energy” after using the cold sauna. There’s only one way to find out”¦
Slurp some seafood in the Comox Valley
British Columbia’s self-proclaimed shellfish capital is the place to be on June 19 and 20. That’s when the fourth annual Comox Valley Shellfish Festival happens, celebrating the area’s claim to producing more oysters, mussels, clams, and scallops than any other region in the province. The fest takes place in Comox, about an hour north of Parksville on Vancouver Island. A nine-course shellfish dinner ($120 including wine) is set for Filberg Heritage Lodge in the open air next to Baynes Sound on the Saturday, while Sunday is a more casual affair with an oyster-shucking competition and venders selling raw and barbecued oysters, steamed clams and mussels, and more at Comox Marina Park.
The fourth annual Comox Valley Shellfish Festival offers treats from the sea.
Show your pride in Victoria
Our provincial capital offers more than just pretty gardens, pinkies-up high tea, and political corruption. Victoria’s annual Pride week starts on June 27 with a Big Gay Dog Walk along Dallas Road, for which you can kit out your canine in costume. It culminates on July 4 with a Pride parade and a festival in MacDonald Park, with live bands, a beer garden, and drag performances. According to Tourism Victoria, each year over 45,000 people watch the parade or take part in the week’s events.
Find GPS fun from Hope to Barkerville
The nonprofit New Pathways to Gold Society offers free route guides designed to unearth B.C.’s history at newpathwaystogold.ca/. The three geocaching routes can be done in a day, a weekend, or longer, depending on the route and how leisurely you travel. They cover the Fraser River corridor from Hope to Barkerville and neighbouring regions, including Lillooet and the Thompson Okanagan. Each is tied to a colourful story about gold-rush history woven by characters including a gold seeker’s wife and a First Nations packer. Those who prefer to do the routes without geocaching can pick up a passport at visitors’ centres in the region and have it stamped at attractions along the way.
Giddy up in Pemberton
Located half an hour north of Whistler, Pemberton has more than just its famous potato farms. In fact, according to its tourism bureau, Pemberton boasts more horses per capita than any other region in B.C. That means trail riding galore, with guided tours for beginners through the fields, flowers, and creeks of the Pemberton Valley. Rides range from an hour to overnight; for information and outfitters.
Live it up with lavender in Kelowna
Fields of sweet-scented lavender make a beautiful diversion in Kelowna, and they’re at their most impressive in July. The expanded gardens at the Okanagan Lavender Herb Farm are open for self-guided tours from June 1, and on certain days you can pick your own bouquets. The farm sells everything from lavender jelly for scones to bath oil and fragrant eye pillows. On July 10 and August 7, you can learn to weave lavender wands as well as about aromatherapy distillation and how to make natural face creams.
Pedal around the pleasures of Agassiz and Chilliwack
Sure, you could do it in a day, but why not plan a weekend around this year’s Slow Food cycle tours? The Agassiz event takes place August 21; stops include dairy, honey, and hazelnut farms. The Chilliwack ride happens August 22 and covers a flour mill, a vineyard, a goat farm, and more. Stay in Harrison Hot Springs and enjoy a bracing dunk in the lake—it has a great kids’ beach and is always a treat in summer.
Go rural in Galiano, then go home
A 55-minute ferry ride from Tsawwassen brings you to Sturdies Bay on the southern tip of Galiano Island. Believe it or not, the tiny harbour village is about as urban as it gets on Galiano. That’s the charm of this refreshingly quiet island, which can be explored in a day. You’ll be tempted to spend the night, however, or at least have a spa treatment when you lay eyes on the luxe Galiano Oceanfront Inn & Spa, which is walking distance from the ferry terminal. Hike or drive to the top of Bluffs Park for a spectacular panoramic view of Active Pass and the other Gulf Islands.
Galiano Island's spectacular views are easily accessed by hiking or driving. Adrian Dorst photo.