There’s a reason they call it the “best coast.” There’s something special about the little slice of Canada that rubs up against the Pacific Ocean. Mild weather, ocean scenery, and countless picturesque little islands make the West Coast a place that every Canadian should visit at least once. To get you started, here are some towns we suggest you check out, in no particular order.
For music lovers, Squamish is best known for the Squamish Valley Music Festival, a four-day concert where world-renowned musicians and visual artists perform before a striking backdrop of forests and mountains. But Squamish is well worth a visit on any of the other 361 days of the year—especially for outdoor enthusiasts. In fact, it’s been dubbed the “outdoor recreation capital of Canada.” Renowned for its incredible rock-climbing routes, hiking trails, whitewater rafting, and more, this community is definitely worth the stop along your drive of the famous Sea-to-Sky highway, which stretches from Vancouver to Whistler.
Don’t miss: A hike around the Stawamus Chief, a sheer granite mountain that soars above the Howe Sound.
Parksville sits on the east coast of Vancouver Island, where towering Douglas firs give way to miles of pristine shoreline. Rathtrevor Beach, a provincial park within the town, is a great place to soak up some rays, watch the huge array of local birds, and meditate on the endless waves. And as a bonus for visitors, there are great cabins and vacation homes for rent in the area that offer upscale amenities right in the midst of the great outdoors.
Don’t miss: The Parksville sand sculpting competition in the summer with entrants from all over the globe. The results are absolutely mindblowing!
The northernmost entry on this list, Prince Rupert has its own unique natural attractions. It’s located on the Inside Passage, an inland route for many ferries and cruises, making it possible to hop a boat to other locales up and down the coast. Prince Rupert is the picture of a quaint fishing town, with colourful dockside shops and pubs, and a harbour filled with unique boats and seaplanes. It’s also a great place to see the artwork of First Nations artists who live in the area.
Don’t miss: The Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary, where visitors can see these amazing animals in their natural habitat.
Peachland is as cute as it sounds. This hillside community is in the Okanagan region, which is known for its fruit production, and the town is named for the peaches that have been growing in the area since the 1800s. It is also home to beautiful parks, several wineries, and a parrot sanctuary.
Don’t miss: Your chance to search for the legendary Ogopogo, or Nihaiaiitk, a serpentine monster rumoured to live in Okanagan Lake.
Oliver is billed as the “wine capital of Canada,” and its vineyards support that claim, stretching out as far as the eye can see. After a long hike, you can try out one of their many patios, where you’re sure to find a long-stemmed glass of something that suits your palate. Theatre and music abound during the summer months, while the winter offers skating and ice fishing.
Don’t miss: The Vaseux Lake, whose waters are always placid thanks to a motorized boat ban.
Steveston Village is a place out of a fairy tale—literally. The town (technically now part of Richmond, BC) is the setting ABC’s Once Upon A Time, in which fairy tale characters live in a real-world fishing community. Steveston has all of the charm of a TV town, with cute storefronts selling candy, baking, and coffee. There’s also a great boardwalk where you can stroll and buy the day’s best catches.
Don’t miss: The Ships to Shore Festival, which brings impressive ships to the harbour and lets festival-goers board and check them out.
Lake Cowichan is named for the placid, sparkling lake at its heart, but it’s also got a lazy river that would make Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn jealous. Adorable houses line the river banks, and locals sit at their own backyard docks drinking beer and dipping their toes as visitors swim or float by on inner tubes. There is no shortage of beaches and campsites, not to mention an endless scroll of natural beauty surrounding the town on all sides.
Don’t miss: Taking a float down the river, with plenty of opportunities to dip in and swim.
Surf’s always up in Tofino, the tiny town on Vancouver Island with legendary coastal views. Even if you’re not a surfer, there is a shocking amount to do. Tofino has great coffee, a brewery [tofinobrewingco.com], several galleries, and any water sport you can think up. It’s also just plain gorgeous.
Don’t miss: Grabbing some eats at the Tacofino food truck. After all, nothing says beach living like fish tacos.
Okay, it’s technically not a town, but we couldn’t leave Hornby Island off the list. This little island in the Salish Sea is a beautiful escape and an artists’ haven. There’s plenty around to inspire: peaceful beaches, long hiking trails through the woods, and plenty of calm water for canoeing and kayaking. There are also plenty of yoga and meditation classes for those who want to take inner peace to the next level.
Don’t miss: The local wildlife at Helliwell Provincial Park, where it’s not uncommon to spot seals, otters, herons, and sometimes even whales.
In 2009, Gibsons was named the most livable city (population under 20,000) by the Awards for Livable Communities, and it turns out it’s a great place to visit too. Gibsons is an environmentally conscious community that is invested in preserving its natural spaces and ecosystems. In fact, its shoreline has already been immortalized on the CBC’s long-running series The Beachcombers. The town is a close-knit community that is passionate about maintaining its world-class status.
Don’t miss: The Gibsons Public Market, where