British Columbia offers endless opportunities to escape into its myriad miles of beautiful wilds – many of which are within easy reach of its bustling urban centers.
Just minutes from Vancouver, the region’s largest city, Swallow Tail Tours hosts fascinating foraging walks through the bountiful rainforest fringing the North Shore Mountains. These two-hour wild edible identification trips point out nature’s numerous safe-to-eat creations along the trail (including oyster mushrooms) before a chef-prepared lunch demonstrates how these can combine into exquisite, healthy meals.
Just off British Columbia’s Pacific coast, Vancouver Island is home to an array of cultural and close-to-nature experiences.
Overlooking unspoiled beaches amidst towering old-growth forest on the island’s west coast, Wya Point Resort offers windows into area aboriginal culture from luxurious lodges, bucolic “eco yurts” and family-friendly camping/RV facilities. Close to the town of Ucluelet, the resort is the site of an old aboriginal village and (as well as hiking, fishing and dining) includes surfing lessons laced with local history from First Nations instructors.
Inside a traditional Northwest Coast longhouse in nearby Tofino, Eagle Aerie Gallery showcases the boldly colorful work of celebrated local artist Roy Henry Vickers. Open daily, with free admission, the gallery also hosts periodic storytelling sessions from Vickers himself.
Also in Tofino, Wickaninnish Inn Carving Shed was home to late local carver Henry Nolla – the man behind the distinctive wood-carving work found throughout the oceanfront Inn, as well on numerous nearby landmarks (including Eagle Aerie Gallery). Today, the Carving Shed displays the latest works from craftsmen who were mentored by and worked alongside Nolla.
Vancouver Island also presents an unusually convenient opportunity to get up-close to one of nature’s great wonders, with numerous whale-watching tours leaving from downtown Victoria, British Columbia’s capital city, daily. So seeing and snapping photos of orcas and other whales (as well as sea lions and bald eagles) needn’t mean missing out on same-day shopping and sightseeing ashore.
The Wild Pacific Trail winds down the west coast and southern tip of the Ucluelet Peninsula in mostly seaside loops with clue-bearing names like “Lighthouse” and “Ancient Cedars and Rocky Bluffs”. Hikes run from 15 minutes to an hour, all through a wilderness area rich in wildlife (everything from seals to wolves) and dramatic ocean views.
On the opposite edge of British Columbia, the Purcell Mountains host some of North America’s best “heli-hiking”, which allows hikers to access wild back country terrain via helicopter. Canadian Mountain Holidays flies hikers from Banff, in neighboring Alberta, to remote yet well-appointed lodges (used for skiing in the snowy months) for 3- and 6-day summer guided hiking trips through mountains, wildflower meadows and glaciers which, as the company’s website puts it, are “all about the place, not the pace.”
—Paul Rogers, Content Solutions Writer