By Teresa the Traveler
When I was asked to write a bucket list for British Columbia I thought how could I possibly reduce all the incredible things to see in B.C. into a short list? Finding a hidden gem in B.C. is like finding a needle in a stack of needles. Our entire province is a hidden gem. B.C. must be experienced not just seen, so here are the top ten experiences on my B.C. Bucket List.
With the abundance of water in B.C., it’s no surprise that our main source of electricity comes from hydro. B.C. Hydro operates 32 hydroelectric facilities that generate 95 percent of our province’s electricity. A number of large hydroelectric dams are located on the Columbia and Peace Rivers including Mica Dam, Revelstoke Dam, Keenlyside Dam, WAC Bennett Dam, and the Duncan Dam. Many of the dams offer self-guided dam tours that start in a museum and end on a viewing platform.
9. Wine Your Way through B.C.
British Columbia is quickly gaining a reputation for producing some of the world’s best wines. Our mild, dry climate is perfect for growing grapes. Our wineries are spread throughout the Okanagan Valley, Similkameen Valley, Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, the Kootenays, Prince George, Thompson/Shuswap, and Lillooet. Visiting B.C. wineries is not just about sampling wine. Each winery offers a unique experience. Some of my favourites include:
Dirty Laundry Located on the Summerland wine trail, this winery was built on the site of a historical laundry that catered to railway workers in the early 1900s. While waiting for their laundry clients could hang out in a secret room on the second floor where they could play cards, drink whiskey and enjoy the company of a woman.
Summerhill Winery Located on the Kelowna wine trail, this winery offers pyramid-aged wine. They age their wine in a 4-storey replica of the Great Pyramid. The pyramid was built from marble imported from Egypt and follows the rules of sacred geometry. In a taste test, 90 percent of people preferred pyramid-aged wines to regular wine.
Mission Hill Located on the Westside Wine trail near Kelowna, this winery has an outdoor amphitheatre. During the summer months they have outdoor concerts featuring artists like the Gypsy Kings and Chris Isaak.
Grey Monk Located on the Lake Country wine trail, the Grey Monk winery is one of B.C.’s first and most prominent wineries. Guests can enjoy fine cuisine and wine pairing on their beautiful outdoor covered deck overlooking the Okanagan Lake.
Ruby Blues Located on the Naramata wine trail near Penticton, this fun winery features a custom painted hippy style Volkswagen van, rock and roll music and custom designed red stilettos for sale.
You can book a wine tour or do a self-guided tour on the various wine trails.
Some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world are scattered throughout B.C. In fact, Della Falls in Strathcona Provincial Park on Vancouver Island is among the tallest in Canada. It is mandatory for any waterfall enthusiast to visit the most popular falls such as Helmcken Falls in Wells Gray Provincial Park, Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park, Kinuseo Falls in Monkman Park and Shannon Falls, Brandywine Falls and Alexander Falls near Whistler. However, there are hundreds of little known falls that you can swim in, slide down, walk behind, hike to and ice climb on.
Every summer tourists from all over the world descend on our province to enjoy B.C.’s best hiking trails. We are home to seven national parks including Yoho National Park, Glacier National Park, Kootenay National Park, Mount Revelstoke National Park, Pacific Rim National Park, Gulf Islands National Park and Gwaii Haanas National Park. We also have many provincial and regional parks with plenty of marked trails. My favourite hikes are the ones with a reward at the end. I have hiked to hoodoos, glaciers, alpine lakes, balancing rocks, dinosaur footprints, abandoned mines, caves, cliffs, hot springs and countless waterfalls. Some of my favourites include hiking through alpine lakes and meadows to the top of Trophy Mountain in Wells Gray Park, hiking to the glacier at Joffre Lakes near Pemberton and hiking though the Painted Bluffs on Kamloops Lake. I have hiked over 100 trails in B.C. and barely hit the tip of the iceberg. Visit one of our many tourist offices, grab some free trail maps and take a hike.
In 1858, gold was found along the banks of the Thompson River just east of Lytton, triggering the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush. Victoria was transformed into a tent city as prospectors, speculators, land agents, and outfitters flooded in from around the world to seek their fortunes. B.C. has a rich mining history with abandoned mines scattered throughout the province waiting to be explored. Some of these abandoned mines have been transformed into museums where people can learn about this golden time in B.C. history. Britannia Mine Museum in Howe Sound and Mascot Mine in Hedley are both well worth a visit.
The Kettle Valley Railway opened in 1915. It operated across southern British Columbia, west of Midway to Rock Creek, and then north to Myra Canyon, down to Penticton over to Princeton, Coalmont, Brookmere, Coquihalla and finally to Hope where it connected to the main Canadian Pacific Railway line. It was abandoned in portions starting in 1961. The surviving portion west of Penticton saw their last train in 1989. Much of the railroad’s original route has been converted to a multi-use recreational trail, known as the Kettle Valley Rail Trail. With countless trestles and tunnels and environs ranging from cool mountain forests to Canada’s only pocket desert, the 600 km KVR route offers cyclists the adventure of a lifetime. Some of the must see sections of this trail are the Myra Canyon Trestles in Kelowna, the Othello Tunnels near Hope and the Kettle Valley Steam Railway near Summerland where people can hop aboard an authentic steam engine.
Kayaking and canoeing are popular sports for British Columbians and one of the best ways to explore our many lakes and waterways. At the top of any paddlers bucket list is the 7-day long canoe circuit through Bowron Provincial Park in the Cariboo Mountains. This 116 km route traverses multiple lakes and rivers with short portages between waterways. For those wanting a day trip, Clearwater Lake in Wells Gray Park, the Lightning Lakes in Manning Park and Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park are all must-paddle lakes that provide boat rentals. There are hundreds of other lakes large and small (and many with free camping) waiting to be explored.
British Columbia is a treasure trove of hidden history. Discover the history of the First Nations, the fur trading posts, gold rushes, railroad construction, ranching and farming in B.C. There are lots of museums, ghost towns and outposts waiting to be explored. Some of the major attractions include: Fort Langley (a former fur trading post), Barkerville (a gold rush town in the Cariboo), Hat Creek Ranch (a coach house near Cache Creek), O’Keefe’s Ranch (near Vernon), Fort Steele (a gold rush boom town in the Kootenays) and Secwepemc Museum in Kamloops. Step back in time to the Wild West with a stage coach ride, a western photo shoot or a court trial with Judge Begby the Hanging Judge. Try your hand at gold panning or just wander through the preserved buildings, check out the artifacts or climb inside an indigenous winter pit house. Next time you go on a B.C. road trip be sure to check out some of the many historical sites along the way.
Some of our most unique hidden gems are located in Northern B.C. One of my favourites is Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park in the Nass River valley. Located about 80 kilometres north of Terrace, this is the site of Canada’s most recent volcanic eruption around 1700, A.D. The park was established in 1992 and is the first in B.C. to be jointly managed by the government and a First Nation. A self-guided driving tour will take you to waterfalls, pools, cinder cones, tree moulds, lava tubes, spatter cones, a lava-dammed lake, caves and other features created by the lava flows. The park serves as a memorial to the 2,000 people killed in this geological disaster. Large lava flows dammed the Nass River and destroyed the two Nisga villages of Wii Lax K’abit and Lax Ksiluux.
If you are lucky you may even spot a Spirit Bear. This rare subspecies of the American black bear is officially called the Kermode bear. It lives in the Central and North Coast regions of British Columbia. While most Kermode bears are black, there are between 100 and 500 completely white bears. Local tradition considers it good luck to spot a white Spirit Bear. If you don’t spot one, you can always visit Clover the Spirit Bear at the Kamloops Wildlife Park.
There is nothing more blissful than a soak in a natural hot spring. B.C. has a wealth of hot springs. Some have been commercially developed and others remain hidden in the forests near rivers. British Columbians love to pack up their RVs and take one of the Hot Spring Circle Routes. Hot Spring Resorts such as Fairmont, Radium, Nakusp, and Halcyon offer RV and camping spots.
My favourites are the little known undeveloped hot springs. I like to keep these secret but I will share one of the better known ones with you. Lussier Hot Springs are located next to the Lussier River in Whiteswan Provincial Park. The springs are accessed by a dusty gravel road. From the parking area a short walk down to the river takes you to the pools. Pools built into rock terraces collect the water while maintaining a natural feel.
For more information, visit www.TeresatheTraveler.ca or pick up a Teresa the Traveler book at Chapters in Kamloops. Titles include: Take a Hike, Chasing Waterfalls, Perfect Places to Paddle, Hidden History, Wine Your Way through the Interior of B.C. and Waterfalls, Hot Springs and Swimming Holes.