Summer Sports & Activities
Travel to Canada’s outdoor wonderland this summer to feel the rush of tearing through backcountry on an ATV, zip through the treetops for an adrenaline rush, or explore the coastline on a kayak. British Columbia has a selection of sports and activities that will fill your days of summer with adventure, excitement, and endless smiles.
Ahh, summer in British Columbia. Where to begin? How about hiking an unbeaten path through the mountains, stand-up paddling on Lake Okanagan, feeling the wind through your hair as you gallop off into desert terrain, or the excitement as you tear down the mountain bike trails in Whistler. From sport activities to sightseeing, BC has countless ways to enjoy the warm, sunny months, all while taking in the stunning views of your natural surroundings.
Making a Splash
There is nothing like cooling off on a hot summer’s day like jumping into a refreshing lake, a swim in a sheltered coastal bay, or riding the waves of a speedboat. With two of its major cities—Vancouver and Victoria—located right by the ocean, and countless other communities situated by rivers or lakes—such as the Okanagan and Shuswap—British Columbia is a prime destination for a water activity vacation.
When it comes to possibilities for outdoor adventure in BC, the only limit is your imagination. Mountainous terrain and backcountry, protected sanctuaries and well marked and easily accessible parks, all with undeniably spectacular views, make even the simplest activities such as leisurely stroll along the cities’ water’s edge a moment to remember.
Expeditions & Adventures
There are a variety of expeditions and adventure companies in British Columbia who pride themselves on providing locals and visitors with the most unique experiences and tour packages to complete their summer fun. From ziplining to ATVs, fishing to marine tours, there are expeditions for people of all ages and interests throughout the province.
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If a beach day is what you had in mind, BC has a range of shorelines guaranteed to meet your needs from pebbles to sand, remote or urban. Steps away from the city, visit Jericho or Kitsilano beach in Vancouver, or venture to Whistler, where the alpine lakes such as Rainbow and Lost Parks, warm up to provide swimming areas for the whole family. Over on Vancouver Island, the unique Sooke Potholes are a great place to spend a hot afternoon. The Thompson Okanagan has countless lakeside beaches to visit, such as in Osoyoos or Penticton, while Shuswap lake is always a family favourite destination. The Kootenay Rockies—where the surrounding lush greenery and mountains are must-sees—the Wasa Lake near Cranbrook, or the Moyie Lake, offers large day-use areas perfect for the whole family.
Kayaking, Canoeing & Water Sports
The calm waters of lakes and rivers are perfect spots for those who wish to partake in one of the many water sport activities available. Canoeing, kayaking, jet-boating, and the newly popular, stand-up paddling are great ways to be active on a sunny day, without feeling the heat. If you don’t have your own equipment or gear, don’t worry; there are plenty of local businesses that set up shop right along the beach to help visitors find the water activity that is best for them. Trained experts can even give you a lesson or two before you venture out on your own to explore the waters.
Around Vancouver, Whistler and Vancouver Island, there are various locations for canoeing with easy access from the city centres. While Wells Gray Park in the Thompson Okanagan is one of BC’s canoeing hotspots, and the Bowron Lakes in the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast region with its myriad of tranquil and remote lakes making it one of the most popular canoeing routes in the province. Kayakers will find no shortage of locations to explore by sea and freshwater. Guide tours are very popular and offer all the equipment and professional guidance to enjoy and experience this activity safely—perfect for novice paddlers or visitors who are unfamiliar with the area. The Howe Sound waters near Sechelt and Gibsons on the Sunshine Coast are perfect for day trips, as well as the protected waters of Deep Cove and False Creek in Vancouver. Vancouver Island’s choices are extensive with popular kayaking at Broken Group Islands near Ucluelet, and the Clayoquot Sound just north of Tofino. The Gulf Islands, which are situated between southern end of Vancouver Island and Vancouver on the mainland, offer calm waters and inlets along the shoreline idyllic for exploring by kayak.
Some other popular water sports include wakeboarding, kiteboarding, or surfing along the top ranked beaches in Tofino, on Vancouver Island, or water skiing on Lake Okanagan.
British Columbia is known for its wall diving, cold-water reefs, sunken shipwrecks, and marine life offering great shore diving experiences with abundant and wide variety of marine life—perhaps spot a Giant Pacific Octopus, or a friendly but fierce looking wolf eel.
Vancouver Island boasts some superb diving locations, such as the Cape Breton artificial reef off Snake Island by Nanaimo, the "graveyard of the pacific" near Tofino, and the Browning Wall near Port Hardy. Closer to Vancouver, divers can explore locations easily accessibly in Howe Sound, and there are also many dive sites located along the Sunshine Coast, with its great visibility and marine life diversity. Also look out for the Emerald Princess in Saltery Bay Provincial Park in Powell River, where divers will find a 3 metre (10 ft) bronze mermaid statue.
With so many dive sites along the coast of Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast and Howe Sound, guide operators are able to offer local knowledge, equipment and a variety of package trips suitable for novice to advanced divers.
If you’re looking for something truly unique to do on the water, consider whitewater rafting. The combination of mountainous terrain and large river systems in BC provide excellent opportunities to experience the exciting thrill of ripping through whitewater rapids on a paddle, float, or motor-powered trip. When you get the chance to catch your breath, take a look around you at the ancient forests, thundering waterfalls, and of course, animals that stroll along the waterbeds.
The village of Lytton, in the Fraser Valley, is heraled as the "Rafting Capital of Canada", but great rafting can be found province-wide: in the Thompson Okanagan the Clearwater River with it clear, rushing waters, or huge waves on the Thompson River promise heart-stopping rides. In the Kootenay Rockies, Kicking Horse River provides no end to wet and wild paddle thrills, while the Babine River in Northern British Columbia offer 100 kilomtres (62 miles) of pristine wilderness for an adventurous trip. On Vancouver Island, near Campbell River, the clear waters of Campbell and Oyster Rivers offers easy paddling, while the Nimpkish River rapids can be swift and exciting along the largest river on Island. At the top of the rating scale, the glacier-fed river systems at the Chilko, Chilcotin, and Fraser River system offers one of North American’s longest rapid stretches through canyons and gorges.
Guided trips are offered for expeditions and range from of a couple hours to a several days, with all equipment, certified guides and safety gear. Wondering when to go? Late Spring to early Autumn are usually considered the best months to attempt whitewater rafting, however, due to BC’s large size and differing climates around the province, its best to check with the tour company before planning your trip.
Mountain Biking & Cycling
British Columbia’s diverse landscapes provide infinite options for explore the great outdoors. Cycling is very popular and the province offers many paths, trails, and routes designed specifically for those exploring on wheels. City cycling paths are available in any region of the province, offering an alternative option to experience and sightsee the beautiful natural views and communities within each city.
For those looking for a more adventurous cycling experience, BC is home to some of those most popular mountain biking locations in the world. Thousands of kilometres of trails and parks are the dream of enthusiats of any skill level as they can choose from cycling through the mountain trails, across desert-terrain, or through the lush rainforest.
Numerous biking trails can be found throughout Vancouver Island, and while Vancouver was the birthplace of freeriding, Whistler is the ultimate destination offering one of the largest and varied mountain bike tracks. Not to be out done the Sunshine Coast and the Fraser Valley offer plenty of trails and tracks to pack in a full day of riding. For more diverse trails, riders can head up to Kelowna in the Thompson Okanagan, where you can go from riding through steep rock faces to desert terrain in a matter of hours.
If you would prefer to see the landscape by foot, there are many great hiking routes and park trails, offering opportunities for bird-watching and sightseeing along the way. There are hundreds of hiking trails throughout the province, allowing visitors to choose their level of difficulty and trip length according to their personal preferences.
The ‘Grouse Grind’ in North Vancouver is a top-visited steep hiking trail, featuring a challenging course of steps and logs to the top of Grouse Mountain. With a gorgeous view of the downtown core, West Vancouver, and Stanley Park waiting for you at the top, and a gondola ride down, it’s well worth the trek. British Columbia’s most renowned trail, the West Coast Trail, can be found on Vancouver Island and 75 kilometres of pure wilderness. If you like more alpine trails, head to the Kootenays, where glaciers and epic peaks are the norm, in comparison to the trails of the north where you can hike along the historic Gold Rush trail or spot waterfalls and volcanic features.
Hang-gliding, Paragliding & Skydiving
Sometimes the best way to see something is from the air. Get a bird’s eye view of beautiful British Columbia by hand-gliding or paragliding through the fresh air—over incredible mountain peaks, desert terrain, or crystal blue lakes. For a bit more of a rush, experience the rush that comes along with being flown up 14,00 feet and freefalling for 60 seconds. Although the thought might make some stomachs turn, tandem skydiving has become a very popular activity around the world—one that many travellers choose to attempt in BC because of the stunning views, well-recommended companies, and great year-round jumping conditions.
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A taste of the good ‘ol West can also be found in British Columbia at one the many guest or dude ranches scattered around the province, or with guided tours from riding stables. Many ranches provide guests with accommodation and the opportunity to ride horses along wild terrain and indulge in relaxation far away from the city. Ranches are most commonly found in the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast, the Thompson Okanagan, and Kootenay Rockies regions of the province—all offering spectacular views of the surrounding wilderness. Additionally family rodeo events are held every year in most regions of BC.
Ziplining & Bungee Jumping
Get your heart pumping with an exhilarating adventure, flying from tree-top to tree-top above the forest floor. There are a variety of these ziplining adventure companies throughout the province, ranging in course activities, height and length and suitable for the whole family. Challenge yourself with a treetop course complete with bridges, obstacles, ziplines, and ropes swings, or strap yourself into your harness and leap into the darkness for night zipping—a newly popular attraction that has you soaring over through the trees at sunset.
Why not descend by bungee jumping to the ground below for an added adrenaline rush? Many companies that offer ziplining also offer this one-of-a-kind experience, so make sure to inquire about this activity and cross it off your bucket list. Nanaimo, in Vancouver Island, was one of the first legal bungee jumping spots in North America, while Grouse Mountain near Vancouver and Revelstoke in the Kootenay Rockies also provide exciting site jumps.
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ATVs & Quad Off Roading
Off roading provides an alternative and exciting way of checking out BC’s varied wilderness landscape. ATVs or quads can be rented on their own or as part of a tour showcasing the impressive scenery our province has to offer. Ride along pristine lakes, jagged mountains, and through age-old forests as you feel the rumbling of your engine beneath you. This popular activity is a great way to experience the breathtaking views of BC, having a great time with friends while allowing you to slow down whenever you like to capture your surroundings in a snapshot.
For a slight change of pace, British Columbia has also gained the reputation as one of the best places in North America to go golfing. With world-class golf courses designed by the greats such as Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, featuring challenging greens, sloping fairways, and plenty of bunker and water obstacles, golfing at any course around the province will provide you with that fantasy golf experience you’ve been craving. The Thompson Okanagan region has the province’s largest amount of courses surrounded by desert terrain, wineries, and orchards, while towering mountains surround the nearby Kootenay courses. Over on Vancouver Island, golfers can enjoy the smell of the sea breeze over the tee box, as eagles fly overhead and black-tail deer hide in the rough’s shrubs. The late afternoon sun up north allows golfers to enjoy late summer-night tee-offs as they enjoy the ruggedness of this region’s landscape.
Summertime is a season for many, where leisure and escape collide. Whether this comes in the form of a whale watching excursion off the coast of Victoria, a stroll along Kitsilano beach, or ziplining between treetops, British Columbia is the perfect destination to encapsulate all your favourite activities and make some new ones. In fact, the challenge won’t be finding something to do, it will be finding time to do everything.
Articles of interest:
- Heli Tours - Soaring British Columbia Mountains: Scale the majestic BC Rockies while flightseeing from above
- Whale Watching on Vancouver Island: The marine must-do for any eco-tourist visiting BC
- Free Things To Do in BC: Exploring BC tourism hotspots on a budget
- Best of BC: Top picks and must-see holiday tours
- RV and Houseboat Vacations in BC: Experience BC from the comfort of your own rolling or floating home
- Things To Do and See in British Columbia: Fun summer activities when on holiday
- A Breath of Fresh Air: Exploring the great outdoors in British Columbia
- Shuwsap - A Perfect Summer Lakeside Holiday: Discover one of Canada’s quintessential cultural experiences
- BC's Great Okanagan: Wine, golf and sunsets - the ultimate Okanagan getaway
- Venturing Out - Vancouver Day Trips: BC makes it easy to take a vacation within a vacation
- Camping in BC 101: Things to know about camping before hitting the trails and roughing it
- Green & Beautiful - Eco Friendly British Columbia: Enjoy BC without having negative effects on the environment
- Vancouver Island's Mystic Pacific West Coast: Just breathe in - Tofino, Ucluelet, The Pacifc Rim
- British Columbia's Great Bears: Ways to watch and watch out for BC's bruins
- Glorious Golfing in British Columbia: Canada's most beautiful province is home to some of the best golf courses in the world
- Victoria - City Comforts with Nature Next Door: Two local favourite day trips on the southern Vancouver Island
- Freshwater Fun in British Columbia: Come and explore the natural wonders of British Columbia'sbeautiful lakes and rivers
- Awesome Whale Watching in British Columbia: Exhilareting experiences with whale watching excursions on the West Coast of Canada
- By the Sea in BC: Going ocean side on British Columbia's beautiful beaches
By Tanya Colledge
Photo credis: Kayaker stops paddling to look at seagulls perched on a rock in the Gulf Islands courtesy Tourism BC/Tom Ryan; Hiking on Idaho Peak with views of the Selkirk Mountains near New Denver in the Kootenay Rockies courtesy Tourism BC/David Gluns
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"A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles" - Tim Cahill