As the last full month of summer approaches, we thought we’d pull together some of the most popular day trip destinations, underrated natural wonders, and tempting weekend getaways for the ultimate BC bucket list. After all, summer is the best time of year to get outdoors and explore, and there are so many beautiful areas to explore.
So with that in mind, here are 12 stunning places to see in BC before summer ends.
Situated on the picturesque Galiano Island, Montague Harbour Marine Park is a hidden gem if there ever was one. Known for its scenic beaches, captivating peninsula, and a handful of hidden tidal lagoons, there’s plenty of natural splendour to discover here. And Galiano Island is known to be as peaceful as it is adventure-inducing, so whether you want to relax after taking on the Bluffs Loop Trail or simply plop down to watch the sunset, your options are pretty limitless here.
The park is accessible by ferry from Swartz Bay or Tsawwassen to Sturdies Bay, which is just 10 km away from the park’s entrance.
Where: Galiano Island, BC
Distance from Vancouver: Two hours and 20 minutes by car and ferry
This one’s more of an overnight/camping destination as it’s a bit further from Vancouver, but Wells Gray Park has plenty of natural wonders that make it well worth the trip. From some of the most famous waterfalls in the province (including Helmcken and Dawson Falls) to a range of refreshing mineral pools, extinct volcanoes and lava beds, and glaciers – this one’s truly a must-visit.
Plus, those with a canoe can access the largest canoe-only lake in North America, or swim in two adjoining lakes – Clearwater and Azure Marine.
Where: Clearwater, BC
Distance from Vancouver: Five hours by car
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Situated at the entrance of Desolation Sound, Cortes Island lies at the doorstep of breathtaking cliffsides, deep blue inlets, and stretches of natural beaches to explore. Visitors can see numerous wildlife amid six lush forests and provincial parks, from Grandmother Grove to Kw’as Park, or check out the tide pools turning low tide. Yes, it’s quite the trek – with the fastest option from Vancouver being two 30-40 minute flights. But it’s well worth it!
In addition to numerous hiking opportunities, visitors can lounge at six white-sand beaches, perfect for kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddle boarding. And if you’re looking for a prime sunset-watching spot, head to Smelt Bay Provincial Park.
Where: Cortes Island, BC
Distance from Vancouver: 30-minute flight from Campbell River
Spanning 62,539 hectares, Golden Ears is another popular choice for day trippers heading from Vancouver, offering visitors a diverse range of outdoor activities and wildlife to observe. And its proximity to the city certainly doesn’t hurt when it comes to making last-minute plans!
Campers can enjoy over 400 front and backcountry campsites at Alouette Lake, Gold Creek, and North Beach. Likewise, hikers can take in panoramic views of the valleys and alpine meadows, as well as the iconic peaks that give the park its name.
Where: Maple Ridge, BC
Distance from Vancouver: One hour and 30 minutes by car or Parkbus
Another quintessential day trip spot, Garibaldi Park is definitely one for the books – particularly if you’re up for a more challenging hike to one of the pristine, turquoise lakes, including Garibaldi and Wedgemount Lakes. Even better? Parkbus has you covered with a direct bus route from downtown Vancouver to the postcard-worthy destination, and each ticket comes with a day pass to over 90 kilometres of established hiking trails!
Where: Near Whistler, BC
Distance from Vancouver: One hour and 24 minutes by car or Parkbus
Here’s a unique beach pick. Gabriola Sands Park is home to distinct Malaspina Galleries (more commonly referred to as “The Galleries”), which are unique wave-shaped sandstone cliffs, carved out by crashing waves over the course of millions of years. The cliffside is a popular swimming hole and a place to enjoy the sunset.
To get to Gabriola Island, you can hop on a 20-minute ferry from Nanaimo. The park is located on Decourcy Drive, which is a left turn on Taylor Bay Road after getting off the ferry at the Gabriola Island Ferry Terminal.
Where: Gabriola Island, BC
Distance from Vancouver: Four-hour drive and ferry ride
Known for its sunny lake days and delicious wine and craft cider, Osoyoos is truly a summer destination like no other. From visiting its plethora of family-owned farms and wineries to cycling or golfing in Canada’s only desert, there’s so much fun to be had, no matter what your preferred day trip activity is. And as far as the regional park goes, you’ll have a wide, sandy beach to lounge on at the end of the day.
Oh, and don’t forget to keep your eye out for the one-of-a-kind Spotted Lake (kłlilx’w), a sacred site containing multiple mineral-rich spotted lakes that shift in size and colour during the summer months.
Where: Osoyoos, BC
Distance from Vancouver: Four hours and 40 minutes by car
Goldstream Park boasts majestic 600-year-old trees, powerful waterfalls, vibrant wildflowers, and a river that meets the sea – and that’s just for starters. Hikers can explore an extensive network of trails that cater to all levels of outdoor enthusiasts, from wheelchair-accessible hikes to more challenging adventures along creeks and up past abandoned gold-digging sites.
Located just 16 km from downtown Victoria, this park is a fantastic add-on if you’re visiting anywhere in the southern part of the Island.
Where: 16 km northwest of Victoria
Distance from Vancouver: Three hours and 15 minutes by car and ferry
As far as islands go in BC, Pender Island is one of the most fascinating to explore, if you ask us. Rolling meadows, pristine lakes, and multiple beaches and coves to uncover – what more could you ask for?
Surrounded by the sparkling waters of the Salish Sea, Pender Island actually consists of two separate islands, North and South Pender, originally connected via an isthmus.
Now, the two islands offer boaters and outdoor enthusiasts plenty of scenic adventures – from kayaking tours or wildlife-watching excursions to renting canoes, going snorkelling, golfing at the Golf and Country Club, or swimming at Medicine Beach – and that’s just for starters.
Where: Between Vancouver and Victoria, BC
Distance from Vancouver: Two-hour ferry ride
Waterfall lovers, this one’s for you. The Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park is located just east of Chilliwack and includes a spectacular 60-metre-high waterfall. The best part? This gorgeous view is only a 15-minute walk away!
Once you’ve enjoyed the falls, you can check out the 32-acre Minter Gardens. Get some quality bird-watching in, or make use of the Bridal Falls Waterpark if you need a little cool-down. Since Chilliwack is just a hop skip and jump away, you might as well venture off into the Cheam Lake area!
Where: Bridal Falls, BC
Distance from Vancouver: One hour and a half by car
Situated in Port Moody, Buntzen Lake is easily accessible via transit and offers a beautiful spot for swimming, picnicking, hiking, and paddling. Plus, the suspension bridge is now open, allowing visitors to get in even more spectacular views during their visit.
You can take the N9 from downtown Vancouver to Coquitlam Central Station, where you can easily hop on 179 to head to the lake’s entrance.
Where: North of Port Moody
Distance from Vancouver: One hour by car
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Yes – another island pick, but can you blame us? Salt Spring Island is the epitome of a charming island stay, complete with family-run farms and art studios that you can visit. If you love perusing local shops as much as you do spending time outdoors, this is the summer destination for you!
Load up on fresh berries or artisanal cheese, and check out Mount Maxwell, Mount Erskine, and Ruckle Provincial Parks.
Where: Salt Spring Island, BC
Distance from Vancouver: 35-minute flight or 2 hours and 55 minutes by ferry
So there you have it, BC! If you’re looking to build the ultimate summer bucket list of must-visit destinations, this is a great place to start.