Picture this: you're on the open road, sun shining down and wind in your hair. What do you see surrounding you?
Before you get going, check our Responsible Travel Guide so you can be informed, be safe, be smart, and most of all, be respectful on your adventure.
For many British Columbians, it's not concrete buildings or high-rises. Instead, you probably envision the undeniable beauty of nature, with its calming green hills, tranquil turquoise lakes and soft wind blowing through the trees.
It's no wonder that exposure to Mother Nature is good for you — it carries a certain calmness that we can all use to destress and unwind.
And it's not just a gut feeling either. In March 2021, Mazda commissioned a survey of 1,000 Canadians about their connection to the great outdoors. They found that over 90% of respondents felt that nature is great for their mental health and over 80% wished they could spend more time in it.
Yet with busy schedules, cold weather or simply a lack of motivation, it's too easy to let nature escape from us when, really, we need to escape to nature.
One way to easily do this and experience everything the good ol' outdoors has to offer is by hopping in a car and taking a road trip. Just make sure to check all provincial and federal guidelines to stay informed on COVID-19 rules and regulations in the area you wish to travel to before getting behind the wheel.
If you're looking for spots in B.C. that will get you on the road back to nature with little to no effort, this list of gems will send you in the right direction.
Why You Need To Go: The mountain and water views on this winding and incredible 163-kilometre scenic journey from Vancouver to Pemberton will stay with you for years to come. It includes the world-famous Whistler Blackcomb resort — perfect for skiing, snowboarding, hiking and sightseeing from the Peak 2 Peak Gondola — and the town of Squamish, known as Canada's Outdoor Recreation Capital.
But first, don't miss the trails and views from North and West Vancouver, or from Porteau Cove Provincial Park (where you may even witness some scuba diving). Check out the whole route and plenty of other activities on Hello B.C.'s website.
Why You Need To Go: If you're a relaxed person (or you simply need some R&R), the Kootenays might just be your vibe. The many artists and down-to-earth locals of the Revelstoke, Nelson and Rossland mountain towns make the region pretty laid-back, eclectic and unique.
Take in the expansive view of Nelson atop the Pulpit Rock hike and end your day among the heritage buildings of downtown. Soak up the mineral benefits at Ainsworth Hot Springs, or bask in the 144-kilometre-long scenic drive around Kootenay Lake.
Why You Need To Go: Known for its hot summer weather, B.C.'s Okanagan Valley, about 400 kilometres east of Vancouver, has something for everyone. It's renowned for its award-winning wines, so you'll never struggle with a shortage of vineyards and tours in and around the 13 Okanagan Valley towns.
If wine tasting isn't quite your passion, there are plenty of other callings in this interior B.C. region. Float down Penticton's river channel, cycle the Kettle Valley Rail Trail, or ski some fresh powder at a local resort.
Coastal Douglas-Fir Forest
Why You Need To Go: The Coastal Douglas-Fir Forest is found on southeast Vancouver Island, parts of the Gulf Islands, and areas along B.C.'s south coast and mainland. This is a pretty extensive area, so you'll need a lot of time to explore the highlights!
For starters, you can check out the amazing surfing beaches of Jordan River and Sombrio on Vancouver Island, 70 and 100 kilometres west of Victoria. Afterwards, head back to check out the stunning East Sooke Regional Park coastal trails.
If you've still got some gusto, make your way to Swartz Bay in Sidney to catch a ferry en route to a Gulf Island — the Saturday market in Ganges, Salt Spring Island is not to be missed (while respecting all COVID safety protocols, of course).
Throughout your journey to these spots and others, you can't help but soak in the natural beauty and all-encompassing stature of Coastal Douglas-Firs.
Why You Need To Go: The wild, rugged terrain of the dry and arid Thompson Valley will delight you. About 400 kilometres northeast of Vancouver, the natural surroundings of this B.C. region offer fishing, mountain biking and ranches galore.
Lower Mainland: South of Vancouver
Why You Need To Go: Who said you need to drive far to enjoy a nice, leisurely road trip and get back to nature? If you're starting from the Greater Vancouver area, there are plenty of options to appreciate the great outdoors just south of the city.
Visit the seaside village of Steveston in Richmond, about 20 kilometres south of Vancouver, where you'll see the history of the area's salmon canning industry and the Olympic Oval, built for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
Carry on to Crescent Beach in South Surrey, which offers a beautiful environment to walk, swim or play volleyball. Nearby White Rock Pier offers a vibrant boardwalk beachfront with plenty of restaurants, cafes, and shops — perfect to take a pause and grab a bite.
Lower Mainland: East of Vancouver
Why You Need To Go: A great option, if you head 35 kilometres northeast of Vancouver, is the Buntzen Lake recreational area, which features multiple trails — like Diez Vistas — and gorgeous mountain and water views from the family- and dog-friendly picnic beach.
Even further out near Maple Ridge is another amazing experience, Golden Ears Provincial Park, about 55 kilometres east of Vancouver. While it does offer camping, you can easily make a day trip of it instead.
Why You Need To Go: With pockets of open water and artsy oceanside villages, what's not to love about the coastal, heavily treed drive along B.C.'s Sunshine Coast?
Northwest of Vancouver, you can reach this 180-kilometre stretch from Howe Sound to Desolation Sound via a quick ferry from Horseshoe Bay. This part of the coast is known for mild weather and forested mountains
Hop on a mountain bike in Roberts Creek, or make your way past Powell River to rent a kayak or paddleboard in Desolation Sound Marine Provincial Park. For something truly unique, head on up to vehicle-free Savary Island — where you'll delight in white sand beaches and the warmest water north of Mexico (hard to believe, isn't it?).
Lougheed Highway 7
Why You Need To Go: While this 150-kilometre scenic highway running from Vancouver to Hope is a slower option than the Trans Canada, its rolling foothills. winding rivers and waterfalls make it absolutely worth the drive.
Take a dip in Harrison Hot Springs and, if you're a fan of birds, don't miss Harrison Mills, where the world's largest gathering of bald eagles flock. At the end of this stunning drive, you'll find Manning Park Resort — ideal for dark-sky stargazing.
While there are a ton of amazing road trips British Columbians are lucky to have at their fingertips, it really can be tough to choose the best destination — which, let's face it, is definitely a nice problem to have.