British Columbia road trip, Vancouver Island

3 Unforgettable Road Trips to take in British Columbia this Summer


If you’re anything like me, the freedom of packing up the car and setting off to a new destination is unbeatable. We all crave that awe and wonder, the leisure time and play that comes with travel, and when it’s in your own vehicle, at your own pace, it’s even better.

With only 5.5 million people across nearly 950,000 square kilometres, British Columbia holds an abundance of off-the-beaten-path gems to discover this summer.

Summer in British Columbia offers just about everything – beautiful mountains, freshwater lakes, ocean and beach access, funky small towns, and a unique Indigenous culture and history.

Here are a few of our favourite routes to inspire your next road trip:

1 | Vancouver to Madeira Park – Sunshine Coast

BC Ferries Horseshoe Bay, Vancouver, to Gibsons, Sunshine Coast, British Columbia. Howe Sound and Coast Mountains.

Arriving in Vancouver, British Columbia’s largest city, enjoy a night of pampering at a luxury hotel in the city, such as the Loden Hotel or the Indigenous-owned Skwachàys Lodge. The next day, from just north of Vancouver, catch the short, scenic ferry to the town of Gibsons on the Sunshine Coast. With views of the Howe Sound and Coast Mountains, you begin to immerse in the slow coastal lifestyle and warm hospitality of this unique region.

Spend a few days around Gibsons and Sechelt to check out the many hiking trails like Hidden Grove (easy), Soames Hill (moderate), or Mt. Elphinstone (challenging). Rent kayaks or SUPs or join a guided tour to explore the calm waters of Halfmoon Bay and Sechelt Inlet. Our favourite part about these tours is the chance to spot wildlife like sea otters, jellyfish, and whales and bears – if we’re lucky! Plus a catered lunch on a remote beach is always enjoyable.

Woman hiking in Gibsons, Sunshine Coast, on Soames hill trail. British Columbia.

Further north towards Madeira Park and Egmont, our favourite hikes include Smuggler Cove Provincial Park (easy/moderate), Pender Hill (moderate), and Skookumchuk Narrows (easy) where you can watch the kayakers surf the standing waves. Once in Egmont, a must-do is the full-day boat tour to Princess Louisa Inlet, a stunning journey through deep fjords with as many as 60 waterfalls including the iconic Chatterbox Falls at the head of the inlet.

Candace Campo guiding a First Nations cultural tour for visitors, British Columbia.

Into the arts and culture? The Sunshine Coast has more artists per capita than anywhere else in Canada. Check out the self-guided Purple Banner tour for ideas and home studios you can visit. Learn about the Shíshálh (Sechelt) & Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) people on a tour with Talaysay Tours, or a visit to the tems swiya Museum in Sechelt.

Ready to sample the local cuisine? You can’t go wrong with oysters from Smitty’s while overlooking Gibsons Harbour, brunch at the Gumboot Cafe in Roberts Creek, or dinner at the Lighthouse Pub in Sechelt to watch the sea planes come and go. Speaking of planes… arguably the most unique dining experience on the Sunshine Coast is the ‘Fly-and-dine’ 3-course dinner at the West Coast Wilderness Lodge (departs from Sechelt).

For those travelling with kids, the Sunshine Coast is a popular destination for family vacations, with self-catered lodging like Painted Boat Resort & Spa coupled with endless beaches, parks, and freshwater lakes for swimming (check out our favourite, Ruby Lake).

Travelling as a couple or with friends? We have lots of recommendations for cozy waterfront B&Bs and more rustic ‘glamping’ style accommodations to suit all budgets.

Sunshine Coast, british Columbia, waterfront accommodation - Pointhouse Suites.

2 | Nanaimo to Port Hardy – Vancouver Island North

Vancouver Island is one of our most popular destinations, offering some of the best wildlife viewing, sandy beaches, and rugged wilderness that southern British Columbia has to offer. While destinations like Tofino and Victoria get most of the attention, Vancouver Island is over 450 km long with many options to get off-the-beaten-path (in comfort!). Nanaimo is a great place to start your journey, just 1.5 hours’ drive from Victoria or about 2 hours from Vancouver via ferry, with a regional airport and seaplane access as well.

From here, we invite you to venture north, ‘up island’ as the locals say, perhaps stopping to explore the beaches of Parksville, wineries in the Comox Valley like 40 Knots Winery – bonus, they are Sustainable Tourism Certified! – and Miracle Beach Provincial Park.

Arriving in Campbell River, spend a few days exploring what’s known as the Salmon Capital of the World. Be sure to check out Elk Falls Provincial Park for its leisurely trails through old growth forest, and, if you’re feeling adventurous, get out hiking in Strathcona Provincial Park. 

Pack a lunch and continue north for another 2-3 hours until you reach the quaint fishing village of Telegraph Cove.

Telegraph Cove, Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Waterfront boardwalk and fishing village.

Grab a coffee and meander the boardwalk that stretches the cove’s shoreline, past the historic homes that have been turned into lodging for adventure-seekers. Visit the Whale Interpretive Centre, check out the local artists like Don Bastian, and grab a bite on the patio of the Old Saltery Pub.

Ready for an adventure of your own? Set out for a day (or half-day) sea kayaking tour along the Johnstone Strait, or join an Indigenous-led wildlife tour to discover the ecological and cultural significance of these waters. Keep an eye for the Northern Resident Orca, humpback whales, sea otters and sea lions, and an abundance of seabirds who call this place home.

Group sea kayaking tour, North Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Group on a beach during lunch.
Orca whale, North Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Looking for more cultural immersion? Alert Bay is our favourite destination to learn about the cultural traditions and important history of the Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw First Nations – including viewing the renowned collection of potlatch masks and regalia at the U’Mista Cultural Centre. Enjoy a picnic lunch in the ‘awakwas’ by the water, stop in to Culture Shock Gallery for a coffee and locally-made jewelry and gifts, and check out the many hiking trails too. We recommend staying a few nights in Alert Bay to truly soak in the small-island life and friendly locals.

U'Mista Cultural Centre sign with view of Alert Bay shoreline and Johnstone Strait.

Our final stop – the end of the road – is Port Hardy, where a stay at the First Nations-owned Kwa’Lilas Hotel is a must. This is the jump-off point to Cape Scott Provincial Park, where hiking enthusiasts may embark on the 43km rugged hike across the northern tip of Vancouver Island. Too intense? We don’t blame you! Instead, catch a ride to San Josef Bay (located within the park) with our local guides to spend the day hiking the easy trails through the old-growth forest, out to the incredible 2km stretch of sandy beach with its sea stacks and sea caves waiting to be explored.

The North Island is the perfect region for those seeking rugged nature and impressive wildlife coupled with cultural immersion and unique, comfortable accommodations.

3 | Williams Lake to Bella Coola – West Chilcotin

Spanning the heart of British Columbia, the Cariboo Chilcotin Region holds space for a range of adventures. Whether you’re interested in hiking in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, staying at an authentic guest ranch, or scouting for wildlife like bighorn sheep or grizzly bears, the open roads are waiting for you.

Horseback riding in the Chilcotin region, British Columbia, with mountain views and grassy field.

For those who don’t mind the distance, you may wish to start your road trip in Vancouver, driving the scenic Sea to Sky highway, heading west over the Coast Mountain range, and into the wild interior of British Columbia (roughly 7 hours drive to Williams Lake). Be sure to stop at Historic Hat Creek Ranch in Cache Creek, and the Sugar Shack in 70 Mile for the ‘Best poutine west of Quebec’. 

Alternatively, you can fly from Vancouver to start your road trip in Williams Lake, with rental cars available at the airport. As you make your way across the interior of BC, we encourage you to take it slow, staying 2 or 3 nights in each place, to truly connect with the landscapes and people who call this place home.

From Williams Lake, begin your drive west along HWY 20 where the road winds onto the Chilcotin Plateau and across this inland desert. Grab a homemade cinnamon bun from Historic Chilcotin Lodge (you won’t regret it!), before carrying on to Farwell Canyon, British Columbia’s largest sand dune, which is surrounded by protected habitat for the California Bighorn Sheep.

Traveller overlooking Farwell Canyon sand dunes and hoodoos, with Mosaic Earth Travel van in the foreground.

One of our favourite day tours in this region is the scenic flight from Nimpo Lake into the mountains, over icefields and glaciers, to Turner Lake and the impressive Hunlen Falls – Canada’s highest free falling waterfall.

Rest your head at a classic guest ranch or wilderness lodge, enjoying horseback riding and long-table dinners with other adventurous travellers. A few lodges offer photography tours if that’s your interest, like Eagle Bear Lodge (on the plateau) and Great Bear Chalet (in Bella Coola, specializing in bear viewing).

Speaking of grizzly bears… once you make your way into the Bella Coola valley, where the landscape changes drastically from dry desert to temperate rainforest, these wildlife tours await. From mid-August to mid-October, the best way to spot grizzly bears is on a rafting tour of the Atnarko River. Local experts will steer you gently down the river where the bears gather to hunt for salmon.

Grizzly bears on the shoreline near Tweedsmuir Park Lodge, Bella Coola.

More of an ocean-goer? Once in Bella Coola, be sure to check out the sailing and boating tours which travel along the stunning azure-coloured glacial fjords, past the estuary for more chances of wildlife, and even onto natural hot springs nestled in the rocky shoreline.

If you’ve heard of Bella Coola, you’re likely familiar with Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, which spans 989,616 acres of epic wilderness. Join a locally-guided hike in the park – with the option of helicopter-access hiking and sightseeing too – to follow in the footsteps of Alexander McKenzie and the Nuxalk Carrier Grease Trail.

Log cabin room at Tweedsmuir Park Lodge with view of the property.

For ultimate comfort in this region, we recommend cozying up at Tweedsmuir Park Lodge, with its well-appointed cabins, full-service lodge, on-site grizzly viewing, and a range of day tours to choose from. For more budget-conscious travellers, there are lots of options for self-catered lodges and even glamping experiences to fit all styles of travel. 

The important thing is you’re here – in the wild West Chilcotin, surrounded by towering peaks, endless valleys, and the friendliest locals around.

Man stands next to massive old growth tree near Bella Coola, British Columbia

Explore British Columbia by Road This Summer

I do believe we’ve only scratched the surface of ‘unforgettable road trips’ in BC! Each of these regions offers enough to fill a 1-2 week holiday, or if you’re staying longer, consider connecting a few of the routes via BC Ferries by travelling up the Sunshine Coast and onto Vancouver Island, or taking the Inside Passage route from Port Hardy to Bella Coola.

There is so much to discover in this beautiful corner of the world. Our specialty is seeking out the quieter destinations and those locally-owned gems that truly immerse you in the wild landscapes and vibrant cultures that make each place unique.

Pam McGarel, Founder and CEO of Mosaic Earth Travel, poses infront of scenic view.

Looking for some help planning your next vacation? We’d love to chat! Contact Pam McGarel, our Founder, to discuss travel ideas and custom packages across British Columbia and the Yukon.

Book a free introductory call or email

Photo Credits:
Cover – Tourism Vancouver Island/Ben Giesbrecht
1 – Destination BC/Dolf Vermeulen
2 – Sunshine Coast Tourism
3 – Destination Vancouver/Kindred & Scout
4 – Pointhouse Suites/Josh McGarel
7 – Eagle Wing Tours/Valerie Shore
9 – Destination BC/Albert Normandin
11, 12 – Tweedsmuir Park Lodge

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Guest Experience Specialist

Emma McLachlan

As a recent graduate with a Bachelors in Tourism Development, Emma has used her education and career opportunities to explore Canada, from coast to coast. Her previous experience in hotels, adventure guiding and travel consulting has relocated her to Lake Louise, Whistler, Montreal, Banff and Toronto.

Her exploration of the west coast ignited her love for adventure tourism, but also opened her eyes to the communities marginalized at the hands of the tourism industry. This flourished her passion for creating a more thoughtful relationship amongst tourism suppliers, local communities and tourists. With Mosaic Earth Travel, Emma is connecting her passions in regenerative tourism and travel.

Originally from Ontario, Emma’s various relocations exposed her to her favourite activities; including back-country camping and hiking, rollerblading, snowboarding, rock climbing and dreaming of her next adventure. Emma is based in Montreal, QC.

Photographer & Guide

Josh McGarel

An avid photographer for over twelve years, Josh has gained experience with local and international businesses, world-renowned athletes, and individuals to build professional content and brand presence across a variety of platforms.

He has worked on assignment for an expedition cruise operator as Photographer in Residence along the East Coast of Canada, South Georgia, and Antarctica. Here, Josh connected with his love of travel as he documented daily excursions, wildlife, and life onboard, and shared his knowledge of photography through presentations and workshops for passengers.

Hailing from the United Kingdom, Josh has lived in BC since 2014. He spends his time exploring the area by mountain bike and dreaming up crazy photo projects with friends.
Founder & Lead Guide

Pam McGarel

With a Masters of Science in International Development and Sustainable Tourism, Pam has dedicated her career to harnessing the power of travel to support the wellbeing of our planet and its people. She is an experienced guide, planner and project manager with a knack for logistics.

Prior to launching Mosaic Earth, Pam worked in sustainable tourism consulting where she helped develop a globally-recognized certification program for tourism businesses and destinations.

She has experience in public-private partnerships with a polar expedition cruise operator where she built relationships with world-leading field scientists, conservationists, and educators to facilitate their projects alongside the traveller experience. Pam is a member of the Adventure Travel Trade Association and Women Travel Leaders, and loves to connect with values-driven tourism professionals.

Originally from Ontario, Pam moved to BC in 2016 seeking outdoor adventure, with favourite activities including hiking, sea kayaking, snowboarding, and road trips around this beautiful province.