Canada

Five fall B.C. getaways worth the road trip

SUNSHINE COAST
Fall is island time

Plan a relaxing seaside stay on the Sunshine Coast, home to a flourishing food and craft beverage scene, buzzing arts community, and laid-back vibe. Embrace their version of “island time”—while it’s technically still on the mainland, the coast feels like a world away from the bustle of the city.

The southern section of the Sunshine Coast between Gibsons and Egmont is an 80-kilometre stretch of shoreline, worn by rocky beaches and dotted with hidden inlets. An abundance of hiking and biking trails wind through the coastal rainforest, taking you to ocean vistas and secret waterfalls.

Complement your culinary and cultural activities with a trek through Tetrahedron and Mount Elphinstone provincial parks, or enjoy the expansive ocean vistas on the shorter Soames Hill hike in Gibsons.

The Backeddy Resort & Marina in Egmont has several accommodation options including the Geodesic Domes—a great last chance to “camp” in style. Explore farther afield with a boat ride to Princess Louisa Inlet with Sunshine Coast Tours, departing from Backeddy Marina, where you can see towering granite walls and up to 60 cascading waterfalls, Chatterbox Falls being the crown jewel.

Don’t miss the Sechelt Rapids, reached by a popular and easy 4-km hike in Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park.

Persephone Brewing Company in Gibsons on the Sunshine Coast. Photo by Destination BC

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Sip your way through craft breweries, distilleries and cideries, including Sunday Cider in Gibsons and Bruinwood Estate Distillery in Roberts Creek. The area is also home to a colourful mix of restaurants bursting with global flavours and West Coast fare including the newly opened Mad Hen in Gibsons.

For a lovely sit down meal and fabulous views, don’t miss the Drift Cafe & Bistro. Take in wild coastal views at Inlets Restaurant in the West Coast Wilderness Lodge, savour fusion cuisine at El Segundo, or enjoy diner favourites at the famed Molly’s Reach in Gibsons.

The Sunshine Coast is also home to a large creative community, including a number of renowned artists. The marquee annual arts event, Sunshine Coast Art Crawl, takes place in the third week of October and offers gallery tours, art demonstrations, workshops, and exhibits. If you’re visiting outside of the event, book an exclusive art tour with Sunshine Coast Art Tours to go behind the scenes with some of the Sunshine Coast’s top creative talent.

The Painted Boat Resort Spa and Marina in Madeira Park is the Sunshine Coast’s luxurious year round resort, featuring 31 spacious waterfront villas. Relax with a cool drink while embracing beautiful waterfront views at the resort’s own Lagoon Restaurant. Treat yourself to a rejuvenating Canadian Aromatherapy massage at the spa.

Historic Bonniebrook Lodge, tucked away in a quiet neighbourhood close to the beach, is the perfect springboard to shops, dining, and outdoor adventures. Ruby Lake Resort (open until the end of October) is nestled between the Caren Range Mountains and Ruby Lake, the warmest fresh water lake on the Sunshine Coast. Cozy up to a real wood burning fireplace and enjoy fresh local produce in the resort’s La Trattoria Italiana restaurant. To get to the southern portion of the Sunshine Coast from Vancouver, take the 40-minute BC Ferries ride from Horseshoe Bay or fly into Sechelt with Harbour Air or Sunshine Coast Air.

WHISTLER
Savour the Season

Head to the mountains and watch the seasons change—a popular Whistler pastime in the autumn as the snowline begins its slow descent down the mountain. Fall in Whistler is fun and effortless, with exciting food and drink experiences, galleries, dining, and outdoor adventure to enjoy.

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The main entrance of the Audain Art Museum in Whistler.
The main entrance of the Audain Art Museum in Whistler.

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Embark upon a visual journey at the Audain Museum, home to 200 permanent works. Learn about the vibrant living culture of the Líl̓wat7ul and Sk̲wxwú7mesh Úxwumixw when you visit the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre—be sure to stop at the Thunderbird Café for Indigenous-inspired fare.

Adventure-seekers can hit the Whistler Mountain Bike Park (open to October 10) or bike the Valley Trail to Rainbow Park to see the fall colours. If you’re looking to relax, a soothing soak at Scandinave Spa Whistler is the epitome of rejuvenation.

​​Celebrate the fall harvest with a carefully crafted seasonal menu and wine pairings at Alta Bistro. Try Basalt Wine and Salumeria in the heart of Whistler Village for Mediterranean cuisine and an impressive wine list or stroll to the Upper Village, where you can sample craft beers and seductive artisan cocktails at Braidwood Tavern in the Four Seasons Resort & Residences Whistler (the margaritas are a hit).

Craft beverage enthusiasts will want to explore the Ale Trail with a visit to Function Junction, home to two breweries and a distillery. If you plan to visit in November, Whistler Cornucopia—a celebration of gastronomic proportions—returns with culinary seminars, winemakers’ dinners, and more.

Book a luxury escape in the Upper Village in the Fairmont Chateau Whistler or stay in the heart of Whistler Village at the Westin Resort and Spa. For a quieter getaway backed by fall foliage and lakeside views, call it a night at Nita Lake Lodge in Creekside.

HOPE
An outdoor playground

Hope—often a stop of interest on the way to B.C.’s interior or the Similkameen Valley wine region—is a gateway to the Fraser Canyon and the scenic Cascade Mountains.

Take your time getting to Hope and you might discover unexpected treasures along the way. Think: Craft breweries and train robber-inspired brew pubs along BC Scenic Route 7, or artisan cheese, farm-fresh produce, and wineries in the Fraser Valley via Highway 1.

Alexandra Bridge over the Fraser River.
Alexandra Bridge over the Fraser River. Photo by Destination BC

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While in town, hike to the Hope Lookout for commanding views of the valley and visit the Japanese Friendship Garden in Hope Memorial Park. You can also take a self-guided tour of Hope’s impressive selection of 80-plus chainsaw carvings, including a Rambo statue (inspired by the town’s starring role in the action film First Blood 40 years ago).

About 10 minutes west of town, you’ll find the Syéx̱w Chó:leqw Adventure Park, where nature walks and mountain biking await. Extend your trip and spend a day in the mountains of Manning Park Provincial Park, located 45-minutes east, where you can venture out for a fall hike accented by an auburn rainbow of fall foliage.

Soak up the friendly atmosphere and live music at the new Mountainview Brewing Co., which offers a rotating selection of innovative seasonal beers and savoury bites (the pretzels are a local favourite). If you’re feeling peckish, visit the quirky Owl Street Cafe or try fresh-baked goodies at Rolling Pin Bakery. Evergreen Bed and Breakfast, located in town, is a charming, family-owned accommodation with modern furnishings—the perfect home base for exploring town.

Drive north along Highway 1 through the scenic Fraser Canyon to explore Alexandra Bridge Provincial Park, an old crossing for the Cariboo Wagon Road.

HARRISON RIVER VALLEY
Hot springs and wineries await

The village of Harrison Hot Springs is a hidden gem along the BC Scenic Route 7. With a prime location on Harrison Lake, it’s a great place to enjoy nature and seek off-beat adventures.

Take the scenic route as you make your way along the Circle Farm Tour between Agassiz and Harrison Mills. Detours include a cheesemaker, a coffee roaster/basketry studio, and farm stalls. If you’re taking Highway 1, stop in at one or more of the breweries along the Fraser Valley Ale Trail for a to-go growler, lunch, or a tasting.

Due to its rich micro-climate, the Fraser Valley region also boasts 25 wineries—visit Ripples Winery to procure blueberry wine or visit Whispering Horse Winery for an aromatic rosé.

Raven Carbin at Rowena’s Inn in Harrison Mills.
Raven Carbin at Rowena’s Inn in Harrison Mills. Photo by Destination BC

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While in Harrison Hot Springs, there are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy. Hiking trails range in difficulty from a leisurely stroll along the Spirit Trail to a strenuous, but rewarding trek up the Campbell Lake Trail (a.k.a. The Harrison Grind), with panoramic views of the lake and valley below. Through mid-October, Harrison Eco Tours offers a thrilling (and heated) jet boat tour up Harrison River.

After a day of exploring, pop by Muddy Waters Cafe or Harrison Corner Cafe for a farm-fresh bite and craft beer from the area.

According to the Sts’ailes people, who have called this area home for thousands of years, the sa:sq’ets (a spirit being) co-exists with humans and protects the land. Learn more at the visitor centre and Sasquatch Museum and take a self-guided tour along the Sasquatch Trail, with a stop at Qwólts Park to see the striking sa:sq’ets mural.

You can also visit Kilby Historic Site near Harrison Mills to get a glimpse into rural life through costumed interpreters, farm animals, and interactive stories (open Thursday to Monday from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. through the fall).

After a day of activity, head for a soothing soak—after all, the name says it all. The healing mineral pools at Harrison Hot Springs Resort are open to guests only. If you’re looking for a secluded getaway and a round of golf, stay in a luxury cottage at Rowena’s Inn on the River, located 20 minutes away in Harrison Mills. Their Clubhouse Restaurant serves up a farm-fresh menu with a solid BC VQA wine list.

VICTORIA
Fall foliage at its best

Victoria, with its casual atmosphere, fall gardens, and eclectic dining experiences, is a relaxing seaside city escape. For new ways to rediscover B.C.’s capital city, explore the streets at night on a ghost-themed walking tour or learn about Victoria’s historic neighbourhoods on a bike tour.

A visit to Victoria’s iconic attractions might also be in order: Learn about the West Coast’s vibrant Indigenous Culture at the Royal BC Museum or stroll through Chinatown’s distinct Fan Tan Alley.

While you’re enjoying radiant fall colours at The Butchart Gardens on the Saanich Peninsula, head on a self-guided Flavour Trail expedition of the area, where you’ll discover orchards, cideries, provisions, and artisan creations.

The Sunken Garden at Butchart Gardens.
The Sunken Garden at Butchart Gardens. Photo by @localwanderer

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Given that Victoria has the most restaurants per capita in Canada, the city’s exciting culinary scene never disappoints. Indulging in afternoon tea is a quintessential experience; reserve a tea service at Hotel Grand Pacific, White Heather Tea Room, or Abkhazi Gardens for a new take on this old tradition.

Sample fare from the farms, forests, and oceans around Vancouver Island at Olo Restaurant; continue exploring local producers with a visit to Cowichan Valley’s wine region, dubbed the “Napa of the North.” Cap off your tour-de-tastebuds by hitting a few of Victoria’s Ale Trail stops (West Coast lifestyle-inspired Whistle Buoy Brewing Company in downtown’s Market Square is a fun one). Tip: Book a tasting tour to get the inside scoop on Victoria’s culinary gems.

With so much to do in Victoria’s downtown core, why not stay in the heart of the city? Parkside Hotel and Spa—offering e-scooter rentals, ready-made gourmet meals, and grazing boxes—is a solid choice. Or, try the Delta Hotels Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort for a modern, upscale hotel experience with views of the waterfront.

In addition to daily BC Ferries sailings, there are also flights into Victoria from YVR Airport and Downtown Vancouver.

Originally written for Destination BC by Amber Turnau.

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