Best time to visit British Columbia

BC is blissfully bipolar in May. Hit the snowy Rockies in the morning, then swap salopettes for shorts in the afternoon for summer-time canoeing
Warmed by Pacific currents, BC is Canada’s mildest province rarely dropping below zero. Vancouver Island is the mildest of all, and boasting the driest summers. Migratory whales love the mild climate too, swimming in early July-late Sept. Mid-July to mid-Aug is BC’s peak season but this is Canada, so it’s never that peak. Sept is fab with fewer tourists and mild temperatures. Also, the autumn leaves are turning so the forests are on fire. Metaphorically that is. It’s also when the grizzlies are most visible. The Rockies is stunning in winter snow, but can dip to -20°C, so be prepared.

Vancouver Weather Chart

RAIN (mm)

Things to do in British Columbia

Things to do in British Columbia...

BC = Beautiful Camping. The great outdoors at its greatest, with a camping and cabin infrastructure typical of North America, but with so much space. Not empty space, but filled with spectacular mountains, glacial gorgeousness and never ending coast. Raft down Yoho NP’s Kicking Horse River by day, camp in the shadow of the Great Divide by night. Or explore the vineyards and valleys of Okanagan, and bring back a perky Pinot to sip around the campfire. With tours that include camping facilities along the way, this is a superb way to get in touch with what BC is all about. It’s hard to know where to start walking in BC. Especially given the amount of waymarked ways that traverse their national and provincial parks. Over a hundred glaciers wait in the gorgeous Glacier National Park. Or take in the coastal fjords of Tweedsmuir, where you can head into its more remote spots with a packhorse and guide. And, if you can catch the giant Douglas fir trees and red cedars on an autumnal hiking trip to Vancouver Island, you are in for a leafy love in. Fawn over fauna, with grizzly bears getting top billing in BC’s show of wildlife wonders. With the help of specialist wildlife holiday companies, check out our bear watching holidays that take you to the likes of Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, Bella Coola or the snow-capped Coast Range Mountains, also home to the aptly named Great Bear Rain Forest. The bears may, however, be upstaged by the maritime top billers – the whales that come to the Pacific shores and, in particular around Vancouver Island, with orcas and humpbacks just two of B.C’s celebrated cetaceans.

Things not to do in British Columbia...

Ignore the aboriginal heritage. There’s no better time to explore B.C’s ancient and wonderful heritage than now, following the appointment of Kwakwaka’wakw and British Columbian, Jody Wilson-Raybould, as Minister of Justice in 2015. The first indigenous person to be given this position, she has worked tirelessly to promote Nation building and the empowerment of indigenous peoples. Share this history on a hiking holiday led by a First Nations guide. Or on a bear watching holiday, as the Kitasoo/Xaixais run guided tours to view sacred spirit bears from the village of Klemtu.
Just plump for a road trip. It may be big, but BC is a place to really get oowt and aboowt. It is worth upping your fitness levels so that you can really explore and take in all its panoramic prettiness. If hiking isn’t your thing, consider a guided canoe trip; BC is Beautifully Canoe friendly. A horseback riding holiday following rivers and valleys of the Pacific Coast Mountains takes you along trails followed way back by pioneers and gold rushers. Or hit the ocean, on a sailing trip past fjords and islands, where you will wake to the call of the orca.
See whales or dolphins in captivity. There are only two aquariums in Canada that keep dolphins and whales in captivity, but this is two too many. And one of those is in Vancouver. Given that BC is blessed with wild whales and dolphins, the irony of having dolphins in captivity at the aquarium is cringeworthy. Thankfully it no longer has orcas, but they do have belugas and dolphins. Seek out a responsible whale watching holiday instead.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about British Columbia or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

British Columbia travel advice

Itinerary tips

Itinerary tips

Ian Shiels, from our leading Canadian holidays supplier, Grand American Adventures, gives great British Columbia travel advice:
“Make sure to visit Spiral Tunnel. The Big Hill on the Canadian Pacific Railway main line was the most difficult piece of railway track on the Canadian Pacific Railway's route between Canadian Rockies west of the Continental Divide and Kicking Horse Pass. Viewpoints show the snaking path trains take to navigate this stretch of mountains; it’s quite spectacular.”
“From Vancouver, take the ferry across to Granville Island for the farmers market on a Sunday. This is where the locals go, has an excellent vibe and is perfect for people watching and sampling local flavours of BC.”
Packing tips

Packing tips

“Travellers don’t take enough money, and Canada is not as cheap as it once was. Nor do they take enough layers – it can change from being hot to cold quickly so all visitors should ensure they equipped for every eventuality regardless of the season.”
Wilderness tips

Wilderness tips

Peter Grubb, founder of our supplier ROW Adventures, specialising in kayaking, whale watching and wild camping in British Columbia:
“I think headlamps are one of the best things to have on your travels, especially if you are going into wilderness areas. Also, Europeans are wary of spending five days on a rafting trip as they want to go here and there and everywhere. But on a wilderness trip you really get an intense experience of one area, and we love that in Canada.”

Tips from our travellers

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travellers are often... other travellers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.
We have selected some of the most useful British Columbia travel tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your holiday - and the space inside your suitcase.
Stay for longer!
- Sally Wright
“We had fantastic guides who had great knowledge of the First Nation people, the wild life and the area we were in. In one word it was FANTASTIC. But do not take too many clothes!!! There is plenty of time to wash your clothes and dry them in front of your log fire.” – Ian Halliwell on a Hiking in the Rockies holiday.

“Always consider that temperature could get lower than expected and same for the rain, it rains frequently but a rain coat is enough to deal with the rain.” – Luis Marrero on a Rockies walking holiday

“Take layering clothing as it can be cold in the viewing platforms but warm other times. Take insect repellent and USE IT! I don't normally get bitten but this time I did. Take NO food or drink: it is all provided and is superb and plentiful. They also provide toiletries, so no need to take those either! And finally, be prepared to be amazed!” – Suzanne Wafer on a grizzly bear watching holiday
Be prepared not to have phone or internet access while you're there. Take a camera - so much wonderful wildlife and breathtaking views.
- Jo Homewood
"It is so hard to pinpoint the best part; it was all a fabulous experience. This is a place where you can completely relax and refresh your mind, body and soul. The only thing you should do is bring along an open mind to becoming part of what you see. Walking boots are a must or you will miss some beautiful scenery. Don't leave your camera at home either!" – Sarah Smith

"Book the guided tours, it is the best way to get to see the trails that no one really knows about as they are not in the guide books…. we did 4 trails that week and didn’t see anyone else while on them… All the trails are off of a back road and you feel totally secluded... We have never felt so disconnected to our real lives while on holiday before and this was totally up to the beautiful surroundings and hospitality of the centre and their staff." - Joanne Barnas
Written by Catherine Mack
Photo credits: [Page banner: Jeff Gunn] [Temp chart intro: Jonathan Mueller] [Things to do box: John Critchley] [Itinerary tips: David J Laporte] [Packing tips: Jennifer C] [Wilderness tips: Jerome Decq] [Tips intro : Jeff P] [Tip 1: Hubert Figuiere] [Tip 2: Thomas Quine]