British Columbia

Victoria to Golden | A BC Road Trip You'll Never Forget

"Beautiful British Columbia" is more than an empty phrase on a license plate. But find out for yourselves on this road trip from Vancouver Island to the Rockies.

If you’ve been lucky enough to spend time in British Columbia, you’ll have heard the phrase “the West Coast is the Best Coast!” a lot—and for my money, the best way to explore “the best coast” and its province is with a good old-fashioned road trip.

So, tank up your car, get your playlist pumping, and hit the road for a BC road trip!

Before You Start Your BC Road Trip

Like the rest of the country, BC offers a lot to do and see. You can easily make this a long-weekend trip, but, just as easily, you can take your time and explore for weeks.

Whichever way you choose, this route will take you through the most important stops – from the Pacific coast over into the Rockie Mountains.

Start Your BC Road Trip in Victoria

What better spot to set out on a BC road trip than the Mile Zero marker of the Trans Canada Highway? Take your picture with the marker (18 Douglas Street) and stop for a moment to pay homage to Canadian hero Terry Fox, whose goal it was to run across the country raising money for cancer research, sadly ending before he made it to the monument that now bears his likeness.

Next, head into adjacent Beacon Hill Park. The 75-hectare (200-acre) park is home to an extensive trail system for biking or strolling, one of the tallest totem poles in the world, as well as gardens, a playground, spray park, and petting zoo. If you time it right, you can witness the “Running of the Goats,” the daily ritual of releasing the park’s goats out into pasture.

A little outside of town is the renowned Butchart Gardens. Once a limestone quarry, it is now one of the most popular attractions in the area. Even if you aren’t much of a flora fan, you can easily spend the day wandering the themed gardens, inhaling the heady scents and enjoying the splashy colours. During summer, stay into the evening for live music events, plus fireworks on Saturdays.

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Stay in an Elegant Inner Harbour Hotel

1/3

Located on the Inner Harbour, across from the old Steamship Terminal and beside the British Columbia Parliament Building, the Hotel Grand Pacific is a relative newbie compared with the grande-dame neo-classical buildings it neighbours. The hotel features spacious rooms with private balconies (some with harbour views), several dining options, and a massive 25-metre pool in the basement.

Hotel Grand Pacific

Top rated
Victoria, 1.8 km to Art Gallery of Greater Victoria
8.9 Excellent (3710 reviews)
Excellent Location 9.5 / 10
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Hotel Grand Pacific

Top rated
Victoria
8.9 Excellent (3710 reviews)

Stay in a Quiet Victorian Respite

1/3

You won’t get a spot right on the Inner Harbour if you are looking for more budget-friendly accommodations, but the Beaconsfield Inn is still walking distance from many of the top Victoria attractions like the Royal B.C. Museum and Beacon Hill Park.

The charming bed and breakfast is in a quiet tree-filled neighbourhood and decorated with Victorian-style touches. They offer hearty breakfasts (included) to get you set for a day of sightseeing.

The Beaconsfield Inn

Top rated
Victoria, 1 km to Art Gallery of Greater Victoria
9.2 Excellent (633 reviews)
Excellent Location 9.3 / 10
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The Beaconsfield Inn

Top rated
Victoria
9.2 Excellent (633 reviews)

Victoria to Nanaimo

Driving directly from Victoria to Nanaimo takes just under two hours, but driving straight through means missing out on a lot of what Vancouver Island has to offer. I recommend using this day to do a bit of island exploring before tucking in for a good night’s sleep in Nanaimo.

It means overshooting your destination a bit, but it’s well worth it to take the time to drive out to Cathedral Grove. The mid-Island oasis is one of the only spots in Canada where you can drive right up to a stand of old-growth trees (old growth meaning it has never been logged.) The gigantic trees measure up to 9 metres (29 ½ ft) around and some are over 800 years old.

Once you make it to Nanaimo, check out the Tourism Nanaimo website or stop by the Visitor’s Centre to pick up a brochure to guide yourself along the Nanaimo Bar Trail. The city is the home of the Canadian potluck staple Nanaimo bars, and they take the coconut/chocolate/custard-layered confection seriously there.

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Feel the Ocean Breeze on your Balcony at this Nanaimo Hotel

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The Coast Bastion Hotel is a 179-room hotel only about half a kilometre from the sea wall. The airy rooms have been recently updated with a modern colour scheme and amenities. If you score a room with a balcony, you’ll be able to enjoy the sea views and fresh air coming in off the ocean without leaving your room. Once you tear yourself away from the view, treat yourself at the attached spa or to the fresh seafood in the Minnoz Restaurant and Lounge before heading out on the town.

Coast Bastion Hotel

Top rated
8.7 Excellent (2117 reviews)
Excellent Location 9.3 / 10
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Coast Bastion Hotel

Top rated
8.7 Excellent (2117 reviews)

Stay at a Comfortable B&B Overlooking the Water

1/3

For a quieter oceanside stay, the Gibraltar Rock Ocean View B&B gets rave reviews. The steep driveway brings you to the large home with sweeping views overlooking Piper’s Lagoon–a quick drive from the ferry terminals. A choice of rooms includes accessible options and are suitable for solo travellers/couples, or families of up to four. The attentive hosts will make sure everything is to your comfort and sparkling clean.

Gibralter Rock Ocean View B&B

8.7 Excellent (97 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.3 / 10
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Gibralter Rock Ocean View B&B

8.7 Excellent (97 reviews)

Exploring Vancouver

There is no end to the fun you can have in Vancouver. I have no doubt you will find more than enough to fill your time, but I would remiss if I didn’t chime in with two of my favourite Van-City “must-sees.” Stanley Park covers the spit of land in between downtown Vancouver and the Burrard Inlet. Rent a bike and zip along the seawall, learn about the marine conservation work being done at the Vancouver Aquarium, snap some pics of the totem poles and the lighthouse at Brockton Point, then enjoy the chill Vancouver vibe at the beach.

A great thing about travelling by car is that you don’t face the same space restrictions you do if you are flying. So, head to Granville Island and load up on locally made crafts and artwork from the boutique vendors that fill the place. The Public Market is a fun place to shop for fresh produce and grab a bite to eat, plus people-watching galore!

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Stay at an Upscale Hotel with Great Outdoor Spaces

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The JW Marriott Parq Vancouver is an upscale hotel complex a bit outside the main downtown hotel zone, with easy access to BC Place and the False Creek ferries that can zip you across to Science World at the TELUS World of Science or over to Granville Island. The elegant upscale property has several restaurant choices, an on-site casino, and architecturally designed outdoor spaces to relax and socialize.

JW Marriott Parq Vancouver

Top rated
Vancouver, 0.2 km to BC Place
9.1 Excellent (461 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.3 / 10
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JW Marriott Parq Vancouver

Top rated
Vancouver
9.1 Excellent (461 reviews)

Stay at a Charming Boutique Hotel

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The design choices in the boutique Moda Hotel nod to the building’s Art Deco history. Built in 1908, the small hotel is situated perfectly to allow you to park your car and walk or take the train wherever you need to go. It is just around the corner from the Vogue Theatre, a popular live music venue, if you have time for a concert while in town. Buy a bottle of wine from the store downstairs to take up to your cozy room (or larger suite.) Rooms are available with queen or king-sized beds and feature flat-screen TVs and a bold, elegant colour scheme.

Moda Hotel

Vancouver, 0.7 km to BC Place
7.7 Good (4637 reviews)
Excellent Location 9 / 10
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Moda Hotel

Vancouver
7.7 Good (4637 reviews)

Vancouver to Kelowna

In the spirit of a road trip, where the journey is just as important as the destination, at the junction just west of Hope, I recommend taking Highway 3 rather than Highway 5 to get to Kelowna. Yes, it’s about an hour longer if you choose this route, but you will get to drive through the trees of E.C. Manning Provincial Park and there are some great spots to stop along the way.

In the summer months, Summerland and Penticton are Okanagan hotspots. Stop to enjoy a bit of lake life on the shores of Skaha and Okanagan lakes and bask in the heat of the sun that bakes the interior of BC in a way the coast and mountains miss.

Once in Kelowna, park your car and get yourself on a wine tour. If you have a designated driver, you can easily visit the more than 40 area wineries yourself (well, maybe not all of them) but joining a tour means no navigating winding back roads and no having to choose which wineries to hit. Plus, you get the expertise of an experienced guide. The Tourism Kelowna website has an extensive list of tour operators, and you can opt for a private tour or join a group for a quick half-day or a full-day deep dive.

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Stay at a Lakeside Resort for Patio Lovers

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The Delta Hotels by Marriott Grand Okanagan Resort is more than just a nice place to lay your head. You would be excused for thinking you have checked into a ritzy California resort while you lay out under an umbrella poolside or toast with a glass of local wine on the patio lounge. Guests enjoy playing in the casino or treating themselves to a spa treatment when they aren’t out on the lake.

Delta Hotels by Marriott Grand Okanagan Resort

Top rated
Kelowna, 0.3 km to BC Wine Museum
8.6 Excellent (2830 reviews)
Excellent Location 9.4 / 10
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Delta Hotels by Marriott Grand Okanagan Resort

Top rated
Kelowna
8.6 Excellent (2830 reviews)

Stay at a Hip Retro-Style Motel

1/4

Hotel Zed is probably the funkiest place to stay in Kelowna. Across the street from lakeside Kelowna City Park, it used to be just a regular motel before Hotel Zed took over and transformed it into the retro-fabulous lodgings it is now. Borrow a pair of roller skates or a cruiser bike, lounge poolside, or indulge your Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine fantasies with the funky Hotel Zed van!

Hotel ZED Kelowna BC

Kelowna, 0.8 km to BC Wine Museum
7.9 Good (1571 reviews)
Excellent Service 9 / 10
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Hotel ZED Kelowna BC

Kelowna
7.9 Good (1571 reviews)

Kelowna to Golden

From Kelowna, head west and a bit north, taking time to savour the fertile Northern Okanagan. Depending on the time of the season you are passing through, you’ll encounter roadside fruit stands selling cherries, peaches, apples, apricots, pears and plums right from the growers.

Stop for a pit stop in the outdoor enthusiasts’ paradise of Revelstoke for a hike, ride on the mountain bike trails, or a visit to the local high ropes course and adjacent Enchanted Forest—a beloved attraction featuring over 350 folk art figurines among the trees. I am never opposed to a detour to one of several hot springs in the area. You’ll pass through Glacier National Park en route—another picturesque spot to get out, stretch your legs, and enjoy the natural beauty of British Columbia.

Once you reach Golden, you’ll want to head out into this outdoor enthusiasts’ dream. If you are a rock climber, you’ll want to try one of the rock courses or go all-in with a mountaineering trek. If water is your beat, one of the local outfitters can help get you kitted out with a kayak or canoe. After your expedition, set out to find the World’s Largest Oar for a photo opp you can’t get anywhere else in the world. And after all the fresh air and adventure, a warm shower and a comfy bed will feel divine.

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Stay at a Downtown Mountain Lodge

1/4

The Prestige Inn feels like a mountain lodge, but it’s situated right in town, just outside the downtown core. On site at the hotel is a restaurant if you prefer to stay on the property, plus a pool and a hot tub to soak your muscles after a day of driving and outdoor explorations. All of the rooms are clean and comfortable, but for a special treat, upgrade to a designer suite—complete with jetted tub and a four-poster bed.

Prestige Inn Golden

7.9 Good (571 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 8.7 / 10
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Prestige Inn Golden

7.9 Good (571 reviews)

Stay at a Cozy B&B with Homey Decor

1/3

The Country Comfort B&B is a sweet seven-bedroom bed and breakfast not far from downtown Golden. The central location means the shops and restaurants are close by if you want to wander in town a bit before heading back to your cozy room. Your hosts will make you feel at home whether you are sitting in the lovely garden out back, cuddling up for a good night’s sleep, or tucking in to the included home-cooked breakfast.

Country Comfort

8.3 Very good (382 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 8.9 / 10
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Country Comfort

8.3 Very good (382 reviews)