Love outdoor adventure but prefer to stay off the beaten track and away from the crowds? We do too! After spending a good few years exploring British Columbia, we’ve found what we believe to be the best and most underrated outdoor adventure towns in the province.
If you love to explore nature, these are the towns you must visit while exploring this beautiful province. Check out our picks below and get inspired to adventure somewhere new!
Golden, Kootenay Rockies
Golden must have one of the most enviable locations in British Columbia. This small town is situated at a three-way crossroad in the middle of the Rockies, sandwiched between two National Park regions.
Glacier has similar views and adventure opportunities of nearby Banff but with a more local and authentic feel.
As a bonus, the cost of living (especially accommodation) in Golden is much lower and the crowds a lot thinner. Golden is a great base for access to the Parks (Glacier, Banff, Yoho et al) as well as off the beaten track hikes and ski trips.
In regards the latter, Kicking Horse Resort is well known to feature some of the most challenging terrain in the province.
Powell River, Sunshine Coast
Two ferries are required to get to Powell River from Vancouver. For some people, this is a turn-off. For others, it is one of the main attractions.
We thought it gave the town a wonderful remote-yet-not-isolated feel. It is also possible to reach Powell River via a ferry from the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island.
A paddler’s dream, Powell River is home to excellent sheltered ocean paddling as well the Powell Forest Canoe Route.
For those who prefer to stay on land, the 180km Sunshine Coast Trail offers plenty of day hiking and weekend backpacking potential. Powell River also has a growing bouldering and climbing scene.
Looking to book a stay in beautiful Powell River?
Westview Centre Motel – Great views
Oceanside Resort – Good value
Beyond Bliss Suites & Spa – Highly rated on Booking.com
Penticton, Okanagan Valley
One of the only two towns in the world located between two lakes, Penticton is known best for its beautiful sandy beaches. Penticton is more than just a destination for sunbathers as it has a multitude of outdoor adventures on offer all year round.
Paddling is a clear attraction here but the rugged hills lining the two lakes offer fantastic climbing, skiing, biking and hiking.
Opportunities for the climbing are particularly good, with the world renowned Skaha Bluffs being just south of town. Feel like a beer or glass of wine after a tiring day out on the trails? There are dozens of local wineries and four breweries within a short drive of downtown.
Nelson, Kootenays Rockies
Caught between mountains and river, Nelson is a community surrounded by nature. The town’s location lends itself to a little bit of everything, with rafting, climbing and biking to fishing, hiking and skiing all conveniently close.
Just north of Nelson are the impressive Valhalla and Kokanee Glacier Provincial Parks.
An offbeat vibe and strong community feel are the winning factors that allow the town of Nelson stand apart from other great towns in the Kootenay Rockies.
That and the many easily accessible hot springs that pepper the local landscape, perfect for an afternoon soak to ease tired limbs.
Campbell River, Vancouver Island
Last, but potentially my favourite. Campbell River is the gateway to outdoor adventure on Vancouver Island. Mountains, lakes, ocean and islands all meet here.
A huge network of lakes to the west provides a playground of paddling and camping, with the (completely free!) Sayward Canoe Circuit taking centre stage. Strathcona Park is located just beyond, offering as many alpine hikes and climbs as you can shake a stick at.
To the east, the coastal peaks provide an epic backdrop to the northern Gulf Islands where you can kayak, fish, beach comb, swim and boat to your heart’s content.
The wilds of Vancouver Island lie north – orca whales, windswept beaches, caves and more.
Do you agree with my choices? Revelstoke, Smithers and Invermere were also on my shortlist!
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One half of the Canadian/British couple behind Off Track Travel, Gemma is happiest when hiking on the trail or planning the next big travel adventure. JR and Gemma are currently based in the beautiful Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada
Wednesday 19th of April 2017
Hi, great blog, but you missed one of the most under rated towns...Port Alberni....Great hiking. Great biking. Close to the west coast. Kite boarding. SUP or canoe big lakes.... Just awesome. I moved here from the west coast 9 years ago. It's been a great secret but it's time to let some of the folks know that it rocks!!! Check it out next time you are coming through! take care!
Saturday 19th of March 2022
@K, Yes, Port Alberni is a terrible little town surrounded by beautiful wilderness!
Monday 14th of February 2022
@Gemma, It still smells a bitg there. Was there 6 hours and my eyes hurt and smell trapped in car.
Wednesday 19th of April 2017
Port Alberni would be a great addition to this list! We've had quite a few adventures in that area including a canoe and hike trip to Della Falls last summer. Awesome to hear that you're loving living there!