100 Best Things About BC

Every year the United Nations declares Canada to be the best place in the world to live. But no one ever says exactly what part of Canada. Resolute in February? Winnipeg during mosquito season? Ottawa during Question Period? We don't think so.

In the interests of clarity (and controversy), we'd like to propose that the honour belongs to BC. As evidence we present this list of 100 of the best things about living here, 100 things that make us stick out our chests with pride. Things like Nanaimo bars, and Kermode bears, and Triple O sauce. Things that contain the flavour of life west of the Rockies.

Everyone has their own reasons for appreciating the province. For the sake of argument (any list of the 100 best things about BC had better start with those words!), these are some of our reasons. During the time we worked on the EBC we were reminded every day of a new "best thing" about BC, so it was a challenge to pick an even 100 and call them the best.

What do you think? We're ready for all the second guessing—in fact, we invite it. Contact us and tell us exactly where we went wrong. Meanwhile, here is our list of local heroes and remarkable places. We hope it reflects something of the unique character of the province. Have some fun with it.

THE INSIDE PASSAGE The 1,600-km corridor of mostly protected waterway between Puget Sound and Skagway is one of the world's great cruising experiences.

STANLEY PARK Try to think of Vancouver without it. Someone once called it "half savage, half domestic" and there's still no better description for this urban getaway, whether you're jogging the seawall or simply appreciating the stillness of the forest trails.

EMILY CARR'S PAINTINGS The Victoria native's maverick dedication to aboriginal cultures and rugged rainforest landscapes was so unpopular in her time she was forced to give up painting for 15 years, but in the end it made her a BC icon.

MUSEUM OF ANTHROPOLOGY Arthur Erickson created a majestic space to house one of the world's finest collections of Northwest Coast First Nations art and ceremonial items. The moment you walk through the carved cedar doors you are transported to a different reality.

BURGESS SHALE One of the most important discoveries in history, anywhere. High up in the mountains above Field, it contains the fossilized remains of 140 species of marine creatures dating back 530 million years. Now part of a World Heritage Site.

THE FRASER CANYON Being a great river in a place with so many mountains blocking the way isn't easy and the muddy Fraser had to grind its way through hundreds of miles of spectacular precipices. It makes for difficult navigation and roadbuilding but unforgettable sightseeing.

TERRY FOX RUN His Marathon of Hope in 1980 raised millions for cancer research and continues as an annual event: in 2020 the Terry Fox Foundation announced that 40 years of events around the world had raised over $800 million in his name.

PRINCESS LOUISA INLET After viewing this soul-stirring fjord 60 km north of Pender Harbour, the author Erle Stanley Gardner wrote, "An atheist might experience Princess Louisa and still remain an atheist, but I doubt it." Amen.

BARKERVILLE Frontierland without the kitsch. Our very own replica of a 19th-century gold rush town. Billy Barker would spin in his grave to know that the site of his big strike had become the Interior's #1 tourist attraction.

ADAMS RIVER SOCKEYE RUN One of the most remarkable sights in the natural world, it attracts visitors from around the globe. Close to 2 million salmon, their bodies gashed and battered from the long migration back to their spawning grounds, turn the river bright red for a couple of weeks in October.

NAT BAILEY STADIUM It's been called the best little ball park in North America. Opened in 1951 on the slopes of Vancouver's Little Mountain, and named for the founder of White Spot, it remains the perfect place to watch a baseball game on a long summer evening.

THE JOURNALISM OF BRUCE HUTCHISON The writer who coined the term "Lotus Land" was the dean of BC newspapermen, the author of 15 books and the winner of 3 Governor General's Awards.

KERMODE BEAR The ghostly white "Spirit Bear," actually a subspecies of black bear, haunts the rain forests of the north coast. The city of Terrace has taken the Kermode as its official symbol.

DELLA FALLS With water and mountains everywhere, it's not surprising BC has 6 of Canada's 10 highest waterfalls. Brandywine near Squamish, Helmcken in Wells Gray Park and Takakkaw in Yoho Park may be better known, but the wispy, ethereal Della Falls on Vancouver Island (440 m) is the highest in Canada and tenth highest in the world.

W. A. C. BENNETT DAM An engineering marvel on the Peace River west of Hudson's Hope. When it began producing electricity in 1968 it featured the largest underground generating station in the world. Along with nearby Peace Canyon Dam, it produces about a third of BC's electrical needs.

THE CURVE OF TIME One of the classics of BC literature. Published 40 years ago, yet still riding the bestseller list today, it is the memoir of Muriel "Capi" Blanchet, a widowed mother of five, who explored the coast with her children aboard a small boat during the 1930s.

DR. SUN YAT-SEN CLASSICAL CHINESE GARDEN It was the only full-scale classical scholar's garden built outside China when it opened on the edge of Vancouver's Chinatown in 1986. A place of tranquility in the middle of the urban jungle.

THE VOICE OF BEN HEPPNER From the farm country of the Peace River district to the stages of the world. After sweeping top honours at the Metropolitan Opera auditions in New York in 1988, he became a superstar of international opera. He retired in 2014.

GULF ISLANDS Known for their Mediterranean climate and laid-back lifestyle, they are home to about 12,000 permanent residents, but thousands of visitors pour in on weekends and holidays to escape the urban rat race.

NANAIMO BARS A scholarly controversy rages as to whether the recipe for these delectable 3-layer chocolate squares really originated in Nanaimo, but there is no disagreement about how wonderful they are.

ARBUTUS The red cedar may be BC's official tree but the arbutus is the emblem of the south coast. Found nowhere else in Canada but on the moss-covered rocks of the Pacific coast, its gnarled trunk glows a fiery orange-red in the sun.

BC FERRIES Our very own provincial navy. Forget the fast ferry fiasco for a moment. Think instead of the dramatic beauty of the Inside Passage, the hyperactivity of Active Pass, the great selection of books in the BC Bookshelf. A trip on a BC ferry is truly the quintessential West Coast experience.

ADBUSTERS First published in Vancouver in 1989, it was Canada's magazine of the year a decade later. Uses the tools of marketing to subvert the market. The Adbusters Media Foundation also promotes Buy Nothing Day, an international festival of anti-consumerism.

BUTCHART GARDENS Vancouver Island's favourite tourist attraction since Jennie and Robert Butchart began developing an old limestone quarry into a sunken garden back before World War I. Now draws a million visitors a year.

THE TOE OF LUI PASSAGLIA The Lions' veteran is a genuine homegrown sports hero. After 25 years in the CFL, he retired in 2000 after having scored more points than any other football player on the globe.

CHINOOK JARGON BC is the only province other than Quebec to have its very own language. A jumble of French, English and aboriginal words, Chinook Jargon was the lingua franca of the fur trade era on the Pacific Slope. Today, a few people still know it.

HELI-SKIING As close to heaven as you can get in BC and still be breathing. Pioneered by Hans Gmoser and Mike Wiegele, this high-end sport featuring chest-deep powder snow and spectacular mountain scenery put BC on the world ski map long before Whistler.

WILLIAMS LAKE STAMPEDE One of BC's most popular rodeos since the 1920s, it's a great way to spend the Canada Day long weekend. Rain is a bit of a tradition, but so is the famous Cariboo hospitality.

POCKET DESERT Scientists prefer to call it a "desertlike habitat." Whatever you call it, this small stretch of sand and cactus north of Osoyoos is one of Canada's geographical curiosities, containing plant and animal species found nowhere else in the country.

ROBSON BIGHT The killer whale's playground. A stone beach near the north end of Johnstone Strait that is now an orca refuge named for pioneering whale researcher Michael Bigg. The south coast is one of the world's best places for viewing these fascinating mammals.

WHALER'S SHRINE This collection of wooden effigies and human skulls is actually not in BC at all—it sits in the basement of a New York museum, where it's been since it was smuggled out of the province in 1904. But negotiations have begun to repatriate the shrine to where it belongs, the Nuu-chah-nulth village of Yuquot on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

ECOLOGICAL RESERVES Since 1971 the province has created dozens of these protected areas, designed to save unique pieces of the natural world from the usual human misuse and neglect. We were the first place in Canada to implement such a program, and we still protect more endangered places than any other jurisdiction in North America.

THE ST. ROCH Built for the RCMP in 1928, it was the first vessel to navigate the famous Northwest Passage in a single season. It's housed at the Vancouver Maritime Museum, where fundraisers are trying to save it from the ravages of time.

BURNS BOG At 40 sq km, this ancient wetland is the largest domed peat bog in North America, not to mention the largest garbage dump west of Toronto. Despite repeated attempts to develop the site, located south of Richmond, it remains one of the province's unique ecosystems.

CAPILANO SUSPENSION BRIDGE Anyone afraid of heights should avoid this swaying footbridge 70 metres above the Capilano River in North Vancouver. For everyone else, it's a chance to cross the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the world.

STIKINE RIVER CANYON Our very own Grand Canyon, Canada's longest. The river foams through a narrow corridor of vertical rock, where only the mountain goats can get their footing. The Stikine is one of BC's heritage rivers.

KWADAY DAN SINCHI Also known as Long Ago Person Found, Canada's Iceman. The 550-year-old remains of this prehistoric hunter were found in 1999 sticking out of a glacier in northern BC. The oldest human remains ever discovered in North America with preserved tissue attached.

CARMANAH GIANT Tall trees are an everyday item in BC, but this is the tallest, a 96-m Sitka spruce in the Carmanah Valley on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It is the tallest tree in Canada, and the tallest of its species anywhere in the world.

WHITE SPOT Home cooking, BC-style, with Triple O Sauce. You don't have to be that old to remember when the White Spot was about the only place to eat out in Vancouver. Founded by Nat Bailey in 1928 as Canada's first drive-in, the chain now spans the province.

CANOEING IN BOWRON LAKES The first, and the finest, wilderness canoe trip in the province, amid spectacular scenery in the heart of the Cariboo Mountains. It takes about a week to complete the 116-km circuit.

NEWTSUIT Phil Nuytten is one hyperactive guy. A deep-sea diver, a carver, an inventor, a writer, he developed his hard-shelled "newtsuit" to allow divers to work at extreme depths. The suit, and its inventor, are hailed around the world as pioneers of underwater exploration.

MOUNT ROBSON Almost 4 km high, it is the tallest peak in the Canadian Rockies. It was first climbed in 1913 and its sheer escarpments are still considered a major challenge for mountaineers.

BC WINE Once shunned for their sweetness, BC wines "dried out" in the 1980s and now win awards internationally. The industry has come a long way since Baby Duck.

MV LADY ROSE Built in 1936 and still working the waters of Alberni Inlet 65 years later. The plucky Rose is the last surviving member of the fleet of Union Steamship vessels that once plied the BC coast from Vancouver to Prince Rupert. In 2019 it was relocated to Sechelt to become a historic display.

KHUTZEYMATEEN VALLEY BC is home to roughly a quarter of all the grizzly bears in North America and this wilderness watershed north of Prince Rupert is their only designated sanctuary in Canada.

TRAIL SMELTER At one time the largest operation of its kind in the world, and one of the dirtiest. Cleaned up its act in the 1970s. It was fed by the nearby Sullivan Mine and closed after a century of production. The smelter is one of BC's few successful heavy industries.

NORTH PACIFIC CANNERY VILLAGE A restored coastal salmon cannery at Port Edward, south of Prince Rupert. Complete with boardwalks and workers' housing, it is a National Historic Site.

CARTOONS OF LEN NORRIS He created the world of Tiddlycove and Amblesnide and exposed the pretensions of small-minded bureaucrats and bumbling politicians. Christmas wasn't complete without his annual collection of cartoons from the Vancouver Sun under the tree.

CHARLIE LAKE CAVE An innocuous hideaway in a rocky outcrop just off the Alaska Highway is the oldest dated place of human occupation in BC. Remains found here go back 11,500 years, when glaciers still covered much of the province.

COLUMBIA ICEFIELD Speaking of ice, this immense frozen slab straddles the BC-Alberta border, where it is seen by travellers on the Icefields Parkway. Can fairly claim to be the "Mother of all Rivers" since water from the summit drains into the Pacific, Arctic and the Atlantic oceans.

SS MOYIE The last surviving member of the fleet of paddlewheel steamboats that once plied the waterways of the BC Interior. Moored permanently on the Kaslo waterfront, the vessel is 104 years old and still receiving visitors.

SCULPTURE OF BILL REID From The Spirit of Haida Gwaii at the Vancouver airport, to The Raven and The First Men at the UBC Museum of Anthropology, to the bronze killer whale outside the aquarium, this Haida carver's monumental sculptures have become recognizable symbols of the province.

ESTEVAN POINT LIGHTHOUSE BC has the most extensive system of staffed lighthouses remaining in official service anywhere in the world, and this towering west coast giant with its dramatic flying buttresses is the flagship of the fleet.

EAGLE WATCHING AT BRACKENDALE Not the only place to watch these majestic birds, but one of the best. Returning salmon attract the largest concentration of bald eagles in North America to the banks of the Squamish River and its tributaries for several weeks each winter.

BCP 45 The West Coast's answer to the Bluenose—a 73-year-old wooden fishing boat, now retired and on display at the Maritime Heritage Centre in Campbell River. Its appearance on the Canadian $5 bill for many years gives it bragging rights as BC's most famous marine vessel.

THE RAIN Hollywood actors and pro basketball players have been known to complain about it, but true BC westcoasters are born pre-shrunk and waterproofed and we love the stuff. It's not called the Wet Coast for nothing.

WEST COAST TRAIL It began as a lifesaving trail for shipwrecked mariners but the only lost souls who need rescuing nowadays are hikers who are defeated by the rugged terrain or the drenching rain. Since 1970 it's been part of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and so popular with hikers that they actually line up to take their turn.

ORDER OF BRITISH COLUMBIA What do David Suzuki, Jim Pattison and Meg Hickling, the "sex lady," have in common? They are all members of the Order of BC, the honour role of the province's best and brightest.

COUGAR ANNIE'S GARDEN An emblem of all the hardscrabble coastal pioneers who struggled to make a place for themselves among the salal and the tall timber, this remarkable wilderness garden was created in the northern reaches of Clayoquot Sound by a tiny, formidable woman who bore 11 children, outlived 4 husbands and lived into her 90s.

THE RAIN FOREST Born of a mild climate and abundant rain, the coastal temperate rain forest rivals its tropical cousin in terms of richness and exceeds it in sheer mass. One of nature's most elaborate creations, BC has fully one-quarter of all that's left worldwide.

GREENPEACE Eco-terrorists or eco-saints, whatever you think of these intrepid activists you can't ignore them. From humble beginnings in Kitsilano in 1970, the organization grew to become an international pain in the butt for whalers, loggers, seal hunters—pretty much anyone who put profits ahead of a concern for the environment.

NAKIMU CAVES Welcome to the Underworld. The third largest cave system in Canada, they were closed to visitors for 60 years and reopened in 1995. Located in Glacier National Park near Rogers Pass, a 3-hour hike from the Trans-Canada Highway.

BRADNER FLOWER SHOW The Daffodil Capital of Canada. An annual spring flower show has been taking place here since 1928 and features 400 different varieties of field-grown blooms.

CULTURAL DIVERSITY It hasn't always been comfortable, but in the space of a couple of generations BC has produced one of the most multicultural societies in the world. Whether you're talking food, music, ideas or anything else, diversity is definitely one of the best things about this place.

TATSHENSHINI RIVER For someone who's seen it all, what about a rafting trip down the "Tat"? One of the wildest rivers in the world, it flows through the extreme northwest corner of the province. One more of BC's World Heritage Sites.

LONG BEACH Before it was absorbed into Pacific Rim National Park, you could drive a car along its hard-packed sand and live for weeks in a driftwood shack. Now it's foot traffic only—a spectacular place to witness winter storms or summer sunsets.

CHILKAT BLANKET Woven from mountain goat wool wrapped around strands of yellow cedar, this magnificent example of First Nations artistry was made by Tlingit weavers to be worn on ceremonial occasions.

EMERALD LAKE A brilliant blue jewel of a lake. Located high in the mountains in Yoho National Park, it was featured on the Canadian $10 bill for almost 20 years. A lodge has done business here since 1902.

THE BEACHCOMBERS One of the longest running dramatic series in Canadian television, this Gibsons-based production has been re-broadcast around the world.

U'MISTA CENTRE/KWAGIULTH MUSEUM These two community museums—one in Alert Bay, the other on Quadra Island—were built to house ceremonial items that had been stolen by the government from the Kwakwaka'wakw people. Essential viewing for a deeper understanding of First Nations history.

VANCOUVER'S PORT Without it, the city would hardly exist. More than 70 million tonnes of stuff is shipped out every year. It is the largest port in Canada, the second largest on the west coast of the continent.

WHALE WATCHING Admiring killer whales in the Inside Passage or braving the high rollers to intercept migrating grey whales on the outer coast, it's a chance to get up close and personal with some of the biggest animals in the world.

STAWAMUS CHIEF This giant dome of granite near Squamish has put BC on the world rock-climbing map since it was first scaled in 1958. For those of us who prefer keeping our feet on solid ground, there is a backside hiking trail to the awe-inspiring vista at the summit.

DOUGLAS LAKE RANCH Stretching nearly 100 km from corner to corner and running about 19,000 head of cattle, this venerable Nicola valley establishment is the largest ranch in Canada.

BIG HILL AT BELLA COOLA At the edge of the Chilcotin Plateau, Highway 20 seems to plunge over the edge of the world as it zigzags into the Bella Coola Valley, offering some of the most hair-raising driving to be found on a public road anywhere.

CHILCOTIN ROAD The only major BC highway completed by vigilante action, Highway 20 is a story in itself. Bisecting the Chilcotin plateau from Williams Lake to Bella Coola and still not fully paved, taking it is like travelling back in time to the old west.

BLACKWALL PEAK MEADOWS This Manning Park destination is one of the most accessible places in the province to witness the stunning summer display of mountain wildflowers. Acres of meadows suddenly burst into a riot of colour, all within an easy walk.

NITOBE GARDEN For those who prefer their floral displays to be less showy and more contemplative, there is always this traditional Japanese garden at the UBC campus, the most authentic garden of its type outside Japan.

LIONS GATE BRIDGE When you're stuck in traffic on the Stanley Park causeway it seems more of a curse than a "best thing," but this engineering wonder has become an iconic image of Vancouver since it opened in 1938.

WHISTLER/BLACKCOMB Yuppie tourist trap meets world-class ski resort. On every list of the top five places in the world for a snow vacation, this area is evolving as a year-round destination for the well-heeled traveller.

VANCOUVER FOUNDATION It's the largest community charitable foundation in Canada and the fifth largest in North America, and it hands out millions of dollars each year to worthy projects all over the province.

REIFEL BIRD SANCTUARY A paradise for birders. This refuge on Westham Island at the mouth of the Fraser River attracts more than 230 bird species. Where else are you going to see 20,000 snow geese in one place at the same time?

THUNDERBIRD PARK A collection of totem poles next door to the Royal BC Museum in Victoria. The carving that began here in the 1950s marked the resurgence of First Nations art in the province.

PROVINCIAL PARKS Pick your favourite, each has something to make it "best." From the peaks of Strathcona Park on Vancouver Island to the "Serengeti of the North" in the Muskwa-Kechika area, there are about 644 of them, more than 10% of the province and more than any other province in Canada.

NINSTINTS Another of our World Heritage Sites. An abandoned Haida village near the south end of the Queen Charlotte Islands. Archaeologists compare it to the lost Mayan cities of Mexico. Decaying totem poles remain as mute testimony to the ancient culture that once occupied the site.

RAINBOW RANGE BC has no shortage of breathtaking mountain vistas but the psychedelic coloration of these "Bleeding Mountains" in the west Chilcotin sets them apart.

THE WRITINGS OF RODERICK HAIG-BROWN His 25 books on everything from whales to cougars to fishing to Captain Vancouver pioneered many of the lasting themes of BC literature, and he also found time to inspire BC's trend-setting environmental movement.

EULACHON Prized for its oil, this diminutive member of the smelt family once swarmed coastal rivers in such profusion it was second only to the salmon as an aboriginal food source. Eulachon grease is to BC First Nations what haggis is to the Scots.

COWICHAN SWEATER Coast Salish artisans have produced these durable garments since they were introduced to European knitting in the 1850s. The sweaters are so deeply rooted in our social fabric time they are the nearest thing BC has to traditional dress.

EMPRESS HOTEL Built in the days when Victoria was an English enclave and now the most recognized symbol of the city's past, the Empress nurtures its colonial heritage: high tea is served on weekends to those observing the dress code.

THE BUILDINGS OF ARTHUR ERICKSON His grand, modernistic style has gone in and out of fashion, but as the years go by and the brilliance of his greatest designs—Robson Square, the Museum of Anthropology, Simon Fraser University—stands out more clearly than ever.