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There's a beautiful sense of romance to the humble road trip. It's a feeling of freedom, the knowledge that you can go anywhere, see anything, spend as much time as you need.
Some destinations lend themselves perfectly to exploration by road, and British Columbia is one of them, a vast, diverse Canadian province that offers everything from snow-capped mountains to vine-laden valleys, sparkling lakes to coastal splendour. There's culture to be discovered here, plus leisure activities to indulge in, great food to eat, and friendly people to interact with. The only challenge is choosing your itinerary…
NELSON TO CALGARY
This journey is the classic introduction to BC's Rocky Mountain splendour, a 650-kilometre drive that showcases both scenery and culture, both adventure and beauty. You begin in the town of Nelson, one of Canada's gastronomic hotspots, before casting north along the shores of Kootenay Lake on Highway 31, calling past Revelstoke National Park, heading on through Glacier and Yoho National Parks, before crossing into Alberta and arriving in Calgary.
Kootenay Plains, Alberta, Canada. Photo: Supplied.
After spending time in Nelson, call in for a night in the lakeside town of Kaslo, before heading up to Revelstoke for a few nights, then camp out in Yoho National Park for another couple, spend an evening in Lake Louise, before heading on to Calgary.
Those who like to break up their drive with some physical activity will love the Nelson area, where there are plenty of well-marked hiking trails, including up to nearby Pulpit Rock, and through Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park. Once you arrive at Kootenay Lake, there's the chance to go sailing, kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding, before moving on to Revelstoke for hikes through the cedar forests, or mountain-biking on dedicated trails. In Yoho National Park, you can canoe on Emerald Lake, hike to Wapta Falls, or just camp out and stare at the stars.
Canoeing on Emerald Lake in summer at Yoho National Park. Photo: Supplied.
There are more bars, restaurants and cafes per capita in Nelson than any town in Canada, which for foodies is really all you need to know. There's everything here from pub grub to barbecue, Mexican to Indian, plus wine bars and craft-beer dens. In the Revelstoke area, there's excellent fine-dining cuisine at One Twelve Steakhouse and Quartermaster Eatery, plus more casual eats at Big Eddy Pub and the Craft Bierhaus. And before camping in Yoho NP, pick up snacks and supplies from the Siding General Store in Field.
There's no shortage of friendly locals to meet on this journey, whether you're in the big city surrounds of Calgary, or smaller towns such as Nelson and Kaslo. There's also Indigenous culture to soak up from the Sinixt and Kutenai people at the beginning of your journey.
Route 97 is one of Canada's most famous and picturesque roadways, a 2000-kilometre stretch that runs through the spine of British Columbia, from Osoyoos near the US border, all the way to the Yukon boundary at Watson Lake. A journey on the 97 takes in the best of BC life, with the chance to enjoy high-quality local food and wine, as well as get active on two feet or two wheels. You may not want to tackle this entire highway, and indeed, with only a week to spend, it will pay to slow down and just enjoy the scenic southern chunk.
Watson Lake, Canadian Yukon. Photo: Supplied.
Your journey begins in southern Osoyoos, accessible via transport hubs such as Vancouver or Calgary, before working your way north to the lakeside town of Penticton, and continuing through the beautiful Okanagan Valley to Kelowna, deep in the heart of Lake Country. From there, head up to the town of Vernon, before making a stop in Kamloops, and then leaving the 97 to head south-west to coastal Vancouver.
In terms of outdoor adventure, the Okanagan Valley is all about hiking and biking. Around the Kelowna area, take an easy stroll on the Apex Trail, traverse the trestle bridges of Myra Canyon, or hike the 22-kilometre Park Loop around Okanagan Mountain. For bikers, the options are almost endless. There's gentle scenic riding on the Kettle Valley Rail Trail, cross-country riding around Knox Mountain Park, and then some serious downhill mountain-biking at Gillard Mountain. The Kamloops area offers excellent biking, boating, golfing and fishing options, while over on the Pacific Coast near Vancouver, there is world-class sea-kayaking available.
Originally one of 19 wooden railway trestle bridges built in the early 1900s in Myra Canyon, Kelowna, BC. Photo: Supplied.
There's fantastic food to be had in the Okanagan Valley – but really, the gastronomic highlight isn't on the plate, but in your glass. This is wine country, and there are more than 180 wineries spread throughout the 250-kilometre-long valley. From Oliver to Penticton to Kelowna, you'll find vineyards such as Black Hills, Burrowing Owl, Church & State, and Tinhorn Creek, all worthy of a visit. For food, Kelowna is the regional hub – check out the innovative local cuisine at Raudz, or the seasonal specialties at Old Vines. Vancouver, of course, is littered with high-quality restaurants.
The Okanagan is the sort of place where you'll have no problems meeting the producers: winemakers can usually be found walking visitors through a tasting; chefs wander their restaurants greeting customers. You can also learn about the Syilx, the Okanagan's Indigenous people, at the En'owkin Centre in Penticton.
Experience Canada's open roads for yourself with thanks to our friends at Flight Centre.