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Could you imagine a better vista to enjoy while sipping a glass of ice wine? The fertile fields in the Okanagan Valley support more than 40 wineries – and there’s a complement of breweries, cideries and distillers scattered throughout the mini city, too.
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Sure, Fernie’s natural world is pretty. Tucked beneath a swathe of the Rockies, there’s every chance a good chunk of your stay here will be spent outdoors. But it’s the quaint historic centre that earns Fernie its picturesque reputation. An enormous fire tore through the town in the early 1900s, requiring a major rebuild that locals took advantage of: the facades of the new(ish) structures alternate between rosy bricks and creamy sandstone, windows are finished with intricate mouldings and most conform to a three-level, flat-roof design ensuring symmetry along the wide streets.
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Seeking a ski field far from the madding crowd? Then Rossland is the town you need to go to – it’s home to the world’s largest cat skiing operation, Big Red Cats, where powder hounds are whisked to isolated, ready-to-ride slopes. Even mountain bikers can still power through the terrain in winter thanks to the fat-biking community – a bike with extra-wide tyres suitable for gripping the snow.
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Maple syrup: it’s more than just a pancake condiment. In Cowichan, a once-fishing-focused town of just over 2000 people on Vancouver Island, Maple Syrup is nine-kilometre mountain biking trail that skims down the length of Maple Mountain. It’s one of several adrenalin-fuelled activities adventurers can partake in at this harbour village, including tubing down the Cowichan River, ocean kayaking and hiking the Kinsol Trestle, a former log-transport track along the Koksilah River.
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The 6000 locals are known as “Smithereens” and after you’ve pitched your tent on the spruce- and fir-tree-lined shores of Dennis Lake, with sweeping views of Hudson Bay Mountain, you’ll wish you were one, too. Built on the back of a railway development, the town is known for its outdoor adventure offering and annual summer music festival. Image: Courtesy Destination British Columbia/ Grant Harder.
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A dot on the Sea to Sky highway that snakes through the Coast Mountains, Pemberton is surrounded by lush national parks resplendent with gloomy old-growth forests, icy-blue lakes and intriguing wildlife. Nearby Joffre Lakes Provincial Park is a particular favourite among mountaineers eager to engage with the elements.
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Covering just 21 square kilometres, this isle is but a speck on Canada’s south-west coast. But there’s plenty packed onto it, including peaceful cycling trails, a mountain worth a climb, an historic lighthouse and even a specialised brewery. Lapping at its shores are the waves from a collection of bays, many of which shelter large fish and even killer whales.
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It’s not hard to picture a horse and cart trundling down the main street of this town, pulling a wagon laden with logs to the harbour. The buildings in this 1000-person-strong spot maintain an old-world air but the services they provide are thoroughly modern: a shop selling honey-based candles, a natural food store and an adventure centre.
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The more than 350 quaint heritage buildings mixed among the blushing autumn leaves might draw you into this town on Kootenay Lakes but it’s the food that will make you stay. Though just 10,000 people live in the central area, Nelson has more restaurants per capita than Manhattan. Farm-to-table, hyperlocal offerings are a particular strength, thanks to nearby farms and vineyards providing chefs with a bounty of fresh ingredients. Image: Courtesy Destination British Columbia/ Dave Heath.
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It might look verdant but Osoyoos is actually Canada’s only true desert. The grasslands lining the lake receive less than 25 centimetres of rain each year and just over five centimetres of snow, while summer days reach a top of 31°C, making it the perfect escape from the significantly cooler climes in other parts of the country.
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A slice of Bavaria among the Kootenay Rockies. The Platzl is where you’ll find the town’s key community offerings, including the library and an outdoor ping pong table, but the real drawcard is the German-style architecture of their host buildings and the world’s largest cuckoo clock, designed to lure tourists from the highway for snaps.
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This urban centre has a truly plum position: mountains tower in the distance, a lake sparkles in the foreground and its easily accessible from either Calgary or Vancouver. As the largest town along Shuswap Lake’s 1000-kilometre shoreline, most travellers start their on-water explorations here.
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Downtown Squamish is a walkable hive of restaurants and live music but it’s the surrounding peaks and valleys that distinguish the town. You can best appreciate the view by taking one of the more manageable hikes to smaller vantage points on Squamish’s immediate outskirts or really put those boots to work by scaling the 702-meter high, three-summit Stawamus Chief.
Invermere on the Lake
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Life is literally lived on the lake here, one of the warmest in British Columbia: its calm surface makes it ideal for canoeing, kayaking and paddle boarding. In the chillier months, the nearby hot springs and snowy ski slopes make it a winter playground, too.
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Surrey is fast leaving town territory behind with predictions its population will surpass Vancouver’s in the next 20 years – but that doesn’t mean it’s losing its charm. The incredible architecture in this burgeoning city is complemented by extensive green space: around 30 per cent of the surrounding land is dedicated to growing produce so the city is ripe with regular farmers’ markets and there are acres’ worth of tidy gardens scattered throughout its borders.
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On the edges of the incredible Clayoquot Sound, the deep green forests and moody blue waters make Tofino the perfect spot for outdoor exploration. But if you want an intensely memorable visit, stand on a beach during a storm: the Pacific Ocean has a clear path between this coast and Japan so the waves build and build as the winds whip across the water. Be safe of course – check tides and stand well back.
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The slopes may be undulating edges of beauty but the mountain village where skiers spend the night is just as gorgeous. Among the greys and blues of the evening sky, lodge fireplaces send a warm glow out onto the snowy streets and fairy lights twinkle on the branches of the stripped-back trees. Connecting the town’s various sections is a pedestrian-only space, known as the Village Stroll, to allow visitors to amble in peace.