What can be more rewarding and relaxing than a beach day during the beautiful summers in British Columbia? And when it’s in our very own province of British Columbia, this list of the best coastal towns in BC will help you make the most of it.
Whether you are looking for a summer visit, or maybe even somewhere to reitre one day, our curated list of the best BC coastal towns is your answer to all the questions regarding BC beach towns.
Charming and Beautiful BC Coastal Towns
The rugged west coast and pristine beaches are just part of what makes Tofino a hidden gem and one of the best coastal towns in BC to visit. It has surfing, storm watching, hiking, whale watching, camping fishing, amazing eats (do not miss Tacofino for tacos or Rhino coffee for their breakfast sandwiches) and luxury accommodations.
Tofino is the perfect place to be close to nature, whether in the forest or on the sandy beaches. It is busiest in the summer months but also popular in the winter for storm watching and a quieter atmosphere.
Location: On the Pacific Ocean on Vancouver Island’s East Coast
Nearby Sightseeing: Pacific Rim National Park, Ucluelet, Cathedral Grove (MacMillan Provincial Park)
Where to stay in Tofino:
MIDRANGE: Duffin Cove Resort Duffin Cove is newly renovated and is right in Tofino. They have a few A frame cabins right on the water that you can book as well. The nice thing about staying here is that you can leave your car and walk into town. Parking can be busy in town in high season.
MIDRANGE: Hotel Zed Tofino Hotel Zed is right off the highway and less than 500m from Chesterman Beach. It is 1.1 km from Mackenzie Beach. Your stay includes free parking and there is a restaurant on site. Hotel Zed is known for its eclectic styled accommodations. You cannot miss it! Pets are welcome at Hotel Zed.
MIDRANGE: Shoreline Tofino Shoreline Tofino offers a rustic feel with A Frame loft style cabins. it is close to the downtown core of Tofino and on the harbour side.
LUXURY: Pacific Sands Beach Resort Pacific Sands is the epitome of luxury. Featuring townhouse style accommodations and jetted tubs with a view, few other properties can walk right out to Cox Bay beach! Depending on your accommodation type, you can have a full kitchen and multiple bedrooms. If storm watching or walking the sandy beaches are your thing, choose Pacific Sands! It is perfect for families and getaways with friends!
LUXURY: Long Beach Lodge Resort Long Beach lodge features oceanfront rooms as well as cabins with hot tubs. There are surfing rentals and lessons right on site. It is situated on Cox Bay beach
AIRBNB: I have a post on the best Tofino AirBNB locations.
Resources for planning your trip: Tofino packing list
2. White Rock
White Rock has everything you need for an adventurous day; there is White Rock Beach, a waterfront boardwalk where you can often find a street musician, a 1,500-foot-long pier, and plenty of food. This BC coastal town also has a lot of things going on; there is a museum, lots of restaurants, and a farmers market where you can source items on Sundays. It is the perfect place for all ages as the prominade is wheelchair friendly and kids love playing at the beach at low tide. If you have a dog, the West Beach is dog friendly. It is also the best beach area at low tide.
Location: South Surrey, 45 minutes drive from Vancouver.
Population: 20 000
Nearby Sightseeing: White Rock Pier, White Rock Museum & Archives, White Rock.
How To Get There: By car or public transport.
From the unique architecture to the museums and waterfront restaurants, Victoria is one of the most fun BC coastal cities to visit and a popular BC getaway. This relaxing coastal city has a lot of shops, boutiques, and galleries where you can discover great gems. Victoria is also surrounded by beaches and beautiful scenery, which provide breathtaking views of Mount Baker in nearby Washington State.
While you are here, you can take a bike tour to learn more about the history and indigenous culture of the area. Also, don’t forget to go for summer swimming on Willows Beach —this beach features a long sandy stretch, a picnic area with a grassy area, and trees for shade.
A super unique idea is to book a local photographer on your weekend getaway! It is easy! If you believe that memories make the best souvenirs, then book a photo shoot before your trip! If you use the code LINDSAY you will get $25 off your booking as well! Click here to search and book a photoshoot while in Whistler (or many other locations in BC)
Location: Southern end of Vancouver Island
Population: 90 000
Nearby Sightseeing: Willows beach, Butchart Gardens, Victoria Ale Trail
How To Get There: From Vancouver take the Tsawassen – Swartz Bay ferry (by car or as a walk on passenger). Victoria is about 30 minutes from the Swartz Bay terminal by car or 55 minutes by public transport. There are also express busses that must be booked in advance. Float Planes land Helijet and in the Inner Harbour from Downtown Vancouver and Richmond Airport. Victoria also has an airport (YYJ) that is serviced by multiple airlines.
Parksville is a BC coastal town full of things to explore; the fresh seafood, the quaint shops, and the beaches. This town is well known for its large, sandy beaches, sun-warmed salt water, and abundance of natural beauty. Also, Parksville was recently named one of the top 6 beaches in North America. You can visit the beach, enjoy water activities, and visit the museum to view beautiful arts.
Location: East coast of Vancouver Island, North of Nanaimo
Population: 13 000
Nearby Sightseeing: Parksville and Qualicum Beach, Parksville Community Park, Parksville Museum.
How To Get There: From Vancouver take the Horseshoe Bay ferry to Departure Bay or the Tsawassen Ferry to Duke Point.
Connecting flights from Vancouver International (YVR) fly into the neighbouring Nanaimo Airport and Comox Valley Airport (YQQ). Harbour Air Seaplanes and Helijet offer flights from downtown Vancouver to downtown Nanaimo.
5. Cowichan Bay
Cowichan Bay is an excellent place defined by floating homes and buildings on stilts. This area is known for its local delicacy, including organic bakeries, cheese shops, and seafood. You can also kayak at the Cowichan Bay estuary, watch whales and view the more than 200 species of migrant shorebirds. There are also numerous shops and restaurants to get souvenirs and try out local delicacies.
Location: Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island
Nearby Sightseeing: Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre, Rocky Creek Winery, Coverdale Watson park, Cowichan Bay Maritime Centre.
How to Get There: Ferry, car, bus, and air.
6. Skidegate, Haida Gwaii
Off the northwest coast of British Columbia is a group of islands known as Haida Gwaii. One of the islands includes Skidegate, the gateway for adventures; outdoor recreation opportunities in this area include fishing, boating, wildlife viewing, kayaking, beachcombing, and camping. Skidegate used to be a hub for otters and is home to many totem poles.
Location: Haida Gwaii.
Nearby Sightseeing: Spirit Lake Trail, Haida Style Expeditions, Jungle Beach.
How To Get There: Ferry
While in Ucluelet, you can enjoy fun activities like surfing, kayaking, and hiking. Ucluelet also has a wide array of shops where you can shop for unique items like jewelry, glass, and art. The ragged shorelines and rainforest in this town also make it a place for a perfect spring getaway. It is just 30 minutes from Tofino by car but typically a lot quieter.
You can learn about the sea creatures at the Ucluelet Aquarium, walk along the Wild Pacific Trail, or tour the Broken Group Islands for a chance to see the whales. Ucluelet is also popular for storm watching in January and Feb. And, don’t forget to savor some fresh seafood, go on a spa retreat and explore the waters off Ucluelet Harbor.
Location: West coast of Vancouver Island
Nearby Sightseeing: Pacific Rim National Park, Ucluelet Lighthouse Loop, Ucluelet Aquarium.
How To Get There: From Vancouver take the Horseshoe Bay ferry to Departure Bay or the Tsawassen Ferry to Duke Point. From Nanaimo, you are going to take the Island Highway (Hwy 19) Northbound towards Campbell River. You will go past Parksville and almost to Qualicum Beach. Take EXIT 60 towards Port Alberni and you are now on HWY BC-4 Follow HWY 4 past Coombs, MacMillan Provincial Park (home to 800 year old trees), Sutton Pass (your chance for snow in winter conditions), through Port Alberni, and when you almost reach the other side of the Island a left at the junction (Uclulet – Tofino) will take you into Ucluelet. You can read more about driving from Nanaimo to Tofino and popular stops along the way. Tofino also has an airport that you can fly into on a commerical or private carrier. Float planes and a bus also service the area.
Sechelt is a famous coastal town in BC, surrounded by mountains and 20 miles of shoreline. This coastal town is a great place to enjoy outdoor activities like kayaking, hiking, biking, and camping. Sechelt is also a perfect hub to discover art, enjoy culinary treats and appreciate nature. If you enjoy the water and outdoor activities, stop by Smuggler’s Cove to kayak through the calm waters.
Location: North of Gibsons on the Sunshine Coast,
Nearby Sightseeing: Porpoise Bay Provincial Park, Soames Hill, Skookumchuck Narrows. Smuggler’s Cove
How To Get There: From Vancouver take the Horseshoe Bay ferry
9. Ganges, Salt Spring Island
Ganges is a famous beach town in BC with an abundance of food, thriving scenes, ocean views, and scenic beaches. This island is one of the gulf islands that separates mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island. Salt Spring has also been described as an unspoiled paradise; the island has many friendly locals, scenic beaches, forested trails, and a wide range of dining options.
While you are here, visit the Saturday market (open from March to October), where you will find a variety of crafts from artists, jewelers, potters, and photographers. The Ganges also has a winery that offers tastings in the summer with local cheeses and desserts.
Location: Vancouver Island
Nearby Sightseeing: Ruckle Provincial Park, Ruckle Heritage Farm
How To Get There: From Vancouver take the Tsawassen ferry terminal to Long Harbour. Alternate route is to take Tsawassen ferry to Swartz Bay and then Swartz Bay to Fulford Harbour. Harbour Air seaplanes also services Salt Spring from Vancouver Airport and Downtown Vancouver.
10. Port Renfrew
Port Renfrew is a small fishing village known for its massive Douglas firs, Sitka trees, and the ‘Canada Gnarliest Tree.’ This coastal town offers one-of-a-kind exploration; there are excellent choices for dining, tons of lakes, and great trails. Port Renfrew also has a Botanical Beach, where you can explore the colorful marine life, take a whale viewing tour, and go ocean fishing. For food and fun, visit Wild Renfrew, a hub that offers two eateries and adventure packages.
Location: Vancouver Island
Nearby Sightseeing: Loss Creek, Sandbar trail, Botanical Beach Provincial Park
How To Get There: Bus, ferry, car, and air.
Gibsons is a small charming BC coastal town famous for being a fun summertime destination; this town has lots of parks, beaches, food, and a thriving art scene. Also, you can enjoy fun activities like mountain biking and hiking to the waterfall. Gibsons also hosts many festivals, especially in summer, and it was here that the popular series, The Beachcombers, was filmed. While you are here, try to sip some beer from one of the local breweries and try out local cuisines from the countless restaurants.
Location: Lower Sunshine Coast
Nearby Sightseeing: Persephone Brewing Company, Gibsons Visitor Centre, Tapworks Brewing Company.
How To Get There: By car, ferries, public buses, and bikes.
12. Prince Rupert
Located on Kaien Island, Prince Rupert offers a lot of highlights, including fantastic sunsets and a protected reserve. There is also the Khutzeymateen Sanctuary, where you will find grizzly bears in their natural habitat. Prince Rupert is also surrounded by mountains, rainforests, and fjords that overlooks the archipelago of Islands. While in town, you should visit Cow Bay, a three-block area with decorated cows, unique artworks, and seafood meals.
Location: Kaien Island in Chatham Sound.
Nearby Sightseeing: Museum of Northern British Columbia, Tall Tree Trails, Butze Rapids Park,
How To Get There: Air, bus, ferry, and car.
13. Bella Coola
With its glacier rivers, vast forests, and fjords, Bella Coola is a great place to explore the breathtaking wilderness. While you are here, explore and view the BC coastal town’s carvings, arts, museums, and historical landmarks. If you go in the fall, you can also view the salmon spawn and bears.
In case you fly into the town, you will be able to get a bird’s eye view of the beautiful valley. You can also take a scenic road drive to take in the lush and beautiful surroundings of the area.
Location: Bella Coola Valley, British Columbia
Nearby Sightseeing: Bella Coola Valley Museum, Copper Sun Gallery & Journeys, Clayton Fall Recreation Area
How To Get There: By air, car, ferries.
Comox is a perfect location for a fun road trip getaway; there are boutiques, beaches, java joints, and expansive ocean views. Comox also has some breweries, four wineries, two distilleries, and a lot of tide-to-table seafood. If you love outdoor adventure, you will enjoy mountain biking on the trail network. You can also explore the flavors of their delicacy from the local eateries and restaurants. Slurp some oysters, sip some wine and go on a spa retreat after the day’s activities.
Location: Eastern coast of Vancouver Island
Nearby Sightseeing: Comox Air Force Museum, Filberg Park, Goose Spit Park
How To Get There: By air, car, derries.
15. Port Hardy
Port Hardy is one of the coastal towns in BC that will calm your mind with its beautiful unspoiled scenery and authentic adventures. This town offers beautiful secluded beaches, tall trees, and a lot of challenging trails. You can do many things here: explore the Hardy Bay Seawall, hike through the forest and beaches, shop for special souvenirs and observe the amazing wildlife.
Location: Northeast end of Vancouver Island
Nearby Sightseeing: Beaver Harbour Park, Port Hardy Museum, Carrot Park; and
How To Get There: BC ferries, cars, and by air.
16. Galiano Island
Galiano Island offers a tranquil wilderness, beaches, and restaurants that serve meals made out of fresh ingredients. You can enjoy many activities in this British Columbia beach town; you can watch the whales, gold, fish, kayak, and watch for animals on land and sea.
Location: Northern Vancouver Island
Nearby Sightseeing: Bodega Ridge Provincial Park, Montague Harbour Marine Provincial Park, Bellhouse Provincial Park
How To Get There: From Vancouver take the Tsawassen ferry terminal to Galiano.
British Columbia is one of the most beautiful places on earth and I am proud to call it home. These BC coastal towns are just one of the jewels of our province. Have you visited any of these beach towns in BC or think another town should be on the list, let me know in the comments!
Lindsay Nieminen is the creator of UncoveringBC.com. She grew up and still lives in the suburbs of Vancouver with her family. She aims to inspire inform, and educate others about traveling in her home province of British Columbia. She is also the creator of carpediemourway.com which aims to show parents how to seek out adventure at home or abroad, with their children in tow!