Five things to do on the BC Coast This Summer
Take a walk outside and you’ll see signs of summer all around: deciduous trees in full leaf, fledglings learning to take first flight, and a breeze warm enough you don’t have to worry about a jacket.
You could argue the past year has felt something like a perpetual Groundhog Day, but the natural world continues to change around us – its meteorological transitions slow but never faltering.
The good news is that thanks to promising vaccination rates, we can begin to take our first tentative steps back into the wild. And while an African Safari is still out of reach, there’s no shortage of adventure to be had in our own backyard.
It’s some backyard too. British Columbia alone boasts more than 25,000 kilometres of coastline, ample room for bears, belugas and everything in between. So if the extended hibernation has left you feeling short of inspiration, allow us to reinvigorate your wanderlust with our top five picks for summer on the west coast.
1. Enjoy nature’s lightshow (bioluminescent algae)
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Vancouver’s annual fireworks have been cancelled for a second year running, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out. Instead of searching the skies, look to the seas: one of the most amazing natural phenomena on the west coast takes place right under our noses.
Bioluminescence is caused by glowing plankton lighting up our oceans on dark summer nights, best seen on beaches with little light pollution around the time of a new moon. Dipping your feet whilst shimmering waves gently lap around your ankles is an experience nothing short of otherworldly!
2. Follow the footsteps of Sea Wolves
Not-so-elusive sea wolf on beach patrol Photo: Simon Ager
Sea wolves are a reclusive breed, genetically distinct from their cousins in the interior (or anywhere else in the world, for that matter). They comb the beaches and feed off the ocean, often observed paddling like otters or fishing like the bears they share their habitat with. Vancouver Island and the Great Bear Rainforest are their stomping ground, though they once roamed all along the Pacific Coast.
It’s rare for sea wolves to reveal themselves even in summer, although the beaches they roam are usually tracked with paw prints. The First Nations have shared territory with sea wolves for thousands of years and hold a place of respect and appreciation for them within their culture.
3. Sail and sip coastal wines
Who needs the Mediterranean with this emerging wine scene on our doorstep? Photo: Kayleen VanderRee
Our coastal wine may not be as famous as our interior neighbours’, but with wineries popping up from Comox Valley down to Salt Spring Island, this emerging wine region is a secret well worth sampling. Winemaking began on Vancouver Island as early as a century ago, with the mountainous landscape shielding Pacific Ocean storms and providing a longer growing season with low frost risk. The unique seaside environment has proven fertile ground for vineyards and winemakers, the naturally high acidity of coastal grapes are an ideal building block for aromatic whites, flavourful reds, and even sparkling wine.
Rather than trying to replicate other regional styles of wine, local winemakers focus on using grapes which are viable and suitable to express the Salish Sea location, pairing well with local seafood. The industry is flourishing, spurring us to partner with local wine guide Tania Tomaszewska to offer a unique exploration through BC wine, its people and place via a unique tasting, culinary and nature adventure.
4. Stargaze by beach fire
Summers made for stargazing, courtesy of the Great Bear Rainforest. Photo: Brandon Harvey
Beach fires are a staple of our summer expeditions along the BC coast, the perfect way to end to a long day of exploring wild beaches and rainforest with a naturalist. There’s nothing quite like that moment when the sun sinks into the horizon to give way to a field of stars.
The nearest cities are often hundreds of kilometres away, so on a clear summer’s night you’ll get a picture-perfect view of the same constellations that have navigated seafarers since the dawn of time. Pret-ty spectacular.
5. Whale watch on the waves
Few encounters can fire up the spirit like the sight of a whale breaching through the water’s surface. Whales of all shape and size navigate our coast over summer, including humpbacks, orcas, grey and fin whales. Each follows a slightly different migratory pattern, though April through October are considered the prime watching season.
One summer spectacle you don’t want to miss out on is when humpbacks come together to bubble feed. This is a culturally taught technique that requires serious skill and teamwork. Whales can be observed in groups of 4 to 20 foraging until each individual has had the opportunity to feed. Usually starting in early June, this behaviour can last for several weeks.
With the leaves taking on a new palette there’s no better time to plan your next adventure. Spend summer journeying through ancient rainforest, cruising in search of whales and orcas and beachcombing sandy coastline, where the only footprints you’ll find belong to resident wildlife. Click here to learn more about summer expeditions by yacht.