Super Camping British Columbia
Super Camping British Columbia

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Campbell River Photo Province of BC

British Columbia’s Discovery Coast Circle Tour – From Sea to Mountains a Trip to Remember

By Travel British Columbia

British Columbia’s majestic coast contains countless inaccessible wonders that are as remarkable and unique as the rest of the province. Luckily, adventurers seeking to see all that British Columbia has to offer can board a ferry during the summer months and see a coastline so remote, it’s called the Discovery Coast Passage. This circle tour will take roughly 7 to 9 days and includes a total 1400 km of driving and 16 hours of sailing.

Orcas Vancouver Island, Photo Destination BC Reuben Krabbe
Orcas Vancouver Island | Destination BC / Reuben Krabbe

The circle tour starts and ends in Vancouver but of course you can join the route anywhere along the way. Heading over to Vancouver Island make your way up the island to Port Hardy, take BC Ferries over to Bella Coola on the Discovery Passage, head over to Williams Lake then south.

Heading up the east coast of Vancouver Island will take you through delightful seaside towns with miles of sandy beach such as Parksville and Qualicum Beach; some of the best saltwater fishing around at Campbell River and whales and wildlife in Port McNeill and all with a backdrop of stunning mountains.

Campbell River Photo Province of BC
Campbell River | Province of BC

Port Hardy is the gateway to the Discovery Coast and is the departure point for BC Ferries sailing to Bella Coola. Along the 13-hour trip, you enter some of British Columbia’s most serene and beautiful scenery. The ferry trip runs from June to September. The Discovery Coast Passage remains largely undiscovered and enveloped in its own blanket of silence. But those who take the time to explore these waterways are handsomely rewarded with breathtaking landscapes and unmatched serenity.

Quatse Salmon Centre, Port Hardy Photo Kim Walker
Quatse Salmon Centre, Port Hardy | Kim Walker

Once off the ferry drive west to Williams Lake on the scenic Highway 20 for 450 km which includes a 43 km stretch of road that is known for its sharp hairpin turns, narrow roads, multiple switchbacks, and a very steep 18% grade in certain places.

As you drive through Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, you will enter one of British Columbia’s most isolated parks. Those who enjoy the outdoors have an endless choice of activities, from boating, fishing, and hunting to camping and hiking.

Hiking along the Fraser River, Lillooet, Photo Destination BC Blake Jorgenson
Hiking along the Fraser River, Lillooet | Destination BC / Blake Jorgenson

You have now arrived in cowboy country. From Williams Lake the Circle Tour takes you south on Highway 97 on the famed Gold Rush Trail. At the turn of the century, trappers, miners, and prospectors eager to make their fortune ventured north through the Fraser Valley. Heading through towns made famous in the Gold Rush such as 100 Mile House and Lillooet. At one time Lillooet was the largest settlement in British Columbia. Its importance is evident in the Mile 0 Cairn which marks the beginning of the famous Cariboo Wagon Road. The cairn was used as a base measure for all the mile posts to the north; i.e. 83 Mile, 100 Mile House, and 150 Mile House.

Duffy Lake, Hwy 99 between Lillooet & Pemberton
Duffy Lake, Hwy 99 between Lillooet & Pemberton

On your way south on Highway 99, you will drive along the banks of the mighty Fraser River and see a wonderful display of nature’s beauty and awe-inspiring sights, from roaring river canyons to majestic mountains. Some 99 km from Lillooet is the town of Pemberton offering visitors an array of outdoor activities including mountain biking, hiking, golf, berry picking, water sports and so much more. Continuing on south towards Vancouver you will pass through the famous ski resort of Whistler.

This blog is just an excerpt from the Discovery Coast Circle Tour found on travel-british-columbia-com. Along the route there are suggestions for places to visit and things to do. This trip will be a memory of a lifetime. Check it out.

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Published: June 1, 2023
Last Updated: June 1, 2023


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