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Canada

Three B.C. road trips for great summer getaways

I don’t know about you, but in summer, I just want things to be easy. Quick. Stress free. I don’t want to fight crowds and juggle schedules and worry about finding my passport and how I’m going to fit three weeks of clothes in one suitcase. I just want to throw a swimsuit in my bag and a cooler in the trunk, and go.

Luckily, British Columbia is a vast playground of incredible destinations to explore, and summer is the best time to do it. Whether you crave an island, mountain or valley adventure, B.C.’s got you covered, starting with these three quick road trips from Vancouver.

The southern Gulf Islands are just a short ferry ride away—less than an hour from Tsawwassen to Galiano, the nearest of the islands—but they feel like a different world, one that is slower and friendlier and just a little bit quirkier. Their winding country roads, rocky shores, jade green waters and pleasantly meandering pace of life turn even a short getaway into a refreshing, revitalizing break.

The rustic environs of Pilgrimme restaurant beckon visitors to Galiano Island. Joanne Sasvari

They are technically part of a large archipelago that comprises hundreds of islands and islets, including the San Juan Islands of Washington State. On the Canadian side, the most accessible of the islands are Salt Spring, North and South Pender, Galiano, Saturna and Mayne.

They all offer impressive hiking, biking, swimming, sailing, paddling, diving, wildlife viewing and more. They are dotted with small farms growing everything from berries to bud; there are cheeseries and meaderies and bakeries, pubs and bistros, and more galleries and craft boutiques than you can shake a dream catcher at. And don’t miss out on the Salt Spring Saturday market: It’s one of the best in the province, offering a bounty of local produce and artisan food and drink, as well as arts and crafts, including jewelry, woodwork, candles, handmade soap, fibre arts and much more.

If you go

Here’s what you need to know for your escape to the Southern Gulf Islands.

Getting there:

Be sure to reserve your trip on BC Ferries. For schedules and reservations, go to bcferries.com.

Staying there:

There are many charming inns and B&Bs on the islands—Hastings House on Salt Spring and Galiano Inn & Spa on Galiano Island, for instance—but the most fun way to stay is in one of the Airstream trailers at Woods on Pender.

Dining there:

There are plenty of great pubs, cafés and bistros on the islands, and one restaurant that’s worth, well, a special pilgrimage. Pilgrimme is a tiny house tucked into the woods on Galiano Island, where chef Jesse McCleery cooks up artworks of forest-and-farm-to-table fare that earned him a top-three spot on enRoute magazines list of Canada’s best new restaurants of 2015.

For more info:

Start your exploration at vancouverisland.travel/regions/.

The vineyards at Fort Berens Estate Winery in Lillooet, with the Coastal Mountains in the background. Michael Bednar for Destination BC

People like to say it’s the journey that matters, not the destination. But c’mon, we all know travel really is all about the destination. Except when it’s the Duffey Lake Road.

This is the 100-kilometre stretch of Highway 99 between Pemberton and Lillooet, a gloriously winding road that twists and turns, swoops and soars through the mountains, past serene lakes, dappled forests and sprawling parks, only to end at a terrific winery with a gourmet restaurant. Seriously, what could be better than that?

Leaving from Vancouver, head north on Highway 99, past Squamish and Whistler and on to the mountain community of Pemberton, where you can load up on veggies and pie at North Arm Farm. After a sharp right turn, the road continues past Joffre Lakes Provincial Park (you’ll recognize it by the dozens of cars parked along the side of the road), and on to Lillooet.

You’ll know you’ve arrived by the rising temperatures—Lillooet is often the hottest spot in Canada in summer. Formerly known as Cayoosh Flat, and in 1860s one of the biggest communities west of Chicago, Lillooet is a rising tourist destination with a fascinating history, breathtaking scenery and great outdoor activities to enjoy.

If you go

Here’s what you need to know for your escape to Lillooet.

Staying there:

Accommodation in Lillooet tends to be rustic, but along with several campgrounds, there are a handful of B&Bs and motels, including the highly rated Retasket Lodge & RV Park.

Dining there:

Chef JS Ouellette’s farm-to-table cuisine at The Kitchen at Fort Berens Estate Winery is worth the journey to Lillooet.

For more info:

Visit lillooetbc.ca.

Cultus Lake is a popular destination in the Fraser Valley. courtesy of Destination BC

It might sound strange, suggesting a getaway to the suburbs, but the Fraser Valley Regional District is much, much more than a few sprawling communities. For one thing, it is vast, more than 13,000 square kilometres surrounding the mighty Fraser River as it emerges from the Coastal Mountains. For another, it’s changing so fast that even if you think you know the valley, you really don’t know the valley.

The best way to discover what it has to offer is to get off Highway 1 and onto the country roads. (The self-guided Circle Farm Route is a good place to start.) Here you’ll find farm markets, cheeseries, bakeries, breweries, a distillery or two and a growing number of wineries. There are trails to hike, rivers to paddle, parks to explore and attractions to amuse kids of all ages, notably the Fort Langley National Historic Site where B.C. was born.

Be sure to bring a cooler, for certainly you’ll want to bring some local farm produce home: strawberries in June, tomatoes in July, corn in August, cheese any time. And be sure to leave room for a case of wine and a growler or two of craft beer.

If you go

Here’s what you need to know for your summer escape to the Fraser Valley.

Staying there:

Dining there:

For more info:

Visit hellobc.com/places-to-go/vancouver-coast-mountains/. For the Circle Farm Route self-guided tours, visit circlefarmtour.com.

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