What makes Northern British Columbia unique? – 8 Cool Reasons 🇨🇦

Mount Robson and Berg Lake in Northern British Columbia
Mount Robson & Berg LakeZeljko Kozomara
Provincial Flag of British Columbia
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Up to the north side of the Canadian west coast. Well, sort of. Less expensive than the south and a lot less populated, what Northern British Columbia lacks in those areas, it more than makes up for in God-given beauty. I guess it was just born that way.

North BC is known for gold rushes and a frontier past mixed with a Wild West persona where rugged mountains meet the green misty shores. A distinct corner of Cascadia merging the Ring of Fire and the Great Plains. Wooh, we’ve got a good one. Learn a bit about it with a quick profile, then stay tuned to read what makes this part of the province so unique.

northern BRITISH COLUMBIA: Quick Profile

map of Canadian Provinces and Territories, British Columbia highlighted in red
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map of northern British Columbia
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British Columbia takes up the entire west coast of Canada. Strangely though, most of this coast in the north is cut off by Alaska, with which it shares a long U.S. border to the west and northwest. Northern BC is considered generally what’s north of Queen Charlotte Sound or Prince George, which happens to be the biggest town on this side of the province.

There are lots of mountains and highlands up here, especially along the rugged Coastal Mountains that are home to BC’s tallest peaks. The Rockies are also prevalent in the east and middle where they morph into a general northern mountain range. With many fjords and islands near the coast, there’s also the major archipelago called Haida Gwaii.

Most of this coast has oceanic and wet climates whereas the interior is generally continental or subarctic. This includes dense forests, semi-arid plains and woodlands, and tundra. East of the Rockies is a stretch of prairies too. The name for British Columbia comes from the name of the region before confederation, which comes from the Columbia River. Read here for more details on the name and about Southern British Columbia.

Also, read more: about Canada; other provinces and Earth’s Face places

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Well, why is Northern British Columbia so special?

1. Because of the Lower Rockies

a snowy Mt Robson and clear Berg Lake in Mount Robson Provincial Park, Canada
Mt. Robson Provincial ParkJeffrey Pang

What are they?:

This is a section of the vast Rocky Mountains that is in the lower part of north British Columbia. They are filled with gorgeous mountain scenery, lakes, glaciers, and an abundance of waterfalls.

Helmcken Falls and a rainbow at Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC
Helmcken Falls, Wells Gray Provincial ParkPaste

What do they have?:

In this general area are some notable provincial parks like Bowron Lake and Wells Gray. That last one has some very beautiful and iconic waterfalls like Helmcken Falls. There’s also the prominent Mount Robson, one of the tallest peaks in the province and the Rockies overall. It also has some nice glaciers and its own set of cascades in the Valley of the Thousand Falls.

2. Because of its Northern Mountains

colors of Mount Edziza volcano in northern British Columbian mountains
Colors of Mt. EdzizaHere fishy

What are they?:

In the north are a set of mountain chains that go from the northern bit of the Rockies and merge into separate ranges. These mountains cover much of the interior of the region with lots of spacious wilderness alongside the customary awe-inspiring scenery.

What do they have?:

For some of those raw wild landscapes of North America, the upper part of the Rockies has got it covered. These span places like Northern Rockies Provincial Park, the Kwadacha Wilderness, Dune Za Keyih Provincial Park, and the serene area around Muncho Lake.

In the inner mountain ranges can be found a distinct set of valleys and wildlands like in the Spatsizi Plateau Wilderness and Mount Edziza, a prominent volcano with colorfully designed soils. There’s also the Stikine River Provincial Park with more tundra landscapes, a winding canyon, and hot springs to go along with them.

3. Because of the Coastal Mountains

Lax Kw'alaams town on the coast of Kitima Range, British Columbian coastal mountains
Lax Kw’alaams, Kitimat RangeAlex

What are they?:

The Coastal Range is a set of very rugged and tall mountains near the coast of British Columbia and along the U.S. border with Alaska. It’s home to the tallest peak fully within BC — Mount Waddington — and the tallest one period shared with Alaska — Mount Fairweather. I’m guessing its weather isn’t so fair, though.

What do they have?:

Besides those two massive climbing walls, these particular mountains have tons of beauty to add to British Columbia. We have Kitlope Heritage Conservancy and the Atlin or Téix’gi Aan Tlein Provincial Park.

Tatshenshini-Alsek way up north has especially pretty valleys and glaciers. On the opposite end is Tweedsmuir South Provincial Park with stunning lake-filled valleys, fjords, and falls.

4. Because of Haida Gwaii

rocky forested coast of Moresby Island in Haida Gwaii, western Canada
Haida Gwaii CPAWS

What is it?:

Haida Gwaii (X̱aaydag̱a Gwaay.yaay in the Haida language) is the name of a group of large islands off the coast of northern British Columbia. With rocky shores and densely forested interiors, these islands are also a major site for trekking and adventure.

a totem pole closeup in Gwaii Haanas National Park in Northern British Columbia
Totem pole at Gwaii HaanasVysotsky

What does it have?:

There are a number of special features on the islands like impressive rock towers on the coasts and wooded trails that lead up to sweeping views of the islands into the highlands. One particular place to view these features is Gwaii Haanas National Park on Moresby Island. Other than amazing natural beauty, the park preserves several indigenous sites with iconic totem poles among other culturally significant structures.

5. Because of the Alaska Highway

What is that?:

“But this isn’t Alaska.” I know. This iconic highway — or a part of it, more accurately — runs through the prairies and lowlands of northeastern BC. The highway also runs through regional centers like Dawson Creek and Fort Nelson.

What does it have?:

Being a sort of crossroads for rail and road traffic, the Alaska Highway cuts across some scenic parts of the province, making it a popular drive in the area. There are also major towns like Dawson Creek, pretty much the starting point to the highway with an art gallery and a cool pioneer village.

On the north side of Peace River Country, Fort Nelson is one of the more isolated towns in BC. There’s also a heritage center, the namesake fort in “Fort” Nelson, and a drive that will take you into the isolated mountains or the Northwest Territories to get really lost. Also, enjoy those pretty Northern Lights.

6. Because of Barkerville

old wooden buildings in the frontier town of Barkerville, Canada
Barkerville Cbone

What is it?:

Barkerville is a unique historic town and park that used to be a booming center during the Cariboo Gold Rush of British Columbia. Not just some ghost town, it has been preserved very well and remains a tourist attraction.

What does it have?:

This place preserves a lot of the early frontier identity of British Columbia through fully restored buildings and active historic interpreters. I love how much Canada loves its history. As far as I can tell, the town is no longer inhabited but functions as a living breathing historic time capsule. The town was also very significant for Chinese Canadian immigrants and forms a key part of the strong Asian-Pacific presence in British Columbia.

7. Because of Great Bear Rainforest

two Spirit bear cubs, one with black coat and other with white coat, in the Great Bear Rainforest
Young Kermode bearsPacific Wild

What is it?:

This is one of the largest protected parts of the Pacific temperate rainforests, an ecoregion that stretches from Alaska all the way down into California. There are lots of dense woodlands and wildlife out there too.

Lizette Falls amidst the forests falling into a lake/fjord in the great bear rainforest of British Columbia
Great Bear RainforestJack Borno

What does it have?:

It’s essentially a protective zone along the coastal ranges. You go there just to enjoy pure natural wilderness. There’s also the anomalous “Spirit bear” or Kermode bears. They are a unique kind of black bear whose offspring are born every so often with white fur. How mystical!

8. Because of the Culture

Okay, so I try to fit in the cultural aspects of all of these places, but in northern British Columbia, it’s nature that dominates. I’m not saying that the railways, gold rushes, logging, and forestry had nothing to contribute. Many of the towns up here are set on preserving what life was like for the many pioneers that sought to make this area home … even if for a short while.

This is where the most open roads, the most rugged mountains, and the whitest black bears can be found under one boreal roof. From the world’s largest temperate rainforests to one of its most expansive prairies, this part of BC shows us that it holds its own as far as natural wonders go.

Definitely more rural than the south and with a bit of that Oregon Trail-Columbia country in the blood, it’s definitely more isolated than many places on the planet. With that, the diverse people and cultures from centuries over have maintained their mark on this remarkable patch of earth called Northern British Columbia.

**Did you enjoy reading about this remarkable place in Canada? Tell us what you like about Northern British Columbia, and shout out if you’re from there! Thanks so much for being a part of this site and this journey we’re on around the world. Feel free to check out other posts here on Cult-Surf and contact me at tietewaller@gmail.com if you want to have a word, or collaborate! Talk soon. Peace.

Why is Southern Quebec special (Besides Montreal)? – 9 Cool Reasons 🇨🇦

Mackenzie King Estate in Gatineau Park, Quebec
Mackenzie King Estate, Gatineau – Photo by Christopher Austin

Again, you guys, these provinces are too big. Here we’re going to take a look at Canada’s biggest province by area. Well, just the southern portion since it alone could be a whole province to itself. If you’re wondering why southern Quebec is so special or interesting, here are just a few reasons. Feel free to do further research, look at some pictures or videos, and explore these places for yourself! And if you’re from this place, please feel a whole lot of pride because it is unique, d’accord?

Awesome! Let’s get into it.

a relief map of Quebec province in Canada

Southern QUÉBEC | Quick Geography

In Canada’s biggest province, southern Quebec is pretty small in comparison to the north. Still, it’s a lot more populous and just a bit warmer. This region is located in the southeast of the country, historically part of Central Canada. The capital city, also called Quebec, is located here, as is the province’s biggest city of Montreal. Quebec is predominantly French-speaking, and in the local language it is spelled Québec (pronounced Keh-bek).

The name comes from either Algonquin or Ojibwe and means “where the river narrows.” This refers to an area on the St. Lawrence River near Quebec City. The St. Lawrence, by the way, is the biggest and most important river in the province, being the point of introduction to many colonists and the main reason we have Canada today.

Surrounding the river are the St. Lawrence Lowlands, giving rise to the upper Appalachian Mountains in the south. North of these lowlands are the Laurentian Mountains which basically divide northern and southern Quebec. The region is mostly mixed and temperate forests with more piney forests in the highlands. It borders the U.S. to the south and east and contains a stretch of isles in the Atlantic called the Magdalen Islands.

1. Because of the Îles-de-la-Madeleine

the coast of the Îles-de-la-Madeleine or Magdalen Islands in southern Quebec, Canada
Îles-de-la-Madeleine – by Original uploader was Aarchiba

These islands (Il-de-la-Ma-da-leyn), also called the Magdalen Islands in English, are set out in the Atlantic and are really a unique part of Quebec. This is mostly due to their brightly colored cliffs and beaches which look almost orange against the deep blue ocean. The hills above are green and dotted with regional architecture and lighthouses.

The best part is that not all the beaches and isles look the same, so different parts of the region have their own special style of cliffs, beaches, and caves. There’s a visitors center and ferries to get from place to place. It’s really a beautiful-looking location in the south of this massive province.

2. Because of the Laurentian Mountains

town of Mont-Tremblant at the base of green mountains and waterfront, Quebec province
Mont-Tremblant – By Stéphane Duquesne

The Laurentian Mountains are considered the divide between northern and southern Quebec, yet they bring outdoor travelers all throughout the year. With beautifully scenic reserves and parks like La Mauricie National Park, Mastigouche, Papineau-Labelle, and La Vérendrye Wildlife Reserve, it’s easy to see why campers, hunters, and fishers flock out to these places to get a whiff of fresh air.

Sept-Chutes (Seven Falls) Regional Park is another one of these remarkable parks with mountains, canyons, and waterfalls of course. Probably the most famous place in these mountains is Mont-Tremblant. This town is traced by imposing mountains and colorful wooden architecture. It looks like a very magical place and has attractions for visitors throughout the year. The best is probably in winter when the area turns into a winter sports wonderland fit for skiers and snowboarders, amongst many other activities.

3. Because of nature in the East

Parc marin du Saguenay–Saint-Laurent, or Saguenay--Saint Lawrence Marine Park on the St. Lawrence River, southern Quebec
Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine ParkBy Pierre André

Still sort of in the Laurentian area, the east of Southern Quebec is also stocked with natural beauty. This area is more influenced by the sea and it shows in its natural areas more than further inland. Especially mountainous and forested, places like Jacques-Cartier National Park or the Laurentides reserve are awesome sites for witnessing North America’s wildlife.

There you can find anything from owls to bears to moose and bison. To check out Canada’s marine mammals, the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park is perfect for catching sight of whales. They commonly go down to this part of the river to eat, and they make for an awesome sight in the calm waters between the high forested cliffs along the coast.

4. Because of Ville de Québec

the Chateau Frontenac hotel in Quebec City at winter
Le Château Frontenac – By Wilfredor

Otherwise known as Quebec City, this is where it all started. Quebec is pretty famous for being one of the best examples of Europe and particularly France in North America. The best place to see this would be in Old Quebec. You have the Quartier Petit Champlain to walk through and really feel those Quebecois vibes and taste that delicious Quebecois food.

The area is full of iconic plazas, staircases, and historic sites like the Plains of Abraham and the Place Royale. There’s a hill with a citadel and preserved forts to learn about the province’s past. On the St. Lawrence coast is a boardwalk and promenade leading up to the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, a luxurious hotel and probably the most iconic building in the whole city.

a busy Quartier Petit Champlain, commercial center in Old Quebec
Quartier Petit Champlain – By Wilfredor

Further down the river are parks and beaches like La Plage-Jacques-Cartier Park and the botanical gardens. Important and beautifully designed culture centers like the Museum of Civilization and Quebec’s National Museum of Fine Arts are found in the city. Thinking of adventure, there are places like the Arbraska Chauveau area, a treetop adventure park with ziplining and other sylvan activities.

Montmorency Falls in summertime near Quebec City
Montmorency Falls -by Mercedes Schulz

At the edge of Quebec is Montmorency Falls, a rushing waterfall taller than Niagara with observation decks and a bridge that takes visitors over the powerful waters. Speaking of waterfalls, another great one in the area is in the suburban city, Lévis (Leh-vee). Besides having some of the best views of Quebec from the other side of the river, it also is home to Chaudière Falls (Sho-dyehr). Really, the area is a great mix of history, urban life, and nature all wrapped into one.

5. Because of its other towns

views from Mont-Orford area at sunrise, natural place in southern Quebec
Mont-Orford near Sherbrooke – by Romain B

Putting Quebec City and Montreal aside, Southern Quebec also has lots of other great towns that make it special. Trois-Rivières (Trhah-He-vyehr) is one of the larger cities with lots of cool colonial buildings and churches. It’s also home to the Forges-du-Saint-Maurice, the first successful ironworks in all of New France (French Americas) which can still be visited to this day.

Sherbrooke is another large town, home to pretty buildings and its own important museums like the Museum of Fine Arts. There are also good winter sports venues nearby with Mont-Orford being a key visitor site. Hikers can find swimming spots and scenic viewpoints to catch a glimpse of the rolling Appalachians all around.

Similar spots include Coaticook Gorge with its high bridge and Saint-Jérôme. This town has its own museums, churches, and pretty parks to enjoy winter activities too. And finally, there’s Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu (Sent-Jon-suh-He-shel-yu). Beyond having all the other cool stuff that Quebec towns are known for, it also is host to a big balloon festival. Beauty is just all around.

6. Because of Gatineau

the Canadian History Museum in Gatineau, Quebec
Canadian History Museum – By Wladyslaw

Gatineau (Ga-te-noh) is a suburban city just across the Ottawa River from, well, Ottawa. Being so close to the capital, it has a reputation as a getaway point of leisure for politicians and civilians alike. Other than famous golf courses and casinos, the uniquely designed Canadian Museum of History is located here.

rushing waterfall surrounded by reddish fall foliage in Gatineau Park, Gatineau
Gatineau Park – by Marc-Olivier Jodoin

Probably the most interesting feature of the city though has to be Gatineau Park. And this isn’t just some park, I mean, it’s practically a woods wilderness on the edge of the city. It’s a massive park with lakes and rivers and has several high lookout points to take in the sweeping beauty. It’s especially pretty during the fall when the red leaves pop like in no other place in Canada.

Read more: Ottawa and Southern Ontario

Another cool feature is the Mackenzie King Estate which once belonged to a prime minister. It’s a set of buildings, bridges, and structures that look sort of like the ruins of an old civilization, yet they are still well-preserved. It’s a really cool place in Quebec with an eery yet enchanted feeling.

7. Because of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré

special religious site in southern Quebec, Basilica of Saint Anne de Beaupre
Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré Basilica – By User Jcmurphy

Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré (Sent-Ann-de-Bo-pwey) is a town not far outside Quebec City. It’s especially famous for its Basilica and major convents, being a popular pilgrimage site for people from around the world. The town is conveniently close to awesome natural sites like Mont-Sainte-Anne.

The region is stacked with forested canyons and waterfalls too, like Sainte-Anne Falls and Sept-Chutes Falls (different from the other Seven Falls mentioned before). It’s also really close to the Île d’Orléans (Il-Doh-leh-an), or Orleans Island. It was one of the first places settled by the French in modern Canada and maintains much of its rural, pastoral identity from back then. Another good reason for Quebec’s specialness. Yep.

8. Because you can explore the region

pouring wine into wine glasses near a vineyard, representing the Brome-Missisquoi wine route and southern Quebec's popular wine and vineyards
Fine wine at Brome–Missisquoi – by photo-nic.co.uk nic

Southern Quebec is known for lots of things. Being in a fertile section of Canada between two mountain ranges, wine has become one of its icons. Wineries are laced throughout, but one of the best spoken of is on the Brome–Missisquoi (Bhom-Mis-sis-kwa) wine route. There are a set of vineyards and wineries that’ll take visitors back to Quebec’s French roots, and I mean grape roots.

Read more: Brome–Missisquoi wine

Another fruit Quebec is known for are its apples, and cider tours are also worth a taste. Lastly, the region is home to several Nordic-style spas where visitors can escape the cold (or become one with it). Saunas and thermal pools are just some of what’s offered, along with a white snowy backdrop. And don’t forget to get some famous Quebec maple syrup while you’re at it!

Read more: Cider route

9. Because of the culture (+ closing)

I don’t have to keep beating it on the head, but Southern Quebec is the French capital of Canada. This is where French identity, culture, and heritage have run strongest in North America. It is home to the most French speakers outside of France and some of the best examples of colonial French architecture and culture. Many learn English, but the vast majority have some understanding of French and recognize a French background.

Even within the nation, Quebec has a unique law system, religious traditions, its own recognized celebrities, artists, and literature styles. The Quebecois are considered a “nation” within the nation, and they truly deserve that denomination. The food here has been influenced by this tradition as well as by other immigrants, and the people are just as diverse as one can imagine in Canadian cities.

Home to iconic trends in fashion, cuisine, and preservation of nature as much as its history, this part of Quebec holds a special place in the nation’s heartland. It’s not just the nucleus of French-Canadian identity, but one of the main locations where the country got started. More than being simply French Canada, southern Quebec is Canada.

Read more: other special places in Earth’s Face

**Thanks for reading! Be safe, be blessed, and take care of others. Please come again, and we’ll be chatting soon. Peace!