If you’re planning a summer vacation this year, you might want to consider a British Columbia staycation.
It’s about taking in the sights of your own province and appreciating what it has to offer.
B.C. has some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, and one of the best ways to create your own tailored route plan, is to visit a tourist information centre. Along with travel guides and maps, most centres have staff members who have a wealth of information to share and can help you plan your made-in-B.C. adventure.
The South Cariboo Visitor Centre (SCVC) is fortunate to have visitor information counsellor Silvia Hanschke with them for the current tourist season. It will be the second term for the friendly geology student who studies at Thompson Rivers University. Hanschke, who graduated from Peter Skene Ogden Secondary School in 2009, not only knows a lot about the South Cariboo, but she’s also very familiar with the rest of the province of B.C.
A lot of that knowledge came from the mandatory training program that comes with the job.
New recruits all spend a couple of weeks getting to know their area through familiarization tours where they visit different tourist accommodations and sites. That way, they can tell people first-hand what these places have to offer.
Counsellors also spend time in the classroom and must pass a test to be certified.
When the tourist season kicks into full gear in June, the centre may see up to five counsellors on the floor on busy days. One day last year, they saw 400 people come through the door and between January and May 2011, they have welcomed 2,000 people.
In addition to Hanschke, the SCVC hopes to have three additional students on staff this season to deal with the load.
When you’re planning your own holiday, whether you want to camp, use a hotel, or a little of both, people at the SCVC can help.
Hanschke recommends considering any of several circle tours that have been mapped out and featured in a free publication available at the centre.
A favourite, she says, is the Discovery Coast Circle Tour. It takes approximately seven to nine days and includes 1,400 kilometres of driving and 16 hours of sailing.
The tour takes you to Bella Coola, where you board a ferry for a 15-hour cruise through the beautiful Discovery Coast Passage. The boat docks in Port Hardy where you then drive along the coast of Vancouver Island to Nanaimo, and enjoy a ferry ride back to the mainland. From Horseshoe Bay, it’s a beautiful drive along the Sea to Sky Highway, through Whistler and along the scenic Duffey Lake Road to just north of Cache Creek.
The Northern B.C. Circle Tour, which takes in part of the Alaska Highway, is another great option. Head towards Prince George and on to Dawson Creek where the Alaska Highway begins. Go west to Watson Lake and then south along the stunning Stewart-Cassiar Highway to where it turns into the Yellowhead Highway 16. From there, it’s a scenic drive through Smithers, Vanderhoof, Prince George and home.
For a weekend trip, Hanschke suggests either camping or checking out the less rustic accommodations in Wells Gray Park. Abundant waterfalls, hiking trails, crystal clear lakes to paddle or fish define this majestic park.
Another short trip that should be done in an SUV or truck, is one that takes you along Highway 97 to Quesnel and then to Barkerville. The return trip is made on the Matthew Valley back road which goes through Likely.
Whatever you’re looking for in a holiday, B.C. has it all, says Hanschke. The most important thing is to take your time and enjoy everything along the way.