There is no shortage of charming towns to explore across British Columbia. Canada’s westernmost province enjoys wild landscapes of mountains, lakes, forests, fjords, glaciers, and a spectacular coastline. Within all that grandeur are some charming little towns throughout the province that are all worth a visit.
Every town offers unique activities, history, culture, and natural beauty, from the culturally rich Nelson, set in the Selkirk Mountains, to the historic charm of Fernie, nestled in the Canadian Rockies. Thanks to their picturesque vistas and warm vibes, these small towns in British Columbia are ready for travelers to immerse themselves in a blend of scenic wonders and local hospitality. Here are our favorite small towns in British Columbia.
Best Small Towns in British Columbia
Nestled in southeastern BC along the Columbia River, Revelstoke is easily one of the best small towns in BC, positioned between the Selkirk Mountains and Glacier National Park. A great stop between Banff and Vancouver, many travelers include Revelstoke in their Western Canada road trip itinerary, especially if it’s winter and they are trying to hit all the ski resorts on the Powder Highway.
Established in the 1880s during the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) construction, Revelstoke initially thrived on mining, a history still evident today in the town’s atmosphere. Despite its mining and railway origins, Revelstoke has become one of our favorite BC destinations.
It’s a great spot to hit up in the summer if you love mountain biking and playing around in the mountains, but its real charm is during the winter months. Why? Revelstoke is renowned in North America for its incredible powder. Unlike busier mountain towns like Banff and Whistler, Revelstoke
It has become a playground for dedicated snow enthusiasts, heli-ski operations, and professional ski film directors. With its abundance of snow and challenging backcountry routes, Revelstoke Mountain Resort and the backcountry terrain around it stands as a legendary destination for skiers and snowboarders. If you’ve watched any ski documentaries recently, chances are you’ve witnessed the awe-inspiring shots captured in Revelstoke.
Radium Hot Springs
Situated conveniently, Radium serves as an ideal day trip destination for those venturing from Golden, Banff, or even Calgary. The town derives its name from the nearby hot springs in the Kootenays, one of the best hot springs in BC, and easily what draws most visitors to the town.
Radium serves as a perfect launchpad for skiing adventures at Panorama or leisurely boat rides on Windermere Lake.
Golden is a burgeoning town that serves as a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. With fewer than 4000 residents, Golden is an ideal destination for travelers seeking to delve into the vast expanse of the Canadian wilderness.
Nestled around the confluence of the Columbia and Kicking Horse rivers, Golden is enveloped by the Purcell and Rocky Mountains, with plenty of things to do like the new Golden Skybridge. Approximately three hours away from the major city of Calgary, it is strategically positioned near five national parks – Yoho, Banff, Jasper, Glacier, and Kootenay National Park. We often recommend Golden as a great extension for anyone visiting Banff, as it’s another mountain town to see, but with far fewer visitors.
It’s location along Highway 1 (the Trans-Canada Highway), like Revelstoke, Golden proves to be a convenient stop on Western Canada road trips, particularly for those connecting Vancouver to Calgary. Its proximity to Yoho National Park makes it a popular destination for summer tourists, who want to escape the crowds of Banff and get closer to the Icefields Parkway, Wapta Falls, and Emerald Lake.
If you’re into skiing gnarly terrain, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort proves to be a place that expert skiers and boarders can’t get enough of!
Invermere is a mere 14 kilometers from Radium Hot Springs and is renowned as a gateway for exploring Windermere Lake, which a favored ice skating spot during the winter months and a popular boating spot in the summer.
Invermere has small town charm and is the closest town to Panorama Mountain Resort, which is one of the best full service family ski resorts in Canada. With a population of just 4000 people it’s easy to blend in with the locals here. Make sure to grab a coffee at Kicking Horse Brewers when visiting!
The small hamlet of Field is the only town located in Yoho National Park, just a 15 minute drive away from Emerald Lake, Tak Falls, and . A small community of fewer than 200 people live here, which makes it the smallest of these small towns in BC. There’s not a ton to do in Field, but it’s well worth a stop and walk around if you want to take in the epic views. During the summer, you will find a few restaurants, cafes, and artisan shops.
There are some cute historic heritage homes here and even a few accommodation options should you want to base yourself close to Emerald Lake, Takakkaw Falls, get closer to Lake O Hara, have plans to hike the Iceline Trail, or stay at the Stanley Mitchell Hut. Make sure to stop at Truffle Pigs before you head out for an amazing meal!
If the great outdoors is calling your name, that call may very well be coming from the small village of Valemount. This village of 1000 people is known for being one of the top outdoor adventure destinations in the province, but its most famous attraction is Mount Robson nearby, which is the tallest peak in the Canadian Rockies.
Fishing, mountain biking and white-river rafting are also popular activities and as you explore the area, you’ll enjoy views of snow-capped peaks, lakes, rivers and valleys.
Valemount is also under 1.5 hours to Jasper National Park, which makes it a popular base for exploring the area, especially because accommodation in Jasper can get ridiculously expensive during the summer months.
Nestled in the breathtaking Coast Mountain Range, the internationally well-known resort town of Whistler has a remarkable influence on the mountain sports community. Renowned as a premier global destination for skiing, snowboarding, and mountain biking, Whistler is home to numerous professional athletes. However, the appeal extends beyond the elite, welcoming enthusiasts of all levels to partake in the offerings of this vibrant resort community.
Undoubtedly, Whistler stands out as one of the most full-package resort towns in North America, boasting a diverse array of activities. From bobsledding to zip-lining to serene cross-country skiing, indulgent spas, and a plethora of dining options – the town caters to every taste and preference year round.
Having developed a deep affection for Whistler, we decided to spend six months living there to fully acquaint ourselves with the town, unravel its scenic environs, and of course enjoy the beautiful powdery snow and gnarly terrain.
This picturesque town was once known for having the world’s largest lead-zinc mine, the Sullivan mine, which was discovered in 1892 and finally closed in 2001.
Even though the mine is no longer operational, Kimberley is still one of the most popular small towns in the southeastern region of BC, known for its incredible natural beauty, mountainous landscapes, lakes, and ski resorts.
Kimberley also hosts the legendary JulyFest hometown festival, which is a blend of sports, music, and wholesome food wrapped up into a fun weekend – enjoyed by visitors and the town’s 7,000 or so inhabitants!
What we love most about Kimberley is the small, family-friendly ski resort that is perfect for all riding levels and even has night skiing!
This beautiful lakeside town nestles between two BC lakes in the picturesque Okanagan Valley. With a population of approx. 34,000 residents, this is one of the bigger small towns on this list but still offers plenty of that small-town feel and charm with its beautiful vineyards, orchards, and tightly-knit community.
There are plenty of lakeside recreational activities to partake in during summer, and in winter, this place is a popular destination for skiers and snowmobilers. The town is also home to the SS Sicamous Museum and Heritage Park, which features Canada’s largest surviving steam sternwheeler!
Rossland is a very small town situated deep in the volcanic valley of the Kootenay Rockies and Monashee Mountains is a haven for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
With endless acres of wild forests, and a population of around about 3,700 residents this quaint woodland town is renowned for its numerous hiking and mountain biking trails in the summer and winter recreational activities such as skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and much more. Red Mountain Resort is one of the best places to head when there is fresh snow. It’s an old school ski resort with big terrain.
The town also features plenty of festivals that celebrate the town’s history and natural surroundings, such as the Rossland Golden City Days and the Rossland Winter Carnival.
Harrison Hot Springs
Enjoy an Icelandic hot spring experience in the heart of the Fraser Valley region of BC at the small town of Harrison Hot Springs. Situated on the southern end of Harrison Lake, the small BC town is renowned for its mineral-rich natural hot springs and the famous Harrison Hot Springs Resort.
With a population of just 1,500 residents, this tiny resort community is a popular tourist destination that promises relaxing spa treatments and soaks in hot mineral pools coupled with adventurous outdoor activities such as horse riding, fishing, hunting, and boating.
There is even a sandy beach area by the lake, as well as a children’s playground and numerous water activities to partake in.
Welcome to the “Country Music Capital of Canada”! Situated in the Nicola Valley region of BC, this river-side town has a population of approx. 7,100 residents. Apart from the country music the town is a natural haven with two rivers flowing through it, numerous nearby lakes, city parks, and mostly sunny weather with very little rainfall; making it a popular year-round destination.
Meritt is also home to the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame and the Nicola Valley Aquatic Centre and Memorial Arena offering visitors plenty to do. The annual Pacific Forest Rally is also held here and there are often live music events going on at the Spirit Square.
Those seeking natural beauty in a serene off-the-beaten-path setting will simply love Tofino. This small town located on the west coast of Vancouver Island has about 2,000 residents and is most known for its sandy beaches, surfing, and wild natural scenery as it lies amidst ancient rainforests and lakes.
Home to the Pacific Rim National Park and the UNESCO Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Region, Tofino is a must-visit town for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts. The town also hosts plenty of fun festivals throughout the year including the popular Pacific Rim Whale Festival and the Tofino Food & Wine Festival, to name a couple.
This harbour town is situated on the east coast of Vancouver Island, on the 49th Parallel, and is one of BC’s most historic towns; rich in heritage and culture.
Formerly known as Oyster Harbour, the town has a thriving community of approximately 8,500 residents and its natural sheltered harbour is a picturesque spot to visit for its scenic views and numerous festivals and events that take place throughout the year.
The most popular of these are the Festival of Lights and the Heritage Boat Festival, which bring in visitors from far and wide.
This harbor town is situated on the outer west coast of Vancouver Island, some 40 km from the town of Tofino. Referred to as Ukee or You-key by locals, the town is known for its spectacular rugged natural beauty, secluded beaches, rocky coastline, and the temperate rainforest of the nearby Pacific Rim National Park.
The town’s closely-knit community of 2,000 or so residents, is welcoming and friendly towards visitors, encouraging them to explore and enjoy the surrounding natural beauty.
The town also hosts the Pacific Rim Whale Festival with Tofino, which celebrates the largest grey whale migration in the world with over 20,000 whales taking over the coastline; making for quite the spectacle!
Nanaimo is more a city than a small town with a population of about 100,000 residents. Located on the east coast of Vancouver Island, and referred to as “The Harbour City”, this urban metropolis is renowned for being one of Vancouver Island’s most historic port cities with plenty of attractions and things to do for visitors and locals alike.
Nanaimo also hosts the popular and highly entertaining Marine Festival, which includes the “bathtub weekend”, an event where locals and visitors alike partake in a race which involves the use of a motor-powered bathtub to propel them from Nanaimo Harbour to Departure Bay. It is a race unlike any other and loads of fun for both participants and spectators.
Squamish is in many ways a slice of heaven situated just north of Vancouver. Surrounded by the ocean, mountains, waterfalls, scenic lakes, and parks this town with a population of around 20,000 residents is considered by many to be the “Outdoor Recreational Capital of Canada,” offering plenty to do for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.
The town’s Sea to Sky Gondola is one of its top attractions that offers views of one fo the best waterfalls in BC, the cascading Shannon Falls and the imposing Stawamus Chief granite monolith. The Squamish Harvest Moon Festival is also a hugely popular music festival which takes place in September, drawing in large crowds and headlining some of Canada’s most famous artists.
Looking for an island hideaway just a short distance from the bustling city of Vancouver? Bowen Island is where you should head! This tiny island, which is only about 6 km wide and 12 km long, has a population of around 3,800 residents.
However, don’t let its size fool you. Bowen Island offers plenty to do with many hiking and biking trails, watersport activities, and even golf and fishing to partake in making it the ideal day-trip destination from Vancouver.
You will also find museums, art galleries, boutique shops, and quaint restaurants and cafes dotted across the island making it the ideal spot to relax, shop, and dine.
The month-long Bowen Food Fest is perhaps the best time to visit for foodies as this festival is all about celebrating the island’s local dishes and flavors.
Imagine a town that lies at a point where the rainforest meets the sea in perfect harmony. What you are picturing is Sooke!
Home to several wilderness parks and one of the world’s most pristine beaches, Sooke is a nature lovers’ dream destination. Here, you can enjoy plenty of outdoor recreational activities as well as bumping festivals such as the Sooke Music Festival that takes place every September.
With a population of around 15,000 residents, this small town has much to offer for locals and visitors.
Lumby is a small logging and agriculture town, with a population of just 2,000 or so residents, situated near the Monashee Mountains on the northern edge of Okanagan. It is just a 45-minute drive from Kelowna International Airport.
Recently, the town has become one of the top paragliding and hang-gliding destinations in Canada as it offers several natural launch sites, ideal wind conditions, and large open fields for safe landings. If you have a love for aerial adventures, Lumby is a must-visit!
Silverton is BC’s second smallest town with a population of just 195 residents and is situated on the east shore of Slocan Lake in the heart of Slocan Valley. Once a mining town, today this quaint village is home to several parks and campgrounds that offer a serene escape from city life.
The Silverton Gallery and the Historical Interpretive Centre pay homage to the town’s mining history but the real charm of this place lies in its natural beauty and abundance of hiking trails and lakeside adventures.
Founded during the Gold Rush of 1896, Salmo is a small village situated in the West Kootenay region of southeastern BC. This predominantly tourist town has a population of about 1,100 residents and offers a variety of recreational activities for visitors to enjoy.
It has an amazing campground, a 9-hole golf course, a BMX track, and several hiking trails to explore as it is part of the Great Northern Rail Trail. The town also hosts the Shambhala Music Festival, held every August on a cattle ranch, which lasts 3 days and 2 nights. It is considered one of Canada’s longest-running electronic music events bringing in people from all over Canada.
Did you know that the entire province of BC was built around Billy Barker’s legendary gold strike on Williams Creek? The historic town of Barkerville is a living testament to this extraordinary fact and is considered a world heritage site that celebrates BC’s golden beginnings.
Barkerville is one of the best places to visit in BC and is strictly a preserved gold-rush town that takes visitors back to the time of the Cariboo Gold Rush with its museums, heritage buildings, period displays, and old western charm. It was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1924 and is an incredible place to visit, especially during summer.
Welcome to Prince Rupert, the gateway to the incredible Great Bear Rainforest and the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary.
While Prince Rupert is largely known for its numerous natural attractions and stunning wildlife it also has a charming harbourfront with museums and historic sites that pay tribute to this region’s rich history and culture.
With a population of approximately 14,000 residents, this port city is located on BC’s northwest coast right by the Skeena River, which is also a great spot for fishing, kayaking, and other recreational activities.
This lakefront town is known for its beautiful wineries and natural beauty. It is situated at the southernmost point of the stunning Okanagan Valley region of BC and has a population of just 5,000 residents.
Surrounded by desert, mountains, beaches, and vineyards it is a year-round destination for outdoor enthusiasts wanting to explore BC’s wild and rugged landscape. The town also hosts the South Okanagan Fire & Ice Festival, along with plenty of other events that celebrate the area’s rich history, culture, and culinary delights.
Located in the remote central coast region of BC, Bella Coola is both the name of the valley and the small town that lies within it. With a population of just 2,000 or so residents, this picturesque town is renowned for its natural beauty, wide range of recreational activities, and unique Nuxalk culture and Norwegian heritage.
The Bella Coola Valley Music Festival, which takes place in July, also brings in visitors from far and wide to celebrate this region’s unique blend of folk, blues, and rock music.
Greenwood is Canada’s smallest incorporated city with a population of around 700 residents and offers an old-school charm that instantly makes you fall in love with the place.
Once a thriving mining town, today, its sixty or so heritage buildings offer that nostalgic feel of early Canadian charm steeped in history and heritage.
The town also has numerous lakes, rivers, and parks for visitors to explore and also hosts several events throughout the year that range from picnic BBQs to city-wide garage sales!
Nestled alongside the picturesque Elk River, Fernie stands out as one of the best small towns in British Columbia that captivates both Albertans and British Columbians. It’s popular year round as an outdoor mountain haven.
However winter is what it’s really known for as the powder transforms Fernie into a haven for snow enthusiasts. The old school ski resort boasts pristine and abundant powder and challenging freeride terrain, making it a paradise for avid skiers. In contrast, the summer months provide a different charm, inviting visitors to unwind by the numerous lakes or embark on hikes and mountain biking amidst ancient black cottonwood trees.
Looking for more? See our favorite small towns in Alberta!
Plan Your Trip to the Canadian Rockies
- Hiking in the Rockies: Purchase an AllTrails subscription to have a mobile map on you as you hike.
- Tours (New in 2024): The Banff Blog is partnering with one of the leading tour companies in Western Canada so readers can experience the magic of the Rockies with other travelers – without having to think about a thing. See all our 2024 tour offerings here!
- Hotels in the Rockies: There are many places to stay, from luxury hotels to wilderness cabins. See all our favorites here.
- Get to Banff or Canmore Without a Car: The Banff Airporter provides fantastic service that will connect you right from YYC to the town of Banff or Canmore.
- Get Around: We suggest renting a car to get around. You can search for rental cars on Rentalcars.com. Or embark on an epic campervan trip. We like to compare prices on Motorhome Republic and Outdoorsy.
- Fly For Free: Turn your spending into airline miles and points with travel credit cards (that’s what we do!). See our favorite travel credit cards. We also use Going to watch for cheap airfare deals!
- Hop On, Hop Off: This tour is taking Banff by storm. It’s exactly what it sounds like, hop on and off a bus bound for all the best attractions at your own pace!
- Travel Insurance: We don’t recommend traveling without travel insurance. We recommend checking out HeyMondo, which offers competitive rates for all travelers.