There’s nothing like the sweet smell of cool, crisp air in the morning and the crunch of fallen leaves underfoot to signal autumn’s arrival in BC, and with it, all the possibilities for fall adventures.
We tend to think of summer as the ideal time to hit the road and savour all that our province has to offer. But when you consider fall’s bounty: from colourful foliage to fruit and veggie harvests and all the celebrations that go along with them, there may not be a more perfect season to be a tourist in your own province. This year, of course, things are a little different when it comes to local travel. But as long as you follow the pandemic travel safety protocols put in place by the BC Centre for Disease Control, your fall road trip can be as adventurous — and as memorable — as you make it!
We took some time earlier this month to connect with local Vancouver blogger and seasoned traveller Yvonna Chow to learn about her experience travelling through the province this past summer. Below she shares travel advice plus some of her favourite autumn destinations in BC.
Plan Ahead: Tips from a Seasoned Traveller and BCAA
Regardless how far afield your travels take you, being prepared will ensure you’re ready for whatever comes your way. Planning in advance also helps to keep you, your family and our BC communities safe. Here are a few top tips from Yvonna and BCAA for a successful fall road trip.
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- Do your research: Make a list of places you’ll be visiting and check their websites or call in advance to find out about their hours and COVID-19 protocols.
- Don’t get caught off-guard. Sure, it may feel a bit early, but it’s best to expect the unexpected when travelling in BC from October onwards. Winter conditions can hit at any time. Here are some early bird winter driving tips to help you outsmart the weather.
- Check your route and be sure to get your winter tires on if needed. Most BC highway routes require winter tires after October 1. Beat the 'first snowfall’ rush by scheduling your appointment in October. Bonus: BCAA’s Auto Service Centres include a 42-point inspection with a winter tire mount and balance. This provides you with a status check on various safety aspects of your vehicle so you can feel confident when you hit the road.
- Commit to social distancing: Whether that means travelling in a small group, spending more time outside or consciously avoiding crowded spaces, do what you can to ensure you’re doing your part wherever you are.
- Be kind, calm and safe: Okay, so we borrowed this one from Dr. Bonnie Henry. But it’s a good one, and now more than ever is the time to lead with kindness and compassion, and to recognize that things are different across the province. As you travel, you may find you’ll need to wait longer or move to a Plan B, so be prepared for those possibilities.
- Be prepared in case of an emergency. Bring an extra set of car keys, water, snacks and your phone charger in case your car breaks down. Have an up-to-date emergency kit in your trunk, including a first aid kit, warm clothing and blankets, a flashlight, windshield fluid, pylons, a high visibility vest and a fully charged portable battery charger.
For more detailed info, our partners at Destination BC have put together a comprehensive list of things to know before you go.
How to identify winter tires: both the all-season Mud and Snow (M+S) tires and the mountain/snowflake tires meet the requirements for winter tire designation in B.C.
Photo credit: Yvonna Chow
Where to Go: BC Destinations for Fabulous Fall Road Trips
For Vancouver blogger and seasoned traveller Yvonna Chow, fall offers opportunities you simply don’t get in the summer: shorter lines for ferries and smaller crowds at popular tourist destinations — not to mention some pretty gorgeous photo ops. And in times like these, road trips are also an excellent opportunity to support smaller tourism businesses that need our patronage now more than ever. You just have to be prepared, Yvonna says. “You’re going to have to put extra measures in place to protect yourself and others. But,” she adds, “it’s important to enjoy life; you just have to approach travel a little bit differently right now to get the most out of it.”
This past summer, Yvonna, along with her husband, photographer Andy Lee, mother-in-law, and their two-year-old daughter, embarked on a West Coast adventure covering Nanaimo to Parksville, and over to Powell River and the Sunshine Coast. Yvonna has also travelled extensively throughout the province and is well versed in safe, family-friendly travel. So, we asked her to share some of her favourite fall destinations in BC. If you’re planning a fall or winter road trip this year, check out these ideas.
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Photo credit: Yvonna Chow
“If you have a young family, Parksville is the place to go,” Yvonna says. “Every year I discover something new there.” Yvonna’s recommendations include checking out Coombs, especially the goats on the roof at the Old Country Market, and hiking to the caves at Horne Lake. If you’re an animal lover, head inland a little ways and pay a visit to Tiger Lily Farm for barnyard explorations and trail rides, and to the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre, where you can meet resident eagles, owls and ravens and support their rehabilitation. They also have “a new little mini garden that’s really cute and an amazing lake with a lot of turtles,” Yvonna says.
Make reservations in advance. Many attractions and businesses are limiting visitors or running on reduced hours, so be sure to make a reservation if required. When in doubt, call ahead to see if you’ll need one.
This fall, spending time outside is more important than ever, and Yvonna recommends the Sunshine Coast for its outdoor adventure potential. Her favourite activities include hiking to the rapids through Skookumchuk National Park. Afterward, she recommends heading to Ruby Lake Resort in Madeira Park for a meal at La Trattoria Italiana restaurant. “It’s so pretty,” she says. “They have an amazing walkway out to the lake, which is very dreamy. Go and take a picture there at sunset.” Then head inside for a scrumptious meal made with their locally grown vegetables. And, Yvonna says “try the wild boar. It actually tastes like sirloin!”
Harrison Hot Springs/Harrison Mills
Fall is an opportune time for bird watchers, and the Harrison Hotsprings/Harrison Mills area offers some exciting chances to spot the most majestic feathered friends. “Harrison is full of eagles,” Yvonna says. “I’ve never seen so many eagles in my life!” She recommends Harrison Eco Tours in Harrison Mills to learn more about eagles and their habitat. And if you’re intending to stay awhile, book a cabin at Rowena’s Inn for a rustic fall stay overlooking the Sandpiper Golf Course and the Harrison River. Or, if lakefront views are more your style, Yvonna recommends a stay at The Lodge on Harrison Lake where you’ll wake up to 180-degree views of the water. “We had a bonfire on their private beach and it was so nice!” she says.
Don’t forget your pandemic essentials. Pack enough masks for one per person per day, and if your masks are reusable, bring some laundry detergent so that you can wash them on the go. Don’t forget to bring plenty of hand sanitizer and wet wipes if you have small children so you can wipe down surfaces, objects and little hands.
Sometimes urban staycations can be the best vacations, and that’s definitely the case with the City of Richmond. Yvonna recommends starting in Steveston for a taste of the past at the Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site. “It’s a great place to learn about the history of the Georgia Straight. And it’s also a great spot for fall pictures,” she says. Then head to the Lulu Island Winery, one of the biggest local wineries in BC for a family-friendly winery tour and tasting. And don’t forget to sample the wide variety of Asian cuisine Richmond is known for.
A trip to Langley gives you the best of both urban and rural, thanks to its proximity to city amenities like shopping and dining, and countryside agriculture businesses like farms and wineries. Yvonna has a few favourite stops on her list in the latter category, including Kensington Prairie Farm, a working alpaca farm offering educational tours and a variety of locally made products for sale. “The proceeds from the tours go to helping children in Peru,” Yvonna says. If you’re looking for a more upscale tourist option, stop in at the Chaberton Estate winery, the Fraser Valley’s oldest winery with a decidedly French spin. Its Bacchus Bistro with al fresco dining serves authentic French cuisine overlooking the vineyard. “It reminds me of a Kelowna winery restaurant,” Yvonna says. Or, for a more casual dining experience, check out The Hilltop Diner. “It’s very retro and cool and the food is really good.”
Need a vehicle for a day trip? Consider booking Evo Car Share for use around the Metro Vancouver area or out to the Fraser Valley. Evos are equipped with all-season tires and meet BC winter tire requirements with the Mud + Snow symbol.
Looking for more ideas? Check out the full collection of getaways at HelloBC.com. And remember, no matter what comes your way, BCAA is only a click or call away to help keep you moving. Not a Member yet? Become a Member today at bcaa.com, starting at less than $8 per month.
Happy fall road trippin’!
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