90 Fun & Interesting Facts about British Columbia, Canada

British Columbia (BC), Canada’s westernmost province, is known for its stunning natural beauty, wild spaces and Vancouver, one of the world’s most desirable cities (see more interesting facts about Vancouver here!) 

Find out what else the province is known for with these up-to-date, interesting, and fun facts about British Columbia!

General BC Facts

  • British Columbia, often abbreviated as BC, is a province on the west coast of Canada and the only province or territory that borders the Pacific ocean. It is part of the Western Canada region, along with Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.
  • Only about half of BC’s western border is on the Pacific. The other half borders a thin strip of fjords and islands known as the Alaskan Panhandle. America acquired this area is in the 1903 Alaska Territory Dispute.
  • BC’s coastline is 25,725 km (15,985 mi) in total, just over 10% of Canada’s total coastline.
  • At 944,735 km2 (364,764 mi2), BC is the 3rd largest province of Canada, after Quebec and Ontario, or 5th largest if the territories are included.
  • In terms of size, BC is in between Alaska and Texas, the two largest US states, or similar in size to Tanzania or all of Central America and the Caribbean combined.
  • British Columbia includes around 40,000 islands. The largest is Vancouver Island, which is larger than Belgium, and Graham Island (of Haida Gwaii, formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands), which is similar in size to Delaware.
A beach with logs on it on Vancouver Island
A remote beach on northern Vancouver Island
  • BC’s capital city is Victoria, which is located at the southeastern corner of Vancouver Island. It is Canada’s 12th largest city by population, with just under 400,000 people.
  • Vancouver, which is on the mainland in the southwestern corner of the province, is by far the largest city in BC and the third largest in Canada. It is the largest city in western Canada and second largest in the Pacific Northwest, after Seattle. It is often called one of the best cities in the world to live in.
  • 60% of BC’s population lives in the Lower Mainland, which includes Vancouver and the Fraser Valley. It is home to more than half of the province’s 30 most populous municipalities.
  • In terms of physical size, Abbotsford is the largest city in BC.
  • British Columbia has population of 5.3 million, the 3rd largest in Canada after Ontario and Quebec.
Skyline of downtown Vancouver with mountains in the background
Downtown Vancouver
  • BC is home to more than 200 different First Nations. Today, along with the Métis, they make up 6% of BC’s population.
  • BC is the most ethnically diverse province in Canada. Around 12% of people in BC are Chinese and 6% are Indian. BC welcomes 40,000 new immigrants per year.
  • BC’s official motto is “Splendour without diminishment” (Splendor sine occasu in Latin).
  • A popular slogan seen on the province’s license plates is Beautiful British Columbia.
  • The BC flag shows the Union Jack with a crown for King Edward and the Royal Family, and a setting sun on the bottom, as the sun sets last in BC, with blue and white lines representing mountains and water.
  • People from BC are called British Columbians.
The flag of British Columbia blowing in the wind
The BC flag
  • The name British Columbia comes from the Columbia River in southeastern BC, which was named after a ship called Columbia Rediviva, which was named after Columbia (the name given to parts of the New World), which was named after Christopher Columbus. Queen Victory chose the name British Columbia in 1840 to differentiate it from American Columbia to the south, which later became the Oregon Territory.
  • BC’s official animal is the spirit bear (or Kermode bear), which is not an albino bear but a black bear with white fur due to a rare genetic mutation. The Pacific Salmon is also an official symbol of BC.

Random Interesting Facts about British Columbia

  • BC has four national parks: Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, Yoho, and Kootenay National Parks. The first two are just west of the Rocky Mountains, while the second two are considered part of the Rocky Mountains.
A row of totem poles in Haida Gwaii, British Columbia
Totem poles in Haida Gwaii
  • Mount Revelstoke National Park contains one of the world’s only inland temperate rainforests (in other words, a cool rainforest that isn’t on the coast).
  • Glacier and Yoho National Parks were established on the same day in 1886, becoming the 2nd and 3rd national parks in Canada after Banff.
  • BC has three national park reserves (protected areas that don’t have quite the same status as national parks): Gwaii Haanas (Haida Gwaii), Pacific Rim, and Gulf Islands National Park Reserves.
  • 15.4% of BC is protected land, more than any other province.
Mount Robson peak
Mount Robson, the tallest peak in the Canadian Rockies
  • Mt. Robson Provincial Park is home to the tallest peak in the Rocky Mountains (Mt. Robson, 3954 m / 12,972 ft), while Mt. Waddington in the coastal mountains is the tallest mountain totally inside the province (4019 m / 13,186 ft). Mount Fairweather, on the border with Alaska, is even taller (4671 m / 15,325 ft).
  • Della Falls on Vancouver Island is Canada’s tallest waterfall, at 440 m (1445 ft).
  • A totem pole in Alert Bay, BC is the tallest in the world, at 50 m (163 ft).
  • The Great Bear Rainforest covers much of BC’s Pacific coast and is part of the world’s largest temperate rainforest. It covers 64,000 km2 (24,7109 mi2), similar in size to Sri Lanka or Lithuania. It is one of the world’s most wild and pristine natural areas.
  • 57% of BC is covered in forest, and it has one of the lowest rates of deforestation in the world.
A massive tree in the forest in BC
Huge tree in Cathedral Grove, Vancouver Island
  • Canada’s largest tree is the Cheewat Cedar in Pacific Rim National Park on Vancouver Island. It is 18.34 m (60.2 ft) in circumference, 55.5 m (182 ft) tall, and around 2000 years old.
  • Less than 5% of BC’s land is arable (suitable for growing crops), but sizable crops of fruits and vegetables are grown in the fertile Fraser and Okanagan valleys.
  • 75% of BC is covered in mountains above 1000 m (3300 ft), including 10 mountain ranges from the Rockies in the east to the Vancouver Mountain Ranges in the west.
  • BC is the wettest province in Canada, with an average of 1538 mm (around 5 feet) of precipitation per year.
  • The 75 km (47 mi) West Coast Trail is considered one of the world’s best hikes.
A large hot spring pool with steps on the side at Liard River in British Columbia
Liard River Hot Spring in northern BC
  • Victoria, BC is the warmest place in Canada, in terms of average annual temperature, and BC has milder weather than any other province.
  • The highest temperature ever recorded in Canada was 49.6°C (121°F) in Lytton, BC on June 29, 2021. A few days later, most of the town burned down.
  • The lowest temperature recorded in BC was −58.9°C (−74°F) in Smith River on January 31, 1947. That’s a difference of over 100 degrees Celsius (or just under 200 degrees Fahrenheit) between BC’s highest and lowest temperatures.
  • On average, BC has over 1000 wildfires per year, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage annually. 42% are caused by humans and 58% by lightning.
  • Greenpeace, the world’s most well-known environmental organization, was founded in Vancouver in 1969, in response to nuclear bomb testing in Alaska.
Rows of grapes growing with Okanagan Lake in the background
Vineyard in the Okanagan Valley
  • With around 370 wineries, BC produces 1/3rd of Canadian wine (only Ontario produces more).
  • BC has long been considered to grow some of the best cannabis/marijuana in the world (known colloquially as “BC weed”. Along with the rest of Canada, it has been legal in BC since 2018, but was widely tolerated before that.
  • There are more bears in British Columbia than any other province. BC is home to around 15,000 grizzly bears and 150,000 black bears. There are no polar bears in BC.
  • Once almost extinct, 20,000 gray whales now swim the length of BC’s coast twice per year. There are also large numbers of orcas (killer whales), humpback whales, and dolphins off the coast of BC.
  • Some endangered animals in BC include badgers, the Vancouver Island marmot, the spotted owl, and the American white pelican.
A white Spirit Bear fishing by a stream in BC
A rare spirit bear
  • BC’s economy is the 4th largest in Canada. Traditionally based on resources like forestry and mining, it now also includes tourism and the filming industry, with 60+ movies and TV series filmed in Vancouver per year.
  • BC has the highest cost of living in Canada, along with Ontario. The average cost of a house in Vancouver is over CAD $1 million.
  • The center-left BC NDP party enjoys considerable popularity in the province. The party has provided six provincial leaders, including the current John Horgan since 2017. He has been considered Canada’s most popular premier, according to polls.
  • Famous people born in BC include artist Emily Carr, former Prime Minister Kim Campbell, musician Matthew Good, actor Jason Priestley, model Pamela Anderson, and singer Nelly Furtado.
  • Bands from BC include D.O.A., Trooper, the New Pornographers, Skinny Puppy, Econoline Crush, Moist, Front Line Assembly, and 3 Inches of Blood.
A mosaic of celebrities from British Columbia
BC famous people Emily Carr, Kim Campbell, Jason Priestley, Pamela Anderson, Jim Pattison, Nelly Furtado
  • Well-known companies that started in BC include HSBC, Jim Pattison Group (which owns Save-On Foods and numerous other companies across the country), London Drugs, 1-800-Got-Junk, Panago, The Keg, Cactus Club Café, and Milestones.
  • White Spot opened Canada’s first drive-in restaurant in Vancouver in 1928, while the first McDonald’s and first Starbucks in Canada were opened in Vancouver in 1967 and 1987, respectively.
  • A study found that 40% of people in BC under the age of 35 are vegetarian or vegan, more than any other province in Canada.
  • A mythical creature similar to the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland, called on Ogopogo, is thought to live in Okanagan Lake.

Facts about BC History

  • Indigenous people walked across the Beringia from Siberia to North America 20,000 to 12,000 years ago. Some of them traveled south through an ice corridor, while others travelled south along the coast of BC. Many of the oldest archaeological sites are underwater.
  • By around 5000 years ago, indigenous people were living in permanent settlements and doing agriculture in BC.
Petroglyphs viewed from above in BC
Ancient indigenous art in Petroglyph Provincial Park, BC
  • Prior to European contact, there were 60-100,000 native people in BC.
  • The first European to see BC was most likely Juan de Fuca, a Greek sailing for Spain, who sailed through the strait between Washington and Vancouver in the 1590s. The strait now bears his name.
  • In 1700, Canada’s most recent volcanic eruption happened at Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed in BC’s coastal mountains, killing an estimated 2000 people.
  • In 1775, Spanish explorers sailed the BC coast and claimed the area for Spain.
  • In 1778, British James Cook bought sea otter pelts in Vancouver Island, later selling them for a huge markup in Macau, sparking interest in BC.
Aerial view of the Fraser Valley in Lower Mainland BC
The Fraser Valley is named after explorer Simon Fraser
  • In the Nootka Conventions of the 1790s, the land north of Juan de Fuca Strait was official acquired by Britain.
  • In the late 1700s and early 1800s, explorers working for the Northwest Company began arriving in BC from the eastern side of Canada. These included Sir Alexander Mackenzie, Simon Fraser, and David Thompson. Today many places in BC and other parts of Canada are named after them.
  • After the Northwest Company and Hudson’s Bay Company merged in 1821, Fort Vancouver was built as a trading post in 1824. HBC essentially ran the province, which it called New Caledonia, and established its capital at Fort St. James.
  • Fort Victoria was built on Vancouver Island in 1843, with the British laying claim to the island and the smaller Gulf Islands.
  • In 1858, gold was found in the Thompson River east of Lytton, triggering a gold rush. Fort Langley grew rapidly as a staging point for traveling up to the Fraser River to the Thompson.
Historic Fort Langley in Greater Vancouver
Fort Langley
  • News of the gold rush prompted officials in London, England to officially declare the region the Colony of British Columbia in 1858, with New Westminster (in modern metropolitan Vancouver) as its capital. Officials sent over were told to “found a second England on the shores of the Pacific”.   
  • In the 1846 Treaty of Washington, the border between BC and America was established on the 49th parallel.
  • In the 1850s and 60s, more gold rushes centered on Cariboo led to the building of numerous roads and more infrastructure. These rushes crashed, leading to massive debt.
  • In 1862, a smallpox epidemic, brought by Europeans, spread and killed 2/3rd of BC’s indigenous population.
  • In 1866, Vancouver Island was united with the mainland, with Victoria becoming the colony’s capital.
BC legislature building with lights on it at night
The Parliament building in Victoria was built in 1898.
  • In 1867, America purchased Alaska, with the possibility of BC becoming part of America, too.
  • After Canada’s Confederation in 1867, BC joined as the 6th province of Canada in 1871.
  • From 1885 to 1951, the Potlach and other indigenous customs were banned in BC.
  • In 1885, a railway connecting BC to eastern Canada was completed. The next year, the first trans-continental train reached Vancouver.
  • Until 1928, there was no road from BC to the east, so cars had to travel south into the US to make the journey.
A railway bridge surrounded by forests and mountains in BC
An old railway line in central BC
  • In WWII, over 20,000 Japanese-Canadian citizens were interred in BC.
  • In 1986, the World Fair, or Expo 86, was hosted by Vancouver.
  • In 1986, the Coquihalla Highway was opened, cutting driving time from the BC interior to Vancouver down by 1.5 hours.
  • In 1993, thousands of environmentalists protested against logging in Vancouver Island’s Clayoquot Sound. It was the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history until similar protests at Fairy Creek in 2021.
  • BC hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler.
An inukshuk on top of a snowy mountain in Whistler, BC
Inukshuk built for the winter Olympics in Whistler
  • In 2002, Port Coquitlam pig farmer Robert Pickton was arrested and confessed to killing 49 people, one of the worst in Canadian history.
  • In 2019, construction started on the Coastal GasLink Pipeline, which would disrupt old growth forests and indigenous communities and present risks for oil spills on the coast. Blockades were made by the Wetʼsuwetʼen people, gaining national attention, and continue to this day.
  • In 2021, the issue of child gravesites at Canadian Indian Residential Schools regained national attention after the remains of 215 children were found at a school Kamloops.