10 Reasons why British Columbia is the Ultimate Healthy Holiday
Original Article by Amy Hopkinson for UK Women's Health
If You Love the Healthy Life Then Book a Trip to British Columbia This Year
10 reasons why you should visit in 2019
If you consistently book an all inclusive travel package, or a yoga retreat for that matter, then this year, let me suggest re-examining your wanderlusting to include a DIY trip to British Columbia, Canada.
In just over a week I tripped through Canada's westernmost province and experienced wellness-centric activities at every bend in the road or city corner for that matter. It was the easiest, breeziest and most delightful week off work I've taken yet. So, if you like to return from your holidays feeling like a better version of you, keep reading.
You’ll fly into Vancouver…
…And step directly into the wellness hub of Canada. In one day we managed to: take on the ultra-fit locals in hiking the infamous Grouse Grind, head to Granville island and paddle-board the city’s creek with the guides from ecomarine, lunch at Festal paleo café, squeeze in a workout at the hyper-cool Equinox gym before crossing the road to our hotel, the Shangri-La (rooms from £203), for a massage in their Chi spa, and then finish by sampling the delicious seasonal, organic menu at Forage. Well, what do you expect from the birthplace of Lululemon?
On the subject of Lululemon, if you time your visit right you can partake in SeaWheeze, the brand's world-famous half-marathon. Over 13.1 miles you traverse the most breathtakingly beautiful route running 11 kilometres next to Pacific Ocean and through Stanely Park.
Wellness is everywhere
Despite a flurry of hotspots popping up in Manchester, Edinburgh and Birmingham – too often the wellness bubble bursts in Britain when you leave London. Not so in Canada. After leaving Vancouver for British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast you’ll be amazed at the number of trending coffee shops and vegetarian eateries pit-stopping your road trip route.
Nowhere better exemplifies this than the sleepy ferry port town of Powell River and its Rebel Heart Kitchen. Stop in for their grilled yam and cheese sandwich (see what they did there?) with mushroom pesto. You’ll also be able to refill your travel toiletries in their store – they have vats of natural beauty products you can siphon off to help combat single-use plastics.
There’s no phone signal
Once you make land on the Sunshine Coast you’re officially off the grid. Head to Egmont for a stay at the West Coast Wilderness Lodge and you’ll find yourself with absolutely zero phone signal. None. They say they have wi-fi in the hotel, but they’re exaggerating. And that’s a good thing. This is a place to truly disconnect.
Levels of the stress hormone cortisol will plummet without constant Instagram notifications, calming your anxiety, and the lack of blue light illuminating your face will help your circadian rhythm to reset and guarantee you the most restful night’s sleep you’ve had in months. Order a glass of wine and bowl of homemade chowder with crusty bread out to the terrace, grab some binoculars to look out for sea lions, and relaaaaax.
You’ll upgrade your LISS
As part of your stay at the West Coast Wilderness Lodge, take time to hike the Skookumchuk trail. It’s a beautiful route through untouched woodland to an amazing river with natural waves – if you time it right with the tides. Although it’s tempting to spend all day out on the aforementioned porch drinking wine, there are more benefits to the hike that the stunning backdrop.
LISS is an excellent way to burn calories and, when done over a long hike like this, will strip fat better than any short, sharp HIIT session. The University of Wisconsin even found that exercising outside can burn through between 3 and 7 percent more calories than indoors thanks to the uneven terrain. Trust us when we say this is the most relaxing way to close your activity ring, ever.
You’ll go one better than forest bathing
One of the flagship excursions offered by the West Coast Wilderness Lodge is the early morning kayak of Hotham Sound. One of the deepest coastal inlets (so deep that the water is nearly black) and with sheer cliffs either side, you’ll immerse yourself in the total calm of nature.
It has the same mental benefits of forest bathing, but with the added boon of sea air. Sea air is charged with healthy negative ions that accelerate your ability to absorb oxygen and balance levels of serotonin, a body chemical linked with mood and stress. Basically, you’ll gently paddle past another harbour seal feeling happy, relaxed and energised.
You’ll experience true random acts of kindness
Forget the British cold shoulder. Two instances stick out on our travels that prove Canadians really are as nice as stereotype suggests.
Firstly, after calling up the ferry company to let them know we’d left our rain coat on board, they co-ordinated a team of regular passengers to ferry it over on three separate ships to meet us at the end of the holiday, just before we left for the airport. Secondly, after a few minutes of idiotically tapping a card against a vending machine trying to buy water, an actual real-life total stranger wandered up and offered to buy it for us using their change. No catch. They just wanted to be nice.
The landscape will blow you away
Take a road trip from the Sunshine Coast across Vancouver Island and, even when you’re the passenger, look up! The scenery is worthy of a postcard or, for a modern upgrade, the background of an inspirational Instagram quote. The lakes and mountainsides are truly awe-inspiring. Which is good news for your health. A study published in the journal Emotion found that a sense of awe increases levels of cytokine interleukin-6 in your blood, which can help the body fight inflammation and therefore protect you heart.
You can watch women rules the waves
When you reach Tofino, head to the beautiful sandy beaches, which play host to a women’s surf championships in September. The waves on the west coast of Vancouver Island are both big enough and clean enough to entertain experts and beginners alike. So, get inspired by the pros, rent your wetsuit and board and you can carve out some serious health benefits.
Research shows that the sound of the sea alters wave patterns in the brain lulling you into a deeply relaxed state. Also, floating in the water on your belly board between waves diverts blood from your limbs to your heart, which helps to enrich your blood and flood your brain with oxygen for a mental boost.
There’s so much wildlife to see
In the centre of Tofino, head to Ocean Outfitters. There you can book onto whale watching excursions or, what we decided to do – bear watching. You’ll whizz round to Clayoquot Sound in a rib at low tide and then quietly cruise the water’s edge looking for hungry bears beachcombing for food. The black bears are much smaller than you’d imagine, but they're also beautiful and unfazed by adoring spectators. We followed one guy on his morning feed for 20 minutes – plenty of time to get the perfect picture!
And you can beat the crowds if you’re smart
Tofino is kind of like the Canadian Padstow. It’s beautiful, but in high season you can’t move for tourists. Unlike the British South West, however, the good weather sticks around long after the tourists have gone home. Time your trip for late September and you can soak up the sun on sandy beaches almost alone before wandering into town to sample the delicious food (Tacofino taqueria is a must.) Finish by enjoying a sundowner drink by the harbour at The Hatch waterfront pub – the ideal way to toast your perfect trip.
If you're wondering where to stay when there, well, you're not short of options - cozy cabins, bed and breakfasts and holiday homes are all within walking distance of the beach. But for accommodation as spectacular as the scenery there's only one: Wickaninnish Inn (double rooms from £206.76). This hotel has been designed to bring the breathtaking views outside inside with most rooms having sweeping panoramas - best enjoyed on your room's balcony for mediation or with a good book and a blanket.
The hotel's appreciation for the great outdoors continues in the kitchens. Nearly all of the food is local and any leftovers aren't binned but composted on-site.
Should the heavens open and you don't fancy making use of your in-room Helly Hansen rain gear then do head to the hotel gym. Although compact, there's enough kit for a decent workout.
My insider tip? Don't go home without eating at the Inn's Pointe Restaurant. The food is remarkable and again, so are the views. Together, they're the perfect combination to roundoff a week of 'wow', 'did you see that?' and 'simply yum'.