British Columbia vs Alberta - Dundurn
Jun 28, 2024

British Columbia vs Alberta

When I tell people I write Bucket List travel books, I’m often asked what’s at the top of the list. Despite “list” in the title, readers of my books know I mostly write first-person essays or short stories, covering a wild variety of experiences that are purposely unranked. The top of anything depends on who you are, and where your interests lie. Since my Top 3 might well be your Bottom 3, I usually reply: “it depends on your interest.” With that information, it’s easier to recommend my favourite destinations for scenery, food, history, culture or adventure, with the caveat that these destinations and activities appealed to me personally. I love a good adventure; you might prefer your comforts. The same holds true when I’m asked about my favourite province, or how one province stacks up against another.

If you’re into snow-capped mountains, gem-coloured lakes, lush rainforest and rolling hills, it’s safe to say that British Columbia and Alberta possess the crown jewels of Canada’s natural beauty. Few can argue against the mighty Canadian Rockies, accessed through the townsites of Banff and Jasper. Further west, the 1600-kilmetre long strip of Coast Mountains commands its own respect, aided by the fact that nobody gets an ocean view from the Rockies. Culturally, the two provinces are distinct: Vancouver’s relaxed lifestyle contrasts with Calgary’s ambitious big-thinking. Both are thriving cities admired around the world. Vancouver easily wins any weather match-up, but Calgary is a lot more affordable (for now). Both provinces have resource economies, are massive in scale, and blessed with dozens of unique experiences that belong on anyone’s Global Bucket List, never mind their Canadian one.

My personal highlights in BC? Haida Gwaii, cycling in the Okanagan, jetboating along the Skeena, road tripping to old growth forests on Vancouver Island, houseboating on Shuswap Lake. In Alberta: backcountry horse-riding in Banff National Park, RV’ing the Icefields Parkway, cross-country skiing to Skoki Lodge, and exploring quirks in the prairies, like Vulcan and medieval glamping.

The thing about Bucket Lists is that if you tick three things off the top, six more items will instantly appear at the bottom. This summer I’ll be visiting Waterton National Park for the first time, and next summer I’ll be kayaking the Johnstone Strait in northern British Columbia (you can join me on that one, courtesy Canadian Geographic and karibu Adventures).

Nobody needs an excuse to explore the dynamic and stunningly beautiful provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. I wrote The Great Western Canada Bucket List to give them one anyway. 

Robin Esrock is a bestselling author, journalist, TV host, and public speaker. He is the author of the smash bestselling book series, The Great Canadian Bucket List, as well as international bestsellers The Great Global Bucket ListThe Great Australian Bucket List, and 75 Places to Take the Kids (before they don't want to go). His stories and photography have appeared in major publications on five continents, including National Geographic Traveler, the GuardianChicago Tribune, and the Globe and Mail. The creator and co-host of the internationally syndicated television series Word Travels, Robin lives in Vancouver, B.C. Learn more here.