It's still possible to see Vancouver, Whistler, and Victoria, even if you just have time to hit the highlights. Start with two or three days in Vancouver, seeing Stanley Park and strolling through some neighborhoods like Granville Island, Yaletown, English Bay, Kitsilano, and Gastown. Add a day to explore the mountains and parks of the North Shore (Capilano, Grouse, or Lynn Canyon) or the museums on the city's west side before heading north to Whistler. Be sure to make the trip in daylight because the Sea-to-Sky Highway, along Howe Sound and into the Coast Mountains, is too stunning to miss. After a day or two of biking, hiking, skiing, or just shopping and café sitting in Whistler, head back down the Sea-to-Sky Highway to Horseshoe Bay, where you can board a car ferry to Nanaimo. From there, a two-hour drive south takes you to Victoria, B.C.'s lovely seaside capital, where the museums, restaurants, and shopping warrant at least two or three days of browsing. A ferry from nearby Swartz Bay will have you back in Vancouver in half a day.
To get in some serious outdoors time, spend a few days in Vancouver hiking in the North Shore Mountains or kayaking in Indian Arm—then head up the Sea-to-Sky Highway, one of the world's great scenic drives, to Whistler. Here, lift-accessed hiking, mountain biking, and snowshoeing are easy ways into the backcountry. If you've ever wanted to try an outdoor sport, this is the place to do it: summer options run from golf and fishing to rafting, zip-lining, and rock climbing. And in winter, skiing is just the start. From Whistler, if you have time (it's a full day's drive each way), the Sea-to-Sky Highway continues through the mountains to link with Highway 1 to the Okanagan, where more parks, lakes, and wineries await. Otherwise, retrace your steps to Horseshoe Bay, where you can catch a ferry to Nanaimo, then make the three-hour drive across the mountains of Vancouver Island to Tofino and Ucluelet. Finish with several days of whale-watching, bear-watching, kayaking, surfing, beachcombing, and perhaps some spa time, in and around the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.
So many restaurants, so many wineries, so little time! A food-and-wine tour of British Columbia would start with a couple days of browsing Vancouver's markets and specialty shops, followed by evenings in a selection of its 3,000 or so restaurants. Then you can head to the source of the bounty you've just sampled, traveling east (at five hours, Highway 5 is the quickest) to the Okanagan Valley, where more than 125 wineries line a 200-km (120-mile) string of lakes, the largest being the picturesque Okanagan Lake. The dozen vineyards around "Canada's wine capital," Oliver, known as the Golden Mile, make a good focus if you're short on time. Another option is a visit to B.C.'s "Wine Island," better known as Vancouver Island. All around Victoria, southern Vancouver Island, and the offshore Gulf Islands are home to about a dozen wineries, as well as organic produce stands, farmers' markets, cider and cheese makers, and some of B.C.'s best country inns.