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Time in the air over Canada's west coast province is always a?sightseeing tour even if you're just up there to avoid traffic or icy roads. The 35-minute floatplane trip from Vancouver's waterfront to Whistler, in a single-engine de Havilland Beaver (six passenger) or Otter (14 passenger), saves you a two-hour drive and is outrageously scenic. In 2007, Harbour Air became the first airline in North America to be carbon neutral. In 2018 ?it partnered with Australian company magniX and?together they are working towards converting?a Beaver aircraft to electric. Watch this airspace. See harbourair.com
PHANTOM LAKE EXPLORER
The beauty of a floatplane is that it doesn't require infrastructure for landing or take-off. From Squamish – an hour's drive north of Vancouver – Sea to Sky Air's experienced mountain pilots fly you up into the Squamish, Whistler and BC coast mountains. The 90-minute Phantom Lake Explorer takes you to a body of water that sits at an elevation of 958 metres and is so remote it has no road or even hiking-trail access. After you've landed on the lake there's time for a picnic and a swim off an alpine beach or even off the plane's floats. For marrying types, Sea to Sky Air offers a proposal and engagement photo-shoot package. See seatoskyair.ca
Spend some time in South Chilcotin Mountains Provincial Park, in the West-Central Interior, which is one of BC's many natural playgrounds. Companies?such as Tyax Adventures offer guided and self-guided hiking, mountain biking, trail running and horse-riding, and will transport you into the park from Whistler, Vancouver or?its operations base at Tyaughton Lake. You'll travel in a de Havilland Beaver – Canada's beloved bush plane – and during the flight will have a bird's-eye view of glaciers, alpine lakes, tundra, ancient peaks, broad rivers and forest. See tyaxadventures.com
The archipelago of Haida Gwaii is a special place where you can immerse yourself in the natural environment and connect with the living culture of the Haida First Nation. If you're touring the province by road then fly from Prince Rupert, on the northwest coast of BC, to the Haida Gwaii village of Masset in a de Havilland Beaver. Flights to and from Haida Gwaii run year-round but not every day of the week. Hop between the archipelago's islands by floatplane or take a scenic flight. Gandll K'in Gwaayaay Tour, from Queen Charlotte City to Hotspring Island,?takes about 150 minutes and includes a good long soak in natural thermal pools. See inlandair.bc.ca
GREAT BEAR RAINFOREST
One of the most incredible wildlife experiences you can have in British Columbia begins with a short floatplane transfer to a remote lodge, accessible only by air or water, nestled in an enormous temperate coastal rainforest. This area is home to a healthy population of wild grizzlies. The 30-minute flight between Port Hardy on Vancouver Island and Great Bear Lodge, on the British Columbian mainland, is included in the three-night tour. Expect to strap into a Cessna, Beaver, Turbine Beaver or Grumman Goose. Great Bear Lodge is open from May to October. See greatbeartours.com
VANCOUVER TO TOFINO?
Commuting by floatplane is a way of life for many locals of Vancouver Island or the Gulf Islands and visitors can take advantage of the service. For instance, fly from Vancouver Harbour straight to the remote surf village of Tofino on Vancouver Island's west coast. This 60-minute flight shaves hours off trying to get there by car and ferry. Tofino has a great local food scene, rich First Nations culture and wild winter waves. There's easy access to the UNESCO Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Region and, from Tofino Harbour, you can take a floatplane tour to Hot Springs Cove for a therapeutic dip. See harbourair.com; atleoair.com?
Elspeth Callender was?a guest of Destination Canada. See canada.travel