British Columbia’s rugged coastline stretches for more than 27,000 kilometres (17,000 miles), and includes deep, mountainous fjords and more than 40,000 islands of various sizes, most of which are uninhabited. The Coast Mountains and many inlets in the Inside Passage provide British Columbia’s renowned spectacular scenery and endless outdoor and ecotourism opportunities.
On the West Coast, rainfall dominates in winter because of cyclonic low-pressure systems from the North Pacific. On occasion heavy snowfalls and below freezing temperatures arrive when arctic air reaches coastal areas. The freezing temperatures and snowfall typically last for short periods. Coastal areas are generally milder and dry during summer although hot weather sometimes moves towards the West Coast.
BC Ferries was established as a provincial crown corporation in 1960 to provide passenger and vehicle ferry service between Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland. It operates 25 routes among the islands of British Columbia, as well as between the islands and mainland.
Commercial ocean transport is of vital importance. Major ports are located at Vancouver, Roberts Bank (near Tsawwassen), Prince Rupert and Victoria. The Port of Vancouver is the most important, being the largest in Canada and the most diversified in North America. Vancouver, Victoria and Prince Rupert are also major ports of call for cruise ships. In 2007, a large maritime container port was opened in Prince Rupert with an inland sorting port located in Prince George.
The West Coast has long been enjoyed for pursuits like camping, fishing, hiking and rock climbing. Water sports, both motorized and non-motorized, are enjoyed throughout the coastal areas.