British Columbia’s Top “College Towns”

Like many places in the world, British Columbia is home to its fair share of college towns, student hubs and universities. Something B.C. has the other places don’t? Incredible ocean-view campuses, easily accessible outdoor adventures and plenty of other B.C. lifestyle perks! Want to know where some of the Top B.C. Universities are located and what that area offers? Check it out! Everybody loves a good “college town.” 


Photo: Sveta Imnadaze


Besides being a top destination in British Columbia on its own, Vancouver is home to plenty of great post-secondary institutions. This means a number of things for the city, whose various campuses are spread out from urban, to being a can’t-miss destination on its own. While Vancouver’s streets are often filled with young tourists, its popular pubs, clubs and bars are crowded with the academic-types seeking a break from the books. This means there are places to find cheap drinks, cheap eats and classics catering to students that will bring back memories of your own college days.  


Photo: Steven Spielberg P. –

University of British Columbia 

UBC is one of the top universities in Canada and is an area of Vancouver you can easily spend an afternoon exploring. Botanical gardens, award-winning museums, concert halls, beaches, rose gardens and plenty of other features make up the popular campus. This includes full grocery stores, restaurants, fitness facilities and even a yoga studio! The areas closest to campus are a major hub for students, who rent the basement suites and houses in order to get to class easier. Kitsilano, especially, is a treat to visit with kitschy shops, beautiful homes and beaches nearby.  

Other campus locations: Kelowna, B.C. 


Photo: Rebecca G Budd

Simon Fraser University 

Tucked into the heart of the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area is Simon Fraser University (SFU), which has claims to being one of the foggiest campuses around. This is thanks to its position on the top of the mountain, which has a tendency to be shrouded in cloud, especially during the fall and winter seasons. The main campus, on Burnaby Mountain, has over three dozen academic buildings and is flanked by its own sustainable residential community known as UniverCity. Everything you could need and more is located in the community, and the layout features plenty of unique green space. Thanks to its location in the conservation area, the SFU campus boasts particularly stunning views, as well as plenty of hiking trails nearby that loop through and around the campus and mountain area.  

Other campus locations: Downtown Vancouver, Surrey, B.C. 


Photo: Justin D’Onofrio

Emily Carr University of Art and Design 

Emily Carr University of Art and Design is tucked into downtown Vancouver, adding a flair of artsy-type students to the mix of the surrounding area. Thanks to its urban setting, the unique campus harbors plenty of different types of space to inspire creativity, explore culture and dive into the unique coastal city. The surrounding city areas include the quirky Mount Pleasant, which features a strip of tasty restaurants, cute boutiques and a number of microbreweries. The Olympic Village is just a hop away, as is Science World at TELUS World of Science. The campus really is at the heart of everything, adding a healthy dash of creativity to Vancouver’s streets.  

Other campus locations: Prince George, B.C.  


Photo: Capilano U

Capilano University 

Located in North Vancouver, Capilano University is just moments away from fantastic outdoor adventures. It offers a chance to get away from the hustle and bustle of a busy downtown campus, while remaining within reach of everything you need. Lynn Valley, Mount Forest (CMHC), Mt. Seymour and plenty of other popular areas for hiking and even skiing are within reach from the campus. The North Vancouver Campus features modern buildings with plenty of green space and stunning views of mountains, valleys and the city. Go for a round of golf at a nearby course  and then take some time to explore the campus and the surrounding hikes. You’re bound to run into eager outdoorsmen escaping the library for some time in Vancouver’s beautiful nearby nature.  


Photo: Andrew Wee


Squamish is a stunning destination located between Vancouver and Whistler. Hugged by mountain ranges and sitting along the Squamish River, it’s easy to see why the 20,000 people who call Squamish home want to stay. Hiking at the Stawamus Chief Provincial Park and the other nearby parks make it an outdoorsman’s paradise, not to mention Whistler Blackcomb and Mount Girabaldi Provincial Park are just a stone’s throw away down the scenic Sea to Sky Highway.  


Quest University 

New to the university scene as of 2007 with a registration of 74 students, Quest University now has over 700 students and might just be one of the most beautiful places to attend university in British Columbia. Squamish has long been known to mountain biking and hiking aficionados, but now, it’s sought out by those in search of the perfect post-secondary institution. The buildings are modern and architecturally stunning, while the campus features unrivaled views. It’s hugged by snow-capped mountains that create breathtaking backdrops as you work away in the library. The school itself focuses on liberal arts and sciences. Even more special about Quest is that it is a small institution, which means the moment you wander onto the grounds, you get a sense of the unique community within.  While Squamish already possessed a younger population of outdoor enthusiasts, the addition of the university bolstered its number, making the town just a touch more lively and adding in an academic flair.  


Vancouver Island 

Located off of the west coast of British Columbia, Vancouver Island is a unique and beautiful spot to visit, never mind study at. Contrary to what many believe, “the Island” is quite large, featuring numerous towns and even cities across its span! From world-famous beaches, to towering old growth rainforest and even ski resorts, Vancouver Island has it all, including its own college towns to check out.  

For more about Vancouver Island check out this site: 

Vancouver Island University (Nanaimo) 

VIU as it is informally known, is located in the harbour town of Nanaimo on the central-east coast of Vancouver Island. The university was known as Malaspina College, but was later renamed as it expanded. The campus is just a short hop away from Nanaimo’s old downtown, which features a stunning harbour walkway and ferries to the nearby Southern Gulf Islands. While Nanaimo is considered more of a retirement town than anything else, the presence of the growing Vancouver Island University has created a central student hub and lively atmosphere.  

Other campus locations: Duncan, B.C.  


University of Victoria (Victoria) 

UVic for short, the University of Victoria is Vancouver Island’s largest post-secondary school with Victoria has its most renown “college town.” In reality, Victoria is known as the city of “Newly Wed and Nearly Dead,” but the student population certainly doesn’t hurt. Out near Cadbury Bay, the university is within its own little bubble, surrounded by an aptly named Ring Road. Students have access to most of the things they need on campus, and the beautiful surrounding neighbourhoods have plenty of accommodation to rent out. Besides their very own dog park, as well as incredible fields and fitness facilities, UVic also features its own extensive, botanical gardens. Nearby are stunning beaches and bays, plus Mount Tolmie for a scenic view of the city.  

Victoria itself has plenty of great pubs, clubs and cheap eats. In fact, it has almost every kind of “eat” you can dream of and is thought to have the second highest number of restaurants per capita in North America.  Pair that with a drool-worthy downtown thanks to its Inner Harbour, and you’ve got a unique and beautiful college town.  

Learn more about Victoria here: 



Tucked into the heart of the Okanagan Valley next to Okanagan Lake is the city of Kelowna. 

Kelowna is a fun hub with easy access to tons of activities. Okanagan Lake, Provincial Parks, Fir Forests and, of course, British Columbia’s top wineries make it a top destination for those visiting the province, especially during the summer. The Okanagan Valley is also well known for its fresh fruit and orchards can be visited year round to enjoy the area’s various bounties. While removed from the ocean, Kelowna is a stunning, lake-side city whose downtown is a lively go-to for students at UBC Okanagan. 


UBC Okanagan 

UBC Okanagan sits overlooking the city and the lake, with stunning modern buildings sports fields with a view. The campus is set up with plenty of green space and unique atriums for studying. With the city located just below, all the perks of an urban campus collide with the open air of a rural destination. Originally, UBC Okanagan was part of Okanagan University College, which was a project to make post-secondary education more accessible to those in the Southern Okanagan Valley. In 2004, UBC’s mandate was spread to OUC and it began its life as UBC Okanagan. Since then, it has undergone expansions and has a thriving university scene.  

Other campus locations: Vancouver, B.C. 



Above Kelowna and more towards the interior of British Columbia is Kamloops. Here, the South and North Thompson rivers meet, and nearby are ski hills, Provincial Parks, hikes, waterfalls and plenty of other outdoor destinations. While the city has over 90,000 citizens, the wilderness is just a hop away.  One of the most sought-after activities in the area is skiing and snowboarding at Sun Peaks Ski Resort. The river city also has plenty of golf courses, is a hotspot for mountain bikers and offers wine tours through some of B.C.’s incredible wineries.  


Thompson Rivers University 

 Named after the two colliding rivers in its hometown of Kamloops, TRU overlooks the junction of the two, which means incredible views from campus. It also features 40 acres of gardens and possesses the largest abortorium in Interior B.C.! Recent additions and renovations to older buildings has given the beautiful campus a modern touch, and its central location means all the amenities within Kelowna are within easy reach. The incredible outdoor aspects of the city are easily available to students for well-earned study breaks and nearby mountain hikes offer sweeping views of the entire river city.  


Prince George  

Prince George is a far removed city compared to the rest of British Columbia, and is the largest city in Northern B.C. Adding to this claim is its title as the “Northern Capital” of B.C. Sitting along the Fraser River, this isolated town is surprisingly scenic, with plenty of nature and green space to get out and enjoy. There’s even a small ski resort nearby! The addition of a university means a younger crowd is present amongst the workers of the North. 


University of Northern British Columbia 

The surprisingly beautiful campus of Prince George’s university sits on the top of an area known as Cranbrook Hill, which overlooks the entire city. The University of Northern British Columbia has innovative buildings meant to represent the wild and rugged landscape of Northern B.C. Not only are the buildings unique, but they’re incredibly sustainable and heat the core campus buildings via gasifying renewable wood pellets that are clean burning and come from pine trees that were killed by the mountain pine beetles. The university is a bright and beautiful place to attend school and even just to visit if you find yourself in Northern B.C.  

Other Campus Locations: Fort St. John, B.C., Terrace, B.C., Quesnel, B.C.