The National Historic Site of Britannia Beach is situated above the Sea to Sky Highway, between Vancouver and Whistler, and is home to the BC Mining Museum.
A copper discovery on Britannia Mountain by Dr. A. A. Forbes in 1888 led to the development of the Britannia Mine. The Britannia Mining and Smelting Company, a branch of the Howe Sound Company, commenced mining in the early 1900s, and owned the site for the next sixty years. The first ore was shipped to the Crofton Smelter on Vancouver Island in 1904, and the mine achieved full production in 1905.
The mine boomed in the late 1920s and early 1930s, becoming the largest producer of copper in the British Commonwealth by 1929. In 1946 the Britannia mines were unionized and suffered through their first strike. Low copper prices saw the Britannia Mine Company reduced to seven employees, and in 1959 it went into liquidation.
In 1963 the Anaconda Mining Company bought the property and production continued for the next eleven years, before high operating costs and taxes eventually forced the mine to close on November 1, 1974.
In 1975 the BC Museum of Mining was opened to the public, and was designated as a National Historic Site in 1988. The following year, 1989, the Museum site was designated a British Columbia Historic Landmark.
The entrance to the Museum is in the heart of the village of Britannia Beach. Most of the mine service buildings have been preserved, and are being restored for the museum. A video presentation of Britannia history is presented to visitors at the Museum entry where the stage is set for the Mine Tour guided by interpreters, dressed as miners. They are then guided through the Mining House, which offers 3 levels of displays and exhibits.
Visitors can explore BC’s fascinating mining history at the BC Museum of Mining. Tour the old mine site displays and exhibits, and catch the Underground Train and experience a real hard rock mine with live demonstrations. See how the Gold Rush affected the mine’s history, and view rock and mineral displays, transportation methods, and artifacts from the past.
Also on permanent exhibit in the Industrial Yard is the Museum’s latest large acquisition, a 235-ton super Mine Truck. It dwarfs the other mining artifacts which are more typical of the machinery and equipment used at Britannia. Yet, it is symbolic of the advances in mining technology and equipment since the 1920’s and 30’s when the Britannia Mines were operating at their peak productivity.
The small village offers stunning scenery of mountains and fjords, mining history, and unique arts and crafts.
BC Museum of Mining hours of operation:
- Summer: Early May to Thanksgiving Weekend, Daily: 9 am to 4:30 pm
- Winter: Mid Oct to 30 Nov and Feb to early May, Mon to Fri: 10 am to 4:30 pm
- Springbreak: Third week of March
Public tours and pre-scheduled groups leave once an hour on the half hour, 10 am to 4:30 pm. The Museum is open for individuals and families or for pre-scheduled groups of 20 or more. Daily scheduled public tours will take you through the mine and exhibits. Groups should be sure to pre-schedule their tour.
Hiking: The are between Vancouver and Whistler has unlimited opportunities for hiking and backpacking. Near Lions Bay to the south are The Lions. Don’t let the overall challenge of reaching the Lions deter you, as the views of Howe Sound and the Gulf Islands alone are worth the effort. The Howe Sound Crest Trail begins in Cypress Provincial Park in North Vancouver and runs almost 18 miles (30 km) across ridges and mountains – including the Lions – while skirting pocket lakes to reach the shores of Howe Sound near Porteau Cove. Phew! Without a doubt this is the way to see as much of Howe Sound as any hiker could wish, but it comes with a price tag: a real grunt. The Deeks Lake Trail (strenuous; 8 mile/13 km return; 3-4 hours each way) leads hikers up a steep rock-and-roots trail that passes through lush evergreen forest. The occasional stream or waterfall provides cool encouragement to overheated brows (and other body parts).
Skiing: Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort has the largest ski area on the continent: over 28,000 hectares (just over 7,000 acres) of skiing area, with over 200 marked trails and 12 massive Alpine bowls. For more information on Skiing and Winter Recreation in Whistler.
Golf: Furry Creek Golf and Country Club in neighbouring Lions Bay is considered the most scenic golf course in British Columbia. This 18-hole championship golf course perfectly captures the beauty of this coastline, with abundant wildlife, rugged mountains, and panoramic ocean views of the Squamish Inlet. To the north in Squamish, the Squamish Valley Golf & Country Club is a championship course located in the heart of Sea to Sky Country, with panoramic mountain views off every tee and immaculately maintained greens (18 holes, Par 72, 5,639 yards). Garibaldi Springs Golf Resort in Squamish is impeccably maintained, demands skill and accuracy, and falls nothing short of brilliant. The 4,700-yard, Par 64 course is set in stunning surroundings, showing great respect for the environmentally sensitive habitat. Golf Vacations in British Columbia.
Murrin Provincial Park enjoys a placid lakeside location about 2 miles (3 km) north of Britannia Beach, on the west side of Hwy 99. The waters of Browning Lake lap the shoulder of the highway. Picnic tables dot the far side of the little lake, some sheltered in the forest, others in the open. This is a good place to stop for a snack while you check the road or trail map.
With almost a half-million visitors annually, Shannon Falls Provincial Park is one of the most popular picnic spots in the entire Sea to Sky corridor. Located on the east side of Hwy 99 just south of Stawamus Chief Mountain, extensive picnic grounds surround the base of BC’s third-highest waterfall (1,105 feet/335 m). In summer months the parking lot is full by noon, with half of the visitors arriving by tour bus. Picnic tables are located beside Shannon Creek and in the Loggers Sports Field nearby.
A boardwalk leads to a viewing platform near the base of the roaring Shannon Falls. From here you can gaze up the smooth sides of the granite walls over which the falls foam and tumble. At low flow, the falls does little more than veil the rockface. In feistier seasons, when the falls gives off an almighty roar, its spray will drench you if you get too close. Some people (the cold shower types) don’t mind and follow a rough trail that leads from the viewing platform to the base of the falls. Often the best time to picnic here is on the first warm days of spring and the last ones of fall, when water levels in the falls are running strong.
A stop for naturalists during warmer seasons, Shannon Falls also attracts thrill-seeking ice climbers, who scale the falls when it freezes in the winter.
Porteau Cove Provincial Park provides great scuba diving, with over 100 marine species to be viewed. This is a wonderful place to enjoy the spectacular views of Howe Sound while watching wet-suited divers enter or emerge from the cold waters of the sound. As this is the only provincial campground on Howe Sound, campsites are in constant demand from late May to early October. There’s a charming sense of formality where an open lawn is laid out beside the cove, and a small bridge spans the narrow backwater. Porteau Cove is located 3 miles (5 km) south of Britannia Beach.
Boat Launch: The boat launch at Porteau Cove Provincial Park is the only public one accessible from Hwy 99 between Horseshoe Bay and Squamish. There is a private boat launch at Lions Bay Marina, 9 miles (14 km) south of Britannia Beach.
North of Britannia Beach, at the head of Howe Sound and surrounded by mountains, Squamish is cradled in natural beauty as only a West Coast community can be. Growing in fame as the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada, visitors will discover the abundance of attractions, activities and opportunities to explore in the community of Squamish.
South of Britannia beach, nestled at the base of the Coast Mountain Range, is the small seaside village of Lions Bay, located on the shoreline of Howe Sound on Highway 99, the Sea to Sky Highway.
Circle Tours: See the best of the area on a driving Circle Tour. Head north out of Vancouver for the scenic Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island Circle Tour, or stay on the intensely scenic Sea to Sky Highway, passing through the magical winter resort town of Whistler and Coast Mountains Circle Tour. To explore the rural farmlands and forests of the fertile Fraser Valley, take the Fraser Valley Circle Tour, travelling outbound on the scenic route north of the historic Fraser River, returning westwards along the Trans Canada Highway 1 to Vancouver. Circle Tours in British Columbia.