Light pollution occurs when the lights of our cars, homes, and cities create an excess of artificial light. As a result, in cities the night sky can appear almost completely empty. Over 80 per cent of Canada’s population lives in an urban environment, meaning access to the wonders of the night sky is limited most of the time for four-fifths of the people in the country.
Steps have been taken to try and lower light pollution and protect areas unspoiled by artificial light. For example, Canada has 13 officially designated Dark-Sky Preserves, which the government defines as “protected areas that make a special commitment to protect and preserve the night, reducing, or eliminating light pollution in all forms.”
This creates areas not only protected from human change but also ideal for stargazing, which has been a human pastime for as long as we have walked on the Earth and is gaining popularity as a wellness therapy. By combining stargazing with high-quality accommodations in and around areas with little light pollution, it is possible to engage in hours of uninterrupted sky-watching before heading back to your room to relax.
Stargazing and limiting light pollution are also part of a wider philosophy of creating off-grid accommodations to highlight the natural beauty of an area while minimizing the impact on the environment and the communities who have been on the land for multiple generations. For British Columbians looking to stargaze in a peaceful setting, there are numerous options across the province.
In the Cariboo, Siwash Lake Wilderness resort is off the beaten path but still offers luxury accommodations for those less interested in a rugged wilderness retreat. After narrowly avoiding destruction by a forest fire in 2017, the property is a sanctuary in the blaze site. Stargazers have the benefit of the site’s private dark sky reserve. The property’s lack of light pollution means a chance to see the Milky Way and sometimes even the northern lights before heading back to your cabin, tent, or suite.
Another off-grid property, on Babine Lake northeast of Smithers, Liberty can host up to 12 guests who want to get away from civilization for a while. At this remote destination, which is only accessible by boat or seaplane, stargazers can immerse themselves in the nature of the property and take advantage of several perfect viewing points.
Nemiah Valley lodge in the Chilcotin is Indigenous-owned and -operated and offers accommodation in log cabins. The property is not only a destination for travellers but also part of an effort to preserve the land it sits on (the traditional territory of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nations) as well as the wider region. It also contains the ?Elegesi Qayus Wild Horse Preserve, where descendants of Iberian animals brought across the ocean hundreds of years ago still roam free.
Away from the mainland on Vancouver Island is Wya Point Resort. Near Ucluelet on the west coast of the island, this site hosts guests in private yurts, lodges, or one of its camping and RV sites. Nearby is Pacific Rim National Park and miles of empty coastline. With no major urban areas in the area, the night sky is free from artificial light, and guests can face outward to the wide-open ocean to enjoy an expansive view of the stars.