Ocean Deep, Mountain High
From whale watching to alpine hiking, nature is never far away from this corner of British Columbia
Nature is never far away in Vancouver
Canada’s west-coast city of Vancouver is consistently rated highly in terms of quality of life, so if you are in town on business, make sure you add a weekend to explore.You can split your time between downtown and the mountains (for skiing, Whistler is just 90 minutes by car), or take a boat to Vancouver Island for some whale-watching.
A wealthy seaport city of green glass and liberal vibes, downtown Vancouver is a grid of glittering towers surrounded by water on three sides. If you’re weary from jet lag, the breeze blowing over False Creek is reviving, as is a meal of the national dish, poutine (French fries, cheese and gravy), good any time of the day or night.
Quirky Granville Island is a short hop via Aquabus across the water from downtown – here you will find Edible Canada, which has a bistro with an outdoor terrace and a shop selling local produce. Once an industrial site, Granville’s corrugatedtin factories and warehouses have been reappropriated for farmers’markets, boutiques, galleries and craft shops, as well as Molson’s Brewery and the Liberty Distillery, which opened in 2013 – pop in for a snifter of Endeavour gin.
If you’re short on time, the best way to get a sense of the city’s geography is to zoom out of the inner harbor on a highspeed inflatable Zodiac boat. Tours with Sea Vancouver (C$42/$32) take you around the shores of Stanley Park at the tip of the peninsula (here you can rent a bike, see totem poles and lounge on sandy beaches), and under Lions Gate suspension bridge, which crosses the Burrard Inlet.
Rising for an early breakfast at the Opus hotel (vancouver.opushotel.com), take the Sea to Sky Highway to Squamish, less than an hour’s drive away. The dramatic mountain road looks down on Howe Sound, where shipwrecks lie at the bottom, waiting for curious scuba divers. Shannon Falls, just over a mile from your destination, is a good stop, but it is at a higher altitude that the adventure begins.
The Sea to Sky Gondola (C$37.95/ $29) opened in 2014 and delivers you via cable car 2,900 feet up to Summit Lodge, previously a half-day’s hike, in a matter of minutes. A prime starting point for the alpine trails that weave through coastal forest, it’s also a stunning spot to get lunch while enjoying views of Howe Sound and the granite face of the Stawamus Chief, which is popular with daredevil climbers who paraglide off it. When venturing into backcountry, watch out for bears, cougars and wolves.
If you choose to head to Vancouver Island, take a boat from outside the Westin Bayshore hotel and put on the canaryyellow waterproofs given by tour company Prince of Whales, whose office is in the lobby. (Visit princeofwhales.com; tours May-Oct, C$150/$115.)
Above from left: Shannon