Western Washington Vacation Guide - Vancouver Coast & Mountains

Northwesterners know the real beauty of southwest British Columbia. Travelers in this area often pop across the border for short sojourns to Vancouver, or slip aboard ferries to Victoria. But the southwest corner of B.C. encompasses more than just grand metropolitan areas, it also has sun-toasted island beaches, vast tracks of forestland, and fierce but picturesque snowcapped mountains. Beauty of every kind meshes here and creates a year-round scenic playground. Bring a loved one. Bring the kids. Call your best friend and plan a road trip. Come taste the wine, ski the mountains, and visit some of the world’s most famous landmarks, but bring this guide with you and discover that there truly is something for everyone.

Before you begin
This recreational paradise is so close that sometimes we forget Canada is a different country. Some things may look foreign to you. For instance, Canadians use the metric system. You’ll need to remember the difference in terms of distances on maps, speed limits, and buying gas. An easy conversion to remember is that 10 kilometers equal 6 miles, and 10 liters equal 2.6 gallons.

Watch for Visitor Info Centres. Centers provide information and town guides that come in handy while you travel in the area.

Very important to note, citizens or permanent  residents of the United States usually can cross the border into Canada without difficulty; however, carry proof of citizenship, such as a passport or birth or naturalization certificate. Starting in 2007, travelers may be required to carry a passport to enter and exit Canada. Check with the U.S. Department of State for requirements (877-487-2778; http://travel.state.gov/travel). For more information on traveling in B.C., contact Super Natural British Columbia (800-HELLO-BC; www.HelloBC.com).

Vancouver Coast & Mountains

In addition to its lush and diverse landscape, the southwest tip of B.C. features coastal and mountain recreation, fascinating historical sites, and sophisticated and growing cities.

Hwy 101,which stretches through B.C., Washington, Oregon, and California, begins in Lund.

1 The Lund Hotel was one of the first hotels built north of Vancouver. It has been restored to its original grandeur. Lund is the gateway to Desolation Sound Marine
Provincial Park
, southern B.C.’s largest marine park. The sheltered islands and bays are ideal places to explore in boats.bc ferries

Powell River
Once a company mill town, Powell River’s Historic Townsite, designated a National Historic District, provides a fascinating tour.

The Powell River Mill, built in 1910,was the first pulp and paper mill in western Canada. Today a smaller mill offers tours daily from June through September.

The Patricia Theatre is the oldest working movie theater in Canada. Independent films are shown at the heritage theater.

2 Ferries headed to Texada Island leave Powell River daily. It is the largest Gulf Island, at 32 miles long (51 km).

Sechelt, located on a narrow isthmus between the Strait of Georgia and Sechelt Inlet, is a place of quiet beauty with hiking trails at Smuggler Cove and kayaking along Sechelt Inlet.

The Sunshine Coast’s newest and largest park is the Tetrahedron Recreation Area, with nine lakes, old-growth forest, and an extensive hiking and cross-country skiing trail network.

This seaside community is on Howe Sound, and is well known to Canadians as the site for “The Beachcombers,” a long running sitcom on Canadian television.

Winegarden Waterfront Park has paths, benches, children’s play areas, ponds, and footbridges to make this a relaxing place.

Britannia Beach
Located on Howe Sound, Britannia Beach is situated between Gibsons and Squamish, along the scenic Sea-to-Sky Highway.

The BC Museum of Mining now occupies the site of the Britannia Copper Mines, the largest copper producers in the British Empire in 1929.The museum offers visitors an underground adventure.

At the head of Howe Sound, Squamish is known as the premier windsurfing destination in Canada. Its proximity to the mountains also makes it a great meeting place for hikers.

3 Stawamus Chief Mountain towers over Squamish, and is a magnet for climbers who tackle the mountain’s face, and for those looking for hikes with awesome views.

Shannon Falls, at 1099 feet (335 m), is the third-highest waterfall in Canada.

Squamish is also home of the West Coast Railway Heritage Park, which has the largest collection of rolling stock in western Canada.

Whistler has the rare status of “resort municipality.” It was designed to accommodate the needs of recreation-seekers.


4 Whistler is nestled at the feet of two ski mountains, Blackcomb and Whistler, each having about a mile of vertical drop.

Flying across a canyon on ziplines may be a little intimidating at first, but it is a great adrenaline rush. Ziptrek Ecotours offer interpretation and instruction, and memories of a lifetime.

At Garibaldi Provincial Park, south of Whistler, expect to see volcanic peaks, alpine meadows, and resident bears.

North Vancouver
The district just north of downtown Vancouver has an array of recreational activities. The mountains of the area invite visitors and Vancouverites to play outdoors.

5 Dangling 230 feet (70 m) above the Capilano River, the Capilano Suspension Bridge is a thrill to “bungy-walk” across. At the newest addition to the park, visitors can venture from one fir tree to another via a series of elevated suspension bridges.

There are two ways to get to the top of Grouse Mountain. The 1.8-mile (2.9-km) hiking trail is as steep as 45 degrees in places, but the view makes it worth it. For the non-hiker, Grouse Mountain’s Skyride will take you to the top.

6 Lynn Canyon Park and Ecology Centre is home to three gems: the center, which provides information about temperate rain forests; the park, with forest and waterfalls; and Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge.

7 Vancouver
Only 26 miles (42 km) from the U.S. border is western Canada’s largest city. 7 The 1000-acre (400-hectare) Stanley Park is the largest city park in Canada. You can drive a loop by car or take a horse-drawn tour.

The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre, in the heart of Stanley Park, is home to more than 60,000 marine creatures. Visit with the belugas, or watch Pacific white-sided dolphins display their natural jumping abilities.

Granville Island is an eclectic blend of boatyards, restaurants, galleries, and stores. Its charm lies in its industrial heritage, street performers, and food markets.

VanDusen Botanical Garden is 55 groomed acres (22 hectares) that showcase more than 7500 kinds of plants collected from six continents. There is also a Children’s Garden and a maze constructed of 3000 cedars.

Science World at Telus World of Science is housed in the unmistakable geodesic dome featuring exhibits exploring science. It is a great place to take kids.

Storyeum, the newest attraction to Vancouver, offers dramatic theatrical presentations of B.C.’s history in an underground venue.

Visitor Information
  Vancouver Coast & Mountains Tourism
#250–1508 West 2nd Avenue, Vancouver, BC V6J 1H2
800-667-3306 •
  Tourism Abbotsford
2478 McCallum Road, Abbotsford, BC V2S 3P9
888-332-2229 -
  Chilliwack Visitor Info Centre
44150 Luckakuck Way, Chilliwack, BC V2R 4A7
800-567-9535 -
  Delta Chamber of Commerce/Visitor Info Centre
6201 60th Avenue, Delta, BC V4K 4E2
604-946-4232 -
  Harrison Hot Springs Visitor Info Booth
499 Hot Springs Road, PO Box 255, Harrison Hot Springs, BC V0M 1K0
604-796-5581 •
  Hope Visitor Info Centre
919 Water Avenue, PO Box 370, Hope, BC V0X 1L0
604-869-7322 -
  Lytton Tourism Info Centre
400 Fraser Street, PO Box 460, Lytton, BC V0K 1Z0
250-455-2523 •
  Mission Visitor Info Centre
34033 Lougheed Hwy, Mission, BC V2V 5X8
604-826-6914 -
  New Westminster Visitor Info Centre
601 Queens Avenue, New Westminster, BC V3M 1L1
604-521-7781 -
  North Vancouver Chamber of Commerce
102–124 W 1st Street, North Vancouver, BC V7M 3N3
604-987-4488 -

Burnaby is located on Burrard Peninsula, only minutes from the airport.

8 Within the shopping mecca of MetroTown is Central Park, one of the oldest parks in the Vancouver area. Swangard Stadium is here too, and is home to the professional soccer team, the Whitecaps.

The open-air Burnaby Village Museum represents life in the early 1920s, with more than 30 buildings, outdoor displays, and townspeople in authentic costumes. You can also ride the restored 1912 C.W. Parker carousel.

Burnaby Mountain Park is home to the Kamui Mintara, or Playground of the Gods, with more than a dozen carved poles created by Japanese sculptors.

Port Moody
This town features seaside parks, hiking and biking trails, as well as an abundance of art galleries in the Moody Centre historic district.

New Westminster
New Westminster was the first incorporated city in the province.

Fraser River Discovery Centre details the story of the Fraser River. With exhibits and hands-on displays, it is a great place to learn the history of the river and ways to preserve it. An expansion is scheduled for completion in 2007.

The World’s Largest Tin Soldier sits at New Westminster Quay. The structure is 32 feet (9 m) tall and weighs five tons.

Richmond is a culturally diverse, island city located at the mouth of the Fraser River and the Strait of Georgia. It is home to the Vancouver International Airport, next door to Vancouver, and 20 minutes from the Canada/USA border and B.C. Ferry terminals. As a primary destination or restful stopover, Richmond’s diversions are plentiful. Parks and trails, national historic sites, temples, live theater, international cuisine, and shopping offer visitors a rich experience.

The Historic Fishing Village of Steveston offers a glimpse of the west coast fishing industry. Enjoy fish and chips on the wharf, take a whale-watching tour or fishing expedition, stroll through village shops along the boardwalk, and experience the history of this fishing community.

9 Golden Village, a bustling Asian-inspired area, beckons locals and visitors with its menagerie of Asian malls, delectable foods, and cultural attractions. Reminiscent of Hong Kong, the village is a mix of traditional Asian and contemporary western influences.

Want to get active indoors? Hit the Riverport Sports and Entertainment Complex in southeast Richmond, a unique family destination site. Activities include leisure swimming, waterslides, wave pools, bowling, basketball, ice rinks, indoor skateboarding, brewpubs, family restaurants, and movie theaters.

Delta beguiles visitors with breathtaking scenery, wide-open spaces, mild temperatures, and recreational opportunities.

Reifel Bird Sanctuary is open year-round on Westham Island. The sanctuary is an annual migratory stop for some 1.5 million birds.

Boundary Bay is Delta’s primary waterfront attraction. The Boundary Bay Dyke provides a great waterfront area for walking, running, or cycling.

Surrey is the “City of Parks,” featuring more than 5400 acres (2100 hectares) of parklands and 15 golf courses. Surrey also has more than 67miles of multi-use trails.

The Historic Stewart Farm portrays life in the late 1800s.The new Surrey Museum hosts exhibits, including the textile library and weaving studio.

10 Historic Cloverdale is the site of the Cloverdale Rodeo and Exhibition over Victoria Day weekend every May.

White Rock
Five minutes from the U.S.–Canadian border is the city of White Rock on Semiahmoo Bay. Its most historic landmark is the White Rock Pier.

The Promenade along White Rock’s sandy beach has sweeping views.

11 Peace Arch is located exactly on the international boundary and memorializes the longest unarmed border in the world.

The town of Mission is famous for being home to Westminster Abbey. Not the one in England, though. This Benedictine monastery overlooks the Fraser River and is noted for its distinctive bell tower and the abbey church.

At the site of the Xa:ytem Longhouse Interpretive Centre, archaeologists have found traces of habitation dating back 9000 years.

Power House at Stave Falls, 6 miles (10 km) east of Mission, is a National Historical Site. Visitors can experience an authentic 1912 generating station.

Abbotsford is the largest incorporated city in the Fraser Valley east of metro Vancouver. The area is surrounded with productive farmland.

The MSA Museum, Trethewey House Heritage Site, has enchanting gardens.

One of the oldest municipalities in B.C., Chilliwack is only 1 hour east of Vancouver.

12 Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park, located 15 minutes east of Chilliwack, is home of a 400-foot (122-meter) waterfall aptly named. Set amidst the remains of an ancient rockslide, the 11-theme Minter Gardens are connected by pathways on a 32-acre (13-hectare) site.

Experience summertime fun at Cultus Lake Provincial Park. The lake is a family destination with miniature golf and swooshing water slides.

Harrison Hot Springs
In the dead of winter 1859, two paddlers capsized near what is now Harrison Hot Springs. To their surprise, the water in which they fell was warm. Since then, the springs have been enjoyed by many who find rejuvenation in the waters.

The Public Hot Springs are open year-round and cooled to a comfortable 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius).

Hope is a hub of many sorts: the Coquihalla and Fraser Rivers meet here, as do Hwys 7, 3, 5, and Trans-Canada 1, referred to as Hwy 1. The community rests on the eastern shore of the Fraser River.

Your first stop in Hope should be the Hope Museum, located in the same complex as the visitor center.

When an old tree in Hope’s central Memorial Park fell victim to root rot, a local chainsaw carver stepped in to create the first of many carvings. A walking tour map from the visitor center describes the location of each carving.

At Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park, visitors can stroll through a series of tunnels carved through solid granite along the Coquihalla River. The engineering feat allowed passage for the Kettle Valley Railway. Visitors can access the tunnels from April through October.

Manning Provincial Park
By taking Hwy 3 east of Hope following the Skagit River, you will find yourself in Manning Provincial Park. Manning is one of the most popular destinations in B.C. Recreational opportunities include hiking, camping, horseback riding, biking, canoeing, fishing, skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing.

Fraser Canyon
Traveling north of Hope on Hwy 1 east, you enter scenic Fraser Canyon via the community of Yale. Here you find a B.C. Heritage Site depicting the gold-rush era of the 1850s with the Church of St. John the Divine, Yale Museum, and the National Monument to the Chinese railway workers.

At Alexandra Bridge Provincial Park, stroll a section of abandoned highway to the suspension bridge high over the Fraser River.

Lytton is based at the confluence of the Fraser and Thompson Rivers, which provide some of the best white-water rafting in Canada.

Boston Bar is at the north end of Hells Gate on the Fraser River. The intense
volume of Fraser River water blasts its way through the canyon. Hells Gate Aerial tram carries passengers into the narrowest and deepest point of the gorge to see the swirling white water.

13 Skihist Provincial Park is open May through September. Here you can swim, hike, kayak, and enjoy the Thompson River.

Lillooet embraces a formidable gold-rush and First Nations history. It is “mile 0”on the historic Cariboo Trail, which took miners north to the goldfields in the 1800s.Walking tours offer visitors a chance to relive history.

Places to Stay
  White Rock & South Surrey Chamber of Commerce
101–2430 King George Hwy, White Rock, BC V4B 1H5
604-536-6844 - whiterockchamber.com
Richmond The Fairmont - 800-441-1414 - fairmont.com/vancouverairport
  Marriott - 877-323-8888 - vancouverairportmarriott.com
  Best Western - Richmond Hotel - 800-663-0299 - richmond-hotel.ca
  Hilton - 800-559-5028 - vancouverairport.hilton.com
  RiverRock Casino Resort - 866-748-3718 - riverrock.com
  Radisson - 800-333-3333 - radisson.com/vancouverca
  Executive Inn - 800-663-2337 - executivehotels.net
  Quality Hotel - 877-244-3051



Home  |  Subscribe |Writers and Photographers GuidelinesContact Us | Oregon Coast