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Vancouver is bustling, vibrant and diverse. This gem on Canada's west coast boasts the perfect combination of wild natural beauty and modern conveniences. Its spectacular views and awesome cityscapes are a huge lure not only for visitors but also for big productions, and it's even been nicknamed Hollywood North for its ever-present film crews.
Less than a century ago, Vancouver was barely more than a town. Today, it's Canada's third largest city and more than two million people call it home. The shiny futuristic towers of Yaletown and the downtown core contrast dramatically with the snow-capped mountain backdrop, making for postcard-pretty scenes.
Approximately the same size as the downtown area, the city's green heart is Canada's largest city park, Stanley Park, covering hundreds of acres filled with lush forest and crystal clear lakes. Visitors can wander the sea wall along its exterior, catch a free trolley bus tour, enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride or visit the Vancouver Aquarium housed within the park.
The city's past is preserved in historic Gastown with its cobblestone streets, famous steam-powered clock and quaint atmosphere. Neighbouring Chinatown, with its weekly market, Dr Sun Yat-Sen classical Chinese gardens and intriguing restaurants add an exotic flair. For some retail therapy or celebrity spotting, there is always the trendy Robson Street.
During the winter months, snow sports are the order of the day on nearby Grouse Mountain. It's perfect for skiing and snowboarding, although the city itself gets more rain than snow. Vancouver's ethnic diversity and ideal combination of mountains, sea and city offer visitors an endless supply of things to see and do, no matter the budget.
The pride of Vancouver, Stanley Park covers 1,000 acres (405 hectares) and is one of the largest parks in any urban centre in North America. It's situated in the heart of Vancouver's densely populated West End and stretches out on a peninsula.
Stanley Park is at once a refuge for visitors seeking a brief escape from the urban jungle, a showcase for the natural beauty that surrounds the city and an entertainment centre. The park is criss-crossed through its dense rainforest interior by miles of wide gravel paths surrounding Beaver Lake and Lost Lagoon.
It is home to hundreds of migratory birds such as Canada geese, swans and ducks, and large populations of racoons, squirrels, skunks and coyotes. The park has a miniature railroad, putt-putt course and an aquarium, as well as routes around the long sea wall perfect for a walk, jog, cycle or rollerblade.
At the University of British Columbia on the cliffs of Point Grey, totem poles mark the way to the Museum of Anthropology, world-renowned for its displays of Northwest Coast First Nations art. One of its main features is the world's largest collection of works by internationally acclaimed Haida artist Bill Reid, including his famous cedar sculpture 'The Raven and the First Men'. In the museum's unique Visible Storage Galleries, more than 15,000 objects and artefacts from around the world are arranged according to culture and use. In the grounds of the museum are two Haida houses, showing the dramatic beauty of traditional Northwest Coast architecture.
Vancouver's Chinatown is not only a strong, established ethnic community, but also a popular tourist attraction and prosperous commercial district. Its bustling streets are full of colour and commerce; even the pagoda-topped telephone booths add to the atmosphere. Shop displays spill onto the pavements, and tables groan with the weight of exotic foodstuffs and the strange wares of the Chinese apothecaries.
The Sam Kee Building in Pender Street is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as being the narrowest building in the world, at only six-foot (two metres) wide. This was the result of a local property owner reacting to the expropriation of most of his land in 1912 for the widening of the street: Chang Toy decided to build what he could on the remaining tiny strip.
Another main attraction in Chinatown is the Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, enclosed behind high walls, that was built in 1986 at a cost of C$5.3 million with the craftsmen and materials all imported from China. It is a quiet haven of walkways, pavilions, gnarled trees, water features, and natural rock sculptures. Next door to the Garden is the Chinese Cultural Centre with its elaborate gated entrance hand-painted in traditional colours.
Alongside Chinatown, the fascinating historic enclave of Gastown transports visitors back in time to envision the city as it existed in the days of old. Set in the central core of Vancouver, it has cobbled streets, antique gaslights, Victorian architecture, narrow alleys, courtyards, and hidden boutiques and restaurants. Jack 'Gassy' Deighton, Vancouver's first settler after whom the town was named, has been immortalised with a statue in Maple Tree Square in Gastown.
Another point of interest is the Lamplighter Pub in the Dominion Hotel, which was the first Vancouver inn to serve alcohol to women, while the Europe Hotel was the first fireproof building in western Canada, having been built just after the major fire of 1892. Gastown keeps time with the world's first steam clock, which plays the Westminster chimes every 15 minutes on five brass steam-whistles inside its cast bronze case.
The exquisite Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver boasts lush gardens bursting with flowers, live theatre and the Bloedel Floral Conservatory. The park receives about six million visitors annually who come to enjoy a 360 degree view of Vancouver from its highest point, 505 feet (167m) above sea level. The Bloedel Floral Conservatory, with its characteristic geodesic dome, is home to more than 100 species of tropical birds that roam free in the area, as well as hundreds of species of exotic plants and flowers.
Other highlights of the park include the Quarry Garden, J. Seward Johnson's sculpture 'The Photo Session', the Lions Clock and the arboretum, with its fine examples of indigenous trees from across Canada. Spring is an excellent time to visit the park as it becomes a riot of colour, with white and pink cherry blossoms on show.
The entertainment district of Granville Island is easily accessible, located in the middle of Vancouver under the Granville Street Bridge on the south shore of False Creek. While it barely seems separate from the city, it's nonetheless a relaxing break from the main bustle. The public market is a sensory feast, complete with a riot of energetic colours, delicious local produce and intriguing craft stalls. The separate Kids Market is a must for children, with toy stores and games, while the Maritime Market is a showcase for boat builders, with a museum, supply stores and tours. The Granville Island Brewing Company offers tastings for thirsty visitors while the island's theatre provides cultural treats and art shows at the Emily Carr institute. To cool off during a hot summer's day, the island has the biggest free waterpark in British Columbia, open from May to September.
Situated in North Vancouver, Lonsdale Quay offers spectacular views of downtown Vancouver, its harbour and the North Shore Mountains. There are also a variety of shops, restaurants and an excellent market. The best way to experience the quay is to catch the SeaBus from Waterfront Station on Cordova Street in downtown Vancouver. The fifteen-minute ride allows one to relax and enjoy the view, watch seaplanes land and spy cruise ships in the harbour.
The market boasts mouthwatering local produce, from seafood to pastries. There's also a wide range of restaurants covering Mexican, Greek and Asian cuisine among many others. Shoppers can indulge at a variety of stalls selling all sorts of arts and crafts, souvenirs and clothing, as well as plenty of boutiques, a kids play area and specialty kids stores, topped by the Lonsdale Quay Hotel.
Established in 1931 and housed in a turn-of-the-century heritage building in the centre of downtown Vancouver, the Vancouver Art Gallery boasts thousands of national and international exhibitions by a host of artists, sculptors and photographers. National and international touring exhibitions take place regularly at the gallery, with works from masters such as Picasso, Rodin, Andy Warhol and others. Whether you prefer the Old Masters or more contemporary artists, the Vancouver Art Gallery is well worth a visit. Check out the official website listed below for details on current temporary exhibitions.
Perhaps one of the best ways to begin one's visit to Vancouver is with a trip up the Harbour Centre Tower to the Lookout, where one can enjoy a 360-degree view of the city, the North Shore Mountains and neighbouring Vancouver Island on a clear day. A 45-second trip in the outdoor glass-fronted Skylift elevator delivers visitors to the Lookout and informative signs point out key attractions in the city and surrounds. Guests can enjoy a cup of coffee while watching the sun set from the Lookout or see the lights of the city begin to twinkle below. The tower is also home to the Top of Vancouver Revolving Restaurant, and visitors can enjoy the unique experience of dining above the city while the restaurant completes a full revolution every hour.
With 22 hectares (55 acres) and roughly 11,000 different plant species, VanDusen Botanical Garden is a spectacular showcase of the natural world, right in the heart of Vancouver. Landscaped gardens are laid out exquisitely and specific areas are cultivated to demonstrate botanical relationships or geographical origins, such as the popular Rhododendron Walk or the Sino Himalayan Garden.
One of the most popular events held in the garden is the annual Festival of Lights, when the beauty of the flowers is matched by over a million dazzling lights set up in order to celebrate the festive season. Choirs and carol singers, a Dancing Light display on Lake Island and the Golden Chain Walk are all part of this family favourite, running from 9 to 31 December each year. Daily walking- and cart tours are available in the garden from April to October at 2pm and also at 11am on Wednesdays.
Commercial Drive is about as non-commercial as it gets, being one of Vancouver's most eclectic and increasingly trendy neighbourhoods. Starting out as a skid row for its lumber industry in the late 1800s, it evolved over time with a steady influx of English, Chinese, Italian and Eastern European immigrants fleeing both World Wars. Diversity and energy are still the hallmarks of Commercial Drive, and an afternoon is well spent exploring its various cuisines, chic boutiques and live music shows. Enjoy a delicious Italian gelato or espresso, or simply grab a table at one of the many bars or restaurants. There are always plenty of festivals and events going on too, such as the Parade of Lost Souls, the Stone Soup Festival in May and the Eastside Culture Crawl.
The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre is home to a vast array of aquatic creatures, ranging from otters, sea lions and penguins, to dolphins, sharks and whales. You'll find exhibits, displays and programmes geared towards kids, including Clownfish Cove, with small animals, play areas and costumes aimed at teaching children about the natural world and the importance of marine conservation. The aquarium features a gift shop, cafeteria and wheelchair access. Visitors of all ages enjoy a trip to this well-organised and large aquarium, which consistently receives rave reviews from travellers.
Animal lovers of all ages will have a fabulous time exploring the Greater Vancouver Zoo. It boasts more than 500 animals and 140 species, including lion, giraffe, black bear, bison, spider monkeys, coyotes, cheetah, hippo, lemurs and caracals, just to name a few. Children will simply love watching all the animals and naming the ones they know. Kids can enjoy meeting a selection of reptiles, take the safari mini train, listen to an educational talk or even watch the lions and tigers being fed. Refreshments are available from kiosks and restaurants so nobody will go hungry. Allow at least a few hours to explore the zoo properly.
Vancouver is a paradise for kids on holiday. Stanley Park is full of fun during the summer months, with fun attractions such as the Spray Park near Lumberman's Arch and the Children's Farm, a fantastic petting zoo for the younger tots.
Families can enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride through the park and kids will love the gardens, so much so that you may find yourself coming back on more than one occasion. There are plenty of other green lungs to enjoy in the city, including the lovely Vandusen Botanical Gardens and Queen Elizabeth Park.
Animal lovers will have a great time exploring the Vancouver Aquarium and the Greater Vancouver Zoo, while older kids should visit Granville Island's Water Park and Adventure Playground for a day of fun.
On rainy or cold days, when outdoor activities with kids are not an option, head to the Science World at Telus World of Science or the Space Centre for a fascinating day out, or visit the Richmond Go-Kart track for a day of racing. There are also plenty of indoor playgrounds available, such as the Kerrisdale Play Palace in the Kerrisdale Cyclone Taylor Arena, or Kid Zone at the Park Royal Mall South Shopping Center.
The temperate Vancouver climate is classified as oceanic, with warm, dry summer weather (June to August) and cold, rainy winters (December to February). Summer temperatures reach an average high of 72°F (22°C), while winter temperatures can fall well below 32°F (0°C).
One of Canada's most cosmopolitan cities, eating out in Vancouver is something of an event and is a popular pastime for many local foodies. With eateries providing just about every kind of cuisine, you can be sure to find something to suit your taste while dining out in Vancouver. Many restaurants offer tapas-style tasting plates to share, so you can be adventurous.
With a strong emphasis on British, French, and Chinese cuisine, the food in Vancouver is generally quite international, with a few specialities waiting to be discovered. Fish like salmon, halibut, and Atlantic cod are popular, as well as wild game such as venison, which can be found on most menus.
Salt-cured fish, beef, and pork are also something to be experienced. Those with a sweet tooth should try the decadent Nanaimo bar, a local dessert which comprises a wafer crumb-based layer topped by a layer of custard or vanilla butter icing, covered in chocolate.
Most of Vancouver's best restaurants are situated around downtown, West End, Yaletown, and Gastown areas. Most restaurants require reservations and it is customary to tip waiters around 15 percent as no service charge is added to restaurant bills.
Offering a warm ambiance and a diverse menu to complement its urban environment, patrons at Brix can sample anything from a Four Cheese Cannelloni to Quebec Wentzel Duck. Accommodating night owls, Brix also offers a gratifying late night menu comprising spring rolls, Seven Spice Seared Ahi Tuna, and oven-baked pizza with loads of fresh toppings. Brix is ideal for dinner with friends or a romantic date. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
Situated in trendy Yaletown, the Glowbal Grill and Satay Bar serves inventive and delicious cuisine in a stylish yet sophisticated setting. With the option of formal fine dining on white linen tablecloths or more laid-back feasting, this restaurant caters to a variety of people. Try the Kobe meatballs with truffled spaghetti or the Seven-spiced rare Ahi tuna, and round off with the warm Brazilian chocolate coffee cake or the Maple Macadamia nut flan. Reservations are recommended.
Serving the largest selection of oysters, lobsters and prawns as well as delicious steak, the Blue Water Café is frequented by local and international celebrities alike. With elegant décor and flawless service, this is the place to be when trying to impress a date or business associate. Try the White Sturgeon with red beet agro dolce, pumpernickel crust, chioggia beets and cauliflower puree, or the Beef Tenderloin served with porcini mushrooms, green chard and macaroni gratin with blue cheese. Reservations are recommended. The restaurant is open from 5pm till 11pm, with the Late Menu available till midnight.
Nestled away in an old mansion located in downtown Vancouver's Yaletown district, this stylish Italian eatery evokes a 1930s charm and sophistication while serving delicious, inventive and expertly presented dishes. Try the ossobuco, filetto di salmone or the filetto di manzo con porcini. You won't be disappointed. Lupo is open daily for dinner. Reservations are recommended.
Wraparound windows afford stunning views of downtown Vancouver and the surrounding mountains at this sophisticated Canadian restaurant in Queen Elizabeth Park. Serving up tasty food at reasonable prices, Seasons in the Park is a Vancouver gem for both locals and foreigners. Try the Miso Soy Marinated Black Cod drizzled with pineapple chive vinaigrette and served with jasmine rice, and for dessert the much-loved Sunburnt Lemon Tart is a must. Dinner reservations offer views of the twinkling city lights and at lunch you can admire the leafy park and snow-capped mountains from the circular patio.
A charming Greek restaurant serving good no-fuss Greek food, Pasparos Taverna is a great place to meet with family and friends. A family business operating since 1974, Pasparos offers a warm atmosphere and mouth-watering homemade Greek cuisine, just as you'd find in Greece. With warm fresh breads, dolmades, roast lamb, superb Tzatziki, Avgolemono soup and a selection of souvlakia (kebabs), patrons are spoilt for choice. Combine that with top-notch service and a good Greek winelist (wine by the glass included) and you have all the ingredients for a successful restaurant. Open Monday to Friday for lunch, and daily for dinner.
One of Vancouver's best dining experiences, Guu with Garlic is part of a unique Japanese tapas chain that is taking the city by storm. With a perfect ratio of small portioned dishes at affordable prices, patrons can sample a handful of different dishes without breaking the bank. The open kitchen and cheerful waiters add to the electric mood, as do the exotic cocktails and experimental drinks. Recommended dishes include the duck salad, assorted carpaccio, baked oysters, prawns and calamari, as well as its daily specials. Open daily for dinner, reservations are recommended.
The International Jazz Festival is the most popular cultural event in Vancouver, with performances by more than 400 talented international blues and jazz artists. The programme is full of famous names that play at various venues throughout the city, from formal concert theatres to open-air stages and public squares. As one of the biggest celebrations of music in the world, the festival now attracts about 460,000 spectators every year and features world-class musicians. Lovers of jazz and blues will be spoilt for choice during this summer festival in Vancouver.
One of Vancouver's most loved summer events is a picnic in Vanier Park followed by an evening performance of Shakespeare. Plays are performed in huge open-ended tents overlooking the picturesque English Bay with a mountain backdrop. Plays of past seasons have included Twelfth Night, King Lear, The Tempest and Titus Andronicus, and are consistently well performed and well received. The picnic setting makes it a laid-back and fun way to get to grips with Shakespeare, providing a good introduction for children.
Set in the heart of Jericho Beach Park and spread over seven stages, the annual Folk Music Festival is one of Vancouver's favourite events. For nearly thirty years, it has entertained both young and old. Day, evening and weekend tickets are available at varying prices, with early bird tickets on sale from April. Food stalls, a bustling market and a fantastic atmosphere all add to a wonderful weekend of entertainment.
For those who can't afford a ticket, the beach and the park on the edges of the fenced concert area are perfect places to picnic and still catch some of the music. People can browse the many stalls lining the beach, selling anything from corn on the cob to First Nations crafts and jewellery.
Icy winter swims may not be everyone's idea of fun; even so, the annual Polar Bear Race has been running for nearly 90 years in Vancouver. Thousands flock to English Bay every New Year's Day to take the plunge and celebrate the beginning of the year in this refreshing fashion. Outrageous costumes are the order of the day and many come to participate in the Peter Pantages 100 yard (90m) race, named in honour of the founder of the swim club in 1920.
Registration and participation in the event are free, and for those not brave enough, a good spot on the beach with a mug of hot chocolate is the perfect way to view the goings-on.
The Vancouver Pride Week is a colourful, vibrant affair, celebrating the city's LGBTQI+ community and its many supporters in a variety of shows, festivals, parties and the ever-popular Pride Parade. Each year, a special team comes up with a theme and specific image. In recent years, the focus has been on issues and battles faced by the gay community. For a week, beautiful Vancouver is transformed into a rainbow-coloured riot, fun is the order of the day and the more outrageous the costume, event or party, the better.
With the stunning mountain backdrop and pristine wilderness on the city's doorstep, visitors may think the locals are too preoccupied with outdoor entertainment to cultivate much of an after dark entertainment scene.
But the nightlife in Vancouver is actually second to none. With plenty of pubs, clubs, lounges, and everything else in between, there is no shortage of entertainment when the sun sets on this vibrant city. Until fairly recently, city regulations forced bars and pubs to masquerade as restaurants, so you'll find many watering holes with token menus.
Vancouver's British heritage plays a part in it being a pub paradise, the heart of which is downtown with its countless pubs and bars tucked away and nestled in between shops, businesses, and bistros. The Irish Heather, the Diamond, and Chambar are names to remember in Gastown's cobblestone streets, which are reminiscent of Amsterdam and bring tourists flocking here to imbibe and socialise.
Most of Vancouver's clubs and discos can be found downtown around Granville Street and Water and Pender streets in Gastown. The Roxy in Granville is a must and is one of Vancouver's top nightlife spots. Another busy entertainment district is Kitsilano, while a third is the up-and-coming nightlife district of Yaletown, which is a more upscale bar and lounge zone.
Vancouver also hosts several large festivals, including the Vancouver Fringe Festival, centred on Granville Island every September; the Vancouver International Film Festival, the Vancouver Jazz Festival, and the Vancouver Folk Festival.
Shopping in Vancouver ensures a diverse range of products and quality, with everything from haute couture to laid-back flannels, as well as jewellery and home accessories available in malls and shopping areas throughout the city.
Commercial Drive is known as 'Little Italy' and has very trendy, quirky boutiques, while Davie Village in the West End is home to great bookshops. Chinatown, encompassing Main Street and Keefer, trades in ginseng, green tea, silks, weekend summer markets, and exotic fresh produce.
Another Main Street also offers a wide selection of antique and home accessory shops. Granville Island Market sells fresh produce, meats, fish, and baked goods, and there are a diverse range of shops, stalls, and galleries in the area.
Downtown Vancouver and Gastown have shops offering high fashion, jewellery, shoes, and homewares, while the Sinclair Centre has upmarket fashion and art shops. Royal Centre is made up of a variety of underground stores and the Pacific Centre is home to the famous Holt Renfrew shop. Nearby Water Street is home to art galleries, antique shops, and native art stores, as well as souvenirs in the many speciality shops.
Note that a Goods and Services Tax is levied on most things, but Canada no longer offers a refund scheme.
The integrated Translink public transport system is both highly efficient and good value. The computerised SkyTrain (light rail) has underground downtown stops as well as an elevated track. Its latest addition, the Canada Line, now connects downtown to Vancouver International Airport.
The Translink system also includes buses; electric trolley buses; West Coast Express trains (weekdays only); and SeaBus passenger ferries that connect downtown to North Vancouver. The network reaches every part of the city, including the beaches and ski slopes. After midnight, the regular bus system is replaced by a limited night bus service on main routes. Fares are based on a zone system and tickets are valid for buses, the SkyTrain and SeaBus with transfers valid for 90 minutes from the time they are validated.
Taxis are easy to come by at taxi stands, hotels, or by telephone, but can be difficult to hail outside of the downtown area. Vancouver's traffic and road network is fairly well-ordered, but hiring a car is not necessary in the city because the public transport is more than sufficient.
Brimming in history and culture, Vancouver is one fascinating city and has plenty of sightseeing opportunities for everyone. From museums and historic and trendy neighbourhoods to botanical gardens and Granville Island, visitors will have no problem finding things to see and do in Vancouver.
Explore Chinatown and soak up the culture, colour and eateries, or visit the exciting enclave of Gastown famous for its cobblestone streets, antique gaslights and pulsing nightlife. Nature lovers should head to the VanDusen Botanical Garden, Stanley Park and Queen Elizabeth Park for an invigorating day out, and culture vultures will love the Museum of Anthropology and the Vancouver Art Gallery.
For a panoramic view of the city, climb 'nature's stairmaster' up to Grouse Mountain, or take the tram for a less strenuous trip. You can also ride to the top of Vancouver lookout for 360 degree views. The Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver allows visitors to walk from treetop to treetop on delicate walkways suspended dozens of metres above the forest floor.
Visitors should consider purchasing a See Vancouver and Beyond Card, which gives the bearer access to countless attractions in and around Vancouver as well as maps and travel tips.
On Vancouver's north shore just a 15-minute drive from the downtown area across the Lions Gate Bridge, waits the year-round mountaintop playground of Grouse Mountain. Ascending the mountain is part of the adventure in the Super Skyride, a passenger tram that glides up the steep mountain slopes carrying visitors up 3,700ft (1,100m) above sea level in just eight minutes.
At the top, apart from magical views of the city below, is the Theatre in the Sky, which offers a high-tech presentation about Vancouver. There is also a cedar longhouse called the Hiwus Feasthouse that offers the chance to experience native West Coast culture with displays of dancing, storytelling and native cuisine.
There are hiking trails up the side of Grouse Mountain and on the east side one of them features the Grouse Grind, which is billed as one of the world's biggest stair-climbs. Mountain biking, skiing and snowboarding are also popular pursuits here.
Built in 1889, the Capilano Suspension Bridge is one of Vancouver's oldest and most popular tourist attractions, with plenty of activities and sights in the park for visitors to enjoy. Stretching 450 feet (137m) across and perched 230 feet (70m) above the Capilano River, it's a sturdy construction of reinforced steel and concrete, though still not for the faint of heart. A recent addition to the park is the Treetops Adventure, where elevated suspension bridges allow visitors a bird's-eye view of the rainforest, while they walk along the canopy of Douglas fir trees. Other attractions in the park include a story centre; a First Nations Cultural Centre where visitors can see carvers, weavers and beaders at work; a large collection of First Nations Totem Poles; and guided tours of the rainforest.
Tucked in the Strait of Georgia are the picturesque Gulf Islands. Home to artists and writers, many Vancouverites escape to holiday homes tucked away in the rainforest. Large parts of the islands have been designated as marine parks, preserving the land for the numerous endemic birds and animals that call the island home. Many of the islands host events and festivals each year, alongside a healthy art and shopping scene.
Bowen Island is only a 20-minute ferry ride from West Vancouver's Horseshoe Bay. Visitors can enjoy a stroll from Snug Harbour past the historic Union Steamship Company or take a walk in the Crippen Regional Park.
Galiano Island is the second biggest of the group and is about the size of Manhattan. Only 50 minutes away on the Tsawwassen Ferry on the Lower Mainland, Galiano Island draws all sorts of visitors who come to picnic in Bellhouse Park, take walks through the lush rainforest up to Bluffs Park or indulge in a spot of fishing, kayaking or a round of golf.
The San Juan Islands are a boater's paradise. Hundreds of islands are separated by nationality, but are part of the same scenic and rugged archipelago, located off the northwest coast of Washington State. Much of the area is in a rain shadow behind Vancouver Island, making a surprisingly dry and sunny reprieve in the northwest. Little island communities, great wildlife and the open water provide a real disconnect from the mainland.
Frequent government ferry services connect the mainland and larger inhabited islands to each other, but others can only be visited by smaller shuttle boats and yachts. Friday Harbour is San Juan's largest town and an enchanting tourist destination. Anchorages are bustling throughout summer, but largely empty in other seasons. Yacht charters are available out of Bellingham.
Home to the celebrated Othello Tunnels, the Coquihalla Provincial Park lies just outside the town of Hope and about an hour's drive east of Vancouver. This quintet of railway tunnels which traverse the steep-sided Coquihalla Gorge were built for the Kettle Valley Railway and today offer visitors a fascinating insight into the history of the area, as well as a wonderfully scenic and unique hiking experience.
While the Othello Tunnels themselves are dark and dank (flashlights are recommended), the two-mile (3.5km) railway trail also crosses above thundering rapids and cuts through impressive, nearly 1,000-foot (300-metre) granite rock faces. The Othello Tunnels are an accessible and highly rewarding day trip from Vancouver, offering visitors of all ages a great mix of exercise and adventure.
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