Miguel Strother is a Vancouver Island-based writer whose life changed dramatically when his 41-year-old wife suffered a stroke that left her immobile and unable to speak. As lifelong travellers, Ineke and Miguel, along with their two children, are finding ways to adapt their lifestyle so they can keep exploring and experiencing the province and—when it’s safe—the world.
The destinations in BC are pretty spectacular, with Vancouver near the top of the list. From unbeatable urban beaches to snow-capped ski hills, there is beauty from every angle. Here are some of Miguel’s insider tips for experiencing all that Vancouver has to offer when mobility is a consideration.
Vancouver’s extensive transit network, prioritizes accessibility at every turn. The SkyTrain provides access to many of the city’s major attractions and suburbs, and train lines connect to wheelchair-accessible buses.
BC Ferries vessels travel along routes that expose spectacular water vistas, and you can reach out in advance for extra support and to take advantage of discounts for disabled travellers.
Downtown Vancouver offers many interesting options including the Fairmount Hotel Vancouver, which provides well thought out accessibility rooms and suites in the centre of the city. We love this iconic hotel because it’s got a great pool and offers exceptionally easy access to the neighbouring Vancouver Art Gallery, shopping along Robson Street, and a number of the city’s best cafés and restaurants if you want to explore with a coffee or enjoy some take-away in the park.
For access to Stanley Park and the seawall, Coal Harbour boasts a number of the most accessible hotels in the city, including the Westin Bayshore. We also have a soft spot for Vancouver’s eclectic West End—both of our kids were born there. Sidewalks along Denman Street are particularly wide and flat, and many neighbourhood side streets lead into the serenity of Stanley Park.
On the opposite side of the city, Parq Vancouver has 65 accessible King rooms with roll- or walk-in showers. To be close to the North Shore Mountains, consider a stay at the Pinnacle Hotel at the Pier in North Vancouver. It’s conveniently located beside Lonsdale Quay Market and the SeaBus to downtown Vancouver.
With its balance of urban amenities, spectacular natural beauty, and walkability, Vancouver is an ideal spot for families in search of a perfect mix of ease, relaxation, and adventure, and the seawall is the place to start and finish any trip to Vancouver, in our estimation.
The relatively flat paved path winds along the waterfront for approximately 30 km, beginning at the Vancouver Convention Centre. From there you can travel the 10-km perimeter of Stanley Park and keep going as far out as Spanish Banks near the University of British Columbia’s scenic campus. Stop to admire the 2010 Olympic cauldron, build the perfect picnic at the Granville Island Public Market, and head to one of more than half a dozen sandy beaches (most with easy-access disability parking spots).
For active travellers, Vancouver’s ocean and mountains offer all kinds of accessible activity options. Contact the British Columbia Mobility Opportunities Society to book paddleboarding or kayaking excursions. Just north of the city, Cypress, Grouse, and Seymour mountains offer accessible hiking in summer and snow sports in winter. Of the three, Grouse Mountain offers the most for travellers with disabilities, including a variety of programs, services, and facilities to support accessibility in all four seasons.
For more mountain fun, travel the Sea-to-Sky Highway 90 minutes to Whistler. Explore the accessible, car-free Village, and contact Whistler Adaptive to get out and experience nature.
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