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Be Open to More This Summer:
Discover Activities and Adventure Near Vancouver

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Grouse Mountain Zipline | Hubert Kang
Grouse Mountain Zipline | Hubert Kang

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If there has been one positive thing to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been the opportunity to discover—or rediscover—the exciting places closest to home. British Columbia is awash in wild beauty and fascinating cultural experiences, and there is no better time to experience all that we have in our own backyard.

Within a day trip or short overnight jaunt, there are countless adventures to be had right around Vancouver. Maybe this is the summer to try forest bathing or discover a heritage rose garden, follow a public art trail, or savour international cuisine. The Vancouver area is blooming with parks and gardens—not to mention all those new restaurant patios—and the warm summer months are the best time to enjoy the great outdoors. But there are also plenty of shops, galleries, spas, and other indoor activities where you can get out of the heat and see something new.

Be open to more this summer. It’s the best way to reconnect with nature, our community, and each other, while being safe and staying healthy.

Tin Hat Mountain, along the Sunshine Coast Trail | Andrew Strain

Sunshine Coast

The Sunshine Coast is just a short ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay, but it feels like another world. Disembark at Langdale and the pace of life becomes instantly slower and gentler. And as you follow the highway winding through small, charming communities, nature is never far away.

On this coast, nature often means water. There is, for instance, the famous Skookumchuck Narrows where twice daily, as the tides turn, 200 billion gallons of water flow turbulently between the Sechelt and Jervis inlets. If you want to explore more than churning waters, consider a guided hike of Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park with Funtastic Hikes and Tours; a stop at the cute Skookumchuck Cafe and Bakery promises tasty treats to reward your hard work.

 

And then there are the waterfalls. Find them in parks around Sechelt, Roberts Creek, and Powell River. Several waterfalls can be viewed from the easy-going day hike along the Duck Lake Trails near Powell River. Dozens more can be spotted along the rugged, 180-kilomtere-long Sunshine Coast Trail that stretches from Sarah Point in Desolation Sound to Saltery Bay. Before you head out, grab goodies for a picnic lunch at one of the stands along the BC Farmers’ Market Trail.

Desolation Sound itself is a remarkable marine playground. (Tip: Consider booking a kayak or hiking tour, or even a Zodiac boat ride, with Terracentric Coastal Adventures for an excellent vantage point of the area.) The sound’s more than 6,350 acres of water and shoreline comprise the largest marine park in the province, with plenty of marinas, campgrounds, and resorts. Among them is Klahoose Wilderness Resort, a new eco-lodge tucked away on the calm shores of Homfray Channel and surrounded by the towering peaks of the Coast Mountains. It is the only Indigenous resort in the sound, and an excellent place to relax, take a wildlife-viewing excursion, experience Indigenous culture, or just enjoy the exceptional local seafood.

An aerial view of Hope | Christian Ward

Hope

The 6,500 or so people who call the mountain community of Hope home live at the junction of the Fraser and Coquihalla rivers, where the Fraser Canyon meets the Fraser Valley. This is a region of cascades and canyons, a paradise for hikers, campers, and nature lovers in general.

The town of Hope itself is a good base for adventure seekers. Those adventures should start in the town centre, with its hotels, restaurants, shops, outdoors outfitters, like the Hope Outdoor Store, and the Hope, Cascades & Canyons Visitor Centre, where you will pick up your trail guides. It also offers a peek into the region’s history. The Sto:lo First Nation has always called this area home. In 1808, the explorer Simon Fraser arrived to what the Sto:lo call Ts’qo:Is; soon the new world would follow. The Hudson’s Bay Company created the Fort Hope trading post in 1848, and a decade later, the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush began and forever changed the region.

 

From Hope, you can easily explore the Fraser Canyon and the peaks and valleys of E.C. Manning Provincial Park. There are more than 100 hikes in the area, excellent birding in Thacker Marsh, and whitewater experiences with REO Rafting Resort on the Fraser River. To get even closer to nature, about 66 kms east along the breathtaking Hope-Princeton Highway, Manning Park Resort offers rustic but comfortable accommodation, camping, and hiking, biking, and boating adventures for the whole family.

Eager for glimpse into history? Visit the quaint town of Yale. Or wander through the serene Japanese Friendship Garden in Hope’s Memorial Park, where you can trace the path of the region’s Japanese Canadian Internment during World War II along the Hope-Princeton Highway #3, all the way to the Sunshine Valley Tashme Museum, a former camp butcher shop-turned museum which recounts the stories of the largest internment camp in the area.

Lafarge Lake | City of Coquitlam

Coquitlam

The city of Coquitlam, the geographic centre of Metro Vancouver, is located just west of the Port Mann Bridge, a busy and multicultural community where past and present, urban amenities and access to nature easily mingle.

Coquitlam stems from kʷikʷəƛ̓əm, or Kwikwitlem, the Coast Salish Peoples who have always lived here. The name means “Red Fish Up the River,” after a sockeye salmon that used to run from Coquitlam River to Coquitlam Lake. Simon Fraser made his way here in 1808, and since then, people from all over the world have followed. In the late 19th century, many of them came here to work at the Fraser Mills lumber yard, including a large contingent of French Canadians who built Maillardville, the largest Francophone centre west of Manitoba.

It is just one of a number of unique neighbourhoods to explore here. City centre is a meeting of cultures, with diverse retail and restaurants serving everything from Persian to pub fare. (Tip: Head to Caffé Divano for coffee and sweet treats or opt for noodles at Legend House.) Burquitlam has one of Canada’s largest concentrations of Korean businesses. Meanwhile, Austin Heights is a walkable historic neighbourhood that includes Blue Mountain Park, with its mysterious stone sculptures.

Speaking of parks: Many of us are seeking open spaces these days, and Coquitlam delivers with more than 70 parks and 90-plus trails offering everything from art displays to hiking, biking, birding, disc golf, off-leash areas, outdoor pools, gardens, and picnic areas. Among them is the Centennial Rose Garden, with its more than 800 roses, including many Canadian heirloom varieties. A new park finder tool lets you pick your activity and the park that’s best suited for it. At day’s end, raise a cold one on one of two dog-friendly patios at Mariner Brewing, Coquitlam’s only brewery.

Japanese garden at Nikkei Place | Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre

Burnaby

At first glance, Burnaby is an urban centre of towers and high-tech businesses. The province’s third largest city is home to the BC Institute of Technology, the massive Metrotown mall, and the Arthur Erickson-designed Simon Fraser University on Burnaby Mountain.

But Burnaby is also a place of parks and gardens—in fact, it boasts the most green space per capita in North America, perfect for biking and hiking—as well as art galleries and glimpses of a history that dates back to the early days of the Coast Salish Peoples who have lived on this peninsula between the Burrard Inlet and the Fraser River since time immemorial.

One of the most interesting ways to discover the city is by taking a self-guided art tour through its many cultural institutions, such as the Burnaby Art GalleryDeer Lake GalleryBurnaby Village Museum, Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre, Shadboldt Centre for the Arts, and Michael J. Fox Theatre. (Note that due to the pandemic, some may not be open and others open by appointment only.) However, there are no closing hours for public art, and you can follow this map to view the city’s many sculptures and murals. (Tip: Pick up a pistachio turnover and a sleeve of pretty macaroons from Mon Paris Patisserie to fuel your walk.)

Prefer nature’s own works of art? Bring your binoculars and keep an eye out for the many songbirds, shorebirds, ducks, and geese that flock to (and through) Burnaby’s Central Park, Burnaby Mountain, and Burnaby Lake Park, which offers an excellent resource for identifying its winged and other residents. Following an afternoon of viewing, be sure to discuss your favourite fowl over a sundae to go from Glenburn Soda Fountain.

Exploring the North Shore trails | @jujumil

Vancouver's North Shore

If it’s been a while since you’ve taken the SeaBus over to Vancouver’s North Shore, you’re in for a surprise. The City and District have been undergoing a dynamic makeover, transforming this once-sleepy blue-collar community into a vibrant place to live and visit.

Linking almost everything new and exciting is the North Spirit Trail, a walking, running, skating, and cycling path that will eventually go all the way from Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove. (Tip: Rent an e-bike from Reckless Biking Shipyards.) The 6.5-kilometre section that runs through North Van includes Lonsdale Quay, The Shipyards (consider picking up a Happy Hippie bowl and smoothie from Buddha-Full), and Moodyville Park, with its public art, new Ravine Connector, and a mini-suspension bridge.

 

Of course, one of the best reasons to visit this community has always been the outdoor adventures offered by the North Shore Mountains, which are criss-crossed with hiking and biking trails, from the relatively easy amble of the Varley Loop to the challenging Grouse Grind, Baden Powell Trail, or a guided canyoning tour. If you’d rather see the landscape from a bird’s-eye view, consider an adrenaline-boosting Mountain Zipline Tour over the peaks and canyons of Grouse and Dam mountains.

A more serene way to experience these spaces is through the holistic act of what the Japanese call “shinrin-yoku,” or forest bathing. It is a walking meditation among the trees, which releases compounds that boost the immune system while relieving stress and burnout. Sounds like something we could all use right now. Local hiking guides can lead you to the most serene sylvan spots, but you can also go on your own, and be at one with nature.

Header image: Grouse Mountain Zipline | Hubert Kang

WRITTEN BY: Joanne Sasvari

From: North Vancouver
Joanne Sasvari has travelled to many places around the globe, writing about food, drink and culture, but her favourite destination is right here at home in British Columbia. Based in North Vancouver, she writes about BC for a variety of print and online publications, and is also the author of Frommer’s EasyGuide to Vancouver & Victoria. When not exploring the most delicious corners of the province, she edits Westcoast Homes & Design magazine and uses her Wine and Spirits Education Trust training to savour the best local libations.

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