Couple in a room at the Inn at Laurel Point | Hubert Kang

West Coast City Stays That Will Make It Easy to Put Down Your Phone

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Inn at Laurel Point in Victoria, BC | Hubert Kang

We’ve all spent far too much time lately staring at our screens and doom scrolling. Isn’t it time to disconnect from our phones and reconnect with ourselves and each other beyond our four walls? British Columbia’s urban settings have been shaped in harmony with nature and offer their own, distinctive way of experiencing what we like to call The British Columbia Effect—the transformation, deepened connection, and regained perspective that comes from spending time immersed in BC’s nature and culture.

Experience The BC Effect yourself with a leisurely city stay, where urban sophistication meets stress-free serenity. Choose a city and an accommodation that speak to you and then slow down and stay a while, enjoying the activities and unique experiences offered to see not just new sights, but new sides to yourself.

 

Vancouver

Skwachàys Lodge

Located in downtown Vancouver, near the historic attractions of Gastown and Chinatown, Canada’s first Aboriginal arts hotel is truly a unique place to stay. The boutique hotel has 18 guest rooms, each featuring beautiful, one-of-a-kind designs by an Indigenous artist. For instance, the Water Room features artworks by Corrine Hunt representing Orca and Salmon in a grey and white palette; in the Forest Spirits Room, a brightly colourful family painted by Jerry Whitehead dances before a silvery birch motif. The hotel also provides housing for Indigenous artists, an art gallery and workshop, as well as ceremonial spaces, a smudge room and sweat lodge, and even a 40-foot totem pole and stainless-steel longhouse.

Things to do nearby:

Join Talaysay Tours for one of their authentic Aboriginal cultural and eco-tourism experiences in Stanley Park, then feed your spirit with Indigenous cuisine at Salmon n’ Bannock. Check out the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art, and browse through the Indigenous art shops of Gastown.

 

Fairmont Waterfront

Worldwide, Fairmont hotels are synonymous with luxury. But at the Waterfront, luxury also means sustainability. Back in 1996, the hotel planted Vancouver’s first green roof; in 2008, it became Fairmont’s first site for honeybees. Today the rooftop organic garden is so bountiful with vegetables, herbs, fruit trees, and beehives, the Canadian Wildlife Federation has designated it a Certified Wildlife Habitat. The hotel’s commitment to sustainability runs even deeper. A 5 Green Key Hotel with a 4 Green Key Meetings rating, it has a Zero Waste Goal and, needless to say, was the first hotel in the city to offer electric vehicle charging stations for guests.

Things to do nearby:

This is the heart of the city, with easy access to everything you might want to explore. Head out on the 28-kilometre-long Seaside Greenway, the world’s longest uninterrupted seaside path, and discover  some of the most photogenic parts of this scenic city, as well as popular attractions like Granville Island, Science World, and the Museum of Vancouver. Or venture in the opposite direction and explore the most historic parts of Vancouver, Gastown, and Chinatown, home to great restaurants and bars.

Pinnacle Hotel at the Pier

Get a whole new perspective on Vancouver by hopping across Burrard Inlet for a stay in North Vancouver’s bustling Shipyards District. The Pinnacle is a sleek, modern hotel with luxuriously comfortable rooms and a spectacular view of the Vancouver skyline. It’s part of a revitalized historic area, surrounded by boutiques, restaurants, art galleries, space for live performances, and the Lonsdale Quay Market. The Quay is also where the SeaBus foot-passenger ferry departs every 15 minutes for downtown, making this as accessible for your conference as it is to the mountains.

Things to do nearby:

There’s so much to do on the North Shore! Just steps from the hotel, enjoy the shops, restaurants, and cultural experiences of the Shipyards District, then bike, walk, or run along the paved waterfront Spirit Trail. Plan to stay a few extra days and explore the trail systems of the North Shore Mountains, take the Skyride to the peak of Grouse Mountain, or go kayaking in Deep Cove.

Grouse Mountain | Destination Vancouver/Kindred & Scout
Vancouver | Destination Vancouver/Albert Normandin

Richmond

Versante Hotel

As home to both Vancouver International Airport and a dynamic, largely Chinese, immigrant community, Richmond has welcomed the new Versante Hotel as a great addition to the city’s thriving community and culinary scene. This super-stylish, super-luxurious boutique hotel is part of a complex that also includes an office tower and private club. Works of art are scattered throughout the public spaces and the chicly contemporary guest rooms feature beautiful goldfish-themed wallpaper and seriously luxe bathrooms. The owners have invested heavily in their culinary program as well, with the upscale Bruno restaurant in the hotel (brunch is a must), the rooftop bar Alaïa soon to come, and, on the club side, the whisky-themed Cask and seafood-forward Ooh La Cha.

While you’re here:

Plan to eat well, whether it’s fish ‘n’ chips in the historic fishing village of Steveston, xiao long bao along the Dumpling Trail, or tornado potatoes at the Richmond Night Market. Work it off by exploring the dyke system, visiting Iona Beach Regional Park, and, of course, shopping for food, gifts, and artworks at one of the city’s many Asian shopping centres.

 

Whistler

Nita Lake Lodge

Less than two hours’ drive from Vancouver, Whistler is a mountain playground with plenty to do year-round. For a serene and refreshing visit, plan to stay at this stylish property on the shores of a glacier-fed lake in the village of Creekside. The suites here are huge, homey, and packed with boutique amenities. There’s an award-winning restaurant on site as well as a luxury spa, so you can easily feed both body and soul without leaving the property. But you’ll want to get outdoors, too, and paddle on Nita Lake, take a gondola up the mountain, or go for a walk in the soothing silence of the forest.

While you’re here:

Borrow a complimentary bike, available to guests at Nita Lake Lodge, and take on part or all of the 45-kilometre-long Valley Trail—it’s about four kilometres to Whistler Village. Take a flightseeing tour to get the lay of the land, or take a ride on Canada’s longest zipline. Browse through Creekside boutiques like Get the Goods (gifts), 122 West (homewares), or BReD (vegan and organic sourdough bakery).

Biking in Whistler | Tourism Whistler/Justa Jeskova
Patio dining at Nita Lake Lodge | Hubert Kang

Kelowna

Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery Guesthouses

There’s something especially indulgent about staying at a winery, but the guesthouses at West Kelowna’s Mt. Boucherie take that indulgence to a whole new level. There are three of them, newly built and furnished with everything you could possibly need, and more. The largest accommodates up to 16 while the smallest—but perhaps most luxurious—sleeps up to eight and has four bedrooms, five bathrooms, a full chef kitchen, two private patios, a karaoke entertainment room, and golf simulator. All have easy access to the winery’s tasting room, restaurant, and meeting spaces just a short stroll across the parking lot, as well as sweeping views from their perch high up on the mountain.

Things to do in the area:

Plan a day boating on the lake, hiking local trails, or renting bikes to explore the area. Next, go wine touring. There are some 40 wineries in and around Kelowna, at least 15 of them right here in West Kelowna. Among them are some of BC’s oldest and most revered—including Mission Hill and Quails’ Gate—as well as the popular new beachside Frind Estate and quirky Crown & Thieves.

Victoria

Inn at Laurel Point

It looks a little like a cruise ship docked at the entrance to the Inner Harbour. But this sleek white building is actually one of Victoria’s most beautiful and luxurious hotels. The Inn at Laurel Point has two sections, the more traditional Laurel Wing tower, and the newer, modernist low-rise wing above the serenity gardens, designed by famed architect Arthur Erickson. Guest rooms are graciously appointed and have spectacular views of the Inner Harbour; in the Erickson Wing they also enjoy huge patios for soaking in the sun and scenery. Dine in the hotel’s high-end Aura Restaurant or just walk a few steps to Fisherman’s Wharf—where you can catch a Harbour Ferry across to downtown, to the Parliament Buildings, and Royal BC Museum.

While you are here:

Take a zippy Victoria Harbour Ferry across to the shops and restaurants of Victoria’s historic downtown. Visit Canada’s first Chinatown, where you can walk through historic Fantan Alley, check out the Gate of Harmonious Interest, or take a Chinatown foodie tour led by Off the Eaten Track Tours or Breakaway Experiences.

Oak Bay Beach Hote Oak Bay Beach Hotel | Hubert Kang
Victoria's Inner Harbour | Reuben Krabbe
Oak Bay Beach Hotel

Oak Bay is one of the most charming neighbourhoods in Victoria, its main street lined with boutiques and its leafy streets with historic homes. Anchoring the community is this sprawling Tudor-style hotel perched on a cliff above the ocean. It is gracious in an olde world sort of way, with luxuriously appointed guest rooms, comfortably elegant public spaces, and attentive service. It has a formal dining room, casual pizza parlour, and cozy Snug Pub, which is as popular with the neighbours as the guests. But perhaps the property’s biggest draw is its heated seaside mineral pools and the spa that leads to them. Notably, in 2021, it was named Canada’s top hotel by Conde Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice Awards.

While you are here:

Hit the Boathouse Spa, its three heated outdoor mineral pools and the Boathouse Kitchen & Bar, all situated on the edge of the Salish Sea. The oceanfront spa has been recognized as BC’s best by Spas of America. Then explore the charming shops of Oak Bay village, or explore Canada’s most bike-friendly city with a tour led by The Pedaler.

 

Brentwood Bay Resort

Further out on the Saanich Peninsula, past all the farms, is the calming oasis that is Brentwood Bay Resort. Designed in a West Coast Craftsman style, it is located in a lovely garden setting on a hill above a calm bay. Below is the resort’s marina and the ferry that travels to Mill Bay and the Cowichan Valley. Up above are the guest rooms, with their crisp linens, cozy fireplaces, and floor-to ceiling windows, as well as the spa, fine-dining Arbutus Room restaurant, and the pub, which is as famous for its sushi and live music as it is for its conviviality.

While you are here:

Visit The Butchart Gardens nearby; these are among the most famous display gardens in the world and every season offers something new and beautiful to experience. Pick up something tasty to eat at a farm market like The Fickle Fig or Michells, and plan to spend an afternoon browsing through the many new and vintage bookstores of Sidney by the Sea.

Vancouver Island

Villa Eyrie Resort

Just 25 minutes north of Victoria, perched on a mountain high above the Saanich Inlet, is a boutique retreat unlike any other. The European-inspired Villa Eyrie is a luxury destination with a relaxed mountain vibe and stunning views that sweep as far as Mount Baker. Its Alpina Restaurant blends the German heritage of its renowned executive chefs with a thoroughly local appreciation for ingredients and setting. And remote though the property seems, it is close to several major attractions, including the Cowichan Valley wine region, making it perfect for romantic getaways that balance wilderness adventure and total indulgence.

While you are here:

The Malahat Highway is one of the most scenic drives in BC, and taking advantage of those stunning views is the new Malahat Skywalk, a spiral lookout 250 metres above sea level. Not enough adrenaline for you? Take a heart-racing spin on the 19-corner track at Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit. Then plan to relax over a glass of Pinot Gris at one of the Cowichan Valley’s family-run wineries.

Summit Restaurant at the Villa Eyrie | Tourism Vancouver Island/Ben Giesbrecht
Malahat Skywalk | @melaniewonder