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The Lowdown | British Columbia

Breathtaking British Columbia Words by Steve Threndyle

Where Canada

Quick Quote $500 per day                         

Best Season Spring

Thinking ofmarriage proposals, or mountain climbing

Best Portrayed in the cult classic, X-Files

Over 90 percent of all tourist traffic entering British Columbia is routed through Vancouver, and like other global gateways it has become a destination unto itself. Once appreciated exclusively for its natural location and well-scrubbed (if somewhat boring) downtown, 2018 Vancouver combines Pacific Rim cuisine, architecture and culture with an almost cult-like devotion to yoga, fitness, and outdoor pursuits (few other world destinations are as bike friendly as Vancouver is). Beyond Vancouver lies a province that is double the size of the state of California… while having less than 10 percent of the Golden State’s population. Victoria, Whistler, and the Okanagan Valley are popular side trips; though each destination demands several days on its own.

Where to Stay

In Vancouver: Though its windows face east onto Burrard Inlet, the vibe at the Fairmont Pacific Rim definitely tilts towards Asia’s emerging economies and the architectural post Modernism that has built Vancouver’s reputation as The City of Glass. Located at the crossroads of Georgia and Howe across from the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Rosewood Hotel Georgia doubled down on Victorian era elegance by thoroughly being updated and modernized while retaining its grand history.

“British Columbia’s Latin motto translates as “splendor without diminishment,” and it really is. From the Pacific to the Rockies and the US border to the Yukon, there is delight to be found at every bend in the highway.”

 

Tofino––Owned and operated by the McDiarmid family (paterfamilias Howard was Tofino’s first doctor), the Wickaninnish Inn and Ancient Cedars Spa, or “The Wick,” literally put Tofino on the map as Canada’s finest luxury wilderness property. Long Beach Lodge Resort is a rustic chic oceanfront property perfect for sunset walks on the beach, neophyte surfing lessons, and kicking back and enjoying Canada’s unhurried West Coast vibe. In Salt Spring––Hedgerow House owners Peter and Jayne Lloyd-Jones offer true insider knowledge in an easy, relaxing ambience. Leaders in environmental sustainability, Hedgerow House even offers a discount to bike tourists. Located on 22 sprawling acres, Hastings House Country House is an English-inspired retreat that’s just a short walk from Ganges Harbor. 

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Words by Steve Threndyle British Columbia Editor

Living on the flank of Vancouver’s North Shore Mountains, adventure is literally right outside Steve Threndyle’s front door. He’s published thousands of stories over the past thirty years on topics like ski mountaineering in the Bugaboos, stand up paddle surfing in Belize, and building the perfect A-frame ski cabin in Whistler. Threndyle and his family have surfed in Tofino pretty much every summer since 2003.

Where to Eat and Drink

Vancouver: Bao Bei is a busy and buzzy little modern Chinese brasserie. They don’t take reservations, but put your name on the waiting list and then either wander the adjacent streets until they call you or grab a drink at the Keefer Bar, a few doors down. Much-awarded chef David Hawksworth’s flagship restaurant, Hawksworth, is consistently among Vancouver’s highest rated. Located in the Hotel Georgia, one of the city’s finest, the menus change seasonally; L’abbatoir, a Gastown restaurant, serves consistently excellent food, and the atmosphere is casual but not inelegant.  Chef Joel Watanabe’s ambitious menu at Kissa Tanto is a blend of Italian and Japanese, with a dollop of Chinese and French. The room is a painstaking recreation of a Japanese jazz café known as a kissa. Socially responsible almost to a fault, Forage touches all of the locavore bases—farm to fork, nose to tail. Its signature entree is butcher’s cut steak from the Turtle Valley Bison Ranch. 

In VictoriaOLO is where the community comes together to congregate for camaraderie and the comfort of a good meal. Executive chef and owner Brad Holmes fills the kitchen with quality B.C. ingredients, such as island-raised whole animals, fish plucked straight from nearby waters, and produce tenderly grown by local farms. Tofino Island: Post surf casual dining simply does not get any better than at Shelter, the perfect place to spend sunny summer evening. The best tables are clustered around the fireplace under the cabana. What can you say about a fine dining restaurant perched atop a rock bluff jutting into the Pacific Ocean? The Pointe Restaurant at the Wickaninnish Inn creates a nouveau West Coast menu that combines BC-sourced ingredients (octopus, scallops, oysters, duck, and beef) with matchless visual presentation. Araxi is a Whistler institution where executive chef James Walt visits local farmers to source vegetables, herbs, and other delicacies. His take on West Coast cuisine, including shucked oysters right on sight, has won numerous regional awards. Perhaps the most Instagrammed food in all of Whistler is served on the tapas plates at Bar Oso, where head chef Jorge Munoz-Santos oversees a Spanish infused menu in a surprisingly cozy and intimate setting. While in Salt Spring, check out Moby in Ganges, not just for the lively vibe (dancing! live music!) but for its hearty dinners that go beyond traditional pub grub. 

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What to Do

Somewhat ignored by the guidebooks, Deep Cove delights with its oceanfront location and velvety forested mountainsides that plunge to the sea from every direction. In Victoria––Saxe Point Park is a gorgeous 14.75 acres of peninsula seafront, with magnificent views of Juan de Fuca Strait and the Olympic mountains. In Whistler––Alta Lake is pretty much everyone’s favorite with three parks (Lakeside, Wayside, and Rainbow), it's the perfect place to spend a summer’s day. It’s hard to believe, but Tofino and Long Beach probably have more surf schools than even famed Waikiki. The gentle summer surf and sandy-bottom shoreline make Tofino the ideal place to perfect those first pop-up rides. Despite Salt Spring’s size (under 45,000 acres), the Island supports over 200 working farms, many of which are open to visitors through the summer months. From craft breweries, vineyards and a cidery to dozens of fruit and vegetable producers, you can spend several days exploring the island’s agricultural bounty. Surrounded by the Salish Sea yet never far from another shore, the sea kayak (adapted from the Aleut First Nations) is the perfect mode of transport if you’re looking for secluded beaches or, if you’re lucky, an Instagram close-up (but not too close!) with resident orca whales. 

An Afternoon in Vancouver

Discover Stanley Park—Rent a bike and ride the Seawall (stay in the bike lane!) or walk through the tranquil rainforest trails. Manicured gardens abound, and the Vancouver Aquarium is a must-see, especially if rain puts a damper on outdoor activities. Visit the Museum of Anthropology (University of British Columbia campus), an architecturally stunning Modernist building that pays homage to the Coast Salish longhouses and features Canada’s most impressive collection of First Nations/Aboriginal art and sculpture. Marine Drive—Drive across the Lions Gate Bridge and tackle the narrow, twisting oceanfront road that bobs and weaves from the luxe Park Royal shopping mall all the way to Horseshoe Bay, one of the most spectacular seaside villages in North America. Explore Granville Island, one of North America’s first urban revitalization project and home to some of the most eclectic art galleries and craft retailers in Vancouver. The main attraction is the massive Public Market, which has the freshest produce, fish, dairy products, and gourmet foods in the city. Grab lunch from one of the gourmet takeaway food vendors and snag a waterfront bench for an alfresco lunch.

 

Main photo: Michael Becker - Wickaninnish Inn and Ancient Cedars Spa

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