Yeah, we’re laid-back in BC, but we’ve got glitz, glamour and mountains all mixed in with our bohemian soul.
by Susan Musgrave
If you arrive by plane from the US, you might think you’ve nodded off en route and landed in a museum: your übercool west-coast experience begins the moment you de-plane at Vancouver International Airport. You step through a First Nations longhouse entrance into a hall, where water laps at the shores of a beach and birdcalls echo from trees in a simulated coastal rainforest. Did I mention the specially commissioned First Nations art? Next thing you know, you’re officially greeted by two giant, cedar welcome figures marking the entrance at the International Arrivals Level Meet and Greet Area.
Welcome to British Columbia and Canada’s Left—er, I mean, West—Coast.
Such a trippy, art-filled arrival is a fitting introduction to Vancouver—otherwise known as Hollywood North (BC is North America’s third-largest film centre, and second to Los Angeles in television production in the world)—the thriving Pacific gateway that sets the mood for the spirit of British Columbia’s west coast.
For a couple of toonies you can board the sleek Canada Line SkyTrain—evidence of Vancouver hosting February’s 2010 Winter Games—to downtown Vancouver, a vibrant fusion of cuisines and cultures from Asia and beyond. There are funky must-sees like Granville Island, with its Public Market, in the heart of the city; scruffy, arts-ifying Gastown, the birthplace of the city; and swish Yaletown
for a multi-ethnic eating experience. Mellow out, afterwards, in any number of smart, stylish hotels.
From Vancouver, drive the stunning Sea to Sky Highway about two hours to visit Olympic co-host Whistler, a world-renowned ski and snowboarding resort. Take a BC Ferry to laid-back Vancouver Island with side trips to quirky Gulf Island communities. Visit Sooke on Vancouver Island, west of the capital city of Victoria, and wander through the fragrant seaside gardens of fabled Sooke Harbour House, an inn and restaurant specializing in globally inspired, locally grown food. Cruise over the Malahat to the fertile Cowichan Valley and sample outstanding vintages: Cowichan Wine & Culinary Festival celebrates its sixth year running in 2010. (There’s more outstanding wine to be had in “Napa North,” the Okanagan Valley east of Vancouver.) Make time for a bite to eat in historic Cowichan Bay, North America’s First Cittaslow-designated community.
Long Beach, in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve on Vancouver Island’s rugged left coast, is Canada’s No. 1 surfing destination. While you’re in the area, catch a whalewatching tour or hike around Clayoquot Sound. Pacific Rim also includes the West Coast Trail and Broken Group Islands. Seakayak with orcas and sea otters through the sheltered waters of some 100 islets and rocky outcrops scattered in the heart of Barkley Sound. [member]
From early May through October, Great Bear Nature Tours offers grizzly bear viewing excursions from Port Hardy on the northeast coast of Vancouver Island to an area on the central coast of mainland British Columbia known as the Great Bear Rainforest. Here, in the fall, you’ll find one of the world’s highest concentrations of grizzly bears feeding on spawning salmon. The Great Bear Rainforest is also the natural habitat of the elusive, white Spirit (or Kermode) Bear and the world’s only protected area for the bear, the Kitasoo Spirit Bear Conservancy.
Make time, if you can, to take the Inside Passage ferry from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert, then over to Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands). This is Canada’s most remote archipelago, often referred to as the “Canadian Galapagos,” the ancestral home of the Haida First Nation.
Here you’ll find some of the most adventuresome sea kayaking on the coast, in Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site, named the best National Park in North America in 2005. You can visit ancient native village sites along the way, including SGang Gwaay, a Unesco World Heritage Site, with remnants of old mortuary poles and totems still standing among the ancient cathedral-like forests. Stop at Hotspring Island for a dip, and photograph the world’s largest black bears about as up close and personal as it safely gets.
The west coast rules when it comes to outdoor adventures and ecotourism, but it’s a natural fit for spa life and wellness vacations getaways as well. There are more than 400 spas, pampering resorts and wilderness retreats in the province.
A brilliant end to your west-coast adventure? Book into Sonora Resort on Sonora Island. The 50-minute ride to this hideaway from Vancouver International Airport—in the resort’s sister company’s helicopter—takes you north over the scenic Discovery Islands along the waterway between Vancouver Island and the mainland.
Courtesy of the Canadian Tourism Commission
If You Go…
Spirit Ridge Vineyard Resort & Spa
Spirit Ridge Vineyard Resort & Spa is located in Osoyoos, in the South Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, Canada. The resort is adjacent to the only desert in Canada and 4 hours drive from Vancouver.
Guest amenities also include pools, hot tubs, a waterslide, poolside cabanas, fitness centre, roof top patio, a casual market café, conference centre with space for up to 350 people and underground parking.
Spirit Ridge Residence Club
Spirit Ridge Residence Club (the 3rd Phase of Spirit Ridge) is perched high above the golf course against the cliffs with some of the most spectacular views in the entire Okanagan Valley. Each Villa-style home is designed to maximize the view with expansive outdoor living areas that sweep across the lake, golf course, mountain, the US border, orchards, vineyards and the desert landscape.
The villas are influenced by southwest desert adobe architecture, terraced, with large outdoor patio/balcony areas designed for indoor/outdoor living complete with outdoor kitchens, fireplaces and private decks off master bedrooms. Contemporary interiors include a gourmet kitchen with granite countertops, lavish living space, two large bedrooms each with luxury washrooms with separate tub and shower and custom built furnishings that contrast nicely with the warm desert color scheme. Each unit features an entertainment system with LCD TV’s in every room.
Copper Point Resort
Copper Point Resort is an award-winning luxury mountain resort that opened its doors in May 2011 in the Columbia Valley of British Columbia, Canada. Visitors will find this sleek modern alpine retreat amongst breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains and The Ridge at Copper Point golf course, one of nine championship golf courses in the area. This luxury resort property offers both year-round
accommodations and whole and fractional ownership opportunities.
This four-season mountain resort’s amenities include indoor and outdoor pools, hot tubs, a multi-use sport court, a playground, a marked walking trail, fire pits, a fitness facility, a business center, an on-site market, 24/7 reception, high-end concierge service, conference facilities and Elements Grill. A full-service spa is also set to open in the winter of 2011-2012.
Mountain Spirit Resort & Spa
Mountain Spirit Resort & Spa is located in the four season Canadian mountain getaway, Kimberley, British Columbia. This ski-in ski-out resort is also just steps away from world class golfing at Trickle Creek’s championship courses.
The resort is just 20 minutes from the Canadian Rockies International Airport. Whole or quarter ownership is available in fully furnished studios, one bedroom, two bedroom and three bedroom suites. A limited number of penthouses are also available.
Owners can enjoy a year round outdoor heated pool and hot tub, fitness suite, lobby lounge, slope-side ski lockers, underground heated parking, two high speed elevators and twenty-four hour front desk service.
Ownership includes a two year complimentary membership in the exclusive, international home owner exchange program Resort to Resort.