Suburban Vancouver: An Overview




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This is a follow-up to my previous post, Vancouver: An Overview.  In it I gave a rundown of a variety of attractions in the city of Vancouver proper. Today I continue with a list of things visitors to Vancouver may find interesting in the suburbs. And I am using the term loosely to refer to the panoply of towns and cities stretching from Harrison Hot Springs in the east to Squamish in the west. This is hardly an exhaustive listing simply because there are too many to cover them all and I don’t even know of them all. This is based mainly on my personal experience or what I have heard from others.

Harrison Hot Springs

Harrison Hot Springs is about an hour and a half east  of downtown Vancouver nestled beside beautiful Harrison Lake. It is a popular site for boating and just walking along the waterfront. You can take a boat excursion of the lake or rent your own boat if you like.

As the name suggests, there is a local hot springs nearby and the town has a public swimming pool which has hot water pumped in from the hot springs. There are a variety of hotel, gift shops and restaurants as well.

Harrison Mills

Harrison Mills is a tiny farming community about twenty minutes from Harrison Hot Springs but with some interesting attractions for the visitor to Vancouver. These include Rowena’s on the River, the old homestead of a wealthy lumber baron that was turned into an inn by his children. The inn hosted a Great Gatsby Party a few years ago which I wrote about here. This year they are hosting a Harvest Moon Longtable Dinner on September 16th. Dining under the stars.

Rowena's Inn on the River
Rowena’s Inn on the River

The inn is also adjacent to the Sandpiper Golf Course. And in mid-November it hosts the annual Bald Eagle Festival as majestic birds visit the river estuary to feast on spawning salmon.

Not surprisingly then, another attraction near Harrison Mills is the Weaver Creek Salmon Spawning Channel. The channel is open to visitors during salmon spawning season from October 6 to Nov. 1. Peak activity is from October 15-20.

And another attraction nearby is the Hemlock Valley Ski Resort.

Mission

Mission is a small town on the north shore of the Fraser River about an hour from Vancouver. It has two attractions I know of worth a visit. The most famous is Westminster Abbey, a benedictine monastery. Built in 1954, the site includes an abbey, a church and a seminary. It sits high on a hill and is notable for its distinctive steeple which can be seen for miles around.

The second attraction of note in Mission is Cascade Falls, a remote wilderness park that I wrote about in a previous post.

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Abbotsford

Abbotsford is the town where I live so I have a particular affection for ir and familiarity with its attractions. It is known as the City in the Country and has a lot of rolling farmland including many berry farms – blueberries and raspberries are big. And it has some wineries as well.

The town abounds with walking trails – the Trans-Canada Trail runs for about twenty kilometres along the shore of the Fraser River. The Discovery Trail crosses the city and includes three lakes known as Fishtrap Creek. Mill Lake is also a favorite hiking location. And for the more energetic there is the Abbotsford Grind, a hike up Sumas Mountain.

In the Spring, you’ll want to catch the Abbotsford Tulip Festival which I wrote about when it debuted in 2016.

Mount Baker forms a great backdrop to the tulip fields.
Mount Baker forms a great backdrop to the tulip fields.

And every August the city is host to the annual world-renowned Abbotsford International Airshow.

Fort Langley

Fort Langley is a nice little village steeped in history. The main attraction is the old fort, a wooden stockade with many artifacts and employees in period costume demonstrating some of the trades and crafts of a bygone era.

The town itself is known for its many antique shops and boutiques as well as some nice restaurants.

White Rock

White Rock is a town adjacent to the border with the United States. The famous Peace Arch is here. White Rock also has a fine beach with a long pier where you’ll often see fishermen and crabbers. The boulevard running beside the beach front area is lined with small shops and restaurants. It is a popular dining locale with its seascape views and ocean breezes.

On the pier at White Rock
On the pier at White Rock
Richmond

Richmond is a community immediately to the south of Vancouver and home to the Vancouver International Airport. Its most notable attraction is the Steveston Fisherman’s Wharf.

Steveston is an old community and used to be home to a major salmon canning operation. The former cannery is now a fishing industry museum. Walking along the Steveston dock you’ll find many restaurants and small shops. And you’ll find fishmongers selling their wares from the boats tethered there.

Fresh fish are sold from the fishboats docked at Steveston
Fresh fish are sold from the fishboats docked at Steveston

Walk into the village and you’ll find a bakery, a garden shop, an ice cream parlour and other interesting shops.

A short drive away is Garry Point Park. This park sits at the mouth of the Fraser River and is noted for its windiness and the many kite flyers that like to hang out there.

Delta

Directly across the river from Steveston is the Reifel Refuge, officially the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary. This is a great park to walk around in and observe a wide variety of waterfowl. Almost 300 species of bird have been seen here. Of particular interest are the annual flocks of snow geese, magnificent white birds that stop here on their migration from Wrangel Island in Russia. These birds usually start arriving in early October.

New Westminster

The main attraction in New Westminster is the Westminster Quay. Its large boardwalk overlooks the Fraser River. The site is home to a large farmer’s market as well as a number of excellent restaurants. You can also visit an historic paddle-wheeler. Always a fun outing.

Burnaby

Burnaby is the city directly east of Vancouver and is known for the large Metrotown Shopping Mall and the iconic Telus building as well as a number of fine parks. But for visitors, your best bet is a museum.

The Burnaby Village Museum is a recreated period village that displays life in colonial times. Craft shops and restaurants are part of the mix. You’ll also find a restored 1912 carousel.

The people working in the village are all dressed in period costumes. The village is a delight for young and old alike.

North Vancouver

North Vancouver is home to numerous attractions. Set in the mountains on the north shore of the Burrard Inlet, it can be reached by the Lions Gate Bridge at one end and by the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge at the other end.

  • Lynn Canyon Park – this beautiful park features a number of trails through a natural setting of tall evergreens, hilly landscapes, and a raging creek. To get to the main park area you cross Lynn Creek on a rickety suspension bridge that soars high above the creek bed. Lynn Creek emerges from a narrow canyon to the north into a wide pool where locals often like to swim and to dive off the cliffs. Meandering down an increasingly rocky bed, the stream picks up speed as it cascades over several waterfalls. Unfortunately, a number of people have tempted fate and drowned here. Trails take you to a lower bridge where you can cross back to the parking lot and concession stands. Lynn Creek is a must see in my book. And it’s free!
  •  Capilano Canyon Suspension Bridge – this bridge over the Capilano River is a major tourist attraction. Besides the suspension bridge over the river, there is a walkway that overhangs the river. And there is a treetop adventure – elevated walkways between the trees. This is a private facility and an admission fee is charged.
  • Grouse Mountain – in the winter Grouse is known as a mecca for local skiers. But even in the summer, there are activities aplenty, from hiking to live shows – a timber show and a birds of prey show. You can take the chairlift to the top and see the wind turbine at the peak. There is also ziplining and a number of restaurants. And did I mention the grizzly bears? I wrote about Grouse in the summer in a previous blog post.

    They land below at a park near Cleveland Dam.
    Hang gliders soar from the peak of Grouse Mountain in the summer.
  • Cleveland Dam – this dam holds back the Capilano Reservoir which supplies much of Vancouver’s water.
  • Lonsdale Quay – a large public market with many fresh farm produce shops, meat and fish markets and more. Similar to Granville Island Public Market and Westminster Quay. Lonsdale Quay is also a terminus for the Seabus, a passenger ferry running between North Vancouver and downtown Vancouver.
West Vancouver

West Vancouver is home to a couple of nice nature parks, most notably Lighthouse Park and Whytecliff Park. It is also home to the Cypress Bowl ski area.

Squamish

Squamish is a small town located about an hour’s drive from downtown Vancouver. It is nestled at the end of Howe Sound. The Sea to Sky Highway that takes you there passes the Britannia Beach Mining Museum, a former copper mine.

Close to Squamish is a triple attraction, three places worth checking out and all within walking distance of each other. First is the thousand foot high Shannon Falls. This is a graceful airy cataract with wisps of spray catching the wind on the way down. You can easily walk right up to the base of the falls.

Beautiful Shannon Falls
Beautiful Shannon Falls

A short walk away is the Sea to Sky Gondola which takes you to the lower summit of Mount Habrich. There you’ll find trails and several viewing platforms giving sweeping panoramic views of Howe Sound.

Howe Sound seen from the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola
Howe Sound seen from the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola

One of the platforms gives a view from above the Stawamus Chief, the third part of this triple attraction. The Chief is a popular hiking and mountaineering destination. There is an easily accessible trail to the top of the Chief. But it is a strenuous hike and a challenge if you’re not in good shape.

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Grouse Mountain in the Summer




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North Vancouver’s Grouse Mountain is a popular ski hill for locals but it is also a great destination for visiting in the summer. Not only is the view of downtown Vancouver spectacular from up there, the ski resort has a lot of amenities to appeal to the summer visitor. There’s even a helipad on the mountain if you want to take a scenic tour of the city by air.

Helicopter tours of the city are available on Grouse Mountain.
Helicopter tours of the city are available on Grouse Mountain.

The fun starts, of course, with getting there. Whether you go by car or are on a tour bus, your visit starts at the base of the mountain. From there it’s a scenic trip to the top of the mountain on one of the two cable trams.

Upon exiting the tram you’ll find the ski lodge ahead. It features several restaurants as well as some shops. Clothing, cameras and souvenirs, and in the winter you’ll find ski gear.

The view from the restaurants is breathtaking. But we’re not here to eat yet. Let’ saunter down the trail to see what we can find. Walking amidst the tall cedars we come across some large wooden sculptures. Figures of tree planters.

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Giant wood carvings of tree planters. Behind the third one is the launch platform for one of two ziplines on the mountain.

You’ll also find a large hollowed out carved stump. A popular spot to pose for pictures.

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The giant hollowed out stump. Left to right: daughter Sarah, son Adriaan, my wife Janis, and our daughter’s fiancé Jamie.

Just over the rise we come to a large meadow in a shallow valley. Here you’ll find the popular Timber Show. With shows several times a day, the Timber Show is a humor filled display of woodsman skills, including a climbing competition, log rolling competition, and chainsaw exhibition.

Off to the left is the large bear enclosure. A couple of large grizzly bears live here. You might have to look around for them as there is a lot of wilderness for them to hang out in as well as a bear house. We visited Grouse in the summers of 2012 and again in 2015. On the first trip we spotted the bears on returning on the chairlift from the Peak.

grizzlies2
We spotted these grizzly bears from the chairlift to the Peak in 2012. The crowds love to see these large animals.
This shot has been cropped from a larger one. The bear was up a hillside and in the woods.
This shot has been cropped from a larger one. The bear was up a hillside and in the woods.

At the top of the Peak stands a wind turbine with an observation deck high above the mountain. Appropriately enough, it’s called The Eye of Vancouver. We took the chairlift up to the top to check it out, though we did not go up the turbine itself. Maybe another time. The view must be amazing.

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Even if you do not go up to the observation deck, the view of the surrounding mountains as well as the city is excellent from the ground. Worth a walk around.

There is also a zipline on top. One of two on the mountain. The other one is not far from the wooden carvings of the tree planters. The upper zipline crosses a canyon. The lower one soars over a mountain lake.

The zipline
The zipline. You can see a rider just starting his trip across the canyon.

The side of the Peak slopes down at a moderate angle from the top and you’ll often find hang gliders launching from there. Fun to watch from above, as well as from below.

A hang glider launches from the side of the Peak.
A hang glider launches from the side of the Peak. Another lies on the ground as the next flyer preps for takeoff.
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Janis at the top of the Peak. The view is spectacular. Behind her is Stanley Park and the finger jutting out into Georgia Strait is Point Grey, home of the University of British Columbia.

Taking the chair down again we headed left to an outdoor amphitheatre for the Birds in Motion show. This is my favorite show on the mountain. Several naturalists bring out a variety of flying raptors in turn and talk about these fabulous birds as they put them through some flying exercises.

Bald eagle in flight
Bald eagle in flight

Heading back on our first visit, we wandered around the lake the lower zipline soars over. It is a peaceful quiet walk featuring some aboriginal outbuildings. A nice way to end your day.

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A native longhouse alongside the lower lake.

Grouse Mountain is a fun ski destination in winter, but personally, I prefer it in summer. I took a lot of pictures on both occasions we were there so I’ll add two photo albums. One is just of the Birds in Motion show which includes a number of video. The other is of the other sights around the mountain.



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Photo Gallery: Birds in Motion at Grouse Mountain




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Here are some additional photos and videos of the Birds in Motion show at Grouse Mountain. 

Great Horned Owl
The great horned owl flies towards the stump.
The great horned owl flies towards the stump.
Coming in for a landing.
Coming in for a landing.
In 2012 I caught the owl coming in for a landing on this post right in front of us.
In 2012 I caught the owl coming in for a landing on this post right in front of us.
Nice close-up of the owl.
Nice close-up of the owl.

The owl and one of the trainers
The owl and one of the trainers
Hey good lookin'!
Getting up close and personal with the owl.
The Vulture
The vulture and his trainer
The vulture and his trainer

The vulture in flight
The vulture in flight.
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Perfect landing.
The Bald Eagle

On our visit in 2012 they had a mature bald eagle with it signature white head. On our 2015 visit, it was a younger bald eagle whose top feathers had yet to turn white.

Bald eagle in flight
Bald eagle in flight. This was in 2012.
Bald eagle in flight
The above photo cropped to a close-up view.
Juvenile bald eagle and his trainer
Juvenile bald eagle and his trainer. This was in 2015.
The eagle has landed.
The eagle has landed.

Eagle in flight
Eagle in flight
Eagle landing.
Eagle landing.
Peregrine Falcon

Be sure to check out the other photo gallery of Grouse Mountain in the summer.

 



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Photo Gallery: Grouse Mountain in Summer




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Vancouver from the top of the Peak.
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Lumberjack at the top of a spar.
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He stands up at the top. The crowd holds its breath.

The grizzly bears are a popular attraction.
The grizzly bears are a popular attraction.
He's a big one!
He’s a big one!
3 - Sarah and Jamie as Bears-r
How do you measure up to a bear? Together Jamie and Sarah have the height of a coola or grizzly bear.
The Eye of Vancouver is an observation deck near the top of the wind turbine.
The Eye of Vancouver is an observation deck near the top of the wind turbine at the top of the Peak.
As we go up the chairlift, a hang glider flies over.
As we go up the chairlift, a hang glider flies over.
A hang glider lifts off.
A hang glider lifts off.
They land below at a park near Cleveland Dam.
They land far below at a park near Cleveland Dam.
From tha chairlift, a trail leads to the zipline. The Eye of Vancouver is just off to the right.
From the chairlift, a trail leads to the zipline. The Eye of Vancouver is just off to the right.
The base of the wind turbine
The base of the wind turbine
The Eye of Vancouver
The Eye of Vancouver
Looking down at the zipline launch site from the base of the Eye.
Looking down at the zipline launch site from the base of the Eye.
The view from the top is breathtaking.
The view from the top is breathtaking.
The city through the trees.
The city through the trees.
A bee explores some of the many wildflowers growing on Grouse Mountain.
A bee explores some of the many wildflowers growing on Grouse Mountain.
Down below again - the other side of the native longhouse.
Down below again – the other side of the native longhouse.
And we pass the wood carvings again.
And we pass the wood carvings again.
A toast to a fine day on top of Grouse Mountain.
A toast to a fine day on top of Grouse Mountain.


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