Suburban Vancouver: An Overview




Follow us on Facebook!

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.

IMG_1432r

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.

Links of Interest

Follow us on Facebook!

Cascade Falls, B.C.




Follow us on Facebook!

There are a lot of scenic wilderness parks in British Columbia and many within driving distance of Vancouver. One that is well known to locals but not very well known to Vancouverites is Cascade Falls Regional Park near the City of Mission. It’s a two hour drive from Vancouver, but just 25 minutes from Mission.

Best way to get there is to take Highway # 1 to the Abbotsford-Sumas exit. Take Highway # 11 to Mission and turn right onto Highway # 7. Shortly after Hatzic Lake, turn left onto Sylvester Road. This is winding road that takes you up the mountain. After 14.6 kilometres, turn right onto Ridgeview Road for a kilometre to the parking lot.

Cascade Falls Regional Park is a 22 hectare park surrounding Cascade Creek. Its main attraction, of course, is Cascade Falls. You’ll find it up a winding trail, a fifteen minute hike that takes you to a viewing platform.

IMG_1430r

The falls itself is spectacular. A 30 metre drop carries the swift current to a deep emerald pool below. We were there in July but the amount of water running over the falls is heavier in the Spring. Although the water is cold, there were a few people in swimsuits gathered around the lower pool, cooling their feet and enjoying the view.

IMG_1432r
Locals enjoying the scenic beauty of Cascade Falls. Yes, that is someone sitting up at the very top of the falls.

It is not recommended that people stray off trail, but there were certainly a few on the day we were there. From the viewing platform there is a suspension bridge that takes you over the creek and some additional lower falls which drop another 18 metres.

IMG_1438r
The suspension bridge

From the other side you get another excellent view of the falls. We were surprised to see a young woman at the very top of the falls standing in the flowing water snapping a picture of some friends.

IMG_1452r2
Some daredevils at the top of the falls standing in the swift flowing water. She later waded across to the other side.

After watching the young daredevils with bated breath, we wandered in the other direction. We could see additional cascades below and a calm area below that.

IMG_1443r
Additional cascades take the creek down another 18 metres.

There were a lot of people surrounding the calm lower pools – a great place for a picnic lunch or a cool dip.

People wading in the lower pools.
People wading in the lower pools. The water is clear and refreshing.
Looking downstream at the lower pools.
Looking downstream at the lower pools.

Upon heading along the trail back to the parking lot, we stopped to check out a giant stump. There are a few of them around the park.

IMG_1456r
An old stump in Cascade Falls Regional Park

So if you’re a long time Vancouverite looking for something new to explore, take a trip to Cascade Falls. And if you’re just visiting the area, this is one of many nature parks worth exploring.  Do check it out! We’ll conclude with a few extra pictures.

IMG_1433r
People enjoying the cool waters of the pool at the base of the falls.
One of the downstream cascades below the main falls.
One of the downstream cascades below the main falls.
Looking through the trees to the calm pools below.
Looking through the trees to the calm pools below.
Two old stumps!
Two old stumps!
Cascade Falls
Cascade Falls




Follow us on Facebook!

The Historic Kinsol Trestle




Follow us on Facebook!

If you’re a railroad buff and visiting Vancouver Island, you might want to check out the historic Kinsol Trestle. It is a restored railroad trestle on the old abandoned CN Rail line and now part of the Trans Canada Trail.

The trestle is truly a marvel to see. The largest railroad trestle in the British Commonwealth and one of the largest in the world, it stands 145 feet above the Koksilah River with a span of 614 feet (0.187 km). It is also notable for its seven degree curve.

IMG_2140r
The Kinsol Trestle is the largest railroad trestle in the British Empire and one of the largest in the world.

It is fairly easy to get to – just 48 kilometres from Victoria, British Columbia, about an hour drive. Head north up the Malahat Highway and turn off onto Shawnigan Lake Road. We were staying with friends in Cobble Hill when we went and it’s a short thirteeen kilometres from there, also along Shawnigan Lake Road which forms a big arc beginning and ending on the Malahat. That route will take you right past Shawnigan Lake School, the world renowned private school. The trestle is just seven kilometres from the school.

Work on the original Kinsol Trestle began in 1914 but was halted due to World War I. Work resumed late in 1919 and the twelve story structure was completed in 1920. It served mainly as an industrial road carrying timber and other materials. Although it crosses the Koksilah River, its name is actually a portmanteau of the King Solomon copper mine which operated near by. It is also called Koksilah River Bridge.

Modern timber train crossing the trestle. The last crossing was in June 1979.
Modern timber train crossing the trestle. The last crossing was in June 1979.

The rare passenger train crossing the trestle included 1954 excursion from Victoria to the Cowichan Valley carrying a load of railroad enthusiasts attending the national Model Railway Convention. The train stopped there on that occasion so the rail buffs could get out and take pictures.

A rare crossing of the trestle by a passenger train. This one was filled with model railroad enthusiasts.
A rare crossing of the trestle by a passenger train. This one was filled with model railroad enthusiasts.

The last train crossed in the summer of 1979 and the bridge then fell into disrepair. In 2008, after lobbying from various historical societies, three levels of government and a private trust combined resources to rehabilitate the landmark bridge. It reopened in 2011 as part of the Trans-Canada Trail.

Now the trestle is part of the Trans canada Trail. Tracks have been replaced by a boardwalk.
Now the trestle is part of the Trans Canada Trail. Tracks have been replaced by a boardwalk.

From the parking lot, the trestle is a short hike along the abandoned rail line, now part of the trail. The walk is fairly flat.

At the trestle, you can go down to a lookout on the south side, or hike right down to the bottom on the far side. As high as a twelve story building, it is most impressive.

Looking up at the trestle from below
Looking up at the trestle from below

We spent a good hour at the trestle and then continued with a visit to Cowichan Bay, a quaint little seaside town of houseboats, fishboats and artisan shops. I’ll write about that in a future post!

Click on the link below for additional photos, or if you are on the home page, just scroll down.

Follow us on Facebook!

Abbotsford Tulip Festival




Follow us on Facebook!

The annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival south of the line in Mount Vernon, Washington has been a huge annual event for years. Now a local Abbotsford farm has created the Abbotsford Tulip Festival, also running throughout the month of April. Last Friday my wife and I decided to check it out.

Compared to the Skagit event which comprises many farms and covers 300 acres, the Abbotsford event is a small affair – around ten acres. And there is an admission charge of $5 a person. Nevertheless, we had an enjoyable visit and it is worth checking out if you want to see fields of tulips but don’t want to travel to the USA to see them.

A blaze of colour in the Fraser Valley!
A blaze of colour in the Fraser Valley!

The farm is on the North Parallel Road in eastern Abbotsford, just past Castle Fun Park. Just take the Whatcom Road exit of Highway # 1, head north cross the highway and immediately turn right onto the North Parallel Road. It is just up the road a bit.

There is plenty of parking on a gravel covered lot. Admission includes parking. Near the parking lot is a large tent with picnic tables, a bank of porta-potties, and a collection of amusements for children including rubber duck races, bean bag toss and tetherball.

Picnic tables vovered by a large tent as well as amusements for children make up some of the facilities.
Picnic tables covered by a large tent as well as amusements for children make up some of the facilities.

From this staging area, you walk along a woodchip covered path to the tulip fields. Along the way you pass crates of tulips of different varieties. There are also a lot of park benches along the way.

Along the woodchip covered walk to the fields are containers with different varieties of tulips.
Along the woodchip covered walk to the fields are containers with different varieties of tulips.

A short jaunt and you’re at the fields. They cover ten acres that are visible from the highway. Mount Baker serves as an attractive back drop to the south while Sumas Mountain forms a backdrop to the north.

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

We walked along the figure eight walking path through the fields admiring the many different varieties of bulbs. Most were blooming though there were a number of rows not yet in bloom.

Most of the blooms were out when we were there on April 8th, but some. like those in the foreground, had yet to blossom.
Most of the blooms were out when we were there on April 8th, but some. like those in the foreground, had yet to blossom.

In any event, pictures tell a better story than words so I’ll just end with a collection of photos. If you’re in the greater Vancouver area, just head east on Highway # 1 to the Whatcom Road exit. If you’re a flower lover, it’s worth the trip. Check out their website, Abbotsford Tulip Festival, for more.

Close-up of one of the myriads of tulips in bloom.
Close-up of one of the myriads of tulips in bloom.
Many vibrant colours are a feast for the eyes.
Many vibrant colours are a feast for the eyes.
These are Margarita Tulips, a bit of a different shape for a tulip blossom.
These are Margarita Tulips, a bit of a different shape for a tulip blossom.
Janis sitting on one of the many benches, surveys the flowers as well as Mount Baker.
Janis, sitting on one of the many benches, surveys the flowers as well as Mount Baker.
Beautiful Mount Baker just south of the border.
Beautiful Mount Baker just south of the border.
Gorgeous reds and yellows.
Gorgeous reds and yellows.
And purples and pinks!
And purples and pinks!
Gorgeous red tulips.
Gorgeous red tulips.
We will undoubtedly check out the Abbotsford Tulip Festival again next year!
We will undoubtedly check out the Abbotsford Tulip Festival again next year!




Follow us on Facebook!