Vancouver is just like Sydney, but instead of beaches they have mountains. There are so many similarities that if it wasn’t for the weather I could see myself living there with little change in my life style. The city is clean, the people are friendly, there are great fusion restaurants and cute little shopping streets. Yet, what I liked most was the attitude of the locals – like your average Sydneysider, Vancouverites are focused on enjoying the good things in life such as a nice local Pale Ale from BC (British Columbia which is the province that Vancouver is situated in) or sushi fusion with locally caught fish.
However, in order to enjoy all of this without your jeans suddenly becoming unbearably tight, Vancouverites are also very active. Sportswear shops are more common than McDonald’s and everyone appears to be wearing what my grandmother would call “sensible” shoes because they walk everywhere. Indeed when you visit Vancouver your guidebook recommendations on things to do alternate between eating and exercises:
- Bike around Stanley Park
- Eat at Granville Island (check out my last blog post for a great recipe using local produce)
- Climb Grouse Mountain
- Pub crawl through Gas Town
Like Sydney, the city is separated by a giant body of water into South Van, Vancouver City and North Van. Each place has its own identity with loads of things to do. Here is my must see itinerary for the best of North Van – Vancouverite style day. This is also a little off the tourist (beaten) track and a somewhat cheaper than doing the main attractions – yet still beautiful and tasty.
Note: The best way to get to these activities is by car, however if you don’t mind spending some time looking at the stunning scenery from a bus window there are also public transport options that are easy and cheap.
Exercise: Hike at Deep Cove
Public Transport Option: Catch the 210 from Pender and Granville St and then Change to the 211 at Phibbs Bus Exchange
Arriving at Deep Cove is breathtaking, making time to loll on the grass looking at the still water surrounded by forested mountains wouldn’t be a mistake. Once you have recovered your breath head to the left of the Cove (there is only one street so you can’t miss it) where you will find the start of the Beaden Powell Trail. This is a great 3k return track through luscious pine forest that ends at Quarry rock and spectacular views. Once you have returned from your walk maybe grab a coffee or ice cream in the main street of Deep Cove.
Shop: Lonsdale Quay Market
Public Transport Option: Catch the 211 back to Phibbs Bus Exchange and change onto the 239
Vancouver is known as the city of glass, which pretty much sums up the vista as you stand on the Quay behind the markets. The markets themselves are a great place to pick up unique Canadian and Vancouver souvenirs. There is also an art gallery upstairs that is well worth a look as it showcases a lot of local artists, and there is usually an artist working in the gallery as well. I suggest grabbing a cider and watching the big container ships stroll past on their way back out to sea.
Eat: Tomahawk Restaurant
Public Transport Option: Jump back on the 239 and get off at Marine Dr and Philip Av, or if you feel like walking it takes about 40 minutes.
I actually read about this restaurant in Lonely Planet, however, my local Canadian friend hadn’t heard of the place so it didn’t seem to me to be a place that would be overwhelmed by the tourist trade. The minute I walked in I could confirm that it is still very much a local hang out, with two locals sitting alone at the bar wolfing down their burgers and chatting to the wait staff as though they were part of the furniture. The bar is decorated in souvenirs that have been gathered over the decades, giving the eye something new to look at in every direction. The restaurant has been open since 1926 and you can read the full story on the menu. I ordered the Chief Dominic Charlie Burger which had an organic beef patty, Yukon-style bacon, lettuce cheese and Tomahawk special sauce with chips, and because I like the novelty of free re-fills, a coke. Every bite was like absorbing a little of the Tomahawk décor – whimsical, classic and oh so tasty!
Exercise: Walk across the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge (a free version of the Capilano Suspension bridge)
Public Transport Option: from Tomahawk Restaurant catch the N24, however you have to walk the final part. From Deep cove catch the 211 and then the 210. Or there is a hike through the forest from Deep Cove, however do your research before you attempt this as getting lost in the Canadian wilderness wouldn’t be much fun.
You can do a walk either side of the bridge, there are loads of maps and information in the park so it is fairly easily to plan. If you have an extreme fear of heights like me, you may want to wait until there is no one else on the bridge before you attempt to cross it as it can swing through the air a little. Also if you are scared of heights I don’t recommend looking down at the crashing river that is blasting its way over rocks below you – that really doesn’t help.
Drink: Cactus Club on Beach Avenue
Public Transport Option: Catch the 210 back to the city
There are Cactus Clubs dotted all over Vancouver so you could really go to any of them. The one on Beach Avenue however has the best views and a great patio (which is what Canadians call beer gardens, or outdoor spaces where you can have an alcoholic beverage). Watch the sun go down and while sipping on a sangria which is topped with their world-famous Peach Bellini.
The best part is that the exercise in beautiful wild green locations, will have negated any calories you may have indulged in with eating all of the scrumptious local produce.