While the Gulf Islands may be your ultimate destination and the escape from the big city, we are very fortunate to have a few of the worlds most beautiful and vibrant cities nearby. These cities serve as the access point to the islands and are well worth a visit.
Why not spend a day or two exploring these areas on your way out here.
Seattle’s main attractions are the busy stalls and cafés of Pike Place Market and the restored nineteenth-century Pioneer Square , lined with restaurants and taverns. A stroll along the more touristy waterfront lets you enjoy fabulous views of Elliott Bay. At the Seattle Center in the north, the Space Needle presides over cultural institutions and carnival rides, as well as the city’s latest draw, the Experience Music Project . Several outlying districts are often livelier than downtown: Capitol Hill ‘s cafés and bars are the heart of the city’s hipster scene, and the University District is a student area with inexpensive cafés and up-tempo nightlife. More information
Vancouver is not a city which offers or requires lots of relentless sightseeing. Its breathtaking physical beauty makes it a place where often it’s enough just to wander and watch the world go by – “the sort of town”, wrote Jan Morris, “nearly everyone would want to live in.” In summer you’ll probably end up doing what the locals do, if not actually sailing, hiking, skiing, fishing or whatever, then certainly going to the beach, lounging in one of the parks or spending time in waterfront cafés. More information
The Victoria that’s worth bothering with is very small: almost everything worth seeing, as well as the best shops and restaurants, is within walking distance in the Inner Harbour area and the Old Town district behind it. On summer evenings this area is alive with strollers and buskers, and a pleasure to wander as the sun drops over the water. Foremost amongst the daytime diversions are the Royal British Columbia Museum and the Empress Hotel . Most of the other trumpeted attractions are dreadful, and many charge entry fees out of all proportion to what’s on show. If you’re tempted by the Royal London Wax Museum, the Pacific Undersea Gardens, Miniature World, English Village, Anne Hathaway’s Thatched Cottage or any of Victoria’s other dubious commercial propositions, details are available from the infocentre. Otherwise you might drop by the modest Maritime Museum and think about a trip to the celebrated Butchart Gardens , some way out of town, but easily accessed by public transport or regular all-inclusive tours from the bus terminal. If you’re around for a couple of days you should also find time to walk around Beacon Hill Park , a few minutes’ walk from downtown to the south. More information
Nanaimo, B.C.’s sixth largest city, is the terminus for ferries to Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver, to Gabriola Island, and to Newcastle Island.
If you need to take a ferry from Nanaimo, you’d be well advised to come at least a day early so that you can sample some of the delights of this vibrant town of a hundred thousand. All amenities await you, with a wide choice of accommodation, restaurants, and shops. In addition, you can enjoy the waterfront scene, perhaps take in a play at the luxurious Port Theatre, or just enjoy a harbor front meal. More information
126 kilometers north of Vancouver, Whistler is Canada’s finest four-season resort, and frequently ranks among most people’s world top-five winter ski resorts. In 1996, for the first time ever, Ski , Snow Country and Skiing magazines were unanimous in voting it North America’s top skiing destination. Skiing and snowboarding are clearly the main activities, but all manner of other winter sports are possible and in summer the lifts keep running to provide supreme highline hiking and other outdoor activities (not to mention North America’s finest summer skiing). Standards are high, and for those raised on the queues and waits at European resorts, the ease with which you can get onto the slopes here will come as a pleasant surprise. More information