ASK ME WHAT I remember about my trip to Vancouver Island, and I’ll offer up three things: Standing on the beach drinking in a remarkably still Pacific Ocean, an art scene influenced by many cultures and art forms, and amazing Asian food.
An unmistakable energy marks this city of about a million people, where residents live in one of the warmest climates in North America. That energy is young, vibrant, multi-cultural, and its residents just seem happy — but who would not, living in a city that would appear in your dreams.
Vancouver Island is a place where you can be on the water most of the year. At its southern tip await Victoria, British Columbia’s capital, and a boat-lined Inner Harbor replete with English-style gardens. The harbor city called Nanaimo has an Old City Quarter with shops, galleries and restaurants.
The island’s first major settlement was developed by the Hudson Bay Company in 1843, three years after it came under British rule. Named after George Vancouver, the British Royal Navy officer who explored the Pacific Northwest coast between 1791 and 1794, the city easily blends history and modernism.
Surrounded by sights to see and myriad of things to do, you could start your trip at the top of Beacon Hill Park, which is within walking distance to downtown. The park covers more than 200 acres with much to explore. At the very top is what Canadians call the First Nation’s Longhouse. Lovingly built and tendedto by the Lekungen Nation, an indigenous North American Coast Salish people, it offers a glimpse inside the native North American world.
With a thriving indoor and outdoor art scene, Vancouver is home to exhibits such as The Birds at the former site of the 2010 Olympic Village. Right in front of the Convention Center is a giant digital Orca. And you can visit The Human Connection, a collection of 64 steel-cut figures standing over seven meters tall, as you breathe in the expanse of the city’s English Bay and the island’s bustling downtown.
A popular transportation method that many Vancouverites use is hopping into a Beaver. This small, 1950s-era, propeller- powered floatplane flies hunters deep into the British Columbia wilderness and lands on pristine lakes throughout the countryside. The six-seat Beaver is considered by many to be Canada’s plane. And if you want to soar above the city, single-engine Beavers can take you on tours.
Vancouver Island will always be worth the trip.
WHERE TO DOCK
Van Isle Marina, Sidney, BC
This 60-year-old marina is one of the largest full-service marinas in British Columbia. Minutes away from attractions and transportation, it accommodates 100+ yachts and small fishing boats alike.
Ladysmith Community Marina, LadySmith, BC
This friendly, full-service marina is located in East Vancouver and is great if traveling with kids. The marina has a well-regarded restaurant with something for everyone. Clean docks and washrooms, as well as water and 30-amp power at the docks, are among the many amenities here.
WHERE TO DINE
Richmond’s Asian Food Nirvana
Fu Gwai Moon (Fortune’s Gate) is reputed for serving some of the best Asian food in North America. This makeshift village of canopied stalls emits odors that make your mouth water, serves Chinese food lovingly created by its citizens and offers other perfectly prepared Asian dishes. The atmosphere enhances the food, as the stalls are set inside a forest of simulated cherry trees whose LED blossoms lend the twilight a pinkish hue.
Located in Kitsilano, a trendy part of Vancouver that is home to the city’s best beaches and mountain views, AnnaLena is a casual restaurant serving contemporary Canadian fare and creative cocktails. House specialties include grilled octopus, lamb’s neck and pork belly, and they currently offer four-course, take-home dinners.