My brother, who lives in Kelowna, was getting married. Hence, the reason for our trip. Though our stay was primarily centred around his wedding, but we did managed to visit some of the area’s key sites. Without a doubt, most summer recreation activities revolve around the water or the golf course.
Just for interest sake, Kelowna means grizzly bear in the First Nation language.
On the Way to Vancouver
After our stay in Kelowna, we traveled toward Vancouver, through the Fraser Valley. By the time we reached Chilliwack it was pouring rain and we decided to stop for the evening. Carole checked the travel guides for sights in the area and planned the following day.
A short distance away, the District of Hope promises a wealth of activities sure to entertain the visitor. Hope itself is a small community of some 6,500 people nestled in the Coast Mountains at the entrance to the Fraser Canyon.
The “big screen birthplace” of Rambo, the area offers movie buffs and chance to explore where Sylvester Stallone clung for his life as he hung precariously from the walls of the Coquihalla gorge, or walk the bridge “to Portland” where the sheriff dropped of the drifter.
Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park is home to Canada’s sixth highest waterfall. Bridal Veil Falls drops an impressive 403 feet to the Fraser Valley floor. Tucked away in the lush, richly scented woods, the falls is only a short trek from the parking lot. Abundant signs ensure you don’t lose your way.
Next stop for the day, Minter Gardens, proved to be a pleasant surprise. Designed to dazzle your senses with massive displays of colour and fragrance, Minter Gardens feature eleven themed gardens on 32 acres of winding pathways under a canopy of towering mountains. Of all the gardens we ever visited, this one ranks among the best. Plan to spend a fair bit of time here.
If time permits, you’ll also want to visit the majestic gorge known as Hell’s Gate.
Suspended in Vancouver
Only two days in Vancouver is definitely not enough time to do this city justice. Nonetheless, we did our best with the time we had.
Canada Place, home to Vancouver’s Convention and Exhibition Centre, is a great spot to watch sea planes, shuttles and windsurfers. Every year, over 500,000 passengers board luxury cruise ships headed for Alaska here. Gastown, with it’s cobblestone streets, brick facades and antique steam clock, is only a short walk away.
Stanley Park is North America’s largest city park with over 1000 acres of natural forests and gardens. The park’s picturesque Seawall attracts hordes of cyclists, joggers and roller-bladers. Be careful not to get in their path… many would just as soon run you over than move aside.
Braving the Capilano Suspension Bridge is a must for every visitor to Vancouver. The gently swaying bridge stretches 450 feet across and 230 feet above the Capilano River.
The elegant VanDusen Botanical Garden is as diverse as it is beautiful. Formerly a prestigious golf course, VanDusen is now widely celebrated for its year round exhibition of international flora and fauna. Warning signs for coyotes abound, and we actually came across one in the far reaches of the park.
Driving west along Marine Drive takes you through some of the most affluent neighbourhoods in Vancouver. The more you drive, the more the streets narrow and wind. But keep driving to discouver secluded bays, marinas, and majestic views of the ocean.
And no visit is complete without a stroll along Robson Street, or a candlelit dinner at The Boathouse at English Bay during sunset.
City of Gardens
The early ferry ride to Vancouver Island was chilly and few travellers ventured outside during the trip. However, by the time we reached Victoria, the City of Gardens, the weather had turned for the better.
Over the years, Victoria has evolved into a tourist mecca. Most of the major attractions are all within walking distance around the Inner Harbour. Starting at the Parliament Buildings, I’d suggest a stroll north along Government Street to Chinatown. Though not the largest, Victoria’s Chinatown is the oldest and most exquisite in North America.
Then start back through Victoria’s most captivating shopping experience. Discover historic Market Square and you’ll find some of the city’s most original shops, services and restaurants in a true heritage setting.
In and around the Inner Harbour, one finds a flurry of activity. Charter a private sailing adventure or simply stroll the harbour causeway enjoying the many buskers or purchase an original artwork from one of the street merchants.
Getting out of town, I’ve always enjoyed a drive along Beach Drive up to Oak Bay and further to Cordova Bay. Starting at Beacon Hill, you’ll find “Mile Zero” – the most western point of the Trans Canada Highway.
For a little bit of Olde England, the village of Oak Bay consists of quaint streets lined with flowers and twee shops. Here the pace slows and you could find yourself spending the whole afternoon sipping high tea.
All along this coast you’ll find plenty to do – feed a seal, go whale watching, fish for salmon, charter a boat, and just bury your toes in the pure white sand of a secluded beach. Travel west from Victoria and discover the village of Sooke, gateway to miles of unspoiled beaches and meandering rainforests.
Every gardener who ever traveled to Victoria has undoubtedly visited Butchart Gardens with it’s fifty-five acres of wonderful floral on display.
In 1904, Jennie Butchart began to beautify a worked-out quarry site left behind from her husband’s pioneering efforts in the manufacture of portland cement. For over 100 years, the Butchart family has been committed to extraordinary horticulture and hospitality. To delight visitors from all over the world, the gracious traditions of the past are still beautifully maintained.
The walking tour starts at the Sunken Garden. The meandering paths take you through the Sunken Garden, past the fireworks fountains, deep into the Rose Garden and through the Japanese Garden with it’s picturesque view of Mill Bay.
The Road to Nanaimo
Heading north from Victoria, the Malahat highway offers stunning views of the coast, tranquil communities and lots of interesting attractions. There are many scenic viewpoints along the highway, so take your time and plenty of film.
The charming community of Chemainus, once home of one of the world’s largest sawmills, tapped into tourism when the mill closed in 1983. Now Chemainus’s main claim to fame are the more than thirty murals decorating the town’s buildings. Every year, over 400,000 visitors enjoy this outdoor gallery.
Just outside Nanaimo, the Bungy Zone is Vancouver Island’s famous 140 foot high bungy jump from the bridge over the Nanaimo River.
Heading inland from Nanaimo, be sure to stop in Coombs to see the goats on the roof at the Old Country Market. While here, stroll among hundreds of free-flying exotic butterflies and hummingbirds at Butterfly World.
Next stop, Cathedral Grove in MacMillian Provincial Park. The largest tree in the park measures over 30 feet around.
Exploring the Sea to Sky Highway to Whistler
Heading north from Vancouver, the Sea to Sky Highway (Highway 99) winds along the BC coast and mountains through Squamish, Garibaldi Provincial Park up to the Whistler Ski Resort. The drive to Whistler is about 2 hours if you drive straight through. However, you’ll want to give yourself more time than that as there’s plenty to see and do along the way.
The first stop along the way is Shannon Falls. This awe-inspiring glacier-fed 1100 ft. (332m) waterfall is the third largest in the province. And if you’re checking out waterfalls, don’t miss Brandywine Falls just a short distance north.
At Whistler, we took the gondola to the top of the mountain for a refreshing July walk in the snow and an afternoon drink at the Roundhouse Restaurant.
The Interior Trek Having spent a wonderful afternoon in Whistler, we headed north east into the interior of British Columbia. We figured we’d make it to Lillooet before nightfall, stopping for a short time at Green Lake just to take in the view, Pemberton for gas and tourist info. To our surprise, all accommodations were taken in Lillooet by the time we arrived. Apparently, scores of Hell’s Angels descended on Lillooet on their way to a biker convention in Langley.
Not quite dark, we continued on to Cache Creek, passing through Marble Canyon Provincial Park. This limestone canyon is a rather rare geological formation in British Columbia and is renown for some of the best ice climbing in the province.
Bear’s Claw Lodge proved to be a good choice for an overnight stay in Cache Creek. Clean, quiet rooms and great food. And check out nearby historic Hat Creek Ranch.
Click on the photos below for more info on Sicamous, Kamloops, the adventure at Sun Peaks, Vernon and Rogers Pass in Glacier National Park.
We essentially end our tour of British Columbia at Revelstoke, a small town with a strong sense of history. With long time roots in both logging and the CPR, most visitors today come to enjoy the splendid mountain scenery and activities in nearby Mount Revelstoke and Glacier National Park.
During the summer, enjoy a free Saturday night concert in Grizzly Plaza and dine at one of the many great restaurants along MacKenzie Avenue. The drive to the summit of Mt. Revelstoke offers some astonishing views of the surrounding countryside. At the top, explore the Meadows in the Sky Parkway abundant with subalpine wildflowers.
Reprinted from my Kidmoses blog, February 24, 2010
The courtyard entrance to Mission Hill Family Estate winery located on the west side of Lake Okanagan about 15 minutes from downtown Kelowna. This family owned winery is known for producing distinctive, internationally acclaimed wines.