Travel Vancouver: The Beauty of Vancouver, British Columbia

November 4, 2015
Travel Vancouver: The Beauty of Vancouver, British Columbia

My first big solo adult trip started in Vancouver, British Columbia, at 19. Little did I know that that would be the start of what has been an adult connection with a corner of paradise. Who knew that you could happily grow up in one country only to ‘meet’ your home when you start travelling? For me, that is what Vancouver came to be – my home.

Vancouver was my home for seven years in the 90s and for 12 months between 2013 and 2014. Returning to the land of mountains and the sea made my heart sing. Many people visit the city each year – some decide to stay, and all for different reasons.

During the years in between I returned often, although not as often as I might have liked. Thankfully, my love – my home – was still happy to see me when I ventured north from Australia in December 2008 for a long cold-climate Christmas holiday. She greeted me with snow-capped mountains and clear short days filled with family and friends and reacquainting myself with the corners that I loved. Soon the snow filled the streets – unusual for Vancouver, but a delight for me.

So what is it about this city perched between the Coastal Mountains and the Georgia Strait that captured my imagination?

Travel Vancouver: The Beauty of Vancouver, British Columbia

The very big picture

Although not Canada’s largest city, or oldest, it does have a lot going for it. Vancouver is many things – colourful, extravagant, expensive – but trying to get the scales of the city based on media headlines simply doesn’t do it justice.

Downtown Vancouver and the mountains

The Coastal Mountains start in the area and run up the coast and through Alaska. Reaching nearly 5,000 feet/1,500 meters into the sky near Vancouver, they offer three developed alpine areas with ski runs and plenty of hiking paths in between. It is possible to sail on salt water in the morning, and within 30 minutes of being back on shore, you can be skiing down the slope looking over the water you were sailing on in the morning.

The North Shore mountains provide one of the most spectacular ‘borrowed’ views around. In summer, they are cool and clean, helping the city enjoy a Mediterranean climate, most years. In the winter, they offer a seasonal mixed blessing. With wonderful access to snow sports, the precipitation usually falls as rain for most of the nearly 2.5 million residents. But it is when the rain stops and the clouds lift, the mountains are at their best – gleaming with clean snow, welcoming admirers and adventures alike.

The water highway that connects

As much as the mountains form the backdrop to many views from the city, the Georgia Strait is a larger part of daily life in Vancouver, simply because it is also big. With fingers of sounds and inlets all along the coast, and the Fraser River Delta a part of the city and the local industry, salt and fresh water offer a range of lifestyles and sports not normally available to most Canadians.

Two memories have stayed with me of how much the sea has a role in Vancouver’s reality. Fishing off the northwest corner very early one morning, an Orca circled the boat. Our captain rushed to get a tape his children had left on board days earlier – and played the theme song to Free Willy. Whether drawn to the audible patterns or simply curious, the whale stayed with us for about 15 minutes, slowly getting a little closer and ‘spy hopping’ from time to time. Then, as quickly as he joined us, he was gone.

At the other end of the scale, hop on board one of the False Creek ferries to explore this short stretch of water in the heart of the city. Providing a lifestyle reminiscent of a quieter time, the ferries offer access with a delightful style.

A few years before I moved back to Australia in 2000, my father came to visit, and on seeing these wonderful ferries darting across the water between the West End and Granville Island, he leaned towards me and said, “Does anyone else think they look like floating bathtub toys, racing around out there?” He was right – they danced on the water, like children’s toys at bath time.

False Creek Ferries ready for service

When I lived there, I knew I would be lost without them. Not only do they offer visitors a great way to slow down and see a lovely corner of the city, but locals also use them to shop at Granville Island, a must-visit on any trip.

From the wild and free to the small and vibrant, nature is ever-present in the city.

A thousand acre park

Vancouver is home to the third largest urban park in North America, and more than 240 public parks. Stanley Park, west of the downtown core and 1,001 acres of forest and fields, is one of the true gems of the city.

Nestled between the modern residential towers, marina and the incoming tide, with totem poles and a highly-recognized aquarium, the park is accessible from the city’s core by trolley bus, walking along the harbour sea wall, or car.

Lions Gate Bridge to North Shore

Get out and see the city

With the majesty of the mountains behind you and the Strait giving way to the working harbour, the residential and office jungle grow larger. A relatively dense downtown core, with more multi-use buildings under construction all the time, the street-level and rooftop gardens bring a softness to the start lines of glass and steel.

And yet, between the towers and parks are walkable neighbourhoods, filled with people enjoying the lifestyle, whatever they want it to be. A multicultural city, you will hear accents from around the world from residents and visitors alike. Food courts and shopping areas boast fresh food options from expected to international.

Often considered and ranked one of the best places to live, Vancouver is constantly changing. From the mountains to the US border, the 24 municipalities of Metro Vancouver support a population of approximately 2.5 million. Home to Canada’s largest and busiest port, gateway to top ski resort Whistler and the beautiful waterways of Georgia Strait, Vancouver will continue to be a part of my life, even if it isn’t my home.


Travel Vancouver: The Beauty of Vancouver, British Columbia

Have you traveled to Vancouver, British Columbia? How was your trip? Email us at for information about sharing your experience and advice with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear from you.

Travel Vancouver: The Beauty of Vancouver, British Columbia photo credits: Sandy Swanton and Unsplash.

About Sandy Swanton

An international traveler from the age of 6, Sandy Swanton found embracing the familial expat life hard to resist. Life for Sandy has always included travel to see family, friends, and wonderful places. Australian born and raised, with English grandparents and Canadian cousins, it is easy to understand why. Taking her first solo international trip at 19, and moving to Canada at 27, Sandy’s adult life had been shared between Australia’s east coast and Canada’s west coast, until late 2013. Through pursuing a portfolio career in written and visual communications, Sandy developed her professional experience and skills, enjoying times with great friends and fun adventures in new places along the way. Now combining a love of travel with a career of working with words and images, Sandy lives in central Italy, stepping out of the corporate life for the next chapters of her life.

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