Snowbirds! Explore the Communities South of Vancouver and the Fraser Valley
Two trips to take on bright sunny days this winter that will provide a flavour of the local communities and regions south of Vancouver – Richmond and Delta as well as White Rock and Langley.
Our first trip starts in Richmond then heads south to the Village of Steveston, across to Delta and the Village of Ladner. There are some lovely and decent country roads you can take to these destinations but as it’s winter we will let you decide which way to get there. (Check out the Google Map in our drive: Explore the Communities of South Vancouver and the Fraser Valley).
- A historic landmark, the Gulf of Georgia Cannery situated in the Village of Steveston in Richmond has interactive and fascinating displays showcasing the machinery, tools and life in the West Coast fishing industry over a century ago. For the month of December the Cannery also hosts the Festival of Trees, decorated and sparkling for the holiday season.
- For close to six weeks leading up to December 31 Steveston lights up and celebrates the festive season in style. Entertainment, food and fun provide a great way to spend a few hours alongside the waterfront. For more info: Steveston’s Winter in the Village
- More interactive displays highlight what life was like in the early days of Steveston Village at the Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site.
- If you enjoy watching birds in their habitat the Reifel Bird Sanctuary in Delta is a must on your list. It is home to thousands of snow geese that over-winter and many species live here year-round. Hundreds of acres of wetlands are criss-crossed by trails and quiet places to observe the birds.
- Located in Delta is the Historic Village of Ladner. The original village is very small but offers some fun opportunities to poke around coffee spots and unique shops, fashion and gift boutiques, home décor, crafts and even a seed shop that yes, while it is a garden shop, also has interesting gifts.
Our second trip starts in White Rock. White Rock is a seaside community south of Surrey and Langley, its eastern neighbour, offers a country experience. Several golf courses are here and are open throughout the year when weather permits. This region is dotted with wineries, cideries, gardens, fruit and dairy farms open to the public, and even a turkey farm with a bistro.
- A short distance east of White Rock, following 8th Avenue, will bring you to Campbell Valley Regional Park. This is a significant park with many kilometres of hiking, biking and horse trails. If you want to get out and stretch your legs this is a good place to visit.
- Chaberton Estate Winery located on 216 Street is just around the corner from Campbell Valley Park. It is a well-known award-winning winery offering a variety of red and white wines. Sample some of these wines in the tasting room followed by a delightful lunch in the Bacchus Bistro which offers up an authentic French menu.
- Up for some more wine tasting? A short distance further east on 232 Street is Backyard Vineyards. They produce award-winning bold reds and bubblies that will tingle on the palate.
- When was the last time you went to a drive-in theatre? You can relive those days for a nostalgic evening by visiting the Twilight Drive In Theatre. Showings and times are all on their website.
- Fort Langley National Historic Site provides a glimpse into history when the Hudson Bay Company established a small post here to trade furs with the First Nations. Explore the various historic buildings and watch live demonstrations by costumed storytellers that showcase what life was like here in the 1800s. A short walk from here is the community of Fort Langley which is known for its unique antique shops, eateries and gift boutiques.
- How about taking in a hockey game? The Vancouver Giants are Vancouver’s major junior hockey team and play in the Western Hockey League out of the Langley Events Centre. Giants’ games are an affordable alternative to the Vancouver Canucks, and you never know, you may be watching the next Wayne Gretzky!
For other drives from Vancouver check out:
For RV parks and other camping accommodations check out the Winter Camping Map.
Share your camping and BC travel photos using hashtag #CampInBC #ExploreBC
Snowbirds! Spending Your Winter in the Vancouver Area? Check Out This Side Trip – North Vancouver to Whistler
Recently, we wrote a blog about things to see and do if you are a Snowbird staying in the Vancouver area. We suggested a drive from Vancouver to Harrison Hot Springs along Highway 7. Here is another drive that follows the Sea to Sky Highway (Hwy 99) from North Vancouver to Whistler.
The Sea to Sky Highway hugs the coastline as it winds its way north offering up stunning views across Howe Sound and to the mountains beyond. It then heads inland north of Squamish to the year-round destination of world-famous Whistler and Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort. Mt Seymour, Grouse Mountain, and Cypress Mountain are all popular winter activity destinations, two of which are included in this trip.
- Rent a pair of ice skates and enjoy the exhilarating fresh air atop Grouse Mountain on their 8,000 sq. ft. ice skating pond. The Skyride allows for stunning views across Vancouver, Stanley Park and beyond.
- Take a self-guided snowshoe tour or go cross-country skiing at the top of Cypress Mountain through a forested winter wonderland. Warm up with a hot drink or bowl of soup.
- Back on Highway 99 and a further 18 km (11 mi) is the tiny, picturesque village of Lions Bay which hugs the shoreline. A must stop-off is the Lions Bay General Store and Café, located on the east side of the highway (take Lions Bay Avenue exit) and a favourite of those who have travelled this road for decades. You’ll find local products, great coffee, beer, lunch, souvenirs and great views too.
- Adjacent to the highway is the Britannia Mine Museum, an award-winning national historic site. It was a working copper mine from 1904-1974 and opened in 1975 as the BC Museum of Mining. You’ll be dazzled by the light and sound show as you are transported underground by train.
- Just south of Squamish is the entrance to the Sea to Sky Gondola. Be amazed at the stunning views of snow-capped mountains, old-growth forests and turquoise waters of the Howe Sound stretched out before you. At the top take in the brisk winter air, try snow-shoeing or tubing and then warm up with a hot drink or visit the Sky Pilot Restaurant where you can enjoy delicious West Coast fare.
- Like to try local craft beer? Howe Sound Brewing in Squamish produces an abundance of craft beer, from seasonal to year-round brews. Pair their excellent beer with small bites or big bites, all made in-house. It’s located on Cleveland Avenue left off Highway 99, almost at the end of town; you will see the pub on your right.
- For some eagle spotting, head back to the highway and continue north towards Brackendale and Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park, one of North America’s largest congregations of wintering bald eagles. These majestic birds gather in this area from November to January to feast on salmon. There are plenty of lookouts and shelters to view the eagles (the Eagle Run viewing shelter is at 41015 Government Road) and you can take an organized tour or even an eagle viewing float trip. Visit Squamish Tourism’s web page on eagle viewing for more information.
- Get back on the highway, it’s time to head to Whistler! There is so much to do in this world-renowned resort. In winter the snow is the big attraction with skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and more, but if you want to do something different or your ski legs need a rest there are fabulous restaurants, art galleries, spas, winter events, festivals and more. A must-see is the Whistler Village stroll where you will find fun and sporty shops, bistros and cafes, and the Whistler Olympic Plaza, which is transformed into an outdoor skating rink in winter.
- To experience First Nations art, history and culture visit the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre in Whistler. Hear the stories and songs and admire the traditional regalia, carvings and art. This is a beautiful museum with stunning works and exhibits; guided tours are available.
- If you are in Whistler on a Sunday evening from December to March check out the free Fire & Ice Show in Whistler Village. Grab a cup of hot chocolate or warm cider and be prepared to be amazed at the spectacle created as expert skiers jump through hoops of fire!
- Once you have explored Whistler then it’s time to head back, and the views are just as stunning on the return journey! You will pass Furry Creek, known for its golf and country club, and the villages of Lions Bay and Horseshoe Bay, home of the BC Ferries terminal for taking travellers over to Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast and Bowen Island. Horseshoe Bay has some shops and eateries and it’s always fun to watch the ferries coming and going.
There is so much more to see in this area, particularly in and around North and West Vancouver. Check out Vancouver’s North Shore Tourism. You could spend a day or two exploring the parks and waterfront walks, Lonsdale Quay Market, with its specialty shops and services, or the historic and growing urban neighbourhood of The Shipyards District.
For other drives from Vancouver check out:
For RV parks and other camping accommodations check out the Winter Camping Map.
Share your camping and BC travel photos using hashtag #CampInBC #ExploreBC #BCNice
Snowbirds! Spending Your Winter in the Vancouver Area? Check Out These Side Trips
If you are spending the winter in the Metro Vancouver area there are many excellent attractions to keep you busy. Some of these include Granville Island, Science World, Planetarium Vancouver, the Vancouver Art Gallery and neighbourhoods such as cool Kitsilano and colourful Chinatown. There are also numerous festivals and events, especially around the Christmas season, as well as Chinese New Year celebrations in February and the Dine Out Vancouver Festival that takes place early in the year.
Saying this, with your RV or vehicle at hand, you may want to explore other options and see what nearby communities have to offer. Below are three suggested itineraries, each with various activities to choose from.
This blog takes you from Vancouver to Harrison Hot Springs. For the other suggested itineraries click on the links above.
Vancouver to Harrison Hot Springs via the Scenic Hwy 7
Heading east from Vancouver through the Fraser Valley via scenic Highway 7 to Harrison Hot Springs, cityscapes soon open up into country with stunning views over fields and mountains.
- Between Mission and Harrison Hot Springs you may spot bald eagles in the area. The Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival takes place in mid-November when they come to feast on the spawning salmon, but there are eagles around from October to February. Viewing can be had at various locations including Kilby Provincial Park and along the rich ecosystem of Nicomen Slough on Highway 7 east of Mission from Dewdney to Deroche.
- Shortly past the Sasquatch Mountain turnoff you will come to the sign to Kilby Historic Site in Harrison Mills, a living museum of rural history. This historic museum houses a fascinating display of artifacts from the 1920s and ‘30s, a post office and the Manchester House Hotel; it’s decorated for Christmas too!
- Back on the road and still heading east you will come to a stop light that directs you to turn right to continue on Highway 7; however, go straight on towards Harrison Hot Springs on Highway 9 north. It’s only a short distance away. This resort is very popular in the summer as visitors soak up the small-town ambience, relax on the beach or enjoy the lake. In the winter it is much quieter; enjoy a walk along the waterfront and stop for a hot chocolate or bowl of soup or take a relaxing dip in the hot springs at Harrison’s Public Pool. The hot mineral waters are pumped into the pool from one of the hot springs and cooled to 38°C (100°F). If you are there around the Christmas season, you will be able to experience the twinkling Lights by the Lake, which runs from the end of November to January.
- Returning from Harrison Hot Springs via the same route visit Golden Ears Cheesecrafters on 128th Ave. in Maple Ridge where they make their own farm cheeses, offer country kitchen lunches and locally made items. Their cheeses are so popular they are incorporated in menus at many of Vancouver’s premier restaurants.
- Not far away is Hopcott Farms. This family butcher offers sustainable meats and other local produce, and you can enjoy a snack or lunch in their bistro.
- Head to the 1.1 km loop trail at Lafarge Lake in Coquitlam to stretch your legs and enjoy the stunning Lights at Lafarge, the largest free holiday lights display in the Vancouver area (open throughout December and into early January). If you need to polish up on your golf Eaglequest Golf Course is open year-round (weather permitting).
- Finally, if you are here in December and haven’t experienced the CP Holiday Train, this is the time. The train leaves Montreal at the end of November and completes its journey in Port Coquitlam just before Christmas to raise awareness of hunger, collecting food donations along the route. It features entertainment and is adorned with Christmas lights and stops at Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, Port Moody and Port Coquitlam – all close to Highway 7.
This is just a sampling of things to see and do east of Vancouver. For more ideas and to read our trips from Vancouver to Whistler and South of Vancouver, check out Winter Things to Do.
For RV parks and other camping accommodations check out the Winter Camping Map.
Share your Camping and travel photos using hashtag #CampInBC #ExploreBC #BCNice
Explore Fort Langley & Gulf of Georgia Cannery Historic Sites & Check Out Some of BC’s Fascinating History
British Columbia has a rich and fascinating history and Parks Canada National Historic Sites highlight pieces of this history. BC’s National Historic Sites are spread out through the province, from East to West and from North to South. Several of the sites are within an easy day trip of Vancouver and the Fraser Valley. Others will require more planning and commitment. All are worth visiting.
Today we are highlighting two National Historic Sites, Fort Langley and Gulf of Georgia Cannery. Both are easily accessible day trips from Metro Vancouver, and in our next blog we will be talking about three National Historic Sites that are spread throughout the province and would make a great part of any summer vacation.
A common thread through many of Canada’s National Historic Sites (and Parks) is the Xplorers Program for the young and young at heart. This program includes a booklet highlighting activities at each site. As children complete the activities, they work their way toward earning a certificate and souvenir. The program is a great way to keep kids engaged and learning, and offers a lot of fun opportunities.
Fort Langley National Historic Site
Growing up in Hope, Fort Langley National Historic Site is the one I have been to the most often. A popular location for school field trips, Sunday strolls, and taking out of town visitors, Fort Langley continues to expand its offerings to ensure that there is something new to experience every time you visit. Recently, Fort Langley became one of 20 participating locations in the new Club Parka Program – a learning opportunity complete with singing, dancing, and activity pages. There is also a fun photo scavenger hunt you can complete while visiting the fort.
Fort Langley is a great place to explore. There are replica and original buildings, costumed interpreters, and live demonstrations throughout the day. Visit the blacksmith shop, the barrel workshop, and the garden to get a glimpse of what daily life looked like at Fort Langley in 1827. After you work up an appetite, visit the Lelam’ Café inside the fort for a bowl of salmon chowder or elk stew complete with herb bannock. For a longer excursion, consider booking an oTENTik tent and staying the night inside the fort.
The community of Fort Langley is worth a visit while you are in the area. Pop down the street to browse in one of the many antique shops and make sure you stop in at Wendel’s Bookstore & Café for an afternoon treat. If you still have time, pay a visit to the nearby Fort Wine Co. and sample some of their grape-free wines or enjoy a pitcher of sangria with friends.
Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic Site
Fishing on the West Coast comes alive at the Gulf of Georgia Cannery in Steveston. The cannery, built in 1894, operated until 1979 when it was closed. The building sat abandoned until Parks Canada purchased it in 1984, and then was officially opened as a National Historic Site in 1994.
While visiting the cannery, join in on one of the free, guided tours – they are well worth it. Just keep in mind that inside the cannery is two or three degrees cooler than whatever the weather is outside and the tour takes about 45 minutes. Bring a coat! After your tour, take a few minutes to soak up the sunshine (hopefully!) in the red Adirondack chairs overlooking the Steveston Harbour and the Salish Sea. Snap a photo and #sharethechair to commemorate your visit.
Once you are done at the Cannery, take a stroll along the waterfront. Head down to the docks, and you may be lucky enough to see one of the sea lions that call the harbour home. Sample amazing fish and chips or other seafood delights for lunch, and then head inland a block or two and you will suddenly find yourself transported to Storybrooke, Maine – the setting of ABC’s Once Upon A Time – where you can visit some of the most recognizable filming locations from the show.
BC has some of the best National Historic Sites in the country. Our diversity of mountain and ocean sites guarantees that you will find something to suit your interests – all while learning about BC’s fascinating history.
If this area interests you, check out our drives:
Coast Mountain Circle Route (Vancouver Round Trip via Lytton, Lillooet & Whistler)
Side Trips from Vancouver Offer Plenty To Do in the Winter
Check out more blogs in the National Parks & Historic Sites series:
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Hidden Waterways in British Columbia for the Hiker
There are many hidden waterways in British Columbia which offer some of the lesser known places to cool off in the water during the summer. Here are highlights of a few of the best waterways to cool off for the avid hiker.
San Josef Bay
Anyplace you can only reach by boat, foot, or helicopter is always less crowded, and this is one of those spots. Nestled on the northwestern point of Vancouver Island, San Josef Bay is the part of the Cape Scott Provincial Park that will most appeal to avid hikers and others who love adventure. Only 2.5 km long, it is approximately 45 minutes each way and is fun for the whole family.
The Juan de Fuca Trail
We know, that’s not a waterway! But if you hike the Juan de Fuca trail you’ll be wandering the west coast of Vancouver Island from Botanical Beach near Port Renfrew to China Beach west of Jordan River, hitting some of the best beaches along the way. You can camp out along the way too, so pack enough for several days. This trail is a wilderness trail and many sections are not for the faint of heart.
Norvan Falls Trail
This 12 kilometer round trip hike is part of the Lynn Headwaters Regional Park. Lynn Canyon itself is a popular spot, but the Norvan Falls Trail makes its way through an old forestry area and is easily missed. You are likely to see more rusting carts and abandoned tools from the old logging days than groups of people on this trail, and it is very peaceful. After you make it across the steel suspension bridge, you know you’ve almost reached Norvan Falls.
BX Creek and Falls
This is a great day trip, whether you’re interested in enjoying the scenic natural beauty of the Vernon area, enjoy some gold rush history, or just hoping to cool off in the wilderness. This hike takes you through a wade in a waterfall pool and into the cool canyon filled with firs, ferns, cottonwoods, cedars, and birch.
This is a reservations only spot for campers in Yoho National Park, and it’s not so easy to find. Hike in from the trailhead which is about 12 kilometers east of Field. Making a reservation at the campground is necessary as there are only 30 campsites, but the stunning natural beauty of the emerald lake and the remote trails winding through the forests are worth it. “Yoho” itself means awe and wonder in Cree, if that tells you anything.
Northern British Columbia – Yellowhead Highway 16
Ancient Forest, Fraser River, McBride
If a quiet hike next to a winding river through a thousand-year-old cedar forest sounds like a hidden gem to you, we agree, and this is a perfect spot for you. The Fraser River and the ancient forest next to it is on the route to McBride about 113 kilometers east of Prince George. There’s no fanfare here, just a sign off Highway 16 that’s easily missed that will take you to the trailhead parking area. The Ancient Forest Trail is only 2.5 kilometers long and wheelchair accessible, but with untouched growth of trees up to 16 meters around, it’s definitely worth a hike.
Nechako Reservoir, Quanchus Range, Tweedsmuir Provincial Park
You might want to skip the two popular hiking areas in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, the Hunlen Falls/Turner Lake Chain and the Rainbow Range Trail. Instead, check out the truly remote north half of the park, in the Quanchus Range. You can only access this portion of the park by float plane, as it is nearly surrounded by the Nechako Reservoir, ensuring that it stays hidden from most. And remember, you need to either have a professional guide or be completely self-sufficient to hack the Quanchus Range.
Queen Charlotte Islands
East Beach Trail, Haida Gwaii
The remote East Beach Trail, in Naikoon Provincial Park on Haida Gwaii is 90 kilometers long, a 4 to 6 day moderate level hike winding along the eastern shoreline of Graham Island. For the best weather, move from Tlell in the south up to Tow Hill near Masset in the north. Expect rain, wind, and the need to cross rivers—and watch out for black bears! If you need them you’ll find several shelters along the way.
Northern British Columbia – Alaska Highway 97
Mineral Licks Trail, Muncho Lake
One of the easier hikes on this list, you’ll still get stunning views, lots of wildlife, and gorgeous Muncho Lake following the Mineral Licks Trail. This short two-hour hike covers about 1.3 kilometers in a loop. Watch for animals including sheep licking the rocks and soil for the minerals in them.
Have we sold you on hiking some of BC’s lesser known spots yet? There are so many hidden adventures here to discover and enjoy. If you love hiking in the wilderness but hate the summer crowds, one of these great trips might be perfect for you. Watch for our next installment in the hidden gem waterways series on the best hidden spots for the wildlife enthusiast.
Go to Hidden Gem Waterways for Fishing in British Columbia for the first installment.
Published: July 14th, 2016
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