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Destination: Vancouver and British Columbia
It's fair to say that British Columbia, from the fjord-cut coast to the forests, lakes, and mountains inland, to the wilderness of the north, is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Even the metropolis of Vancouver, with two million people and counting, enjoys a dramatic natural setting, with the sea at its toes and the mountains as a backdrop.
The scenery of course, has always been here (and much of the environmentally conscious population is working hard to keep it that way), but what's new is the buzz. Every time I come to town, there are four new fashionable restaurants in Yaletown, another Rodeo Drive transplant on Robson Street, a recently inaugurated music festival, another theater, or even a whole new downtown neighborhood. Vancouver isn't getting bigger exactly (there's not much room left on the downtown peninsula), but it is becoming more interesting, with the fusty, the provincial, and the dull being replaced with the trendy, the urban, and the vibrant.
Fortunately, much of British Columbia's hinterland is intact, in provincial and national parks and in areas such as the roadless fjords of the northern coast and the forests of the far north, which have never had much population. British Columbia boasts some of the last remaining true wilderness in North America and, despite the pleasures of the cities, a chance to experience this wild, from a kayak, sailboat, floatplane, or hiking path lodging at a luxury resort or a simple campsite is the main attraction for many visitors to the province.
The sheer size of the province means that even long-term residents find they haveto pick and choose their experiences: the old-growth rainforest and Pacific surf of Vancouver Island, the hiking trails and ski resorts of the interior mountains, the Okanagan wine country and the high-country guest ranches, the pure wilderness of the northern coast. Chances are no one has ever seen it all.
Vancouver and Vancouver Island
The spectacular setting of cosmopolitan Vancouver has inspired people from around the world to settle here. The Pacific Ocean and the mountains of the North Shore form a dramatic backdrop to the gleaming towers of commerce downtown and make it easy to pursue outdoor pleasures. You can trace the city's history in and savor the wilderness only blocks from the city center in or dine on superb ethnic or Pacific Northwest cuisine before you sample the city's nightlife. People from every corner of the world create a vibrant atmosphere.
Museums and buildings of architectural and historical significance are the primary draw in There's also plenty of fine shopping to provide breaks along the way. Vancouver is a new city when compared to others, but one that's rich in culture and diversity.
You can steal away from the hubbub of Vancouver in minutes, to Pacific beaches, rugged mountains, and forested islands. Opportunities for whale- and nature-watching, as well as year-round skiing and superb fishing and kayaking, abound.
British Columbia is clearly a world apart. In the Lower Mainland, in and around Vancouver, it appears a brash young province with a population that sees its future on the Pacific Rim. Pardoxically, in the north are ancient rainforests, untamed wilderness, and First Nations peoples who have lived on the land for more than 10,000 years.
British Columbia's natural beauty and prospects of outdoor adventure draw growing numbers of vacationers every year. Only two hours north of Vancouver is the popular resort town of Whistler, with North America's two biggest ski mountains. The Okanagan Valley in the east, replete with lakes and vineyards, is famous for its wines. Near Vancouver lies the Sunshine Coast, with secluded fjords and the Gulf Islands, popular vacation spots for B.C. residents. To the extreme north are the Cariboo and the North Coast, vast areas of mountainous and forrested terrain. Visitors find ghost towns abandoned after the gold- and silver-rush eras, the foothills of the Rockies, and plenty of opportunities for activities that include fishing, boating, hiking, and skiing.