The 2010 Winter Olympics might be (almost) over but don’t go home just yet. British Columbia is more than just wonderful alpine landscapes and fresh powder. Once the snow melts, Cypress, Seymour, and particularly Whistler Mountain, are taken over by hikers, mountain bikers and day-trippers who attend food and wine events, children’s art festivals, and more. But if you’ve had enough of the mountains, there are 47 ports of call—quaint seaside towns like Tofino, cultural cities like Victoria, and picturesque fishing towns along the Sunshine Coast—that are easily accessible and within a couple of hours of Vancouver. Here’s a quick guide of worthwhile trips easily undertaken with BC Ferries.
The Wickaninnish Inn is the place to stay in the quaint town of Tofino. The inn sits within a UNESCO biosphere reserve on land that has been inhabited by the First Nations people for thousands of years. Out the inn’s back door is Chesterman beach, a popular spot for storm watching during the winter months, when ferocious waves roll in from Japan and pound the rocky headlands, hurling themselves up on the pristine beach with astounding force. Tofino also has great surf for beginners. Surf Sister offers two-hour co-ed lessons that will have you standing on a board and catching a wave by the end of the day.
BC’s capital has long been popular with guitar-toting college dropouts, hemp wearing surfers, and downward dog practicing mamas. The city’s Design District is the place to go for chic home accessories (Josephine’s Home Embellishments), exotic teas from China and beyond (Silk Road Tea), and yummy organic nibbles (Café Bliss). At the edge of the Design District is Canada’s oldest Chinatown where courtyards, gardens, and temples add to the vibrant atmosphere. Though the area is quite small and easy to explore on your own, during the Hidden Dragon Walking Tour you’ll learn about Chinatown’s colorful history and be privy to fascinating stories that took place at its opium houses, brothels, and gambling dens. Check in at the Fairmont Empress, a regal hotel that captures the elegance of a bygone era.
Locals are keen to point out that the Sunshine Coast gets its name thanks to the number of annual bright days that outnumber gloomy ones. (But Southern California it ain’t, so bring your umbrella just in case.) Rockwater Secret Cove Resort is perhaps the area’s most chic and fun place to stay. The resort features 15 tenthouse suites made of sturdy canvas and connected by a treetop boardwalk perched among the Arbutus trees. The Zen inspired tents are outfitted with luxe king size beds, Japanese-inspired shoji screens, heated slate floors, and hydrotherapy soaker tubs. A remote controlled gas fireplace keeps things toasty at night. In the nearby town of Sechelt you can check out the work of local artists at the Sunshine Coast Arts Centre. Get your adrenaline pumping with a guided mountain bike or hiking tour, where you’ll learn about the flora and fauna of the forest and shoreline and stories of local Native history.
Lovely Pender Island is home to Poet’s Cove, an Arts & Crafts inspired resort outfitted with handcrafted wood furniture, rustic stone fireplaces, richly patterned sofas and drapes, and nautical themed paintings by local artists. Overlooking a pristine and secluded bay, this is the place to go for romantic escapades or active family get-togethers. Guests can rent a kayak, canoe or mountain bike from the activity center for a guided or solo tour of the island—you’ll spot soaring eagles, deer, sea otters and maybe even whales. For something a little different, join Captain Dan on a charter vessel for a marine excursion that includes wine tasting at a vineyard in neighboring Saturna Island and a stop by a seal rookery.