Vancouver: A Seaside Metropolis

Vancouver Skyline
Vancouver Skyline
On the seaside of the Pacific Ocean, framed by snow capped coastal mountains lies beautiful and vibrant Vancouver. Vancouver is cosmopolitan in structure, events and attitude, yet is greatly influenced by a remarkable natural setting. The combination of rich cultural experiences and vast opportunities for exploring nature makes Vancouver an intriguing destination. The city of Vancouver has a population of 560,000. Surrounding municipalities make up Greater Vancouver with a population of about two million people. Vancouver and Greater Vancouver, the municipalities of Burnaby, Coquitlam, Port Moody and Port Coquitlam, are located on the Burrard Peninsula. To the north, across the Lions Gate Bridge, are the Greater Vancouver municipalities of West Vancouver, and North Vancouver. The Fraser River flows south of the city of Vancouver separating the city from the municipalities of Delta, Surrey, Langley and Richmond.


First Nations people settled the bountiful Vancouver area around 500 B.C. Over the centuries the aboriginals prospered and developed a sophisticated culture. However with the arrival of the Europeans (1778) came the arrival of small pox. This disease decimated the First Nations people, killing about 95% of the population. Despite this near annihilation, these people rallied, contributing to the proud heritage evident in Vancouver today.

Captain James Cook arrived on Vancouver Island during 1778. In 1790 the Spaniard Manuel Quimper explored parts of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. In 1791 Jose Maria Narvez discovered the mouth of the Fraser River. Captain George Vancouver, who originally landed on Vancouver Island with Captain Cook, returned to the Vancouver area in 1792.

In 1793 Alexander Mackenzie reached the Pacific Ocean from the east. Shortly after, David Thompson and Simon Fraser also accomplished this via different routes. Because of these early explorers trading posts were established along rivers and settlers populated the interior of B.C. The year 1858 brought the gold rush. Gold was discovered in the lower Fraser River bringing thousands of prospectors to the Vancouver area. In the 1870s the settlement of Granville was founded. Granville was incorporated in 1886 and was renamed Vancouver after Captain Vancouver.

The Canadian Confederation gave BC a pledge, if B.C. joined the Canadian Confederacy a railroad would be built connecting Vancouver to the rest of the country. B.C. joined confederacy in 1873 and the railroad was started. One crew began building the railroad from the east while another crew began building from the west. In 1885, less than 15 years after B.C. joined the Canadian Confederation, the last spike was installed. The next year the final 20 km (12.4 mi) to Vancouver were completed. In 1891 Seattle became linked by rail to Vancouver and in 1914 the Panama Canal was opened. World access by ship and rail established Vancouver as an important international port. Vancouver, the entrance to the Pacific Rim prospered.

Vancouver Today

Downtown Vancouver from the Water
Downtown Vancouver from the Water

Vancouver is a sophisticated centre with a blend of multicultural groups. Due to Canada's location to the Pacific Rim, large numbers of Asian migrants settled in the city. Chinese languages, both spoken and written, can be seen and heard throughout the city. Several other ethnic groups make up the mosaic of Vancouver. The official languages are English and French.

With its many attractions tourism is an important facet of Vancouver's economy. Luxury cruise liners leave Vancouver almost daily in summer to take thousands and thousands of lucky people up the scenic coastline to Alaska. Vancouver has several other industries as well including lumber and paper products, shipbuilding, fish processing, and metal manufacturing. Thousands of ships representing trade with a multitude of nations conduct business in Vancouver's harbours every year. Vancouver with its location, deep waters and protected harbour serves as an important world port.


Vancouver boasts the mildest weather in Canada. Early springs, warm summers and a long sunny fall, clip the cold drizzly days of winter into a short span of the year. The summer daytime average is 20 C (68 F). The winter average is 2 C (36 F). Vancouver's average annual precipitation is over 1200 mm (47.2 in) with most of the rainfall occurring during the winter. Gardeners in Vancouver area enjoy hardiness rating of zone 6-7. This allows for lush vegetation and beautiful flowers that could not survive in other parts of Canada. This growing season is actually longer and warmer than in many parts of the United States.

Getting to Vancouver and Area

English Bay, Vancouver
English Bay, Vancouver

Vancouver International Airport is a large busy hub with daily flights to all corners of the globe. Via Rail and Amtrak are trains that serve the Vancouver area. Located in downtown Vancouver, the Pacific Central Station is a long distance bus station that has buses arriving and departing from all over North America. This port city also offers waterway transport. The BC Ferries system is a large domestic ferry service with departures/arrivals at Horseshoe Bay, West Vancouver, and Tsawwassen, Delta. BC Ferries travel to and from Vancouver Island and other nearby destinations such as the Sunshine Coast. Vancouver also hosts cruise lines that offer the popular cruises to Alaska. Highway 99 and the Trans Canada Highway connects Vancouver to the US and the rest of Canada. Highway 99 also reaches out through North Vancouver to the popular ski resort city of Whistler and beyond.

Getting around Vancouver

The city of Vancouver has no freeways so traffic can move slowly. Fortunately the transit system, Translink, is convenient and reliable. Translink includes buses, trolleys, the SeaBus and the SkyTrain. The SeaBus is a passenger ferry boat that runs between Vancouver and the North Shore with connections to buses and the SkyTrain. The SkyTrain runs throughout the downtown core to Burnaby, New Westminster and Surrey. Regulated taxi companies also are available for transportation.

Downtown Vancouver Attractions

Many attractions and experiences are waiting in downtown Vancouver. To the north of the city of Vancouver is Burrard Inlet. Here sits the city's main harbour. In the nearby English Bay freighters and ships can be seen waiting for a berth to dock at. Canada Place, with its sail like architecture, is a legacy from Expo 1986. This complex houses western Canada's largest trade and convention centre, a luxury cruise boat terminal, an IMAX theatre and a hotel.

Totem Poles in Stanley Park
Totem Poles in Stanley Park

Stanley Park sits amidst the hustle bustle of cosmopolitan Vancouver, a thousand-acre respite ready to replenish the people who visit. This crown of Vancouver was once a military reserve guarding the fair city. Now, the land is a park enjoyed by thousands of people. Picnics, hikes, seaside walks, and beautiful scenery offer city residents and visitors a chance to be close to nature. The Stanley Park Seawall is an inviting place to stroll, jog or bicycle. Among the many attractions in Stanley Park is the Vancouver Aquarium, a nature interpretive centre called Nature House, horse drawn tours, bicycle rentals, and summer theatre in the park. Be warned, there is an evening tradition in Stanley Park - listen, but don't be scared, when the sea canon goes off at 9:00 pm.

Beluga Whale at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Center
Beluga Whale at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Center

The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre is located in Stanley Park. For more than 40 years this facility, with its displays and interpretations, has captured the interest and imaginations of people of all ages. More than 8000 creatures from land and sea live at the aquarium. A giant Pacific octopus, dolphins, and a beluga whale are a few of the residents. The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre is devoted to the conservation of aquatic life emphasizing a strong educational focus, in-depth research and rehabilitation programs.

Gastown is the oldest neighbourhood in the city. Experience the ambiance and learn the colourful history of Gastown on a guided walking tour. See the Gastown Steam Clock. Powered by an underground steam heating system the steam clock is unique and a favourite subject for visitors' photographs.

Vancouver, with its strong Asian influence, has a pulsating Chinatown. For lunch try dim sum, then investigate shops and effects from the Chinese culture. The Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Gardenis a special sanctuary in Chinatown.

Granville Island, once a fishing sandbar used by the Squamish Indians, is a place where residents and visitors experience Vancouver. Street vendors and entertainers, galleries and theatres, restaurants and the market are all part of the Granville Island appeal. Maritime adventurers can also head to the sea from Granville Island.

The Lookout, an observation deck atop the Harbour Centre, sports a 360-degree view that spans across the city to the mountains and the sea. The Lookout is reached by a glass elevator that zooms up over 500 ft (152 m) in 50 seconds. A revolving restaurant tops the Harbour Centre.

Outdoor year round activities can be experienced at English Bay, an upbeat vibrant area in west downtown. Roller blade, cycle, lay on the beach, hike, bike or stroll - the scenery and the setting can be appreciated and experienced in many ways. Refreshments and great food are close at hand at nearby restaurants and cafes. Explore nearby Kitsilano where streets are lined with bookstores, eclectic shops and ethnic restaurants. The sandy Kitsilano Beach is popular with locals and visitors.

Greater Vancouver Attractions

Lion's Gate Bridge connects Vancouver to North Vancouver
Lion's Gate Bridge connects Vancouver to North Vancouver

At certain times of year a day could include a morning golf game followed by an afternoon ski. There are diverse attractions to explore and activities to do in Greater Vancouver. The following are a few of the leisure and recreational opportunities.


The Capilano Suspension Bridge spans the Capilano River. This suspended footbridge is unsurpassed throughout the world in its length and height. Feel the bridge sway as you peak over the railing to the canyon below. Less busy, free and very impressive is the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge. Located in Lynn Canyon Park, a park where people enjoy hiking, picnics and swimming areas.

Lonsdale Quay, an animated market located in North Vancouver, is of great interest to shoppers. Buy seafood, fresh produce and other specials items or simply enjoy the ambience while browsing.

Grouse Mountain is conveniently located on the doorstep of the city. Year round outdoor adventurers enjoy activities such as night skiing, snow boarding, hiking, mountain biking. For a less physically demanding experience enjoy an aerial view of the mountain on the sky cable car. Cypress Provincial Park and Mt Seymour are very near the city and proffer superb outdoor experiences.

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