After exploring the city of Portland, Astoria, Seaside and Cannon Beach in Oregon, we set off over the Columbia River heading north into Washington State. Driving up through Washington we passed Mount Hood and Mount Rainer and drove around the outskirts of Seattle eventually arriving at the US/Canadian Border. After crossing the border into British Columbia it wasn’t long before we found ourselves in Vancouver.
Vancouver is a great city, with amazing vibe, it’s still on my list of favourite places visited. There are so many things to see and do.
We stayed in the centre of Vancouver, and visited all the usual places such as Gastown, Stanley Park and the harbour. Stanley Park is a large park northwest of Downtown Vancouver. It features beautiful gardens, trails to explore and even beaches. We headed to one of the popular places in the park called Brockton Point. At Brockton Point an amazing display of Totem Poles stand proud highlighting the incredible history of British Columbia’s past. The display of Totem’s at Brockton Point began in the 1920’s with just four, the four originals came from Vancouver Island. The display has since grown and it’s thought that some of them were carved as early as the 1880’s.
We also made a few trips out of the city, which included Grouse Mountain. The mountain is situated about fifteen minutes drive from Dowtown Vancouver. It’s around 2,000ft high and is popular for winter sports activities, but we visited in summer, so it was mainly tourists and hikers taking advantage of the area. To get to the top of the mountain we climbed into a cable car and set off travelling vertically up the side of the mountain, suspended only by cables. The views of the surrounding area from the top of the mountain were incredible. The view went on for miles; a beautiful wilderness of trees and rocks, with a few signs warning of bears, not that we needed to worry, as thankfully the bears stayed away.
Only ten minutes from Downtown Vancouver we stopped off at the Capilano Suspension Bridge, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area. It spans the Capilano River at a length of 450ft (137 metres) and at a height of 230ft (70 metres) over the river gorge. It was originally built in 1889, by George Grant MacKay as a way of accessing both pieces of land he had purchased on either side of the Capilano River. In 1983 the bridge was purchased and turned into a visitor attraction. We braved the rickety heights of the wooden bridge and marvelled at the views up and down the river, before crossing safely to the other side. The great thing was that we got to walk across it twice as you have to come back over it to get back to the car park!
Victoria, Vancouver Island
We had a great time in Vancouver and I was sad to leave, but our road trip wasn’t over. We boarded a boat and travelled the short distance across the sea to Vancouver Island, where we stayed in Victoria. Our hotel was on the edge of the Inner Harbour, and was a great place to view Downtown Victoria and watch seaplanes land and boats go about their daily business.
Downtown Victoria is a lovely to explore, as well as lots of shops and restaurants, there are plenty of places to visit and explore. The British Columbia Parliament Buildings sit proudly in the Inner Harbour overlooking the water. It’s open to visitors and we took a tour. Despite being a parliamentary democracy, a constitutional democracy still exists in British Columbia with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth still acting as Queen, and her image is everywhere (even on the money!). I was surprised at how much like our own Houses of Parliament it was inside, except on a much smaller scale. It’s a splendid building from the outside and full of history inside, and definitely worth a visit.
About an hours drive from Victoria are the Butchart Gardens. In 1909 Jennie Butchart, wife of the then quarry owner Robert Pim Butchart, decided to fill in one of his quarries with top soil and plant a garden. This was the start of the now Butchart Gardens. The garden is still sunken, but looking at it, you would never know that it had been a quarry. The gardens are now so well kept and popular to visit, that they have been designated a National Historic Site of Canada. I was surprised at how big the site was, and it was wonderful to see that the gardens have grown so much, and are so popular. I’m not a huge fan of gardens but Butchart Gardens it’s a place with an interesting history and some of the flowers and plants inside were just beautiful.
Barely ten minutes drive from our hotel was Craigdarroch Castle. Built in the late 1800’s, the castle was a huge display of industrialist wealth and quite imposing. It reminded me of the sort of house you’d see in a scary film. Inside however, it was lovely and full of history, artefacts and information. It’s not a castle in the typical sense, more of an extravagant English style Country House. I enjoyed visiting it though, as its history is varied and interesting and somewhere that should be on the must visit list if you’re in the area.
The place I loved visiting the most in Victoria was the Royal British Columbia Museum. The history of British Columbia is varied and the museum was a great insight into the many changes that have taken place in British Columbia and I learnt more about the history and life of Native Canadians. One of my favourite exhibits was Thunderbird Park, a depiction of conserved Totems that were first erected on the site next to the museum in the 1940’s. I love museums and I really hope I get to go back to this one again one day.
We explored so much in Victoria and its surrounding areas, so much so that the above is only a small part of what we did. Sadly though the time came for us to leave the island behind and head back to the US mainland. My time in British Columbia was only short but I remember it fondly and I hope to one day go back. I learned so much about the history, especially the history of Native Canadians, and I would love to be able to re-visit, explore, and learn more one day. The people in Vancouver and Victoria were lovely, and there was so much to see and do and history is remembered, and displayed, everywhere you go. British Columbia is a wonderful place and I never hesitate to recommend it to visitors.
Our next stop on the trip was to be Seattle, so we left Vancouver Island, passing through the San Juan Islands eventually arriving in Anacortes on Fidalgo Island in Washington State.
Join me next time as next time as the trip continues with a visit to Seattle, and another road trip to Southern Oregon to visit Crater Lake.
If you missed Part One – you can read it here.
Chrissie is an author who loves history and enjoys travelling and days out exploring. www.chrissieparker.com