Vancouver Gems

A peek at the city’s hidden attractions

By: Joanne Blain

Clients traveling to Vancouver can page through any guidebook to see the beauty of Vancouver. Travelers to the city can’t miss the natural beauty of the mountains and ocean that form a backdrop for the city, and top draws like the Museum of Archeology and Stanley Park are definitely worth a visit.

But if they follow the well-trodden path of those who slavishly seek out the best bets in Vancouver and millions more will doubtless do the same as the city gears up for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games they’ll miss some of the area’s lesser known attractions that many locals would just as soon keep secret from the hordes.

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden: This tiny retreat will leave visitors with a Zen feeling of calm. Instead of the usual beds of flowers and shrubs, this garden features a series of pavilions, corridors and courtyards looking out on ponds and rock gardens, all designed to give guests an impression of what a Ming scholar’s residence looked like. It’s a unique window on the history of Vancouver’s thriving Asian community.

Fourth Avenue shopping district: This isn’t exactly a secret, but short-stay visitors to Vancouver are more likely to be directed to downtown Robson Street if they have a few hours to shop. There they’ll find the usual strip of chain outlets, but on West Fourth Avenue, clients will find a far more eclectic selection of stores that they will never run across in a mall. Visitors should check out the Three Dog Bakery, which sells baked treats for their four-footed friends; Bed, which carries a virtual rainbow of hand-dyed sheets; and Paboom, which has an inventive selection of reasonably priced gifts and knickknacks. The area is also home to lots of great restaurants, ranging from the casual to the elegant.

Lynn Headwaters Regional Park: In North Vancouver, just across the water from the downtown core, this pristine wilderness park is tucked away down a hard-to-find road in a quiet residential area. It’s just a few miles but worlds away from the heavily advertised Capilano Suspension Bridge, which offers little more than a disconcertingly rocky walk across a gorge for a steep admission fee. At Lynn Headwaters, clients will find few tourists and no tollbooth, but they will discover forested backcountry trails leading to rushing waterfalls. It’s a spectacular slice of wilderness that shouldn’t be missed.

Deep Cove: Also on the north shore but several miles east is this tidy little bay that’s both a bedroom community to Vancouver and an escape for city residents. Visitors can’t miss its pretty beach and marina, where they can rent a kayak for an afternoon paddle. But if guests follow the signs that read Baden Powell trail, they’ll embark on an easy to moderate 45-minute hike through deep forest with a big payoff when the trail ends at the top of a cliff offering a stunning view of water, mountains and the city. It’s a vista visitors won’t get anywhere else, so tell clients to take a lunch and take a hike.


Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
578 Carrall St.

Fourth Avenue shopping district, a five-minute drive from downtown Vancouver, runs from Burrard to Balsam streets.

Lynn Headwaters Regional Park is in North Vancouver, follow Highway 1 to the Lynn Valley Road exit, which leads right to the park entrance.

Deep Cove is a 30-minute drive from downtown Vancouver, following the Dollarton Highway exit from Highway 1.

Clients up for attractions off the beaten path, might enjoy these properties:

The Wedgewood Hotel
845 Hornby St.

The Opus Hotel
322 Davie St.