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Slurping freshly shucked oysters at the ultra-cool Pier 7 Restaurant + Bar, we look across the water at boats cruising against the backdrop of the Vancouver skyline. Steps away, the new boutique Pinnacle Hotel at the Pier buzzes with guests sipping craft brew in the glass-walled lobby bar or building their biceps in the state-of-the-art health club. It’s almost as if we are in Sausalito, Calif. — but with a wilderness backyard of mountains, forests and lakes.
Vancouver’s North Shore has come of age. It has always offered a slew of outdoor adventures drawing day-trippers seeking to get away from the city (we have enjoyed hours of hiking, kayaking, skiing and biking in the 20-plus years that we have lived on the North Shore), but it’s never been able to compete with downtown Vancouver as a base for visitors to stay. Until now.
From the Vancouver International Airport, the rapid transit train (Canada Line) seamlessly connects with the SeaBus, a passenger ferry that deposits travelers on the North Shore, a few minutes’ walk from the Pinnacle Hotel. Opened in 2010, the Pinnacle ranks No. 8 among the top 25 hotels in Canada on TripAdvisor’s 2012 Travelers’ Choice Awards. With its calming contemporary harborside rooms and mountain-facing studios (all with mini-fridges and microwaves), we can understand why.
Outdoorsy clients lodging at the Pinnacle can then hop on a bus to Grouse Mountain. In the summer, they can huff and puff on the steep Grouse Grind hike, dubbed Mother Nature’s Stairmaster — it takes 45 minutes to two hours, depending on one’s fitness level. In winter, the mountain offers snowshoeing, downhill skiing and ice skating. Year-round, there’s ziplining above old-growth forests. And get this: Clients can also ogle 360-degree views from the world’s first and only wind turbine that allows standing in a glass pod at the top of the tower.
The new Cliffwalk attraction, opened in 2011 at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, offers more outdoor thrills. A long, narrow, suspended walkway juts out from the granite cliff wall of a 300-foot deep canyon. In some sections, only glass separates visitors from the boiling Capilano River far below.
Paddlers can head to Deep Cove at the eastern end of the North Shore. This small, pretty village hugs the glacial fjord of Indian Arm. Kayaks and stand-up paddleboards can be rented for exploring along the forested shores. We often see harbor seals, eagles and purple and orange sea stars when we go. Or clients can book a three-hour guided kayaking tour, offered daily from spring to fall.
Trails up Cypress Mountain and Mount Seymour are a mecca for mountain bikers, who love the skinny bridges and twisty ladders built over fallen trees.
For an easy stroll, West Vancouver’s scenic sea wall (on the west side of the North Shore) can’t be beat. Sand beaches, deluxe condos and flower-filled parks vie with views of downtown Vancouver, just across the water.
Pier 7 Restaurant + Barwww.pierseven.ca
Pinnacle Hotel at the Pierwww.pinnaclepierhotel.com