Great beer, cocktails, food and scenery – it’s hard not to love British Columbia’s sporting, party and cultural capital that is Vancouver
See and Do
Like Australians, Canadians are mad about sport and it was perhaps no more evident than when Vancouver hosted the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. The pinnacle event, the men’s ice hockey final between Canada and the United States saw the city go wild when the host nation took out the gold. While that was around two years ago, sport is absolutely alive and well in this city and if you plan a visit during the NHL Ice Hockey season then pick up some tickets to a Vancouver Canucks game. The Canucks are the city’s only major sporting team and a night at the hockey is enjoyable for not just sports-mad fans, but the entire family. If seeing a puck get smashed around some ice isn’t your idea of fun, then grab the family, your partner, a friend or perhaps even a random Vancouverite and head on over to Stanley Park for the city’s other hottest ticket, the Vancouver Aquarium for a few mammaly hours of fun, especially in the Arctic Gallery. 845 Avison Way, Vancouver, BC. (+1 604 659 3474). Before or after the aquarium, make sure you take the time for a stroll around the picturesque and peaceful Stanley Park. Take the waterfront walk back to town and you’ll discover why locals flock here after work and every weekend. Another must-do while in Van is to take the seaplane flight over to neighbouring Victoria, the charming, historic host city of the 1994 Commonwealth Games and capital of British Columbia. The 25-minute scenic hop over to Victoria is also a good opportunity for a great aerial sightseeing experience of Vancouver and Victoria Island, taking in both cities’ surrounding forests, stunning waterways and dramatic scenery. A big, but smaller sister to Vancouver, Victoria is well known for its Harbour, forests, historic buildings, grand hotels and craft beer. And like many of Canada’s small cities, it has a lot of character – from not just the stunning scenery, but the locals that exude friendliness and that unique BC humour. Take a walk around town and explore – you’ll find a range of shops spanning everything from antiques to collectables, alongside microbreweries, galleries and fantastic harbourside restaurants. Following an afternoon by the water, head to Clive’s for a Martini (see ‘eat and drink’) before making the journey back to Van. When you’re heading to Victoria from Vancouver, there are two ways you can go – on the bus, which then travels on a car ferry, and takes four hours (CAD$90 return) – or the seaplane from the middle of Vancouver harbour direct to Victoria harbour, which takes roughly 25 minutes. Seaplane flights are frequent – on average they operate every hour – and cost around CAD$120 each way on Harbour Air.
Eat and drink
While you’re over in Victoria, make sure you stop by the classic Clive’s Lounge, run by expatriate Australian bartender and genuine drinks-nerd, Shawn Soole. Clive’s may just look like your standard hotel watering hole, but it’s far from it – once you take a look at the cocktail list, arguably one of the finest in the country, you’ll quickly realise it’s not all about looks. Shawn’s creativity, hospitality and drinks knowledge is second to none and you’ll leave having both your palate and mind tested. Once a week, Shawn puts on the ‘Dead Bartenders Society’, a night dedicated to recreating the classic cocktails of days gone by. Ask for Shawn when you walk in, tell him we sent you, and ask him to shake up a concoction that would have been sipped in the 1920s – featuring the locals’ own Victoria Gin. 740 Burdett Ave, Victoria, BC. (+1 250 382 422). Back over in ‘Van’, fellow drinksmith Josh Pape, the owner of Diamand, also has a solid reputation in town for mixing a great drink. Pape was a one-time member of the Canadian team in the 42 Below Vodka Cocktail World Cup and has a love of classic cocktails, particularly Negroni’s and Martinis – so that’s absolutely the call here. His bar Diamand, in the once-was-dodgy Powell Street, is the city’s best cocktail den that also does some brilliant Asian-style tapas, including the finest gyoza and sashimi in town. 6 Powell St, Vancouver, BC. Up the street at Chambar, you’ll find great Belgian fare and quite possibly the city’s second-best cocktail list after Diamand. Funnily enough, Pape honed his skills here before opening his den down the street. In a town where craft beer (especially from neighbouring Victoria) reigns supreme, it’s no surprise that Vancouverites book out this restaurant every night of the week. Think a good Belgian beer cafe pot of mussels with some refinement alongside succulent BC meat washed down with a Canadian Club-twisted Manhattan. 652 Beatty Street, Vancouver, BC. (+1 604 879 7119).
Vancouver is a town based around its stunning Harbour and sitting on a wharf over the water is the Pan Pacific Vancouver. This affordable luxury hotel offers a great location for exploring the largest city in British Columbia and is well reviewed for its oversized rooms, which offer uninterrupted views of the Harbour, and arguably the city’s best room service. 300-999 Canada Place, Vancouver, BC. (+1 604 662 8111).
Air New Zealand flies from Melbourne to Vancouver via Auckland. Onboard, expect great service, entertainment and food across all three cabins on the aircraft – in economy, premium economy and business. Time Out’s bang-for-buck cabin is Premium Economy where the food and wine – think Pinot Noir and lamb – is as good as Business, while the seats recline enough to ensure a good nights’ sleep. If you’re bored, you can catch-up on Flight of the Conchords, a Crowded House clip or an All Blacks versus Wallabies classic match. Similarly, guests on Qantas flying to Vancouver via Los Angeles can expect world-class entertainment, food from Neil Perry, fine Australian wine and award-winning service, especially in Business on the Airbus A380 during the 14-hour hop over the Pacific. Virgin Australia also offers flights, complete with a Luke Mangan-designed menu, to Vancouver via Los Angeles, while United Airlines offers Vancouver flights via Sydney and Los Angeles.