West Van, as locals call their stretch of home along the North Shore’s Coast Range mountains, is a beautiful community missed by most tourists who cross the spectacular Lions Gate Bridge. The bridge connects the City of Vancouver through the 1,000-acre (400-hectare) forest of Stanley Park to the North Shore. West Van is often overlooked as visitors pass by on their way to the Upper Levels Highway, bound for Whistler or the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal to Vancouver Island.
West Vancouverites lay claim to reading more library books, to earning more per capita income than any other group of Canadians and to hosting Canada’s first (and still modern) shopping mall, Park Royal.
A curious mix of old cottages and multi million dollar homes, West Van has no industry and little in the way of large scale tourist attractions. Yet there’s much to do if you follow the lead of the locals: stride the two kilometre seawall to Dundarave pier and beach, drop in at a neighbourhood bar for snacks and refreshments or partake of the seasonal beach concession for burgers.
Saunter along Bellevue Street to 31st – between 14th and 16th, fashion boutiques, antique stores and coffee shops abound. Great shopping options are also available in the two Marine Drive villages, each a block long: Dundarave and Ambleside.
Other local hangouts: the 1913 Ferry Building, where you’ll find free art shows, and Ambleside’s scenic pitch and putt. Dogs are so important in this area that they have their own section of beach or ‘doggie park’ at Ambleside and a parallel fenced runway on the seawall.
Located along the water and beneath the mountains, West Vancouver offers opportunities for many sports – golf, skiing, biking and hiking or your choice of sailing, motor boat rentals, fishing charters and much more. Scuba buffs head for rocky bluffs of Whytecliff Park, one of Canada’s first undersea parks, near Horseshoe Bay. Serious hikers-or skiers, in the winter-head for the hills, namely Cypress Mountain, located on the northern side of West Vancouver. And after it all, catch the breathtaking view, fantastic food or a casual drink at the Salmon House on the Hill.
Also, make sure not to miss Lighthouse Park. The scenery, particularly the views of Howe Sound, is among the most picturesque in the world. Forest trails (dogs allowed) wind past giant Douglas Firs to one of the last working lighthouses on the coast.