Best Weekend Getaways from Vancouver
April 24, 2008 · Print This Article
So you want to get away. And you want to make it last more than a day, though probably not for as long as you’d like. But a weekend — be it two or three days — is better than no break at all, especially when contentment lies just a short journey from home. Your reward is a comfy bed, tasty food, and as little or as much adventure as you’re inclined. That’s exactly what the destinations in Best Weekend Getaways from Vancouver are designed to do.
After years of combing B.C. in search of the best outdoors attractions and activities, I’ve amassed a filing cabinet or two of notes to drawn on when narrowing the focus of this book to those special destinations perfectly suited to a quick break, where, no matter what the weather, you can relax in comfort without busting your budget or returning home more stressed than when you started.
My intention with this guide is to suggest places where you can enjoy as soft or as challenging an experience as you wish. You’re the boss of you. Want to ski or ride a bike? It’s all here. Want to relax in a spa or picnic by a river? I’m with you on that, too. And while I can’t help recommending special places where you might want to camp overnight under the stars, my emphasis is predominantly on setting you up with a roof over your head that’s a little more waterproof than a tent, and with room service to boot. Where the only inflatable air mattresses are the ones by the heated pool. Where the margaritas are always freshly squeezed, and where the menus feature the best in local flavours.
Each of the destinations in this guide are within a maximum five-hour drive of Vancouver, including ferry travel where necessary. Most are much closer than that but it hardly seems fair to exclude regions such as the Okanagan which, with a little advance planning, some astute schedule juggling, and a jump on rush-hour traffic, you can reach within the stated time frame.
Pull-out sections in each chapter offer specific tips on maximizing your down time after a minimum of travel. I also include suggestions as to both the best and the less-appealing aspects of each locale: when and where to go, or not, as the case may be. For car-free city dwellers, detailed transit information, including telephone numbers and Web sites, is listed. Wherever suitable, wheelchair access is also noted .
Bottom line: enjoy yourself. Life’s better than you think, and nowhere more so than close to home. Slow travel, anyone?
Excerpt: Vernon and Environs
Silver Star Mountain Resort
Of all three major Okanagan mountain resorts, Silver Star does the best job of reinventing itself from winter to summer. Not only does the village host the Okanagan Summer Wine Festival in mid-August, one of the high points of the year, it welcomes mountain bike riders onto its chairlifts as soon as trails dry out in June. Ask bike enthusiasts in the region for their opinion and the uniform response will be that Silver Star’s bike park rocks. That goes equally for both easy riders and hard core bombers alike.
If you haven’t been here before on a bike, I recommend a quick reconnaissance along a mostly-level paved trail which leads from the village across Vance Creek and intersects with numerous single-track trails which lace through the forest and across open slopes. One of the rewards of exploring the paved route is the cooling shade provided on hot days. Given that this is a wooded environment, come prepared with insect repellant until later in the summer.
Once you’ve gotten a feel for the bike park, pick a trail that suits your ability and energy level and start ripping. Trails are well marked and all lead to the bottom of the Comet Six-Pack Express chairlift where you can start all over again. One of my favourite mellow routes is Cabin Trail, a blend of paved and hardpacked dirt that rises and falls as it loops its way around mid-mountain. An unexpected reward is the sight of alpine wildflowers which bloom profusely from mid-July to mid-August. If there’s a downside to witnessing the cavalcade of colour from blue lupine and red paintbrush, it’s that biting insects are just as much drawn to the blossoms as those on two wheels. Mountain wildflower tours are offered July to September (250-545-7446www.outdoordiscoveries.com; Monday to Saturday afternoons) as well as bears and berries tours (Thursday to Saturday mornings). For those hikers who prefer to ride up and hike down, the Summit Chair runs with you in mind.
Note: The best places to stay here are the condominiums in the Knoll neighbourhood, where Victorian Gaslight replica homes are decorated in four or five exterior hues and trimmed with cookie-cutter moulding. For reservations, visit www.staraccom.com.
Bugaboos Bakery Café (Silver Star Resort) Affable Dutch baker Frank Berkers rolls a combo of cinnamon-and-sugar in croissant dough. The ambrosial results are a masterful achievement. Daily soups and espressos rank right up there with the best as well.