I Know What I Did Last Summer – My Top 7 Secret Sunny Spots in British Columbia
Written by Jaillan Yehia
As the sun set on another Beautiful British Columbia summer, I decided to detail my favourite 14 sun-drenched memories from my summer travels.
In the second post I cover the secret sunny spaces I found in Europe and Central America, but here in the first installment I share my 7 secret summertastic spots near my home in British Columbia…
1. Secret City Rooftop Garden – Installation Art In Vancouver’s Chinatown
I’ve always had a thing for city views and rooftop gardens, especially if they’re a bit of a secret.
Everyone loves going to the top of tall buildings, and as much as I love The Shard in London or the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, any fool can go to the top of the most obvious paid-admission viewpoint in a city, so I get a special kick out of the ones that fewer people find (in London the BT Tower is the ultimate BT ‘friends and family’ scheme: open to BT employees and their pals for a £50 charity donation twice a year, and in KL the Menara TV tower which has a cheaper price, and no timed admission.)
In Vancouver you can get a wonderful view of the city from various spots, but the most obvious and central is the Vancouver Lookout, but for a slightly more low-key and totally fee-free option with added art thrown in, visit the oldest building in Chinatown, which has a cute rooftop garden.
The unassuming building houses The Rennie Collection a 6000 sq ft private exhibition space which took 4 years to renovate and is open for free guided tours 2 days a week culminating with a show-around on the amazing rooftop garden complete with installation art and sculpture.
The thinking behind the tours is simple and refreshingly non-artsy: with modern art half the time you have no idea what you’re looking so they’d rather explain each work to you and I quote: ‘If you think it’s shit that’s fine; you won’t be judged for not ‘getting it’ or given a dirty look by the receptionist’.
2. Secret Camping Spot – Sleeping At Skookumchuck Hot Springs
Before I came to Canada I had no interest in camping (see C is for camping). I recently debated this point with a fellow Brit living in Vancouver and she wisely pointed out that camping is a very different beast in Europe where distances are far shorter and quite frankly there’s barerly any land left which doesn’t have a boutique hotel within a 20 minute drive, so really what’s the point?
Here in BC I’ve learned to love driving 45 kilometers down a gravel logging road that I can only conclude employs hidden armies of furious and dedicated stone sharpeners, presumably under cover of darkness, to make the road extra bumpy and tire-piercing, but boy when you get where you’re going (and to be clear where you’re going really is the middle of nowhere and that’s the joy of it) is it worth the ride.
These are the type of landscapes that were made for setting up a tent, lighting a fire and reveling in the lack of WiFi and cell phone reception, and nowhere more so than Skookumchuck Hot Springs, a campsite and natural hot springs on First Nations territory which makes up for in raw natural beauty and isolation what it lacks in mod cons, which is everything: the only running water is the that which you’ll find in the boiling hot baths and the freezing, rushing Lillooet River.
3. Secret Fishing Spot – Catching A Salmon at Cougar Creek, Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island
Everything I said above about Skookumchuck Hot Springs goes double for Cougar Creek – it’s double the distance down an even more remote logging road, though luckily the stone-sharpening posse haven’t made it this far out on Vancouver Island making the drive marginally less suspension-sucking if you’re idiotic enough to come here without a truck (we were).
It’s also makes up for in ample fishing opportunities what it lacks in facilities, and I’m proud to tell you that this is the location of the first salmon ever to be caught by my own fair hand – and my hands are probably the only bit of me that still looked like me by then, because after 3 days of squaddie-style showering at best, the hair and nails? Well, not so much.
To seal my love for this secret fishing spot I must share with you the fact that I reeled in this whopping fish with a trout rod – an impressive and remarkable feat so I’m told – even though to my mind I just stuck a line in the water and bobbed it about a bit, but what can I tell you? ‘Think like a fish, be the fish’ was my mantra and it paid off.
4. Secret Scenery – Watching The West Coast on A Vancouver Heli Tour
If seeing glacial lakes like this one, whose name escapes me, because when I was being told this key information I was in a freakin’ helicopter (sorry got a bit excited there), isn’t a brilliant secret that few people are lucky enough to be let in on, I don’t know what is.
Helijet’s West Coast Spectacular tour flies you at an altitude of around 1600 m along the West Vancouver coastline to Horseshoe Bay taking in The Lions peaks, North Shore Mountains, Capilano Lake and does a wicked spin around the city before depositing you back at Waterfront to re-join the masses of people who don’t have a helicopter. Sigh.
5. Secret Sculpture – Avoiding the wasps At Douglas Coupland’s Gumhead
This is ‘gumhead’, an autobiographical sculpture of the head of artist and author Douglas Copeland, if sculptures can be described as autobiographical, maybe they can’t so let’s call this one megalomaniacal instead.
In this piece of installation art which is installed on the grassy area just outside the Vancouver Art Gallery the public are encouraged to apply their own pre-chewed gum, meaning that on a sunny day as well as being covered in gum, it’s also alive with bees and wasps, but on the plus side the brightly-coloured gum tends to smell very fruity.
Copeland is one of those famous people who turn out to be Canadian (in this case, from Vancouver) but whom I would have just assumed were American if I hadn’t moved to Canada and been forced to pay an undue amount of attention to who is and is not Canadian.
I constantly feel like I should apologise for this ignorant misconception, because it must be even more annoying than Canadians asking me if I’m Australian, which I find deeply insulting, especially when my boyfriend does it. Again.
6. Secret Watering Hole – Seeing The Seaplanes land at The Flying Beaver Pub
If I went to a pub in London the view would more often than not be of a smelly alleyway and the scent one of exhaust fumes and stale pork scratchings. I’m not saying there aren’t plenty of dirty watering holes around BC, or indeed that I’m not acquainted with them but my favourite secret spot for a beer is the Flying Beaver where the view is one of seaplanes landing gently on the water, and the scent is one of fresh air, and hearty food.
For this is what we Brits would call a gastro pub (because they have food on the menu that hasn’t just been deep fried) and on top of all that it has – and this bit’s important – a gorgeous patio, perfect for soaking up the summer sun.
Smoking fans may also like to know that is a rare breed of pub which allows smoking on the patio, perhaps the reason why Europeans, who like smoking so much that I’ve actually seen them do it at petrol stations, outnumbered North Americans on my last visit.
7. Secret Summer Sunset – White Rock
White Rock is small but delightful seaside city in BC which is all sandy beach, salty sea air, fish and chips and ice cream parlours – it has an actual pier too dating back to 1915 which is practically prehistoric around these parts and makes the Brit in me feel right at home.
Usually I just come here to eat the fish & chips at Moby Dicks then like a good North American get in my car and drive home, but this summer I shook things up a bit as I visited with family in tow, leading me to walk the length of the town’s promenade, as well as the 1500 foot pier and scramble about on the giant 486 tonne White Rock that has sat on the beach since the last ice age giving the town it’s name, so I really earned the fish and chips this time.
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