British Columbia Summer Visit

For the past few years I’ve been spending the month of July in Canada visiting family and old friends, staying primarily in Vancouver, but also visiting the central region of British Columbia known as the Okanagan, as well as Vancouver Island. I love returning to cosmopolitan Vancouver for so many reasons – many shared also by Condé Nast Traveler readers who continually rate it as one ten best cities in the world. Surrounded by mountains and ocean, its rugged beauty attracts people from around the world, to both live and visit. Vancouver is a city of ethnic diversity. A short walk down any street will have you hearing languages and seeing people from around the globe. And those that have come have brought their culture, especially their cuisine, making it a great food city as well.

In the Okanagan my father has a home that overlooks Kalamalka Lake just north of Kelowna. It’s a beautiful lake that sees very little wind, few boats, making it perfect for paddle boarding. An old school friend has a paddle board rental shop close by (Kalavida Surf Shop) and lives across the street where he keeps 2-3 boards in his garage that he lets me take out whenever I want. It’s also a great area for golfing, with numerous courses scattered around neighboring Okanagan Lake.

Vancouver 2014 8
Downtown Vancouver and False Creek basin

Okanagan Lake is called a fjord lake, (long and narrow), as it has been carved out by repeated glaciations that have left it with a steep shoreline and very deep waters; maxing out at 232 meters. It is 135 km long and it is not uncommon for the lake to be 100 meters deep only 10 meters offshore.


Over the past year my father has been working on building a small 15′ wooden (and fiberglass) gaff sailboat in his garage, so I was excited to get the opportunity to try it out and sail with him. But with little wind on the lake, we decided to trailer it down to Vancouver. Once in there we launched the boat at a ramp under the Burrard Street bridge and enjoyed a few days of 14-16 knot winds allowing us to really give the boat a good run. Once out of the mouth of False Creek we sailed into English Bay, following the shores of Stanley Park and Spanish Banks, with the gorgeous skyline of downtown Vancouver behind us.


After about a week of sailing we headed over to Vancouver Island, visiting friends in Nanaimo before making our way to Tofino on the western coastline of the island. Tofino is Mecca for surfing in Canada, with people coming from all over to put on wetsuits and surf its cold waters. The area is simply spectacular for hiking, fishing and of course, surfing.

Cox Bay, one of Tofino’s most popular surf spots
Rosie and Chesterman (far background) Beaches

In Tofino we stayed at the Pacific Sands resort which is made up mostly of apartments and townhouses situated along the beach for rent, but there is also a home at the far end of Cox Bay that sits up high on a point that provides spectacular panoramic views of the beaches of Cox, Rosie and Chesterman. We stayed for four nights visiting family and friends, then leaving to make room for the next guest who happened to be Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and family, who would be staying for two weeks at this lovely home. Justin enjoys surfing and the privacy Tofino provides his family. This would be his second time in two years he’s returned to Tofino for a summer vacation.

Tofino is an oasis of old-growth rainforests, wildlife, recreation and exploration. Locals include whales, eagles, bears, salmon, otters, cougars, wolves, herons, ospreys, and steelhead; and visitors are migrating whales and birds. It is also eclectic and bohemian in nature. For those familiar with Sayulita, the surf town just north of Puerto Vallarta, there are a lot of parallels between the two. I’m sure many of the people I saw this summer in Tofino are the same ones I’ll see again this winter in Sayulita – at least in character.

From Tofino I returned to Vancouver for more family/friend visiting, plus a little more sailing, before departing back to Nice.

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