Vancouver Hidden Gem Alert: Discovering Westham Island – Part II

Photo credit: USFWS Headquarters | Flickr

Photo credit: USFWS Headquarters | Flickr

Just 45 minutes south of Vancouver, tiny Westham Island has its own world-class bird sanctuary, farm stands and acres of pumpkin patches, and waterfront bike trails.  Check out Part I of this two-part series for more details.  

While the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary on Westham Island might not exactly be a hidden gem (the parking lot was filled beyond capacity when I visited), it amazes me how few Vancouverites have been there.  The 740-acre, waterfront refuge – intersected with leafy, winding pathways, lagoons and quiet backwaters – provides habitat for some 250 species of birds throughout the year.  Admission is $5 and you can buy a bag of birdseed for $1.

On any given day, you’ll be swarmed by hundreds (often thousands) of ducks, who want your precious seeds.  Over the weekend, I also saw at least a half-dozen great blue herons perched out in the water, red-winged blackbirds, brilliantly coloured wood ducks and tiny finches that have learned to eat out of your hand. Continue reading:
Vancouver Hidden Gem Alert: Discovering Westham Island – Part II

Vancouver Hidden Gem Alert: Discovering Westham Island — Part I

Photo credit: Gord McKenna | Flickr

Photo credit: Gord McKenna | Flickr

It’s a tiny island a short drive from Vancouver with its own world-class bird sanctuary, farm stands and acres of pumpkin patches, and waterfront bike trails you’ll likely have all to yourself.

And pretty much no one has heard of it.

Westham Island is roughly a 45-minute drive south of downtown Vancouver, past Richmond and just next door to the small agricultural community of Ladner. I checked out the island recently on a sunny fall day.

A narrow tributary of the Fraser River separates Westham Island from the mainland.  To get across, you have to navigate a creaky, one-lane wooden bridge that’s been patched here and there with plywood.  Sometimes the bridge rotates to allow passing boats to get by and you might find a half-dozen cars lined up and waiting to get across. Continue reading:
Vancouver Hidden Gem Alert: Discovering Westham Island — Part I

Vancouver Hidden Gem Alert: Seymour Demonstration Forest

Photo credit: Skip the Filler | Flickr

Photo credit: Skip the Filler | Flickr

It’s hard to believe that minutes from the noise and chaos of downtown Vancouver is an alternate, carbon-free civilization inhabited only by cyclists, rollerbladers and pedestrians.  But it’s no dream: It’s North Vancouver’s Seymour Demonstration Forest.

This 5,668-hectare park, formally known as the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve, is actually a bit difficult to find, which may explain why it’s stayed relatively off-the-radar all these years.  Google Maps isn’t much help (though searching “Rice Lake” will get you close).  Directions online sound a bit like an old treasure hunt:  “Head toward Capilano College and drive straight past the main gate to the campus. Keep right on driving, past the riding stables and cemetery.”

But it’s worth hunting down.  You’ll know you’re on the right path when you start hitting speed bumps every 50 metres.  The road makes its way through thick forest and past a mysterious-looking building called the LSCR Waste Stream Diversion Facility before dead-ending at a gravel parking lot.  Here, you’ll notice every single car has a bike rack mounted on it.

This is because the main draw of the park is the Seymour Valley Trailway: a 10-kilometre-long paved path that threads its way through one of the most gorgeous – and bike-friendly – stretches of forest in the area.  Over the weekend, I hopped on my bike and explored the trail for the first time. Continue reading:
Vancouver Hidden Gem Alert: Seymour Demonstration Forest