The term "lower mainland" can have different interpretations; for some people it is equivalent to a "Greater Vancouver", while others would include everything out to Abbotsford or even Hope in the east. Here we use it to describe the area from Vancouver in the west to Hope in the east, and from the American border to the south, to the town of Whistler and the Sunshine Coast to the north.
A beautiful, vibrant city with diverse neighbourhoods, a very multi-cultural and cosmopolitan city — and the political core of the Lower Mainland and economic core of the province.
|Vancouver eastern suburbs |
A series of towns north of the Fraser River and east of the Pitt River, all fairly urban and defined by their relationship to Vancouver. This region includes Burnaby and New Westminster; the Tri-Cities of Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody ("PoCoMo"); and Anmore and Belcarra villages.
|Vancouver southern suburbs |
The area between the Fraser River and the US border, where much of the Lower Mainland's population growth and suburban sprawl takes place. It includes the towns of Surrey, Richmond, Delta, and White Rock.
|North Shore |
Where dense urban meets dramatic tall mountains. The mountains provide attractions like Grouse Mountain. At the west of the North Shore is Horseshoe Bay, ferry terminal to the Sunshine Coast.
|Fraser Valley |
The Fraser River, which gives the valley its name, is the world's greatest salmon producing river, and a focus for the region's economy, transportation and culture. The valley also has lush fertile farmland, which contributes a large portion of the local produce. The towns of Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge, and Langley (British Columbia)
|Sea to Sky |
The region stretches from the North Shore, up the east side of Howe Sound to Squamish, the gateway to BC's magnificent alpine country of forests, lakes, and year round world class outdoor activities. The Sea-to-Sky Highway (Highway 99) clings to the mountainsides, letting you drive from Vancouver to Whistler, one of North America's top ski resorts, in two hours. Further in is Pemberton. The area is rich with archaeological sites and historical lore of the Salish Indians.
|Sunshine Coast |
North-west of Vancouver, a 40-minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay, the region is named for its 2,400 hours of annual sunshine. It is a 180-km (110-mi) stretch of rainforest, seashore and mountains. This is the secret destination of many people, where the island life is found on the mainland. Here is a slower pace of life, where those who appreciate the beauty of outstanding marine parks and marshland bird sanctuaries, old growth forest and alpine peaks will find this the perfect destination.
This area is home to Greater Vancouver, the largest metropolitan area west of Toronto. It is also home to the mainly agricultural Fraser Valley, the outdoor playground of the Whistler environs and the laid back vacation area termed the Sunshine Coast.
The de facto language is English. Chinese (especially Cantonese) is the second most-spoken language in the city and there are sizable immigrant communities who speak other languages. Though there are few French speakers in British Columbia, Canada is officially bi-lingual so Canadian Government offices may offer services in French.
Vancouver International Airport
1 Vancouver International Airport (domestic and International terminals) (YVR IATA), 3211 Grant McConachie Way, Richmond, BC (Sea Island in Richmond).
2 Vancouver International Airport (south terminal) (YVR IATA), 4440 Cowley Crescent, Richmond, BC (Sea Island in Richmond). South terminal includes south terminal building and two float plane terminals along the Fraser River within one kilometre of the south terminal building.
Imediately south of the city of Vancouver. It is the second busiest airport in Canada, and serves as the hub airport for Western Canada with frequent flights to other points in British Columbia, major cities across Canada and the U.S., Asia and several to Europe. The majority of Canadian flights are with Star Alliance member Air Canada and WestJet. U.S. destinations are served by United Airlines, Alaska Airways, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Air Canada, Cathay Pacific (JFK) and WestJet. International flights are serviced by Air Canada, KLM, Lufthansa, Cathay Pacific, British Airways, Korean Air, Philippine Airlines, and Air New Zealand to name a few.
YVR's three terminals are: Domestic for jet flights within Canada, International for flights outside of Canada and South, which is the base for prop, small jet, and seaplane service to 'local' communities in B.C. and Yukon. The domestic and international terminals are connected and you can easily walk back and forth between them. The South Terminal is not attached to the other terminals is 10 to 12 minutes drive from the Domestic and International terminals. Free shuttle service running every half an hour for part of the day is available between the South terminal, and the Domestic and International terminals.
The International Terminal has two boarding areas -- Transborder and International. The transborder area (Gate E) services all U.S. bound flights and has U.S. customs on site. Travellers leaving Canada to fly into the U.S. must clear customs before you board the plane, so give yourself some extra time to check-in when you leave Vancouver for U.S. destinations. In the summer season when the Alaska cruises are operating to Vancouver, the afternoon flights are filled with Alaskan cruisers disembarking at Vancouver; give yourself even more extra time to get through the long customs line. The exceptions are Cathay Pacific to New York City and Philippine Air to Las Vegas; due to these being continuing legs of international flights, they are serviced from the international area and US Customs clearance happens on arrival. The remainder of the international terminal (Gate D) has all other customs and immigration services, and has a sophisticated layout complete with native scapes of the B.C. terrain and sights. Construction is underway to expand the international terminal and refurbishing and expanding the domestic terminal.
There is a range of restaurants, services and shops if you are hungry or want to kill some time before or after a flight. The airport has a policy of “street pricing”, obliging retailers and restaurants to sell at the same prices in the airport as in the city to avoid customer gouging. Typical fast-food restaurants are before the security check-ins in the departure areas. For a nice meal, there is a Milestone's restaurant in the domestic terminal just outside the security check-in. In the international terminal, the upscale Fairmont Hotel has a nice view and some reasonably priced choices on their menu. Duty-free purchases may be made both before and after you clear customs in the airport, up to your personal exemption limit. ABM machines are scattered throughout the terminals. Currency exchange counters are found on both sides of security in the international terminal.
There are a number of ways to get into town from the airport. Prices and directions below are for getting into downtown Vancouver.
- SkyTrain - The Canada Line provides direct service from the Domestic and International terminals to downtown Vancouver in 25 minutes. The fare from YVR to Vancouver is $9, which includes the two-zone base fare of $4 plus a $5 surcharge (the "YVR AddFare") incurred on departures from the airport. The $5 surcharge only applies on trips starting at the airport, not on trips going to the airport. Additionally, it only applies to Stored Value credits deduction on a Compass Card, and tickets and Daypasses purchased from the vending machines at all 3 stations on the Vancouver airport island. It does not apply to monthly passes loaded on a Compass Card, or DayPasses purchased elsewhere.
- Bus - Route C92 connects the South terminal with Bridgeport station on the Canada Line. From Bridgeport station, the Canada Line has services that connect with Vancouver International Airport's Domestic and International terminals, Vancouver, and Richmond
- Taxi - Taxis line up just outside the baggage claim areas. Fares for a taxi ride into Vancouver or Richmond are fixed and vary depending on which part of the city (or "zone") you are going to. For example, a fare to Kitsilano, Granville Island, Yaletown and most downtown hotels will cost $31. Canada Place, Waterfront Station and the waterfront hotels will cost $35. Fares to UBC and Point Grey are $34. The YVR Taxis page has more details about the zones and rates, including a map. If your destination is outside of Vancouver or Richmond, the fare will be metered. The fixed rate fares only apply to rides leaving the airport; all trips to the airport are metered. There is a $5 fee on top of the fixed rate if you want to stop along the way. All taxis that serve the airport are required to accept credit cards. The typical travel time from the airport to downtown is about 20-30 minutes.
- Limousines - Limojet Gold offers comfortable sedan and limousine options for getting into town. Rides into the city centre cost $70-75 depending on where you are going and whether you are in a sedan or limo.
- AAA Vancouver Limousine Service offers comfortable stretch limousine and Stretch SUV Limos options for getting into town.
Floatplanes and heliport
There are floatplane facilities at:
- Vancouver International Airport's South Terminal - along the Fraser River, at two locations within about 1 kilometre of South terminal building
These floatplane facilities offer flights operated by Harbour Air, Salt Spring Air, West Coast Air and Seair fly frequently from downtown Vancouver and/or YVR to Victoria's Inner Harbour, Vancouver Island, the scenic Southern Gulf Islands and other local destinations. Some float plane operators also offer spectacular tours of the central city and nearby attractions starting at about $80-100 per person... a great way to see a panoramic view of downtown. A quick search of Google will bring up websites for most of these float plane operators.
There are heliport facilities at:
- Vancouver International Airport's South Terminal
4 Helijet, 455 Waterfront Rd W, Vancouver, BC (Near Waterfront Station in downtown Vancouver). perates helicopter service from the downtown heliport next to Waterfront Station, providing quick and convenient connections to Victoria and Vancouver International Airport (YVR)
Other nearby airports
About 60 km (37 mi) east of Vancouver in Abbotsford, is Vancouver's alternate airport. It handles mostly domestic flights and, with an arranged ride, you can be in and out of this airport in under 10 min (with no checked in baggage).
The best way to reach Vancouver from Abbotsford Airport is by car: take the Trans-Canada Highway (Hwy 1) west. The drive will take 45–90 minutes, depending on traffic. There is no public transit link between this airport and Vancouver, so if you don't have access to a car, it is highly recommended that you fly into YVR instead. Car rentals are available at the airport.
6 Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA IATA), 17801 International Blvd, Seattle (Seattle). Flying in and out of Seattle, particularly for US destinations, and then using the bus, train, or car rental for travel to and from Vancouver city can be a (dramatically, and frustratingly) less expensive option than buying a direct flight from YVR or YXX. A U.S. visa may be required and could take some time to procure. For budget travelers, you may wish to consider checking flights to and from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The bus or train ride takes about 4 hr one-way and driving time is approximately 2½-3 hr. Allow extra time to clear customs at the border.
7 Bellingham International Airport (BLI IATA), 4255 Mitchell Way, Bellingham, WA (Bellingham). About an hour from Vancouver (plus border time), and serves mainly as a launching point for budget-minded Canadian travellers vacationing in the U.S.: excellent service from Hawaii and Las Vegas, but few other useful connections. Also offers connecting service through Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Shuttle buses to Vancouver run as low as $39 round trip.
|Canadian name||US name||Location||Hours||Comments|
|Douglas (Peace Arch)||Blaine (Peace Arch)||Surrey/White Rock, BC (Hwy 99) – Blaine, WA (I-5)||24 hours, daily (NEXUS: daily, Canada-bound 7AM–midnight, US-bound 7AM–9PM)||Primary border crossing point for passenger vehicles. No commercial traffic allowed. Best NEXUS lane access.|
|Pacific Highway||Blaine (Pacific Highway)||Surrey, BC (Hwy 15) – Blaine, WA (WA-543) (From Hwy 99 southbound take exit 2A and go along 8 Ave for 1.5 km to Hwy 15. From I-5 northbound take exit 275 for WA-543.)||24 hours, daily (NEXUS: daily, Canada-bound 2PM–6PM, US-bound 10am–6pm)||Also known as the "Truck Crossing". Primary border crossing point for trucks and buses in the Vancouver/I-5 region. Passenger and foot traffic also welcome, with waits usually shorter than at Peace Arch. Canadian and US Customs offices here are better places to ask questions than Peace Arch. US side has just finished major street improvement (early 2008).|
|Aldergrove||Lynden||Aldergrove, BC (Hwy 13) – Lynden, WA (WA-539, the Guide Meridian)||Passengers daily 8AM–midnight. Commercial M-F 8AM–4PM (excl. hols)||Due north of Bellingham. Often has shorter lines than Peace Arch and Pacific Highway, but if you are going to or from Vancouver or the western suburbs the longer drive to Aldergrove usually eliminates this benefit.|
|Abbotsford-Huntingdon||Sumas||Abbotsford, BC (Hwy 11) – Sumas, WA (WA-9)||Passengers daily 24 hours. Commercial M-F 8AM–5PM (excl. hols)||Huntington is a neighborhood of Abbotsford.|
|Boundary Bay||Point Roberts||Delta, BC (56th St) – Point Roberts, WA (Tyee Drive)||(NEXUS: daily; Canada-bound summer 9AM–9PM, winter 10AM–6PM; US-bound 11AM–7PM)||This crossing is only useful for reaching Point Roberts, the US tip of a Canadian peninsula which extends just south of the 49° N latitude. There is no land access from there to the rest of the USA.|
Visitors travelling to Vancouver by car across the U.S. border should be aware that there are often lengthy lineups at the border, in either direction. During summer, waits at the border can exceed three hours during peak times.
Inform yourself about the waits, and you can either delay your crossing until the lines subside, or choose the quickest crossing, or at least set your expectations. You can see official wait time forecasts for both directions on the Canada Border Services Agency website, and for US-bound traffic on the US Customs and Border Protection website. It can be helpful to view webcams of the border lineups; Canada-bound on I-5 and US-bound at most crossings. Two AM stations give regular updates on border lineups in both directions: News 1130 (1130 on the AM dial) every 10 minutes beginning at one minute past the hour, and AM 730 every 10-15 minutes.
The NEXUS Land program  lets travellers who fill out an application and pass a security check use express lanes through US-Canada land borders by presenting a NEXUS card. However, you may only use the express lanes if everyone in your car has a Nexus card. There are also NEXUS programs for air and marine travel.
The Lower Mainland, especially Vancouver is well served by bus service, most of which terminates at 8 Pacific Central Station, 1150 Station Street, Vancouver, BC (East of Downtown Vancouver off Main Street). . There are a number of different bus lines providing service to various cities near and far. Here are a couple of examples:
- Greyhound (USA) connects Vancouver to the USA via Seattle.
- Greyhound Canada connects Vancouver with many cities such as Calgary and Nanaimo on Vancouver Island in Canada.
- Quick Coach connects Vancouver with Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Washington.
- BoltBus connects Vancouver with Bellingham, Seattle and Portland.
- Pacific Coach Lines connects Vancouver with Victoria. Scheduled service follows the BC Ferry service from Tsawwassen to Victoria (Swartz Bay). This is hourly in the summer months, and every two hours in the off-season.
- Perimeter Transportation connects Vancouver with Whistler and Squamish.
- Cantrail connects Vancouver with Seattle's King Street station. Service also stops in Richmond and Surrey before crossing the border.
All trains arrive at this station. From there, it is a short taxi ride into the central business area, or you can pick up the SkyTrain at the Main St/Science World station two blocks away.
Taking the train to Vancouver is unlikely to be the cheapest option, but it is a scenic one. Rail options include:
- VIA Rail has the Canadian which runs from Toronto to Vancouver with three weekly departures.
- The Rocky Mountaineer operates routes between Vancouver and Banff, Calgary and Jasper three times a week from April to October.
- Amtrak runs a service between Seattle and Vancouver called Amtrak Cascades. Trains depart Seattle daily at 7:40AM and 6:40PM, arriving in Vancouver at 11:35AM and 10:45PM respectively. The return trips leave Vancouver at 6:40AM and 5:45PM.
10 Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal (South Delta). Has routes to Nanaimo and Victoria on Vancouver Island, and to the Southern Gulf Islands. Reachable by bus #257 from downtown Vancouver, including a stop one block south of Burrard Station on the Skytrain Expo Line.
Both terminals are far enough from the city core that you will need to travel by car, taxi or bus to get into any regional city from them (and vice-versa).
By cruise ship
Port of Vancouver is the home port for the popular Vancouver-Alaska cruise. From May-Sep, more than 3/4 million visitors pass through the ship terminal in Port Metro Vancouver.
12 Canada Place Terminal (Downtown Vancouver). On the waterfront a few minutes' walk to the heart of downtown Vancouver or Waterfront Station is the primary cruise ship terminal. Canada Place was built for Expo86 and is recognized by its dramatic rooftop that looks like five white sails. A full range of ground transportation, excellent hotels, shopping, dining, entertainment, and attractions is available at Canada Place.
US passport holders may be able to participate in "Onboard Check-in” and “US Direct" to streamline processing at the cruise ship and the airport. US Direct allows passengers arriving at Vancouver Airport (YVR) to transfer directly to a same-day-departing cruise ship by participating in expedited immigration and customs clearance process. Onboard Check-in allows passengers arriving on a cruise ship and flying out of YVR on the same day to transfer directly to YVR by participating in an expedited immigration and customs clearance process.
These programs do not apply to passengers who are planning a pre- or post-cruise stay in Vancouver. Not all cruise lines participate, so check with your cruise line to see if you can take advantage of the Onboard Check-in/US Direct program.
Depending on how much you want to see, there may be a number of ways to get around the Lower Mainland. Within Vancouver and many of its suburbs, the Translink public transit system can get you to most places. Regional bus companies can take you further afield to places like Whistler and the Sunshine Coast. Vancouver is the hub for these services.
The most convenient means of getting around the region is by car. Highway 1 (the Trans-Canada highway) is the main thoroughfare, providing freeway travel through Vancouver's suburbs into the Fraser Valley and the interior of BC. Highway 99 connects Vancouver with the US border to the south and Whistler to the north. Car rentals are readily available throughout the region.
A number of small airlines operate float planes from Vancouver to the Sunshine Coast and Whistler. These are more expensive than other options, but are faster and more scenic.
Some parts of the Lower Mainland (Sunshine Coast and Bowen Island) can only be accessed by boat. BC Ferries provides ferry services to these areas and visitors can walk on or take their car.
There is so much do and see in the Lower Mainland, the following are only suggestions based on the regions.
Greater Vancouver, home to Stanley Park, Grouse Mountain, the Capilano Suspension Bridge and many more. To see all the sights, take a day tour to become familiar with all the sights. There are a number of sightseeing companies who run trips daily. And also the public transportation is also any easy way to see everything and get into the surrounding communities. You also can't miss out on the dining experiences, you name it and there is a restaurant in Vancouver to serve it. With award winning and internationally known restaurants, there is always something new to try.
In the Fraser Valley, you are entering into an amazing region which has plenty of stops to fill your stomach. Here you can find a number of award winning wineries and family owned farms. You can sample the fresh fruits and vegetables at a number of stands along the highway or pop into a local restaurant and have a wild salmon dish. You can spend the day driving from each community or you can make a whole weekend of it. The valley offers a great opportunity to relax in the warm waters of Harrison Hot Springs.
Whatever you do while visiting the Sea to Sky region, it will most likely involve some form of adventure outdoors. Here you will find some of the best golfing, skiing, hiking and many other outdoor activities. You can head up to the vibrant Whistler village or find your own mountain paradise.
The Sunshine Coast is your place to relax. Now relaxing means different things to everyone, this could mean sitting on your private B&B patio watching the sunset, or bobbing up and down while waiting for the fish below to take a bit of your bait, but whatever your image of relaxation it is found on the Sunshine Coast. Take a drive up the Sunshine Coast Highway and stop off at the galleries and farmer's markets to pick up some local goodies. But don't bother looking at your watch because here time is no of a concern.
The Lower Mainland is the scene of a quickly exploding food and wine revolution! Adjectives like diverse, fresh, delicious, unique don't even begin to describe the true nature of the region's bounty. World class cuisine from every corner of the globe is readily available throughout the region. West Coast cuisine shares the bill with Asian Fusion, Sushi, Italian, Indian, Mexican, Vegetarian, Chinese, Thai, French, Fish & Chips, Micro Breweries and Fruit Wineries.
Naturally, the region is so close to the Pacific Ocean that it provides a steady supply of the freshest of the fresh seafood. The catch of the day graces the plates of restaurants with famous BC salmon, halibut, cod, crab, scallops and oysters. Prepared simply, fantastically or fantastically simple...enjoy your 'catch of the day' in a fine dining establishment, a trendy eatery, a casual pub or right on the docks.
Farm fresh is a phrase heard repeatedly in the Lower Mainland. Just east of Vancouver is the Fraser Valley, a lush picturesque and productive valley which is home to a multitude of farms working diligently to deliver produce from the farm directly to the plate or to the visitor. Find fresh fruit and vegetables in season, farm-raised meat and eggs and extra special treats like home made jams and jellies.
The Fraser Valley has become a popular wine touring destination. Domaine de Chaberton Winery, a fixture in the beautiful south Langley countryside, has been joined by a number of other wineries (Township 7, Fort Wine Company, Glenugie Winery, Lotusland Vineyards and the Blue Heron Fruit Winery), all within a short drive of each other and from any location in the region. You can be in wine country in less than one hour drive from downtown Vancouver!The Lower Mainland also has some of the best tap water in the world.
- The immense and beautiful Vancouver Island lies off the shore of the Lower Mainland. Offering numerous recreational opportunities, it is accessed by one of four BC Ferries routes from the Lower Mainland.
- The Canyons and the Cariboo region lies northeast of the Lower Mainland.
- Extending north along the coast is the beautiful North and Central Coast.
- The US state of Washington lies to the south.