Horseshoe Bay, often overlooked by Vancouverites and tourists en-route to Whistler, Nanaimo or the Sunshine Coast, is more than just a ferry terminal. It's that charming village in West Vancouver, tucked away below the Sea-to-Sky highway and surrounded by ocean-weathered cliffs.
Homes reminiscent of a quaint fishing village spot the hillside and shoreline as you descend into Horseshoe Bay. You can walk this town end-to-end. If you did, you’d find everything expected in a sea-side community: little coffee shops, ice-cream parlors, playgrounds, a tourist information centre, benches and boardwalks and, of course, seafood.
There’s a feeling about this place, the sort of feeling that might compel you to check the real estate listings. A summer getaway, perhaps? Or even a full-time residence -- Vancouver, after all, is just a bus-ride away.
The 250 to Horseshoe Bay is a scenic bus-ride that departs from the heart of downtown Vancouver just outside The Bay. The 257 travels there too but it's an express bus and won't offer you the same sensory experience.
Besides driving or bussing to and from Horseshoe Bay, the other option is to cycle. Marine Drive is the route most ridden. It’s windy, narrow and sometimes shoulder-less, often teaming with hard-core cyclists in training. But it’s a trip to be remembered.
You could leave from Denman Street at Georgia Street where you can rent a bike, or have one of the many bike rental shops give yours a quick look-over. Once you’ve found a reliable ride, pedal back on to Georgia and head for the Lions Gate Bridge, huffing up the Stanley Park Causeway. The road may be busy but cyclists are kept safe by a separate bike path. For a rest and a spectacular view, stop at the top of the suspension bridge.
Once off the bridge, head west on to Marine Drive and continue to Whytecliff Park, passing through Ambleside, with its unique shops, and the many well-tended parks of West Vancouver. This is one of Canada's wealthiest residential municipalities, so take the opportunity to admire some of the most beautiful homes and properties in the Lower Mainland.
As you weave along the coast there are multiple viewpoints where you can stop and look back on Vancouver. Whytecliff Park is a great spot to stop for a rest.
If you packed a swimsuit, throw it on and take minute for a dip in the water. You’ll likely see the odd scuba diver bobbing in the waves, or walking backward and pigeon-toed on the beach. And if you look closely, you might even spot a seal.
As Canada's first Salt Water Marine Protected Area the view under the water of Pacific Northwest marine life is just as exciting and beautiful as the view from above.
The beach at Whytecliff is not nearly as expansive or busy as Kits or Jericho beaches in Vancouver, but it's secluded and offers a more "low-key family" vibe than an "I'm skipping work and tanning" vibe.
If you packed a lunch, Whytecliff beach is perfect for a picnic. Pick a spot, in the sun, in the shade, along the beach, on the grass or somewhere along the park's many paths. Don’t worry if you forgot a lunch, you can head to the concession for a snack and enjoy a patio that overlooks the cove.
Even if you think you’ve had enough of Whytecliff, consider sticking around for the sunset. This park has some of the most stunning sunsets in the Lower Mainland.
Horseshoe Bay is just a quick ride down the hill from Whytecliff. You can catch the bus back into the city right outside the ferry terminal, but if it's busy with cyclists you might have to wait a few busses. Don't worry though, they run frequently.