Vancouver: 'Hollywood North' – star of Canada's west

You'll probably want to visit Vancouver for its stunning waterside views and nearby mountains. But, says Anne Gorringe, there's every chance you'll bump into Tom Cruise and co in town, too

Sitting by the restaurant window in my hotel at sunset, I glanced down on Vancouver's beautiful harbour front. Apparently I was having dinner on the very road where Tom Cruise was seen running through the streets of "India", leaping over cars in a chase scene from the last Mission Impossible film. It was difficult to believe, but the restaurant staff in the Fairmont Pacific Rim insisted that the palm trees, cars and Indian road signs brought in by the film crews had transformed the Canada Place area outside the convention centre into a Mumbai street.

In the distance, yachts bobbed serenely on the water. The trees of Stanley Park, a natural temperate rainforest wrapped around the end of the harbour, were framed with the stunning back-drop of the coastal mountains behind.

The largest city in British Columbia has long lured filmmakers, drawn by its dazzling Pacific location. Today, the state-of-the-art facilities at the Canadian Motion Picture Park studio in nearby Burnaby mean that the local movie industry is booming.

Most of the Twilight Saga was filmed here and Vancouver has also been the chosen location for dozens of TV films and series, including The X-Files, and movies from Juno to the Fantastic Four and X-Men. Wrapping up there this week? A remake of Robocop.

Summer has long lured tourists too: this month Air Transat and Virgin Atlantic began their warm-weather schedules from the UK to Vancouver. Now, instead of just one weekly flight from Gatwick, Air Transat is offering four, plus two weekly links from Manchester and one from Glasgow. Virgin's summer service from Heathrow has started. All these flights go non-stop to "Hollywood North", as Vancouver has been dubbed by Californian crews since 2000, when more than 200 films and TV shows were produced there in a single year.

Visitors can satisfy their cinematic urges at the annual Vancouver International Film Festival, which runs from 26 September to 11 October.

Star spotting is all very well, but I had a rather different hunger to satisfy as I travelled around the city on the "Eat Your Cart Out" lunch-time walking tour. As my guide, Leni Koen, explained, street food has taken off since the 2010 Winter Olympics, when local by-laws were relaxed: vans, or carts, now offer a variety of delicious dishes. We visited the Pan-Asian Roaming Dragon cart for its speciality: deep-fried rice balls made with a mix of stir-fried chicken, sesame oil and ginger. Then we were off to Japadog, where traditional hotdogs are served with teriyaki sauce, noodles and seaweed.

"Some restaurants have complained about the growing competition that the carts provide, but the carts are only allowed on the streets during the day so there's still plenty of scope for the evening trade," says Leni. Locals spend more dollars per head on eating out here than diners in any other Canadian city: an average of more than C$1,500 (£1,000) each annually.

But the real love around here remains the great outdoors. In North Vancouver, Grouse Mountain offers spectacular scenery and a few runs for skiers in winter, while summer attractions include the challenge of the "Grouse Grind". This sees locals pulling on their hiking boots to march up the steep route which rises through a challenging 850m altitude in just three kilometres. A free summer shuttle bus leaves from the harbour in the city at Canada Place and takes 25 minutes, dropping passengers in the car park at the entrance to the hike and the Skyride cable car – North America's largest aerial tramway system.

I took the easy way up and hopped on board. The eight-minute trip offers great views over Vancouver and south, across the US border as far as Mount Baker. Look west across the ocean to the mountain peaks on Vancouver Island, a two-hour ferry journey away.

Back on the shuttle bus, I was soon back at Canada Place, the stop across the road from the Fairmont Pacific Rim. The hotel provides free bikes for guests to explore more than 450km of cycle paths. I took the route to Stanley Park: flat and ideal for beginners who want to keep off the roads. There's plenty to see. First, there's the Totem Park area, a colourful display of poles carved by local Coast Salish First Nation people. Then as you travel along the busy sea wall you pass a couple of coffee stops before reaching English Bay Beach. This faces west and is the best place in the city for sunset views, and a popular local barbecue spot. Its name refers to the 1792 meeting of British naval Captain George Vancouver, who charted British Columbia's Pacific Coast with Spanish captains Valdés and Galiano.

The next day, I sped things up a notch. My guide from Sewell's Marina picked me up from the hotel for the 20-minute drive back to their base in West Vancouver. I was to take a two-hour high-speed ride across the bay in a 9m inflatable to spot some wildlife. I was handed a "flotation suite" which looked like a bright orange, zip-up padded boiler suit and served to keep off the chilly spray as guide Darryn crashed us through the waves.

Naturally, we slowed to a crawl as we approached rocks full of basking seals and birdlife which can include cormorants, oystercatchers, Harlequin ducks and Glaucous winged gulls. Spring and autumn are the best time to see whales and dolphins here.

I took to the water one final time on the Aquabus link across False Creek from the jetty in the centre of town for the four-minute trip to Granville Island. Despite its name, it's a peninsula, connected to the city by road. Once heavy industry belched noxious fumes here but now it's a bustling place with a laid-back vibe and a vibrant art and music scene. It's also known for its impressive indoor market, the best place to buy edible treats, from local maple syrup to cheeses and candied salmon.

I finished the day with a trip to Granville Island Brewery on Cartwright Street, the city's first microbrewery. Since opening in 1984, it has helped nurture an excellent craft beer scene. The main brewery is actually two blocks away, but you can tour the Tap Room adjacent to the bar where staff explain the magic of how the hops, hot water and barley are used to create the impressive brews.

Looking round is thirsty work, so the tour finishes with a choice of beer samples at the bar, from Maple Cream Ale to Honey lager. They're intoxicating concoctions, much like this dazzling city itself. For film stars or tourists, Vancouver delivers a picture-perfect setting.

Travel essentials

Getting there

The writer travelled with Air Transat (0843 255 9807; canadianaffair.com) which flies to Vancouver from Gatwick, Manchester and Glasgow.

Staying there

Fairmont Pacific Rim (001 604 695 5350; fairmont.com). Doubles from C$418 (£279).

Visiting there

Sewell's sea safari (001 604 921 3474; sewellsmarina.com).

Grouse Mountain Skyride (001 604 980 9311; grousemountain.com).

Eat Your Cart Out tour (001 866 251 1888; tourguys.ca).

Granville Island Brewery Tour (001 604 687 2739; gib.ca).

More information

tourismvancouver.com

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £20,000 Uncapped

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Guru Careers: Membership Administrator

    £23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Day In a Page

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor