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

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
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
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried