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.
| Vancouver |
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 |
Located 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 (110mi) stretch of rainforest, seashore and mountains. This is the secret destination of many individuals, 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, or YVR as locals sometimes refer to it, is located in Richmond. It serves as the hub airport for Western Canada with frequent flights to other points in British Columbia, major cities across Canada and the United States, Asia and several to Europe . There are a number of ways to get to various Lower Mainland towns from YVR. For more on this airport see "Vancouver International Airport" in the Vancouver article.
There are floatplane facilities located both in the Coal Harbour area of downtown Vancouver (CXH) and at Vancouver International's South Terminal. Floatplanes operated by Harbour Air, Baxter Aviation, Salt Spring Air and West Coast Air fly frequently from downtown Vancouver and/or YVR to Victoria's Inner Harbour, Vancouver Island, the scenic Gulf Islands, Seattle and other local destinations. Finally, Helijet operates helicopter service from the downtown heliport next to Waterfront Station, providing quick and convenient connections to Victoria and YVR. For more on these options see "Floatplane and heliport" in the Vancouver article.
Abbotsford International Airport (YXX), located about 80 km 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 minutes (with no checked in baggage).
Flying in and out of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, most notably for US destinations, and then using the bus for travel to and from Vancouver city is an often less expensive option than buying a direct flight from YVR or YXX due to tariffs and "other" reasons. However depending on your nationality, a US visa may be required and could take some time to procure. For budget travellers, you may wish to consider checking flights to and from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The bus or train ride takes about 5 hours one way and driving time is approximately 2.5 to 3 hours.
|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–12am, US-bound 7am–9pm)||Primary border crossing point for passenger vehicles. No commercial traffic allowed. Best NEXUS lane access. Canadian side is undergoing major street and building construction (July 2008).|
|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 1.5km 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 8am–12am daily. Commercial 8am–4pm Mon–Fri (exc. 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 24 hours, daily. Commercial 8am–5pm Mon–Fri (exc. hols)||Huntington is a neighborhood of Abbotsford.|
|Boundary Bay||Point Roberts||Delta, BC (56th St) – Point Roberts, WA (Tyee Drive)||(NEXUS: daily; Canada-bound 9am–9pm summer, 10am–6pm winter; 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. There are a number of different bus lines providing service to various cities near and far. Here are a couple of examples:
- Greyhound connects the Lower Mainland with many cities, including Seattle, Calgary and Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.
- Quick Coach connects the Lower Mainland with Bellingham, Anacortes, and Seattle in Washington), including SeaTac (Seattle-Tacoma Airport.
- Pacific Coach Lines Connects Vancouver with Victoria. Scheduled service follows the BC Ferry service from Tswwassen to Victoria (Swartz Bay). This is hourly in the summer months, and every two hours in the off-season.
Unlikely to be the cheapest option, but travelling from Edmonton or Jasper by rail makes for a good way to see the Canadian Rockies. VIA Rail has the Canadian which runs from Toronto to Vancouver with 3 weekly departures. Rocky Mountaineer Vacations also operates trains to Whistler, Banff, and Jasper 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.
There are two ferry terminals serviced by BC Ferries in the Lower Mainland.
- The Tsawwassen terminal in Delta has routes to Nanaimo and Victoria on Vancouver Island and to the Southern Gulf Islands.
- The Horseshoe Bay terminal in the North Shore services Nanaimo, Bowen Island and the Sunshine Coast.
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). In terms of bus transportation, the various coach services are recommended over public transit. Public buses to and from the ferry terminals are time-consuming and frustrating.
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 commuities. 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 recently become a popular wine touring destination. Domaine de Chaberton Winery, a fixture in the beautiful south Langley countryside, has recently 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.