Vancouver is a coastal city in southwestern British Columbia. Over 600,000 people live in the city proper, with 2.3 million in the municipality. It’s the most densely populated large city in Canada, with 13,590 people per square mile. Vancouver is also the most ethnically diverse city in Canada. 52% of the residents do not speak English as their first language. Almost 30% of residents are of Chinese descent.
Vancouver has two BC Ferry terminals, including one in Horseshoe Bay on Howe Sound, shown above. The Vancouver airport is the second-busiest in Canada and second-busiest international hub on the west coast of North America (after LAX).
The beautiful Howe Sound is a network of fjords northwest of Vancouver that dumps into the Strait of Georgia. The section of the Sea-to-Sky Highway above the Howe Sound (from which this photo was taken) has a notoriously dangerous history. The highway here used to be a two-lane undivided road with no outer barrier situated on a steep cliff. As a result, numerous drivers plunged to their death over the years due to bad weather, poor visibility, or accidents. A few years before the 2010 Winter Olympics came to Whistler, the BC government upgraded this section to a four-lane divided highway with concrete barriers between the opposing traffic and along the cliff. But it was still a scary drive.
The mile-long Lions Gate Bridge connects the cities of Vancouver and North Vancouver over the narrows of Burrard Inlet. The bridge was originally constructed in 1937 as a two-lane bridge, but as traffic grew over the years, a third middle lane was added with overhead signals, allowing the center lane to be used in either direction depending on the traffic.
The half-mile George Massey Tunnel carries a four-lane divided highway under the Fraser River estuary. It’s the only road tunnel below sea level in Canada, making the roadbed the lowest road surface in Canada. We didn’t actually plan on spending much time in Vancouver, but our GPS and the Milepost book both recommended we follow Highway 99 through the city. What we didn’t realize from either source was this route took us right through the middle of downtown Vancouver on a busy summer Sunday. We got caught in very tight and heavy downtown traffic with our big RV and tow car for nearly two hours. It was a very stressful drive, not only because of the stop-and-go traffic, but also because the road lanes were very narrow, and we were worried about someone crashing into our vehicles.
Mt. Rainier in Washington state looms large on the horizon even as far north as Vancouver. At 14,411 feet, the stratovolcano is the most topographically prominent mountain in the lower 48 states, and is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world. We plan to visit it in early September.
The Peace Arch was dedicated in 1921 and straddles the border between the United States and Canada, with one leg of the arch in each country. It represents the peace between these two nations, which have been allies for almost two centuries.