Inside the ExO Photo Shoot: 5 Fantastic Hotspots Around Vancouver
Few cities have entwined urban life with outdoor recreation as seamlessly as Vancouver, British Columbia. Whether you’re a foodie chowing your way through the city’s magnificient global food scene or an adventurer exploring the region’s vast outdoor playground, B.C.’s largest city makes for an unmatched springboard to the region’s many attractions.
Which is exactly what several lucky ExOfficio staff members discovered on our recent photo shoot in Vancouver, where we took hundreds of photos for our Spring 2017 catalog. We worked and played hard throughout the city’s vibrant neighborhoods and the province’s nearby outdoor landmarks: snowcapped peaks, rushing waterfalls, and other Instagram-worthy views.
Those of us who’d been there before were reminded, yet again, why Vancouver consistently ranks among the great cities of the world, while those of us there for the first time finally understood what all the fuss is about. Here, a peek into our time in Vancouver—and why we can’t wait to come back, with input from Easton Thomas, a graphic designer at ExOfficio.
Vancouver visitors rarely have to venture far for invigorating beach trips—Jericho Beach and Kitsilano Beach are among the most popular destinations—but packed crowds at the height of summer can make it tough to unfurl the beach blanket.
CRAB Park, which stands for Create a Real Available Beach, is seemingly worlds away from the big city and offers a peaceful alternative in the Gastown neighborhood, not far from Waterfront Station. Given its isolated locale, odds are good you’ll have plenty of space to kick back on a warm, sunny day.
The 2.5-hectare park, which is officially known as Portside Park, delivers dynamite views of ships coming and going through Vancouver Harbour, comfortable grass fields perfect for picnicking, playground equipment, an off-leash dog park, and—at least for a moment or two—the chance to forget you’re in the midst of a massive metropolis.
What We Loved: The local flavor. While the views and natural beauty of the area were the perfect backdrop for the shoot, perhaps the most memorable aspect of this spot was a bike event—actually called a Full Moon Bike Rave—that happened to stop by while the crew were there in the early evening hours. "It was a lot of young people in costumes on decked out custom bikes, with all these neon lights," Easton says. “The riders trickled in in small groups while we were there shooting. They stopped and turned their bikes upside down and spun their wheels with all these lights spinning around.”
While the city’s core draws most travelers, savvy visitors know to cross the Lions Gate Bridge into North Vancouver, a hip ‘hood known as North Van in local parlance. There, the scenic suburb butts up against hiking trails, mountain biking tracks, fishing holes, kayaking opportunities, majestic ski slopes, and other outdoor attractions.
Beyond the outdoors, visitors fawn over North Vancouver’s art galleries, craft beer scene, picturesque waterfront, and mouth-watering restaurants—all of which reflect the region’s homespun spirit and affection for all things local.
What We Loved: The crew piled into a huge Airbnb rental house "built on the side of the steepest hill ever," says Easton. “My car almost stalled going up it.” That aside, the house itself, a three-story structure described as “The Treehouse,” earned raves for its natural setting—and for its top-of-the-line AGA stove.
Even if you've never visited Gastown, odds are good the neighborhood's iconic steam clock, built in 1977, has appeared in your Instagram feed a few times over the years. It’s just one of several highlights in Gastown, the city’s oldest neighborhood. The 150-year-old community has long blended the city’s broader old-school charm with a modern flavor that offers something for everyone.
History buffs love the district’s historical walking tours, cobblestone sidewalks, and Victorian architecture, while those looking for a night on the town enjoy its cutting-edge culinary scene, chic nightlife, bustling live music venues, and some of the city’s best craft breweries.
What We Loved: The distinct old-school vibe of the neighborhood, especially around sunset. "There were these pretty massive hardwood trees that lined the streets, cool brick sidewalks, and old buildings," Easton explains. “The combination of the light filtering through the trees and onto the brick sidewalks had a patchy, filter-y feel to it. The whole area just had a cool ambiance.”
The Sea to the Sky Gondola
Wherever you go in British Columbia, the province’s stunning whitecaps make for a jaw-dropping, if not imposing backdrop.
Get up close and personal with those overpowering peaks on a trip aboard the Sea to Sky Gondola (but only if you aren’t afraid of heights).
Not far from Squamish, the 10-minute gondola ride takes visitors to the top of Howe Sound for stunning views of the surrounding Coast Mountains.
Once at the summit, visitors can grab lunch at the Summit Lodge, learn about the indigenous Squamish people, cross the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge, take short hikes through the surrounding forest (in summer), ski and snowshoe on backcountry trails (in winter), and snap photos at any one of several breathtaking viewpoints. You’ll be hard-pressed to find more beautiful, yet accessible, views in the vicinity of Vancouver.
What We Loved: The drive to get there. "You have this sheer mountain wall on one side of the road and on the other was the ocean, and a marina full of sailboats. It had this distinct closed-in feeling. The whole drive was just gorgeous."
Brandywine Falls feels almost too good to be true: After all, where else can hikers enjoy a thundering waterfall—one of the most beautiful in British Columbia—while barely breaking a sweat?
Located along the Sea-to-Sky Corridor, Brandywine Falls offers an accessible detour that doesn’t demand much of its visitors. Hikers must only walk 500 meters through easy, scenic terrain before arriving at an overlook that delivers stunning views of the 70-meter waterfall (not to mention nearby mountains and nearby Daisy Lake).
While Brandywine Falls is great for a quick stop to stretch your legs, the broader, 420-hectare Brandywine Falls Provincial Park offers a handful of beautiful trails, wildlife viewing, picnic benches, and mountain biking opportunities. A few campgrounds just outside the park allow visitors to hang out and explore the region more fully.
What We Loved: The off-the-beaten path trail to reach the falls. After some online digging, Easton discovered an unofficial trail that led down to the falls from the basin where the main trail stopped. The "unofficial" trail involved some boulder scrambling before reaching the falls, with the photographer shooting the entire way. (Insider Tip: Watch your footing on the slick rocks—thanks to some in-air maneuvering after a stumble, Easton managed not to avoid a fall—and destroying the lighting gear he was carrying.)
There’s a lot to love about Whytecliff Park. The park’s rugged shoreline, hiking trails, rock-climbing walls, dense forests, diving areas, swimming holes, and barking sea lions make it easy to forget you’re only a half-hour drive from Vancouver’s downtown core.
But the main attraction at Whytecliff Park is Whyte Island, accessible only when the tide is low enough to allow for navigating a rocky trail. The tree-covered island offers impressive views of Howe Sound and the surrounding Horseshoe Bay area for those who make the trip. It’s a popular trek when the tide cooperates, but keep an eye out to avoid getting stuck on the bluff.
Visiting with the family? Make a day of it: Whytecliff Park also offers tennis courts, a playground, picnic benches, an on-site cafe, and other family-friendly attractions.
What We Loved: The adventure of climbing the rocks. "There’s this huge rock formation that juts out, and you have to get there when the tide is in just the right spot. There’s a bit of climbing involved, but it’s very cool," Easton explains. However, the crew arrived close to the park’s closing time and had to scramble a bit when they realized that the tide was closing in. “We waited a bit too long, and on the way back the models had to wade through the water,” Easton says. But even that ended up being a memorable moment: the photographer shot the models as they were wringing out their socks, and the image made the final cut for the spring 2017 catalog. “It ended up being a very relatable experience—wanting to be out there as long as possible and forgetting about the tide.”
Originally written by RootsRated for ExOfficio.