North by Northwest

A short drive from the center of town is the natural beauty of North and West Vancouver, full of waterfalls, hidden harbors, vegan coffee shops and cozy B&Bs. Just head northwest, and you'll discover an entirely different side to the city.

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North Vancouver has plenty of bed & breakfasts, but there are two that are both gay-friendly and extremely well rated. The first is Crystal's View, with a country-chic decor, large airy rooms, and an experience that is more akin to staying in a private house with your own butler. The second is Thistledown Inn, positioned a little closer to the western side of the peninsula in a pristine Craftsman-style house. Both establishments serve gourmet breakfasts as part of the room fee, so you'll want to eat in.

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Two of the most worthwhile sights in North Vancouver are practically next door to each other. The Capilano Suspension Bridge is relatively simple - a 140-metre-long wooden walkway dangling over the Capilano River - but it's both a piece of history and a breathtaking experience. Just a 25-minute hike north from the bridge is the Salmon Hatchery, where you can learn about the life cycle of the Coho salmon from spawning to mating. If you're here at the right time of year, you can get up close and personal on the Fish Ladder, where you have the perfect vantage point to see the salmon swimming upstream.

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About another 20-minute hike north, you'll hit the Cleveland Dam, an impressive structure responsible for maintaining the source of all Vancouver's drinking water. Frequently used as a shooting location for TV shows and movies, this is a great place to take pictures of Grouse Mountain and breathe some pristine air. There's also a small park where you can rest up after the hike. If you feel like picnicking, this is a great place to do it, but there's also a lunch option just a 20 minute drive west.

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The village of Horseshoe Bay is on the western coast and offers quaint boutique shopping and several excellent restaurants - the best of which is Olive + Anchor. A seafood-lover's dream, dining is al fresco on fresh fish and chilled white wine. The service is impeccable, and the price is just right. If you want to get out on the water after lunch, Sewell's Marina is a charming family-owned boathouse that offers both guided tours and boat rentals.

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After all this activity you may want to just sunbathe for a while, and Whytecliff Beach, a short drive from Horseshoe Bay, is ideal. The park has a playground and tennis courts that can keep the kids busy, but it's also just a nice place to sit on the sand and watch the seals frolic in the waves. Want to see more animals? Drive east to Maplewood Farm, a working property that doubles as a petting zoo, with everything from goats to rabbits for your petting pleasure.
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There's only one choice when it comes to luxurious dinner with a view in North Vancouver, and that's on Grouse Mountain. A soaring 4,100 feet (1,250 metres) above sea level, Grouse Mountain offers everything from skiing to zip lining. You'll start your journey up the mountain in the famous SkyRide, an eight-minute ride that drops you at the Alpine Station right next to the Observatory, a fine-dining restaurant with 360-degree views and the perfect place to watch the sun set over champagne cocktails.