Outside of Australia itself, and perhaps New Zealand, it's difficult to conceive of a city that Australians can feel so immediately at home in. Vancouver is one such place. Spectacularly-located between sea and mountains, it's easy to succumb to this unfailingly salubrious city's laidback attitude and relaxed atmosphere. Of course, it also serves as a perfect base from which to explore other parts of provincial British Columbia, of which it is the biggest city, such as its quaint nearby capital, Victoria, on Vancouver Island and the island itself as well as the rest of Canada. See hellobc.com
Not only is beloved Grouse Mountain, remarkably a mere 15 minutes or so from downtown Vancouver, a wonderfully accessible all year-round destination of outdoorsy Vancouverite skiers and walkers, it's also a perfect place at which to view grizzly bears. The 1231-metre-high mountain, reached by cable car that affords dazzling views of the city, is home to a refuge for orphaned bears as well as a research, education and conservation centre. Many Vancouverites elect to skip the cable car and walk (or even run) to the top of the mountain and back down again but they don't call this painfully vertiginous route route the "Grouse Grind" for nothing. See grousemountain.com
The 405-hectare Stanley Park is unquestionably one of the world's finest and best situated urban parklands with no visit to Vancouver quite complete without at least a few hours spent here. The park's 10-kilometre-long seawall loop forms part of the world's longest, uninterrupted waterside pathways. One of the more surprising and rewarding ways to enjoy and interpret Stanley Park is by taking a tour with an indigenous Canadian guide through Talasay, a local aboriginal-run tourism operator. Your guide will accompany you on a harbourside walk while sharing the First Nations stories behind both the park and the city of Vancouver prior to European settlement. See talaysay.com; hellobc.com
Vancouver is home to one of the world's biggest airlines with its fleet of blue, yellow and white aircraft conveniently based right on the edge of the central business district of a major city. But this is no average carrier with no conventional runway. Harbour Air is the world's largest all-seaplane airline in a watery part of the world where float-planes are a way of life. The airline operates daily scheduled flights between Vancouver and cities and towns on Vancouver Island as well as must-do scenic flights of the city and its breathtaking mountain and ocean environs. See harbourair.ca
Ancora Waterfront Dining & Patio serves Californian-style "West Coast cuisine" with Peruvian and Japanese flair and flavours (but don't let that put you off as the food, service and setting are superb). The creative dishes at this False Creek eatery feature the outstanding produce of British Columbia as a well as a wine list full of superior BC drops. When you inevitably crave an Australian-style coffee and breakfast during your Vancouver visit head to Purebread in Hastings Street in the historic Gastown district, adjacent to the CBD. This cafe is run by an Australian and his Canadian partner and is famous for its epic displays of cakes, pastries, sandwiches and authentic flat whites. See ancoradining.com; purebread.ca
The 556-room Fairmont Hotel Vancouver dates to the glory days of Canada's railways when it serviced a nearby, now decommissioned main railway station. Nicknamed the "Castle in the City", due to its distinctive fortress-like and copper-topped design, Hotel Vancouver opened in 1939. Its owners have recently spent C$12 million refurbishing the hotel including a stylish revamp of the inviting Notch8 Restaurant and Bar, which now features a subtle railways theme as a tribute to the hotel's heritage. The same group also operates the outstanding Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel where you can book a room on a limited basis for a freshen up prior to your return flight to Australia. See fairmont.com
Visitors tend to gravitate to Gastown area for its touristy, though, fun vintage steam-operated clock. But the neighbourhood nowadays also features a host of cool restaurants, cafes, bars and shops.
Anthony Dennis visited Vancouver as a guest of Destination British Columbia. See hellobc.com