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It has been a long year and a half, and perhaps one of the strangest realities to be addressed during the pandemic has been Canada’s abrupt and strict border constraints.
No more adventure with Vancouver’s twin city of Seattle, no shopping with a 30% discount, no nature getaways in the Northern Territory. But that is over now, as Canada has reopened its borders to vaccinated Americans, and our border is open to all fully vaccinated Canadians as of November 8th. It still comes with restrictions, it’s best to check out BC travel guides before you leave, but what? better way to celebrate the opening of the border than with a road trip between Americans and Canadians?
Before you travel, keep in mind that Canada still has restrictions for visitors you should meet before you leave this fall. Safe travel!
Oliver and Osoyoos
The route: It’s about 20 minutes more than taking Interstate 90, but taking Highway 2 east means you can stop for a brat at Leavenworth on the way. Follow Highway 2 to US Route 97, around Wenatchee. This road will take you directly to Osoyoos, Oliver and all over the Canadian Okanagan if you decide to go further.
When you are there: Less than 10,000 people live in these two small neighboring towns, and in Okanagan, Canada’s only desert, the peak diurnal conditions of the 1970s and 1980s allow for hiking, kayaking and fishing until well into the fall. The shoulder season also means fewer crowds, making it ideal for exploring the area’s more than 40 wineries. Kismet Estate Winery offers tours of its vineyard and winery, but even better, it combines one of its rosés or pinot grigios with something spicy from the property’s Masala Bistro. Osoyoos is also home to the first indigenous-owned winery in North America, Nk’Mip Cellars. Enjoy the view of the valley from its courtyard and stop by the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Center for more information on the area’s unique habitat and the people of Okanagan First Nations who settled in the zone.
The route: Same as Oliver and Osoyoos, but continues north in 97 BC
When you are there: If Oliver and Osoyoos are known for wine, Penticton should be known for their beers, so much so that Lonely Planet called it the “craft beer capital” of Canada in 2020. Cannery Brewing offers from lager to stout , and once you find a beer for love, take home a can or 12; their colored labels are a memory in themselves. To fill your hours before barhopping begins, go on the adventure. Rent an electric bike at Freedom Bike Shop and walk along the Kettle Valley Rail Trail, where you will pass vineyards and over Okanagan Lake. Little Tunnel makes a good midpoint, though the whole road stretches for 400 miles. Need more? Six miles south of Penticton is a beloved climbing area called Skaha Bluffs, with routes from beginner climbers to experts. Those who are new to the sport can book a guided tour of Hoodoo Adventures. Once you’ve conquered the cliffs, have it refueled by the lake with a paddle jar with a cake full of ice cream at The Peach Ice Cream Shop.
The route: Sweet and easy: Take Interstate 5 north to BC Highway 99. It will take you about four hours.
When you are there: The granite face of Stawamus Chief Mountain that rises above Howe Sound is exactly the kind of spectacular scenery that makes the Pacific Northwest so stunning. Squamish has made a name for itself as a climbing mecca, but there’s a lot to do even if fighting gravity isn’t your idea of fun. Autumn is a great time to try fly fishing: several facilities offer guided tours, including Chromer sport fishing. Take a short hike from the freeway to Shannon Falls Lookout to see the 1,105-foot waterfall, then head to the Sea to Sky Gondola, which you can’t miss, allowing you to climb 2,900 feet without sweating. (FYI: The gondola is closed for annual maintenance, but reopens on November 19.) From here there are several more paths if you feel like hiking. Do you like a little history? Kids will have a great time learning how to find gold and riding a subway train at the Britannia Mine Museum. (Online bookings are recommended.) Stop by a wood-fired pizza at Backcountry Brewing when your bellies start to resonate.
The Costa del Sol
The route: It is a five-hour journey to the starting point of this journey, if international ferries and checkpoints are in favor. Travel north on I-5 and cross the border into Vancouver, then head west on BC Highway 1 to Horseshoe Bay and take the ferry to Gibsons, where the Sunshine Coast Highway begins.
When you are there: How far you decide to go depends on how much time you have. Technically, you could drive from Gibsons to Lund and back in a single, long day, but it’s best to slow down and enjoy what the coast has to offer. For a short trip, keep Gibsons as a base. Spend the afternoon climbing the 434 steps of Soames Hill Park to see the community and Howe Sound, kayaking around nearby Keats Island (weather permitting) or sampling local breweries (such as Persephone Brewing Company) and ciders (such as bandit cider). The next day, head north to Pender Harbor via a detour to Redrooffs Road just after Sechelt, which allows you to see the water between sweet coastal houses. Stretch your legs in Francis Point Provincial Park through a 30-minute walk to the lighthouse. Continue on Ruby Lake to Earl’s Cove, where you can catch a ferry to continue on the freeway. Instead, head back to Sechelt for lunch, passing by one of the dozens of art galleries you passed on the way out (suncoastarts.com has a handy map for your “Purple Banner” art tour).
email@example.com; Colleen Stinchcombe is a Seattle-based freelance writer.