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Exploring British Columbia...by boat, train, plane, ferry.

Exploring British Columbia . . . by boat, train, plane, ferry

Twice the size of California, British Columbia brims with vacation possibilities. You can explore 2,500 miles of coastline, thousands of lakes and streams, glacier-crested mountains, and a sparsely settled, get-away-from-it-all interior, in many cases without driving.

Here we suggest six adventures, from day outings to longer trips. The first can be arranged at the drop of a hat, and it starts at Expo's doorstep. The rest require advance booking.

All costs are given in U.S. dollars. For maps and other before-you-go information, write to Tourism B.C., Box C-34971, Seattle 98124, or call (206) 623-5937. In Vancouver, call (604) 660-2300.

1 One-day Victoria ferry outing. Slower--paced and civilized, Victoria is a charming counterpart to Expo's razzle-dazzle. Better ferry service and new, carefully timed bus connections allow you to visit in a day trip from Vancouver.

Victoria-bound express buses leave from the main depot, 150 Dunsmuir Street (across from SkyTrain's Stadium stop), for the 3-hour bus-and-ferry ride. In summer, 17 buses a day (about one every daylight hour) make the 24-mile drive to Tsawwassen to board the ferry for the 1 1/2-hour run through the Gulf Islands.

Earliest departure is at 5:50 A.M.; latest return from Victoria boards at 9 P.M.

From Swartz Bay on the island, buses continue south 21 miles to Victoria, where you can browse streets lined with import shops, stop at an old-world tearoom, sightsee aboard a double-decker London-style bus, visit renowned Butchart Gardens, or stroll by the seaside.

Or stay in Victoria and book the trip to Expo. The Victoria bus terminal is behind the Empress Hotel, off Douglas Street.

One-way fare in either direction is about $10 for adults, half-price for ages 5 through 11; service includes free pickup and dropoff at your hotel. Two different sightseeing tours (from $8.50) can be added to your excursion. To book, call Pacific Coach Lines at (604) 662-7575 in Vancouver, 388-5248 in Victoria.

2 Boat and train to Howe Sound. This popular one-day tour combines a ride on the restored 1940 Royal Hudson steam train with a cruise aboard the modern Britannia. You go north of Vancouver, up the narrow, island-dotted waterway of Howe Sound, in sight of Coast Range peaks.

Take the train up and boat back--or vice versa. Round trip is about $27 for adults, $21 for seniors and youths, $13 for ages 5 through 11. Both ways by train is $14, $10, and $8; by boat, it's $27, $21, $13.

The 740-passenger Royal Hudson steams out of its depot across the Lions Gate Bridge in North Vancouver (at the foot of Pemberton Street) daily at 10:30 for the 2-hour ride to Squamish. Seating is first come, so arrive early. There's plenty of parking. Snacks are sold aboard the train. (If you're returning by train, you'll leave Squamish at 2, arriving at 4.)

The 320-passenger Britannia sails from Coal Harbour (foot of Denman Street) at 9:30 for the 3-hour cruise to Squamish, returning at 1:30. You'll have about an hour in town for lunch; or try the salmon barbecue ($5) aboard ship. If you make the combination trip, buses shuttle you back to your starting point.

The season continues through September 28, but trips are very popular and you should book well ahead. Call Harbour Ferries at (604) 687-9558.

3 By rail into the mountains. A fine base for sampling the Coast Range is Whistler Resort, 2 hours north of Vancouver by BC Rail. (You can also get there by car or bus up B.C. Highway 99.)

Whistler is a winter ski mecca, but in summer has recreation for every taste. Hike the high country, canoe a mountain lake, ride horseback, bicycle, fish for trout or steelhead, run a river, golf, swim, play tennis, or just browse the shops in Whistler Village. Rentals, guides, and recreation can be arranged in advance through Leisure Connections; call (604) 932-5850.

Thanks to that time-saver and a favorable train schedule, you can enjoy Whistler on a day trip. Trains leave the North Vancouver depot daily at 7:30 A.M., reaching Whistler at 9:50. The return leaves at 6:10 P.M., pulling into North Vancouver at 8:45. Round trip costs $12.60 for adults, $9.80 for seniors, $6.60 for ages 5 through 11, $4.20 ages 2 through 4.

Seating is first-come, unless you book first class, available summer only on northbound Wednesday, Friday, and weekend departures. First class ($9 extra) includes breakfast. Call (604) 984-5246.

Whistler, already well booked because of Expo, offers good lodging (from $30 to $60 a night, double); a four-night package costs $170 for two. Write or call Whistler Resort Association, Box 1400, Whistler V0N 1B0; 932-4222.

4 Triangle tour through the Rockies. Passenger service restored last year by Via Rail, the Canadian equivalent of Amtrak, again allows rail buffs to enjoy year-round the classic triangle between Vancouver and Jasper and Banff.

A block east of Expo's main gate, you can board the Supercontinental at 4 P.M. for the 18-hour journey to Jasper. One-way fare for sleeper units begins at $59 for adults.

In Jasper, express buses depart daily at 1:30 P.M. for the 5-hour, 180-mile trip down the Icefield Parkway to Banff (one-way fare is $15.50 for adults, $7.75 for children 11 and under). Sightseeing buses leave daily at 8:30 A.M. for a 9 1/2-hour tour with many stops ($27.50, $13.75).

Via Rail trains leave Banff at 4:45 P.M. for the 18-hour return trip to Vancouver via Yoho National Park. One-way fare for an adult sleeper unit is $64.50.

You can take each leg of the trip independently, spending as much time as you like in Jasper and Banff. A travel agent can help you find accommodations and book a bus seat; or write to Travel Alberta, 10025 Jasper Ave., Edmonton T5J 3Z3.

Via Rail offers an eight-night triangle package, including the bus connection and rooms in the Rockies, from $695. Trips run Saturdays only through September 13.

Rail outings are heavily booked; consider traveling after Labor Day. To reserve, call (800) 665-0200.

5 Take the E & N up Vancouver Island's east coast. The island's Esquimalt & Nanaimo Railroad marks its centennial with expanded service with three deluxe coaches past the Gull Islands to Courtenay, 140 miles north of Victoria.

Following the coast most of the way, the railroad makes one round trip daily, leaving Victoria at 8:30 and returning by 5:40. The schedule allows for side trips. For example, you might leave the train in the seacoast village of Chemainus, and take the short ferry ride over to Thetis Island and back before reboarding for Victoria.

Round-trip fare is $19, except for Fridays, when it's $29. No reservations; pick up tickets a day ahead, if possible. Call Via Rail in Victoria at (604) 383-4324 for details.

6 Fly in to remote Chilko Lake. Just over an hour north of Vancouver by small plane--over the top of the glacier-draped Coast Range lies 50-mile-long Chilko Lake (elevation 3,850 feet), surrounded by a vast, untrammeled wilderness. A simple resort at the downstream end, where the lake narrows into the Chilko River, offers a base for exploring.

Fed by scores of glaciers, Chilko's emerald waters nurture bull trout (average 5 to 7 pounds) and rainbow trout (to 10 pounds). Fishing is good from late May through August. You can also canoe or explore by motorboat. The resort will transport adventuresome souls to an uplake cabin, where fishing is excellent. Trail rides, backpacking trips, and wildlife photography outings can be arranged.

You can get to the resort b slow road, some 6 hours from Williams Lake (itself 6 hours from Vancouver), but it's simpler to fly in (see picture at far left). Round trip in nine-seat wheeled plane costs $160 per person; call the resort or Icarus Aviation in Vancouver at (604) 731-8681.

The resort offers a three-night package-- meals, pool, tennis, and rental boats, fishing, riding--for $285 per person. Write to Chilko Lake Wilderness Ranch, Box 4750, Williams Lake V2G 2V7; (604) 398-8828.

Or try a seaplane tour. From Vancouver, you can take half-hour overflights of the city area ($29 and up) to half-day trips to Butchart Gardens, up the Sunshine Coast, or to Princess Louisa Inlet ($125). Full-day salmon-fishing outings ($250) to coastal resorts are popular.

The two main operators have side-by-side docks in Coal Harbour, west of Canada Place; call Air B.C. at (604) 278-3800 or Harbour Air at 688-1277.

Photo: Ferry glides past Gulf Islands on way from Vancouver to Victoria

Photo: Mountain wildflowers, snow-topped peaks, view of Garibaldi Lake greet hikers south of Whistler

Photo: Fly-in anglers show off big catch of trout at Chilko Lake. They took a score of mostly 5-pounders in 2 hours last August. Seaplane costs $435 per person, round trip: wheeled plane costs much less (see text)

Photo: Heading out on day cruise to Howe Sound, excursion vessel Britannia passes beneath Lions Gate Bridge

Photo: Via Rail train leaves Lake Louise on last leg of route that begins and ends in Vancouver
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Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Jun 1, 1986
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