Vancouver Day Trip: Richmond, BC

Richmond, British Columbia is my home. The city is home to the Vancouver International Airport so almost every visitor to Vancouver will pass through. We have excellent shopping, interesting historical sites, amazing nature, a thriving hospitality industry, a huge selection of international cuisine, and a unique culture shaped by the immigrant community. I want to encourage you to plan to linger and discover my hometown. Richmond is easily accessible on our renowned public transit system, with multiple Skytrain (our metro system) and bus connections.


Richmond consists of 17 islands, only two of which are inhabited. Sea Island is the home of the airport and a small residential neighbourhood. Lulu Island is the largest island where most of the city is located. Most of the city is at sea-level and is surrounded by a fabulous trail system along the dikes where visitors can enjoy an easy stroll in nature. All dike trails are accessible. Near the South Airport, is a lovely bar, The Flying Beaver, next to the float plane dock where you can enjoy a beverage and some amazing food while watching the action on the river. This is also a place to catch a Harbour Air seaplane to Victoria.

From the north dike, you can watch planes take off and land across the water, and visit the 2010 Olympic speed skating oval.

The west dike abuts wetlands looking across to the Gulf Islands across the Salish Sea. The area is a major bird migratory route and home to our coyote population. Don't forget to take binoculars or your camera to catch snow geese, finches, chickadees, hummingbirds, flickers, herons and many, many more species. The trail can be accessed at many points with one end at Terra Nova Park (401 bus from Brighouse Station) and the other at Steveston (401, 402, 406, 407 bus from Brighouse Station)


The South dike starting in Steveston and walking south about 3 km along the dike, includes historic and charming London Heritage Farm (6511 Dike Road) with pretty gardens and a lovely tea shop.

Beyond walking distance, but definitely worth a visit, further along the road you can find picturesque former squatter community of Finn Slough. To travel here with public transportation is quite a jaunt, you will need to catch the 404 bus to Horseshoe Place and then walk about 2 km west. It is incredibly picturesque but please the privacy of the residents while taking those photos.

Richmond has a very Asian flavour as the majority of residents claim some combination of Asian, mainly Chinese, ethnicity. There are many Asian malls to explore, if shopping is on your list. Get off the Skytrain at Aberdeen Centre to be right in the middle of the Golden Village. From there you can visit the strip malls or Yaohan Center mall.

The restaurants along this strip are renowned for their authentic cuisine. Look for a busy restaurant with large tables and lots of locals to choose. Dim Sum, a version of Sunday brunch, is served at most. At Dim Sum, the staff bring various dishes to your table on a cart. You choose which you wish to share. It's a great way to try lots of different flavours.

For those wanting to stay in Richmond, we have a multitude of hotels, from the historic Steveston Hotel to the modern major chains. For budget travellers wanting to save a bit more money on accommodations, the first pod hotel in the Vancouver area, Panda Pod, recently opened in the downtown core.

A popular attraction is the Richmond Night Market, located a short walk from the Bridgeport Skytrain station, next to the River Rock Casino Resort. This is the largest night market in North America and is a cacophony of sights, sounds, and smells. Go hungry as the market includes many delicious options as well as the opportunity to buy many trinkets and other market offerings.

The historic fishing village of Steveston is where I make my home and should not be missed. The village became a roaring wild west type of town back in the 1800s when the fishing industry moved in. Much of the workforce were immigrants, mainly Japanese. These workers arrived looking to make their fortunes as promised by recruiters. Most were never able to earn enough money to make their way home. During World War II many Japanese residents were interned in camps and their properties and boats seized by the Canadian government. No canneries operate in the area today and the major sources of revenue for the area are tourism and the film industry. Fans of the old TV show, Once Upon A Time, or Hallmark Christmas will recognize the area. Don't be surprised to see film crews or Christmas decor in July.

In Steveston's heyday there were 6 hotels, a brothel, two opera houses, boat builders, restaurants, and a multitude of fishing businesses and canneries, all located along the banks of the Fraser River. Many of the original buildings remain and newer construction is now required to pass various community requirements to retain the atmosphere.

This tiny village has something for everyone. We have two museums, a great park always brimming with activity, charming unique shops, whale watching tours, amazing food, lovely trails, and a site dedicated to boat building to explore. The Gulf of Georgia National Historic Cannery Museum is an in-depth look at how salmon was processed with knowledgeable docents and lots of hands-on activities for kids of all ages. It is cold inside, so bring a sweater even on the hottest day!


The second museum, The Steveston Museum, is located in our little post office, originally a bank. In the back, in the former Japanese hospital, is a lovely display of local artifacts and treasures collected by the local community. During the summer tourist season, check here for local walking tours offered by costumed students from one of the local high school drama programs.


Walking along the promenade east, you will pass a float home called the Blue Cabin, with regular exhibits from rotating resident artists.


During the tourist season, there are many activities and festivals that take place along the river here. Don't be surprised if you see some remote sailboat races or pirate battles.

Carrying on you will arrive at the Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site, a riverfront group of historical buildings, including 19th-century canneries, boatyards & residences. In the waters between buildings, you are sure to spot my favourite heron (Old Grandpa) standing guard, waiting for a nice plump fish to swim past. During the summer season, food trucks are located in the picnic area.

The main boardwalk back in the village includes many tourist shops, several places to grab a quick snack or meal, and a dock devoted to fresh seafood sales. If you have a kitchenette, this is the place to pick up a freshly-caught salmon, crab, sole, halibut or prawns/shrimps for dinner.

For those not wanting to cook, we locals tend to get our fish and chips at Dave's Fish & Chips, a mainstay in the village for decades, but Pajo's on a floating dock off the boardwalk is also very good (they have a second location in the concession at Garry Point Park). Other favourites include Kisamos Greek Taverna and Steveston Pizza... home of the famously most-expensive pizza in the country -- $850 for a pizza with lobster, prawns, caviar, and truffles (must be ordered in advance). I haven't tried that one, but the regular pizzas are a treat. Anar Grill serves Persian food in the old Courthouse. Good take-out Indian food can be found at Bites of India . During the summer, food trucks can be found at Britannia Shipyards. A more up-scale dinner can be enjoyed at Steveston Seafood House. A couple of favourite places to sit next to the water and enjoy a beverage and/or meal include Blue Canoe or Catch Kitchen, The Steveston Hotel Cafe offers the best breakfast in the village (pro tip -- ask for the hashbrowns to be pan-fried) and their 19th century Buck & Ear pub also serves hearty pub meals. The absolute best burger comes from a tiny kiosk on the boardwalk called The Village Burgery. There are several ice-cream shops... one in the building that used to be Mr. Gold's Pawn Shop from the days of filming "Once Upon A Time", but locals will often line up at Mary's Ice Cream on 2nd Avenue.

While you are in the area, take the path on the south side of the Gulf of Georgia cannery and follow it to Garry Point Park. This is a well-used park that includes a concession stand with public toilets, the Fisherman's Memorial, beaches (but don't swim, the currents are dangerous and the harbour isn't the cleanest), kite-flying, summer barbeques, and cart-riding and a peaceful Japanese garden. There's a picturesque slough on the south side where a former boat building operation used to operate.

I hope this inspires you to put Richmond, and especially Steveston, on your list of places to visit while in the Vancouver area and if you come, let me know and we'll people watch on the riverfront together.

 

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