single entity of population of British Columbia, Canada

The Lower Mainland is in British Columbia, Canada. The official tourist information site calls the area "Vancouver, Coast and Mountains".

The term "lower mainland" has different meanings; for some people it is equivalent to "Greater Vancouver", while others include everything out to Abbotsford or Hope in the east, and Squamish or Whistler in the north. Here we use it to describe the area from Vancouver in the west to Hope in the east, and from the American border in the south, to the town of Whistler and the Sunshine Coast in the north.

Regions edit

Cities and regions in the Lower Mainland
A beautiful, vibrant city with diverse neighbourhoods, a very multi-cultural and cosmopolitan city — and the political core of the Lower Mainland and economic core of the province.
  Vancouver eastern suburbs
A series of towns north of the Fraser River and east of the Pitt River, all fairly urban and defined by their relationship to Vancouver. This region includes Burnaby and New Westminster; the Tri-Cities of Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody ("PoCoMo"); and Anmore and Belcarra villages.
  Vancouver southern suburbs
The area between the Fraser River and the US border, where much of the Lower Mainland's population growth and suburban sprawl takes place. It includes the towns of Surrey, Richmond, Delta, and White Rock.
  North Shore
Where dense urban meets dramatic tall mountains. The mountains provide attractions like Grouse Mountain. At the west of the North Shore is Horseshoe Bay, ferry terminal to the Sunshine Coast.
  Fraser Valley
The Fraser River, which gives the valley its name, is the world's greatest salmon producing river, and a focus for the region's economy, transportation and culture. The valley also has lush fertile farmland, which contributes a large portion of the local produce. The towns of Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge, and Langley are transforming from agricultural to suburb. Abbotsford, Mission, Chilliwack, and Hope remain closer to their agricultural roots, but are also transforming.
  Sea to Sky
The region stretches from the North Shore, up the east side of Howe Sound to Squamish, the gateway to BC's magnificent alpine country of forests, lakes, and year round world class outdoor activities. The Sea-to-Sky Highway (Highway 99) clings to the mountainsides, letting you drive from Vancouver to Whistler, one of North America's top ski resorts, in two hours. Further in is Pemberton. The area is rich with archaeological sites and historical lore of the Salish First Nations.
  Sunshine Coast
North-west of Vancouver, a 40-minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay, the region is named for its 2,400 hours of annual sunshine. It is a 180-km (110-mi) stretch of rainforest, seashore and mountains. This is the secret destination of many people, where the island life is found on the mainland. Here is a slower pace of life, where those who appreciate the beauty of outstanding marine parks and marshland bird sanctuaries, old growth forest and alpine peaks will find this the perfect destination.

Cities edit

Hope Memorial Park
  • 1 Abbotsford — a major regional town with a commercial airport, and a hub of agriculture
  • 2 Hope — gateway to British Columbia's interior and the eastern end of the Fraser Valley
  • 3 Mission — home to a Catholic Mission that can be toured
  • 4 New Westminster — a small town that never grew up, it has a nice riverfront promenade and beautiful old neighbourhoods
  • 5 North Vancouver — playground for the outdoor-minded: miles of hiking trails, mountain biking, skiing, kayaking
  • 6 Richmond — home to a large Chinese immigrant population and Vancouver International Airport
  • 7 Surrey — the second biggest city in British Columbia, after Vancouver, with a large South Asian community
  • 8 Vancouver — a city of steel and glass condominiums and outstanding natural beauty, frequently ranked as one of the most livable cities in the world
  • 9 Whistler — the biggest ski resort in North America, but plenty to see and do year-round. Summer: mountain biking; extensive valley trail system, hike, swim. Peak to peak cable car gondola open year round

Other destinations edit

Panorama Ridge seen from above Lake Garibaldi in Garibaldi Provincial Park
  • 1 Bowen Island — a small island at the entrance to Howe Sound, that draws tourists to wander the shops and explore the parks and natural areas
  • 2 Garibaldi Provincial Park — a rugged wonderland set amid the Coast Mountains

Understand edit

This area is home to Greater Vancouver, the largest metropolitan area west of Toronto. It is also home to the mainly agricultural Fraser Valley, the outdoor playground of the Whistler environs and the laid back vacation area termed the Sunshine Coast.

Talk edit

The de facto language is English. Chinese (especially Cantonese and Mandarin) is the second most-spoken language in the city and there are sizable immigrant communities who speak other languages, such as Punjabi. Though there are few French speakers in British Columbia, Canada is officially bi-lingual so Canadian Government offices may offer services in French.

Get in edit

By plane edit

Primary airport in Lower Mainland for scheduled commercial flights edit

Secondary airport in Lower Mainland for scheduled commercial flights edit

  • 2 Abbotsford International Airport (YXX IATA)  , about 60 km (37 mi) east of Vancouver in Abbotsford, handles mostly domestic and low-cost carrier flights. With an arranged ride, you can be in and out of this airport in under 10 min (with no checked in baggage). There is no public transit service to this airport, but some inter-city buses stop here.

Small airport in Lower Mainland with scheduled commercial flights edit

Other nearby secondary with scheduled commercial flights edit

Major airport further away with scheduled commercial flights edit

  • 5 Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA IATA) is a major American air hub, and can be a dramatically less expensive option than buying a direct flight from Canadian airports. A U.S. visa may be required and could take some time to procure.

Seaplane edit

A number of small airlines operate seaplanes departing from Vancouver, downtown and from near Vancouver International Airport, from the Sunshine Coast (from Sechelt and from Powell River), and from Whistler (summer only). Flight connect those destinations and flights are available to travel to some of those destination from Vancouver Island, including from Victoria and Nanaimo. These flights are expensive, but faster and more scenic than other options.

By car edit

From Washington state edit

To cross this international border, you need an international travel document: a passport, a NEXUS card (see below), a US Passport Card, or certain US and Canadian "Enhanced ID" Drivers Licences.

There are five land border crossing points into the Lower Mainland region (Canadian name | US name), which operate 24 hours per day and have dedicated NEXUS card holder lanes unless otherwise noted. The following are the Lower Mainland borders crossings from west to east:

  • 6 Boundary Bay - Point Roberts (Delta, BC (56th St) - Point Roberts, WA (Tyee Drive)). 24/7. Open to all vehicles. Point Roberts is on a peninsula. It is typically only reached from Canada and from other areas of the United States via this border crossing.    
  • 7 Surrey (Douglas/Peace Arch) - Blaine (Peace Arch) (Surrey, BC (Highway 99) – Blaine, WA (Interstate 5)). 24/7. Open to cars, but not commercial trucks and buses. This is the most traveled land border crossing in the region.    
  • 8 Pacific Highway - Blaine (Pacific Highway) (Surrey, BC (Highway 15) - Blaine, WA (WA-543)). 24/7. Open to all vehicles.    
  • 9 Aldergrove - Lynden (Langley, BC (Highway 13) - Lynden, WA (WA-539, the Guide Meridian)). Daily 8AM to midnight. NEXUS lane to United States only. Open to all vehicles.    
  • 10 Huntingdon - Sumas (Abbotsford, BC (Highway 11) - Sumas, WA (WA-9)). 24/7. Open to all vehicles.    

There are often lengthy lineups at the border, in either direction. During summer and long weekends, waits at the border can exceed three hours during peak times. You can see current wait time forecasts for both directions on the Canada Border Services Agency website, and for US-bound traffic on the US Customs and Border Protection website.

From other places in British Columbia edit

See also: Driving between the Pacific Coast and the Rockies

Most major highways from interior British Columbia converge at Hope, 143 km (89 mi) east of Vancouver, then follow the Trans-Canada Highway (Hwy 1) west into Vancouver. The routes below are land based. For options that involve arriving by ferry, see By boat section below.

Via Hope edit

Three major highways enter the Lower Mainland at Hope.

From October 1 to April 1, vehicles on all three of the highways require snow tires, or mud and slush tires. On all three of these routes, there are portions with and without cell phone service.

Via Pemberton, BC edit

Highway 99 provides an alternate access to the Lower Mainland from Highway 97, about 10 km north of Cache Creek. However, north of Pemberton the route is a narrow, isolated, mountain road, which generally lacks cell phone service.

By bus edit

The Lower Mainland, especially Vancouver is well served by bus service. Most bus routes terminate in Vancouver at Pacific Central Station (see "By train" for location).

From Vancouver Island:

From British Columbia Interior and other provinces (stops with "(AR)" require advanced reservation):

From United States (crossing the border at the Pacific Highway Crossing):

By public transit edit

No public transit crosses the border with Washington State in the United States, though it is possible to travel solely by public transit, as buses terminate within blocks of the Sumas-Huntingdon Border Crossing between Abbotsford and Sumas. Theoretically, using public transit alone, a person could travel from Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island to Olympia via Vancouver and Seattle, though the trip would take multiple days.

Pacific Central Station in Vancouver

By train edit

See also: Rail travel in Canada

Taking the train to the Lower Mainland is unlikely to be the cheapest option, but it is a scenic one. All trains, except the Rocky Mountaineer terminate at:

  • 11 Pacific Central Station, 1150 Station Street, Vancouver, BC (east of Downtown Vancouver off Main Street). Most intercity trains terminate at this station. From there, it is a short taxi ride into the central business area, or you can pick up the SkyTrain at the Main St-Science World station located a block away to the southwest.    

Train options within Canada:

See also: Rail travel in Canada

Train options from United States of America:

By boat edit

Ferries edit

  • BC Ferries, toll-free: +1-888-223-3779. Operates vehicle ferry routes connecting coastal communities in British Columbia.    
    • Ferry terminals in the Lower Mainland
      • Vancouver area
      • Lower Sunshine Coast
        • 15 Sunshine Coast (Langdale)   near Gibsons. Has routes within the Lower Mainland with vehicle ferries connecting with Vancouver (Horseshoe Bay) ferry terminal, and foot passenger ferries connecting at nearby island terminals of Gambier (New Brighton), Keats (Keats Island), and Keats (Eastbourne). BC Transit provides public transit at Sunshine Coast (Langdale) to Sechelt via Gibsons.
        • 16 Sunshine Coast (Earls Cove)  near Egmont. Has route within Lower Mainland connecting with Powell River (Saltery Bay). No public transit at this terminal. There is no public transit, but there is an inter-city bus service between this terminal and Sunshine Coast (Langdale) with stops along the way, see below under "By bus."
      • Upper Sunshine Coast
        • 17 Powell River (Saltery Bay)   near Powell River. Has route from Sunshine Coast (Earls Cove). BC Transit provides public transit that serves Powell River (Saltery Bay) on limited trips several days per week, timed to connect with an inter-city bus service that travels to Sunshine Coast (Earls Cove).
        • 18 Powell River (Westview) in Powell River. Has routes from Comox (Little River) on Vancouver Island and Texada Island (Blubber Bay). BC Transit provides public transit daily to Powell River (Westview) and Texada Island. Through a transfer in Powell River, riders can reach Lund. Most days of the week, BC Transit operates public transit bus service that serves Comox (Little River) terminal, traveling to Comox and Courtenay.
      • Other ferry terminals
        • North Shore
          • Bowen Island (Snug Cove) has a vehicle ferry route from Vancouver (Horseshoe Bay). TransLink provides public transit that services this ferry terminal.
        • Sunshine Coast
          • Gambier (New Brighton) has foot passenger ferry route to Sunshine Coast (Langdale). No public transit at this terminal.
          • Keats (Keats Island) has foot passenger ferry route to Sunshine Coast (Langdale). No public transit at this terminal.
          • Keats (Eastbourne) has foot passenger ferry route to Sunshine Coast (Langdale). This terminal has daily service, but far fewer trips than to Keats' other ferry terminal. No public transit at this terminal.
          • Texada Island (Blubber Bay) has vehicle ferry routes from Comox (Little River) on Vancouver Island and from Powell River (Westview). BC Transit provides a bus route that travels around Texada Island crosses on the ferry to Powell River.
    • Ferry capacity and reservations
      • Real-time remaining vehicle capacity available on ferry trips is available on BC Ferries' website and on some highway signs heading toward the terminals.
      • One most routes, reservations are available for travelers crossing with vehicles. At times during the year, reservations may be required between Tsawwassen and the Southern Gulf Islands. Otherwise reservations are never required, but are recommended for vehicles during peak travel times, such as late June to early September and long weekends. Reservations cost $17.
    • Parking
      • Long term parking is available from BC ferries at some terminals: Vancouver (Horseshoe Bay), Vancouver (Tsawwassen Terminal the nearby Tsawwassen Ferry Park and Go), Victoria (Swartz Bay), Nanaimo (Departure Bay), Nanaimo (Duke Point), and Sunshine Coast (Langdale). The price of parking varies per terminal. Expect to pay $18-19 per day at BC Ferry Terminals in the Lower Mainland (2022). Other terminals may charge less. Real-time remaining parking capacity is available on BC Ferries' website.

Cruise ships edit

  • 19 Canada Place Terminal. It's on the waterfront and a few minutes' walk to the heart of downtown Vancouver and to Waterfront Station, a public transit hub. It is the primary cruise ship terminal and home of the popular Vancouver-Alaska cruise, which operates seasonally from late April to early October.    

Get around edit

Depending on how much you want to see, there may be a number of ways to get around the Lower Mainland.

By bus edit

Some parts of the Lower Mainland cannot be reached by public transit alone. In some cases, inter-city buses traveling only within the Lower Mainland are an option.

Between Vancouver and Whistler edit

Between the lower and upper Sunshine Coast edit

By public transit edit


Within Vancouver and many of its suburbs, the TransLink public transit system can get you to most places. TransLink extends from Lions Bay and Bowen Island to the north-west, to Delta in the south-west, to Langley in the south-east, to Maple Ridge in the north-east. SkyTrain rail rapid transit connects Burnaby, Coquitlam, New Westminster, Port Moody, Richmond, Surrey, and Vancouver. In the remainder of British Columbia including other areas of the Lower Mainland, where public transit is available, it is offered by BC Transit.

Connections between the Fraser Valley and TransLink

The Fraser Valley

Public transit within the Fraser Valley connects between communities including:

The Sea to Sky Corridor

BC transit runs public transit systems in the following locations in the Sea to Sky corridor of the Lower Mainland, though they cannot be reached public transit (and, where necessary by BC Ferries) from Vancouver:

The Sunshine Coast

Public transit on the Sunshine Coast in separated into two systems, which do not have connections with each other.

By car edit

The most convenient means of getting around the region is by car. Car rentals are readily available throughout the region. Major highways in the Lower Mainland:

By boat edit

Some coastal parts of the Lower Mainland (Sunshine Coast and Bowen Island) can only be accessed by boat. BC Ferries provides ferry services to these areas and visitors can walk on or take their car. See Get In under By boat above.

  • Inland Ferries. Operated under contract for British Columbia's Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, inland ferries are vehicle ferries that connect roads across rivers and lakes. Routes operate throughout the year, but some river ferries may not operate during parts of the Spring due to river conditions. Free. Ferry in this region:
    • 20 Barnston Island Ferry. M-Th 6:15AM–11:55PM, F-Su 6:15AM–12:55AM. Crosses the Fraser River between Surrey and Barnston Island. 5 minutes crossing. Operates on demand.    

See edit

Vancouver from Granville Island

For many people, Vancouver will be the starting point for a trip to the Lower Mainland. It's a city glass towers well supplied with beaches and picturesque mountains in the distance. Close to its downtown, you can walk the seawall around its huge Stanley Park, and then to lots of sushi and other Asian restaurants, a public art gallery, and an aquarium. Vancouver's suburbs are accessible by Skytrain and other transit, and offer a wide array of shopping, more sprawling parks, and many interesting historical site.

The Sea to Sky Highway offers spectacular scenery — exquisite alpine lakes, craggy peaks, waterfalls, glaciers — and a surprising amount of it is easily accessible from the highway.

Princess Louisa Inlet on the Sunshine Coast

You'll need a boat or a plane, though, to see the Sunshine Coast's Princess Louisa Inlet, one of BC's most beautiful natural locations. The wide opening of Jervis Inlet narrows to become a 64-km-long fjord ending in the inlet.

In Whistler, the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre showcases the art, history and culture of the local First Nations, while the Audain Art Museum has an excellent collection of art by British Columbia artists, and visiting exhibitions.

Do edit

There is so much do and see in the Lower Mainland, the following are only suggestions based on the regions.

Greater Vancouver, home to Stanley Park, Grouse Mountain, the Capilano Suspension Bridge and many more. To see all the sights, take a day tour to become familiar with all the sights. There are a number of sightseeing companies who run trips daily. And also the public transportation is also any easy way to see everything and get into the surrounding communities. You also can't miss out on the dining experiences, you name it and there is a restaurant in Vancouver to serve it. With award winning and internationally known restaurants, there is always something new to try.

In the Fraser Valley, you are entering into an amazing region which has plenty of stops to fill your stomach. Here you can find a number of award winning wineries and family owned farms. You can sample the fresh fruits and vegetables at a number of stands along the highway or pop into a local restaurant and have a wild salmon dish. You can spend the day driving from each community or you can make a whole weekend of it. The valley offers a great opportunity to relax in the warm waters of Harrison Hot Springs.

Skiing at Whistler

Whatever you do while visiting the Sea to Sky region, it will most likely involve some form of adventure outdoors. Here you will find some of the best golfing, skiing, hiking and many other outdoor activities. You can head up to the vibrant Whistler village or find your own mountain paradise.

The Sunshine Coast is your place to relax. Now relaxing means different things to everyone, this could mean sitting on your private B&B patio watching the sunset, or bobbing up and down while waiting for the fish below to take a bit of your bait, but whatever your image of relaxation it is found on the Sunshine Coast. Take a drive up the Sunshine Coast Highway and stop off at the galleries and farmer's markets to pick up some local goodies. But don't bother looking at your watch because here time is no of a concern.

The Sunshine Coast-Vancouver Island Circle Tour, a road trip involving ferries. The trip involves travel between Vancouver, the Sunshine Coast, and eastern Vancouver Island between Comox and Victoria in circuit that does not involve backtracking.

Hiking edit

Regardless of what part of the Lower Mainland you are in, there will be hiking opportunities, ranging in length and amount of elevation gain. Vancouver Trails has information about over 200 trails around the Lower Mainland, especially more popular trails. Book stores in the region will generally have several different books in stock focused on describing local hiking trails.

Eat edit

The Lower Mainland is the scene of a quickly exploding food and wine revolution! Adjectives like diverse, fresh, delicious, unique don't even begin to describe the true nature of the region's bounty. World class cuisine from every corner of the globe is readily available throughout the region. West Coast cuisine shares the bill with Asian Fusion, Sushi, Italian, Indian, Mexican, Vegetarian, Chinese, Thai, French, Fish & Chips, Micro Breweries and Fruit Wineries.

Naturally, the region is so close to the Pacific Ocean that it provides a steady supply of the freshest of the fresh seafood. The catch of the day graces the plates of restaurants with famous BC salmon, halibut, cod, crab, scallops and oysters. Prepared simply, fantastically or fantastically simple... enjoy your 'catch of the day' in a fine dining establishment, a trendy eatery, a casual pub or right on the docks.

Farm fresh is a phrase heard repeatedly in the Lower Mainland. Just east of Vancouver is the Fraser Valley, a lush picturesque and productive valley which is home to a multitude of farms working diligently to deliver produce from the farm directly to the plate or to the visitor. Find fresh fruit and vegetables in season, farm-raised meat and eggs and extra special treats like home made jams and jellies.

Drink edit

The Fraser Valley has become a popular wine touring destination. Domaine de Chaberton Winery, a fixture in the beautiful south Langley countryside, has been joined by a number of other wineries (Township 7, Fort Wine Company, Glenugie Winery, Lotusland Vineyards and the Blue Heron Fruit Winery), all within a short drive of each other and from any location in the region. You can be in wine country in less than one hour drive from downtown Vancouver!The Lower Mainland also has some of the best tap water in the world.

Stay safe edit

Go next edit

  • The immense and beautiful Vancouver Island lies off the shore of the Lower Mainland. Offering numerous recreational opportunities, it is accessed by one of four BC Ferries routes from the Lower Mainland.
  • The Thompson-Okanagan region lies northeast of the Lower Mainland.
  • Extending north along the coast is the beautiful North Coast.
  • The US state of Washington lies to the south.

This region travel guide to Lower Mainland is a usable article. It gives a good overview of the region, its sights, and how to get in, as well as links to the main destinations, whose articles are similarly well developed. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.