Dylan Cleaver has so much to see but so little time in one of Canada's most ethnically diverse cities.
All you can think of on the bus from Whistler to Vancouver is how tired you are. To your bones. That Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness has you in a vice-like grip and you have a little more than 24 hours to get your body and mind together before a punishing trans-Pacific flight.
Luckily those hours will be spent in one of the most (re)invigorating cities in North America.
Vancouver sits on the West Coast of Canada's mainland (not to be confused with Vancouver Island) and this ethnically diverse city feels like a more welcoming, better organised Auckland.
Darkness is just setting in on arrival in the hotel district, which is also the financial district. There's not a lot to grab my immediate attention other than a soak, some clean clothes and a bit of room service. When sufficiently restored, I go for a wander. It's Tuesday evening and downtown Vancouver is not at its liveliest but there are enough pubs and eateries to keep a punter happy. Downtown has a few swanky cocktail and champagne lounges but if you're just after a pint, a bit of sport on the tellies and a chat with anybody who'll listen (handy tip: have some hockey chat at the ready), try The Bottleneck.
Good coffee fuels Vancouverites and the best place to head is Gastown. The original site of Vancouver, the downtown suburb's flatulent name comes from the owner of the area's first saloon, a Yorkshire seaman named "Gassy" Jack Deighton. The easily walkable precinct is a mix of chintzy tourist shops and hip boutiques and eateries. The most popular attraction seems to be a steam-powered clock – why not? It's a gathering spot for the weird and wonderful so is one of the great people-watching spots in the city. Pull up an espresso at Revolver and enjoy.
You don't come to Vancouver and not visit Stanley Park. On a nice day, hire a bike and explore the city's oldest and biggest of the more than 200 parks. It is 400 ha of forest, wetlands and beaches. The seawall is a magnet to exercising locals and smitten tourists, particular around Siwash Rock, but take the trails into the interior of the park and you can feel a millions miles from the city.
Vancouver is foodie heaven, with many of the city's eateries specialising in local, seasonal produce. Locals are more than happy to let you know the can't-miss spots but with just a few hours up your sleeve until you leave, you can't have it all. At Nightingale, however, you almost can. The downtown restaurant is spread across two floors in a wonderful old building and churns out small plates and divine pizzas with curious toppings like 'nduja and guanciale.
Grab a cab and head to Kitsilano, the 60s hippy hangout (Canada's Haight-Ashbury) and birthplace of Greenpeace. There are still plenty of signs of its counter-culture past, including vegetarian restaurants and the original shop of what is now the global yoga clothing brand lululemon athletica. It's a true beach suburb and is also home to museums including Museum of Vancouver, HR MacMillan Space Centre and the Vancouver Maritime Museum.
Kits, as it is known, is also a convenient staging point to either head further west to the University of British Columbia and its important Museum of Anthropology (it's way better than it sounds) moa.ubc.ca, or turn east to the popular Granville Island. Technically not an island, this sandspit is hugely popular with locals and tourists. The Public Market is rows upon rows of mouthwatering produce but around the market are a number of theatres, workshops and studios. A tugboat ferry can get you to and from the city in minutes.
Your boarding call is just a couple of hours away and there is so much you haven't seen, like Chinatown, or a hockey game, South Vancouver's Punjabi market of ultra-trendy Yaletown. Best contemplate your next trip over a cold craft beer. It's no secret that craft brewers have taken over the world, but Vancouver is an especially hop-zombied town. Head to the Mt Pleasant-Main St area and enjoy a chilled out beer at 33 Acres before a short walk to the one place every beer nerd seemed to recommend, Brass Neck on Main St.
The beer menu is constantly evolving, so a tasting paddle is the best way to start, before you tuck into a favourite. It's a super-cool space, with a wooden wall that has its own story that any number of punters will be happy to tell you about. The beer is great and there are food trucks outside to grab a bite. It's the perfect way to say goodbye to a city that deserves more of your time than 24 hours.
operates non-stop services to Vancouver from Auckland, with connections available from across its domestic network. One way Economy fares start from $1069.