With B.C. moving to Phase 3 of its restart plan, here are two getaways within easy reach of Vancouver

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      By Charlie Smith and Carlito Pablo

      The provincial government didn’t order the closure of hotels, motels, RV parks, cabins, resorts, hostels, lodges, and backcountry operators during the pandemic. But many chose to shut their doors voluntarily during the first two phases of B.C.’s restart plan.

      Southern Gulf Islands Tourism, Sunshine Coast Tourism, and Tourism Harrison Hot Springs, for example, explicitly stated on their websites that they preferred people to avoid nonessential travel in Phase 2.

      In Phase 3, which was announced today, that’s likely to change in many areas of the province.

      That's because the NDP government is encouraging travel within B.C.

      Even Premier John Horgan said back on June 17 that he was “looking at making bookings” after the provincial public health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, gave the green light for travelling within B.C.

      In honour of the government advancing to the third phase, we’re highlighting two options for road trips close to Metro Vancouver.

      Sunshine Coast

      One word is often associated with the Sunshine Coast: adventure. From hiking and mountain biking to water activities like paddling, this sun-kissed destination north of Vancouver is an outdoor lover’s dream. The Sunshine Coast has numerous hiking trails to choose from, including wheelchair accessible trails. Guided tours are also available.

      For those who want to explore the region on two wheels, there are over 700 kilometres of bike trails stretching along the coast, which is accessible by a short ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay.

      Here’s a tip from Sunshine Coast Tourism to ensure safe distancing from others in light of the ongoing pandemic: move off the trail to take a break when hiking or biking.

      On the water, opportunities abound for kayaking, canoeing, and standup paddleboarding. You can take your pick of ocean or fresh-water sites.

      The Sunshine Coast is also home to more artists per capita than any other place in Canada, an attribute ascribed to the abundant natural beauty in the region.

      A thriving artist community means that visitors can check out galleries and studios throughout the year.

      Sunshine Coast Tourism advises visitors to book activities and accommodation in advance. Also, explore with your family or immediate circle only. When visiting places, respect safety procedures enacted there.

      Harrison Hot Springs

      Just 90 minutes from Vancouver, this is another recreational paradise. The 1,217-hectare Sasquatch Provincial Park provides plenty of room for physical distancing—and the hiking is out of this world on several trails in the area. It’s also possible to get out on Harrison Lake on a jet boat or Sea-Doo, or a standup paddleboard, kayak, or canoe. Landlubbers can tee off at the Harrison Resort Golf Centre.

      That’s not all. There are bike trails for cyclists of all abilities. Harrison Hot Springs is part the Eastern Pacific Ranges Ecosystem, which reaches into Washington state. According to the B.C. government, almost all of the valleys are dominated by Coastal Western Hemlock forests.