When driving in the area, be careful, as deer sometimes meander across the roads. (photo by Lauren Kramer)
I’ve lived in Vancouver for just 14 years, so I know I’ve just barely begun to discover all the beauty in the Lower Mainland and beyond. But recently, when I suggested to friends who’d lived in the city all their lives that they join us in Port Moody, their response stunned me. “What’s there?” they asked. It occurred to me then that though I’ve been taking the (close-to) hour-long drive to Belcarra every year I’ve called British Columbia home, for many, even locals, it remains one of the Lower Mainland’s best-kept secrets.
Be warned: the beauty doesn’t start until Barnet Highway, when you leave the congestion of Vancouver and Burnaby behind and enter a landscape of lush forests and ocean vistas. The trees tower on both sides of the highway as you turn onto Port Moody’s Ioco Road and any residue of stress is replaced by a clear sense of joie de vivre, or what I like to call “B.C. moments,” those rare times of year when you sigh in wonder at the sheer exquisiteness of this province and say to yourself, “This is why I live here.”
The curvaceous Ioco Road is home to some of Port Moody’s most luxurious homes, many of them nestling the sloping hillside and prefaced by rolling lawns, manicured flowerbeds and, for those perched overlooking the ocean, private docks. Between the acreages are forested sections with wildflowers and towering trees aplenty. With our car’s sunroof open, we saw eagles glide gently in the blue skies above us, the sun warm on our shoulders.
One of my favorite summer destinations in this area is the Village of Anmore, a semi-rural residential community that’s home to White Pine Beach on Sasamat Lake. The lake’s sandy beach and warm waters are a perfect playground for kids building sandcastles, athletic swimmers and those who want nothing more than to drift away on an inflatable mattress and soak up the sunshine. The air is filled with the delighted shrieks of children playing in the shallows as families grill their meals on portable gas barbeques, the smells lingering in the air. Our sandwiches didn’t seem quite so tempting!
You have to be organized if you’re headed to White Pine Beach and, in my house, that means preparing the night before for the day ahead, packing picnic baskets, shopping for food, and ensuring that towels, swimsuits and beach paraphernalia are ready for an early departure. On weekends, the parking lot fills up by 9:30 a.m., and those spots are coveted. Once they’re all occupied, the gate on Sunnyside Road closes to vehicular traffic and access to the lake requires a long walk. Still, it’s well worth it to have a rejuvenating day on the lake that reminds you how good it is to be alive.
If you’re keen to kayak, canoe or challenge yourself to a long hike, continue north up Sunnyside Road until you reach the glacial waters of Buntzen Lake, a larger body of water surrounded by numerous hiking trails. The Buntzen Lake Trail, an eight-kilometre route that circles the lake, is a glorious walk through the shady forest and one of the shorter hiking paths in the area. The massive lake offers an off-leash canine beach, a large grassy picnic area shaded by towering hemlocks, a swimming beach and a dock from which kids can learn to fish – a skill they’ll be able to use every summer. For $45 you can rent a kayak for a full day from Anmore Grocery ($60 for a canoe, 604-469-9928) and, if you’ve not stocked up on provisions, call ahead to order croissants, muffins and/or sandwiches.
After a day on the beach, it felt glorious to drive around Port Moody, soaking up its views. As we careened along Bedwell Bay Road, we admired the mansions, envious of their ocean views. While at the Belcarra picnic area, Burrard Inlet glimmered before us, a rocky beach begging to be explored at low tide, preferably with ice cream in hand.
Sure, we got lost on those winding roads, but that was all part of this glorious day drive. At one point, we slowed for two deer that cautiously picked their way across the road right in front of us, posing cooperatively for photos before they disappeared into the forest. The road clear, we headed back into Port Moody, stopping at Suter Brook Village to replenish on smoothies and healthy snacks. Then, we reluctantly traded the wonderfully rural ambience in Port Moody for the road construction, stoplights and heavy traffic of Burnaby and Vancouver, knowing one thing for certain: we’d be back for sure this summer.
For maps and information on Belcarra Regional Park, which encompasses Belcarra, Anmore and Port Moody, call 604-520-6442 or visit metrovancouver.org.
Lauren Kramer, an award-winning writer and editor, lives in Richmond, B.C. To read her work online, visit laurenkramer.net.