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West Vancouver

The views in West Vancouver are peaceful

West Vancouver is one of the most expensive areas for housing in the whole of Canada. The area attracts families who want to live in quiet, family-oriented area close to Vancouver and the north shore mountains. In West Vancouver it is possible to ski on Cypress Mountain in the morning and sail in the afternoon.

Transport

West Vancouver has two main roads, both going east-west: the Upper Levels Highway and Marine Drive. The Upper Levels Highway connects Horseshoe Bay in the west to the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge in North Vancouver. This highway, mostly has two lanes in each direction. It can be busy when ferry traffic joins from the BC Ferries terminal at Horseshoe Bay.

The other main road is Marine Drive. This is at sea level and passes from Capilano, in North Vancouver, west past Park Royal shopping mall, through the retail areas of Ambleside and Dundarave, and on all the way out to Horseshoe Bay. It is a scenic drive that attracts many visitors in the summer.

Commuters heading for downtown Vancouver have to negotiate the Lions Gate Bridge. This attractive bridge has only three lanes and priority is switched from time to time to ease traffic flow. This often causes a bottleneck in busy times.

The alternative crossing is the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge.

West Vancouver has a fleet of blue buses which run services along Marine Drive and to other communities. These buses can be used to commute downtown. The Translink web site has information on buses.

Real Estate

West Vancouver is an affluent area, and quite conservative in outlook. There are lots of large, expensive homes enjoying the views from the slopes of the mountain. There are some apartments and townhouses in a number of areas, though any move toward densification is usually opposed by local residents.

The excellent schools, easy access to downtown, safe neighbourhoods and great outdoor activities will continue to attract people to this area.

If you are interested in buying in this area (or anywhere in BC) please use our form to tell so that we can help you find the right area and the right home. Our local experts are available here and for most other areas.

Below is a table showing the Benchmark prices for typical detached houses and apartments in West Vancouver. This comes from the Vancouver Real Estate Board’s monthly statistics.

Benchmark Prices: West Vancouver as at October 2013
CategoryBenchmark $1 Yr Change3 Yr Change
Detached$1,878,9003.10%27.80%
Apartment$610,100-0.10%3.30%
Source:Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver - MLS ®

Clearly there is a wide variety of property in West Vancouver, ranging from apartments to multi-million dollar oceanfront houses.

In the following section, the major communities, in terms of house sales, are described.

Ambleside

This area is more densely populated than most of West Vancouver, shown by the number of apartments. People are attracted by the convenience of the location, with easy access to shops and facilities in the area. Commuting to downtown is possible by bus.

British Properties

This is one of the older areas of West Vancouver, and is higher up the mountain. The streets are not laid out in a grid pattern since they have to follow the contours of the landscape.

Caulfeild

This area, whose spelling comes from the founder Francis William Caulfeild, an English gentleman, who set out this area in 1899, following the natural contours rather than a grid pattern.

Families with children are keen on this area because of its quiet neighbourhood feel and access to local schools. Cul de sacs and local tennis courts are often the scene of impromptu street hockey games.

The Caulfeild village shopping centre serves the area.

Dundarave

Dundarave street sceneThis is one of the most popular areas within West Vancouver, largely because of the attractive landscaping and village feel of the area. The beautiful beach and sea walk are also a great draw.

The area has a few apartments, townhouses and duplexes, but most properties are still single family homes. The area around the sea walk and Marine Drive has the biggest concentration of apartments and tends to be popular with seniors who want ready access to the shops and a relatively level walk. The higher streets tend to be houses.

The streets are laid out in a grid pattern, and rise steeply from Marine Drive. The numbered streets run north-south up the mountain, with the avenues crossing them west-east. You can usually judge how far up the hill an avenue is by it’s first letter, since the earlier in the alphabet you are the lower down the hill.

During 2004 the Marketplace IGA supermarket was rebuilt and once again offers convenient shopping. There is parking under the store and apartments above.

Open Houses

When you are in Vancouver, one good way of exploring the real estate market is to go to Open Houses. You can visit these on your own, but bear in mind that you should get a REALTOR® to act as your agent when you are ready to buy. You are strongly advised not to engage the same REALTOR® who is listing the house you want - there is an inherent conflict of interest in this. See our page on house buying for more.

You can find open houses in the local real estate papers (free). For the northshore you can find them in the North Shore News.

Local Attractions

Cypress Mountain (Cypress Bowl Road)

This north shore mountain has two sides: downhill and cross-country. The downhill, scheduled to be a venue for the 2010 Winter Olympics, offers a variety of runs and a terrain park. The cross-country area also has snowshoeing trails, tobogganing and snow tubing areas. There is a shuttle bus from Lonsdale Quay.

Lighthouse Park (Beacon Lane, off Marine Drive)

This park, named after the lighthouse that stands on Point Atkinson, is a spectacular area of old growth forest. It has huge Douglas fir, western hemlock and western red cedar trees and a network of more or less challenging trails on which to hike. There are a number of picnic benches and you can get down to a number of beaches.

Whytecliff Park (Marine Drive)

Located at the end of Marine Drive this marine park has picnic facilities, playground, tennis courts and trails to explore and, of course, the beach. You can get a snack or ice cream from the kiosk. The park attracts scuba divers who enjoy the marine life in this marine protected area. The beach is a great place, with its driftwood logs, is a great place to sunbathe or swim. You can often see seals basking on the nearby rocks.

Sports facilities

Scattered around the area are small parks, often with tennis courts attached. These facilities are free. In addition you can find sports facilities at:

Shopping

Park Royal (Taylor Way and Marine Drive)

West Vancouver is home to Park Royal. This was Canada’s first shopping centre when it opened in 1950. Since then it has been extended, with a whole new area, Park Royal Village, open in 2004.

It has a host of large and small shops. The Bay, one of the original shops, is still there, but since 2004 it also has a Home Depot.

Ambleside

This community is the first one you come across as you travel west from Park Royal along Marine Drive. It is a relatively high density area, for West Vancouver, with some high rises and mixed use buildings. There are a variety of shops, large and small, including Safeway, a number of restaurants, coffee shops (of course) and banks.

Dundarave

This community prides itself on its village feel and the floral displays along the central median. Dundarave has a number of gift shops, coffee shops, restaurants and a pub. The IGA grocery store and Shoppers Drug Mart mark the western edge of the village.

You can walk down to the beach and sea walk. In the summer you can get ice creams, burgers and other snacks to help you enjoy the views of Stanley Park and the Lions Gate Bridge. The Beach House restaurant by the pier is a great place to eat and enjoy the views of the ocean.

Caulfeild Village

This small, local shopping mall has a Safeway as it’s major store. There is a medical centre, dentist, bank and liquor store. Students from the local public school, Rockridge, can often be found in Starbucks or getting their sandwiches from Subway.

Horseshoe Bay

This has a seaside feel to it. There is the ferry terminal where you can take ferries to Nanaimo, the Sunshine Coast and Bowen Island. There are a number of restaurants ready to cater for hungry travelers and locals.

There are also a few interesting gift shops, featuring local and native artists.

Arts

West Vancouver has been recognized as a 2006 Cultural Capital of Canada. The title is awarded to communities that show an ongoing commitment to the arts and culture.

 

Ferry Building Gallery (1414 Argyle Ave)

This art gallery in Ambleside is located by the sea walk. It features artists from the North Shore and its free exhibits and artists talks are well worth a visit.

Silk Purse Art Gallery (570 Argyle Avenue)

This gallery, home of the West Vancouver Community Arts Council, hosts concerts, art exhibits and literary events. It also runs workshops and children’s programs.

West Vancouver Museum & Archives (680 17th Street)

The Museum runs exhibitions, education programmes, public programmes, an archives and a gift shop.

Schools

The schools in West Vancouver are consistently highly rated by the Fraser Institute. The independent schools often rank among the top schools in British Columbia and the public schools are also well rated.

Top Secondary Schools in West Vancouver by Fraser Institute Rank
SchoolRank in B.C.Score (out of 10)
Collingwood109
Sentinel228
Rockridge308
West Vancouver747
Source: Fraser Institute 2011

West Vancouver’s public schools are managed by School District 45. Within this district there are 29 elementary and 7 secondary schools, covering education from Kindergarten to Grade 12, when children graduate from high school and move onto post-secondary education. [Also see our article on transferring into school.]

The school district’s web site has information on all the schools in the district. Most individual schools also have their own web sites. If you are interested in a particular school, then it is a good idea to contact them to arrange a visit.

If you are interested in independent schools then the Federation of Independent School Associations has a directory of schools. You will need to contact schools directly. In West Vancouver there are a number of independent schools:

School boundaries

When moving house, especially when moving into West Vancouver for the first time, your choice of home might well be strongly influenced by your preferred school. The best way to ensure your children get into the school you want is to look for homes withing the catchment areas of your chosen schools. It is not easy to do this on your own, but we are happy to assist you with this.

Please also check the school boundaries information on the school district’s web site.

Finally you can use the school locator tool to check which schools your home will be within. It is advisable also to check with the schools as they can be full.

Employment

West Vancouver does not have any industry, and its exclusive outlook is likely to keep it that way. There are opportunities in retail, restaurants and the like.

People living in West Vancouver can easily commute to work in downtown Vancouver via car or bus, though delays on crossing the Lions Gate Bridge are often cited as a problem, those from bigger cities will not likely find this a problem.

The Upper Levels Highway gives ready access to North Vancouver and beyond.

Weather

The weather in Vancouver as a whole is mild by Canadian standards. According to Environment Canada, which ranks Canadian cities according to their weather statistics, Vancouver ranks:

West Vancouver being under the mountains, tends to get a bit more rainfall than Vancouver itself. Vancouver is in a rainforest and you should expect rain. It is rare for it to snow, though at the higher elevations on the local mountains there will be snow.

Local Media

These are the two local papers. These are delivered weekly to locals and are a useful source of information on local events. The North Shore News has a searchable archive and you can search the classifieds.

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