Fall in Vancouver came swiftly this year. Overnight, leaves changed colour, the temperature dropped and flora and fauna that thrive in the warm summer sun beat a hasty retreat.
A week ago, the Westin Bayshore’s gardens would have been alive with guests lounging by the pool or making their way out to run or bike the seawall, but today everyone is sheltering from the wind and rain, including the hotel's resident bees — more on them in a moment.
I’m out braving the elements with Julie Melanson, the Bayshore's marketing and communications manager, who is introducing me to the gardens that encircle the property. Here, trees, shrubs, vines and flowers grow in profusion to form a sort of moat of vegetation the hotel has maintained for half a century now. They're just one reason the Bayshore was awarded a wildlife-friendly habitat certification by the Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF).
The goal of the certification is to raise awareness of the importance of wilderness corridors in urban areas; the Bayshore is the first Canadian hotel to receive the certification in recognition of the way its gardens are designed to support a variety of wildlife.
Over a light breakfast at H2 Rotisserie & Bar, Melanson says it was no stretch for the hotel to go after the certification as their gardens already ticked all of CWF's boxes, which include providing appropriate food, water, and shelter for wildlife, incorporating native plant species, and practicing Earth-friendly maintenance. It's all part of the Bayshore’s focus on the wellness of their guests, which also means comfy beds purpose-built for great sleep, healthy food options available around the clock, access to a variety of exercise options, and proximity to nature.
The Bayshore was built in 1961 and though it has evolved over the decades, it still retains the resort feel of a bygone era. Outdoor and indoor pools mean guests can enjoy a dip year-round, and the portion of The Great Trail that traces the outline of Coal Harbour can be accessed just steps from the hotel's doors. It's easy to forget you’re in one of Canada’s biggest cities when you’re enjoying a sunny afternoon cocktail on the patio facing the water — or when one of the four-legged inhabitants of neighbouring Stanley Park suddenly enters the scene.
“People panic,” says Caitlin Mark, one of the hotel's chefs, “but yeah, you're literally next to a giant wildlife park — we're going to have otters, skunks, raccoons. Every now and then a coyote might run by.”
Mark is showing me the hotel’s apiary during a break in the rain. The garden at the back of the hotel is home to multiple bee colonies that produce floral honey for select drinks and menu items at H2. But Mark says the bees are also educational: she believes it's important that the bees are in the garden, in plain sight, for guests to see just how friendly and industrious they are. That same thinking applies to the hotel’s resident otter, who cheekily visits the pool from time to time. Mingling with the natural environment is just part of the Bayshore experience.
In general, Vancouver's hospitality sector has begun to adopt more sustainable practices, with restaurants developing farm to table menus and facilities cutting back on energy and water waste. That the Westin Bayshore has joined this growing trend is only surprising because of the scale of implementation they’re working with. They are, at the end of the day, a big hotel in Vancouver. But their history on Coal Harbour, on the edge of downtown, and their ongoing commitment to the environment makes a stay at the Bayshore feel truly like a retreat — a spirit-lifting wellness escape in one of Canada's busiest cities that not even Vancouver’s famous rain can damper.