VISITING VANCOUVER

* Ferries are the main way to get to Vancouver Island and some other coastal sites. It's first come, first served, and waits can be several hours for busier runs.

One way to beat the crowds is to go as a walk-on, rather than taking a car to Victoria. The 90-year-old Butchart Gardens and other places can be reached easily by bus. This approach has its drawbacks, however, since many of the island's natural wonders - Strathcona National Park, or Pacific Rim National Park (a favorite for Canadian surfers) - are at least a half-day's drive away.

* Traveling in the off-season (non-summer months) means significantly cheaper lodging and smaller crowds. For example, a room at the Captain's Palace, a homey, antiques-furnished hotel in Victoria, costs C$75 off-season (about US$54), versus C$225 in the summer. The sacrifice, of course, is less-hospitable weather for outdoor activities, and some smaller museums are closed.

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