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Fairmont Waterfront hotel puts Vancouver's great golf, stunning nature at your window

By Chris Baldwin, Contributor

The Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver hotel gets you up close and personal to Vancouver's beautiful natural surroundings and sophisticated city life. It's also a great base for touring the city's golf courses.

University Golf Club - Vancouver
Vancouver golf courses like University are packed full of tall trees.
University Golf Club - VancouverVancouver Fairmont Waterfront - Water SceneFurry Creek Golf Course

VANCOUVER - Looking down on people scurrying to get on a hulking cruise ship as you sip your morning cup tends to relax like no other remedy.

Later in the evening, you can see hydroplanes touching down in the setting sun from the same window.

They told you the Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver had a view. They didn't let you know about the regular theater.

How about a room with performances?

In a world full of cookie cutter hotel rooms, the Fairmont Waterfront's windows on the water give it a very distinct feel. Vancouver is a city of nature like few others in North America. It's surrounded by mountains and right on the water - and one of the most tourist-friendly harbors anywhere. It's also full of cutting edge restaurants and clubs.

Fairmont Waterfront is a hotel that lets you straddle both worlds. You have a foot - or, more accurately, a window in nature - and an easy entryway into the big city's sophistication.

This is the kind of hotel where you might see Lenny Kravitz strolling by (he did on this visit). It's also a great place to use as a base to explore Vancouver's often underrated (and sometimes completely forgotten) golf.

"With all the great things the city has to offer and all the other ways to get into nature, people don't necessarily think of golf when they think of Vancouver," said Eric Suzuki of Play Golf Vancouver, a golf concierge service with an office in the Fairmont.

Staying at the Fairmont Waterfront is not going to make you forget about everything but golf. You are a short walk from the shops of the famous Robson Street. At night, you'll have the beautiful people passing you in the lobby.

Still University Golf Club, the best course super close to downtown, is a short drive away. And Westwood Plateau Golf & Country Club - arguably the best course in all of greater Vancouver - can be even closer. As long as you take the helicopter.

That's right, the helicopter.

Fairmont Waterfront offers special packages where its guests can take off on a helicopter steps from the hotel and land on Westwood Plateau's helipad. It's not exactly showing up at the course in an old Buick.

Your helicopter's ready, sir.

There is no doubt you can have experiences you'll never forget at Fairmont Waterfront. That's what sets this hotel apart. It's not about ridiculously high thread counts in the sheets or Jacuzzi tubs that could fit a submarine. In fact, Fairmont Waterfront's rooms, while nice, are not going to come close to blowing you away.

The experiences make this a great stay, not the creature comforts.

It's an easy drive or a long walk to Stanley Park, a 1,000-acre, 119-year-old green wonderland that's actually much nicer than Central Park. You can even play pitch & putt on a course in the park that's greener than some full courses you've probably swung on.

You're going to get so much fresh air in Vancouver, spend so much time outside, that you need a hotel that fits in with the unique uncity-like city vibe.

"You almost forget you're in a big city here," visitor Beth Fiend said. "Until you want to get all dressed up and go out at night to a club or something. But during the day? I wish I'd brought hiking boots."

You could get away with wearing them in the lobby of the Fairmont Waterfront. This is a place where business executives in suits hustle right past the tourists touting backpacks on the way to their meetings.

There is an enclosed walkway to the convention center, but Fairmont Waterfront probably gets even more business from cruise shippers. No hotel is closer to the Cruise Ship Terminal. You can practically roll out of bed and right onto the boat.

After a day or two here, you may feel like you're the lucky one if you don't have to get on a cruise ship and leave though.

Especially if you're a golfer. In some major cities, it can feel like you're missing out if you're spending five hours a day on the fairways. Take the girlfriend to Paris, bring the clubs, and see what happens.

In Vancouver, though, there's no great can't-miss cultural sight. This is a city where the big thing is enjoying the rare blend of sea and great outdoors. You just want to suck up as much of the fresh air as you can. It's just as easy - and often better - to do that while hitting your 7-iron.

Vancouver's golf courses aren't artificial nature like many tricked up modern tracks. They're actually in the middle of the real thing. University Golf Club is packed full of towering old trees that can humble you even before they start knocking down your shots. Mayfair Lakes Country Club gives you flat looks - but what looks they are, right at the mountains.

Then, you retreat back to the Fairmont Waterfront and start figuring out at which inventive restaurant you want to eat dinner.

When a hotel simplifies your vacation life, actually helps you relax, it's a rare find. Look mom, no stress! Just cruise shippers scurrying below, hydroplanes touching down and a helicopter at your disposal.

Chris BaldwinChris Baldwin, Contributor

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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