Canada is the place to go if you love being outdoors. This first section of my Canadian road trip is all about Vancouver; the best things to do in the city and it’s surrounding areas, from going on hikes, catching sunsets or chasing waterfalls. If you want to find out the best things to do in Vancouver, this article and video are for you!
Vancouver is a bustling city in the South-West region of Canada, in British Columbia. Vancouver consistently ranks in the top five cities worldwide for liveability and quality of life. Having experienced the Vancouver lifestyle, even if only for a week, I can see why. Vancouver is a modern city, where you can still see traces of its industrial past in areas like Granville Island and Gastown, this gives the city a beautiful balance between a feeling modernity and old fashion. It is also a city surrounded by forests and mountains, which you can easily explore from Vancouver. Going hiking and adventuring in the nature surrounding Vancouver was one of the highlights of my trip, and I highly recommend for anyone planning a trip to Vancouver to do at least one hike.
Downtown in Vancouver
Considering the long journey we had; after being awake for 24 hours, a 10 hour flight and a 4 hour train we woke up on the first day still feeling a little out of it. So we had a relatively relaxing day exploring the down town area and the main attractions and points of interest. First thing we headed to Granville Island, to explore the shops and have lunch at the food market. Granville Island has a clear industrial past, with cranes and rail tracks still around, but over time it was remodelled by the influx of artists and musicians, which give it a timeless and old fashion feeling. It’s located along the river, and is a departure point for ferries that cross over to downtown, or the whale watching tours. The market at Granville Island was one of my favourite areas of Vancouver, the food was amazing and it had some really chill vibes. We got food from one of the market stalls and then sat along the river to eat it; a great way to start our first day in Vancouver.
We then drove to Canada Place, an iconic landmark located in the heart of Vancouver’s waterfront. This is also where the seaplanes for Vancouver Island and Victoria depart from. I got way more excited than I should have about sea planes (my friends refused to get one as they have issues with sea sickness… I think I need better friends). From there we then went on to Stanley Park. This is a park that is almost entirely surrounded by water, located close to the downtown of Vancouver. One of the popular activities to do here is to cycle around the park and island, however since the weather wasn’t the best we decided to drive around it instead, stopping at the main landmarks and viewpoints.
The best hikes in Vancouver
Quarry Rock – North Vancouver
On the second day we were feeling a lot more refreshed so decided to adventure on our first hike and explore the beautiful nature Vancouver has to offer. There are a lot of hiking trails around Vancouver, of varying levels of difficulty. The first one we decided to brave was do the Quarry Rock hike in Deep Cove. Despite the rainy weather and muddy paths it was great fun nonetheless. The misty woods just added to the beauty, and the view was breath taking. It’s classified as an “easy” hike and the terrain is quite easy to walk. Given the weather we were surprised to find so many other hikers. Once you reach the end of the hike there is a beautiful where you can sit and relax for a bit before heading back the way you came.
Lynn Canyon – North Vancouver
The second stop of the day was at Lynn Canyon, where we crossed the suspension bridge to explore some of the waterfalls and the riverside forest. This wasn’t really a hike like the Quarry Rock one, as there was no ultimate goal or viewpoint we were aiming to reach. It’s a municipal park with trails all around it, that you can just walk around and immerse yourself in the local nature. I know this is a weird thing to comment on but I was surprised at the amount of plaques dotted around the park, noting how many people had died jumping off cliffs in the park. It was one of those moments where you really realise how little control humans has over nature, and that we should be responsible and respect it and the rules in place to keep us safe.
Lighthouse Park – West Vancouver
Another hike we enjoyed very much was Lighthouse Park. There are various trails that will get you from the parking lot to the lighthouse and the sea, meaning you can decide how long or short you want the hike to be. After getting a little bit lost (we listened to Laura, poor choice, check out to video to see what I mean!) we eventually made it to the sea and the lighthouse. All the trails in Lighthouse Park are fairly easy, there are slight uphill or downhill sections but all the path is well marked and easy to walk on. It is also really interesting when you reach the lighthouse as there are signs that explain the history of the place. The Canadian hikes were a highlight of my trip, as they were very different from anything else I had ever done before. I have hiked up an active volcano at night in Indonesia, or along the coastline of Cinque Terre in Italy, but I wasn’t ready for the stunning views and imposing nature that Canada had to offer.
Best waterfalls in Vancouver
Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Falls is a bit of a drive from Vancouver on the Trans-Canada Highway (up to two hours) but it’s one of the most amazing waterfalls I have ever seen. It’s huge and you can get really close to it, which is quite the way to make you feel small and really appreciate the power of nature. The only other time I had felt so small in front of a waterfall was in the proximity of Dynjandi, in Iceland. Close to it there is another hike that is rated as one of the best hikes in Vancouver, since it goes through abandoned railway tunnels and is very scenic, however we were unable to do it as the tunnels were closed.
Where to stay in Vancouver
We were very lucky that we have a friend that lives in Vancouver who could host us for the week, as accommodation like everything else in Canada, can be quite expensive. Having not tried any hotels in Vancouver there are none I would personally recommend, however I can make some suggestions in terms of what area to stay at. We were staying close to the University of British Columbia campus as that is where our friend studies. While we thought the area was great fun, it is not ideally located to explore Vancouver. As obvious as it may sound, you are better off getting a place in downtown, so that you can be central for the nightlife but also have easy access to the roads to go hiking outside Vancouver.
In this article I tried to give you a summary of all the best things to do in Vancouver, including both hikes for the adventure lovers and the city highlights for the more tame travellers. Have you been to Vancouver? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below! If there are other activities that would rank high in your Vancouver highlights I’d love to hear what they are! Can’t get enough of Vancouver? Check out this top 10 things to do in Vancouver list.