Surrey, BC, Canada, is a melting pot of cultures. From indigenous nations to South Asian communities, this fast-growing city is at the crossroads of history, agriculture, and commerce.
Table of contents: ()
- Natural Beauty in the Pacific Northwest
- Seasons in Surrey
- What You Need to Know About Surrey
- A Day Out in Surrey
- Dining Globally – Restaurants in Surrey
- Wineries in Surrey
- Golf in Surrey
- North Surrey Artwalk
- Shopping in Surrey
- How To Get To Surrey
- How To Get Around Surrey
- Where to Stay in Surrey
- White Rock and Peace Arch
- Final Thoughts
Natural Beauty in the Pacific Northwest
Surrey has a lot to offer in the way of natural beauty, educational opportunities, and a more affordable lifestyle outside of Vancouver. Surrey, located in British Columbia, Canada, enjoys a mild Pacific Northwest climate, parks, forests, golf courses, and clean beaches.
My husband and I spent two full days in Surrey and only scratched the surface of everything to do. We focused on The Spice Trail and dined on superb cuisine. We learned how to ride the commuter train, learned new cultures, found great art and shopping experiences, and even went to the beach.
Discover Surrey hosted my husband and me, but all opinions are my own.
Seasons in Surrey
Fill your itinerary with delicious food, adventure, and unforgettable experiences. There is always something going on in Surrey. Here is a list of seasonal events.
- Vaisakhi Day Parade
- Party for the Planet
- Surrey SPARK Stages
- Cloverdale Country Fair & Rodeo
- Canada Day
- Fusion Festival
- Bear Creek Train Pumpkin Express
- Cougar Creek’s House of Horrors
- Culture Days
- Pumpkin Patches & Corn Mazes
- Tree Lighting Festival
- Surrey Holiday Lights
- Bear Creek Light
What You Need to Know About Surrey
Surrey is the biggest city in British Columbia by geography. Second in population after Vancouver, Surrey is expected to surpass Vancouver by 2041 with an estimated 760,000 residents.
There are six neighborhoods in the City of Surrey. They are:
- North Surrey
- South Surrey
Whalley, in North Surrey, is the most densely populated urban town center in Surrey. The city center’s central business district houses the Surrey City Hall and the Civic Plaza. The Expo Line of the Skytrain also serves Whalley.
Whalley Business Center The transformation of the city center is truly remarkable. Although this was my first visit to Surrey, and I don’t know what it looked like before the Renaissance, I am impressed. The streets are clean and filled with public art; the train service is efficient and spotless. Shopping and dining options are plentiful.
The vibrant and varied cultural community in Surrey welcomes guests to immerse themselves in the food and traditions of South Asia. Although English is the predominant language, Punjabi is a close second, with approximately 20.5% of the residents speaking it, per Discover Surrey‘s statistics. Other languages native to Surrey’s inhabitants include Mandarin, Korean, Hindustani, and Tagalog.
It’s also interesting to know that many people choose to live in Surrey and commute to Vancouver due to the lower cost of living.
A Day Out in Surrey
A day out in Surrey should include some of these activities. We enjoyed many of these destinations in the two days we were in town. We couldn’t see them all, so we must go back again.
Known as the City of Parks, Surrey boasts 6,000 acres of parks, trails, gardens, and green spaces. With urban parks, wildlife hotspots, scenic coastal landscapes, and sprawling urban forests, you can easily picnic, hike, bicycle, or walk in the green spaces. Much of it is flat and easy to navigate.
We spent a pleasant afternoon at Crescent Beach. A year-round destination, this beautiful beach affords stunning views of the ocean and mountains. It’s the perfect spot for a leisurely stroll on the boardwalk or resting on a bench.
Walking from our diagonal parking space along the street, we had to pass Martino’s Cappuccino, with 110 Flavors of Ice Cream and Gelato, and a street named after my husband. It was hard to resist the temptation of gelato.
A mix of families with children, seniors, and dog walkers made the most of the sunshine and partiers enjoyed their time at the corner pub across the street.
Railroad History and Honey
While our schedule did not allow time to visit these attractions, they are on our list for next time.
The Heritage Railway
The Cloverdale railway station is a replica of the original built in 1910. It also acts as a museum because of its comprehensive collection of historical artifacts. The Heritage Rail Adventure is 100% run by volunteers and is an excellent outing for families with kids.
The Honeybee Centre is Western Canada’s top commercial honey farm. They offer private tours, virtual classes, home learner opportunities, bus tours, and adult group tours. The family-run Honeybee Centre is fun and offers candles, soap, and honey-infused spreads in the country store. They open a live beehive frame to give guests a complete experience.
What started as an MBA project, the Honeybee Centre is now an educational facility, a CFIA-registered packing facility, a visitor attraction, a country store, and a commercial honey farm. You’ll get an “unbeelievable” experience here!
Dining Globally – Restaurants in Surrey
There’s no need to dust off your passport to dine the globe in Surrey. The Spice Trail in Surrey introduces you to South Asian cuisines that cannot be matched anywhere. When we visited Surrey in August and journeyed along the Spice Trail, every dining experience was remarkable and delicious.
Surrey was named one of the world’s “Next Great Food Cities” in 2023 by Food & Wine Magazine for good cause.
The Surrey Spice Trail offers 75 delicious global dining experiences from family-run cafés, fine dining restaurants, and much-loved neighborhood favorites. We ate at six restaurants on the Spice Trail. Just imagine what we missed!
Chachas Tandoor and Grill
At Chachas, we learned one way to eat Golgappa. This deep-fried and breaded sphere is filled with potato, onion, and chickpea. We poured a tamarind chutney into the open top and popped them into our mouths. It is a mouthful, but that’s one way to eat them.
Clove The Art of Dining
Clove is a sophisticated fine dining experience, and they are famous for their Cocktail Fables. House-made chips were served with the delicious Magic Mushroom cocktail I ordered. Appetizers served under a smoking dome made an entertaining presentation. We shared several terrific and flavorful dishes.
Reux Café is a perfect breakfast place before or after riding the SkyTrain on your commute. The owners adapted their Melbourne, Australia, menu to the local Surrey style. We shared a Brekkie burger, a Falafel Waffle, the Biscoff French Toast, and Chicken Salt Fries, which were amazingly delicious.
Kathmandu Bar and Grill
The cuisine at Kathmandu is a blend of Western, Indo-Chinese, and Nepalese. Served with Magic Malts, a locally brewed craft beer, the Momos and Chow Mein were out-of-this-world delicious. Momos are colorful little dumplings– pockets of meat, cheese, or vegetables with slices of red onion decorating the top of them on the platter.
Chopsticks on Pho
The owners of Chopsticks on Pho are a regular couple who love people and food and are living out a dream of owning a restaurant. We ate the freshest Bánh Mi Vietnamese sandwich I’ve ever had. The crisp roll and fresh ingredients were so appealing. The Pho broth was light, and the aromatic herbs and spices added flavor. We finished our meal with a rich Vietnamese Coffee.
At the Afghan Kitchen, we felt like family, and Mom was cooking for us. We sat at a low table, surrounded by highly-decorated pillows, shoeless and relaxed. The owner, Zabi, came to our table, and we had an enlightening discussion about Afghan customs and beliefs and how all the recipes were from his mother’s kitchen. He honored us with beautiful dishes, flavors, and descriptions.
Our Afghan Kitchen experience started with craft cocktails and progressed to appetizers of sesame bread and cheese, greens with beets, and radishes over hummus. The Afghan Feast of Kebab, Bolani, and Mantu, served with rice was the entrée. It was indeed a work of art. And, to think, Zabi’s mother designed this gorgeous platter.
Ice cream and a traditional jasmine tea were served for dessert. It helped to settle our stomachs after such a splendid meal.
Street Food Defined
Street food is the food of the people and all about big, bold tastes – it’s simple but delicious. It’s not about how it looks. It’s all about making every single bite super flavorful.
South Asian Dishes
Biryani – Introduced to India by the Persians, biryani has become a quintessential dish celebrated for its royal heritage. This aromatic entree is crafted with a medley of vegetables, wholesome brown rice, and succulent pieces of lean chicken.
Kerala – a way of cooking from South India where they use red meat, chicken, and fish with special local spices. Kerala is famous for its spices and has a history of trading them with European countries.
Kebab – either minced or chopped meat, put on a stick, often with some veggies, and cooked over a flame.
Masala dosa – Masala dosa is a favorite breakfast in South India. It’s a thin, crispy pancake made from a batter of fermented rice and lentils. Filled with spiced potatoes, it’s tasty and aromatic.
Naan – a type of bread that’s a good choice if you want something healthier than regular white bread or pita. It has lots of protein because it’s made with yogurt, yeast, salt, and water. You can have it plain or with garlic on top. It’s great for picking up with your fingers and eating curries and stews. (AUTHOR’S NOTE: Garlic naan is my personal favorite.)
Pakora – a type of Indian snack that’s a popular street food and in restaurants. They are crunchy bites made from onions, herbs, spices, and potatoes, all mixed into gram flour and then fried.
Paneer – a cheese that doesn’t melt and is frequently used in Indian cooking. It’s a common way for vegetarians in India to get calcium and protein.
Pho – a Vietnamese soup with rich bone broth, spices, rice noodles, and thin slices of beef. It’s also topped with fresh herbs and bean sprouts.
Tandoori – a way of cooking meat that has been soaked in a marinade and then cooked in a tandoor, which is a type of clay oven that’s scorching hot. The oven makes a smoky taste, and the meat is mildly spiced with cumin and paprika.
Wineries in Surrey
We visited Cavallo Winery, one of several in the area, for a wine tasting on our Surrey Spice Trail journey. Run and staffed by women, Cavallo sources grapes from Napa Valley and puts their special touch on the grapes in their wine-making process. Their slogan, “We’re not just making wine… we’re making history.” We made history with them when we came home with three bottles for our collection.
Golf in Surrey
World-class golf abounds in Surrey, with the most golf courses in the Fraser Valley and Metro Vancouver. They accommodate any skill level, so I’m sure I can find one to suit me.
With the relatively mild winter climate, snowfall in Surrey is minimal, and there are plenty of clear days. Golf courses remain open throughout the season, making winter rates more affordable.
My husband, the golfer in the family, didn’t have time to swing a club during our time in Surrey in August. We are going to schedule golf during our next visit.
North Surrey Artwalk
A wealth of public art in the energetic urban core of North Surrey begs for a leisurely walk to discover all the installations. Public art decorates the rejuvenated civic center’s parks, transit centers, libraries, and municipal buildings.
Visitors are encouraged to look up, down, and all around to see recurring themes such as multiculturalism, history, metamorphosis, and community spirit. Some of the artwork pays homage to the indigenous communities whose lands are now part of Surrey.
Here’s the self-guided North Surrey Art Walk map.
Shopping in Surrey
Distinctive items that embody Surrey, such as handcrafted goods, local farm treasures, West Coast artwork, and South Asian adornments, can be found in the Surrey neighborhoods.
Guildford Town Centre is the second largest shopping center in the province. It’s 1.9 million square feet of shopping heaven. Not far from where we stayed at the Sheraton, this mall has the big box stores that we all know and love.
If gastronomy is your travel passion, stock up on genuine ingredients from around the world at Surrey’s international stores and supermarkets.
If you want unique shopping experiences, visiting Downtown Cloverdale is the place to go. We dropped into the Retro Mod Mid Century Consignment store with vintage couture and ogled lamps and decorations fit for a designer.
The Cigar Store Indian greeted us outside Nana’s Antiques, and I found a hookah pipe on one of the shelves inside. This was significant because I discovered a hookah lounge in Calgary on this driving trip. Nana’s was chock full of products to make an antiquer’s heart sing.
Note: Here’s the skinny for those who don’t know what a hookah or hookah lounge is. A hookah is a water pipe that is used to smoke sweetened and flavored tobacco or marijuana. The use of the hookah is a centuries-old tradition in the Arab world and Indian Subcontinent. One communal hookah is placed at the table and shared with those at the table.
As you can imagine, smoking a hookah has the same health risks as smoking cigarettes and other tobacco.
The outdoor lounge that I encountered in Calgary served alcohol and food, along with hookahs.
Cloverdale is famous for its murals. My favorite was Aspire by WRDSMITH.
How To Get To Surrey
On our road trip from Oregon, we crossed the border from Washington to Surrey near Blaine and connected to the Trans-Canada Highway 1.
The Trans-Canada Highway 1, also known as the TCH or Highway 1, is Canada’s toll-free major national highway. It was built to connect the country from coast to coast, spanning approximately (4,860 miles) from Victoria, British Columbia, on the west coast to St. John’s, Newfoundland, and Labrador, on the east coast. It’s the third longest highway in the world.
The highway passes through all ten provinces of Canada, including British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and Labrador. It is a vital transportation route, connecting major cities and towns nationwide.
From Whistler and points northwest, take Highway 99 south and connect to the Trans-Canada Highway.
From Kamloops and points northeast, take the Trans-Canada Highway west and south or Highway 5 south to connect to the Trans-Canada Highway.
Vancouver International Airport
Surrey is directly east of Vancouver International Airport. You must cross the Fraser River no matter what transportation you use from the airport. Take Highway 99 southeast, which will deposit you at Crescent Beach, White Rock, and South Surrey. If you take Highway 91 and then connect to Highway 17, you’ll have direct access to every neighborhood from the Fraser Highway.
Abbotsford International Airport is about 40 minutes southeast of Surrey and close to the Washington border.
Rapid Transit in Surrey
The Canada Line is the rapid transit system serving Vancouver International Airport and downtown Vancouver. There is no direct line from the airport to Surrey.
SkyTrain links Surrey to downtown Vancouver. The Expo Line goes to Surrey Central Station.
How To Get Around Surrey
Several transit options are economical and environmentally friendly to get around Surrey. Buses, the SkyTrain, community shuttles, and HandyDARTS (a door-to-door ride-sharing service for those with disabilities and needing assistance) can be found on the Translink website.
Bike-friendly options on public transit make bicycling a good choice. Here’s a cycling map.
The SkyTrain currently serves North Surrey. Plans to expand are in the future, so you’ll need a vehicle to get around the other five Surrey neighborhoods.
Where to Stay in Surrey
We had a wonderful experience at the Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel in Surrey. Having a room on the 14th floor gave us a breathtaking view of the valley, bridges, and the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The Sheraton is a revitalized destination conveniently located in the heart of Surrey.
The Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel offers a range of amenities, including a fitness center, indoor heated pool, whirlpool, and sauna. There is complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the hotel.
The on-site restaurant offers Grab-and-Go options for breakfast and afternoon meals and seafood, steaks, and vegetarian options for dinner. Guests can enjoy cocktails, wine, and beer at the lounge. Room service is also available.
The hotel provides self-parking for a daily fee and valet parking for an additional charge.
White Rock and Peace Arch
As we journeyed through the coastal town of White Rock, which boasts the White Rock Pier (purportedly the longest wooden pier in Canada), we stopped at the Peace Arch Provincial Park. This striking monument, located on the Canadian side of the US/Canada border, attracts both locals and international visitors.
We crossed this border back into the United States after concluding our week-long adventures in British Columbia. The crossing took about an hour, accompanied by a pleasant chat with the border officer.
Surrey has all the things I like to do and more. Families with kids, solo travelers, and couples will find a variety of engaging activities and fascinating cultures to explore. This corner of British Columbia will see me again.