Located in the far west of Canada, Vancouver is very much known for being one of the top Outdoor capitals of North America if not the world. With lots to offer which should you choose to do and when? As a Vancouver resident let me give you a first-hand perspective of some of my favorite things to do in Vancouver and the surrounding area.
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- 1. Kayaking in Deep Cove
- 2. Spend the Day at Wreck beach
- 3. Bike around the Sea Wall
- 4. Take a Beach Stroll along Spanish Banks
- 5. Hiking up the Stawamus Chief, Squamish
- 6. Paddle Board at Bunsen Lake
- 7. Check Out the Vancouver Fireworks
- 8. Explore Lighthouse Park
- 9. Explore False Creek
- 10. Check Out Capilano Suspension Bridge
- 11. Head up to Whistler
1. Kayaking in Deep Cove
I’ve kayaked around a lot of different places in and around Vancouver and I have to say that Deep Cove is simply my favorite. Located just above the mouth of the Indian Arm Cove, Deep Cove is about a 25-minute car drive from downtown Vancouver but it is well worth the trip. Its stunning coastlines painted by forests are located throughout the entire Indian Arm Straight that is spotted with beautiful waterfront houses. It’s a great location to go to if you want to clear your head or just enjoy the natural beauty that the straight has to offer.
Unless you own a sea kayak I would recommend that you rent a sea kayak for this trip. I say this because depending on the time of the day, the current can carry you away if you stray too far from the protected Deep Cove Inlet. Sea kayaks can cut through the water easier than wider recreational kayaks which would make the paddle back far more difficult.
There are a few routes you can go when you launch from Deep Cove, you can head north and explore further up the Indian Arm coastline, cross the channel to go check out Jug Island or head south towards the mouth of the Indian Arm for day trips. When I went I opted to head north. Along the way, I found some nice waterfront houses sprawled along the coastline along with the odd curious seal that would pop his head out from time to time. Deep Cove Kayaks has a lot of different rental options so decide what kind of paddling trip is right for you and then give them a call.
2. Spend the Day at Wreck beach
I’ll just get this out of the way. If you are uncomfortable with a bit of nudity then Wreck beach is probably not the place for you to visit. If you are looking for a nice beach sprinkled with a counter-culture of free-willed people Wreck Beach may be the place for you.
Wreck Beach is located off of the UBC coast about 18 minutes from downtown Vancouver. To get there you have to walk for about 15-20 minutes down a staircase to get to the beach. Once there you will see lots of logs sprinkled with people (both clothed and otherwise) spread out along the beach.
The beach offers everything you need both from food vendors (who will most likely be naked while cooking your food) to soft sandy sand and everything in between. Because this is a counter-culture location you can expect naked beer vendors and vendors selling anything else your 20-year-old self would love to get into.
The beach is also one of the better swimming spots in Vancouver with people doing everything from throwing the ball around to skimboarding to just standing in the water enjoying the sun’s rays beaming down on them.
3. Bike around the Sea Wall
This is one of the more touristy things to do when visiting Vancouver but it is pretty cool to see the sights around the Sea Wall. The Vancouver Sea Wall tours the coast of Stanley Park but you can continue along Vancouver Harbour on the north side as well as English Bay towards the south.
If you bring your bike, the bike ride can last for as long as you want. If you need to rent one there are lots of different places you can visit but a good majority of them can be found around Denman street.
Some highlights that you can see throughout the trip include Lost Lagoon, which frequently has wildlife like deer, otters, and raccoons sprinkled throughout. Traveling underneath the Lions Gate Bridge is also a nice sight where if you venture away from the sea wall you can bike up the hill to the lookout point and reward yourself with some delicious ice cream.
4. Take a Beach Stroll along Spanish Banks
If Wreck Beach doesn’t appeal to you Spanish Banks is a great place to spend the day on a sunny day. Located 15 minutes west of Downtown Vancouver, Spanish Banks sprawls along the Jericho area.
Activities you can do there include paddle boarding, kayaking, biking, or even windsurfing. If you do not have any of these you can rent from Windsure Adventure Watersports or Vancouver Water Adventures.
If you are into soccer or volleyball you will not look out of place here. During the summer there are often Volleyball tournaments held here on a sunny afternoon. If you are looking for something a bit more low key you can just as easily walk the length of the beach.
Along the way, there are also a lot of different restaurants that you can admire the view and take a nice bite to eat along the strip.
5. Hiking up the Stawamus Chief, Squamish
For those who are up for a bit more of a challenge then go for a hike up the Chief. The Statawamus Chief is located just off Squamish about 45 minutes from Downtown Vancouver.
Once there there are 3 routes you can go, the first peak, the second peak, or the third peak depending on what hiking difficulty you want. Most people do the first peak and that is plenty for them. For normal people, the hike will take about 2-3 hours but if you are well versed in hiking/climbing terrain then it can take about 90 minutes.
I personally only did the first peak so I can’t speak too much about the other peaks but one of my highlights was getting to the top and admiring the view with Squirrels and chipmunks politely asking you for peanuts.
6. Paddle Board at Bunsen Lake
This is a location I first discovered last year and I absolutely loved it. Bunsen Lake is located almost an hour away from Vancouver but its nestled on the frontiers of suburbia and the wilderness. The main attraction here is the hike around the lake. This is a great activity to do if you own a pup or you just want to do a little day trip somewhere.
What I did was I brought my inflatable paddleboard over to the lake and had a nice little paddle around different parts of the lake. Within the lake, there are a lot of interesting spots to observe like the Buntzen lake suspension bridge as well as a more swampy looking area that’s tranquil and peaceful.
This would be a great spot to do some SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard) Yoga as well. Buntzen also has a little beach that you can relax after the hike. In Fact, there was a news story last year of a local black bear rummaging around with people along the beach just chilling.
7. Check Out the Vancouver Fireworks
The Festival Light as they call it is a great ceremony that brings a lot of people along the shores of Vancouver to see different countries produce awe-inspiring fireworks from different countries. The countries compete against each other in a competition so out of the 3 or 4 nights it’s on, each country has its own night to dazzle onlookers before a winner is accounted for a few days later.
The festival usually happens on Saturdays and Wednesdays and spans from late July to early August within a two-week span. There are lots of different places to view the fireworks from, it all depends on how many people you want to encounter along the way.
The best views can be found along the Vancouver side of English Bay although you have to get there early to get a spot. Less crowded spots include Kitsilano and Spanish banks, or if you know someone who has an apartment facing English Bay give them a shout.
8. Explore Lighthouse Park
Lighthouse Park is located 45 minutes north of Vancouver nestled on the West Vancouver coast. From there you will get great opposing views of Vancouver city along with Kitsilano and Spanish Banks. Lighthouse Park is a cool place to explore as many different trails have a “choose your own adventure” type of vibe with the different possibilities of trails. Along Lighthouse Park there are many different big rocks that you can climb and admire views off of. Lighthouse Park is one of the more natural areas in that it usually doesn’t have a lot of people around so you can experience nature in its entirety.
9. Explore False Creek
If you are staying in downtown Vancouver and don’t want to go very far from the main city, then good news! False Creek is nestled just south of the main city of Vancouver and has a lot of different things that you can explore.
When you arrive at False Creek you can walk along the water from the Vancouver Science Center to Granville Island. Some things you can do include renting kayaks, bikes, paddleboards as well as visit many different patio restaurants along the water.
I would particularly recommend visiting Granville Island as there are many highly rated restaurants as well as a cool market that you can visit that offers fresh food. If you are looking to spend some time to kill on an afternoon False Creek is an area I’d highly recommend seeing.
10. Check Out Capilano Suspension Bridge
Capilano Suspension Bridge is located between West and North Vancouver just 12 minutes north of downtown Vancouver. While most of the destinations I have listed above are free, Capilano Suspension bridge will cost you about $54 Canadian if you are an adult but the views are well worth it. Especially if you are from out of town. Things you can do include a walk along the suspension bridge, treetop adventures (zip lining) and the Cliff Walk as well as many different types of guided tours. There is also a restaurant you can visit when post-adventure hunger kicks in.
11. Head up to Whistler
Located about an hour and a half from Vancouver, Whistler is well worth the trip. Although Whistler is known as a winter destination it is becoming one of the top destinations in the world for mountain bike enthusiasts. This is because of all the various trails that it has to offer throughout the mountain range.
If you are not big into mountain biking Whistler also offers some great Springtime Mountain views including the mainstay Whistler village where you can get a nice pint on the patio. Another summer highlight is exploring Alta Lake and the trails that surround it. Alta Lake also features a nice little beach in Lake Side Park where you can have a lakeside picnic and chat with the locals.
Almost anything is possible when it comes to exploring the outdoors in Vancouver. With so much to offer and so much to do, what are you waiting for? Get exploring!