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Incredible Things to do in Vancouver Canada

The spectacular Canadian city Vancouver, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, lush rainforests, incredible wildlife and a vibrant ocean is rated as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I love that the city is so immersed in nature. Mountains, ocean and rainforest blend in with skyscrapers, landmarks, beautiful buildings, cobblestone lanes and buzzing bars. The options of things to do in Vancouver are endless, visit museums, go to hip restaurants, boutiques and cafes. Feeling adventurous? in the middle of Downtown Vancouver you can go snowboarding, climb a mountain, go whale watching or see marine mammals from a kayak. Want to escape the city for a short trip, check out our article on weekend getaways from Vancouver.

view of Vancouve
Water, Forest, Mountains, City; the spectacular city of Vancouver in BC Canada.

 Vancouver is famous for offering every kind of outdoor activity and adventure, from water sports to hiking, camping, snorkeling, stand up paddling and kayaking in the summer to snowboarding, skiing and a variety of  snow sports in winter. I spent a lot of time hiking in this beautiful coastal city, check out our reviews and descriptions of the best hiking trails around Vancouver.

Vancouver Island, the largest island off the west coast of North America, is part of British Columbia and a short and exciting ferry ride away from Vancouver. We had an amazing time exploring this beautiful island, check out our article on awesome things to do on Vancouver island! Vancouver is packed with exciting activities whether you are a culture vulture, adrenaline junkie, foodie or photographer you will be astonished by this wonderful city. In this article we focus on amazing things to do in Vancouver for all interests!

Vancouver Must See Places

Every city has several ‘must visit’ places, they are very popular tourist sites and well known highlights the city is known for! I will start this article by looking at the top places to visit and the things to do at each of these sites around Vancouver.

Grouse Mountain

Things to do at Grouse Mountain – Grouse Grind Hike, skiing, snowboarding, paragliding, dining, nature movies, grizzly bears, shows, gondola ride

I loved Grouse Mountain, smack, bang in the middle of the city. Often called ‘the Peak of Vancouver’ this1250 metres ( 4100 feet) mountain is located a couple of minutes from Downtown Vancouver with public transport. The mountain offers great views and is very popular for outdoor activities all year round. There is also a lot of entertainment available all year including a 100-seat mountaintop theatre and a wildlife refuge.

Skyride aerial tramway coming down Grouse Mountain
Taking the Skyride aerial tramway up Grouse Mountain is an incredible experience in Vancouver.

Most people take the Skyride aerial tramway up and down for amazing views of Vancouver, the ocean and the surrounding area. It is a 10 minute ride departing every 15 minutes between 8:45 am and 10 at night. There is loads of entertainment on top of the mountain; a lumberjack show, grizzly, cinema, a variety of restaurants and a lot more. See our guide to Climbing Grouse Mountain for more info.

In summer the most popular activity is the famous Grouse Grind hike up the mountain. The Grind is legendary in Vancouver, the trail is about 3000 stairs with an incredible 800 m elevation gain over only 3 km, yes it is steep! The trail is used for hiking and running and gets very crowded with more than 100 000 people climbing it in a season. This trail only goes one direction, and that is UP. Descending is not allowed on the Grouse Grind hiking trail trail; hikers take the gondola down, at $15 a ride. There are a range of other activities in summer such as disk golf, chairlift rides and paragliding.

During winter time Grouse Mountain is a top quality venue for skiing and snowboarding with ski-lifts and 33 ski and snowboard runs! There are plenty of trails and terrain for skiers of all levels and six terrain park zones for snowboarding on the mountain. It is also a good place to learn! Lift passes, gear rental and lessons for all levels available. Skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, snowshoeing and more winter activities can be done on Grouse Mountain.

Grouse Mountain ticket, including Skyride and optional return shuttle from downtown Vancouver.

Stanley Park

Things to do in Stanley Park – hit the Seawall running, walking, cycle, roller blade, swim, coffee, eat, aquarium

Stanley Park is a massive sanctuary almost entirely surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, covering around 400 hectares. The beautiful area is surrounded by Vancouver Harbour and English Bay with a total of about 27km (17 miles) of trails winding through the forest. 

walking on Stanley Park wall one of the best things to do in vancouver
Walking between the ocean and the forest on the Stanley Park Wall towards the city is a great experience in Vancouver.

The most popular thing to do in Stanley Park is to make your way around the park on the Seawall. The Stanley Park seawall, encircling the park, is a 9km (5.5 mile) uninterrupted paved path with stunning views of the park, the ocean, downtown Vancouver and the Mountains. The seawall is very popular with hikers, runners, bikers, families and rollerbladers. Rent a bike, go for a run or walk, it is free all year. There are many bike rental shops near the park.

Check out this popular Vancouver highlights bicycle tour through Stanley Park’s rain forest and historic neighborhoods like Gastown and Chinatown involving seaside cruising and city riding.

Stanley Park has two popular beaches to visit; Second Beach and Third Beach about 20 minutes apart. Third beach is larger and good for swimming with lifeguards on duty in summer. Second Beach is next to a very popular enormous heated swimming pool, Second Beach Pool, perched over top of the Seawall. From the pool you have great views of the Pacific Ocean. The pool has swimming lanes for training and areas for swimming for fun, a great spot for the whole family. 

Stanley Park also has play parks, putt putt, tennis courts, a splash park and the Stanley Park train open from April to the beginning of September to take you for a ride through the park. One of the highlights to visit in Stanley Park is the Vancouver Aquarium.

Vancouver Aquarium

The Vancouver Aquarium is located in Stanley Park. The aquarium is amazing, as a very active scuba diver it is great to see the local fauna and flora in an aquarium like this, it reminds me of the Cape Town Aquarium, one of the best things to do in Cape Town.

Jellyfish Vancouver Aquarium
Looking at the incredible Jellyfish bloom display in the Vancouver Aquarium.

The Vancouver aquarium has more than 60,000 amazing aquatic creatures living here, check out the BC display to see what it looks like underwater around Vancouver. See the hagfish, octopus, rockfish, sea stars and more from around BC. See sea otters, or come see the hypnotic jellyfish display. Appreciate the daily sea lion, otter and penguin experiences. The aquarium also has several educational displays from other parts of the world like the Amazon or tropical tanks. The Vancouver Aquarium is a research facility and  an Ocean Wise initiative, a non-profit society dedicated to the conservation of aquatic life. Visiting the Aquarium directly contributes to its conservation, education and research programs. 

Granville Island

Things to do in Granville Island – Foodie tour, Public market, beer, SUP, kayak, whale watching

Granville Island is an awesome place to relax, drink a beer or get something to eat. This is also a great place to start exploring Vancouver by kayak or paddleboard. 

Go on a 2 hour paddleboard sightseeing tour of the city along the stunning Vancouver shoreline, watch out for marine life and learn about the city.

Walk around food stalls on a chilled out family or foodie day with buskers performing in the streets all day and loads of excellent treats for sale. Granville Island is located across downtown Vancouver, it is technically a peninsula connected to Vancouver, not a real island. Granville island, filled with shopping and entertainment is a very popular spot with over 10 milion visitors per year. The Granville Island Public Market is an indoor market and probably the most popular spot to visit on the island. Visiting the public market is one of the best things to do in Vancouver for foodies. Walk around and explore a variety of food and produce stores, handcrafted products and unique gifts with up to 150 retailers. The market is open all day from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm. If you want to drink some quality beer, Granville Island Brewing is a good spot to stop, this was Canada’s first microbrewery. 

Granville Island Public Market Walking Food Tour

Go Whale and Orca Watching

Vancouver is an amazing place for whale watching with a variety of whale species and other marine animals regularly seen on expeditions.

Humpback whales, gray whales, and minke whales as well as orcas (killer whales) are seen at different times of the year.

Whale watching from Vancouver
Whale watching is a ‘must do activity’ from Vancouver. Seeing Humpback whales are very common.

Orcas are frequently seen on whale watching boats from Vancouver between May and October when they come to the area to feed on migrating salmon. Humpback whales numbers are the highest between April and November.

Whale watching tours depart from Granville Island, Coal Harbour, Horseshoe Bay and Steveston.

Go on an exciting Whale Watching Safari from Granville Island, highly rated outfit. Go on an expedition to see whales, orcas, seals, sea lions, bald eagles, and many other marine animals.

Half day Watching excursion on the 80-foot flagship catamaran Prince of Whales, meeting Downtown Vancouver.

Canada Place

Things to do in Canada Place – walk, admire massive ships, FlyOver Canada

Located in the heart of Vancouver’s waterfront Canada Place is an iconic landmark. The Canada Place building is situated on Vancouver’s waterfront. The architecture in the form of a giant sailing ship is very famous and visible from all over Vancouver.  Many of Vancouver’s visiting cruise ships dock in here and it is interesting to walk here and see these massive ships from upclose. The outside deck at Canada Place is very nice to walk with great views of the ocean and North Shore Mountains. Canada Place is also not far from the Olympic Cauldron and hosts the Vancouver Convention Centre, the Vancouver World Trade Centre, and the virtual flight ride FlyOver Canada.

FlyOver was a really fun activity, it is a flying theater attraction that takes guests on a virtual reality flight across Canada, utilizing ride equipment, a massive spherical screen and has machines creating wind, mist, and scents to enhance the experience!

On Thursday evenings in July and August free outdoor movies are shown here, making for a great picnic! Canada Place is located close to Waterfront Station in Downtown Vancouver.

From Canada Place it is a scenic walk along the waterfront to Stanley Park, check out massive ships and seaplanes landing and taking off. 

Seaplane flight over Vancouver – enjoying a bird’s eye view of the picturesque harbor and nearby mountain peaks, on this 20-minute, small-group seaplane flight.

Go on a Pub crawl – Taste the best of Vancouver’s microbrews on a 3-hour tour of the city’s craft breweries.

Gas Town

Things to do in Gastown – visit the steam clock, take photos, go for a coffee, go for a beer

The trendy neighbourhood Gastown in downtown Vancouver is one of the oldest parts of the city. It got the name from  “Gassy” Jack Deighton, a Yorkshire steamboat captain who arrived in 1867 and could talk a lot (gassy). The fancy area is great for shopping, filled with a mix of contemporary fashion and tourist-oriented businesses. Gastown has many  souvenir shops, restaurants, nightclubs, indie art galleries and decor stores. The buildings are in Victorian style. The area has a very lively food and drink scene with chic cocktail lounges and restaurants serving everything from gourmet sandwiches to local seafood.

things to do in Vancouver see steam clock in Gas Town
The Gastown steam clock built in 1977 is a famous site to see in Vancouver.

The Gas Town Steam clock located near Waterfront Station is the nr 1 tourist attraction in the area. Built in 1977, this working steam clock is one of the only functioning

steam-powered clocks in the world. The Steam Clock whistles and blows steam every 15 minutes. Go for a pint of craft beer at the popular Steamworks Brew Pub. Maple tree square, famous for its history and attractions, is a good spot for photos. Gastown has some excellent coffee spots, check out Prado Cafe, Nemesis or Revolver. Unfortunately I heard about this too late, but apparently a fun activity – Gastown Lost Souls tour

Also check out this well rated Walking Tour of Gastown

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Things to do at the Capilano Suspension Bridge – Suspension Bridge, TreeTops Adventure, Cliffwalk

The Capilano Suspension Bridge is a suspension bridge crossing the Capilano River in North Vancouver. The is 140 metres (460 ft) long and 70 metres (230 ft) above the river. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Vancouver with more than a million visitors per year and has been a tourist attraction since 1889. It is more than just a suspension bridge, the bridge is privately owned and leads to an activity park filled with forest trails and a treetop walk through old-growth giants. 

the Capilano Suspension Bridge Vancouver
The Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is one of the most famous sites to visit in Vancouver

Cliffwalk at the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is a series of cantilevered and suspended walkways protruding from the granite cliff face above Capilano River, it is high and narrow walkways above the canyon far below.

Included in your ticket price is a return shuttle from Canada Place in downtown Vancouver, admission to the Capilano Suspension Bridge, including the TreeTops Adventure and the exciting Cliffwalk.

Capilano Suspension bridge has a stiff price tag, but Lynn Canyon Park is a great alternative with plenty of hikes, a suspension bridge and it is free!

Capilano Suspension Bridge ticket

Lynn Canyon Park

Lynn Canyon Park is a municipal park in the District of North Vancouver. This beautiful park is filled with hiking trails for all skill levels to explore.The Baden-Powell Trail passes through the park crossing over the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge. The hike from Lynn Valley to Deep Cove is a 12 km stretch if you want to hike all the way. There are  many breathtaking waterfalls and popular swimming holes where you can take a dip in the park. The Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge hangs 50 meters (160ft) over the canyon. In the park there is the Lynn Canyon Cafe and Ecology Centre to visit. We explain different routes in the park in our Best Hikes in Vancouver Guide.

English Bay

Things to do in English Bay – swim, paddleboard, kayak, walk the seawall, coffee, beer

Located in the West End of Vancouver next to Stanley Park, English Bay is one of the main bays in Vancouver. The city and the ocean meet here where high end shops and restaurants border the English Bay Beach and the English Bay Seawall. English Bay offers brilliant views over the ocean, the south peninsula of Vancouver, the University of British Columbia and on a clear day you can even see Vancouver Island. 

English Bay Seawall stretches all the way from Sunset Beach close to the West End to Second Beach in Stanley Park.  The wall has walking and cycling paths with great views over English Bay.  The Seawall is super popular with Vancouverites and tourists all year. 

Stand up paddleboarding in Vancouver
Renting a stand up paddleboard at English Bay Beach and paddling to Stanley Park is an awesome day out in Vancouver.

English Bay Beach is a beautiful sandy beach, and great for swimming,  kayaking, and stand up paddleboarding or just lying in the sun catching a tan. In the bay there are kayak/paddleboard rentals available close enough to paddle over to Stanley Park and explore the park from the water.  The kayak/paddleboard rentals are available from late May until September.   

Two massive annual events hosted in English Bay are the Celebration of Light Fireworks and Festival in July/ August, 3 nights of music-synchronized fireworks displays and the Polar Bear Swim when thousands of people go for a dip in the freezing water on 1 January, this has been a tradition since 1920!

Queen Elizabeth Park

Things to do in Queen Elizabeth Park – Enjoy fantastic views of the city,visit rose garden, sunken quarry garden, arboretum, visit Bloedel Conservatory, play pitch-and-putt golf, tennis, disc golf

Located at the highest point of Vancouver at an elevation of 167m with beautiful landscaped gardens, amazing views and more than 1500 tree arboretum (tree garden), Queen Elizabeth Park is one of the most frequently visited spots in Vancouver. One of the most beautiful spots in Vancouver with fantastic panoramic views of the Downtown area. Enjoy the plaza, grassy hills, dancing fountains, public artworks,  and a variety of gardens. Inside the park, the Bloedel Conservatory, is home to a huge variety of free-flying exotic birds and tropical plants from three different climate zones.

4-hour guided city tour including Queen Elizabeth Park Good Deal!

Kitsilano Beach

Things to do at Kitsilano beach – swim in the Pacific Ocean, swim in the heated pool, catch a tan, cycle from Kitsilano Beach to Granville island.

Kitsilano Beach things to do in Vancouver
Kitsilano Beach is the most popular beach in Vancouver. The logs are present on some of Vancouver’s beaches and make good seats or tables.

Kitsilano Beach located close to downtown Vancouver is one of Vancouver’s most popular beaches and is easy to get to by public transport. Called Kits beach by the locals it is a sandy beach nice for catching a swim and a tan, but with some grassy areas perfect for a picnic. The water is cold, but there is an oceanside heated salt water pool next to the beach that is great for swimming if the cold water is not for you. The beach has nice facilities for washing and changing for a small fee. Kitsilano even has a dedicated dog beach for locals wanting to take their dogs to the beach for the day. The water here is a bit deeper, making it nice for swimming.

Horseshoe Bay

Things to do in Horseshoe Bay – snorkel with seals, ocean kayaking

Horseshoe Bay is a seaside village in West Vancouver, the BC Ferries‘ to Nanaimo, the Gulf Islands and the Sunshine Coast depart here. Horseshoe Bay is a nice area marking the start of the beautiful Sea to Sky highway that runs from Vancouver to Whistler. There are some nice coffee shops and restaurants. Boating, snorkeling, and kayaking adventures in Vancouver depart from Horseshoe Bay to Kayak in Howesound and snorkel with the harbor seals in the Pam Rocks seal colony. Snorkel with seals and kayaking from Horseshoe Bay

Deep Cove

Things to do in Deep Cove – kayak, paddleboard, hike the Quarry Rock trail, swim

Deep Cove is a beautiful little village at the base of Mt. Seymour in North Vancouver basically made up by a single street lined with restaurants, coffee shops and an ice cream parlour. It is a nice place to come for paddle boarding and kayaking with a small sandy beach that is good for swimming. Deep Cove offers some boutique shopping, kayak and paddleboard rentals, and the hike to Quarry Rock. The Quarry Rock hiking trail at Deep Cove is an easy out-and-back hike that overlaps with the first part of the famous Baden Powell Trail,a scenic 50 km trek from the North Shore to Horseshoe Bay. The trail is only 3.8 km and is fairly flat with 100 m elevation gain going through densely wooded areas of Hemlock and Douglas Fir trees with nice views of Deep Cove when you get to Quarry rock, a rocky outcrop. It is an easy, very popular trail that is suitable for children and dog friendly. You need about 2 hours to complete the trail. Quarry Rock Hike Tour from Vancouver

hiking in deep cove from Vancouver
Beautiful scenery following the hiking trails around Deep Cove.

The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden

Chinatown in Vancouver is the largest Chinatown in Canada and one of the largest in North America, filled with Chinese restaurants and grocers. The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is the best place to visit in Vancouver Chinatown.  This was the first Chinese or “scholars” garden built outside of China. The Chinese Garden takes its inspiration from scholars’ gardens of the Ming Dynasty. A beautiful and peaceful oasis in the centre of town, all the building materials, decorations, furniture and plants were sent from China. Paths zig zag across the beautiful gardens leading to the Jade Water Pavilion, the classical garden and the ark. Awesome opportunity for taking photos.

It is located at 578 Carrall Street and consists of a freely accessible public park and a garden with an admission fee. Small Group Cycle Tour to Gastown, Yaletown, Chinatown and Dr Sun Yat-Sen Garden, cycle about 18 km (11 miles) exploring Vancouver.

Richmond Night Market

The Richmond Night Market is an amazing night market with unreal food stalls  held during the summer months in Richmond in the Metro of Vancouver. This bustling nightmarket with more than a hundred food stalls really offers some awesome and unique food like authentic Asian snacks from fantastic Ramen to street food like tornado potatoes, grilled squid, mango desserts and more interesting dishes. The market is active from May to October and can be reached with the Canada Line SkyTrain to Bridgeport Station and then walk from here.

Awesome Things to do in Vancouver

There are many amazing Vancouver experiences to have at multiple places in the city that I would highly recommend!

Check out these two awesome, highly rated food tours:

Foodie things to do in Vancouver

Vancouver is an amazing destination for visitors to taste some of Canada’s famous local dishes. In this beautiful coastal city you will get an overwhelming selection of exciting food with multi-cultural influence made from top quality Canadian produce. Tasting some of the varied local favorites is an experience not to miss when visiting Vancouver.

Poutine

Poutine is a very popular Canadian dish and is a must eat when in Vancouver. It is essentially french fries that are topped with cheese curds and brown gravy. You get all sorts of variations, I saw pulled pork, duck, bacon, mushroom gravy and sweet potato poutine.

Poutine take away favorite thing to eat in Vancouver
Simple Poutine topped with cheese curds and brown gravy a favorite in Vancouver.

For a range of the best Poutine, from simple to crazy delicious combinations go to one of the Poutine specialists in Vancouver; Fritz European Fry House on Davies street might just be the best Poutine in Vancouver, Mean Poutine on Nelson street or La Belle Patate also on Davies street are two other highly rated Poutine spots to go. Many fast food places like McDonald’s, A&W and Harvey’s serve Poutine. 

I will never forget after completing hiking and camping on the Juan de Fuca trail for 4 days, my brother and I arrived starving at Victoria on Vancouver island. The poutine at  A&W that day was one of the best things that I have ever eaten! For amazing poutine that is available across the country  Costco makes delicious Poutine with real cheese curds and decent gravy at awesome Costco prices.

Japadog

Japadog must be the most famous street food vendor in Vancouver and eating one of these delicious hotdogs with a twist on the street belongs on a ‘things to do in Vancouver’ list. A Japadog is a hotdog with some Japanese-style foods added. They serve  turkey smokies and beef hotdogs combined with ingredients like teryaki, seaweed, okonomiyaki and more. One stand became a chain of stands in Vancouver, they have a shop now as well, but I loved grabbing my Japadog on the street. There is a Japadog in Richmond and at Waterfront station, Japadog locations in Vancouver.

popular Japadog streetfood in Vancouver
Eating a Japadog on the street was one of my favorite foodie things to do in Vancouver. This hotdog spiced up with authentic Japanese ingredients is definitely worth finding in the city.

Ramen

When I visited Vancouver the first time, I had no idea what ramen was. It is one of the city’s favorite foods and eating ramen is definitely something you have to do in Vancouver. Ramen is a Japanese noodle soup made with a rich flavoured broth, often topped with a boiled egg. You get many styles of Ramen, the broth can be prepared with a selection of meats or vegetables and different noodles can be used. In Japan ramen is a popular fast food. Vancouverites love their ramen, maybe it is a combination of the big Asian population and the rainy weather, but with a huge selection of quality ramen this is the place to try the stuff. 

Coffee things to do in Vancouver

Vancouver Coffee Franchise Places

As a serious caffeine junkie I was very happy to discover an amazing coffee culture in Vancouver when I stayed here for a couple of months. The city is filled with many coffee franchises and quality specialty coffee shops. Tim Hortons is a Canadian coffee franchise found on every second street block. I liked the Timbits, also known as donut holes, they are delicious little cakes that are fried and covered with frosting. I have never seen as many Starbuck, they are really everywhere. If you drink your coffee with 2 milk and 2 sugar, in Canada you just order a double double. 

Good Coffee in Vancouver

The franchise shops are not the place to go if you want good coffee. If you are a fan of quality espresso based drinks, made from excellent beans by well trained baristas, Vancouver also has a lot to make you smile. When European immigrants settled in Vancouver after the Second World War they brought espresso culture with them and established coffee roasteries here, making sure they have quality coffee. You can still visit some of the original coffee houses down on Commercial Drive like Continental Coffee  and Joe’s Café. For excellent coffee find a Caffe Artigiano or Prado Café, both started by Canadian barista champion Sammy Piccolo they are at a couple of locations in Vancouver, there is a Caffe Artigiano in Yale town and Hornby Street Next to Fairmont Hotel Vancouver and Prado Café’s at Commercial Drive, in Gastown, and on Fraser Street.

Beer tasting in Vancouver

Canada has a massive beer scene, not just Budweiser and commercial beers, but a variety of excellent homebrewed ales, lagers, pilsners and IPA’s made in the area with the quality local ingredients by talented local brewers. A craft brewery or microbrewery is a brewery that produces small amounts of beer and craft breweries are extremely popular in Canada. With more than a 100 breweries Vancouver is a fantastic place to explore the Canadian craft beer scene. 

Taste beer the Canadian way – hit a brewery tasting room, brewpub, restaurants with a selection of craft beers or go on a brewery tour. At the tasting room order a tasting flight, this is a selection of four beers on tap to taste, get some snacks and take some of your favorite home the Canadian way, buy a growler of beer (refillable 64 ounces, so about 6 beers).  Check out Steamworks Brewing Company in Gastown, Dockside Restaurant on Granville Island or the Main Street Brewing Company in the Brewery Creek area of Mount Pleasant.

beer tasting things to do in Vancouver
Main Street Brewing Company – I loved sharing a couple of flights of beer and digging into their nachos!

Active things to do in Vancouver

Located close to both mountains and ocean, Vancouver is famous for offering a huge variety of outdoor sports and adventure adventure activities. With 5 top resorts for snow skiing in and around Vancouver there are amazing opportunities for all snow sports. The ocean around Vancouver, rich in marine life, offers amazing spots for kayaking, paddleboarding, scuba diving, snorkeling with seals, surfing and just about any water activity you can imagine. The beautiful forests in and around the city creates amazing places for hiking, camping, and biking year-round. Fishing, scenic golf courses, and mountain ziplining are other popular activities in Vancouver.

Hiking in Vancouver

Vancouver is a hiking meca and walking in the beautiful forests is one of the best things to do in Vancouver. Plenty of amazing trails are inside the city and can be reached by quick, cheap public transport such as Lynn Headwaters National park, Grouse Mountain and the Baden Powell trails, see our Complete article on the Best Hikes in Vancouver. There are fantastic trails closer to the famous ski town Whistler in Garibaldi National Park, the outdoor paradise Squamish and hikes on Vancouver Island.

Grouse Grind Hike Vancouver
Climbing the 2830 stairs of The Grind is a challenging hour or two

Snow sports in Vancouver

Grouse Mountain, just 15 minutes north of Downtown, has 26 ski and snowboard runs, four lifts, six terrain park zones and four snowshoeing trails, a variety of outdoor Alpine activities and outdoor ice skating in the winter.

Mount Seymour, a half an hour’s drive from downtown Vancouver, has 24 trails and five lifts, scenic snowshoeing, and fun tubing and tobogganing.

Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort is the premier location for skiing and snowboarding in the area located about two hours north of Vancouver in Whistler, B.C. Whistler has more than 200 ski trails served by 38 lifts and offers glacier skiing and some of the largest bowls and pipes in North America. Together with Cypress Mountain, Whistler Blackcomb was the venue of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics

Cypress Mountain is only a 30 minute drive from Vancouver. Cypress has 52 ski trails served by nine lifts.

Check out this Skiing/snowboarding day on Cypress Mountain tour from Downtown Vancouver

Water activities around Vancouver

Stand Up Paddleboard and Kayak rentals are available at a couple of places in the city and are a fun way to spend an afternoon. Check out Jericho Beach, False Creek in Downtown, English Bay Beach, Stanley Park and Deep Cove for kayak rentals.

Scuba diving – Vancouver is home to some of the best cold water diving in the world, it is not that cold if you wear the proper gear! Go from Horseshoe Bay  and see pinnacles, canyons, wolf eels, Pacific Octopus, seals and more. Vancouver Scuba Excursion

Snorkel with Vancouver’s resident harbor seals Kayaking in Howe Sound, board a boat from Horseshoe Bay

Surfing – There are some awesome surf spots on Vancouver island. Tofino is a district on the west coast of Vancouver Island and has some great surf beaches. It is the best area in Canada for surfing with waves for all skill levels. Cox Bay and Longbeach are good spots, surf schools offer lessons at Chesterman which is a good beginner spot. Tofino has a great surf culture, go to one of the surf shops for lessons, they will provide you with gear and an instructor to teach you on the beach. Learn to surf in Tofino

Awesome things to do Close to Vancouver

Some of the most spectacular places around Vancouver can be explored as day trips from the city.

Vancouver Island

The beautiful Vancouver island is filled with awesome things to do and is easy to reach as a day trip from Vancouver. See our Complete Guide to Vancouver Island. Famous for its stunning beaches, amazing old growth forests and rich diversity in marine life Vancouver island is home to awesome adventure activities on land and in the water. Do spectacular one day hikes along the coast or go on a multi day hiking adventure. The West Coast trail is one of the best coastal hiking routes in the world, a tough one week backpacking trail, filled with wildlife, including bears, whales and orcas.

west coast trail video

Whale watching is excellent from Vancouver island. Orcas (killer whales), Humpback whales, Pacific grey whales and minke whales are some whale species that can be seen on whale watching expeditions. Don’t miss the amazing gardens, seafront parks, museums, eateries, and craft brewers on the island. Vancouver island is a great venue for ocean sports like kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, surfing and scuba diving. It is easy to get here by ferry from Vancouver or do an amazing flight on a small plane from Vancouver! See our complete guide to things to do on Vancouver Island.

Drive the Sea to Sky Highway

The Sea to Sky Highway connecting Vancouver and the popular ski resort town Whistler is a 121 km (75 mile) part of Highway 99 with spectacular views. On this beautiful route visit the Sea to Sky Gondola or Garibaldi Lake.

Sea to Sky gondola 

The Sea to Sky Gondola between Vancouver and Whistler is a very popular site outside Vancouver not to miss! The gondola takes passengers from near the highway, up high above Howe Sound for unreal views. The Gondola is located at Squamish, about 50 minutes drive north of Vancouver.  At the top there are viewing platforms, a suspension bridge and the Panorama Trail. You can also hike the challenging Sea to Summit Trail climbing more than 900m over 7km. 

Garibaldi National Park

Garibaldi Lake with perfect turquoise glacial waters is located in Garibaldi National Park surrounded by snow-capped mountains and alpine meadows. The 18 km hike to the lake and back is a great day trip from Vancouver. Camping at the lake and hiking to the Black tusk or the Panorama route are two popular weekend trips. The trailhead in the Rubble Creek parking area can be reached by public transport from Downtown Vancouver using the Parkbus, they give you more than enough time to complete the trail.

Garibaldi national park
Garibaldi National Park is one of the most beautiful areas near Vancouver.

Accommodation in Vancouver

Highly rated accommodation in Vancouver with a good location.

Transport in Vancouver

Central Vancouver is fairly condensed and you can walk or cycle to a lot of places. Rental bicycles are available on a bike-share program, Mobi by ShawGO. There are many Mobi bike stations around downtown Vancouver.  You can unlock a bike at one station and return it to another. Register and check how Mobi bikes work. 

Vancouver has an awesome public transit system, the Translink consisting of the Skytrain, the Bus system and the Seabus. Easily plan your trip using the Translink Trip Planner.

SkyTrain is a rapid transit system to quickly take you between Downtown and Metro Vancouver’s suburbs. Skytrain has 53 stations served by three lines: the Expo Line, the Millennium Line, and the Canada Line. The Canada line connects the city center and Vancouver International Airport (YVR). 

Mobi by ShawGO in Downtown Vancouver
Bicycles in the bike share program, Mobi by ShawGO in Downtown Vancouver

The Bus system is very efficient and included in your Translink pass, if you use Google Maps you can basically get anywhere in the city fairly easily and on schedule using the Skytrain and Bus system.

SeaBus is a passenger-only ferry service that links Downtown Vancouver with North Vancouver by crossing the Burrard inlet, this fun trip is included in your Translink day pass. 

About Author – Campbell

The strong half of Stingy Nomads, a nomadic aquaman that would be happy to spend all his life in the water diving, surfing and spearfishing but often has to compromise with Alya and go hiking instead. Campbell is responsible for all our marine adventures and following them with write-ups. He loves traveling, braai (BBQ in South Africa), red wine and spending the day in a wetsuit.

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The Complete Guide to Hike the West Coast Trail Canada
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