One will never fall short of things to do in Vancouver. This port city in British Columbia is one of the world’s most liveable cities. The posh and modern city coexists with nature and wilderness. Restoration of nature is the first and foremost thing that I have observed here.
Vancouver is the gateway to Alaska. It deserves to be on every traveller’s bucket list. The sea, snow-capped mountains, gardens and green trails, adventures and wilderness within the city limits are amazing. It is the culinary capital of Canada. One has a plethora to choose from world cuisine. Vancouver is among the densest and most ethnically diverse cities on the globe. It has been named by George Vancouver, a seafarer, in 1792.
I was in Vancouver in June 2019. My hotel was at English Bay, a place as lovely as one can imagine. Lush green jogging and cycling park exist at the seafront, on one side of the road. The cool sea breeze kissed our cheeks, seagulls flew over us and the ducks walked around the beach. I watched the sunset in awe over the creek, with snow-capped mountains at the backdrop. The other side of the road bustle with eateries from all over the world. The streets are decorated with colourful flowers. My holiday had been one of adventure, tranquillity and wonder. Talking of adventures, I definitely cannot miss out on the gastronomic ones. Definitely walking around the English Bay is one of the significant things to do in Vancouver.
Stanley Park and The Seawall
Walking or cycling on the seawall is a unique experience. The seawall is 28 km of uninterrupted waterfront pathway. It is the longest in the world. There is accessibility to the water at some places too. Sea bathing is not allowed. The seawall stretches around 9 kilometres of the Stanley Park. This 1001 acre of the urban park situated in downtown is a green oasis. Soak into the natural beauty of the park with huge trees and forest trails. Sit down calmly on the lush green seafront and watch the ships sail by. Visit the lighthouse which is a symbol of the enchanting history. Check out the totems representing the heritage of the indigenous tribes. Riding the Stanley Park Train is fun and an easier way to see the area.
The iconic Canada Place is on the other side of Stanley Park, across the Burrard Inlet waterfront. It is home to Vancouver’s Convention Centre, World Trade Centre, Pan Pacific Vancouver Hotel and the virtual flight ride.
A visit to the Vancouver Aquarium at Stanley Park is one of the best things to do in Vancouver. This public aquarium is a centre for marine research and ocean literacy education. The level of conservation and marine animal rehabilitation is unparallel.
Pacific Canada Pavilion is a 260000 litres tank with fish and invertebrates from the Strait of Georgia. Canada’s Arctic and the Wild Coast are sections with underwater galleries. They have multiple pools which showcase even beluga whales. The lazy sea otters, enormous sea lions and walruses were enchanting. Watching the trained dolphin dance is amazing.
Penguin Point exhibits African penguins. There are other intriguing sections too. The Treasures of the BC coast hosts octopuses, rockfish, starfish, sea horse, sea urchins and anemones. The Tropic Zone houses tropical fish and animals including reef sharks and green sea turtles. Amazon Rainforest gallery exhibits creatures from the Amazon inhibit. The Amphibians gallery is called ‘Frogs Forever?’ The Canaccord Exploration Gallery is home to jellies. The 4D theatre experience was amusing. Kids can spend the whole day learning about new things. The souvenir shops are intriguing. A portion of their earning goes to a conservation fund.
China Town and Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
China Town is the city’s residential district for Chinese/Asian population. This place is popular for the buzzing food scenes. It has old-school Chinese food items to modern Asian bakeries. You can find dim sum restaurants and hip cocktail bars too. Trying oriental flavours and spices with fresh local seafood is a delectable experience.
Walk down from China Town to Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. It is a well maintained classical Chinese garden. The garden is adorned with pagodas, low wooden colourful bridges, winding paths, rocks and calligraphy. There are little ponds with goldfish in the garden. This classical garden is a symbol of Chinese culture blending with the western world. A stroll through this beautiful garden amidst such urbanisation automatically soothes the tired mind and body.
Gassy Jack and his makeshift tavern are long gone. Yet Gas Town, named after him, is the heart of pubs and breweries. The buzz of the place is unique. Gassy Jack’s statue, a steam clock and the typical architecture of Vancouver’s oldest commercial area are landmarks.
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
Walking on the 450 feet long and 230 feet high suspension bridge is among the best things to do in Vancouver. The treetop adventure above the rain forest is exciting. The seven suspension bridges and cliff walk high above the Capilano Canyon and the meandering river can fasten your heartbeat. It is a way of being one with nature. ‘Story Centre’ and ‘Kia’Palano’ are centres of learning. You can learn about the history of the bridge constructed in 1889. They provide information on the connection of BC’s First Nations people and their relation with nature.
Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge and Ecology Centre
This is a 160 feet long suspension bridge over the gushing waters. Visiting Lynn could be one of the ‘things to do in Vancouver’ list as it provides free entry. It is secluded and has limited tourists, thereby providing an amazing feel of wilderness. Forest trails and the riversides are amazing in here.
Cross the ferry to Granville Island for its popular public market. It is a colourful buzzing farmers’ market and sells world-class breweries.
Queen Elizabeth Park
Perched on Little Mount, the city’s highest peak, this park is a horticultural gem. The gorgeous garden is adorned with awesome sculptures, fountains, landscaping and exotic fauna. It offers great views of the city below and the North Shore Mountains beyond. One has to cross Lines Gate Bridge to the North Shore Mountains. The valleys are filled with bears and salmons. Vancouver has some extraordinary vistas all within city limits.
One of the best things to do in Vancouver is to take a sky-ride in the viewing pod of ‘The eye of the wind’. It is the landmark wind turbine of the mountain. The pod provides a bird’s eye view from inside or from the top of the gondola. Panoramic views from the mountain peaks to the islands are unforgettable. The adventure lovers can try zip lines, mountain ropes and hiking the wild mountain trails. This place becomes a ski lover’s paradise in the winters.
2 hours’ drive from Vancouver city to the north takes one to Whistler. It is a chalet-style pedestrian hub with snow-covered Blackcomb Mountains. I felt like I have arrived in some fairy tale town. The mountains are accessible by gondolas or hiking. The Blackcomb Snow Resort is the largest ski resort in North America.
Victoria, Vancouver Island
Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, is a port city. It sits on the Southern end of Vancouver Island. The city’s colonial past is reflected in the architecture of most of the buildings and gardens. It is a 300-kilometre long island, one of those from the archipelago of BC. It consists of small cities, villages, rainforests, beaches and wilderness.
Things to do at Vancouver Island
There are loads of things to do on Vancouver Island. A day trip to Victoria is the most significant one. I sailed to Victoria from Vancouver city port. The lavishness inside the cruise was unparalleled. The untouched scenic beauty of the sea was enthralling. The islands outside were out of the world. The lucky ones spot whales at times.
I was lost in the lush green fields and the colourful blooms at Butchart Gardens. It occupies a sprawling area of over 55 acres. The various kinds of gardens here are enthralling. The Italian Garden serves gelatos. The rose garden is heavenly. The Sunken Garden and Mediterranean Garden are breathtaking. And the zen of the Japanese Garden is divine.
The Parliament building, Fairmont Empress Hotel and Craigdarroch Castle are best examples of Victorian architecture. These mansions are regal. Fairmont Empress Hotel was built in 1908 at Victoria. They offer a prestigious hotel tour. It is an epitome of vanity and elite. It was visited by guests like Queen Elizabeth, Rudyard Kipling, Harison Ford, Catherine Hepburn etc. People interested in museums could pay a visit to the Royal British Columbia Museum.
Inner Harbour is an interesting spot with various fishing boats and vivid floating homes. Near the Inner Harbour is the Goldstream Provincial Park, spread across 1000 acres. This park consists of massive trees, the gushing river and amazing forest trails. October is the best time to visit this natural hub to witness Salmon migration.
There are more places in and around Vancouver. From wilderness lovers to adventure junkies; from luxury vacationers to touristy backpackers; all have an almost endless list of things to do in Vancouver.
A versatile writer and travel freak, discovering the world in her own casual way. Loves to immerse into the core of Mother Nature and extract her inherent beauty.