A trendy cousin to the likes of Seattle and New York, Vancouver is the North American relative that is sometimes unjustly overlooked. But when you finally organise an overdue visit, you’ll quickly welcome this sophisticated, grown-up and good-looking city into the fold. The stunning water and mountain views feature in every snapshot; the beat of a thriving culture and vibrant nightlife in its soundtrack. A heady mix of different influences – from the Pacific to both sides of the Atlantic – combine with a friendly and laidback vibe to welcome visitors in. Simply put, Vancouver is undeniably cool. So get your diaries out and no excuses – 2017 is the year to meet Vancouver.
The great outdoors
Vancouver is the beating heart below the spine of the Coast Mountains, so you’d better expect adventure activities to be in its blood. With an active mindset and unrivalled access to some stunning locations, you can’t visit this city without getting stuck into the outdoors. Whether you prefer to relax in the immersion of nature or opt for a high octane experience, Vancouver is eager to please all travellers.
Just a 30 minute drive from downtown gives you access to three great mountains: Cypress Mountain, Mount Seymour and Grouse Mountain. In the summer, the mountain slopes become the perfect adventure playground. Find biking, hiking and ziplining activities to suit all ages and adrenalin levels. In winter the mountains provide excellent skiing within a stone’s throw of the city. Although they might not command the same celebrity status as the Whistler Blackcomb resort two hours away, you won’t have to compromise on the culture and history of a city break in order to have a ski holiday.
5 of the best adventure activities in Vancouver
Grouse Mountain offers a dual line, five zipline circuit of the incredible peaks and canyons of Grouse and Dam Mountains. The dual line allows you to zip along beside another person, so you can enjoy the heady thrills and spectacular views together.
For a totally new perspective on Vancouver, take to the skies in a helicopter flightseeing tour. Swoop over Vancouver City and Harbour, enjoy majestic views of the North Shore Mountains and glimpse the famous Sea to Sky Corridor.
3. Mountain Biking
The North Shore Mountains provide the perfect playground for downhill mountain biking. Although Vancouver has a reputation for breeding pros and extreme riders – and has some of the most difficult terrain anywhere – there are plenty of tracks suitable for beginners too.
As a city surrounded by water, one of the best ways to see Vancouver is by taking to the waves. The finger-shaped fjord of Indian Arm extends deep into the Coast Range Mountains, offering explorers views of verdant forests and, if you’re lucky, bald eagles.
Ranging from gentle to tough, hiking routes into the surrounding wilderness are just a short drive from downtown. Capilano Canyon offers a gentle lake route with the chance to see the iconic Capilano Suspension Bridge. For a more strenuous outing, don’t miss the chance to hike some of the Sea to Sky Corridor which runs from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver all the way to D’Arcy, 150 kilometres away.
Despite being a bustling, metropolitan city, wildlife permeates all corners of Vancouver. From the towering peaks that encircle the city limits to the countless parks and green spaces within the city itself, the opportunities for spotting wildlife are endless. Within the city it wouldn’t be unusual to spy geese, herons, hawks, eagles and chipmunks – and even the occasional raccoon or skunk.
In the outlying pristine wilderness of British Columbia, the stillness of the waiting forests and oceans is disturbed by larger animals. Take a guided tour to be in with the best chance of seeing grizzlies and black bears, as well as the giants of the sea, from humpbacks to orcas.
Top wildlife spotting opportunities in Vancouver
1. Bear watching
Clinging to the coast of British Columbia, running from Vancouver Island up to Southeast Alaska, is one of the last remaining pockets of unspoilt temperate rainforest in the world. The Great Bear Rainforest is home to large populations of grizzly bears and black bears. It is also the only home of the incredible subspecies known as the Kermode, or Spirit bear, which has a stunning white coat. Tours to see these magnificent animals in their pristine environment run from Vancouver Island.
2. Whale watching
The yearly whale migration makes Vancouver one of the best places in the world to view whales. The waters around Vancouver Island are home to large pods of resident orcas, as well as attracting visiting orcas, humpbacks, grey whales and minke whales. Whether you choose a tour boat, sea plane or kayaking trip, make sure you get out and see these curious and gentle giants.
3. City wildlife watching
The enormous Stanley Park is an urban oasis and is unlike any other city park. Surrounded by ocean and lush with woods, this is an excellent place to spot birds and waterfowl. It makes for a beautiful walk or a relaxed cycle. The seawall is another must-see in Vancouver and offers the perfect place to look out for seals, sea birds and eagles.
The phrase “The Inside Passage” has become synonymous with images of turquoise meltwater seas, glittering icebergs and blue, other-worldly glaciers. It is easily one of the most beautiful waterways on the planet. The Alaskan ports and towns dotted along the coast are no less intriguing, home to incredible First Nation communities, Russian-influenced architecture and an abundance of wildlife.
Vancouver provides the gateway port for cruises to this frozen world, so why not add an Alaskan cruise onto your city break? After all, it’s not often you’ll be within sailing distance of the legendary wilds of Alaska.
5 of the best sights on an Alaskan cruise from Vancouver
1. The Inside Passage
This stunning ocean route weaves its way through a multitude of lush islands, along the twisting passageways of fjords carved out by glaciers millions of years ago. Snow-capped peaks and forested slopes tower on either side, while the waters teem with playful seals and eagles circle overhead.
2. Glacier Bay
These frozen giants might appear stately, but be patient and you’ll see how violent they can be. Listen as they creak and crack before enormous chunks calve into the sea. Watch enthralled as ice thunders into the deep, with awe-inspiring force that can send ocean spray hundreds of feet into the air.
No roads lead to Juneau. With access only by sea and air, this remote town divulges its mysteries only to those adventurers who’ve braved the journey into the wilderness. Once you arrive you’ll be delighted by the warm welcome, the activities on offer and the Juneau Icefields on your back door.
Verdant green mountains sprout from the ocean, while wooden houses teeter on stilts over the waters. You’ll be charmed by the rustic nature and ruddy-cheeked looks of this little town on the Tongass Narrows.
5. Tracy Arm
A world away from the green, gently rolling slopes of previous fjords, Tracy Arm gives way to vertical rocky cliff faces with towering 7,000 foot peaks. Waterfalls abound along the twisting face of the 30-mile long fjord – a dramatic and remarkable landscape.
If you take the time to explore Vancouver and its surrounds, you’ll be richly rewarded. Indulge in the wining, dining and culture of one North America’s most cosmopolitan cities. Drive to the British Columbian wilderness and discover abundant outdoor activities in pristine surrounds. Or depart Vancouver on a cruise to unravel the mysteries of Alaska. Whatever you choose, Vancouver will welcome you with open arms. So what are you waiting for?
Call our knowledgeable advisors to arrange your perfect Vancouver break, or book your low cost Vancouver flight here.