If you could only visit one city in Canada, visit Vancouver! It’s my favourite city in the country. Nature and outdoor lovers will find so many points of interest.
Yes, I feel like a wee bit of a traitor when I say that. I was born and raised in Alberta after all and lived much of my adult life in Calgary. But it’s hard to compete with Vancouver. It’s a coastal city bound by the English Bay and Burrard Inlet to the north and the Fraser River in the south. It offers something for mountain, water, nature and wildlife lovers. You could start your morning with a refreshing swim in the sea while observing seals, hit the ski slopes by midday and maybe even see a bear on your way! There are so many great points of interest in Vancouver.
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When Is the Best Time to Visit Vancouver?
Vancouver has some of the mildest weather in Canada. The trade-off is that it can be rainy and grey, especially in winter. Fortunately, it rarely gets below freezing or just a few degrees below when it does. My favourite time to visit Vancouver is in summer or fall. You’re more likely to have long sunny days then. It’s perfect for exploring the natural beauty of Vancouver and the surrounding area.
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How Long to Stay in Vancouver?
I’d recommend staying at least three days when you visit Vancouver to discover the city itself. You could easily stay for a week if you want to use Vancouver as a base for exploring Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, the Sunshine Coast or Whistler.
Here are my top nine activities for exploring the natural beauty of Vancouver and Nearby Points of Interest:
Classic Vancouver Panorama Tour by Seaplane: This is one of the most popular tours of Vancouver and the North Shore Mountains and for good reason! The 30-minute flight is an ideal introduction to seaplane aviation. You’ll get aerial views of the city, parks, and beaches. The spray of water during takeoff and landing is exhilarating. It’s a tour that will make your visit to Vancouver unforgettable.
Vancouver Whale Watching Safari: You’ll take a speedboat safari in search of orcas (sometimes referred to as Killer Whales) where you have an incredible 85% chance of a sighting! Besides orcas, you also have a good chance of seeing seals, sea lions, and bald eagles.
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Indian Arm Half-Day Lunch Cruise from Vancouver: Cruise the calm inland waters of Indian Arm as you enjoy a buffet lunch and the majestic vistas that surround you. Choose the island that you dream of living on. It could become a reality as many of them are privately owned. Keep your eyes peeled for black bears, seals, and bald eagles.
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The Gulf Islands: Kayak Outing with Seaplane Experience: You’ll fly in a seaplane to Saltspring Island, discovering this island paradise between continental Canada and Vancouver Island. You’ll kayak in the calm coastal waters. Be sure to keep an eye out for bald eagles, seals, dolphins, and otters. This tour is an excellent way to immerse yourself in the world of wildlife found along the West Coast. It is an exciting activity to make the best of your visit to Vancouver.
Grouse Mountain and Capilano Suspension Bridge – This tour includes three of Vancouver’s most iconic outdoor attractions. You’ll climb Grouse Mountain for breathtaking views of the surrounding towns and mountains. You’ll also visit Stanley Park, a 1000 acre urban rainforest. Then, an exhilarating walk along the Capilano Suspension Bridge where you’ll get a bird’s eye view of old-growth forests and the Capilano River.
Fly & Dine to Bowen Island from Vancouver: You’ll be whisked off in style in a seaplane from Coal Harbour to the tranquil Bowen Island. Here, you’ll enjoy a seaside meal at Doc Morgan’s, famous for its fish and chips. Enjoy the ocean views before boarding a ferry back. You’ll then hop in a limousine to return to downtown Vancouver for a truly unforgettable evening. It is a pretty memorable thing to do when you visit Vancouver. You don’t want to miss one of the best points of interest in Vancouver.
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Victoria and Butchart Gardens: You’ll take the ferry across the Strait of Georgia. Keep watch for whales, seals, and bald eagles. Then you’re off to visit Butchart Gardens, considered to be one of the most beautiful public gardens in all of Canada. In addition, you’ll explore Victoria with a tour of some of the city’s most beautiful heritage buildings and a visit to Beacon Hill Park. There is plenty of time to enjoy one of the many cozy cafes that add to the character of this beautiful city.
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Whistler and Shannon Falls: This is one of the most scenic road trips you’ll ever take. You’ll start at Howe Sound making your way to the Coast Mountains along the Sea to Sky Highway. You’ll stop and revel in the majestic Shannon Falls before reaching Whistler, home to many events of the 2010 Olympics. Here you can explore eclectic shops, artisan cafes or explore one of the many hikes. Marvel at the incredible Mount Tantalus Glacier before returning to Vancouver. It is the perfect activity for a perfect visit to Vancouver. It is one of my favourite points of interest in Vancouver.
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In addition to exploring on your own, these are what I’d consider some of the highlights that you should get in when you visit Vancouver. You can find more tours here.
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Where to Stay When you Visit Vancouver
You’ll find no shortage of accommodation in Vancouver, but the good places do fill up, so once you know your travel dates book a hotel or an Airbnb. I book almost all my accommodation through Booking.com as I find they offer both great rates and a great selection of properties. In addition, you’ll find a flexible cancellation policy on many properties. There are some great places to stay that will make it easy for you to see the many points of interest in Vancouver.
This is the perfect place if you want to be in the middle of the action. You are most likely to find boutique and luxury hotels.
Top Pick: Pan Pacific Vancouver Hotel
Located on Vancouver’s waterfront, this 5-star luxury hotel offers a wellness spa, restaurant, and lounge. The Pan Pacific Vancouver offers guest rooms equipped with a coffee maker, minibar and beautiful private bathrooms. The hotel is pet-friendly and mats, food and water bowls are available at the hotel. It also offers a heated outdoor pool and a hot tub and sauna. The hotel is located 350m from the Waterfront Station Skytrain.
Top Pick: Blue Horizon Hotel
The Blue Horizon Hotel offers contemporary decor as well as an indoor pool and sauna. Corner guest rooms offer guests a balcony with wonderful city views. Guests can also enjoy the use of the steam room and fitness center as well as a business center and an onsite restaurant.
This district offers a young, cool hip vibe.
Top Pick: Skwachàys Lodge
Skwachàys Vancouver offers an Aboriginal theme. Each guest room comes equipped with a fridge as well as tea and coffee facilities. The hotel offers a unique 40-foot totem pole as well as a gift shop and Indigenous art gallery. The Stadium-Chinatown Skytrain station and Chinatown are both within 5 minutes’ walk away.
This is a popular yuppie hangout with lots of restaurants. It’s located close to the water, making it a great location for a seaside walk after dinner. It is a great place to stay if you plan on exploring Vancouver’s points of interest.
Top Pick: Opus Hotel
The Opus Hotel is a luxury hotel offering guests a restaurant and fitness center. The guest rooms feature vibrant decor, heated bathroom floors, and a Nespresso machine. Some rooms have a step-out terrace or a private courtyard. The hotels have an onsite restaurant and cocktails are served in the Opus Bar. Guests can also have in-room massages arranged for an extra charge. Bicycles are also available for use by guests.
Top Pick: Rosedale on Robson Suite Hotel
The Rosedale on Robson Suite Hotel features an indoor pool and a hot tub. This is an all-suite hotel a 5-minutes walk from BC Place Stadium. Each suite offers a fully equipped kitchenette, a seating area, and a desk. Guests can enjoy the on-site restaurant as well as a gym and a sauna. There is also a second-floor garden terrace where guests can relax and enjoy the views.
This district is very convenient if you’re travelling for business and is quieter than the others listed above. It offers fantastic views of the harbour and the North Shore Mountains.
Top Pick: EXchange Hotel Vancouver
The EXchange Hotel Vancouver features rooms with air conditioning and free wifi. It is located just 200 m from the Waterfront Centre Mall Vancouver and Vancouver Lookout at Harbour Centre. All guest rooms are spacious and decorated tastefully.
Top Pick: Auberge Vancouver Hotel
The Auberge Vancouver Hotel features an indoor pool, a sauna and free wifi. The guest’s rooms offer a refrigerator and a microwave. Guests can also enjoy a well-equipped fitness center a hot tub, and a Turkish bath. The hotel also offers table tennis and a squash court for entertainment. Enjoy fantastic views from select rooms. It is the perfect place to visit Vancouver’s points of interest.
This area is gritty and full of life. You’ll find a good selection of budget hotels here.
Top Pick: Granville Island Hotel
Located adjacent to Sutcliffe Park, the Granville Island Hotel offers a fitness center and seasonal bike rentals. Each of the guest rooms offers a stocked minibar and a coffee maker. Free wifi is also available throughout the property. All private bathrooms include free toiletries and a hairdryer.
How much does an average hotel in Vancouver cost?
According to Statista, the average price of a hotel room was $201 Canadian dollars in the second quarter of 2016.
Another alternative to staying in a hotel in Vancouver is to stay in an Airbnb. This is almost always my preferred option for stays of two or more days. You’ll find more than 300 properties ranging from penthouses, to private cottages, to cool studios and lofts. Use this link to receive a $30 credit on your Airbnb stay.
Travel to Vancouver
If you’re travelling to visit Vancouver from abroad, the easiest way to reach Vancouver is to fly into Vancouver International Airport which is well connected. From the airport, you can take a hotel shuttle or the rapid transit rail which brings you downtown in less than 30 minutes. I find the best deals on Skyscanner and book the majority of my flights through them.