My parents joined me, from Paris, to visit the cities of Vancouver and Victoria, in British Columbia, Canada. 3 days is far too short, but we managed to get a feel of the area. I loved it and will be back for a longer stay one day to get a taste of living there.
DAY 1 – Capilano Suspencion Bridge & Grouse Mountain
Vancouver is one of this amazing city where you can take a walk on the beach after your morning coffee and still be on the ski slopes after lunch. And the mountain is not only for winter. At Grouse Mountain Resort, there is a bunch of summer activities: Hiking, visiting the bears of the Wildlife Refuge, going in a wind turbine! (I recommend it!)…
We spent the entire first day exploring Grouse Mountain and visiting Capilano Suspension Bridge. I have to warn you guys: Capilano Bridge was overcrowded. So much so that I didn’t enjoy my visit… It is beautiful but the fact that we were literally « Waiting in line to hike » was very disappointing.
We made a stop at Capilano River Hatchery on the way to the mountain resort and it was quite interesting. It is free, and you’ll get a chance to see their hybrid Fish Ladder/Aquarium that let’s you see the salmons jumping up the fish ladder from the side.
DAY 2 – Victoria & The Butchart Gardens
Many think Vancouver is the capital of British Columbia, but this title belongs to Victoria. It’s a picture-postcard city that can’t hide its British ancestry: tearooms, horse carriages and double-decker buses are common there. I can’t advise enough discovering this city by foot. If you feel more adventurous, rent a bike and go explore further: you can get to the beautiful ocean or mountain sceneries of Vancouver Island.
Butchart Gardens is half an hour north of Victoria by car or shuttle. Botanical gardens are not usually on the top of my list of attraction when visiting a country, but Butchart is worth a stop if you have any interest in the botanical art. The Sunken Garden, The Japanese Garden and the Rose Garden were my favorite.
The easiest way to get to Victoria from Vancouver is via BC Ferries. You’ll navigate through the Gulf Islands of the Strait of Georgia. It’s pretty majestic! But the departing harbor is far from downtown Vancouver and will get you to Swartz Bay, way north from Victoria. You can get a Bus to Victoria but overall it is NOT easy. For once, I would highly advise going through a tour operator to organize a day-trip to Victoria if you are staying in Vancouver and are on a tight schedule like we were.
A last solution is to go by seaplane! It’s very expensive but I’m sure it’s a memory of a lifetime.
DAY 3 – Downtown Vancouver & Stanley Park
Vancouver really appealed to me. The downtown is small enough that you can explore it by foot, but it is very lively with lots of restaurants, bars and shops.
Stanley Park, bordering the city, is absolutely stunning. You can walk or bike around the entire park, with breathtaking views of the mountains and the bay. Among its numerous attractions are a rideable miniature railway, the Beaver Lake, the Lost Lagoon, the Vancouver Aquarium. It’s easy to spend too much time in Stanley Park. Go there once you’ve seen the rest of what Vancouver has to offer.
A couple of must-do and tips:
- Go check out Granville Island. It used to be an industrial peninsula, home to factories and plants, but has been transformed into a paradise for Foodies. There is a public market -housed indoors-, many restaurants, shops, a theater and two local breweries.
- If you are not allergic to ultra touristy attraction and love immersive video experiences, try FlyOver Canada at the end of the Canada Place waterfront building. I’m rarely impressed by these « 4D » flight simulators. But I have to admit this one is breathtaking.
- If you plan on visiting the Vancouver Lookout (from where I shot several of the pictures you can find below) the adult ticket is $16.25 but you go up for free if you are eating at their revolving restaurant. The room is rotating slowly so you enjoy the entire surrounding view while eating, 553 feet high. The main dishes are around $22-$25 for lunch and $33-$40 for dinner, so getting there at lunch time, considering the price of just getting up in the tower is « saved », it’s a decent deal.