Five outdoorsy places to enjoy in Vancouver, Canada

About fifteen years ago, I spent a few days in Vancouver, and loved it. I was living in suburban Osaka at the time, so the contrast to outdoorsy, fresh air Vancouver was pretty strong. Even if my trip did start off a bit dodgy (more on that below)*.

What struck me the most was that Vancouver reminded me of my hometown of Perth, Western Australia. It was similarly situated on the coast, had lots of parks and greenery, was really multicultural and everyone was friendly. Aside from the fact that it gets properly cold in winter, I could have moved to Vancouver on the spot.

5 Outdoorsy Things to Do in Vancouver Canada

Exploring the outdoors in Vancouver

Fast forward a couple of years and I met Charlotte, a colleague when I taught English in Bratislava. You might guess that I mention her because she’s Canadian, and currently back living on Vancouver Island in fact. When she stayed with us a couple of years ago my son and I decided that a trip to Vancouver was very much in our near future destiny, and although we haven’t got tickets booked quite yet, Charlotte was kind enough to suggest her top five Vancouver spots she thought we’d enjoy. Knowing us well, she picked mostly the outdoorsy spots with great views and fun walks and I want to do them all, now!

Stanley Park

I remember Stanley Park from my first trip to Vancouver and I adored it. Like Perth (here’s another similarity) it’s a massive green and wild space in the middle of the city, just like our Kings Park (only even more dramatic). Cities that manage to incorporate green space so perfectly are definitely my favourite kind of cities. Fifteen years on, what I remember most are the squirrels which inhabit Stanley Park, and my photographic record (back from my first digital camera!) confirms my fascination: nearly all squirrel photos.

Squirrel in Stanley Park, Vancouver, Canada

Squirrel in Stanley Park, Vancouver, Canada, way back in 2002

Charlotte recommends both exploring the inland part of Stanley Park, walking the circular Sea Wall and taking in the lookout at the Lion’s Gate Bridge. I definitely didn’t get to see all of this the first time and it looks incredible.

Sea Wall at Stanley Park in Vancouver, Canada

Sea Wall at Stanley Park in Vancouver, Canada via

Grouse Mountain

Charlotte’s next suggestion was to go up Grouse Mountain by cable car – she says you can walk, but knowing I have a seven-year-old in tow she did say it could be a bit of a slog. And cable cars are fun anyway. As well as getting incredible views and some nice walks up there, you can also find a grizzly bear sanctuary which sounds like just about the right way for me to see a bear. I still remember, in fact, visiting a souvenir shop in Vancouver (or possibly in Victoria on Vancouver Island, my memory is hazy) which included a life-sized stuffed bear and although I think it was supposed to look welcoming, just thinking about the size of bears terrified me. Here in Australia we might have a tonne of dangerous animals but they kill you much less ferociously!

Downtown Vancouver

I remember strolling through downtown Vancouver and feeling very comfortable there. I also remember loving the fact that I could still get great Japanese food there (you’d think I’d have had enough of it while I was living in Japan but no, I still craved it!) and Charlotte tells me the diversity of restaurants in Vancouver is amazing. (This is no surprise as even Wikipedia notes Vancouver is super-multicultural – in fact more than half of its residents have a non-English speaking background. This, in my experience, means delicious food everywhere!)

Downtown Vancouver back in 2002

Downtown Vancouver back in 2002

The planetarium and the science centre are great for kids and are in the city centre, Charlotte tells me, so they will also be high on my son’s list of things he wants to do in Vancouver.

Capilano Canyon

I’m sure I visited the Capilano Canyon on my 2002 trip to Vancouver, but I can’t seem to find photographic evidence (to which my friend Juno replied that she has photographic evidence of her Capilano Canyon visit – hence the gorgeous photo below!). In any case, I absolutely want to go again because it looks beautiful.  It’s got a huge suspension bridge to cross and is easy to get to, just across the Lion’s Gate Bridge – I love how even massive natural beauty is centrally located in Vancouver!

Capilano Suspension Bridge near Vancouver, Canada

Capilano Suspension Bridge near Vancouver, Canada via

Vancouver to Whistler

This fifth suggestion is not technically a Vancouver attraction … but it’s very attractive! The route between Vancouver and Whistler is incredible, Charlotte says, whether you by train or car, and recalling how my guest Brooke raved about the beauty at Whistler in a podcast episode on nature,  I can begin to imagine that there will be some of those literally breathtaking moments. If you go by car along the Sea-to-Sky Highway (Google maps tells me it’s really called that, how cool!), you can stop off at waterfalls, mountain lakes, ocean coves and all the rest – it sounds like one of those times when the journey is easily as significant as the destination.

Brandywine Falls Provincial Park on the Sea-to-Sky Highway in Canada

Brandywine Falls Provincial Park on the Sea-to-Sky Highway in Canada via

Vancouver trip planning

I’ve practically got homesickness for Vancouver from writing this post. And especially from chatting to Charlotte about it. Now I need to hunt down a way to make some extra cash for a plane fare to Vancouver (assuming I don’t kayak there), find a good Vancouver hotel (I won’t need one for Vancouver Island though, thanks Charlotte!), and get going.


* Yeah, so about that dodgy start to my first trip to Vancouver. Because you wouldn’t want to read this bit first. I went with my boyfriend at the time to visit one of his old friends who’d moved there from Perth. I knew him too, a good bloke. But he was a single bloke living on his own, in his twenties, and let’s just say hygiene wasn’t numero uno, and so the fact that the drain on his shower had been blocked for weeks hadn’t bothered him until he realised we were about to land. He’d stopped a hardware shop for a plunger thing on the way to the airport but when we got back to his apartment it didn’t quite do the job, so my first Vancouver shower was kind of like a bath, standing in the accumulated water as the shower added more. Not my finest moment but it helps me remember Vancouver as though it was yesterday. And from that low point, everything else was up, and I loved it wholeheartedly.



  1. Vancouver is amazing, isn’t it? I was lucky to be there last summer and I just couldn’t shake the fact how beautiful it was. No wonder it’s beloved by EVERYONE! Capilano Bridge Park was just amazing. I loved it there.

  2. I’m down in California right now, and seriously contemplating a road trip all the way to Vancouver. All these things look amazing, and would be well worth the drive. 🙂

    • And the bonus is there’s great stuff to see on the way too! But then again California is pretty good to start with. (Though I’d still rate Vancouver higher!)

  3. We spent about three days in Vancouver last year (2 at the beginning of our Canada road trip, 1 at the end before flying out that night). We hired bikes on the first day and rode around Stanley Park and the whole bay area – that was the most perfect way to deal with jetlag, enjoy some Canadian summer sun and see Vancouver from a different angle. It’s perfect bike riding place – bike lanes etc. everywhere (not sure how you’d go with a 7-year old though 🙂 )!

    We drove the Sea-to-Sky from Whistler back to Vancouver (since we started our trip from Vancouver Island up into the Yukon via ferries) and I must say that I thought it was really pretty from Squamish to Vancouver (but not so much the Whistler to Squamish leg). It’s a pretty busy highway though so as a driver you can’t gawk quite as much as you might like. 🙂

    We stayed at the Buchan Hotel, which is close to Stanley Park (accommodation is crazy expensive!) and really liked it. It’s old but has some lovely charm. You can book rooms with or without ensuites, we had both and I’d book one without ensuite again, it was fine.

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