Travel Guide - 2 Weeks in British Columbia Part 1
Updated: Jan 4, 2019
I'd always heard incredible things about the natural beauty of the West coast of Canada but seeing really is believing. From jaw-dropping scenic views and coming face to face with the region's wildlife, to washing down fresher than fresh sockeye salmon sashimi with an unrelenting offer of locally brewed beer, it is a trip I will cherish for many, many years to come!
Our Route -
When you hail from somewhere as small as the UK, it is very easy to forget how vast other countries and regions are; this is something my partner had to remind me time and time again when I repeatedly tried (and failed) to fit all of British Columbia into just over 2 weeks. It is just not doable; the province is absolutely massive covering an impressive 944,735 km², almost 4 times the size of the UK. So where, pray tell, does one start?! With help from friends from the area, it seemed clear that based on our interests, we had 3 main choices when starting from Vancouver: go West to Vancouver Island, north to the ancient islands that include the Gwaii Haanas park, or East through wine country with perhaps a short jaunt into neighbouring Alberta and around. After weeks of deliberation, we settled on Vancouver Island but added a short trip up to Whistler at the very end of the trip, as pictured above.
But whichever direction you take, I have it under good authority that you won't be even a little disappointed with what's in store for you!
Blissfully manageable but filled with options, Vancouver really is a great city!
(1) Take a Harbour Air Seaplane over the city -
Setting off from Vancouver central, we paid the equivalent of £80 ( ~$100) each for a 25-minute sea plane experience over the city. For sweeping views of the downtown and surrounding ocean and mountains, it is an absolute must-do! NB: If, like me, you are a bit of a nervous flier, I genuinely have never had a smoother flight in my life!
(2) Stanley Park
Covering a staggering 405-hectares, Stanley Park is a public park that is only a short walking distance from the bordering downtown of Vancouver. It is almost entirely surrounded by ocean and is home to beautiful walking trails, lakes, a First Nations cultural centre and totem poles, and the city's aquarium!
Suspended at 230ft (70m), the Capilano Suspension Bridge rocks fairly terrifyingly as you pass over the river far below to explore more of the surrounding national park. The experience also includes the sturdier-yet-narrower cliff walk from which we watched in horror as a tourist ahead of us lost their phone over the sheer drop sides. If you buy your ticket in downtown Vancouver near Canada Place, they provide a free shuttle to and from the park for your convenience!
Every person I spoke to pre-trip insisted that at some point on our adventure we check out Tofino-born Tacofino, the 'masters of the taco'. There are now a number of them dotted about the city and over on Vancouver Island and I can confirm that everyone was right and that these really are the best street food tacos you'll ever get your hungry mitts on!
Top tip - try the chicken tacos w/ pickled carrot & daikon, black chili mayo, sriracha, cabbage, cilantro + jalapeños, AND the nachos but skip the guacamole from the latter which was the only disappointing thing we got our chops around!
(5) Granville Island
Once a centre for industrial manufacturing, this area has been repurposed into a quaint shopping area filled with restaurants, bars, shops and a fantastic fresh produce/ready-to-eat food market! Located directly south of downtown acoss a small strait of ocean, grab one of the speedy rainbow decorated aqua buses to reach the other side! Make sure you keep your eyes peeled for nosey seals that are known to pop up now and again for our enjoyment! (6) Gastown
The original settlement of Gastown later grew to become the city of Vancouver that exists today. It is charming with it's Victorian architecture, steam whistle clock and array of eateries, but venture too far south and you end up in a slightly dodgy area that you'd be best to avoid!
(7) Main Street Breweries
The most resounding thought I had when returning home to London was that Canada needs to do a better job of positioning itself as a hotspot for craft beer. It is honestly everywhere. During our 2-week trip across the province, we visited no less than 17 independent breweries and I can easily say we didn't even begin to scratch the surface. The northern most area around Main St and Mount Pleasant is teeming with craft brews, our favourites of each were R&B, 33 Acres, Brewhall and Brassneck brewing co's.
Once the Western terminus for the Canadian Pacific Railway, its old warehouse buildings have now been repurposed into arguably the city's hippest neighbourhood complete with restaurants, cocktail bars, buzzing terraces, and trendy boutiques. Whilst we only had a brief time here, I'd go as far as saying it was my favourite downtown spot!
(9) Grouse Mountain...
...or the 'Peak of Vancouver', is one of the city's most popular attractions. Rising 1,250 metres above the city, it is a vast alpine park ripe for exploring! During the 10-minute Red Skyride, you get the opportunity to see the sprawling city below and when at the top can enjoy restaurants, bars and trails, all with exceptional views!
(10) Peaceful Restaurants
Absolutely nothing to look at, those not in the know would likely walk on straight past a branch of this Northern Chinese restaurant chain. Fortunately a friend had stumbled upon them on the search for dim sum and could not stop raving about the menu! Easily some of the best food Chinese I've had, their dan dan noodles were deliciously peanutty, spicy and gloriously chewy. Gimme!
(11) Richmond Night Market...
...is an annual night market held through the summer months and is the go to place for all things Asian and seafood. Get there at sunset and peruse stand after stand of incredible and authentic street food treats including octopus takoyaki, Korean fried chicken, squid and deep fried ice cream...all of the healthy options. I’d say a definite must visit!
And there you have it, my favourite top 11 tips for a trip to Vancouver City. We were lucky to start and end our British Columbian adventure in this stunning city and I am so eager to go back!
Our next stop was Vancouver Island...recommendations to follow soon in Part 2!