Length of stay: 2 days
Visited: April 2022
Vancouver is one of the most picturesque cities in Canada. It is situated by the ocean, surrounded by mountains and is covered in greenery. It also has a mild climate all year round. If you can tolerate the rain, it’s the perfect place to enjoy city living at the edge of nature.
Day 1: Gardens and Viewpoints
We woke up super early to catch our flight from Toronto to Vancouver. This was our first time flying since the start of the pandemic and it felt weird being back at the airport. The amount of time spent waiting in lines was still about the same. After a five hour flight, we arrived in Vancouver just after 9a.m.
We picked up our rental car and were ready to see the sights. We were quick to understand why the west coast it’s commonly referred to as the wet coast as it was lightly raining outside. Not to worry as we came prepared with our rain jackets, rain pants and umbrella. We started at the VanDusen Botanical Garden, which features an extensive collection of trees, plants and flowers.
Spring was in full force in Vancouver. All the trees were budding, the grass was green and the spring flowers were starting to bloom. Even though it was lightly raining, it was quite pleasant outside. If anything, it probably helped keep the crowds away. We strolled through the various gardens which included native plants from British Columbia and from all over the world.
By the time we finished, the rain had subsided. After eating a quick snack in the car, we headed to the nearby Queen Elizabeth Park to enjoy more of the spring blossoms (for free this time). We parked along the street and walked through the park which is situated on top of Little Mountain, the highest point in Vancouver. Its main attraction is its beautiful gardens which are located in a former quarry. The landscaping was exceptional.
The Queen Elizabeth Park also contains the Bloedel Conservatory, which houses several exotic birds, plants and flowers.
Since the clouds were clearing, we drove to West Vancouver to go for a hike at Lighthouse Park. There’s a whole network of trails here that connect to form a shorter or longer route depending on how much time you want to spend hiking. We first hiked along the Beacon Lane Trail. The path is wide and paved and leads to an overlook of the Point Atkinson Lighthouse. Except the views weren’t the greatest.
Another hiker told us that the path continues to the rocky shore for a better view of the lighthouse. So that’s what we did. We followed along the West Beach Trail which leads to a scenic overlook of the lighthouse and rocky shoreline.
From there we hiked along the Shore Pine Trail, which follows the coastline through the forest and features a few scenic overlooks of the water. Let’s be real though, the entire trail was one big scenic viewpoint as the trees themselves were spectacular. Since the park’s forest has never logged, many of the trees are over 100 years old. The trail connects with the Juniper Loop, which we followed for a few hundred metres to get back to the parking lot.
We then drove to Whytecliff Park to enjoy more of the scenery and views of the ocean. This spot is apparently popular for shore diving and we even saw a few people in dry suits in the water. We went for a short stroll along the beach and just soaked in the views.
Afterwards we visited the Cleveland Dam. It was built in 1954 to create a dependable source of clean drinking water for Vancouver. While there are a few trails in the area, we were getting tired. Plus we still had one last activity on our itinerary for the day. We just walked along the bridge to see the dam.
Our last stop of the day was at the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which features a few adventurous trails through the forest and a 140 metre suspension bridge over the Capilano River. We purchased tickets in advance for one of the last time slots in the day in an effort to avoid the crowds.
The initial suspension bridge was built in 1889 by Scottish businessman George Grant Mackay, who also purchased 6,000 acres on either side of the Capilano River. The bridge and part of the land has changed hands a few times over the years and underwent several improvements. Despite these improvements, the suspension bridge still sways. It was a good preview for the other trails.
Once we crossed the bridge, we headed to the Treetop Adventure which contains a series of seven suspension bridges attached to eight very old and very wide Douglas-firs. There are also viewing platforms that wrap around each tree to provide views into the forest below.
We then walked along the Nature’s Edge Boardwalk which loops through the ancient forest. There are a few signs along the way that provided more information about the types of trees found in the forest.
We crossed the suspension bridge again to check out the last trail in the park, the Cliffwalk. The narrow path extends along the edge of a granite cliff above the Capilano River and provides nice views of the surrounding area.
And with that we were done for the day … or rather mostly done for the day. We planned to visit K’s uncle and aunt who live in North Vancouver for dinner.
Day 2: Stanley Park
The nice thing about having a long day yesterday was that we slept really well that night. We woke up bright and early and had no issues adjusting to the time change. After eating breakfast, we headed out to Stanley Park. The forecast was calling for nice weather so we were eager to start exploring.
We parked near Coal Harbour and walked along the seawall towards Stanley Park. The path was wide, paved and provided nice views in every direction. We had mountains to the right, skyscrapers to the left, and the ocean straight ahead.
We continued along the seawall and after a couple of kilometres, we had reached Stanley Park, an urban forest that is nestled at the western tip of downtown Vancouver that contains several trails that wind through the ancient rainforest. We planned to walk the entire stretch of the seawall around the outer perimeter of the park, which is about 9km in length. The path is paved and mainly flat and provides fabulous views of the Vancouver skyline, Lions Gate Bridge and a few sandy beaches.
Along the way we passed a few points of interest, including: a display of totem poles, the Brock Point Lighthouse, Girl in a Wetsuit statue, Prospect Point and Siwash Rock.
Our game plan was to walk along the entire seawall, however we came across a few of these detour signs as we neared the Lions Gate Bridge and it looked like part of the path along the seawall was blocked off. A section of the seawall was damaged back in January 2022 during a storm and was temporarily closed. When we checked the city’s website it mentioned that there were no closures in Stanley Park, but we noticed that everyone else was taking the detour, so we followed the crowds.
While the seawall was paved and flat, the detour path was the complete opposite. There were steep hills (as in multiple ups and downs) and we were huffing and a puffing. The path winds through the dense forest, which provided some protection from the sun. Eventually the detour connects back with the seawall at the Third Beach. We followed this the rest of the way to Sunset Beach.
From Sunset Beach, we walked through the downtown and admired all the skyscrapers, many of which had trees, bushes and other greenery planted on the rooftops and terraces. Since we still had some free time, we decided to check out the Vancouver Art Gallery, which was a bit underwhelming.
We continued meandering around downtown and walked through the Gastown neighbourhood and Canada Place to get back to where we parked.
We then returned to K’s aunt and uncle’s place for another family dinner. The next morning we planned to take the ferry across to Vancouver Island.