Vancouver Day Trips

Grouse Mountain
Grouse Mountain © Paul Williams

Grouse Mountain

On Vancouver's north shore is the year-round mountaintop playground of Grouse Mountain, just a 15-minute drive from the downtown area across the Lions Gate Bridge. Ascending the mountain is part of the adventure in the Super Skyride, a passenger tram that glides up the steep mountain slopes carrying visitors up 3,700ft (1,100m) above sea level in just eight minutes. At the top, apart from magical views of the city below, is the Theatre in the Sky, which offers a high-tech presentation about Vancouver. There is also a cedar longhouse called the Hiwus Feasthouse that offers the chance to experience native West Coast culture with displays of dancing, storytelling, chanting, and native cuisine. There are hiking trails up the side of Grouse Mountain and on the east side one of them features the Grouse Grind, which is billed as the world's biggest stair-climb. Mountain biking is also a popular pursuit on the mountainside, as is, of course, skiing and snowboarding in the winter months.

Address: 6400 Nancy Greene Way, North Vancouver; Website: www.grousemountain.com



Capilano Suspension Bridge
Capilano Suspension Bridge © David Davies

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Built in 1889, the Capilano Suspension Bridge is one of the Vancouver's oldest and most popular tourist attractions. With plenty of activities and sights in the park, there are endless opportunities for park visitors. Stretching 450 feet (137m) across and perched 230 feet (70m) above the Capilano River, the bridge was originally made of cedar planks and hemp rope. But now, it's a more sturdy construction of reinforced steel and concrete; though still not for the faint-hearted. A recent addition to the park is the Treetops Adventure, where elevated suspension bridges allow visitors a spectacular view of the rainforest, while they walk above the forest floor between Douglas fir trees. Other attractions in the park include a story centre; a First Nations Cultural Centre where visitors can see carvers, weavers, and beaders at work; a large collection of First Nations Totem Poles; and guided tours of the rainforest. Admission includes all these sights and activities, and there are also several food options and a shop.

Address: 3735 Capilano Road, North Vancouver; E-mail: info@capbridge.com; Website: www.capbridge.com; Telephone: (604) 985 7474; Opening time: Varies according to season.; Admission: $46 adults, $15 children, other concessions available.



Gulf Islands
Gulf Islands © BCIT School of Business International Exchange Program

Gulf Islands

Tucked in the Strait of Georgia, in between Vancouver Island and the mainland, are the picturesque Gulf Islands. More than a dozen of these long, thin islands, and numerous islets, can be found on Canada's West Coast and each island has its own character and beauty, making them well worth a visit.

The islands are home to artists, writers, retirees, and those seeking a more community-based lifestyle, with many Vancouverites escaping to holiday homes tucked in the rainforest. Large parts of the islands have been designated as marine parks, preserving the land for the numerous native birds and animals.

Bowen Island is only a 20-minute ferry ride from West Vancouver's Horseshoe Bay and visitors can enjoy a stroll from Snug Harbour, past the historic Union Steamship Company store, grab a bite to eat, or take a walk in the Crippen Regional Park.

Galiano Island is the second biggest of the group and is about the size of Manhattan Island in New York. Only 50 minutes away on the Tsawassen Ferry on the Lower Mainland, Galiano Island draws all sorts of visitors who come to picnic in Bellhouse Park; take a walk through the lush rainforest up to Bluffs Park to enjoy spectacular views of neighbouring Islands; indulge in a spot of fishing, kayaking, or golf; or visit one of the local galleries or shops. Many of the islands host events and festivals each year, where the community spirit and laidback atmosphere typical of the Gulf Islands is evident.

Website: www.gulfislandsguide.com



The San Juan harbour
The San Juan harbour © Rob Annis

San Juan Islands

The San Juan Islands form one of the best boater paradises in the world. The hundreds of islands are separated by nationality but are part of the same scenic and rugged archipelago, located off the northwest coast of Washington State.

Much of the area is in a rain shadow behind Vancouver Island, making a surprisingly dry and sunny reprieve in the northwest. Little island communities, great wildlife, and the open water provide a real and intuitive disconnect from the mainland.

Frequent government ferry services connect the mainland and larger inhabited islands to each other, but others can only be visited by smaller shuttle boats and yachts. Friday Harbour is San Juan's largest town and an enchanting tourist destination. Anchorages are bustling throughout summer, but largely empty in other seasons. Yacht charters are available out of Bellingham.

Othello Tunnels
Othello Tunnels © Roddy Keetch

Othello Tunnels

Home to the celebrated Othello Tunnels, the Coquihalla Provincial Park lies just outside the town of Hope and about an hour's drive east of Vancouver. This quintet of railway tunnels which traverse the steep-sided Coquihalla Gorge were built for the Kettle Valley Railway and today offer visitors a fascinating insight into the history of the area, as well as a wonderfully scenic and unique hiking experience.

While the Othello Tunnels themselves are dark and dank (flashlights are recommended), the two-mile (3.5km) railway trail also crosses above thundering rapids and cuts through impressive, nearly 1,000-foot (300-metre) granite rock faces. The Othello Tunnels are an accessible and highly rewarding day trip from Vancouver, offering visitors of all ages a great mix of exercise and adventure.

Address: Just outside Hope, BC – about 95 miles (150km) east of Vancouver; Website: www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/coquihalla_cyn/