5 Best Day Trips from Vancouver
Vancouver is a magnificent city, it is simply undeniable. The backdrop of mountains combined with the coastal shores of the Pacific Ocean plus the attractive downtown core means that Vancouver is the kind of city where people actually want to be. That said, spending any trip to Vancouver BC entirely in the city would be a mistake since there are so many excellent day trips from Vancouver that are worth making the extra effort for.
Here is a curated list of some of the best Vancouver day trips:
Day trips from Vancouver – Visit the Mountains for a Day Trip to Whistler
A day trip to Whistler and its surrounding mountains is a no-brainer for anybody visiting Vancouver. An easy 90-minute drive north of the city follows the spectacular Sea to Sky Highway along the Howe Sound until Squamish. Leaving the Sea for the Sky, the road climbs until the mountains are everywhere and the air even smells fresh.
Whistler Mountain provides great skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing opportunities for all levels, but even in the summer, Whistler is a lovely place to spend a day is one of the best day trips from Vancouver. Hiking, white water rafting, mountain biking, off-roading, and kayaking are all fun ways to take in the mountain scenery and escape from the city rush. Whistler has also become a haven for those seeking unique galleries, local Indigenous art and heritage, and cultural history museums. The Audain Gallery and the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre are fascinating venues for appreciating the unique and rich cultures of the Pacific Northwest.
Day trips from Vancouver – Sail on the Ferry to Victoria on Vancouver Island
Victoria is the provincial capital of British Columbia, but it also reigns as Vancouver’s smaller, though classier, island sister. Victoria is a town that holds onto its English roots, and the pace of life is just a bit slower and more relaxed. Beautiful coastal walks, sailing trips, and whale watching are the best ways to appreciate Victoria, though visits to the Royal BC Museum and Butchart Gardens are high on my lists too.
Despite its size, Victoria is well known locally for a fantastic arts scene and excellent dining options, featuring of course fresh seafood as well as many vegetarian options. Walk along the Inner Harbour area to take in the musical buskers and check out local artisans. If you arrive in the summer, kayaking trips leave from the Inner Harbour regularly to explore the varied sea life of the shoreline. And if you’re really into the ocean drama, great though chilly, scuba diving can be found in many spots in and around Victoria.
A trip to Victoria from Vancouver is a big day, so leave early to catch a morning BC Ferry and you can manage to have a good portion of your day to explore the city. Another option is to fly from Downtown Vancouver to the Inner Harbour on the seaplanes operated by Harbour Air. The 35-minute flight will save you loads of time and headache, freeing you up to spend more of your day wandering this enchanting town.
Day trips from Vancouver – Tour the Fraser Valley Wineries
In recent years, the Fraser Valley, long known as the suburbs of Vancouver, has exploded as a winery powerhouse, home to over 30 vineyards and 15 wineries. Many of these wineries have tasting rooms or fine dining establishments, all located in beautiful rural settings.
Talk to a local Vancouverite, and they may say the Fraser Valley is very far away. In reality, and speaking as someone who grew up in the Valley, the Fraser Valley is an easy hour drive from downtown Vancouver. Most of the wineries are located in the South Langley and Aldergrove areas, regions well known for country living, horse barns, and great views of the mountains.
Most of the wineries I have visited are completely family friendly, with picnic areas and some even with small play areas for the little ones.
Day trips from Vancouver – Explore the Island Life on Galiano Island
Looking again towards the ocean, Galiano Island is one of the dozens of Gulf Islands, the small islands wedged between Vancouver Island and the mainland. Galiano is a special place though, as it is easy to reach by ferry from Vancouver, but upon arrival, you feel so far away from the city you may forget to return.
A pristine sample of the West Coast, Galiano has beautiful hiking trails, scenic coastal lookouts and parks, beautiful beaches, and the lovely old-growth forest full of the wild rainforest. Folks who live on Galiano are generally pretty laid back, appreciating the natural beauty of their surroundings and often contributing to the very strong local arts and music scene. There are excellent, though few, dining spots, so it is best to pack a picnic and just eat alfresco on the beach or atop Mount Galiano, one of the best views on the island.
Galiano Island is a 45-minute ferry ride from Vancouver’s Tsawwassen ferry terminal, making it the closest of the Gulf Islands. Many folks bring their bikes to Galiano, though be warned the island is rarely flat and the roads have very little in the way of shoulders or sidewalks.
Day trips from Vancouver – See Seattle, our Sister city to the South
Much like Vancouver, Seattle is a lovely city skirted by the active Pacific Ocean and lovely urban character. A 3-hour drive from Vancouver, Seattle may seem to be a way off, but the city is easily sampled in a day and the Bolt Bus is an excellent and frugal connector of these two West Coast gems.
Seattle’s city ethos is heavy on music, style, nature, and coffee. Hit up Pike Place Market for excellent people watching, fresh flowers, and organic treats, especially in terms of locally produced cheese, seafood, and chocolate. The Flying Fishmarket is a landmark in the market itself, and if you’re lucky enough to see a fish being thrown through the air, you’ll know you’re really in Seattle.
The original Starbucks is just down the street from the Market, as is the renowned Gum Wall. A massive Ferris wheel is located down on the waterfront and is a fun way to view more of the city and see out towards West Seattle on a clear day.
The Experience Music Exhibit is an absolute must for any music fan or aficionado. With both revolving exhibits and the permanent Jimmy Hendrix expo, the EMP is fun for all ages. Combine a visit to the EMP with a trip up the 158-meter tall Space Needle, Seattle iconic landmark since the World’s Fair in 1962. Any skyline shot of Seattle is incomplete without the Space Needle, and while it attracts over 20,000 people a day, there is very good reason to visit, especially on a sunny day.
Visiting Vancouver, British Columbia
Growing up in the Vancouver area, I absolutely love this part of the world and I am very proud to call it home. Vancouver is a city of style, charm, natural beauty, and laidback friendliness.
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Truly an outdoors person’s paradise, Vancouver has so much to offer every month of the year. But do make sure to find your way outside of Vancouver proper and explore more of the breathtaking Pacific Northwest!
How many of these day trips from Vancouver have you done? Which one is your favorite?
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