Besides being the city in which I was born and raised, Vancouver is one of my favorite places to be. Since moving to Hong Kong a few years ago, we go back every summer to visit family and friends and to simply enjoy all that Vancouver has to offer.
(If you're looking for restaurant suggestions, be sure to read my post on Where To Eat In Vancouver for ideas!)
This post is primarily about our most recent summer trip to Vancouver. However, I'm also including a little bit from our 2015 and 2016 summer trips. I didn't have a blog back then where I could write about them, and I feel as if those trips are still recent enough that I want to include them in this one! Our visits to Vancouver are usually for about 10 days, which isn't a lot of time to see everything. So by including pictures and information from the previous two years, you can have a better idea of what is there. Consider this a travel post that covers three trips to the same destination!
My boys love Vancouver, although their opinion is slightly skewed since we are always there at the best time of the year...summer! They seem to think that Vancouver is always sunny and mild, where you can always go for strolls after dinner, and it doesn't get dark until 10pm. Obviously, they are completely clueless! However, that being said, they still love all that Vancouver has to offer, and they love spending time with their grandmother, aunts and uncles, and cousins.
Geographically speaking, here is where Vancouver is located in relation to all of Canada:
...and here is a closeup of where the city of Vancouver is located, in relation to the Greater Vancouver area. The term "Greater Vancouver" refers to the surrounding cities and municipalities such as Burnaby, Richmond, West and North Vancouver, Surrey, and White Rock. All of these areas are easy to get to and worth exploring if you have the time.
My family and friends are, obviously, a major draw to the city for me. However, I also love Vancouver for its mild climate, beautiful scenery, abundance of things to do, vast selection of restaurants...and lack of cockroaches. 😉 Alas, I digress...
If you're thinking of visiting Vancouver, here is just a small sampling of things this beautiful city by the water has to offer!
Granville Island is situated right underneath the Granville Bridge that spans over False Creek. It is an area made up of a wide variety of shops and businesses that highlight local crafts, artisans, and foods. It is also home to the Emily Carr University of Art and Design, and Ocean Concrete is the oldest and largest tenant there! Yes, there is a cement plant right in Granville Island!
Granville Island boasts beautiful scenic outdoor spaces. Visitors can enjoy views of Granville Bridge, Burrard Bridge, and False Creek, all while listening to local musicians, eating a snack, or feeding the pigeons.
Another highlight of Granville Island is its Public Market. Inside a big warehouse-like building, you will find fresh meats and locally caught fish. Additionally, you will see the most amazing fruits, vegetables. I can't help but take photos of the fruit whenever I visit because it all looks. So. Good! And much of it is locally grown!
But wait! There's more!
If you want sweets, there is plenty of that, too, in the Public Market. The grand displays of fresh breads, treats, and desserts are mouth-watering!
If all that food is making you hungry, go grab lunch or a snack at one of the several restaurants in the market. Again, these are local businesses, and there are so many choices, you won't know how you can pick just one. There is a limited seating area, however, and finding a table can be a bit of a challenge during peak times. Alas, if you exercise some patience, you'll be able to score a place to sit.
Alternatively, take your food and head on outside to enjoy it!
Read more about Granville Island on their own website for more information.
University of British Columbia (UBC)
About a 30 minute drive from downtown Vancouver, you can go visit the University of British Columbia. Easily accessible by car, public transportation, or bicycle(!), UBC is almost a city on its own and is a beautiful sprawling campus to walk around. It also happens to be my husband's and my Alma Mater.
The campus is full of walking paths lined with beautiful trees, with vehicles restricted to the perimeter of the main campus.
The Student Nest, also known as the Student Union Building (affectionately called "The SUB") houses a number of restaurants and offers plenty of comfortable seating if you want to take a break. Even if it's raining outside, the big wall of windows let in plenty of natural light.
While you walk around campus, you see a harmonious blend of the old architecture and the new. Above is original central section of the Main Library, one of the first three buildings built on the UBC campus back in the 1920's...
...and it faces the more modern looking Koerner Library, built in 1995 and opened in 1997.
Walk down Main Mall, or the central boulevard between all the faculty buildings, all the way to the end...
...and you see the campus Rose Gardens, the sea and Bowen Island in the distance. Can you see why we like coming back here, even though it's been YEARS since we were students here?
After you've visited UBC, drive a short 10 minutes and you are at Spanish Banks. This is, perhaps, my favorite place in Vancouver, and I always make a point of going when we visit.
I used to drive down to Spanish Banks quite often when I was a student at UBC. During the cooler winter months, I would sit in the parking lot and either study or eat lunch, and just look out at the water. I love the calm and tranquil setting Spanish Banks offers.
Before you head out, check out the tide timetable online at Tides Chart. You can find out what the tide levels are for every day, as well as water temperature and fishing times. If the timing works out, get down to to Spanish Banks when the tide is at its lowest and walk out from the beach way out to the water's edge!
Or find a log on the beach to lean up against (my favorite thing to do) and simply enjoy your surroundings...and breathe. 🙂
You even get a great view of downtown Vancouver and the city skyline.
Weekends are obviously busier than weekdays, but even so, it's not difficult to find a log or an empty patch of sand to plant yourself.
Hike To Quarry Rock
People love being outdoors in Vancouver. You will often see volleyball games happening at various beaches, kayakers and boaters, people running and jogging, and cyclists everywhere. One of the best ways to enjoy the natural beauty here is by foot. There are no shortage of walking and hiking trails in and around Greater Vancouver. Whether by the water, or up in the mountains, the options are plentiful.
One hike worth mentioning is the Quarry Rock Hike in Deep Cove in North Vancouver. My niece took us to this trail this summer and we really enjoyed it.
The drive to Deep Cove is about a 30-40 minute drive from downtown Vancouver. Once we found parking, we made our way to the trail head and started on our hike.
This trail, which is a combination of dirt paths and steps, will take you through a beautiful forest area.
While it's a relatively easy hike, don't go too quickly and be sure to stop and appreciate the beauty around you. Remember, it's the journey and not just the destination!
After hiking for about an hour or so, you will finally reach Quarry Rock and get beautiful views of the Indian Arm inlet.
This trail is quite popular and can get crowded at times. We started our hike about mid-morning and were done by lunch time and the crowds weren't bad. My niece has also gone first thing in the morning when there are even fewer people. Either way, it's worth a visit if you want to get out for some fresh air!
The beautiful waters right next to Granville Island is False Creek. Boats abound, as well as kayakers, and if you're lucky you can see dragon boat teams in training.
False Creek boasts a beautiful seawall path that you can join from Granville Island. Enjoy a walk or run along this paved path that hugs False Creek...
...or rent a Mobi Bike and cycle down the path!
You will get to enjoy many beautiful views of the water and skyline, no matter how you decide to take the path.
The seawall takes you past the Olympic Village area, another happening area with shops and restaurants, where you also get views of the Northshore Mountains and Science World.
We went for a walk along the seawall after dinner (because it doesn't get dark until 10pm!) and it was a perfect way to spend an evening.
English Bay is a popular beach on the west side of downtown Vancouver. It is also is considered a natural extension of the infamous Stanley Park, a 405 hectare park on the edge of downtown. The beach at English Bay is full of activity in the summer, and offers beautiful views of the bay, the surrounding mountains, and Bowen Island in the distance.
English Bay is also where fireworks shows happen. There are several great vantage points around those waters, but being right at English Bay offers the best seat in the house .
The photo below is of the crowds at English Bay before a Celebration of Light fireworks show, an annual summer event in the city. We were lucky enough to be in Vancouver when one of the shows was happening (there are 4 each summer) and it was a great evening. We saved a spot on the grass, then walked to a nearby restaurant and got take-out Japanese food to eat. Then we sat and ate and simply enjoyed the atmosphere until it was showtime.
And you just can't beat the sunset views from English Bay.
Did I mention that it doesn't get dark in Vancouver until 10pm in the summer???
If you happen to time your visit to Vancouver during the end of July, beginning of August, be sure to check out the schedule for the Celebration of Light Fireworks Shows. It's worth going to check it out!
While English Bay and the beach is on the west side of downtown Vancouver, Coal Harbour is more on the north and is also right near Stanley Park. Coal Harbour is where you will find Canada Place, where large cruise ships arrive into port. If you're lucky enough to see a cruise ship docked at Canada Place, it will look as if the cruise ship and the terminal are one, partially thanks to the distinctive white sails on the building. The Pan Pacific Hotel is also attached to Canada Place.
There are restaurants with great views of the water...
...and you can see sea planes landing and taking off. These sea planes travel to nearby destinations and offer aerial tours of the area.
And of course, you can't go to Coal Harbour and not stop to see the Olympic Cauldron. This landmark was built for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games were held in Vancouver. The torches at the top of the cauldron are still occasionally lit for special occasions, like Canada Day on July 1st.
Seabus to Lonsdale Quay
If you're looking for something different and a new experience, hop on the Sea Bus from Waterfront Station in downtown Vancouver and head over to Lonsdale Quay Market!
Lonsdale Quay Market is similar to Granville Island Public Market, but on a smaller scale. Local artisans and businesses are featured here as well, and fresh foods are a plenty. While you can get to Lonsdale Quay by car, it is way more fun to take the Seabus!
The seabus ride from downtown Vancouver to Lonsdale Quay is about 30 minutes and ferries run frequently throughout the day. It is a different perspective
The Greater Vancouver area has no shortage of beaches and waterfront access. If you have a free day, about a 45 minute drive from downtown Vancouver is White Rock. It is just north of the Canada-US border and is a cozy beachside town, full of charm and character.
Perhaps the biggest attraction to White Rock is its beach. Visit during low tide, like we did, and you can walk out quite a ways from the shore.
Besides beautiful views of the water, you can also see the majestic Mount Baker in the distance on a clear day. It is easy to spot, with it often being covered in snow, even in the summer.
The beach is also right next to train tracks that separate it from the houses on the hill. It's not uncommon to be sitting on the beach while freight or passenger trains roll on through. Be sure to wave!
There are many more things to see and do in and around Vancouver than what I mention here. However, I don't necessarily see and do everything when we are there for ten days in the summer! That being said, here is a partial list of what else you can (and should try to) do when you visit this beautiful city:
Downtown is where you will find English Bay and Coal Harbour as mentioned above. But make sure you also check out Robson Street, Yaletown, and Vancouver's downtown jewel, Stanley Park.
Other great areas to visit that are outside of downtown Vancouver are Cypress Mountain, Grouse Mountain, Whistler Mountain, Queen Elizabeth Park, Steveston Village in Richmond, Ambleside Beach in West Vancouver... You can even hop a ferry and head over to Vancouver Island for the day! For even more ideas and information, check out Tourism Vancouver!
I hope you enjoyed reading about our recent trip(s) to Vancouver and about what there is to do there! Leave me a comment below if you go or tell me what you enjoy most about Vancouver!