Vancouver is a vibrant city with plenty to do and see. The friendly atmosphere and the unique location between water and mountains make this city so attractive. The relaxed athmosphere made me feel home straight away.
It was hot during our visit to Vancouver, very hot! 30 degrees, which was definitely not normal for the time of the year according to the locals (early June). We had two days to explore the city before travelling to Vancouver Island. Two intensive days, especially with tropical temperatures and a considerable jet lag. The combination of city and nature ensures that the active traveller and naturelover will never get bored here. Time to share five great free and paid activities in and around Vancouver!
Cycling in Stanley Park
A visit to Vancouver isn’t complete without visiting Stanley Park. This park is surrounded by water and the view of the surrounding mountains and the city is amazing. Within an hour you cycle the 8,8km long “seawall” at a relaxed pace and with the necessary stops around. It strikes me how sporty the Vancouverites are. Cyclists, skaters, runners, everyone is enjoying being active. Very contagious! The beautiful totem poles which the park owns are replicas. Still, we stop to admire them. While cycling, the famous Lions Gate Bridge gets closer and closer, this 2 km long bridge connects the center to the north and west part of the city. The cycling route continues along beaches and there is even an outdoor pool where locals enjoy a refreshing swim. After finishing our round trip through Stanley Park we eat a salad near the waterfront. We have a view on the animated fountains where children, animals and even adults enjoy a little refreshment on this sunny day. A pleasant and cheerful sight! After this we cycle a little bit through the city. Because of all the traffic lights and the extra heat in the city we decide it’s enough so we return the bicycles not after 4 but after 3 hours. There are several rental companies near Stanley Park where you can rent a bike. We rent our bikes at one of the rental companies in Coal Harbour. From this area you can cycle to Stanley Park within a few minutes. You can rent a bike for about $30 per person per 4 hours.
A marathon walk through the city
It felt like a real marathon because we absolutely wanted to see as much as possible and nothing is better than to explore the city using your own strengh. Our first stop is the charming Waterfront where we see a crow having a shower in a beautiful fountain. There are plenty of small and big boats, but one of them stands out: a mega-sized Dutch cruise ship docked in the harbour, the Oosterdam from Rotterdam. Very nice to see something from your own country! We continue our route to Downtown Vancouver where we stroll down Robson Street and discover all kinds of shops. We look for the famous steam clock in cozy Gastown and continue walking towards the water through a part of Chinatown. At Plaza of Nations Doc Ferry we take the small colorful aquabus in direction of Grandville Island where we enjoy watching creative talented street performers. On the square at the entrance of the food market we experience the fantastic performances of a cover singer and a crazy Asian street performer with a whip and a ladder. The freak with his whip could for example break a piece of spaghetti above his head and between his fingers, and many other tricks. Seriously?! An unexpected fun rest after a long city walk! We enjoy a refreshing strawberry lemonade and eat delicious Asian food and fresh fruit at the food market. Then we walk along the water on the Island Park Walk towards the small harbor of Village Ferry Dock and enjoy a beautiful sunset. A fantastic end of the day!
Exploring Lynn Canyon Park
After a nice breakfast and a sunny start of the day we are longing for a cool breeze and shade, and we can not wait to go discover the nature around Vancouver. In North Vancouver there are several beautiful natural areas where active travellers and nature lovers can indulge themselves. We take the subway to Waterfront and the seabus to North Vancouver. From North Vancouver you’ll be treated to a great view of the city skyline. As recommended by the Visitor Center we take the bus to Lynn Canyon Park. This journey of about 20 minutes is very easy. You have to switch to another small bus which leaves shortly after you step out of the first bus. The timing is perfect. So it takes only a few minutes to be surrounded by nature! We walk through the park where a small suspension bridge floats 50m above the river. This one is not comparable with the bigger famous Capilano Suspension Bridge nearby but this bridge is still very beautiful. Because the entrance to Capilano Park is quite expensive and it seems to be very busy there we decided not to go. Lynn Canyon Park is fun to explore after a day strolling around the city and no entrance fee is required. We walk on a boardwalk and a trail through the forest, past small waterfalls and streams. In summer you can even swim here! The park is large and you can also come here for longer hikes. It’s a perfect place for a getaway in nature!
Other cool places I haven’t visited but were on my wish list
I haven’t personally visited Grouse Mountain due to a lack of time but it seems to be a place you should not skip. You can reach the top of the mountain with the gondola ($43.95, a number of other fun activities are included). Those who want to suffer a bit more can also opt for the (free) challenging steep hike on Grouse Grind Trail. Both during the hike as on the mountain top stunning vistas of Vancouver are awaiting you. There is a protected area on the mountain top which is home to two grizzly bears. With a little luck you can admire these beautiful animals. In the winter you can go skiing at Grouse Mountain, snowshoeing and undertake other winter activities. In the summer there are many fun activities to do such as ziplining and paragliding. Just as Lynn Canyon Park, Grouse Mountain is easily accessible by bus from North Vancouver or by car. This place is definitely on my wish list if I ever return to Vancouver!
Photo Credit: Colin Knowles – Flicker
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is known for its huge suspension bridge of 137m long situated 70m above the river, the big brother of the smaller free suspension bridge in Lynn Canyon Park. The various paths and elevated boardwalks of the park will show you the surroundings from a different perspective. You literally walk among the treetops! The admission fee is quite pricey ($ 37.50). Therefore we skipped this attraction this time and focused on the free nearby Lynn Canyon Park. In order to escape the crowds you have to visit the park very early otherwise I can imagine that it’s no fun walking there. Maybe next time..
Vancouver also gave us a good life lesson thanks to a misspelled quote I came across on a bridge: the world is too beautiful to be unhappy and we tend to forget this very quickly!
Do you have any other tips for the active traveller in and around Vancouver?