An action-packed, one-day tour for tireless adventurers
I have the impression that people who come to Vancouver are always on their way to some other cool destination (Hawaii, California, Mexico) and don’t really have much time to see and appreciate everything Vancouver has to offer. Compared to Toronto or some American cities, Vancouver is way smaller and not nearly as chaotic, so, luckily for all the passersby, a one-day tour packed with action is possible.
This complete itinerary is for particularly energetic early-risers who really want to make the most of every single minute in town. It’s feasible all year around, but it’s most enjoyable in late spring, summer and early fall, when days are sunnier, longer and warmer.
There is a lot of walking involved, but nothing prevents you from taking the bus instead. In fact, all locations are accessible by public transit. Without further ado, let’s dive in!
Sunrise at English Bay
To really enjoy the beauty of English Bay, head there to see the sun rising before the crowds arrive. The colors are incredible and the silence gives you a deep sense of peace and harmony with the world.
Stanley Park – Walk or cycle the seawall
The seawall is a 10-km path that surrounds Stanley Park, giving you the opportunity to admire the ever-changing scenery: from the wilder coast where Siwash (Pineapple) Rock stands in all its majesty, to the views of the Lion Gate Bridge, to the urban side facing the modern buildings of downtown Vancouver. The seawall gets really busy with tourists, children, local joggers, cyclists and rollerbladers, therefore it’s better to beat the crowds and enjoy its beauty when no one is around.
Cycling it all takes approximately one hour, including the mandatory breaks here and there for pictures. Stop by Siwash Rock, the lighthouse, the mermaid statue, the 9 o’clock gun, the totem poles and wherever else you like: it’s worth it. You can usually rent a bike from the many shops on Denman street, but not at 6 in the morning. Your best bet is then to borrow one from your hotel/airbnb host/couchsurfer friend or to use the bikes-to-go spread all over downtown Vancouver. If bicycles are not your thing and you prefer walking, the tour will take you a couple of hours instead.
10 km down, another gazillion to go! After this early morning cardio session, you’ve earned the right to a rich breakfast! For waffle-lovers there is the wonderful Nero Belgian Waffle Bar just around the corner (on Robson and Davie), where you can choose between two kinds of waffles and at least a dozen different toppings, from classic sweet ones, to fancy fruity ones, to savory ones with eggs and even salmon!
For something lighter, maybe head to Breka Bakery instead, where you can get some baked goods and coffee. The budget conscious traveler can go to Tim Hortons and ask for assorted Timbits: they are a national treasure and a pillar of Canadian culture, so don’t you dare leave the country without trying them at least once. [PS. The coffee is not good there, so you may want to have tea or hot chocolate instead]
Downtown Vancouver: Canada Place – Gastown
Everything is better on a full stomach! It’s time for a stroll around the downtown area. Head to Canada Place and walk on the Canadian Trail, where you’ll learn cultural and historical facts about this beautiful country and its people. Admire the view on the inlet, take a picture of the iconic white sails and take a look at the Olympic torch at Jack Poole Plaza. Continue then towards Gastown, the oldest part of the city. Say hi to Gassy Jack and be ready in front of the Steam Clock at the stroke of the hour to see its white steam and hear its whistle.
It’s time to head to another little treasure of Vancouver: Granville Island. You can get there either by walking over (and then under) Granville Bridge or by taking an aquabus that for a few bucks will take you there directly from the city centre. Since time is of the essence, in this case I’d probably suggest the second option.
Once there, wander around the quaint shops and art galleries, take a peek at the Kids’ Market (if you’re into stationery, upstairs there is a wonderful shop called Impressed) and finally explore the main market to get some lunch. The market is always very crowded and lively and the choice of food is quite extensive. I’d recommend a bagel with cream cheese and salmon: simple and tasty (and salmon around here is really good). Bring your food outside and have lunch with a view! Seagulls and pigeons can be annoying, just ignore them and you’ll be fine.
False Creek walk
Another highly underrated spot, often neglected by tourists, is False Creek. From Granville Island find the fancy and expensive-looking houseboats and follow the path: it will take you to a suggestive and nice paved trail that connects the island with Science World. You’ll be walking with the water on one side and green parks and cute houses on the other. This is also part of the official Vancouver city trail, a segment of the incredible 24000 km long Canadian Trail that connects all the provinces and territories. The city looks very pretty from this side, so make sure to take a few pictures.
You made it to Science World, congrats! Science World is a wonderful science museum, but its visit is time-consuming, so for today a quick look from the outside will be enough. Take a little time to relax on the big double loungers you’ll find in the area and rest your feet.
Earnest ice cream
After all this walking, it’s time for an energy boost! Earnest is one of the best ice cream places in town, with seasonal and original flavours. Take the Skytrain from Science World to Waterfront and transfer to the seabus, that in 15 minutes will take you to North Vancouver. Once there, stop by Earnest Ice Cream. (I recommend their green tea flavour, it’s just the best!) Enjoy your ice cream and the view of downtown Vancouver from a different perspective.
North Vancouver: Lynn Canyon or Capilano Bridge or Grouse Mountain
Time-wise you’ll be able to visit only one place here in North Vancouver.
If you want a free experience on a suspension bridge and through quiet and uncontaminated trails, Lynn Canyon is the best option. Walk over the bridge and visit the Twin falls. And, if you’re brave enough, go swim in the river (only in summer, when the currents are not too strong. Be safe and respect the rules!).
If you want a more comprehensive suspension bridge experience and you don’t mind the crowds, choose Capilano Suspension Bridge. The ticket is fairly expensive ($43), but inside there are quite a few things to do: the Suspension Bridge, the Cliffwalk on the canyon, a sort of treetops adventure, the story centre and more. If you’re around in December, the light-up in the canyon makes the experience really worth it. Count about 2 full hours at least to enjoy the whole experience without rushing.
If mountains are more up your alley, choose to go up to Grouse Mountain. On a clear day, the view is quite spectacular. Enjoy the alpine centre, go say hi to the two bears living up there, admire the sculptures and maybe book a zipline session while you’re at it! A full ziplining course takes about two hours and it’s super-fun! It costs about $120 but if you’ve never tried ziplining it’s definitely worth the money.
Sunset at Lighthouse Park or Whytecliff Park
Last stop for the day: a park in West Vancouver. Lighthouse Park and Whytecliff Park are both magical places at sunset. Pack your dinner and make a last effort for the day, sit on a rock and take in the mesmerizing beauty of BC’s wilderness. The trails are very easy and accessible, so anyone can do these walks.
If you’d rather eat at a restaurant, Horseshoe Bay – right by Whytecliff Park – has a few nice and cozy restaurants, whereas there’s nothing in the Lighthouse Park. Head back downtown and choose from the wide selection of cuisines that the city has to offer.
An action-packed, really intense day that you won’t regret!
Of course, depending on the needs of your group you can adjust the itinerary and skip the attractions you’re least interested into. Or if you are staying for more than one day, you can just split the activities over 2 or 3 days, adding maybe a visit to the Aquarium or the Museum of Anthropology or even a whale watching tour.
And if you’re heading to Vancouver when I happen to be there, I’d be happy to arrange the tour for you and take you around! Just contact me 🙂
Now, Go and Explore!
Questions and comments? Join the conversation commenting below!