Frequently ranked as one of the top 3 “most liveable” cities in the world, people don’t always want to leave Vancouver. Our endless beaches, world-class culinary scene and mountain vistas are awfully compelling. But one of the elements that make Vancouver such a liveable city is how easy it is to access beautiful getaways close to home.
So, we’ve put together a list of five of our favourites to encourage you to explore farther afield with the time you have. Because these places are all within a couple hours of the city (or closer), you can choose whether to make your journey a day-trip or to stay longer.
Take the Sea to Sky to Whistler
“World class” is a moniker that travel media love to pin on Whistler. Ranked as the #1 Ski Resort in North America, the village and mountains are just as much fun in summer as when they’re covered in snow. Amazing hiking, mountain biking and golf are the sports that mark the summer season. But you don’t have to be a hiker to access incredible views or spot the local wildlife. Take a ski lift up into the alpine for a ride on Whistler’s Peak to Peak Gondola, an engineering marvel that soars 1400 feet above the valley below. Whistler is an easy 1.5 hour drive along the spectacular Sea to Sky highway, an attraction itself.
Hike the Chief at Squamish
If you’re taking the Sea to Sky route to Whistler, there are many beautiful places to stop along the way. Porteau Cove, Alice Lake, Shannon Falls...and above all else, The Chief in Squamish. This 700m granite monolith (believed to be the second largest in the world) towers over the town below. Take a close look at the sheer rock face – can you spot any rock climbers attempting an ascent?
For those of us with strong legs but no desire to don a harness, there’s another way to get to the top: hike. Depending on your pace, it’s a good 3-6 hour round-trip. This demanding hike is a local favourite. At the top you’ll be rewarded by unforgettable views of Howe Sound and the peaks of Garibaldi Provincial Park. Want a guide? Lois specializes in hikes around the Lower Mainland.
Head across the Straight to Victoria
As the crow flies, British Columbia’s capital city is only a short 60 km from Vancouver. You have the option to take a quick seaplane flight from downtown Coal Harbour or the longer BC Ferry journey to get to Victoria. Both options offer stunning views of the coastal scenery; the journey across the Georgia Straight is one of the main attractions of a trip to Victoria.
One of our guides in the region is also the President of Salt Spring Air and will happily arrange private flights that are as much about sightseeing as they are about the destination.
If you choose the ferry, be sure to stand near the boat’s bow and witness the utter stillness that descends as you glide through the narrow channel formed by the Gulf Islands.
A guide in Victoria can help you make the most of a day in their city that can involve everything from high tea at the Empress to feeding harbour seals at Fisherman’s Wharf.
Fraser Valley and Harrison Hot Springs
So far we’ve headed North and West. But what lies east of Vancouver? The verdant Fraser Valley and Harrison Hot Springs for starters! In the summertime, farms around Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack are great spots to break up the drive and fill your car with baskets of fresh strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. The village of Harrison sits on the edge of Harrison Lake, a popular place to swim, hike, fish and go boating. And swimming is a year-round pastime here! The family-friendly hot spring pools anchor this popular but low-key mountain resort town.
Joanne, our guide based out of Mission, near Harrison, specialises in taking travelers on eco-adventures of the Fraser Valley, including to the spectacular Fraser River Bald Eagle Festival, which sees over 7000 eagles each Fall.
Ferry to Sunshine Coast
Who wouldn’t want to travel to a place with the name “Sunshine Coast”? A 40-minute ferry from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver will take you to Langdale, the start of this 180km stretch of coast. Considered to be one of British Columbia’s best kept secrets, the Sunshine Coast is a piece of Pacific Paradise: stretches of quiet beach boasting classic mountain and ocean vistas are interrupted only by the quaint, artistic coastal communities in between. Beach-combing, kayaking and gallery-hopping are all popular ways to spend a day here.
With these five great options, are you ready to get out there and see what lies beyond Vancouver’s city limits?