Vancouver is my kinda city.  Why?  Because its as green as it is urban.  Sure it’s got its high rises and cosmopolitan wares, but it’s also got everything an outdoors enthusiast could wish for – stunning mountain backdrops, a fringing of blue sea, national parks on the doorstep and more urban green spaces and beaches than you could shake a stick at.  It’s the perfect place to base yourself if you’re looking to explore the great Canadian outdoors.  Not sure where to begin?  Here’s a round up of my top ten activities that’ll get some fresh air in your lungs and help burn off the inevitable poutine guilt:

Explore Stanley Park

Need somewhere quiet to escape the bustle of the city but don’t have time to venture far?  Fear not.  At over 400 hectares, Stanley Park is the perfect place to head for an oasis of calm, slap bang in the city centre.  There are over 27km of forest trails to explore, where you can get up close and personal with some of the local wildlife and find yourself encased in stunning natural scenery.

Take a cycle tour of the city

Despite its proximity to the mountains, Vancouver is a fairly flat city which makes it ideal for exploring by bike.  It’s also pretty generous with cycle paths and there are numerous companies which you can rent bikes from or which can take you out on organised cycle tours of the city.  Check out Cycle Vancouver, who even offer a two-wheeled tour of the city’s craft brewing scene (my kinda tour….)!


Go whale watching

The waters around Vancouver are teeming with wildlife, from rare sea eagles and seals to humpack and killer whales.  There are several companies based throughout the city which can take you out on whale watching expeditions, and though it’s not the cheapest venture, the chance to see these majestic beasts frolicking in their natural habitat (whilst experiencing some of the country’s most impressive scenery) is one not to be missed.  Click here to read about my whale watching experience with the fantastic Steveston Seabreeze Adventures.

Chill out on one of the city’s beaches

If it’s sandy shores you’re after then Vancouver won’t disappoint.  With its waterfront location and nearby lakes there are plenty of great beaches to spend a sunny afternoon, from the affectionately known ‘Kits Beach’ (Canada’s equivalent to LA’s Venice Boardwalk), to Spanish Banks, which offers incredible views out over the city’s skyline and is the ideal place to head for a spot of skim boarding.

Climb a mountain

It’s hard to ignore the mighty presence of the mountains which surround Vancouver; every which way you turn their snow-capped peaks eclipse the city’s buildings and dominate the skyline.  Thankfully many of these mountains are within easy reach of the city centre and so they can make for the perfect escape if you fancy dusting off the old hiking shoes.  Grouse Mountain is a popular choice and definitely do-able in a day, but if you’re looking to escape the crowds you might want to head to nearby Lynn Valley – with its lush rainforest coverage and untouched rocky trails, it’s definitely one of the North Shore’s better kept secrets.

Visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge and Regional Park

For the chance to become fully emersed in some of British Columbia’s most dramatic scenery, take a day trip out to the Capilano Suspension Bridge and regional park, a mere fifteen minutes drive from the city centre.  The bridge hovers at a jaw dropping 70m above the Capilano river, and offers unbeatable views over the nearby forests and mountains.  It’s also the perfect place to get your wildlife fix, with rainbow trout, eagles and owls all native to the park.  Be sure to keep an eye out for Henry, the resident blue heron!

Top tip: If you’re heading to the park, be sure to make use of the free shuttle service, which leaves from downtown Vancouver.  Check out the park’s website here for more information.

Hit the slopes

Because of its proximity to the nearby mountain ranges, Vancouver is also perfect for those looking to indulge in a little winter sports activity, and offers some of the best ski facilities in North America.  During the winter months, experts and beginners alike flock to nearby Grouse, Cypress and Seymour Mountains, and with lifts open from dawn till dusk, you’re sure to find the time to get in a few decent runs before heading back to the bright lights of the city below.

Ride the Sea to Sky Gondola

A scenic 45 minute drive will take you right from the buzz of downtown Vancouver to the heart of the Coast Range mountains.  Just south of Squamish you’ll find the Sea to Sky Gondola which, in just ten minutes, takes you on a breath taking ride up into the hills, and gives amazing views out over the bright blue waters of the Howe Sound below.  From the summit you can explore a number of hiking trails or take your chances with the 100m suspension bridge.  Rock climbers might also want out to check out the Via Ferrata (or, Iron Way), a network of cables and ladders installed to help you scramble to the top safely.

Go kayaking

You don’t necessarily need to leave the city to get your outdoor sporting fix; Canadians are big on kayaking and canoeing, and it’s hard to think of a better way to take in Vancouver’s blend of urban and natural beauty than from a leisurely paddle along its banks.  There are plenty of companies who can help you out with kayak hire.  Ecomarine Paddlesports have centres on Jericho Beach and Granville Island, or if you don’t mind a little travel, Dam Good Trips can help you arrange self guided adventure packages in the nearby area.

Go Mountain Biking

You don’t have to set far outside the city’s walls to find incredible mountain biking options amidst unspoiled nature.  Confident bikers will probably take straight to the North Shore Mountains, but those looking for more gentle routes might want to check out the trails on Burnaby Mountain or the Pacific Spirit Regional Park.  Either way, returning to the city with a case of numb-bum makes those evening cocktails all the more justifiable, which in my eyes seems like perfectly acceptable logic.

So there you have it.  My run down of the top ten outdoor activities in and around Vancouver.  Whether you’re a sports enthusiast or not, it’s hard to deny that the city works as the perfect gateway to the great Canadian outdoors, so get yourself out there, take in some fresh air and take a moment to appreciate the BC beauty around you.




Flickr: VL104, Kyle Pearce, Paul Williams, Markus Sayneverte, Mark van der Chips, Marcin Chade, Mike McHolm, David J Laporte

About The Author

A twenty-something-year-old with a penchant for travel and a never-ending supply of terrible puns.

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