The best day trips from Vancouver, British Columbia
If you’ve visited Vancouver, chances are you’ve walked around Stanley Park’s iconic seawall, visited Granville Island, snapped a photo of the old Steam Clock in Gastown, shopped on Robson Street and raised a glass in Granville’s entertainment district. In this post, we want to get outside the city and share our favourite day trips from Vancouver.
While there are countless things to see and do in Vancouver, there’s even more adventure waiting for you just outside the city limits (there’s good reason why Vancouver consistently ranks as one of the world’s most livable cities).
As residents of North Vancouver, we’ve spent the past few years exploring our big, beautiful backyard. It’s been fun doing the research for this long overdue blog post!
This post was originally published in 2017 and updated June 2020.
25 Awesome Day trips from Vancouver
Today, we’d like to share OUR favourite day trips from Vancouver.
We highly recommend going slow and spending quality time at each spot, but we’d completely understand if you wanted to see it all.
Let’s get started, shall we?
We’re going to kick things off with our #1 recommended day trip, rather then saving the best for last. Located 125 km north of Vancouver (about 1.5 hour drive), Whistler is a four season resort town with more than 8,000 acres of terrain spread across multiple mountain peaks.
Simply put – if you like adventure, Whistler has you covered.
Whistler gained world fame in 2010 when it co-hosted the Winter Olympics with the city of Vancouver. Whistler consistently ranks as the top ski resort in North America and, in 2008, it introduced the world record-breaking Peak 2 Peak Gondola, completing the longest continuous lift system in the world.
Over the past decade, Whistler has evolved to become one of the top summer destinations in Canada. It boasts over 50 km of high alpine hiking trails, multiple golf courses, zip-line courses, ATV off road tours, bungee jumping, nature and wildlife tours, summer bobsleigh at the Whistler Slide Centre and several fresh water lakes.
The Mountain Bike Park on Whistler Mountain has quickly become one of the best in North America. Whistler hosts several festivals and events each year, including the World Ski & Snowboard Festival in April and Crankworx Mountain Bike Festival in August.
Things to do in Whistler:
- Take the Peak 2 Peak 360 Experience – read more here. This is a fun summer activity. Give yourself at least 3 to 4 hours for this experience.
- Rejuvenate and relax at the traditional Scandinave Spa
- Golf at 3 different courses, including the impressive Nicklaus North Golf Course
- SUP or kayaking at Lost Lake, Alta Lake or Green Lake
- Downhill mountain biking and/or cross-country trail riding
- Zipline course, ATV in the mountains, white water rafting or bungee jumping
- Helicopter excursion or float plane sightseeing tour
- Bear viewing tour and/or nature safari
- Hike to stunning alpine lakes at either Garibali Lake, Joffre Lakes Provincial Park, Chekamus Lake, Elfin Lakes or Wedgemount Lake
- Explore the hidden Whistler train wreck
- Search for Whistler hotel deals here.
Related – 25 FREE Things to do in Vancouver
Get your $45 credit for AirBnB accommodations here.
2. Horseshoe Bay
Horseshoe Bay is also the location of the third busiest BC Ferries terminal. If you plan to visit Vancouver Island, Bowen Island or the Sunshine Coast, you will board your ferry at Horseshoe Bay.
Even if you don’t plan to take a ferry, Horseshoe Bay is a fun place to have lunch and spend the afternoon. There are a few restaurants in the village, including the legendary Trolls Restaurant (get the Oyster Burger or Clam Chowder), and it has a rocky beach with a playground that faces the marina.
After you visit Horseshoe Bay, check out nearby Whytecliff Park, one of the first Marine Protected Areas in Canada and a popular cold water scuba diving spot.
Search for hotel deals in Vancouver here.
3. Rent a boat and cruise around Howe Sound
Howe Sound is network of fjords situated between West Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast, about 30 minutes northwest of Vancouver. This is one of the most beautiful areas in the Lower Mainland.
If you’re looking for a unique way to experience British Columbia’s natural beauty, driving a small speed boat around Howe Sound should be on your list.
One of the things we like to do in Vancouver during the summer is to visit the lazy seals that hang out on Pam Rocks, a cluster of tiny islands located in the center of Howe Sound. The only way to see these rock islands is by boat.
The best place to rent boats is Sewell’s Marina, located in Horseshoe Bay. Renting a boat is relatively inexpensive and you don’t need to have a special boat licence. A standard driver’s license is sufficient. For two hours of personal boat time (usually enough to get to the seal colony and back) it’s about $180 (check rates here). The boat can take between 4 to 6 people.
To visit marine parks and secluded coves that can only be reached by water, it’s wise to do the 4-hour rate and head to Gambier or Anvil Islands.
Related – Searching for Seal lions in Howe Sound
4. Bowen Island
Located approximately 25 km’s northwest of Vancouver, Bowen Island is a laid-back island that feels miles away from the hustle of the big city. The island is only 6 km wide and 12 km long, so you can easily explore the island in one day. Popular activities are kayaking, mountain biking, hiking and boating.
The Snug Cove ferry terminal has a marina with small shops and restaurants. The most popular beaches on Bowen Island are Tunstall Bay, Bowen Bay and Sandy Beach.
An easy scenic hike is the Killarney Lake trail. It takes about 2 hours round trip, covering 9 km’s. A more challenging hike is the summit of Mount Gardner. It takes about 7 hours, covering 17 km’s round trip.
Related – 25 Things to do in Vancouver
5. The Sunshine Coast
Although the Sunshine Coast may not always live up to its name (it’s located in the Pacific Northwest, after all), it’s a beautiful coastal area that stretches from Langdale to Lund, with many quaint communities in between. If you’ve got the time, this is a great place for a coastal road trip.
Part of the fun is the actual journey to the Sunshine Coast. Most visitors will access the Sunshine Coast by ferry from Horseshoe Bay, but you can also catch a float plane depending on the time of year. The ferry ride and marinas are quintessentially West Coast.
If you only have one day, you’ll want to focus your time on Langdale and Hopkins Landing. Hopkins Landing is a short walk from the Langdale ferry terminal and there’s a beach that overlooks the North Shore mountains. It’s a great spot for kayaking, swimming and beachcombing.
Search for hotel deals on the Sunshine Coast here.
Located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, Victoria is one of the oldest cities in the Pacific Northwest. Many people make the mistake of assuming that Vancouver is the capital city of British Columbia, when in fact it’s actually Victoria.
Victoria is approximately 100 kilometres from both Vancouver and Seattle, making it the perfect day trip or weekend getaway for tourists and mainland residents (we try to visit Victoria at least once every year).
While you technically can visit Victoria in one day, we’d recommend you give it at least one night. Maybe two or three.
Most people will catch the ferry that departs from Tsawwassen BC Ferries Terminal, but you can take a bus from downtown Vancouver that will drop you off in downtown Victoria (ticket includes the ferry crossing). If you’re a first time visitor to Vancouver and you don’t have a vehicle, we’d recommend the bus option over renting a car and driving on the ferry.
You can also take a float plane from downtown Vancouver, which is a lot of fun. If you’ve only got one day to spend in Victoria, the float plane is the fastest and most convenient option. The ferry option will take you at least 4 hours in each direction.
If you decide to stay overnight – here’s where to stay in Victoria:
We have stayed at the Magnolia Hotel, Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort and Best Western Carlton Plaza and would recommend them all. They are centrally located and family friendly. Search for more Victoria hotels here.
Located about halfway between Vancouver and Whistler, the town of Squamish continues to build its brand as an outdoor adventure destination. It’s an easy drive from Vancouver and the scenery is everything you’d expect from a town in the mountains.
We could dedicate an entire blog post about things to do in Squamish. You can make several day trips from Vancouver to Squamish and still only scratch the surface.
If you prefer to get in the water, the Squamish Spit is hosts some of the best windsurfing and kite surfing in the Pacific Northwest. There area also dozens of hiking trails and parks, including the family-friendly Four Lakes Trail and the full day Elfin Lakes hike.
Other activities include a visit the West Coast Rail Heritage Park (home to the annual Polar Express experience), eagle viewing in Brackendale, golfing at Furry Creek, paddling and fishing on Alice Lake, white-water rafting down the Cheakamus River, shopping at the Squamish Farmers’ Market and brewery tours at Howe Sound Brewing.
8. Sea to Sky Gondola
The newest attraction in Squamish is the impressive Sea to Sky Gondola, a 10-minute gondola ride that transports guests up the side of the mountain to a lodge that overlooks Howe Sound and the Coast Mountains.
There are plenty of things to do once you reach the summit. The Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge is a big hit and will surely give you butterflies in your stomach as it sways from side to side.
There are multiple viewing platforms and several hiking trails for all skill levels. The Summit Lodge has an amazing patio, so if you’re not up for adventure, you can enjoy a relaxing lunch with outstanding mountain views.
If you plan to visit on a weekend in the summer, make sure you arrive early because it’s a popular attraction and the Sea to Sky Gondola parking is limited. There’s overflow parking available across the highway from Shannon Falls Provincial Park (you should check out the waterfalls if you visit the gondola). We’re told that there’s a free shuttle service on the weekends.
Or, you can walk 15 minutes to the Sea to Sky Gondola via the connector hiking trail.
9. Britannia Mine Museum
The Britannia Mine Museum, formerly British Columbia Museum of Mining, is located in Britannia Beach, which is about 55 km kilometres north of Vancouver on the Sea-to-Sky Highway on Howe Sound.
The Museum site itself is an exhibit – from historical machinery to heritage buildings to the massive yellow dump truck that lives within the facility.
You can take an underground tour of the mine on an old mine train. The 45 minute guided tour gives you an understanding of what life was like as a miner back in the early 1900s. Our boys were quite young when we took the train tour (3 and 1 year old) and they had fun.
You only need about 2 hours to explore the museum and take the mine train tour, so this is a good activity to bundle with a visit to the Sea to Sky Gondola or Porteau Cove Provincial Park (see recommendations above and below).
If you like this attraction, you may want to visit the train museum in Squamish.
10. Porteau Cove Provincial Park
Porteau Cove is a small provincial park in British Columbia (about 50 hectares in size), situated on the most southerly fjord in North America. The park stretches between the shoreline of Howe Sound and the Sea to Sky Highway, about 20 minutes south of Squamish.
Aside from its rocky beaches and breathtaking mountain vistas, Porteau Cove’s star attraction the old ferry terminal that’s been converted into a pedestrian pier.
It’s also a popular cold water scuba dive spot because it has a series of artificial reefs and two sunken ships.
Above – the beach at Porteau Cove Provincial Park.
11. Garibaldi Provincial Park
Garibaldi Provincial Park is a massive wilderness park located between Squamish and Whistler, about a 1.5 hour drive from Vancouver. This beautiful park is best visited during the summer months, when you can hike the popular Garibaldi Lake trail.
The park covers an area of over 1,950 square kilometers (753 sq mi) and is home to some of British Columbia’s most impressive hiking trails. There are five entrance points located along the Sea to Sky Highway. There are also several camp sites that are first come, first served.
If you’re looking for a full day leg burner, the Garibaldi Lake hike will do the trick (pictured above).
12. Whale watching in the Southern Gulf Islands
The Southern Gulf Islands, an archipelago of small islands located between Vancouver Island the Lower Mainland, is one of the best places to witness orca whales in their natural habitat. This is one of the best day trips from Vancouver for first time visitors, in our opinion.
The best time to go whale watching is during the salmon migration in the summer months between May to October. Whales, sea birds and other marine animals are attracted to the area to feed, resulting in very strong success rate on many whale watching tours.
There are plenty of whale watching operators based out of Vancouver that offer a variety of options, from 2 hour tours to full day excursions.
13. Capilano Suspension Bridge and Cliffwalk
Located in the District of North Vancouver, near the base of Grouse Mountain, the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is a fun and easy day trip from Vancouver.
Over the years, the park has added several features to compliment its famous bouncing suspension bridge, including the recently added Cliffwalk experience.
The Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is a great family friendly attraction for both tourists and locals. Aside from the bridge and cliffwalk, the park also offers the Treetops adventure, a series of seven suspension bridges attached to eight 30 ton, 250 year old Douglas-firs, and several boardwalks with viewpoints that overlook the canyon.
If you have time, try to squeeze in a visit to nearby Cleveland Dam.
Get your $45 credit for Vancouver accommodations here.
14. Hiking and Kayaking in Deep Cove
We love Deep Cove. It’s a quaint community in the easternmost North Vancouver, located at the entrance of Indian Arm It’s about a 25 minute drive from Vancouver. There’s a little village with a restaurants, shops and the infamous Honey’s Doughnuts (Vancouverites love these donuts!).
Deep Cove is known for its marina and kayaking.
You can rent kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and surfskis from Deep Cove Kayak. This shop gets busy in the summer months, especially on the weekends. You’re best to make a reservation for equipment.
Parking in Deep Cove can be challenging, so it’s wise to arrive early (before 9:00 AM).
Another popular activity in Deep Cove is hiking to Quarry Rock.
Quarry Rock is an easy hike that takes about 1.5 hours round trip, so it’s an ideal day trip from Vancouver. The views from the top of Quarry Rock are fantastic.
If you’ve got the stamina and the time, you could hike the trail in the morning, have lunch at Arms Reach Bistro in the village, then go for a paddle in the afternoon.
Now that’s a perfect day in the Pacific Northwest!
Related – Winter Fun at the Sea to Sky Gondola
15. Play in the North Shore Mountains
No trip to Vancouver is complete without a visit to the North Shore Mountains. The most popular and accessible mountains are Grouse Mountain, Mount Seymour and Cypress Mountain. All three mountains have ski operations in the winter, extensive hiking trails in the summer and facilities with restaurants.
Grouse Mountain, the self-described Peak of Vancouver, is the most popular mountain for tourists. To reach the peak, guests take the Skyride tram to the top of the mountain. This is always fun for first timers, regardless of the season.
For the more adventurous type, you can hike to the summit via the Grouse Grind, also known as Mother Nature’s Staircase (it’s a 2.9 km trail that climbs 2,800 feet). Novice hikers should plan for roughly two hours to ascend the trail. The record is 25 minutes.
There are restaurants and cafes at the summit of Grouse Mountain, so if you’re not up for a strenuous afternoon you can simply enjoy the views with a cold beverage in hand.
During the summer you can witness the Grizzly Bear habitat.
Cypress Mountain / Cypress Provincial Park
Cypress Mountain is located in the southern section of Cypress Provincial Park. With over 240 hectares of skiable terrain and 53 runs, Cypress Mountain has the largest ski area out of the three mountains.
Cypress hosted the Freestyle Skiing and Snowboarding events during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.
Mount Seymour Provincial Park
Mount Seymour is often overlooked by first time visitors to Vancouver because it’s the furthest away from the downtown area and it’s the smallest of the three local mountains. It’s more of a family mountain and has some of the best snowshoeing and nordic skiing trails on the North Shore.
Related – The Peak of Christmas at Grouse Mountain
16. Steveston Fisherman’s Wharf
Steveston is a charming fishing village in south Richmond, located 20 minutes south of Vancouver. It sits at the mouth of the Fraser River and was once the largest fishing port and cannery centre on the West Coast.
Steveson is also the departure point for many whale watching tours that explore the nearby Gulf Islands and the San Juan islands (in Washington State).
On a sunny afternoon we like to visit the village and indulge in fish and chips and cold beer. Then we like to walk along the pier to burn off lunch.
The Gulf of Georgia Cannery (also known as the Monster Cannery) is now a National Historic Site, offering a glimpse into the history of the multicultural workers who kept the salmon canning lines moving in the early 1900’s.
Steveston is an active fishing harbour so you can walk along the docks and purchase fresh seafood directly from the fishing boats. This is where you’ll find the best prices on fresh seafood!
17. River Rock Casino, Richmond
With the addition of the Canada Line SkyTrain, the rapid transit that connects Richmond to Vancouver, there’s now a train station located directly across from the casino, making it easily accessible from virtually anywhere in the city.
The River Rock has a large theater that hosts a variety of entertainment acts throughout the year. If you like Vegas style entertainment you’ll enjoy an evening at the River Rock.
Here’s the upcoming schedule at the River Rock Theatre.
In the summer, the Richmond Night Market runs on weekends and close to the River Rock Casino. The Night Market features live performances, carnival games and over 200 retail stalls with over 500 food choices from around the world.
Related – 25 Things to do in Vancouver
18. Wine Tours in Langley
Did you know the Lower Mainland is home to several award winning wineries?
You don’t have to drive all the way to the Okanagan Valley to enjoy wine tasting and winery tours in British Columbia.
Chaberton Estate Winery is the oldest and largest winery in the Fraser Valley and the 5th largest in British Columbia. Other popular wineries are Township 7 Winery, Neck of the Woods Winery, Backyard Vineyards and the Fort Wine Co.
Langley is about a 45 minute drive from Vancouver, depending on traffic (afternoon rush hour can add 1-2 hours). If you plan to sample a lot of wine and don’t want to drive, you can organize wine tasting tours that depart from Vancouver and visit 3-4 wineries. It’s a fun day trip in the summer months.
Related – Wine tasting and Glamping in Kelowna
19. Cultus Lake Waterpark & Adventure Park
Located two hours east of Vancouver, just south of Chilliwack, sits Cultus Lake Provincial Park and its many family friendly attractions. The lake, beaches and surrounding forests are fantastic, but what lures families to this area is the Cultus Lake Waterpark and Cultus Lake Adventure Park.
The Adventure Park is British Columbia’s newest family theme park and home to the Fraser Valley’s only rollercoaster. It’s also home to Giggle Ridge Adventure Golf (18 holes of mini-golf), Bumper Boats, Prospector’s Peak and the Runaway Mine Train.
Cultus Lake Waterpark has all kinds of water slides, wading pools and themed attractions. You could spend the entire day at this park alone.
Related – A look back on an epic summer in BC
20. Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park
It’s a beautiful park surrounded by jagged mountain peaks and dense forest. There are several hiking trails, beaches, boat launches, parks and recreational facilities. This is a great spot to go boating, kayaking and canoeing.
To get to Chilliwack Lake, take Exit 104 from Highway 1 (Trans-Canada Hwy) and follow the signs for Cultus Lake until you reach Cultus Lake Road. Instead of turning, follow Vedder Road across the bridge and turn right onto Chilliwack Lake Road.
Follow this road for 40 km to the lake and campground – visit BC Parks website for more info.
Related – Why We Love Living in British Columbia
21. Sturgeon Fishing on the Fraser River (Chilliwack)
If you’re looking for a truly unique experience, you should try sturgeon fishing on the North Fraser River. Sturgeons date back to the Triassic period, some 245 to 208 million years ago.
So, basically, these are underwater dinosaurs! Okay, not really. But some of these fish are over 150 years old and grow as long as 10 feet.
You can take a guided tour that departs from Chilliwack and goes up the North Fraser River. The river is loaded with sturgeon and salmon. While you’re on the boat waiting for a fish to bite, it’s common to see sturgeon breach along the river. On our trip, we witnessed about a dozen sturgeons jumping out of the water. It’s quite the sight.
22. Harrison Hot Springs
Harrison Hot Springs is a resort community known for its hot springs and picturesque lake and mountain landscapes. It’s located about 2.5 hours east of Vancouver.
Harrison Hot Springs Resort is the main attraction, with its 5 hot spring pools and restaurants. However, you can only access these pools if you are a guest staying at Harrison Hot Springs Resort. Consider spending the night here, it’s a nice escape from the city.
There’s more to Harrison Hot Springs than its hot spring pools.
Harrison lake offers every kind of water sport you can imagine, from kayaking to boating to its massive floating waterpark. It has a beach, waterfront parks, golf courses and several hiking trails.
While you’re in the area, check out Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park and its beautiful cascading waterfalls. The park entrance is located just off the Trans-Canada Highway and it’s only a 10 minute hike to the waterfalls, so this is an easy pit-stop that will only take about an hour.
During the summer, you can also visit Bridal Falls Water Park. It’s a smaller water park (when compared to the Cultus Lake Water Park), but it boasts heated water and plenty of kiddie slides and water play areas.
Related – Things to do at Harrison Hot Springs
23. Float plane to the Gulf Islands
The Gulf Islands are located in the Strait of Georgia (also known as Salish Sea), between Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia. The most popular islands are Salt Spring Island, Galiano Island and Pender Island.
The Gulf Islands are so peaceful and relaxing. You feel like you’re a world away from Vancouver, yet they’re less than 100 kilometers away.
The Gulf Islands can be reached by ferry. It will end up being a very long day trip if you plan to return to Vancouver the same day. You are better off spending a night or two if you plan to travel to the islands by ferry.
Alternatively, you can catch a short float plane ride from Vancouver.
Weather does impact flights. You will need to have a Plan B if your flight is canceled or delayed due to fog or rain. You should be fine in the summer months, but winter can be hit and miss.
The float plane to the islands is half the fun, as you can see in this short video we captured while flying over Howe Sound and the Northern Gulf Islands.
24. Hell’s Gate Airtram
Hell’s Gate Airtram is a gondola that transports guests across the powerful Fraser River, descending past steep and jagged rock walls. It’s one of the steepest fully suspended trams in North America.
Once you reach the bottom, walk across a suspension bridge and snap photos from the observation decks. The Hells Gate Airtram is located just south of Boston Bar, which is about 3 hours east of Vancouver along the Trans-Canada Highway.
If you like white water rafting you might want to include a half day excursion down the Fraser River. There are a few rafting companies in the area – Fraser River Raft Expeditions and Kumsheen Rafting (about 45 minutes north of Hell’s Gate).
Related – River Rafting the Mighty Thompson River
25. Point Roberts in Washington State
Point Roberts is close in proximity to the skyscrapers of Vancouver but its chilled out vibe makes you feel as if you’re hundreds of miles away from the city lights. In fact, I don’t even remember seeing a traffic light in Point Roberts?
Yes, Point Roberts that kind of place. Small, friendly, safe and quiet.
There are lots of things to do in Point Roberts, like biking, hiking and beach combing, but the most common activity is doing nothing. By that, I mean waking up in the morning with no agenda and letting the mood dictate your day.
There are only a few restaurants in Point Roberts and some are seasonal, so it’s wise to check hours of operation ahead of time.
The beaches in the Pacific Northwest are different from those found in the south or in tropical climates. They are not made of soft white sand that feels silky smooth on your feet. They are quite the opposite, actually.
The beaches in this part of the world are rocky, rugged and filled with driftwood, sea shells and coarse sand. At low tide, the ocean floor is exposed and a world of treasures is revealed.
Note: Point Roberts is located in the United States, so you need a passport to cross the border.
Read next – Photos from our trip to Point Roberts
Where to stay in Vancouver
There are plenty of hotels in Vancouver to choose from, ranging from upscale five star hotels to backpacker hostels and everything in between.
- Search for Vancouver hotels here.
- If you prefer apartment rentals, get up to $45 CAD off your first night here.
- Most of the popular Vancouver tourist attractions are located in the downtown area. Consider this when selecting where to stay in Vancouver.
- Downtown hotels often require additional fees for overnight parking – sometimes as high as $40 per night. Consider this when booking hotels and car rentals.
- If you prefer to stay closer to the mountains, consider staying at the Lonsdale Quay Hotel or the Holiday Inn North Vancouver.
Vancouver travel tips and things to know:
- Pick up & return your vehicle at the Vancouver airport. Save up to 35% on car rentals here.
- If you visit during winter, make sure you have snow tires for the mountain drives.
- It’s wise to book reservations for the ferry to and from Vancouver Island, especially over a holiday weekend. Here’s the list of holidays in BC. Check ferry schedule here.
- Check the Vancouver weather forecast before you depart on your day trip from Vancouver. The weather in British Columbia can be unpredictable.
- If you’re traveling with a baby, check out our 13 Tips for Successful Baby Travel.
What day trips from Vancouver will you do?
Share your feedback and recommendations in the comments section below. Our readers thank you!
Read more posts from British Columbia:
- Things to do at Harrison Hot Springs with kids
- 25 FREE Things to do in Vancouver in 2019
- The Best Road Trip from Vancouver for first time visitors
- The best things to do in Victoria