Vancouver is the starting point for some spectacular day trips in British Columbia and Washington State. Here are some of the best, including Whistler, Victoria, Bowen Island, Squamish, Mt Baker, Port Moody and the North Shore mountains.
Whistler is a world class ski resort, mountain bike park, outdoor paradise, culinary destination, and it’s only 2 hours from Vancouver! Whistler Blackcomb has the most skiable terrain in North America, but it’s so much more than just a ski resort. Whistler is almost as busy in the summer, thanks to the stunning hiking trails, lakes, mountain bike park and excellent restaurants. It is home to luxurious resorts and spas including Scandinave Spa, providing ultimate relaxation amidst hammocks, day beds, massage rooms, saunas and a plethora of steam baths. Foodies love what Whistler has to offer from fine dining to fun patios, lively bars and restaurant staples like Sushi Village. There’s always plenty to do, from dog sledding to paddleboarding. Some of the newest activities include the Cloudbreaker Skybridge, now accessible at the Peak of Whistler, and Vallea Lumina, a multimedia enhanced night walk through old growth forest.
Food and drink: Fine Dining – Araxi & Il Caminetto, Patio – Table 19 & Basalt, Lively pub – Dublin Gate, Fancy drinks – Mallard Lounge at the Fairmont, Cocktails and Tapas – Bar Oso, Drink with the locals – Handlebar & Merlins, Japanese – Sushi Village
With Harbour Air you can fly from downtown Vancouver to Victoria Harbour on a 30 minute seaplane ride that is guaranteed to blow you away. When you reach the charming capital city of BC there’s a lot to do, including a visit to the Royal BC Museum, a drive to Butchart botanical Gardens, wandering the historic waterfront, or high tea at the iconic Fairmont Empress Hotel. If you’re short on time and have some cash to spend, seaplane is the way to go. If you have time for an overnight stay, the ferry is a more economical but slower option, with a journey of 3.5 hours.
Food and drink: Cocktails – Little Jumbo, Fancy drinks or High Tea – Fairmont Empress, Food – OLO & Agrias, Breakfast or Lunch – Nourish cafe, Vegetarian – Rebar.
Bowen Island is a favourite day trip for Vancouverites, only a 30 minute ferry from Horseshoe Bay. The scenic sailing weaves between Islands and forested coastline. Bowen has a quaint village with artisan stores and excellent restaurants. It’s also a popular hiking destination.
Food & Drink: Food – Barcelona Tapas bar, Tuscany for pizza and a great garden patio, Artisan Eats is the best cafe, Doc Martins for a waterview patio.
Squamish is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts on the Sea to Sky highway between Vancouver and Whistler. The town is surrounded by mountains and water, there’s even talk of a ski resort opening in the next decade. Visitors flock to Squamish for all the outdoor activities it has to offer: rock climbing, hiking, mountain biking, sightseeing, kite and windsurfing. The Sea to Sky Gondola is one of the best viewpoints in the area, even locals take the gondola up for the view. The Stawamus Chief is the most famous trail (11km, 6 hours) and Garibaldi Lake (18km, 5 hours) is a great hike to a picturesque lake.
Food & Drink: Brewery – Backcountry, Dinner – The Salted Vine, Breakfast and Lunch – Fergie’s Cafe, Patio – Watershed, View – The Summit Eatery.
Port Moody is a 40 minute train from downtown Vancouver. It has become popular thanks to the abundance of breweries that have cropped up on ‘Brewers Row’. It also happens to be home to some beautiful parks, lakes and hiking trails. Buntzen Lake is a favourite summer day hangout, and Diez Vistas is a great hike if you’re up for a challenge.
Breweries: Twin Sails (don’t miss this one), Yellow Dog, Parkside, Bakery, Moody Ales.
Mt Baker, Washington
Mt Baker is infamous in the ski and snowboard community. It’s a killer mountain in the middle of nowhere in Washington State. It’s rarely busy, even though it gets the most snowfall in North America. Baker is an excellent winter destination for all snow sports, but it’s also popular in the summer, thanks to wonderful lakes and hiking trails. Baker is a 2 hour drive from Vancouver, US border traffic dependant, and the lift tickets are half the price of Whistler at $60USD. If you have the time to rent a cozy cabin, that’s what Baker is all about, but if you’ve only got a day, it’s still well worth a visit.
Food & Drink: Baker is not a culinary destination, but Chair 9 is the most popular with live music, and Wake n’ Bakery is a locals favourite for breakfast and lunch.
West Vancouver is home to Cypress Mountain, which has the best terrain of the three ‘city’ mountains. It’s great for snow sports, but also for hiking, with some trails to glacial lakes. West Van has a picturesque sea wall and Ambleside is a great swimming beach. The Beach House has one of the best views in the city and an excellent happy hour. Whyte Lake is a nice hike to a small lake and Lighthouse Point has pretty trails along a rocky coastline.
Food & Drink: Great food and views – The Beach House, Upmarket Vegetarian – Heirloom, Farm to Table – Terroir, Japanese – Zen, Italian – Carmelo’s.
A visit to the ‘North Shore’ makes for a beautiful day out. Take the gondola up Grouse Mountain for the views, the bears, the bird show or a meal at the Observatory. A reservation at the Observatory means a free ride up the gondola. Capilano Suspension Bridge is another popular site, although locals usually head to Lynn Canyon Suspension bridge instead, as it’s free. There are lots of trails and even some areas where you can swim, on a hot summer day. Deep Cove is another beautiful area to visit, home to famed Quarry Rock, the busiest hike in Vancouver. It is popular to rent standup paddle boards and kayaks from the Cove. There is also a pretty village with restaurants and cafes, Arms Reach being the best with it’s ocean views and happy hour. The newest Ale Trail is at the Shipyards, right by the Seabus terminal in Lower Lonsdale. There are a number of great breweries to explore, and Lower Lonsdale is also packed with patios and shops.
Food & Drink: Breweries – House of Funk & Beere, Upscale Dining – Arms Reach & The Observatory, Cocktails – The Gull, Vibe – Finch & Barley, Breakfast and Lunch – Lift, Vegetarian – Buddha Full, Patio – Tap & Barrel & Pier 7
These day trips range from 30-minutes to 2.5-hours from Vancouver. There are many other areas to explore if you’re willing to travel a little further!