Gorgeously positioned between the mountains and the sea, our trip around Vancouver was always destined to be a bit of a planes, trains and automobiles adventure! With a little shopping, a little snow and a little lunch in between, this is my kind of holiday, writes Tash McGill.
The love of the rugged wilderness and outdoor activity must be bred into Vancouverites. You can be in snow at the top of Grouse Mountain only 30-odd-mins after lunching next to the water on Granville Island, so it’s really no wonder.
1. We started out at the Vancouver Aquarium for a whistlestop tour. Well renowned for a strong focus on research, conservation and education – it was unsurprising to find the place crawling with little people and school groups.
I certainly recommend making your way to see the beluga whales – a stunning sight and something you’ll unlikely ever see in their natural habitat. The wet lab is the most exciting part – we held all manner of starfish and poked at anemones.
2. From there we dashed to Granville Island.
Interesting factoid: Vancouver was originally a milling town known as Granville and the area of Granville Island was an industrial no man’s land til the 1970s when some clever town planners thought it was the perfect position to develop an arts and cultural, food and market hub. Ever since, and now especially, it’s the centre of a bustling urban oasis on the banks of False Creek.
It’s very possibly the only place in the western world that a delightful public food market (featuring a delicatessen selling wild boar prosciutto, home cured bacon and amazing sausages and the very best soup stand I’ve ever been to) is nestled amongst artisan craft stores and a full operational concrete factory.
It’s all a bit surreal but just a short water taxi ride from downtown Vancouver, across the creek.
Make sure to set aside a few hours to trawl through the stores including First Nations crafts, bookstores, leather and glass workers. One of the world’s most famous hat stores, Granville Island Hats, is found on Granville and you could easily spend hours trying on every style imaginable. Once you’re done with shopping, make sure to walk through the market, tasting the many samples of local delicacies on offer before grabbing a bite to eat.
You’ll notice many of the locals just doing their regular shopping as well as tourists poking around. You’ll find dozens of gift ideas and tantalising treats for yourself…
We sat down to lunch at The Sandbar, and got stuck into the first of many clam chowders I would try this week. The Sandbar is worth visiting purely for the stunning location on the patio, overlooking the creek and across to the city. Although the fires and heaters were on, there was a plentiful supply of cosy blankets to wrap around your legs whilst enjoying more of the ocean bounty of Vancouver – just because, really!
3. From there, it was an easy jaunt across Lionsgate Bridge to stop at a couple of Vancouver’s stunning outdoor attractions.
First up the stunning Capilano Bridge – a large suspension bridge with a few treetops bridges to walk through too! The park is a tribute to some of Vancouver’s personal history with great storytellers and guides to get the most of the experience.
Not for the faint-hearted if heights aren’t your thing, but I loved every minute of climbing through trees and the stunning views.
4. Then finally to make the most of the blue skies we could see, we headed up Grouse Mountain.
Amazing to be able to see grizzly bears coming out of hibernation but the absolute pinnacle (ok, pun intended) of this day trip is the Eye of the Wind Turbine. Custom built with an observation platform that moves with the wind turbine, this speaks volumes to the importance of sustainable energy to local industry. Just like Whistler, it’s really an all-seasons adventure visit.
And just like that, the sun was setting over Vancouver. We viewed it from the restaurant at the top, enjoying some local beers and more seafood before taking the gondola down.
From under the sea to up on the mountain, via aquariums, islands, bridges and gondolas – Vancouver knows how to pack an almighty punch into one day!