By: Paula Wallis
If you’ve ever spent any amount of time in Vancouver, you know why the rest of the country fondly refers to the area as the “Wet Coast.” Yes, it’s true, Vancouver does get more than its fair share of liquid sunshine, it is a rain forest after all, but we also have warm, sunny summers that seem to go on forever. That’s when you’ll see tourists and locals alike breaking out the flip-flops and getting outdoors to explore the city. But if you’ve spent any time in Vancouver, you’ll also know that the locals don’t need an excuse to get out and enjoy the city, but a little sunshine sure helps!
Walk/Bike the Seawall
With over 22km to walk, bike or rollerblade, the ever-expanding seawall is the perfect way to spend a sunny day. With the main attraction being Stanley Park, the seawall also brings users through Coal Harbor, Yaletown, Kits Beach, and now the Olympic Village, to name a few. There are 2 outdoor pools along the way, 16 parks, and countless beaches, cafes, concession stands, pubs and tourist attractions, such as the Totem Poles in Stanley Park, or the nearby Vancouver Aquarium. Visitors to the city that make use of the seawall get an almost complete tour of Vancouver. Two things to remember though; bicycle traffic is one-way only through Stanley Park, and the walking and bike path are entirely separate. Woe to the seawall user that confuses the two, or cycles the wrong way on the bike path. Locals are not shy about pointing out these two simple rules to out-of-towners. And with good reason; before these rules came into effect, collisions between pedestrians, cyclists, and rollerbladers were an everyday occurrence.
Feeling energetic? Make your way to Grouse Mountain and hike the Grouse Grind. The unofficial record time for climbing the Grouse Grind is 24:22, but you don’t have to try for the record. For most users in reasonable physical health, it’s about an hour and a half hike, give or take. A beautifully maintained, but very steep trail through the woods brings you to Grouse Mountain, a local ski hill popular for both summer and winter sports. The view from the top makes the climb all worth it. Take in panoramic views of the city while enjoying fine dining in the Observatory Restaurant. There are also casual dining choices and coffee bars in the lodge. If you’re not feeling up to a brisk climb (and those who are making the ascent for some fine-dining probably won’t, in their formal attire) there is an aerial tram called the Skyride which makes for a pleasant ascent up the mountain, and is included in the cost of your dinner at the Observatory if you make reservations in advance.
Talented street performers, a diverse selection of freshly prepared local and ethnic foods, plenty of local artisan shops, and inexpensive water taxis to and from Granville Island make this a highly enjoyable way to soak up the sun. With plenty of outdoor seating, order up a spicy curry, homemade perogies, or fresh baked artisan bread with a selection of cheeses and deli meats from the market to make your own little picnic on a bench overlooking False Creek and just spend the day watching the boats go by, listening to local musicians, or wandering through the markets. There are also several pubs and restaurants if you’re looking for a less self-serve experience. You can find just about anything you’re looking for on Granville Island. Loaded with bakeries, fresh produce markets, delis, wine merchants, art supply shops, glassblowing studios, a mall just for children (even equipped with their own pint-sized door for entry), it’s easy to lose track of time here. You can even book whale watching trips or boat tours from Granville Island.
Head down to the marina at Coal Harbor and take a stroll along the seawall. You’ll have no trouble finding a charter boat for day fishing trips, weekend trips, harbor dinner cruises, and the like. Even if you don’t catch a thing, spending a day on the water in the sunshine is still a pretty enjoyable way to spend the day. Catching some salmon certainly improves it though! From personal experience; I would recommend Preston and his crew on the SeaStar. I’ve included a link to the SeaStar’s website at the end of this article. Preston, my husband, and a friend of ours are on the home page showing off our catch of the day! Preston’s crew made sure that all twelve of us on board had a fantastic day on the water, providing BBQ’d salmon and sandwiches, salads, and chips for lunch, as well as soft drinks and bottled water. If half a day on the water is sufficient for you, you can opt for the morning or the afternoon departure. Preston does his very best to take you where the fish are biting. Of course no sport fishing company can guarantee a catch, but we were happy to haul out a 28 pound salmon to take home with us. He even gutted and filleted it for us when we reached the docks, feeding the scraps to waiting sea lions, who put on their own little show for us with all their barking and diving, attracting quite a crowd.
Hop-on, Hop-off Bus Tours
If walking tours are not your thing, and you want to get a decent tour of the city, the Hop-on, Hop-off bus tours are the way to go. A two day pass comes at a reasonable price and takes you through much of the downtown core, including Stanley Park, Chinatown, Granville Island, English Bay and Gastown. Grab a seat on the open air top deck and relax in the sunshine. With stops all over the city and another bus coming along every fifteen minutes or so, you can disembark and explore the sights that interest you at your leisure. With a narrated tour along the whole route, you can also learn a little of the history of Vancouver. Having taken the tour myself when entertaining visitors from overseas, I was pleasantly surprised to learn a little about Vancouver that I hadn’t known before, and it was all around just an enjoyable sightseeing tour.
Skip the malls on a sunny day and hit the streets for some shopping. But where do I start? Vancouver has so many shopping districts, and where you go depends on what you’re looking for.
Robson Street has all your typical shops like Gap, Club Monacco, American Eagle and the like. There are plenty of dining options as well on Robson if you work up an appetite with all that shopping.
I’ve already touched on Granville Island, but basically, if you’re in an artistic frame of mind, Granville Island is the place to be. If you’re looking for funky and unusual, look no further than the island.
Commercial Drive is a vibrant blend of Italian, Cuban, Middle-Eastern and Greek shops, delis and restaurants. With an interesting mix of hippie, gay and lesbian shops thrown in for good measure. Home of the Dyke March and the Parade of Lost Souls, Commercial Drive is one of the more interesting neighborhoods in the city and the sunny patios along the drive are always in high demand.
If you’re looking for something a little more upscale, the intersection of Alberni and Burrard Streets and the surrounding area provide high-end boutiques such as Tiffany’s, Betsey Johnson, Agent Provocatuer, Louis Vuitton and the like. There are also several fine dining options in the area to show off your new haute couture.
Both Davie and Denman Street in the West End used to be home to many interesting local businesses. Sadly, with lease prices in the West End rising astronomically, you tend to see a lot more Starbucks, Tim Hortons, McDonalds and other franchises these days. However, this is Vancouver’s major gay and lesbian district, and there are still plenty of unique shops along Davie Street that are definitely worth a look.
Locals will notice that I’ve skipped a few choice shopping areas. There are just too many to name, and half the fun is discovering them for yourself.
Capilano Suspension Bridge/Treetop Adventure
Just the way to conquer your fear of heights! Or possibly make it worse. The swaying bridge has thrilled visitors to the area for years, and the recently added Treetop Adventure completes the experience. Built in a unique rainforest setting high above the Capilano River, visitors can continue on from the bridge along seven more suspension bridges set up to 100ft above ground in the treetops. Guided tours are available, or you can simply explore at your own pace, stopping for First Nations wood carving demonstrations, musical entertainment, or just the amazing views. I’m told by visitors from the UK that the Capilano Suspension Bridge is occasionally highlighted on BC travel shows, along with the voice over the loudspeaker chastising tourists for “shaking the bridge.” My visitors were happy to report back home that they got to hear the voice from the loudspeaker. I apologize to the staff at Capilano, in hindsight; it probably wasn’t the wisest thing to do.
Hit the Deck!
What better way to enjoy the day than sitting on one of Vancouver’s many sun-drenched patios, enjoying a chilly pint of local microbrew beer. With several to choose from, English Bay, Coal Harbor, and Yaletown offer some of the best waterfront views. Some great patios on the water include; Bridges on Granville Island, The Boathouse in English Bay, Nu Restaurant overlooking False Creek, Carderos and The Lift Restaurant; both in Coal Harbor, and Provence Marinaside in Yaletown. Don’t limit your options to these restaurants though, there are so many along the water to try out, and it’s almost impossible to make the wrong choice.
There are also some spectacular patios a little more inland in the downtown core. Try Joe Fortes on Robson, The Keg in Yaletown, Brix Restaurant, also in Yaletown, or L’Altro Buca at The Buchan Hotel in the West End.
Whatever your choice, waterfront or no, fresh seafood, tasty beer, and extensive wine lists make for an unforgettable experience at any of these fantastic patio restaurants.
Pitch and Putt in Stanley Park
There are oodles of pitch-and-putts in Vancouver and the surrounding area. The Stanley Park pitch and putt just happens to have the best location. And what I consider to be the most beautifully landscaped course. Set amidst lush gardens of rhododendrons and mature trees, even if you’re not much of a golfer, you’ll enjoy a day putting around this course. Novices can enjoy the walk around this 18 hole course, practicing their swing with occasional sightings of squirrels, raccoons, ducks and geese. Within walking distance of tennis courts, a lawn bowling club, English Bay, Lost Lagoon, and the Fish House Restaurant, you and your family can make a day of it.
One of my favorite things to do on a clear day in Vancouver is to load up the dogs, hop in the car and take the scenic drive out to Horseshoe Bay. Grab some take out fish and chips and clam chowder from one of the restaurants in the bay and find a patch of grass to sit and watch the ferries come in from the islands. The dogs love chasing a ball along the rocky shoreline. If you’ve got no plans for the day, hop on a ferry to the Sunshine Coast, Nanaimo, or nearby Bowen Island. Or take your fish and chips and head up to Whytecliff Park, about a 10 minute drive from Horseshoe Bay. Spend the day on the beach watching the seals in their protected habitat. This is also a popular spot for divers if you’re into some underwater exploration. With plenty of picnic areas, tennis courts, a playground and walking trails winding through the cliffs overlooking the Howe Sound, you’ll find the perfect spot to sit down and enjoy your lunch in the sunshine.
These are just a few of the many sunny-day activities to be found in the city of Vancouver, and I didn’t even mention sun-bathing on Kits Beach, cheering on your horse at Hastings Race Course, or BBQ’ing in Stanley Park! Come visit and discover the city for yourself, just bring your raincoats! Having said that, I’ll leave you with a quote from Canadian band favorite, Trooper; “So have a good time, the sun can’t shine every day. And the sun is shining, in this rainy city.” I’m pretty sure they were singing about Vancouver.
Link for SeaStar Salmon Fishing Charters:
SeaStar Salmon Fishing Charters
About the author:
Paula Wallis makes her home in beautiful British Columbia in the Best City in The World, Vancouver. She spends her spare time seeking out the best beaches in the world and is a huge fan of hammocks. Follow her on fanaticnomadic.blogspot.com