8.12.2017 – 8.19.2017 || Vancouver| Victoria || Canada
Aside from a long weekend trip to Niagara Falls in 2005 for my grandma’s 80th birthday (more on that in a separate post), it is a country that hasn’t been on our travel radar until recently. There are so many Canadian hikes and cities on our travel wish list that we couldn’t possibly cover it all in one week so we decided to focus on Vancouver and Victoria.
We opted for Vancouver and Victoria due to direct flights, the promise of cooler temps, the combination of big city and scenic outdoor activities. Upon further research there was plenty to do! Here is how we spent a week in Vancouver and Victoria.
We had a morning flight from DC that put us in Vancouver mid-day. After fueling up on salmon poke and ramen at Yuzu we headed back to our hotel to borrow bikes.
What a great amenity to have free bike rentals! The Westin Bayshore was in a prime location right on the water and near the entrance to Stanley Park.
It was a gorgeous afternoon so the park was crowded but we followed right along and cycled the 8.8km seawall while enjoying views of the English Bay.
The next day we set out to explore Vancouver and ended up walking 13 miles along the way! We started the day by walking from Bayshore to a ferry that would take us the rest of the way to Granville Island.
Everyone raves about this place so we were looking forward to grabbing breakfast and exploring.
After the market we headed towards Kits Bay and Kitslano Beach.
All of the beaches that we saw had logs in the sand. They were used as dividers, chairs, a place to hang your stuff, etc.
The UBC Museum of Anthropology is well known for its displays of world art and culture. It was a bit of a hike so we fueled up and then made our way to the university via the public bus. The university has a really large campus along the coast southwest of downtown Vancouver and northwest of the airport.
The totem pole exhibit in the main room was really impressive.
There was an exhibit called the Traces of Words: Art and Calligraphy from Asia that was really unique as it interacted with people as they came into the room.
We headed across the campus to the UBC Botanical Garden to check out a TreeWalk that we read about. You walk across a 310m long tree top canopy with suspended walkways and tree platforms ~20m above the forest floor. A bit shaky but worth a walk if you are in the UBC area.
The following day we headed to North Vancouver and into nature. Next time we would totally skip the super touristy Capilano Suspension bridge in favor of some other hikes but we were staying at one of the free shuttle pick up zones in town and decided to check it out before heading elsewhere.
There were way too many people for my liking! This is the main suspension bridge that you need to cross to get to the suspended walkways and tree top platforms.
Check out our ath-leisure aka hiking gear compared to the other tourists. It was so crowded at one point I turned around it looked like my fellow hiker was a tour guide leading a group of older people – ha!
It was time for the real hiking adventure of the day. A short public bus ride away and we were at the bottom of Grouse Mountain, the starting point for Grouse Grind. This hike is a 2.9km trail up the face of Grouse Mountain, commonly referred to as “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster.” The average time is 90 minutes.
It was no joke. We are in relatively decent shape but this took some serious focus and determination to just keep moving. Shout out to Title Boxing for the many rounds of squats and lunges to make this somewhat more bearable.
We made it to the top in 77 minutes! The male record is 23 minutes and the female record is 30 minutes so we have some training to do!
Grouse Grind is thankfully one-way only so we took the sky ride down the mountain and had a chance to take in the view.
We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing before an early dinner at Blue Water Cafe in Yaletown before the Metallica concert! This was our first time seeing Metallica in concert and it rocked! Each ticket you purchased came with a CD of their new album so we were able to recognize a lot of their set list.
We split the trip up to spend the first three nights and the last two nights in Vancouver, with two nights in Victoria in the middle of the trip. Victoria is the capital of the British Colombia province and is located on Vancouver Island.
We decided to take a 4-hour whale watching boat there to combine sightseeing with transportation. En route we saw a bald eagle and seals before coming upon two seprate groups of killer whales!
Downtown Victoria was beautiful and in bloom.
After tea at the Empress we spent the afternoon walking along the harbor.
Victoria Parliament Building at night
Butchart Gardens was the highlight of Victoria and will be the bar for which all other gardens are compared to forever more. #gardengoals
Another notable experience was our Harbor Air Seaplane ride from Victoria to Vancouver. I will travel just about anywhere but I do not like the journey, I do not like flying. I agreed to the seaplane because it was a fraction of the travel time compared to other boat/ferry rides, and I was curious. If there ever is a place to take a seaplane it is in Vancouver.
After watching several dozen seaplanes take off and land over the last couple of days I was ready.
The entire experience was seamless and much easier than a commercial airport! You roll up and check in within 30 minutes of takeoff and you simply walk outside when your flight is called. Here is our ride!
Such a cool experience, I would absolutely do it again!
Upon landing in Vancouver my cousin and her adorable little girl were there to meet us. They live in Washington state about two hours away and were free for the day so we grabbed lunch and walked along the harbor before parting ways.
Notice the gas station out in the middle of the water for boats!
Our final excursion of the trip took us outside of the city. We rented a car and headed towards Buntzen Lake & Diez Vistas Trail. The hike starts and ends at the Buntzen Lake Recreation Area. We set out for the eight mile hike and were immediately treated to gorgeous views.
It was a steady climb up, not quite like Grouse Grind but it required some climbing before reaching any of the vistas.
Once we got near the top, the views just keep getting better and better.
Downtown Vancouver is in the distance.
Working on my 1-2 in case we run into bears. #forgotthebearspray
A bit off course doing my own thing?
Another suspension bridge not nearly as sturdy as the others if the max capacity is 4!
We found an opening in the trail that led down to the water so we decided to sit down to enjoy the view and have a little snack before completing the final stretch along the lake.
It took us about 4.75 hours to complete the hike. Overall a challenging hike with great views throughout.
Until next time Vancouver!
Notable Sights & Activities
- Stanley Park
- Granville Island Public Market
- UBC Museum of Anthropology
- Grouse Grind
- Butchart Gardens (Victoria)
- Buntzen Lake & Diez Vistas Trail
Notable Food Experiences
- Tetsu Sushi – in the popular Denman St/Robinson St area near Bayshore
- Blue Water Cafe – in Yaletown
- Rodyney’s Oysters – in Yaletown
- Pidgin – in Gastown
- Whale watching from Vancouver to Victoria
- Tea at the Empress in Victoria
- Harbor Air Seaplane ride from Victoria to Vancouver
Below is a snapshot of our day by day Vancouver & Victoria itinerary and where we stayed.
Question: Have you ever flown in a seaplane?