You can walk days on end in Vancouver and
never lose sight of the sea, so chances are you'll want to do this walkabout in bits and pieces.
Tip! Check Vancouver Trolley for en route hop-on-hop-off stops near these locations.
Stanley Park, the crown jewel among Vancouver's many parks, is a 20-minute walk west along Georgia from Granville Street. Or, go north on Granville three blocks to West Pender and catch bus #19 westbound, which goes right into the park. Besides the seawall and walking trails, beaches and picnic gardens, the Aquarium is here, pitch and putt golf, tennis courts, horse-drawn tours, and live theater in Malkin Bowl during summer. Get a bicycle at Spoke's Bike Rental (1798 West Georgia Street) or go on foot.
The seawall promenade encircles the park's 1,000 acres. Along the way, ancient forests tower to one side, North Shore mountains loom to another side and city skyline to another. A north-easterly circuit from the Coal Harbor side leads to the cafés of English Bay, and after doing the 9km loop (5.5 miles) you will certainly be ready for a snack to say the least.
>> Or, you might want to carry on and pick up picnic fixings at Granville Island Public Market. Stroll southeast down Beach Avenue to Sunset Beach and hop aboard a quaint Granville Island Ferry for the 5-minute jaunt across False Creek. Along with the market, the boutiques and galleries on Granville Island definitely call for an afternoon of poking about. After which, if you aren't quite ready to call it a day, you could hang around for an evening of theater at one of two Arts Club venues on the island.
Those with seaside strolling still in mind can carry on eastward to Stamp's Landing in the pleasant company of kayaks, canoes, yachts, and other False Creek traffic.
If not east, then a westward meander is equally inviting, passing by picturesque harbor-side condominium communities, proceeding under Burrard Street Bridge past the Vancouver Maritime Museum in Vanier Park, and thence for miles and miles from park to beach, beach to park. One section, between Kitsilano and Jericho Parks, may call for scrambling to higher ground during high tide. Otherwise, as long as body and spirit are willing, you can go right to Spanish Banks and Wreck Beach (nude bathing) where you make a rough climb up to the campus of the University of British Columbia. Granted, this would be a longer haul than most people would want to tackle on foot on one day.
>> Alternatively, along the way, you could take any street going south, but uphill, to 4th Avenue and catch a bus #4 to UBC (University of British Columbia). On campus you have the Botanical Gardens, the Asian Gardens, the Rose Garden, the Chan Center for Performing Arts, and cost-friendly movies (all welcome) at the Student Union building, just behind the bus loop. The Museum of Anthropology is renowned and well worth an afternoon. It's about a 10-minute walk north of the campus bus loop – it's easy to find but better ask passersby directions there and back again to catch the return bus #4 to downtown.
Early evenings by the seaside, come rain or shine, Vancouverites are out in full force shooting the breeze with other strollers, or walking their dogs, so it is perfectly safe to walk alone with so many people about. And you'll find plenty of eating choices close to these routes whenever the stomach starts complaining.
>> Besides the sea walks mentioned above, another easy possibility is Ambleside Park. Take any West Vancouver blue bus from Georgia and Granville and get off at Marine Drive and 13th. You can walk either direction: go west for 3.5 km to the pier at 25th Street.
Or go east to where the Capilano River meets Burrard Inlet – a pleasant stroll year round but especially so in August when huge numbers of salmon gather. You see them leaping in excitement while waiting a turn to get going upriver to their spawning grounds. Harbor seals often show a bobbing, inquisitive head, and an endless stream of working and pleasure vessels, including luxury cruise liners, keep you company as you walk.
This trip takes you across Burrard Inlet to the lush green North Shore mountains using a variety of public transportation. From Georgia Street walk 4 blocks north on Granville to Waterfront Station and catch the SeaBus to Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver – don't forget to get a transfer. The bus terminal is right outside the SeaBus entrance, but before transferring to a #236 bus, check out the lively market for regularly scheduled free concerts, maybe pick up some fruit or picnic fixings.
For one of the most scenic city drives you'll find anywhere, catch a Horseshoe Bay bus #250 (the 257 Express is a slightly faster, less winding option) in front of The Bay department store on Georgia Street. This 55-minute route to Horseshoe Bay transects Stanley Park and provides spectacular views of the Coast Mountains and Burrard Inlet as the bus passes over Lions' Gate Bridge, then proceeds on through the suburban communities of West Vancouver. You have at least three worthwhile stopover points along the way, depending on your time and interests, or you can stay on the bus until the end of the line at Horseshoe Bay.
>> Sightseers should stay on the bus and enjoy leafy, gentrified suburbia during a winding, up and down ride with peekaboo sea views all along the way to the end of the line at Horseshoe Bay. At the foot of Howe Sound, mountain and sea awesomely surround Horseshoe Bay. Its two-block waterfront is lined with seafood restaurants, so this could be your stop-and-dine destination for the day.
>> At Snug Harbor on Bowen Island you'll find a few restaurants, local arts and crafts, and hilly walks.
>> Langdale is the gateway to the Sunshine Coast, a 118-km (73-mile) peninsula of semi-rural coastal communities accessible only by ferry. Local buses meet the ferries for transport to Gibsons (10 minutes) and Sechelt (60 minutes) – but you'd only go that far if you really like bus rides or are in sync with a special community event such as any of several festivals that happen annually on the "Coast." Gibsons is the ideal turnaround for this full day trip from Vancouver, and it's only about a 10-minute ride from Langdale terminal into the village.
The heart of the village is brightly marked by the yellow facade of Molly's Reach restaurant, made famous in the 1970s as the setting for The Beachcombers, Canada's longest running TV production. Kitty-corner to Molly's is a statue commemorating George Gibson, the town's pioneer founder, set in a pretty little garden. Adjacent to the garden is the Tourist Information office where you should find current bus and ferry schedules if you haven't already picked them up en route.
Note: The first return ferry will be in approximately two hours, but don't take that for granted. Do keep an eye on timing and scheduling.
Gibsons has a small museum worth a visit, and its strong artisan culture is reflected in a nice selection of art galleries, antique and boutique shops. During summer weekends, buskers, entertainers, and crafters add a lively buzz to streets colorfully lined with flowering baskets. For a lunch break, you have half a dozen good choices for sit-down dining, or you can take away a sandwich or ice cream to enjoy while strolling the picturesque harbor.
Note: Some buses skip the village center, so catch your return bus at the shelter on the east edge of town. Taxi: Tel. 604-886-7337.
Fort Langley is a pretty little town on the Fraser River, one of the earliest settlements in British Columbia. This excursion by public transport gives you a little town and a little country with the Coast Mountains always in sight.
>> You may or may not have two routes to choose from, but only if your visit coincides with one of the few Historic Fort Langley Cruises offered by Paddlewheeler Riverboat Tours during summer months. If so, you'd need to make a decision at the outset whether or not to go via New Westminster or via Surrey, the year-round public transit route. In any case it's a good idea, beforehand, to work out a round-trip plan online with Translink.
Because you have to decide before setting out, we'll start with the irregular option via New Westminster.
In Fort Langley, get off the C62 at Glover and 96th (15 minutes); walk north three blocks on Glover, turn right onto Mavis to find the Fort Langley National Historic Site just ahead. This reconstructed fur trading post provides a glimpse of 19th century river-based commerce in country yet to be designated either American or Canadian. The Hudson's Bay Company, a huge British trading conglomerate, established a small post about 4 km upstream from here in 1827. It was one among a network of forts carrying on trade with the First Nations of what are now Washington and British Columbia. After a fire, a new fort was built on the current site. Strategically located on the Fraser River, Fort Langley became instrumental in the colonizing of British Columbia. In 1858, gold fever hit the region, attracting an influx of conflicting concerns that threatened British interests, which prompted Governor James Douglas to come to Fort Langley where he proclaimed British Columbia a crown colony.
After learning a bit about the birth of British Columbia, take a walk. Just around the corner from the fort, on King Street, you come across the Langley Centennial Museum and the BC Farm Machinery and Agricultural Museum, both worthy of a visit. Or, if you've had enough history for one day, head back to town center at Mavis and Glover to find numerous snackeries and an assortment of arts and crafts shops, including the Heritage CN Station, now home to the Fort Langley Artists Group.
>> Alternatively, cross the road and railroad tracks to the north of the fort and pick up the Fort-to-Fort Trail. If you like, follow it 4km alongside the Fraser River as far as the original 1827 location of Fort Langley. Or, you can break off at any of the adjoining streets and head back to town. Glover Road will take you into the commercial district where you can get a bite to eat before catching your return bus.
>> From Danielle Aird: One of Vancouver's best kept secrets is Erik's Lynn Canyon tour. It is absolutely the cat's meow. I joined it with my teenage granddaughter: the best thing we could do in Vancouver.