Disclaimer: While some of these places might be temporarily closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s likely that you’ll soon be able to see most of them – and with many of us understandably concerned about international travel over the coming months, there’s never been a better time to explore our own backyard.
As beautiful as Vancouver is, sometimes you just need to get away from the big city and recharge your batteries somewhere else. We’ve compiled a list featuring some of the best weekend getaways from Vancouver to help you find whatever it is you’re looking for – from relaxing and soothing your soul in tranquil forests to skiing and snowboarding down snowy slopes.
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
You don’t need to go far out of the city to find yourself in some amazing natural places. If it’s excitement you’re looking for, the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is equal parts relaxing and thrilling; the spectacular tall trees and mountain views combined with the clifftop walkways and swaying suspension bridges make this one of the best possible day trips from Vancouver.
The park also has an extremely cozy cafe, where you can either relax and drink a coffee or mentally prepare yourself for the wobbling sensation to come (whether that’s the bridge swaying or just your legs turning to jelly).
One of the best times to visit Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is during the festive winter season. While it might be cold – nothing you won’t be used to if you’ve spent more than a year in Vancouver – you’ll be rewarded with spectacular seasonal light displays, and the chance to see these ancient trees illuminated with colourful art installations.
Looking to turn this into a full weekend getaway from Vancouver? Find a place to stay in the area, and really take the time to admire the other local sights. The whole Capilano River Regional Park is stunning, and full of forested hiking and biking trails. Follow the Capilano River a tiny bit further north, and make sure you check out the salmon hatchery and Cleveland Dam before returning to work on Monday, rejuvenated and recharged – and full of fascinating fish facts.
How to get there
By car: 13 mins by car from Downtown Vancouver
By public transport: 15 mins by bus (#236, Grouse Mountain) from Lonsdale Quay
Speaking of the Grouse Mountain bus, you might want to consider staying on it. If you live in Vancouver, you’ll likely see this imposing mountain looming over you most days – but when is the last time you actually went there? The view over the city is spectacular from here (it’s called ‘the peak of Vancouver’ for a reason) and there are plenty of fun activities to keep you occupied all day.
Animal lovers will benefit from a trip to the Grouse Mountain Wildlife Refuge, home to different species of endangered wildlife. The refuge provides a safe place for orphaned grizzly bears to grow up, learn and play – and you’ll have the privilege of watching them (from a safe distance, of course).
You’ll also get to listen to fascinating ranger talks from late May to October, where passionate professionals share their insights with you on everything from how to keep curious little bears from rummaging through your trash to top tips on helping hummingbirds survive the winter season.
If that’s all a bit too animalistic for you, Grouse Mountain also offers plenty of fun for humans. The state-of-the-art Skyride is a unique experience, lifting you high above the ground on an unforgettable journey into the clouds. It’s an absolute treat to float over the treetops of B.C.’s spectacular landscape, and perfect for family outings as well as romantic dates (just make sure they don’t have a phobia of heights before surprising them).
Of course, that’s not all. The mountain is famous for its skiing and snowboarding options, and if you’re a winter sports enthusiast, there aren’t a lot of better places to be than on top of this beautiful snowy mountain – the Cut is one of Vancouver’s best-known ski runs for a reason.
Whether you consider heading up to Grouse Mountain as a day trip from Vancouver or not, it’s a guaranteed way to spend a day high above the hustle and bustle of the city. If you’re looking to turn it into a full weekend getaway, rent a charming little cabin, light the fire, and start getting used to the high life.
How to get there
By car: 15-20 mins from Downtown Vancouver
By public transport: 25 mins by bus (#236, Grouse Mountain) from Lonsdale Quay
If you’re looking for even more incredible skiing opportunities, here’s arguably the most famous one in the world: Whistler. This iconic resort town and alpine area has been a legendary name for decades, and is a bucket-list destination for skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts across the globe.
The mountain village of Whistler (which has a population of around 12,000 people) is usually full of international tourists for this exact reason – it’s visited by over 2 million people a year. From this picturesque spot, you can wander along some tranquil forest trails, carve up the slopes and unleash your inner Olympian, or simply sit and enjoy the scenery from the warmth of a cozy mountain cafe.
One of the best activities in the area is hiking around Panorama Ridge, a stone’s throw from Whistler, right next to the crystal-clear alpine lakes of Garibaldi Provincial Park.
For people looking for an easy day trip from Vancouver (without worrying about transport hassles), it’s possible to get to Whistler and back on a comfortable bus as part of a comprehensive day tour. If you’re looking for more than just a day trip from Vancouver, turn your Whistler excursion into a full weekend getaway by adding some extra destinations along the way.
While the above tour also includes a stop at Shannon Falls (a beautiful natural spot with imposing waterfalls), there are plenty of other highlights along the Sea-to-Sky Highway. Immerse yourself in the small and creative community of Lions Bay, camp under the stars at the (relatively) small but scenic Porteau Cove Provincial Park, or even go all the way up north to Nairn Falls Provincial Park.
How to get there
By car: 90 minutes from Downtown Vancouver vis BC99-N.
By public transport: Just under 2 hours on the Canada Line from Burrard Station.
Some people say that it’s not the destination that counts, but the journey along the way. Others believe that struggle and strife are worth it, as long as they get the right result in the end. Luckily, to avoid any existential debates at the dinner table next Canadian Thanksgiving, we can all agree that a ferry trip from Vancouver to Victoria features the best of both worlds. Float across beautiful blue waters and keep your eyes on the horizon for dolphins and orcas, before disembarking in B.C.’s picturesque capital city.
It’s called the ‘Garden City’ for a reason. It seems like everywhere you turn in Victoria, there’s some beautiful tree, shrub, or flower waiting for you. Beacon Hill Park, Abkhazi Garden, Saanich Gorge Park, and the Sunken Rose Garden are all lovely spots to spend a leisurely afternoon. The famous Butchart Gardens are also nearby, and a must-see for anyone who’s even remotely into roaming around stunning gardens.
Another good way to spend the day in Victoria is to check out North America’s second-oldest Chinatown district (first place goes to San Francisco, in the U.S.). The neighbourhood’s history dates back as far as 1858, as California-based miners made their way up to Canada as part of the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush. Check out the imposing Gate of Harmonious Interest on Fisgard Street, Fan Tan Alley (which used to be a gambling alley/opium den hotspot, but now contains art galleries and cafes), and some of B.C.’s best Chinese restaurants.
Try turning your trip to Victoria into a complete weekend getaway from Vancouver by renting a place to stay overnight. This way you can make the most of the best attractions in Victoria, and take the time to explore lush local landmarks like Butchart Gardens. Highly recommended.
How to get there
By ferry: The travel time between Tsawwassen (Vancouver) and Swartz Bay (Victoria) is around 95 minutes.
Britannia Beach/Britannia Mine Museum
There’s another nugget of sightseeing gold waiting to be discovered along the Sea-To-Sky Highway. The Britannia Beach area has everything you need to plan the perfect day trip from Vancouver: eye-boggling views of Howe Sound and the surrounding mountains from the Britannia Beach Trail, as well as total serenity – the area usually isn’t too busy, and is enjoyed mostly by locals.
It’s also close to one of B.C.’s most fascinating historical attractions, the Britannia Mine Museum. This historical site was once a mine (as you might have guessed), but these days its collection of fascinating exhibitions and experiences give you one of the most immersive glimpses into the lives of early 20th-century miners during the mine industry boom. It wasn’t just any mine, though – during its peak, it was the single-largest copper mine in the British Empire.
The museum has been designated by the Canadian Tourism Commission as a Canadian Signature Experience, meaning it should probably be on your list of local landmarks to visit. If that’s not enough, we should also mention at this point that the museum has an immersive live-action experience full of special effects, titled “BOOM!”.
Britannia Mine Museum is only a five-minute car ride away from Shannon Falls, so a visit to the area has the perfect mix of natural splendour and interesting local history. Whether you’re looking for a weekend getaway from Vancouver or just a one-day escape, there’s a good chance you’ll find plenty to do around Britannia.
How to get there
By car: 40 minutes via BC-99 N.
Would this be a respectable list of day trips and weekend getaways from Vancouver if we didn’t include an amazing kayaking experience? No it wouldn’t. Is this the amazing kayaking experience in question? Yes, it is.
Buntzen Lake is easily one of the prettiest around Vancouver, and tends to benefit from not that many people knowing about it. It’s a favourite with locals who live nearby, and is located in a dog-friendly area full of hikes of all difficulties and spectacular views. The real attraction though? Kayaking. Rent them at the recreation store nearby, and paddle the day away.
The lake isn’t very big and the waters are calm, making it perfect for beginners or people who want to relax instead of rushing down white-water rapids. It’s also perfect for families – just rent a double kayak, put the kids in front, and make sure you race each other to the other side. Now is the time to prove that you are the best and most powerful paddler in the family.
One thing to be mindful of? The parking situation. If you’re planning a day trip from Vancouver, make sure you start heading there early. While it’s true that it’s not as busy as parks in the city, the parking situation gets pretty crowded and you might not be able to find a spot depending on your timing. The perfect solution would be to spend a night camping (or staying in an Airbnb/rental, depending on the season).
How to get there
By car: Around 45 minutes via BC-7A.
The name gives it away a little bit. This crystal-clear waterfall is located near Coquitlam, just over half an hour from Vancouver. In good weather, the Crystal Falls area is a great place to walk around and get some fresh air surrounded by virgin forest. The trail is mostly flat and easily accessible, with a few small streams and logs to hop over – and admiring the waterfall is more than worth the trip.
Overall, the hike takes around 1.5 hours in total, not including potential picnic time or time spent making sure you get the ultimate waterfall picture. It’s one of the most scenic day trips from Vancouver, and it’s a great way to get out of the city and into some pristine Canadian scenes. Make sure you don’t go after it rains though – the muddy trail will be anything but crystal-clear!
How to get there
By car: Around 35 minutes via Trans-Canada Hwy/BC-1 E.
As for the final trip… how about flying over all of Canada? Just really soaring above the entire thing, like a majestic bald eagle, without ever leaving the comforts of Downtown Vancouver? No, this isn’t a sales pitch for hallucinogenic mushrooms – we’re talking about FlyOver Canada.
This unique flying theatre has been a downtown staple since 2013, displaying all facets of the Canadian landscape. From the subtle beauty of everyday life to sweeping vistas of the nation’s most remarkable landscapes, FlyOver is a local must-do for anyone in the Vancouver area.
If you’re wondering how they manage to do it, it took a professional film crew over a year of travelling coast to coast to get the nation’s most iconic and visually stunning locations on film. The final footage is displayed on a 360-degree spherical screen all around you, while you’re suspended in mid-air with your feet dangling (like an eagle, remember?). You’ll also be treated to the same luxuries afforded to our feathered friends: breezy gusts of wind, refreshing mist, and the scintillating scents of the Canadian outdoors.
The experience features 18 scenes from over 100 hours of footage to represent Canada. Thankfully, there are no subtitles or cheesy voice-overs either. It really is just you and the country’s most beautiful landscapes. Does it count as a weekend getaway from Vancouver? Not really. Does it count as a day trip? Just enough to put it on this list. After all, you do get to see some of the nation’s most amazing sights – even if you’re not actually leaving the city.
Honestly, the experience’s official website says it best:
“Dip into deep valleys through which wild rivers rush; feel the wind in your hair as you glide over magnificent prairies; gaze at snow-capped mountains that tower above the land; seek the thrill of buzzing urban environments that pulse from morning until night. By the journey’s end, you will find yourself in awe of the breathtaking elegance of this country.”
How to get there
Head to Canada Place by the waterfront.