Vancouver has always been regarded as a city that enjoys the outdoors. And really, given we have the sea on one side, the land in the middle, and mountains on the other it isn’t hard to figure out why it attracts both residents and visitors with its call of an active lifestyle.
With summer now in full swing here are a few of our favourite outdoor activities that take full advantage of the warmer temperatures and reduced rainfall.
Vancouver’s two most popular paddling destinations are quite different from each other. The placid waters of False Creek are flanked by Yaletown’s bustling cityscape to the north and clamorous Granville Island to the south, while the North Shore’s nature-bound Deep Cove area is the launch point for Indian Arm, a tree-lined, finger‑shaped fjord that bends northwards for 30 kilometres (19 miles) deep into the heart of the mountains. Local kayak rental and tour operators include Ecomarine Ocean Kayak Centre and Deep Cove Canoe and Kayak Centre.
The Lower Mainland offers a cornucopia of great hiking opportunities. Popular trekking spots include the North Shore’s Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve, complete with 50 kilometres (31 miles) of paved and gravel logging trails that also attract cyclists and inline skaters; Deep Cove, combining small-scale urban development with looming mountains and glassy seascapes; and the well-marked Baden-Powell Trail, which winds through 42 kilometres (26 miles) of rocky bluffs, snow-fed ravines and of course trees, trees, trees – it’s the epitome of West Coast natural splendour. The city’s most popular hiking route is the Grouse Grind, a steep 2.9 kilometre (1.8 mile) uphill trek through the forest. It can take up to two hours, but you can relax with a gondola ride back down for $5.
The 10.5-kilometre (6.5-mile) Stanley Park seawall is dripping with rollerbladers throughout the summer months – its flat, paved path circles the entire park and offers spectacular mountain, waterfront and forest vistas with plenty of spots to stop and take a breather. More adventurous rollerbladers are often drawn to North Vancouver’s Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve, where the towering trees provide a spectacular backdrop for a nature-bound spin. In-line skates can be rented throughout the city, and operators include Bayshore Bicycles & Rollerblade Rentals and Spokes Bicycle Rentals.
Ringed by mountains, Vancouver is an ideal destination for rock climbers who don’t want to stray too far from the city. The local mountains offer dozens of options for climbers of all levels, while a one-hour drive along the Sea-to-Sky Highway brings you one of Western Canada’s most popular climbing destinations. The Squamish Chief is an experienced rock climber’s dream with boundless routes to scale on its beautiful granite face. For those less experienced, group and private lessons, indoor climbing walls and guided climbing tours are available around the region.
Among Vancouver’s best summertime haunts, Kitsilano Beach is the most popular spot for catching the rays. It attracts families, locals and visitors with its wide sandy expanse and large saltwater swimming pool. English Bay Beach, at the intersection of Denman and Davie Streets is a busy stretch for sunbathers, volleyball players and resting rollerbladers. For the city’s best sunset, head to Stanley Park’s Third Beach, where you can pull-up a log and watch the sky turn through its end-of-day pyrotechnics.
Vancouver has more than 180 free public tennis courts, provided by the Vancouver Park Board. The outdoor courts are open all year and are run on a first-come, first-served basis, with a 30-minute maximum time limit – but only if someone is waiting for your court. Stanley Park has 15 free courts and six that are available for an hourly rental fee. Queen Elizabeth Park has 17 free courts. At Kitsilano Beach Park, there are 10 free courts for public use. For other locations, visit the Park Board website.
Vancouver’s beauty also extends below the ocean’s surface. Scuba divers plumb the frigid waters between Vancouver Island and the mainland to view spectacular marine species like wolf eels and large Pacific octopus, as well as a brilliant red coral found few other places in the world. Cates Park in Deep Cove on the North Shore and Whytecliff Park near the North Shore’s Horseshoe Bay are popular diving sites. Granville Island’s See King Charters can organize group trips for those interested in diving the area.
With its spectacular waterfront location, boating around the Vancouver region is a highly popular activity for visitors. Whether it’s a sunset dinner cruise around the coastline off Stanley Park, a narrated harbour cruise around the busy waterfront, a mini-tour on a tiny ferry around False Creek or a fishing or sightseeing trek aboard a charter, the city is a marine-lovers paradise. Operators include Harbour Cruises, Accent Cruises and Cooper Boating, while local mini-ferries are run by Aquabus Ferries and False Creek Ferries.