Let’s face it. Vancouver can’t be beautiful and sunny all year round. The moniker “Raincouver” is well earned with the city seeing twice as much annual rainfall as notoriously soggy London, England. But hey, the Lower Mainland in the summer: that’s a whole other story.
Whether you’re an out-of-towner eager to see why Vancouverites seem to have it so good, or you’re from the 604 and need a warm weekend staycation seen through green-coloured glasses, these are the essentials of seeing Vancouver’s natural beauties without diving into the piggy bank.
Here we look at five ways to break your routine by encompassing a different element for a weekend away in and around Vancouver. We’ve even picked out the accommodation to match the activity of your choosing for an affordable weekend getaway. First stop, one last round of outdoor gear shopping on Broadway, then let’s get going…
Paddle away at sea
From $35. As a city that borders water on three sides, it shouldn’t be surprising that Vancouver has developed a strong sea kayaking culture. Rentals can be found just under the Granville Street Bridge for navigating around Granville Island and into False Creek. If you would rather get into the open ocean, however, head slightly further to EcoMarine Paddle Sports Centres’ Jericho Beach location (also accessible by bus) for rentals.
Like any good Vancouverite, you probably carry your MEC membership card with your wallet. Daily gear rentals are reasonably set at $35 for a SUP or Canoe or $40 for a sea kayak. Best yet, you can also pick up any last-minute purchases while you’re in-store. Dry bag, anyone?
Wander in the Woods
FREE. You don’t need to travel very far from Vancouver to get lost on an open-air wander. Coastal paths around English Bay and Burrard Inlet in Stanley Park may, of course, come to mind. Those seeking a slightly greater challenge can reach Grouse Mountain by bus from downtown in less than an hour to tackle the legendary Grouse Grind, a 2.9-kilometre trail rising 853 metres and often referred to as Mother Nature’s stair master. While on the North Shore, a stroll across the famous Capilano Suspension Bridge is also a fine way to enjoy your afternoon among the Douglas firs.
The Stay: Buchan Hotel
A Stanley Park address doesn’t need to come with a big price tag. The Buchan Hotel scored high with trivago users thanks to walkability, friendly service and a hard-to-beat price point. This charming hotel, dating back to 1926, is a quiet 15-minute walk to Second Beach in an area that feels altogether removed from the bustle of the city.
Save me a spot!
FREE. Getting a tan may sound slightly less adventurous than some of the other activities mentioned here — but it need not be. Jumping into the frigid Pacific Ocean from any one of eight oceanside beaches is a challenge at any time of year, no matter how hot the day. Meanwhile, a visit to Wreck Beach, Vancouver’s best-known nude beach, is also a standout adventure unto itself.
For those bringing their pups along, Spanish Banks right before UBC is the city’s best sandy stretch for a splashy game of fetch. Coincidentally, it’s also the perfect spot for grabbing an ice cream and stretching out on a log bench in time to watch the sun set.
Trailblaze on Two Wheels
From $35. Those familiar with mountain biking need not be reminded that the legendary trails of Vancouver’s North Shores are a mecca for riders that are often referred to as the birthplace of freestyle mountain biking. Those looking to head out with a group should check out the North Shore Mountain Biking Meetup. Visitors who left their bikes at home can find a variety of mountain bike rentals and tour guides at Endless Biking in Seymour.
The Stay: Best Western Capilano
Ideally equidistant from the trails on the side of Mount Fromme and Cypress Mountain, the Best Western Capilano scores high on the comfort-affordability axis. After showering off that layer of fine grit, a plunge into the outdoor pool is definitely in order. Certain rooms come with kitchens or kitchenettes, perfect for whipping up a quick calorie-rich, nut butter breakfast before heading out.
Save me a spot!
Hop the Gulf Islands
One of the least-known and appreciated adventures from Vancouver, however, is island hopping. The Georgia Strait between the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island is filled with small sleepy islands (referred to as the Gulf Islands) connected by BC Ferries. Both ferry ports (Tsawwassen to the south of Van, and Horseshoe Bay to the north) can be reached by public transportation and service a number of these islands, each of which has its own character, and are generally known to be inhabited by friendly artisans, artists, eccentrics and quirky small-town folk.
The Stay: The Cottages on Salt Spring Island
Take Salt Spring Island, for example, with the Saturday market in Ganges, no shortage of hiking trails and a community of artists who call the island home year-round. Settling this escape is all the easier with a stay over at The Cottages on Salt Spring Island. Private decks, enclosed bedrooms and modern amenities ensure relaxation. Guests are welcome to explore the 35 acres of land at their doorstep, surrounding the cottages and Bullock Lake.
Save me a spot!
Adapted from Experience True Adventure In Vancouver on Room5 US by Matt Gibson.