I have spoken in detail before on this blog about my love for Vancouver, here and here and here. So I really don’t need to bore you all by confessing my undying love for this city again.
What I will say is that after living there for five months in 2009/2010 and visiting another five times since then, Vancouver is still firmly a favourite place of mine. One of the reasons that this is so is because of the massive amount of things to do there. You know that quote ‘If you are tired of London then you are tired of life’? Well, I think it is very apt for Vancouver too.
During my ten days there this trip I mainly spent the time catching up with friends and visiting my favourite places around the city but I did manage to visit a couple of new places too. As always, I loved my time there and it was hard to leave.
The weather was hot and sunny most of the time and I was out and about for hours each day just soaking it all in. The only thing missing was Trav. Vancouver is our city, a special place that we discovered together and have always been together in until now. Not having him there with me felt weird and put a bit of a dampener on things, but despite that I still had a really fun time. I just hope Trav can come with me next time. Then it would be perfect.
Anyway, enough of the soppy stuff. I thought I would outline some of my highlights of my time in Vancouver this time around. Maybe it will give you some ideas for when you visit. Because believe me, you must visit this city!
Exploring beautiful Kitsilano
Trav and I subletted a room in Kits for 4 weeks in summer 2013 and I completely fell in love with Vancouver’s beachy suburb. Kits was a hippy enclave back in the 1960s and 70s and you can still find traces of that in the stores and eateries along West 4th Avenue and Broadway today. Cosy bookshops, Health food stores, eclectic eateries – browsing the shops in Kits is always fun. There is also miles of coastline to walk along, white sand beaches, leafy streets lined with colourful wooden homes and lots of parks, some with views over the harbour to the mountains north of the city. I love the nature and the relaxed vibe in Kits and if (when) we live in Vancouver again, this is where I want to be.
Relaxing at Vancouver’s Beaches
Beaches may not be the first thing you think of when you think of Vancouver but there are actually a lot scattered around the city. Sure they don’t compare to the city beaches of Sydney but they have their own rugged beauty. The large logs placed along the beaches are very iconic Vancouver and are great to lean against to read a book before going for a dip. The water is warmer than you would think. In my opinion, Jericho Beach in Kits is the best as it is a beautiful sandy crescent with some of the cleanest water and it has great mountain views.
Some other favourites include Wreck beach which is a great spot for some day drinking and nude sunbathing, Kits beach for the waterside swimming pool, English Bay for easy access from the CBD, Third Beach for laid back vibes and views of the ships waiting in the harbour, and Whytecliff Beach for crystal clear water and a small island you can walk over to via a rocky pathway.
Escaping the city in Pacific Spirit Regional Park
Located at the far western edge of Vancouver near the University of British Columbia, this park encompasses 763 acres of forest and foreshore. I had never visited before this trip and I was pleasantly surprised with the hiking trails on offer and the size of the park. I did a loop through the old growth forest by taking a few different trails. I also briefly detoured from the park and across the road to the Fraser River Exploration Monument with a great view over the mouth of the Fraser River. The park is a peaceful spot for a wander and to be surrounded by old growth temperate rainforest so close to a busy city is one of the reasons that I love Vancouver so much.
Walking the seawall in Stanley Park
Stanley Park with it’s seawall is probably the most well-known tourist attraction in Vancouver, and with good reason. Walking or biking the nearly 10 kilometres of sea wall with the ocean on one side and pristine BC Coastal rainforest on the other is pretty special, even when you have to share the path with hundreds of others. Last time I walked it I had a playful seal following me most of the way and I have also seen river otters, racoons and bald eagles while doing this walk. The views are spectacular the whole way around with beaches, rainforest, ocean, rocky foreshore and mountains always in sight. The totem poles are worth checking out and lots of wild blackberries grow along the path which are perfect for a snack.
Eating and Shopping in Mount Pleasant
Vibrant and eclectic, the fast gentrifying East Van suburb of Mount Pleasant is one of my favourite places to browse the shops and grab a bite to eat. Once home to poor students and young professionals that couldn’t afford to rent in Yaletown, Mount Pleasant is now super trendy and one of the best places to eat out in Vancouver, with so many options it will be make your head spin. Grab a coffee and a Lucky’s donut at Forty Ninth Parallel, Mexican at El Caminos, Vegetarian delectables at The Federation, inventive donuts at Cartems (yes, I know I have mentioned two donut places, I love donuts OK!), Thai food at Bob Love’s Thai or craft beer at one of the several breweries operating out of the neighbourhood. There is always a buzz in Mount Pleasant and it is infectious.
Food and Art on Granville Island
One of my absolutely favourite spots in the city, Granville Island is home to a fantastic covered Public Market with loads of fresh BC produce and food stalls where you can grab lunch. If it’s a beautiful day then I sit at one of the seats on the wharf outside to eat lunch and watch the street performers or if it’s a drizzly day then upstairs in the food court is a cosy spot to admire the beauty of the rain drenched harbour. There are also numerous art galleries and eclectic shops to browse once you are done with eating and if you want to get your hands on some original BC and First Nations Art then Granville Island is the perfect place to do so. Granville Island is surrounded by parks and if you like float homes, there is a colourful float home village right beside where the public market is.
Craft Brewery hopping
When I was last in Vancouver two years ago there were about 30 craft breweries which I thought was impressive at the time, but now there are over 200! I am a massive craft beer fan and I especially love the inventiveness of the brews in North America. With a lot of the breweries located in East Van, you can put together a bit of a brewery hop, sampling the wares at some of the best. A few of the Breweries now also offer food. My favourites around Vancouver are Brassneck, Parallel 49, Granville Island, Steamworks, 33 Acres and Red Truck Brewing. I have also heard very good things about Four Winds but I am yet to try their beer. Just another reason to return.
Cobbled streets and Jimi Hendrix in Gastown
It may be touristy but I have a bit of a soft spot for Gastown. You can’t deny it’s pretty with it’s colourful flower pots, cobbled streets and old fashioned gas lamps. It even has a smaller version of New York’s Flatiron Building. There are also some great Restaurants in this area and I always enjoy checking out the incredible First Nations Art in Hill’s Native Art Gallery. Gastown is also the temporary home to the Jimi Hendrix Shrine which is usually located in Jimi’s Grandmother’s old house on Main. I visited for the first time on this trip and although I am not a big Jimi Hendrix fan, I found the old photos and the stories about Jimi’s connection to Vancouver really interesting. Visit Gastown in the evening after it has rained and you will fall in love with it too.
Sampling Vancouver’s incredible dining scene
There are SO many options for eating out in Vancouver and it is one of my favourite places in the world to eat. Because it is such a multi-cultural city you can find pretty much any dish and cuisine you can think of but there are two things you can’t leave Vancouver without trying: Pizza and Sushi. Pizza places and Japanese Restaurants are everywhere in Vancouver and are super cheap options for a good meal. A few of my favourite places to eat when I’m in town are Vera’s Meats or Fatburger for burgers, Siegel’s or Solly’s for bagels, Fresh Slice for cheap and tasty pizza, Naam for delicious vegetarian dishes, Jade Dynasty for Dim Sum, Japadog Food Carts for delicious Japanese style hot dogs, Dinesty Dumpling House for dumplings, Lucky’s Donuts and Cartems for artisan donuts, and Terra Breads for their Blueberry and White Chocolate bread – you’ll thank me later for this last one.
Getting creeped out at the Police Museum
I only heard about this quirky little museum when I was looking for cheap rainy day activities and it popped up on my google search. I’m pleased it did because it is one creepy and interesting attraction. Housed in the old morgue which still has the body examination tables and body drawers (super creepy!) there are loads of displays including a large cache of the crazy weapons that have been confiscated by the police over the years, as well as glass display cases dedicated to some of Vancouver’s most mysterious unsolved murders. Probably leave the kids at home if you decide to visit this one.
Hiking through temperate rainforest in Lynn Canyon
Located on the North Shore of Vancouver, Lynn Canyon Park is the free alternative to the pricey Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. It still sees a lot of tourists around the suspension bridge but within five minutes of leaving that behind and taking one of the trails, the crowds quickly die away. Numerous trails that are punctuated with wooden boardwalks are shaded by stands of giant hemlocks and cedars, with ferns and moss growing prolifically over the dead trees and detritus on the forest floor. On a hot day the crystal clear water of the numerous water holes along the river are perfect for a refreshing dip.
Whatever you decide to do in Vancouver, you really can’t go wrong. Believe me, this is just the tip of the iceberg!
What are your favourite spots in Vancouver? Have you been there yet?