Vancouver is consistently ranked as one of the world’s most liveable cities, and such a ranking is partly attributed to the snow-capped mountains, evergreen forests, and Pacific Ocean that surround the city. With this in mind, Vancouver isn’t just a favorite with locals, but also amongst travelers. If you’re planning a trip here, you’ll want to consider a day trip or two — whether it’s hopping on a ferry, cruising the coastline, or making a beeline to a secret lookout, there’s truly something for every type of day-tripper. To help, here are a few recommended excursions!
A day trip to Victoria is always a good idea, and there are plenty of reasons you should start planning your visit now. Victoria is a lively city built on the ocean, known for a scenic waterfront, botanical gardens, art galleries, and wide range of restaurants. As BC’s capital, there are beautiful parliament buildings to visit, plus Canada’s oldest Chinatown, the Royal British Columbia Museum, Market Square, and Beacon Hill Park, which overlooks the Juan de Fuca Strait and even the Olympic Mountains in Washington. The biggest challenge of a day trip to Victoria is trying to squeeze everything in!
The most popular and affordable way to travel between mainland BC and Vancouver Island (where Victoria is located) is by ferry, which accommodates both foot passengers ($17.20 CAD one way) and cars ($57.50 CAD one way). The ferry terminal is located at Tsawwassen, 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of downtown Vancouver, and for those using public transport, you’ll want to take the nearest SkyTrain to Bridgeport Station before grabbing the 620 bus for the rest of the journey. The ferry ride takes roughly 75 minutes and drops passengers off in Swartz Bay — a 19-mile (30 kilometers) drive from Victoria. Upon your arrival, if you don’t have a vehicle, find a seat on either the 70 express or 72 bus and enjoy the view.
Located just 75 miles (120 kilometers) from the city’s downtown, a trip to Whistler is a must during your stay in Vancouver. Whistler was a primary setting for the 2010 Winter Olympics, as its ski hill — Whistler Blackcomb — was used for a number of downhill competitions. Today, the mountain town stays busy year-round thanks to travelers, outdoor enthusiasts, and sporting events. If you’re visiting in winter, be sure to enjoy the snowy landscapes, whether it’s by snowshoeing, taking a ride on the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola, or carving your way down the slopes. If your trip doesn’t align with the snow, there’s still plenty to do: explore the mountains by bike, zipline, or on your own two feet for some amazing photo-ops. And if the weather takes a turn for the worse, visit the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre or shop around the village center.
Unfortunately, public transport doesn’t go all the way to Whistler, though private companies like Epic Rides and Pacific Coach make the trip daily. With that said, if you have the chance to drive, we definitely recommend that option as the Sea to Sky Highway is one of the best drives in Canada!
Squamish is another day-trip destination you won’t want to miss while on the West Coast. Geographically speaking, the town is located at the end of a large, picturesque fjord, and offers amazing views of Howe Sound and beyond.
For one of the best vantage points, hike the famed Stawamus Chief (or just “The Chief” for short) or ride the Sea to Sky Gondola for a similar perspective. Other ways to survey the scenic sprawl include renting a stand-up paddleboard (SUP) from Nexen Beach or, if you’re feeling extra adventurous, rock climbing one of the many cliffs in the area. And if you need a break between excursions, feel free to check out the West Coast Railway Heritage Park or Britannia Mine Museum. Squamish is just an hour’s drive from Vancouver, and though you can get there by both car and bus, the former will give you much more freedom to explore the sights along way, which include Horseshoe Bay, Shannon Falls, and Porteau Cove. Drive safe!
“Within reach, beyond compare” is Bowen Island’s slogan, and it captures this place perfectly. To reach this peaceful paradise, jump in the car or grab a bus (the 250 and 257 both leave from downtown) and head to Horseshoe Bay, located in West Vancouver.
BC Ferries transports visitors to the island every 20 minutes between 5:50 a.m. and 10 p.m. A round trip ticket costs $10.45 CAD per person or $29.60 for a vehicle. Stretching over 19 square miles (50 square kilometers), Bowen Island can easily be covered in a day, either by car, bicycle, and even scooter. On top of its range of outdoor activities like kayaking and hiking (we recommend tackling Mount Gardner, if time permits), the island is also known for its artistic side, with a number of galleries and exhibits that will round out your visit.
There are few areas in the world that are as untouched as BC’s Sunshine Coast, and coming to Vancouver gives you the perfect excuse to visit. Picture it: empty inlets, rugged coastline, pristine beaches, and thriving wildlife — only in BC, right? And the cherry on top: it takes just two hours to get there from downtown.
Like a trip to Bowen Island, you’ll want to get yourself to Horseshoe Bay first, where BC Ferries will take you up the coast to Langdale. Like most of these ferries, you’re able to bring a vehicle aboard (for $45.90 CAD), which is what we recommend, as it’s best to explore the Sunshine Coast’s small villages and wilderness at your own pace. These places were first inhabited by the Squamish (Skwxwú7mesh), Sechelt (Shíshálh), and Sliammon (Tla’Amin) and Klahoose First Nations people, and their culture is still prevalent today. While learning more about the history of the Sunshine Coast, indulge in the number of outdoor activities available, as well as the local food and beverage scene — most of which is proudly grown and sourced in the region.
Though you might not have time for all of these trips, picking out one or two is a surefire way to make your travels to Vancouver even more memorable! Tell us in the comments which day trip you’d choose during your next trip to British Columbia.