Wild day trips from Vancouver


Buntzen Lake is a paddler’s delight, with pristine landscapes and outstanding wildlife viewing. (Pat Leahy photo)

Story by Tricia Edgar
Vacay.ca Outdoors Columnist

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA — Vancouver is a beautiful place, and one of the things that makes it beautiful is its easy access to the mountains and ocean.  It’s also temperate, which means that many natural areas are accessible year round, as long as you don’t mind a little rain. After a few days in Vancouver, do you feel like going wild? These ideas will tempt your desire to explore the wilderness beyond the city.

Wildlife Watching in BC

The areas around Vancouver offer wonderful rainforest wildlife viewing. In the summer, go on a whale-watching tour that leaves from Vancouver. In the fall, visit Goldstream Provincial Park just outside of Victoria for salmon watching. In the winter, eagle-watching excursions take you along the Squamish River or through the Fraser Valley.


Butchart Gardens is a national historic site — as well as a sight to behold. (Hadi Dadashian photo)

A Constant Gardener

If you’ve explored Vancouver’s many gardens and you’re still feeling floral, a getaway to one of the gorgeous gardens around Vancouver might suffice. Victoria’s Butchart Gardens are a day trip away on BC Ferries, and many tour companies offer trip packages that include both bus transportation and ferry fare. The gardens are packed full of stunning flowers and foliage in all seasons, and if you know when you’ll arrive, you can check out their flower report to see what will be in bloom when you visit. If you’re looking for a garden trip without the ferry, Chilliwack’s Minter Gardens is open from mid-April to mid-October. This 32-acre garden features 12 theme gardens.

Be a Daredevil Near Vancouver

Whether you love climbing up slopes or sliding down them, there are many opportunities to tantalize your inner daredevil around Vancouver. Visit the Chief near Squamish and go climbing up this massive rock, or slide down the ski hills in the stunning resort of Whistler.

Indulge in a Hot Springs Vacation

If you’d like to chill in a place that’s not so chilly, check out the hot springs near Vancouver. BC is in a geologically active area, and throughout the province there are 86 springs to choose from. The deluxe Harrison Hot Springs resort is situated right near Harrison Lake, about 90 minutes from Vancouver. Go on an ecotour, or soak in one of the resort’s hot pools. If you’re looking for a natural hot springs experience, the Whistler-Pemberton area has less developed hot springs like Sloquet and the Skookumchuck/T’sek Hot Springs. Check to make sure that the roads are open before you go.

Every Day I’m Paddling

How about some paddling? If you see yourself as a modern-day voyageur, then visit Port Moody’s cool and scenic Buntzen Lake. It supplies some of the electricity for the Vancouver area, and it’s also perfect for a day of paddling. Visit the Anmore Store for rentals. Whonnock Lake in suburban Maple Ridge has a picnic area, sandy beach, and a little lake where you can scoot around in your canoe. If you’re lucky, you can also engage in the truly Canadian endeavour of beaver spotting, since there’s a dam on the lake. Paddle boat rentals are available near the lake.

West Coast Camping

If you decide that a short-term camping trip is just your thing, there are a number of camp sites that are easily accessible from Vancouver. While they’re not quite within commuting distance, they’re great for an overnight or two. Alice Lake campground just outside of Squamish offers accessible, family-friendly camping. Visit scenic Newcastle Island, tucked away close to the Nanaimo Ferry, or take the Sea to Sky Highway (Highway 99) up to Porteau Cove, a campsite with great diving opportunities.

In Vancouver, a trip to the wilderness is only an hour or two away. If you’re aching to explore beyond the boundaries of Canada’s largest west coast city, there are many ways to explore those tempting mountains and beautiful lakes, no matter the season.