In 2017, we packed up a campervan and began a 5-week road trip across North America. During this road trip, we were able to only scratch the surface of Vancouver, British Colombia. We will make our way back to this sporty, nature-filled city; but until then, we wanted to write down the explorations we did have during our three-day stay:
Grandville Island Public Market
Like every good tourist, our first stop was the Grandville Island Public Market. We love wandering through markets, and this one didn’t disappoint; fresh produce and fish, ethnic foods, and artisanal coffees decorated the bustling indoor arena. We bought ourselves some delicious pot pies (him: chicken pot pie, her: corn chowder pot pie) and made our way out back to sit in the sun and look out over the harbor. After lunch, we spent time exploring Grandville Island; there were street performers out, quirky art installations hiding around corners, and bikers and tourists moseying around, just like the boats in the harbor. When we wanted to return to downtown Vancouver, we hopped on the ferryboats that are a part of their public transportation system for a nice ride and some great views.
Biking in Stanley Park
Daniel and I have now lived in cities for 8 years, and we’ve traveled to countless cities across the globe - but we’ve never visited a city that blends nature and urban so seamlessly. The beaches, forests and mountains are just as much a part of the cityscape as the buildings and roads. That’s why Stanley Park was so impressive to us; this massive, 1,000-acre park consumes the entire northwest of Vancouver. We thought the ‘city disappeared’ when we entered Central Park, but a walk through Stanley Park felt like a walk through one of our national parks. The vegetation was gorgeous, the numerous ponds were full of ducks, the beaches were spacious, and the sun was shining. To best see Stanley Park, we decided to take part in Vancouver’s ‘Mobi’ Bike Share. The bike paths are long, winding and plentiful; we’d absolutely recommend this mode of transportation if you want to see as much of Stanley Park as you can.
SugarLoop by Westcoast Darts
Perhaps the least-touristy thing we experienced while in Vancouver was the delightful café, SugarLoop. With a menu of inventive crème brulees and milkshakes, the café was also full of neon lights and had a hallway dedicated to playing darts. (A hallway that was quite crowded, mind you!) It was as strange a combination as the nature-meets-urban city itself. Nevertheless, it was absolutely delicious. They had crème brulee flavors like lavender, black sesame and tiramisu on their menu, but we split an original. We also ordered a ‘ferraro rocher slush’ that did not disappoint.
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
But now: back to the tourist route! We, of course, visited the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. Though this wasn’t necessarily adrenaline-inducing, or even the most beautiful view we’ve ever seen, we still enjoyed our visit. The suspension bridges and roped stairs twist through the rainforest, 230 feet in the air at its highest. The actual suspension bridge is 450 feet long! The view is lush and green, with brooks and rivers flowing below. Keep in mind, tickets do cost $42.95 per adult, so it’s a pricey adventure! There is a free shuttle service that will take you to and from downtown Vancouver, as well.
Orcas roam the Northwest Pacific, and we were determined to see them, so we booked tickets to a whale watch with Outer Island Excursions in Anacortes, Washington. (Yes, not technically in Vancouver – it’s actually a 3-hour drive from Vancouver, but it was included in our Northwest itinerary, so we wanted to include it in this blog.) Outer Island Excursion's ship was small, intimate and comfortable. It seated, perhaps, 20 people, so it was much smaller than we were expecting. In order to see the whales, we had to sail 40 minutes away from land. By the time we had our first sighting, we were completely surrounded by horizons of blue waters on all sides, with only towering mountains in the distance. That alone was gorgeous, but then we made friends: beautiful humpback whales! We stayed a respectable (and the legal) distance away from these giants, but we were able to see them crest into the air and flip their tails as they dove underwater. We did not, however, see any Orcas. (That is a bucket list item – it will happen someday!) We did see harbor seals, porpoises and a bald eagle, though, and we would recommend our tour with Outer Island Excursions. While you’re on the journey, ask the captain as many questions as you’d like!
There’s something to be said about watching these giant animals while they’re in their element; they are comfortable and unbothered by our presence. As humans, that should be enough for us. Seeing these animals in their environment only re-emphasizes the fact that these animals don’t exist for our entertainment. We can be in awe of them, but we cannot lord over them and force them into unnatural situations. Next time you’re considering buying a ticket to a show or park that uses animals as profit-making machines, consider booking a tour like this one where you can see, admire and respect them in all of their wild glory.
Do note: The winds got brisk on the ocean, so bring a blanket or jacket!