Vancouver is beautiful. It’s a great city if you like the outdoors. Local residents are diverse and athletic. I visited in the fall. If your looking for a mixture of nature and architecture here are my top 4 recommendations.
VanDusen gardens is 55 acres of plants from all over the world including ponds, waterfalls, and a small maze. The sculptures and architecture is modern and interesting. Named after philanthropist Whitford Julian VanDusen the gardens have been open since 1975.
Granville Island is a must. It’s filled with cute shops. Great water and mountain views intermingle with interesting architecture. Granville island is a popular destination and parking can be a challenge so I suggest getting an early start to beat the crowd.
Downtown Vancouver is a great merger of fantastic architecture and harbor views. I have always been a fan of the fusion between God’s creation and the creation of man. Vancouver is an ideal city to experience the contrasts between hard lines and organic shapes.
Stanley Park is a world renowned park with excellent views of downtown Vancouver and Lions gate bridge. At over 1,000 acres there is a lot to see including an aquarium. The only downside of Stanley park and most other British Colombia attractions is paid parking. If you visit enough different sites the parking fees start to add up and it can be hard to find spots where parking is free.
Capilano suspension bridge costs more then I wanted at $37.50, but that’s because your ticket includes the suspension bridge, cliff walk, and tree top bridges. All of which require considerable operating expenses. I can’t say I was impressed, it was more developed then I was imagining but the pictures I took here turned out fantastic and look far more rugged then how the actual excursion felt.
Avoid the gondola ride at Grouse Mountain, the views are good but the ride is grossly overpriced. There is another gondola in Squamish on the drive to Whistler that offers equally fantastic views at half the price.
Go to Whistler! The drive alone is worth it. The views are amazing. Train and grey hound buses are available for alternative transportation. Food and activities in Canada cost considerably more than in the US, but hotels in the off season are ridiculously cheap. I paid $63.00 one night for a room with 2 beds, a fireplace, a jacuzzi, a full kitchen, wifi, and a kurieg machine. An amazing room that costs almost $300.00 a night during peak season. I was planning on sleeping in my car but with rooms as little as $50.00 in the off season how can you resist.
The ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Naniamo was pleasant but the views aren’t that spectacular compared to the drive up the coast to Whistler. The drive from Naniamo was ugly and rainy the day I drove it. I’m not sure how it looks in the sunshine.
Butchart gardens is a must for any landscaping enthusiast. The Japanese gardens are spectacular in the autumn season.
Sidney is a cute little town with interesting architecture. I spent the night here before heading taking the ferry the through the San Juan Islands
Down town Victoria has wonderful architecture. Chinatown has some cute shops to explore. The restaurants and coffee shops are good. Victoria’s lakeshore is worthy of a leisurely afternoon stroll.
San Juan Islands
Whatever you do don’t take the ferry through San Juan Islands if you are returning to Canada. I thought it would be pleasant diversion as Washington islands are so famous. The ferry ride is fabulous, but now that Marajuana is legal in WA I got stopped and searched at the border. The patrol lady was crazy rude and treated me like a criminal despite a lack of evidence. They even searched my socks. They said my behavior was highly suspicious even though I hadn’t done anything slightly suspicious so the moral of the story is take the Swartz ferry to Vancouver. Sometimes it’s not worth it to take road less traveled.
Autumn is the perfect time to visit British Columbia. It’s the off season and prices are cheaper. Shorter days meant that after 3 the lighting isn’t great for photos. Even sunsets at 6pm come out more dreary than colorful.
While in British Columbia I walked and average of the 6 to 10 miles a day. There is just so much stuff to see. For October the weather was perfect almost 60 and sunny. It rained mostly at night, although a couple of days were bitterly damp. There were so many urban sites to see I was too tired to do any strenuous hikes.
For shorter trips I would focus on Vancouver and Whistler as they have the most variety of activities and fantastic views.