Planning a day trip to Vancouver from Seattle isn’t rocket science – in fact, growing up in Vancouver I’ve done the reverse about 25 times and am too familiar with all the border rigmarole.
I’ve also got this handy Vancouver tourist guide to drop some knowledge on you Seattleites, so let’s go.
How to Plan a Day Trip from Seattle to Vancouver
Getting To Vancouver
First things first: Vancouver is 142 miles north of Seattle (that’s 230 km to us Canadians).
Naturally, you should be establishing which transport options between Seattle and Vancouver you’re going to take.
How you get there will have an enormous effect on what you can do on day trips from Seattle to Vancouver, so let’s establish some times:
- Seattle to Vancouver seaplane: 2 hours and 20 minutes
- Driving from Seattle to Vancouver: 2 hours and 45 minutes with optimal road conditions
- Seattle to Vancouver Train: 4 hours and 30 minutes
- Seattle to Vancouver Bus: 4 hours and 40 minutes
Regardless of the transportation you’re going to need to wake up early to do this properly.
I suggest leaving Seattle either right before the nightmare I-5 rush hour (7:30 am), or immediately after (10:00 am).
Also, factor in an hour for the border on weekends or 20 minutes if you’re coming at off-peak times.
You can check the border waits at the Government of Canada Border Site (the crossing is called ‘Peace Arch’).
📍 Also make sure you have a valid passport or you will be denied entry.
Things to Do on a Day Trip from Seattle to Vancouver
There are tons of things to do in Vancouver from natural wonders to cultural landmarks.
Some popular options include:
- Stanley Park: one of the largest urban parks in North America with some of Vancouver’s best beaches.
- Granville Island: Vancouver’s answer to Pike Place Market, known also for its art galleries.
- Capilano Suspension Bridge: A pedestrian only bridge strung through stunning old growth forest.
- Grouse Mountain: Vancouver’s outdoor playground with stunning panoramic views of the city.
- Gastown: Vancouver’s answer to Pioneer Square (good and bad 😉) with epic drinks and eats.
Related: What is Vancouver Known For?
Seattle to Vancouver Day Trip Itinerary
To help you make the most of your time, here’s my suggested itinerary for a perfect day trip to Vancouver from Seattle.
If you have something different in mind, by all means write me in the comments and I’ll help you craft a trip!
7:30am – On the Road
Leave Seattle and head north to Vancouver.
As tempting as Mount Vernon and Bellingham are (I’m not sure if I’m being sarcastic) don’t stop unless you need gas!
11:00am – North America’s Best Park
Arrive in Vancouver and start your day with a visit to Stanley Park.
The Vancouver Seawall (the world’s largest seaside path) will show you the city like nothing else.
This is the only way to explore Vancouver nature on limited time – and you can do it with a car too, by the way.
If you’ve managed to go around the entire park from the rental office you should end up at English Bay, one of Vancouver’s best beaches.
Soak in the view of the harbour.
1:00pm – Local Eats
After spending a couple hours walking and pedaling (or driving) in Stanley Park, head over to Granville Island.
With no car you can take the Aquabus from the Vancouver Aquatic Centre, which is right beyond Sunset Beach.
Having worked up quite the appetite a walk through the market stalls here is a great lunch option. Local Vancouver delicacies like Nanaimo bars, candied salmon, and Lee’s Donuts are a must.
Spend another hour walking through the galleries and endless craft shops.
3:30pm – Nature, Culture, or Chill
I’m going to leave you three options here, which has a little something for everybody:
- Head over Lions Gate Bridge to see either Capilano Suspension Bridge or Grouse Mountain (nature)
- Go to the Bill Reid Gallery then spend time shopping around Robson Street (culture and city)
- Head to Gastown for some happy hour drinks – I recommend Clough Club (chill)
Options two and three here could be combined for the ultimate Vancouver afternoon, if you’re feeling up to the challenge.
Related: Best Museums in Vancouver
6:00pm – Gastown
I won’t pretend I know your evening habits, though if I were a visitor I would seriously consider taking the Lost Souls of Gastown Tour to learn Vancouver’s history in a macabre way.
The Gastown area is also great for First Nations art galleries, souvenir shops, and of course the famous Gastown Steamclock: our city’s most Instagrammable object.
Either way, you should be hanging out in this area to have dinner at one of Gastown’s best restaurants.
An alternative? Head to one of Vancouver’s best restaurants in the glitzy Yaletown district.
8:30pm – Head Back Home or Find a Bed?
This is an optimal time to head back to Seattle as it means you’ll be in bed around 11 pm.
Loving Vancouver a little too much? With a favourable exchange rate you can get some of the cheapest hotels in Vancouver for as little as $65.00 USD.
You may also want to grab one of Vancouver’s top luxury hotels if you’re looking to make the night special.
Day Trip to Vancouver BC from Seattle Activities Map
Here’s a map of the main attractions I’ve outlined in this Seattle to Vancouver day trip planner.
As you can see, if you don’t have a car the activities in North Vancouver (Capilano Suspension Bridge) and Grouse Mountain will be extremely difficult.
In this case I recommend booking the Grouse and Capilano Suspension Bridge guided tour that leaves from downtown.
In all, if you can’t be bothered with the transport you can also get an all-in-one Seattle to Vancouver day trip package for just $182.00 USD. No driving, no stress.
Can you Do a Day Trip to Vancouver from Seattle?
I think with my plan you’ll be able to experience the best of what Vancouver has to offer: natural beauty, cultural landmarks, shopping, and great food.
However, this is just a suggested itinerary, and if you have something else in mind just write me.
I’m happy to help you craft the perfect Vancouver day trip from Seattle 🥂