hikers hiking near whistler bc on a day trip from vancouver

The 14 Best Day Trips From Vancouver Canada

Locals brag about our city being voted one of the best places in the entire world – but give us a second of free time and we’re quickly saddled up for some of the best day trips from Vancouver.

Call it a weekend getaway, Vancouver escape, or just plain leaving the city behind – we’ve got some the prettiest places in the country just hours away and I want you to get out there and enjoy them.

Here’s my Vancouver day trip guide.

14 Best Day Trips from Vancouver

The Empress Hotel, in Victoria’s Inner Harbour

Victoria

The capital city of British Columbia holds the distinction of being Canada’s warmest city, so there’s that. In fact, with just one day below zero yearly this is one of the best things to do in winter hands down.

It’s no surprise then that Victoria is known as the City of Gardens.

Over 3 billion flowers bloom here every year, making it a great stop to take in colonial architecture, have tea at the legendary Empress Hotel, and eat gourmet foods coming from the over 1700 farms in the area.

Victoria also counts Canada’s oldest Chinatown, has a harbour frequented by over 70 killer whales, and has taken home all sorts of accolades: Best City for Women, Best City for Biking, and Canada’s Most Romantic City.

Getting to Victoria from Vancouver involves a 90 minute ferry ride to Vancouver Island.

Related: Best Things to do in Victoria

 

outdoor patio in winter in whistler bc canada

Whistler

How many major cities have a world class ski resort just 90 minutes from Vancouver city center? If you want an upgrade to Vancouver’s top ski mountains then this is the day trip for you.

Yes, Whistler has been voted Top Ski Resort in the World by various publications, and the 200+ marked runs famous for champagne powder make it a no-brainer for winter fun – but there are tons of things to do in Whistler besides skiing.

There are loads of great restaurants in Whistler, making it a gourmet foodie escape. It also offers great summer lake activities at Lost Lake, includes BC’s most beautiful hike at nearby Joffre Lakes, and is a spa and mountain biking destination as well.

The Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre is also the best window into local First Nations culture going.

 

two bottles on a barrel at a fraser valley wine tour

The Fraser Valley Winery Tour

So you think we’re just a one trick pony of snowy mountains and water activities, eh? Think again. To the east of Vancouver you’ll find temperate Langley, the prime wine making region of the Fraser Valley.

Renting a car and taking an DIY drive is a great day trip escape from Vancouver. Vista D’oro is a great place to see old school wine making perfected, while Backyard Vineyards is a small volume producer that makes some of the best BC VQA sparkling whites around.

Want to take the guesswork out of it? There’s a winery tour that can even pick you up at downtown Vancouver hotels and take you straight to the action in a Mercedes Benz Sprinter van.

The small group tours include stops at 5 wineries over 6 hours.

Related: Best Vancouver Food Tours

aerial view of bc ferries travelling in howe sound bc

Howe Sound Boating

This body of water that’s surrounded by a network of towering fjords is a great place to explore by boat. Renting one at Granville Island or Sewell’s Marina in Horseshoe Bay is a good start.

Expect to pay about $150 for 4 hours, so this day trip is best done in company.

Bombing around Vancouver’s waters is fun just for the ride, but strapping up with fishing gear and trying to land a big spring salmon (they can reach over 80 pounds) is one way to experience the Sound.

Another of our favourite Vancouver pastimes is island hopping, in particular stopping over at the majestic Gambier Island, visiting the seal colonies at Pam Rocks, or picnicking on Pebbly Beach on Bowen Island.

If you’re lucky it could turn into a Vancouver whale watching trip as well.

a group of people sitting on muskoka chairs at the top of grouse mountain vancouver bc canada

Grouse Mountain

Those towering North Shore Mountains framing our city skyline aren’t just for show.

In fact, just a 2800 metre gondola ride up from North Vancouver you’ll find this mountain paradise – complete with lumberjacks, bears, and beaver tails – but enough of the Canadian stereotypes.

Of course, the Wildlife Refuge and its star grizzlies, 30 minute lumberjack shows, and massive tail-shaped donuts are just the start. Some of my favourite things to at Grouse Mountain are:

  • Having a cold beer at Altitudes Bistro overlooking the city
  • Going up to the highest point of the city at the Eye of the Wind
  • Swinging through the Mountain Ropes Adventure

In winter this is the area’s most accessible ski mountain, and in Vancouver in summer you can hike up the mountain on the legendary Grouse Grind.

hikers atop the stawamus chief in squamish bc

Squamish

A fun day trip up the legendary Sea to Sky Highway to Whistler (one of the world’s top rated road trips) gets you to this picturesque, sporty mountain town that’s just 70 minutes from busy downtown Vancouver.

The name of the game here is outdoor adventure – just look up at the imposing granite monolith that dwarfs the city. The Stawamus Chief offers a 4 hour intermediate hike with one of the best panoramic view rewards in the entire province.

Other top Squamish activities include Via Ferrata climbing adventures (optimal for first timers), some of the greatest white water rafting in the Lower Mainland, and eagle viewing float tours.

You’ll also find Shannon Falls, British Columbia’s third highest waterfall. Don’t forget too that there’s some amazing craft beer made in the area, the optimal night cap to all that adventure.

Related: Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge

a craft shop and restaurant patio on salt spring island bc

Salt Spring Island

This tiny island in the Salish Sea, just 80 minutes by ferry from Vancouver, has huge character.

‘Canada’s Island of the Arts’ is a place to buy things that are fresh or made by hand. There’s over 200 organic farms here, forming the base of British Columbia’s best little Artisan Market – some local farmers even provide their grass-fed lamb to the Queen.

Small batch smoked salmon, artisan gin, and apple pie moonshine are other highlights. The 120 artisans here also sell jewellry, woodwork, pottery, fine art, body care, clothing, and more.

Don’t forget camping at Ruckle Park, tastings at Salt Spring Wild Cider, and visiting Salt Spring Island Cheese Company – grabbing an Airbnb overnight and coming back with the trunk full of goodies is a Vancouver tradition.

Related: Best Time to Visit Vancouver

Fishing boats sit in the harbour at dusk, Steveston BC

Steveston

This is one of the best day trips from Vancouver without a car. Yes, in just 40 minutes by Vancouver public transit you can be whisked away to a tiny fishing village along the Fraser River, a place yet to be corrupted by big chain shops and six lane highways.

Visiting Steveston gives great insight into the early economies of the area, in particular through the Gulf of Georgia Cannery Museum – a retrospect on the salmon industry of British Columbia and the many immigrant communities (primarily Japanese) that helped build the province.

Beyond this, a trip through Steveston is about artisan gift shops, fresh-off-the-boat seafood stands, and the obligatory load up of fish and chips at the legendary Pajo’s.

Related: Best Vancouver City Tours

the seattle skyline with mount raineer in the background

Seattle

It’s hard to put this American super city on the list because, well, you need way more than just a day. That said, I’ve probably done this day trip from Vancouver 20+ times in my life and I’ll tell you why:

  • Major league American sports like the NFL and MLB
  • A much more diverse concert and live music scene
  • American brand name shopping and discount outlet centres
  • Unique tourist attractions like the Space Needle and Museum of Pop Culture
  • Pike Place Market

Driving from Vancouver to Seattle for day trips takes just over two hours, more than doable with an early start.  If you’ve got a bit of extra time on your Vancouver itinerary and want a little piece of Americana this is the best cultural day trip you can make.

sunbather relaxing at harrison hot springs resort near vancouver bc

Harrison Hot Springs

This small Fraser Valley community just 90 minutes from Vancouver has been a resort town since 1886, when the Canadian Pacific Railway brought its lakeside springs in reach for travellers.

The two relaxing, rejuvenating springs heat up to 65 °C (149 °F). Harrison Hot Springs Resort is the star of the show here, creating 5 different pools of different temperatures for the ultimate spa getaway experience. With two restaurants on site this is the ultimate ‘not lift a finger’ Vancouver day trip.

Renting a cottage out here to soak in the hot springs, take forest hikes full of waterfalls along the Miami Bridges Walk, or do any number of fishing or boating activities on Harrison Lake is also a fine option.

If you’re looking to avoid the crowds of Vancouver’s best beaches in the summer, taking day trips to the lakeside beach here is a much better swimming option.

a gondola climbing up mount habrich in squamish bc canada

Sea to Sky Gondola

This Swiss-style ski gondola an hour from Vancouver whisks passengers 885 meters up Mount Habrich, providing amazing views of crystal blue Howe Sound and our Coast Mountain paradise.

The Sea to Sky Gondola is a mountain adventure wonderland that can be as hardcore as you want. Taking in the three panoramic view platforms and walking the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge is included in every ticket.

Of course, if you’re willing to get a little more advanced on your day trips from Vancouver you can go off on back country hiking tours, go snowshoeing and tubing (winter), and even rock climbing (summer).

Throw in interpretive tours on the ecology of the area, and the rich history of the local Skwxwu7mesh Nation and this outdoor escape gets educational.

There’s also a licensed bar and the Sky Pilot Restaurant offers live music, wine tastings, and all sorts of events.

RelatedCapilano Suspension Bridge vs. Sea to Sky Gondola: Which is Better?

craft beer bar at the seaside promenade gibsons bc

The Sunshine Coast

A quick hour ferry hop across Howe Sound from Horseshoe Bay brings Vancouverites to the Sunshine Coast, a place famous for low annual rainfall and long, sunny summers. If you need a beach here then Savary Island is Canada’s answer to Bermuda (don’t laugh).

This 180 km stretch of coast is famous for its laid back attitude, unspoiled beaches, arts and crafts, and sneaky good culinary scene that rivals some of Vancouver’s best restaurants.

Most folks head to Sechelt for the galleries and boutiques along Cowrie Street, which also offers all sorts of vintage shops as well as tap houses and gourmet restaurants.

Lovers of paddle sports also find plenty to do here. The Powell River Canoe Route is a solid way to spend a day on the water, but kayaking along the fjords of Desolation Sound is probably the best bet.

A family enters mine no.3, Britannia Mine Museum
Instagram: @britanniaminemuseum

Britannia Mining Museum

If you’re visiting Vancouver with kids this is an easy crowd-pleaser.

The Britannia Mining Museum, an important copper ore mine that was once one of Canada’s largest, has turned its innovative and imposing 20 story building into an interactive museum that’ll put you in the boots of a turn of the century miner.

The train ride through the historic haulage tunnel is the highlight, though any of over 7000 artifacts (some brought to life by in-person demonstrations) really kick things up a notch.

Think it looks familiar? The museum has been featured in everything from the X-Files to Scooby Do 2: Monsters Unleashed.

Visiting here also puts you on the Sea to Sky Highway, a scenic attraction in itself.

aerial view of mount garibaldi with blue lake

Garibaldi Provincial Park

This enormous wilderness park, about halfway between Squamish and Whistler along the Sea to Sky Highway, takes about an hour to reach – even though it’ll feel like it’s days from civilization.

These rugged British Columbia mountains, steep and covered in over 150 glaciers that contrast the dense Douglas fir and red cedar forests, are a hiker’s paradise.

Some of the must-do hikes include Garibaldi Lake Trail (18 km, about 5 hours) and Black Tusk Trail (28 km, about 10 hours) – two nature walks full of strata volcanos, turqouise blue lakes, and viewpoints galore.

Elfin Lakes, Cheakamus Lake, and Wedgemount Lake are also highlights.

Vancouver Day Trips FAQ

Where can I go for a day trip in Vancouver?

Within the city limits there are many places to go for a quick Vancouver day trip.

Consider heading out to the charming fishing village of Steveston for small town vibes, cutesy gift shops, great seafood, and well preserved heritage buildings.

Grouse Mountain is also an option for outdoor hiking or skiing adventures, a panoramic patio drink, and even wildlife refuge with grizzly bears.

Taking a Fraser Valley Wine Tour is also a fantastic way to discover some of the country’s greatest wineries, with some educational BC VQA wines in the Langley area being the best bet.

Where do people from Vancouver vacation?

Locals looking for a quick escape from Vancouver typically go to the Sunshine Coast in the summer. The area is full of artisan craft shops, farm fresh restaurants, and unspoiled beaches. It’s also the optimal place for water activities, particularly canoeing or kayaking.

In the winter Whistler is the best day trip option for people in Vancouver. It’s a world class ski resort that offers superior hotel accommodation, a plethora of spa experiences, and a restaurant scene on par with any resort in the world.

What is the prettiest place near Vancouver?

The prettiest place near Vancouver is Grouse Mountain. A trip here can involve either an intermediate hike or a gondola ride up the mountain, however the reward is the same – epic panoramic views of the entire city and British Columbia coastline.

Where can I escape from Vancouver?

A great way to escape from Vancouver is to head to a nearby resort town like Harrison Hot Springs. The laid back lakeside town finds itself on top of two huge springs that reach up to 65 °C (149 °F).

There’s a hotel resort there with a fantastic spa for a bit of pampering, or there’s tons of camping along beautiful Harrison Lake for people who want to go for a little beach swimming or boating activities.

Can you do a day trip to Whistler from Vancouver?

Yes, Vancouverites often take day trips to Whistler.

The average drive from Vancouver to Whistler is 90 minutes, which is more than doable. In fact, people from Vancouver often drive to Whistler for the day for skiing and mountain biking and return later in the day.

Can you do day trips from Vancouver to Seattle?

Yes, taking a day trip from Vancouver to Seattle is extremely common.

The average drive time (not considering border waits) to Seattle from downtown Vancouver is 2.5 hours. Many people from Vancouver head to Seattle to catch concerts, watch sports, take advantage of American shopping, or take in any of Seattle’s top attractions.

Where should I go after Vancouver?

If you’re taking a long trip and want to maximize the experiences there are only two options: Whistler or Seattle.

Whistler is just 90 minutes from downtown Vancouver, on one of the most scenic drives in the entire world (the Sea to Sky Highway), and offers world class skiing and dining options, and is a springboard for some of the best hiking in the province.

Seattle on the other hand is a world class city with attractions like Pike Place Market, the Space Needle, and any variety of sporting and cultural events on par with cities twice its size.

Questions on Day Trips from Vancouver?

I’ve laid out some of my top day trips from Vancouver, but maybe you’re in need of something a little more custom?

Don’t be afraid to reach out in the comments below if you’ve got any questions – I’m here to answer any question of about visiting Vancouver, or escaping it 😉

Ash

I've lived in 5 countries and created content for travel websites like eDreams and Amex Essentials, but here I finally get to work my passion project - my hometown, Vancouver!

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