North Vancouver is the Lower Mainland’s very own year round mountain playground. This beautiful Vancouver suburb is a hiking and biking paradise that houses three world-class skiing and snowboarding resorts.
But it’s about much more than just the mountains. You’ll find a booming foodie and craft beer scene, a vibrant arts and culture community and several of Vancouver’s top attractions.
And crucially for visitors, this destination where city and nature collide isn’t located hours down the highway. It’s just 20 minutes from Downtown Vancouver.
So you can head from city to gritty in no time!
North Vancouver is a picturesque waterfront municipality nestled comfortably between Burrard Inlet in the South and the North Shore Mountains in the North.
Together with neighbouring West Vancouver this suburb makes up what is colloquially known as Vancouver’s North Shore. An area renowned for its beauty and bountiful outdoor recreational opportunities.
Furthermore, the revamped LoLo (Lower Lonsdale) area has quickly become one of Vancouver’s foodie hotspots featuring exciting bars and restaurants of every shape and stripe.
Things to Do in North Vancouver
Explore Lonsdale Quay
Lonsdale Quay is a waterfront market located just steps from the Seabus terminal at which you’ll arrive from Downtown Vancouver. So if you’re visiting the North Shore on the ferry it’s a perfect place to stop in for a quick bite.
The market is home to over 60 specialty shops and restaurants serving the finest local delicacies. Furthermore, the area is home to an eclectic variety of artists, vendors and crafters that further amplify the market experience.
Go for a Hike
Vancouver is home to some of the best hiking opportunities of any urban centre in the world. However, it’s on the city’s North Shore where the magic truly happens.
Hikers of all skill levels are blessed with a sheer abundance of choice. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely seaside stroll or a heart pumping climb through steep mountain terrain, there’s bound to be a trail just for you.
The granddaddy of them all is the famous Grouse Grind, a 2.9 kilometre hike that transports you 850 metres up the face of Grouse Mountain. Nicknamed “mother nature’s stairmaster”, the Grind is definitely no ordinary walk in the park.
If you’d like something a little less strenuous the 44 kilometre Baden Powell Trail has something for everyone. Stretching from Howe Sound through the foothills of the North Shore Mountains to Deep Cove, it’s perhaps the regions penultimate trail.
Be sure to check out Quarry Rock on the trail’s Eastern edge. This scenic hiking area with several waterfalls is easily one of the Vancouver area’s most photographed sites.
Climb to the Peak of Vancouver
Located just 20 minutes from Downtown Vancouver, Grouse Mountain is Vancouver’s outdoor alpine playground.
You’ll climb 1,250 metres (4,100 feet) up the iconic Skyride enjoying panoramic views of Vancouver, the Salish Sea and the North Shore Mountains at every turn. Once you arrive you’ll have access to a whole host of cultural, educational and outdoor recreational opportunities.
The area is home to a wildlife refuge, lumberjack shows, a movie theatre and a variety of restaurants. you can also take part in a zipline adventure, try your hand at paragliding or visit the Eye of the Wind observation pod.
Traverse the Famous Capilano Suspension Bridge
If you’re looking to take a walk on the wild side then a visit to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park should be at the top of your Vancouver itinerary.
The star attraction is the 137 metre (450 foot) long Capilano Suspension Bridge. Built in 1889, this iconic attraction dangles perilously above the stunning Capilano River below.
The bridge is part of a 27-acre park which includes the popular Treetops Adventure, the Cliffwalks Walkway and a number of totem poles from local First Nations.
There is a year-round free shuttle available from downtown. So what are you waiting for?
Hit the Local Slopes
The North Shore is home to Vancouver’s best ski hills – also known as ‘The Local Mountains’.
With a season that usually runs from late November-to-early April, Vancouverites enjoy access to some of North America’s best downhill and cross country ski hills just minutes from their doorsteps.
So why not join them?
Visit the Polygon Gallery
Just because the North Shore is famous for its stunning natural beauty doesn’t mean that the area is lacking in culture. My favourite spot when the mood strikes is the stunning waterfront Polygon Gallery. This brand new museum is now the largest non-profit photographic gallery in Western Canada.
The Polygon features 25,000 square feet of exhibition space divided over two levels, a store and a fabulous cafe. The eclectic mixture of exhibitions aim to inspire and provoke cultural insight.
The best part is this waterfront museum is located just a stones throw from the Lonsdale Quay Seabus Terminal. This makes it a great option for those who’ve spent a morning exploring the mountains.
Navigate the Shipyards District
The Lower Lonsdale area was formerly the heart of BC’s vibrant shipbuilding industry, launching almost 500 ships during the 20th century. As the industry began to fall into decline city planners began to look for an alternative.
As a result, the waterfront area immediately adjacent to Lonsdale Quay was repurposed into a vibrant urban neighbourhood, while still maintaining much of its former infrastructure.
You can now find bustling seaside pubs and restaurants, cafes and independent shops located in the former home of dry docks and machine shops.
Walk out onto 700 foot long Burrard Dry Dock Pier, enjoy a cold drink on a patio or even skate on an outdoor ice rink in the Wintertime. The Shipyards is also home to a variety of festivals in the Summer, such as the Shipyards Night Market, Philippine Day, Caribbean Day and the Shipyards Festival.
North Vancouver Restaurants
If you’re looking for a waterfront seafood restaurant with spectacular views of Downtown Vancouver then look no further.
Located in the Shipyards District, Pier 7 is renown for their great happy hour specials, fresh local seafood and perhaps the best patio in North Vancouver.
I like to come here for their spectacular seafood boils on Thursdays and Sundays. Served family style, these authentic cajun-style boils pair fresh local seafood with grilled chorizo and corn on the cob. Add a crisp patio wine and some good company and you’re night is sorted.
There is just something about the rustic simplicity of Greek cuisine that always seems to hit the spot when travelling. For this reason, I highly recommend this North Shore Hellenic hotspot that’s been slanging souvlaki since 1984.
Anatoli aims to pair their award-winning mezze-style Greek cuisine with North American service and hospitality and casual LoLo sensibilities. At this goal they’ve most definitely succeeded, even expanding to two additional locations.
The mezze platter is my go to here, offering calamari, homous and pita, spanakopita, keftedes, tzatziki and Greek salad. These are paired with your choice of entrees (lamb chops, souvlaki or braised lamb) and Greek potatoes. It’s hard to find a better deal for a couple or family.
What could possibly be better after a day spent in the mountains than some hearty German, Austrian and Swiss cuisine that sticks firmly to your ribs.
Jägerhof has been showcasing their take on the delicious regional specialties of the Alpine region of Europe for over 33 years. They readily admit that they aren’t hip, fancy or pretentious. But with history like that they don’t need to be.
Try a selection from their schnitzel menu, which contains five different takes on this central European classic. Or try their delectable roasted pork hock with roasted potatoes and sauerkraut. One bite of this dish immediately transported me right back to an Austrian Christmas market.
Live music is available on weekends.
This neighbourhood institution claims to be “a local celebration of sustainable seafood and wine”. And trust me, this is one party you don’t want to miss.
All of the seafood on the menu is certified Oceanwise. This means it was caught or raised using sustainable practices. Favourites include the local ponzu honey glazed sablefish and a salmon wellington that I assure you Gordon Ramsey himself would be proud of.
Fishworks’ support for local business, passion for quality and firm commitment to delivering environmentally responsible seafood make for a winning combination.
North Vancouver Bars
Tap and Barrel
This local chain’s massive Shipyards location contains a large dining room with two mezzanines that overlook a lively lounge. However, it’s the stunning seasonal patio that is the major draw, offering breathtaking views of Burrard Inlet and the Vancouver skyline.
Tap and Barrel’s unparalleled drink selection features 36 local craft beers and 16 BC wines on tap. And their menu features contemporary pub-fare such as salads, burgers and hand-stretched pizzas.
If you can’t find something to your liking it likely doesn’t exist!
The simple ethos of this casual neighbourhood bar is to “keep good company”. And that’s just what you’ll do in this relaxed Northwoods room with a Southern-style menu and great drink specials.
The third edition of this Vancouver area chain was tasked to become the ultimate post-hike hangout in Vancouver in the summer and après-ski spot in the Winter. And with its close vicinity to Mt. Seymour and Deep Cove it has become just that.
Toss in the fantastic happy hour and daily drink specials ($3 taps, highballs and Jameson on Tuesday anyone!) and you’ve got a true winner.
Sailor Hagar’s Brew Pub
If you’re simply looking for a cold beer, some decent pub grub and a friendly face then this un-pretentious LoLo brewpub is just what the doctor ordered.
Sailor Hagar’s offers 18 beers on tap, including 6 which are brewed in-house using their own special recipe. Locals love the fabulous food and drink specials, including $4 cocktails everyday and $13 roast beef dinner on Sunday.
Sailor’s will never become a trendy chain, and their customers prefer it that way. However, they do offer friendly service and great beer at fantastic prices. And that never goes out of style.
North Vancouver Festivals
Date: September 28th (2019)
The Shipyards Festival is a one day family friendly street party that takes place in the last weekend of September. Formerly known as the “Shipped Waterfront Festival”, the party was kicked up a notch in 2019 when it changed into its current iteration.
The popular event is full of music, adventure, food and fun! There are 4 stages featuring over 40 performers that are augmented by a family fun zone, axe throwing, a beer garden and an eclectic variety of local food vendors.
The party takes up the entirety of the Shipyards area, including Boatbuilders’ Square and the Pipe Shop all the way to Lonsdale Quay.
Date: Last weekend of July
Every July in Vancouver the city’s Waterfront Park is home to BC’s biggest Caribbean party. The spicy Caribbean food, lively music and beautiful waterfront setting attract tens of thousands of visitors every year.
The North side of the park is home to a large concession area where you can find carib classics like jerk chicken and Jamaican Patties. And of course there’s a beer Garden to cool you down after all that spice!
The park’s Southside is where you’ll find the riddim, with an outdoor music festival featuring reggae, calypso, Latin and other international sounds. So don’t forget your dancing shoes!
Shipyards Night Market
Dates: Every Friday night (May-September)
Every Friday night throughout the Summer the Shipyards Night Market attracts over ten thousand visitors with its array of food, live music, beer garden and artisan vendors.
You’ll have your pick from over 40 food trucks that offer flavours from all over the world. So be sure to skip dinner before you come! The 350-person capacity Garden Beer Market features beverages from all of the top local brewers and distilleries.
But its not just about eating and drinking. The market features entertainment for people of all ages, including a rotating cast of some of BC’s best up and coming musicians and a children’s’ play area to enhance the casual and welcoming community vibe.
Dates: Second weekend of June
North Vancouver also houses BC’s biggest celebration of Philippine arts and cultural heritage. Every June Filipinos from all over the province gather at Waterfront Park to celebrate the declaration of Philippine Independence on June 12, 1898.
The two day festival’s unique “Barrio Fiesta” atmosphere celebrates the diversity of Filipino food, music and dance. If you haven’t tried this delicious cuisine then what better time!
Over 75 vendors can be found hawking their wares alongside a children’s play area and tens of thousands of visitors of all ethnicities.
How to Get to North Vancouver
North Vancouver is located about 10 kilometres or a 20 minute drive across Burrard Inlet from Downtown Vancouver. The area is easily accessible by car, bus or the Seabus commuter ferry from Waterfront Station.
Getting to the city’s North Shore is a fairly simple proposition. However, keep in mind that the Stanley Park Causeway’s notorious congestion can significantly increase travel time.
Nevertheless, if you manage to time your trip outside of peak hours you’ll be presented with one of the most beautiful urban drives in the world.
The most efficient way to get to North Van via public transit is the 400-passenger Seabus commuter ferry. Departing from Waterfront Station, this scenic 12 minute journey transports you across Burrard Inlet to Lonsdale Quay.
Once you arrive the Lonsdale Bus Loop awaits to transport you to more distant attractions, such as Grouse Mountain and the Capilano Suspension Bridge.
Make sure to have your camera handy, as the journey offers spectacular views of Burrard Inlet, the North Shore Mountains and the Vancouver skyline.
Alternatively, the Coast Mountain Bus Company also provides service to the North Shore from Downtown Vancouver. The following routes can be snagged from the North side of Georgia Street:
- #240-Lynn Valley
- #241-Upper Lonsdale
- #246-Highlands (serves Grouse Mountain/Capilano Suspension Bridge)
- #250-Horsehoe Bay
- #257 Express-Horseshoe Bay
Before you attempt to navigate Vancouver’s public transportation system be sure to take a look at our Vancouver Public Transport Mega Guide.
North Vancouver History
Prior to the arrival of European settlers the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam peoples had numerous settlements around the plentiful waters of Burrard Inlet. The fish, shellfish and seaweed that made up the bulk of their diet was the main draw. However, they’d also venture into the mountains to hunt, practice spiritual pursuits, and gather local plants.
After the arrival of Captain Vancouver in 1792 settlers began to arrive in order to exploit the regions virgin old-growth forests. A sawmill was eventually setup and the adjacent settlement of Moodyville became only the second in the Lower Mainland, predating Vancouver.
Development was slow due to the rugged mountain terrain, numerous fast moving rivers and streams and marshy ocean foreshore. But by WWI Wallace Shipyards and the Great Eastern Railroad began to diversify the region’s industrial base.
Now divided from neighbouring West Vancouver by the Capilano River, North Vancouver’s development began to centre around the Lower Lonsdale area. The shipbuilding boom of the war years created a building boom and the population began to skyrocket.
The 1938 construction of the Lions Gate Bridge (in large part by the Guinness family of Irish stout fame) cemented North Van’s position as a viable home for commuters to neighbouring Vancouver.
Ski areas were constructed at Grouse, Seymour and Cypress Bowl. An extensive system of trails was also carved out of the North Shore Mountains turning the area into the Lower Mainland’s year-round outdoor recreational playground. While the Capilano Suspension Bridge became one of Metro Vancouver’s most visited tourist attractions.
Today North Vancouver has become an affluent suburb of Vancouver that attracts locals and tourists alike with its rugged beauty and charming small-town spirit.
FAQ on Visiting North Vancouver
Where is North Vancouver?
North Vancouver is located about 10 kilometres or a 20 minute drive across Burrard Inlet from Downtown Vancouver.
What is there to do in North Vancouver?
North Vancouver is home to a variety of trails, ski hills and parks that provide host to a whole host of outdoor activities. Grouse Mountain and the Capilano Suspension Bridge are two of the most popular attractions in Metro Vancouver.
The Lower Lonsdale area is home to an eclectic variety of dining options, the Lonsdale Quay market and numerous cultural events and festivals.
How do I get to North Vancouver?
North Van can be easily in as little as 20 minutes reached from Downtown Vancouver by car, the Seabus commuter ferry or via the Coast Mountain Bus system.
Looking to Visit North Vancouver?
The sun is about to set on our North Vancouver neighbourhood guide. I hope I’ve managed to peak your interest in a visit to the most beautiful of Vancouver’s suburbs.
Is there anything else you’d like to know? Or did I forgot to mention something?Well don’t be afraid to hit me up on the Vancouver Planner Facebook page or in the comment section below.
We’re always here for all of your Vancouver-based travel needs.
Enjoy North Vancouver,