a vancouver boat tour boat underway outside of stanley park

Vancouver Boat Tours: Revealing the 5 Top Boat Cruises in Vancouver

Vancouver boat tours are a unique and fun way to soak up all the scenery that makes Vancity one of the most beautiful cities on earth.

Whether you’re a tourist or a local looking for new ways to discover the city, boat tours are something to seriously consider.

But what exactly is on offer and is it worth it? I’m gonna narrow down the Vancouver boat tour options to get you up to speed.

Boat Tours in Vancouver

If you’re reading this it’s clear you’re looking for some unique ways to discover the city – so we’re off to a good start.

And excuse me for being presumptuous, but based on my own preferences you’re probably also looking for:

  • A great price-quality ratio to keep things cheerful
  • Convenient departure points in top Vancouver areas
  • The ability to see stunning scenery and top city landmarks
  • Unique local wildlife thrown in for good measure
  • Quick-book smartphone tickets with free cancellation for flexibility

Using this criteria I’ve narrowed down a list of dozens into what I consider the top five boat tours in Vancouver.

Let’s take a look!

Related: Vancouver seaplane tours

Choosing the Best Vancouver Boat Tours

vancouver harbour tour boat in coal harbour with vancouver skylineVancouver One Hour Harbour Tour – Best Basic Vancouver Boat Tour

Departure: 501 Denman St. (downtown) | Length: 60 minutes | Cost: From $51.40

This is the best option for people who want a cheap boat tour in Vancouver that’s a no frills sightseeing cruise.

There’s no bumpy sea here – this is calm and relaxed because you’re riding a massive vintage paddle steamer. It’s got an open air deck and a sheltered downstairs portion with fully licensed bar.

You’ll also get an hour of compelling sightseeing commentary during the trip.

What you’ll see: Stanley Park, Lions Gate Bridge, North Shore Mountains, city skyline, and more.

More Info on the 1 Hour Harbour Cruise

In booking with the button above you can get free cancellation and reserve now & pay later tickets.

🛥️ |  Curious? Read great One Hour Harbour Tour reviews from recent ticket buyers.

vancouver eco safari boat tour along the shoresHowe Sound Eco Safari – Best Vancouver Boat Tour for Wildlife

Departure: Sewell’s Marina (West Vancouver) | Length: 2 hours | Cost: From $109.20

If you’re taking this boat tour it’s because you want less cityscapes and more wild west coast fjord scenery.

Expect some bumps and splashes aboard this thrilling zodiac trip, but don’t worry – they kit you out with gloves, goggles, and a life vest.

This Canadian Signature Experience involves exploring unspoiled wilderness in nearby Howe Sound, with full captain narration on the history and culture of Vancouver.

What you’ll see: granite cliffs, bald eagle nesting spots, hidden waterfalls, sunbathing seals, fir and cedar forests, and more.

More Info on the Howe Sound Eco Safari

In booking with the button above you can get free cancellation tickets up to 24 hours before departure.

a vancouver whale watching tour group observing a killer whale off the coast of vancouver

Half Day Whale Watching Tour – Best Whale Watching Boat Tour in Vancouver

Departure: 1516 Duranleau St. (Granville Island) | Length: 5 hours | Cost: From $199.99

This is the Vancouver boat tour that offers a once in a lifetime opportunity, and it’s for people that couldn’t care less about cookie cutter day cruises and want a unique experience.

Vancouver whale watching tours are the easiest way to do this, particularly via a custom-built, high-speed luxury catamaran that’ll have you exploring local killer whale grounds in a flash.

These are the biggest boats in the fleet, meaning it’s perfect if you don’t have your sea legs.

Each tour comes with 3 naturalist guides, a wide variety of educational material, free drinks, and even a complimentary photo souvenir package.

What you’ll see: killer whales, humpback whales, grey whales, minke whales, bald eagles, seals, sealions, and more.

More Info on Half Day Whale Watching Tour

In booking with the button above you can get free cancellation tickets up to 24 hours before departure.

🛥️  |  Curious? Read 1600+ Half Day Whale Watching Tour reviews from recent ticket buyers.

two tourists taking a photograph of the setting sun from a vancouver sunset boat tour

Vancouver Harbor Sunset Dinner Cruise – Best Sunset Boat Tour in Vancouver

Departure: 501 Denman St. (downtown) | Length: 2.5 hours | Cost: From $140.64

If you’re looking for dramatic sunset photography opportunities, a west coast themed dinner, and even live music then this is the Vancouver harbour boat tour for you.

Leaving at 7:00 pm from Coal Harbour in downtown Vancouver, you’ll get great views of the glowing city skyline and stunning Pacific horizon aboard this double-decker paddle wheeler.

This is the most leisurely boat tour you’ll find, and it’s great for couples looking for unique ways to celebrate.

What you’ll see: Vancouver harbour, Lions Gate Bridge, Stanley Park, the North Shore Mountains, and more.

More Info on the Vancouver Sunset Cruise

🛥️ |  Curious? Read 400+ Vancouver Harbour Sunset Dinner Cruise reviews from recent ticket buyers.

vancouver boat tour passing under the lions gate bridgeBowen Island Boat Cruise and Dinner – Best All in One Boat Tour

Departure: Boat Lift Lane (Granville Island) | Length: 3.5 hours | Cost: From $171.00

If you’re looking for an elevated boat tour experience, perhaps for a special occasion, then this boat tour with a dinner that can rival Vancouver’s best restaurants is a great shout.

This tour departs at 5:30 pm from legendary Granville Island – passing by many top city landmarks with fact-filled Vancouver commentary that’ll have you an expert in no time.

You’ll head to Bowen Island (one of the city’s cutest rural sea escape towns), where you’ll have dinner and drinks before heading back to Vancouver during sunset. Yes, this is a sunset boat tour, a dinner cruise, and a harbour tour all in one ticket!

What you’ll see: Vancouver harbour, a rural British Columbia town, local wildlife, Vancouver at sunset.

More Info on Bowen Island Boat Tour

In booking with the button above you can get free cancellation and reserve now & pay later tickets.

🛥️ |  Curious? Read Bowen Island Cruise and Dinner reviews from recent ticket buyers.

Are Vancouver BC Boat Cruises Worth It?

Not everybody has $199.99 to go big or go home with a five hour whale watching tour, and that’s understandable.

If these prices seem a little high you may want to consider the Vancouver Hop on Hop Off bus tour, which is equally educational though it won’t have the same scenic element.

You can also get a $15.00 day pass to ride the Aquabus between some of Vancouver’s top attractions, though this is generally for commuters and tends to hug the shoreline on the non-mountain side of downtown. 

That said, how many times in life can you take a boat tour of one of the most beautiful cities on earth?

As a splurge or celebratory activity for locals, or a way for tourists to learn the city, this is a unique and stunning way to discover Vancouver.

With basic boat tours of Vancouver starting at $51.40 per person (the price of a dinner out) it’s something to really consider.

 

Boat Tours of Vancouver FAQ

How much do Vancouver boat tours cost?

Expect a typical one hour harbour tour to cost around $50.00 while the prices can rise exponentially for wildlife tours ($100.00), sunset dinner cruises ($150.00), and whale watching tours ($200.00).

What are the best day cruises in Vancouver?

The best day cruise is the Vancouver One Hour Harbour Tour, which is ideal for sightseeing and educational commentary. On the other hand, for those looking to explore typical BC coastal life the Howe Sound Eco Safari is the best bet.

What day cruises in Vancouver are good for avoiding crowds?

To avoid crowds you’ll generally have to book cruises that roll out with smaller boats, and this would include the Howe Sound Eco Safari, the Half Day Whale Watching Tour, and the Bowen Island Boat Cruise.

What will I see on Vancouver boat cruises?

Most boat tours start in Vancouver harbour in front of the iconic sails of Canada Place. Expect views of the city skyline, mountains, Stanley Park and the Lions Gate Bridge. From there on it’s dependent on the tour company, and you could be out exploring islands, whales, eagle nesting grounds etc.

What do I need to bring with me on my boat tour?

Even for the more bumpy zodiac rides you’ll still only have to bring weather-suitable clothing. Lifejacks and goggles etc. are handled by the company. For all tours though every guest will need to bring photo ID (passport or ID card) to board.

Ready for a Vancouver Boat Tour?

My goal is to answer every question about living and travelling Vancouver and I hope I’ve done that here.

That said, if there’s something that’s still on your mind about Vancouver boat tours or anything else please write me in the comments below. 

Whether you’re taking these tours or not, we hope you’ll use us for all your Vancouver planning needs 🤝

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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