5 Fun and Easy Day Trips from Vancouver

Britannia Mine Museum (Destination BC/Heath Moffatt).

An amazing aspect of Vancouver is that you can travel a short distance and explore a completely different and exciting part of the Lower Mainland and British Columbia. Whether you’re looking to bask in nature or find new eateries and shopping districts, there’s a day trip for every type of adventurer.

Here are 5 enjoyable day trips from Vancouver:

The North Shore

Photo: The Shipyards District BIA

Just across Burrard Inlet from downtown Vancouver, the North Shore beckons with a wealth of places to visit and things to do. You can get there by driving across the Lions Gate Bridge (or the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge if you’re coming from further east). Another option if you’re not driving is to take the SeaBus for a very beautiful 12-minute crossing. Once in North Vancouver, you’ll have a hard time deciding what to explore. The Shipyards District by the waterfront includes The Quay Market & Food Hall and numerous eateries and shops. From May to September, there’s also a Shipyards Night Market every Friday night.

Central Lonsdale has many restaurants and bars, or you can head to West Vancouver’s Ambleside where you can find a lovely beach as well as a hub for dining. Beyond these two neighbourhoods, the North Shore also includes other popular areas such as Edgemont Village (a newer commercial and residential area in North Vancouver), Dundarave (a seaside village in West Vancouver), Horseshoe Bay (a West Van village by Howe Sound), and Deep Cove (a village known for its proximity to the water for kayaking, trails, and doughnuts).

The main shopping centres on the North Shore are Capilano Mall and Park Royal, the latter featuring a Simons and an outdoor Village with shops and restaurants. The North Shore also has plenty of options for those interested in museums (e.g., Museum of North Vancouver), art galleries (e.g., The Polygon Gallery), and public art.

Those who love the outdoors will adore the North Shore, which is home to Mount Seymour, Capilano Suspension Bridge, Grouse Mountain, and Cypress Mountain—all of these have activities for both the summer and the winter months. As well, there are plenty of parks and trails for walking, hiking, and biking.

With new eating establishments opening on the North Shore all the time, the dining and drinking landscape there is always evolving and growing. Options include Pier 7 Restaurant and Bar, the Observatory on Grouse Mountain, Seaside Provisions, Tap and Barrel Shipyards, and Streetcar Brewing. Newer buzzy spots include Fred’s Restaurant, Isetta Café Bistro, and Sempre Uno. Breweries and distilleries abound as well, such as House of Funk Brewing, Beere Brewing, and Copperpenny Disilling Co.

Richmond and Steveston

Sunset at Steveson Village | Photo Credit: Gordon Waddington

Richmond is a just a Canada Line ride from downtown Vancouver, or a short drive (roughly ½ hour-45 minutes). The city has numerous aspects that make it a wonderful choice for a day trip: amazing food, primarily Asian eats; historic sites; vibrant arts and culture; shopping aplenty; and great parks, trails, as well as waterside locations, including Steveston Village.

First of all, if you’re wanting to experience the best of Asian food, Richmond is the place to visit, whether you’re seeking dim sum (e.g., Kirin Seafood Restaurant), hot pot, or a host of other Asian cuisines, including Japanese, Vietnamese, Singaporean, and Taiwanese food. Alexandra Road, known as Food Street (Wai Sek Kai), has a high concentration of Asian eateries. It’s located in the Golden Village, which also features Asian malls, such as Aberdeen Centre. The Richmond Night Market, which runs from the spring to fall, is a must, with its numerous food vendors, entertainment, and shopping stalls. In addition, Richmond has great spots for a casual bite, such as Flying Beaver Bar & Grill and Cavu Kitchen Bar.

Sites to visit in Richmond include Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site, the Olympic Oval, the Steveston Tram, the Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic Site, and London Heritage Farm. Museums include Richmond Museum and Steveston Museum. There is lots of shopping to be found in Richmond, ranging from CF Richmond Centre to McArthurGlen Designer Outlet Vancouver Airport. The River Rock Casino Resort is also located in Richmond.

If you want to get to know Richmond’s natural surroundings, there are numerous parks, such as Iona Beach Regional Park, and trails, like the Steveston and South Dyke Trail for leisurely exploring.

Finally, a visit to Richmond isn’t complete without an outing to Steveston Village, where you’ll find charm, history, shopping, and tasty seafood at restaurants like Shady Island Seafood Bar & Grill. Take a stroll along its boardwalk and admire the views from this historic fishing village at the mouth of the Fraser River.

The River District and New Westminster

LOCAL Public Eatery River District; Photo: Tara Lee

New Westminster, as the former capital of British Columbia, is steeped with history. The city is located just over a half hour drive from downtown Vancouver, and can also be accessed via the Skytrain.

If you’re driving to New West, stop off at the River District, a chic up-and-coming neighbourhood along the Fraser River (roughly Marine Drive and Boundary Road). Restaurants such as Lucky Taco and Bufala are slated to open this year and other places such as Kokoro Tokyo Mazesoba have already launched. Meanwhile, River District is currently anchored by LOCAL Public Eatery’s newest location. There, you’ll find a wrap-around patio for people watching and catching rays, a drink program that focuses on local craft beer, and casual bites, like pinche beef tacos.

Meanwhile, New West has a burgeoning food scene, great shopping, thriving arts and culture, and numerous parks. A primary destination is New West’s River Market, where you’ll find specialty shops, food vendors, and top-notch eateries such as Longtail Kitchen, which specializes in Thai Street Food. There’s also a farmers market March to November every Thursday (3pm to 7pm). New West features numerous galleries and theatres, like the Massey Theatre, The Gallery at Queen’s Park, and Anvil Centre.

Food options in New West are plentiful, such as El Santo, for inventive Mexican eats, Piva for modern Italian cuisine, and the Boathouse for seafood and views of the waterfront. For beer fans, Steel & Oak Brewing Co. and Another Beer Co. are well worth visiting.


Aerial view of the Sea to Sky Gondola and the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge; Destination BC/Heath Moffatt

While Whistler is doable for a day trip (roughly a two-hour drive one way from downtown Vancouver), if you’re looking for a shorter trip, Squamish is an ideal option. It’s a roughly one-hour drive and showcases phenomenal views along the Sea to Sky highway. Along the way, there are opportunities to stop off at picturesque villages such as Horseshoe Bay and Lions Bay, as well as numerous lookouts and scenic points (e.g., Furry Creek Beach and Lookout).

Closer to Squamish, there are numerous places to visit, including the Britannia Mine Museum (an immersive museum and National Historic site with a possible underground tour of the mine) and the Sea to Sky Gondola (at the top you’ll find a suspension bridge, hiking trails, activities, and dining options). If you’re looking for more active adventuring, you can visit areas such as Shannon Falls Provincial Park or the Stawamus Chief Provincial Park for mountain biking, hiking, scenic viewing, and picnicking.

Once you’re in the town of Squamish, you can explore its shopping and dining selections. A farmers market takes place every Saturday (April to December, 10am to 3pm) as well as numerous small boutiques selling locally made goods. There is no shortage of food and drink options in Squamish. Highlights include Fergie’s Café (great brunch, make sure to get there early to avoid a line-up), Indian Spice Cuisine (a family-run establishment with great curries), The Salted Vine Kitchen + Bar for refined Pacific Northwest cuisine, Match Eatery and Public House for a view of the mountains, and Wonderlands Plants and Coffee.

Squamish also has a great drinking scene. Highlights include Backcountry Brewing for phenomenal beer and pizza, Geo Cider/Luz Tacos (artisanal cider paired with delicious tacos), Raincity Distillery (locally made bottled spirits and cocktails), A-FRAME Brewing Co., and Howe Sound Inn and Brewing.

Gibsons and Bowen Island

Rocky cove on Bowen Island

One of the many small coves on Bowen Island. Photo: Connor McLeod/Unsplash

BC Ferries, leaving from terminals at Tsawwassen or Horseshoe Bay, provides access to numerous destinations on the West Coast, including Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast, and the Southern Gulf Islands. Most of them are doable for a day trip (e.g., the ferry ride from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay to visit Victoria is 1 hour and 35 minutes one way), although staying overnight will make for an even more relaxing escape.

For shorter ferry rides, consider visiting Gibsons on the Sunshine Coast (a 40-minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale). The scenic town, best known for being the location for the show The Beachcombers, features a host of things to do and see, including a hike to Langdale Falls, a visit to Gibsons Public Art Gallery, and strolling along the harbour at Gibsons Landing, which includes Gibsons Public Market. Restaurants and drink spots range from Persephone Brewing to Drift Café and Bistro.

For an even shorter ferry ride (20 minutes from Horseshoe Bay), Bowen Island is the perfect day trip. Situated in Howe Sound, this island is a charming escape from urban life, with plenty to keep you happily occupied. Bowen Island Sea Kayaking rents kayaks and stand up paddle boards, as well as offers short tours. There’s lots of other outdoor activities on Bowen, including hiking, cycling, golfing, and fishing, as well as wellness options such as yoga.

In terms of arts and culture, Bowen has numerous galleries and the Bowen Island Museum and Archives. Shop at the many unique boutiques or visit the farmers market, which runs May to the beginning of October on Saturdays 10am to noon. Restaurants on Bowen include Tuscany Restaurant for great pizza and pasta, Artisan Eats for coffee and light meals during the day, and Doc Morgan’s Pub and Restaurant for casual bites and drinks.

Tagged: , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed for this post

Comments are closed.