6 Car-Free Spring Day Trips From Vancouver

Viewing platform on the Panorama Trail at the Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish, BC

Panorama Trail at the Sea to Sky Gondola. Photo Credit: Tara O’Grady

No car? No problem. It’s easy to explore the forests, mountains, beaches, and islands outside Vancouver on a car-free day trip thanks to public transit, shuttle buses, and ferries.

 

Lonsdale Quay Market and Capilano Suspension Bridge

Two people wearing rain jackets enjoy the Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver

Cliffwalk at the Capilano Suspension Bridge. Photo: Destination Canada

Combine two of the North Shore’s best attractions to make an incredible day trip. Take the Seabus from Waterfront Station across Vancouver’s harbour. The ride takes 15 minutes and has great views. On the other side, head into Lonsdale Quay Market to check out the food stalls and boutiques. It’s a great place to have lunch.

After, hop on bus #236 to Capilano Suspension Bridge. Spring is a great time to visit since the snowmelt and rains make the waters of the Capilano River rage through the canyon below the suspension bridge and cliffwalk. The moss and ferns in the temperate rainforest are also gorgeous at this time of year. Walk along the Living Forest pathway to learn more about this unique ecosystem.

 

Deep Cove

View from Quarry Rock in North Vancouver.

View from Quarry Rock. Photo: San/Unsplash

North Vancouver’s Deep Cove neighbourhood makes a great day trip from downtown Vancouver – it’s easy to get there via bus #211. The compact village includes cute cafes and boutiques. Don’t miss Honey’s Doughnuts, Vancouver’s most famous doughnut shop. Kate Winslet and John Cena are both fans.

Get your food to go and have a picnic by the ocean at Panorama Park. If you want to get out on the water, take a tour with Deep Cove Kayak. Or hike the easy Quarry Rock Trail. It’s a 4 km round-trip and has a stunning view at the end.

 

Bowen Island

Bowen Island ferry

Watching the ferry arrive from the picnic area. Photo: Destination BC/Alex Guiry

If you want to experience the island life, head to Bowen Island. It’s just a short ferry ride from Vancouver, but it feels worlds away. Take the #257 express bus from downtown Vancouver to Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal, then take the Bowen Island Ferry as a walk-on passenger. Reservations are not available on this route, but walk-on passenger tickets rarely sell out.

Once you arrive on the island, explore the boutiques, galleries, cafes, and restaurants in Snug Cove. Or grab a snack to enjoy at the picnic area. If you’re up for a bit of a walk, head a few more minutes up the hill to explore more shops and galleries at Artisan Square.  Don’t miss the chocolates at Cocoa West.

Allow time to go for a short hike on the trails in Crippen Regional Park. You can follow paths upstream along Killarney Creek to Killarney Lake. Or hike to Dorman Point for great views of the ocean.

 

Lighthouse Park and Horseshoe Bay

Lighthouse Park

Lighthouse Park. Photo: Destination BC/Tom Ryan

Head to the beaches of West Vancouver on bus #250 from downtown Vancouver. Your first stop is Lighthouse Park. If you’re in a rush, make a beeline for the lighthouse and nearby viewpoint. But if you have more time, take a hike through the beautiful forest. An easy 6-km-long trail loops around the outside of the park, passing lots of gorgeous ocean viewpoints and groves of old-growth trees. If you don’t want to do the whole loop, there are lots of side trails that will take you back to the start.

After the park, head back to the bus stop and get back on bus #250 heading west to Horseshoe Bay. This waterfront village has lots of little shops and cafes. It’s also home to Troll’s, where the same family has been serving up legendary fish and chips here since 1946. Grab a seat on the patio to watch the boats and BC Ferries zip in and out of the busy harbour.

 

Shannon Falls and the Sea to Sky Gondola

A woman looks at Howe Sound from the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge at the Sea to Sky Gondola.

Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge at the Sea to Sky Gondola. Photo: Destination BC/@entre2escales

You don’t need a car to get to Squamish. Just book a trip with the Squamish Connector. Board the bus in downtown Vancouver, then enjoy the scenery as you ride along the scenic Sea to Sky Highway.

The Squamish Connector will drop you off right outside the Sea to Sky Gondola. Take the gondola up into the mountains for incredible views of Howe Sound and the surrounding peaks. Grab a drink and soak up the sun on their expansive patio. Or brave a walk across the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge. In spring the upper mountain trails are still snowy, but you can explore the easy trails near the lodge. Don’t miss the incredible viewing platform on the Panorama Trail.

After you return to the gondola base, follow a short trail for about 0.5 km through the forest to Shannon Falls. Tumbling an astonishing 335 meters down the cliffs, this is the third-highest waterfall in BC. Be sure to follow the trails to both viewing platforms to really appreciate its size.

 

Nanaimo

Totem pole on Saysutshun/Newcastle Island near Nanaimo

Sayshutshun (Newcastle Island) near Nanaimo. Photo: @glamouraspirt

Thanks to the new Hullo Ferry connecting downtown Vancouver with downtown Nanaimo, it’s easy to head to Nanaimo for the day. The 70-minute sailing has great views of the North Shore mountains, Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island. Plan to take the first and last ferries of the day to maximize your time in Nanaimo. You can book tickets up to 10 minutes before departure.

Once you arrive, head to the Old City Quarter historical district. Browse at artisan shops or head to a cafe for lunch. Don’t miss trying the city’s signature dessert, the Nanaimo Bar. The decadent creation has a nut and coconut crumb base, a custard icing filling, and a thin layer of chocolate ganache on top. You can find both classic and creative versions around the city on the Nanaimo Bar Trail.

If you visit between May and September, be sure to catch the small ferry to Saysutshun (Newcastle Island). This gorgeous island is a provincial park and is an important place for the Snuneymuxw First Nation. You can explore the walking trails and relax on the beaches. If you’re lucky, you might be able to spot some of Saysutshun’s resident white raccoons.

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