There’s nothing like packing up the car for a day trip adventure within your own backyard. From Vancouver, you don’t have to venture too far out of the city to experience an exciting escape that can transform your state of mind from urban to wild in just a few hours. Whether it’s tiptoeing through tulips in Abbotsford, riding a tram over a rushing river gorge or ziplining in Whistler, these 17 day trips from Vancouver will help you support local and explore your own wonderful, west coast backyard.
17 fantastic day trips from Vancouver
These incredible Vancouver day trip destinations offer something for everyone. Note: Distances are measured departing from downtown Vancouver.
Discover Abbotsford in the Fraser Valley
Abbotsford is an agricultural and bible belt community in the Fraser Valley. It’s also one of the fastest growing cities in British Columbia. The bustling shops, cafes and restaurants in its downtown show the new energy that’s making Abbotsford a destination for day trippers from the city.
In the city’s historic downtown, enjoy healthy pressed juices at the HABIT Project, roasted coffee goodness at Old Hande Café, unicorn cakes at Tracycakes, more baked goodies at Duft and Co Bakehouse and tasty seafood at Bow and Stern.
Looking to tipple? Go mead tasting at Campbell’s Gold Honey Farm, sample award-winning wines at Singletree Winery, or sip great craft ales and lagers at Fieldhouse Brewing.
Need to work off the food coma? The Discovery Trail connects the city with an extensive trail system that winds through forests, ponds, parks and includes off-leash dog areas.
Birders will enjoy the peace and avian life at Willband Creek Park. Keep an eye out for some of the 230 different bird species in this lovely urban wetland, including herons, hawks, eagles and smaller birds.
Distance: 90 km
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Board the Boat to Bowen Island
The scenic 20-minute ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Bowen Island is a journey to a laid-back day of island life. Bowen Island is one of our favorite Vancouver day trips, and was once a popular holiday destination for mainlanders, who arrived via the Union Steamship Company. You can still book charming USC historical cottages for a weekend stay.
For day trippers, enjoy a beautiful hike around Killarney Lake or a brisk and hilly bike ride along the island’s winding roads.
Pop into the Snug Cove or Artisan Square shops (and Cocoa West for chocolate) for beach picnic supplies to enjoy in Crippen Park or Cape Roger Curtis.
If you’re feeling active, rent kayaks in the Cove to paddle along the shoreline, or tighten your boots for a climb up Mount Gardener, the highest point on the island.
Distance: 27 km (car and ferry)
Chill out in Chilliwack
Head east into the sprawling farmland of Chilliwack for fresh air adventures. Check out the hiking trails at Cheam Peak or walks in Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park. You’ll find family fun at Cultus Lake Adventure Park, including a water park, roller coaster and other rides to keep the littles and older tweens busy all day.
This is prime agricultural land so don’t leave without a baker’s dozen of supersweet Chilliwack corn from the green and yellow drive-in Corn Barn during summertime. Wander through the sunflower fields in August, and the corn mazes and pumpkin patches in fall.
Take a detour north off of Highway 1 towards Agassiz and Harrison Mills to check out the Kilby Historic Site. This museum of rural life includes townsite buildings from the early 20th century.
Food: Shandhar Hut Indian Cuisine, Bubba’s Big Bites, Corner Nook Café.
Distance: 110 km
Head north for a scenic 45-minute drive (depending on the Sea to Sky Highway) for an outdoorsy day in Squamish. Squamish does bill itself as the “Adventure Capital of Canada.” So if mountain biking, kite surfing, hiking and river rafting are up your sleeve, welcome to an adventurous day in paradise.
But even if you have no intention of doing any of those activities, you will have a grand day out in this vibrant mountain town.
Stop at Porteau Cove to walk out onto the pier and look for seals and scuba divers. Pan for gold or delve deep into the mines at the brilliant and family-friendly Britannia Mine Museum, in Britannia Beach, a village of the Sea to Sky Highway.
Stop at Shannon Falls to admire the rushing waterfall. Ride the Sea to Sky Gondola for stunning views of the Howe Sound Fjord and Garibaldi mountain range. Cross the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge if you dare (it’s not that bad, really). Or enjoy a free interpretive tour with a First Nations guide along the Spirit Trail.
Outdoorsy types will enjoy hiking to the summit of the Stawamus Chief, an impressive granite monolith. Others will be content trying to spot the tiny dots of humans rock climbing the face.
Food: Refuel at the Watershed Grill, Fergie’s Café at SunWolf or Sunny Chiba’s.
Distance: 64 km
Tour Fort Langley and Langley Township
Travel back in time to the 19thcentury Fort Langley National Historic Site, the ‘birthplace of British Columbia.’ This former Hudson’s Bay Company fur trading hub is located along the Fraser River. It’s a great place to enjoy live demonstrations of blacksmithing, oak barrel making and gold panning.
From the Fort, enjoy a stroll through the lovely shops, cafes and restaurants in the small downtown of Fort Langley. Take a self-guided Circle Farm Tour of local farms, dairies, and wineries. Sample artisanal cheeses, fruit and dairy products, and visit with the family farm animals.
Food: Saba Cafe and Bistro, Wendel’s Bookstore & Café, The Bench
Distance: 48 km
Discover the Shipyards District
The Shipyards District is located on the North Vancouver waterfront and is accessible by car, though it’s more fun to get to by SeaBus cruise (just 12 minutes) from downtown Vancouver.
Once dominated by the city’s shipbuilding industry, the Shipyards is now home to art galleries, shops and a bustling public market. It’s also got fabulous views of the Vancouver city skyline, especially at sunset time.
Check out the rotating art exhibits at the Polygon Gallery with admission by donation. Stroll the more than 80 shops and stalls at Lonsdale Quay Market, including fresh food, sushi, pizza, artisanal pickles and the Market Kitchen. Take a public art walking tour of the area and stay on the lookout for astrolabs, a one-armed mariner with a trumpet and 50 miniature cows.
Still looking for north shore activities? Why not rent kayaks in Deep Cove. This small village in North Vancouver is the perfect launch point for a day on the water. You can rent single or double kayaks on site or launch your own in Panorama Park.
Paddle over to Jug Island near Belcarra Regional Park or head up Indian Arm if you’re up for a challenge. Refuel for lunch at Honey’s Doughnuts in the Cove, then tackle the popular Quarry Rock Hike for a great view of Burrard Inlet and the city skylines of Burnaby and Vancouver.
Distance: 15-20 km
Ride up to Grouse Mountain and explore Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
Two north shore attractions offer exciting opportunities for spending the day outside, especially for families. The Capilano Suspension Bridge is a 140 metre (460 ft) long suspension bridge that’s 70 metres (230 ft) above the Capilano River. And FYI, crossing it is not for anyone who’s afraid of heights or bouncy bridges. You’ve been warned.
The Park also includes a story centre, guided history and nature tours, and a fun Treetops Adventure with seven suspended footbridges. The brave can attempt the Cliffwalk whose narrow, cantilevered bridges, stairs and platforms follow a granite precipice along the River.
Grouse Mountain, the Peak of Vancouver, is accessible via the Skyride Gondola and is a popular winter destination with skiing, riding, skating and snowshoeing.
During the summer months, visitors can enjoy zip lines, a wildlife refuge with two famous grizzly bears, Grinder and Coola, lumberjack shows, a Theatre in the Sky, and delicious nachos and stellar sunset views at the restaurant.
Distance: 12 km
Head to Harrison Hot Springs
The village of Harrison Hot Springs is ‘just up the road,’ that road being Highway 1, to be exact. Situated on beautiful Harrison Lake, the village was indeed made famous by its two hot springs, as well as the legendary Sasquatch. There’s even a museum dedicated to the famous mythical creature which makes for a fascinating visit.
In addition to boating, fishing, hiking, biking and sandcastle-building, the hot springs are a big draw for visitors. The public can access the hot springs at the public pool in the centre of the village.
There’s a great lakefront walk to view the sunset, and more than two dozen restaurants and cafes to service visitors. Our favorites include Morgan’s Bistro, Black Forest Restaurant and Muddy Waters Café.
Distance: 132 km
Ride the Hell’s Gate AirTram
An attraction that combines the history of the province’s exploration with the thrill of crossing a raging river, Hell’s Gate Airtram is one of the steepest fully suspended trams in North America.
When you aboard the tram you are leaving the Cascade Mountain range and docking at the foot of the Coast Pacific Mountain Range. The Tram is a double reversible cable way that crosses the 110 foot wide “Hell’s Gate” gorge.
Visit during the spring runoff in May/June to get the full rush of the river flowing through what explorer Simon Fraser called an ‘awesome gorge”.
Food: Hell’s Gate has food service, but if you have time to venture slightly further north, check out JB’s Drive-In diner in Boston Bar.
Distance: 220 km
Take a self-guided tour of Vancouver’s public art murals
As day trips from Vancouver go, this one’s a bit of a cheat as it’s in the city. But, heading to East Vancouver for the Vancouver Mural Festival is worth it, I promise. The Festival is the city’s largest free public art celebration, having commissioned a wide variety of exterior mural paintings as part of its annual public art program.
Mural enthusiasts can download a free interactive map to plan a self-guided walking route. There are 100 murals in the city’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood alone, as well as others in the South Granville and Chinatown communities.
You can easily spend a day discovering vibrant and colourful works of art brightening up industrial buildings and around street corners.
In terms of fueling your wanders, there are loads of independent coffee shops, craft breweries, doughnuteries and restaurants along the mural route in the Mount Pleasant and Olympic Village communities.
Some of our favorites include; JJ Bean, Terra Bread, Tacofino Ocho, Purebread, BREWHALL, Brassneck Brewery, and Cartems Donuts.
Distance: In the city
Tour the Othello Tunnels east of Hope
The Othello Tunnels are located in Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park in Hope, about two hours east of Vancouver. Cut into the solid granite mountain walls of the Coast Mountain Range, the Tunnels are a series of decommissioned train tunnels and bridges that used to house a railway linking the coast with the interior.
The tunnels are now popular pathways with minimal grade which is ideal for an easy stroll. It’s a 3.5 km round trip walk through the tunnel system. Visitors are encouraged to bring flashlights to illuminate some of the longer tunnels.
Between the tunnels, the path crosses several bridges to reveal steep, rugged cliffs above, and the rushing Coquihalla River below. The Othello Tunnels are part of the 24,000 km Trans Canada Trail.
Food: In Hope, try Home Restaurant, Owl Street Café, Kibo Japanese Grill.
Distance: 170 km
Visit Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Ladner
One of our family’s favorite places to discover where the wild things are is Reifel Bird Sanctuary. It takes about 30 minutes to leave city life behind as you get back to nature and view hundreds of bird species that flock (see what I did there?) to Reifel.
Be sure to bring binoculars for birdwatching as you wander the trails and pop into the bird blinds. Spring migration brings the spectacular and unforgettable show of snow geese on route back to northern feeding grounds. You can purchase a bag of seed at the entrance for the kids to feed the ducks and black-capped chickadees.
To make this a full and lovely day out, visit the Sanctuary on a summer Sunday to coincide with the popular Ladner Village Market.
Food: In Ladner, try Il Posto, Sharkey’s Seafood Bar & Grille, Pho Haven Restaurant.
Distance: 33 km
Get suburban in Surrey
If you think you know Surrey, guess what? The fastest-growing city in British Columbia has a lot more going on than many people think. And not just when it comes to delicious Indian cuisine, courtesy of the vibrant Indo-Canadian community that live here.
Check out the free and very kid-friendly Museum of Surrey. Enjoy tasty homemade lunch with a side of NYC at West Village Café. Or scones and honey at the Honeybee Centre. Adults will enjoy craft ales and gin at Central City Brewers and Distillers.
Surrey is double the size of Vancouver. There is a huge amount of green space to explore, including walks in Green Timbers Urban Forest, or along the shoreline at Blackie Spit Park.
Popular Bear Creek Park has a running track, nature trails, Arts Centre, outdoor pool, and gardens. Holland Park, the city’s “Central Park” of Surrey City Centre is 10 hectares (25 acres) of sports fields, basketball courts, a playground and lots of picnicking areas. The park is also home to the Holland Gardens, which include a large central amphitheater and water fountain.
Venture on the Surrey Spice Trail. Enjoy sizzling hot kebabs at Tasty Indian Bistro, chick-pea battered cod pakoras and paneer at Vikram Vij’s jewelbox My Shanti. Or cross the border (so to speak) for vegan kachaloo or meaty lamb dishes at Afghan Kitchen.
Distance: 34 km
Take the train to Richmond
Discover the Lower Mainland with inexpensive day trips by public transit. A 20-minute ride on the Canada Line from downtown Vancouver to Richmond delivers some of the best and most varied Asian cuisine in the region.
Stroll past Chinese BBQ food stalls at Parker Place Mall or enjoy refined dim sum at Chef Tony. Stop into one of dozens of restaurants along Alexandra, aka Food Street. You’ll find everything from laksa soup to ocean-fresh sushi to lobster sticky rice.
Leave space to spend the evening enjoying hurricane potatoes, takoyaki, bubble tea and market trinkets at the Richmond Night Market. Conveniently located at the Bridgeport station of the Canada Line.
Distance: 15 km
Wander the campus of the University of British Columbia
This may come as a surprise, but the University of British Columbia (UBC) is technically not part of the city of Vancouver. It’s also much more than just a place of higher learning. In fact, there are so many things to do, you could make a weekend out of enjoying all the activities at UBC.
Discover world-class museums like the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) and Beatty Biodiveristy Museum. Wander through peaceful public gardens like the Nitobe and the UBC Botanical Garden. (Note: This is home to the UBC Apple Festival in October)
Get up into the trees along the Greenheart Treewalk canopy adventure and check out the veggies growing at UBC Farm. Then enjoy a walk, bike ride or forest bathing in the lush emerald green forest of the Endowment Lands.
Pacific Spirit Park surrounds much of the UBC campus and includes some natural gems, including Camosun Bog, and the clothing-optional Wreck Beach.
Located just south of the UBC campus down a steep set of steps, Wreck Beach is open and accessible all year round. In summer, the beach features warm sand, sheltered spots near large logs, and an outstanding spot to watch the sunset.
At nearly 8 km long, Wreck Beach is the largest naturist (nude) beach in North America. Visitors are encouraged to be clothing-optional, or to be respectful of those who choose to be naturist in their enjoyment of nature.
Food: Jamjar Canteen, Virtuous Pie, Pacific Poke
Distance: 10 km
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Explore Whistler Village
The 2010 Winter Olympic Game host village of Whistler is a great day trip from Vancouver. The Sea to Sky Highway between Vancouver and Whistler is a phenomenal driving route: it’s a destination in itself.
During the summer months, climb aboard the Whistler Gondola for a ride up to Whistler Mountain. Enjoy an alpine hike, cross the Cloudraker Skybridge and a ride on the Peak to Peak gondola. Keep an eye out for black bears and cubs as you ascend or hike down the mountain.
Summer mountain biking and ziplining are great family-friendly options in the great outdoors. Or walk or rent touring bikes and cruise around Lost Lake.
For a higher-culture adventures indoors, visit the Audain Art Gallery or Lil-wat Cultural Centre. Or try Whistler’s Escape Room or Forged Axe Throwing for a serious adrenalin rush.
Our guide to the dining options in Whistler village will help you find something delicious for everyone in the family.
Distance: 120 km
Visit Victoria via BC Ferries
BC’s provincial capital of Victoria on Vancouver Island can be a day trip from Vancouver. But it’s a long one, due to the 1.5 hour ferry ride at either end. But don’t let that stop you from considering a truly grand day out across the Salish Sea.
Catch an early ferry and fill your visit to Victoria with these must do activities. Start at Butchart Gardens, which is on the way from the ferry terminal. Enjoy a stroll through the 55 acres of beautiful floral displays, water features and quarries. You can even bring your pup. The Gardens are dog-friendly.
Take a scenic drive along Dallas Road. Stop for a walk in Beacon Hill Park to enjoy nature and the Children’s Farm with its goats and peacocks.
In the downtown, enjoy an al fresco lunch at Red Fish Blue Fish in the Harbour, followed by a visit to the Royal BC Museum and stroll past the BC Legislature.
Visit stately Craigdarroch Castle mansion, wander through Chinatown, and don’t miss narrow Fan Tan Alley, or book a food tour with Taste of Victoria to discover the wide variety of cuisine options in the city. Enjoy a formal dinner at the Courtney Room at the Magnolia Hotel, or a more casual meal at Pizza Prima Strada or Ferris’ Grill & Oyster Bar before you head back home.
Tip: Be sure to reserve your ferry departures via BC Ferries.
Distance: 114 km (car and ferry)
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Photo Credits: Claudia Laroye; Shutterstock