Vancouver is one giant outdoor playground in the summertime. It’s surrounded by forest, mountains and ocean, all directly accessible from the city’s downtown core. If you’re travelling to Vancouver, Canada in the summer, here are some outdoor spots not to be missed.
Stanley Park is a gorgeous place for running, cycling, or a leisurely stroll through the forest. It’s circumference is 10 km long (or the same size as that of New York’s central park) and is surrounded by stellar views of the ocean, downtown Vancouver, and the north-shore mountains. But what lies inside the park’s perimeter is the real sight. When most people think of a park they think of grassy fields, a kid’s playground, and some nice trees. A walk through Stanley Park can make you feel like you’re lost in the wilderness miles from civilization, when actually you’re in the middle of a city of four million people.
The cedar trees tower hundreds of feet above you, birds and other wildlife proliferate, and beams of golden sunlight stream through the trees to the forest floor. It’s a beautiful place to get some exercise or escape the hustle of city life. The park is complete with a rose garden, a rodadendron garden, totem poles, a large pond called Lost Lagoon, two outdoor concert venues, a swimming pool, a miniature train, a petting zoo, an aquarium (which has a history of questionable animal rights practices, so do your research before giving them your dollars), and a lovely restaurant called ‘The Teahouse’. A great way to spend the day is to rent bikes at one of the many bike shops on Denman street near the park, ride around and through Stanley Park, lock up on Third Beach and enjoy the view, then have dinner at one of the many delicious Asian fusion restaurants on Davie and Denman before returning your bikes to the shop.
Did I mention Third Beach? This is definitely one of the most beautiful beaches in Vancouver. You’ll sit in the warm sand facing rolling waves and emerald green mountains, then you’ll turn around and see the cedar trees of Stanley park towering behind you. It’s 360 degrees of beauty and you may have a hard time deciding which direction to point your eyes. Vancouver has an abundance of beaches to offer, and it can be hard to choose the one that will suit your specific tastes. If you’re into California-style beach bods, Starbucks fraps, and Gucci sunglasses the beach for you is Kits. Kitsilano is a trendy neighbourhood just a fifteen minute walk over the Burrard Street Bridge from the downtown core. It’s main beach has an expensive restaurant called ‘The Boathouse’, one of north America’s largest outdoor swimming pools; Kits Pool, and of course beautiful views of downtown and the mountains.
Kits beach is great for people watching and sunbathing and was once named North America’s sexiest beach. If you’re more interested in the other extreme of west-coast culture, check out the infamous Wreck Beach. This beach is a little more difficult to get to but you’ll be glad to be off the beaten path because on Wreck most people sunbathe in the nude, and you’ll be able to buy any number of legal and not so legal substances. This is the hippie heaven that many travelers look for but never find in Vancouver. It also happens to be unbelievably beautiful. You don’t even need to take drugs to trip out on this beach. To get there take the 99 bus heading west and get off at the last stop, then keep heading west until you reach the top of a forest staircase surrounded by half clothed hippies. You’ll figure it out from there.
The last must-see outdoor destination in Vancouver is the top of a mountain. Cypress, Grouse, and Seymour are the three closest mountains to downtown and all of which have a plethora of hikes that will take you to beautiful view points. Unfortunately most of these hikes will require a car to get to but if you don’t have access to a car, never fear, there’s still a way to hike to the top of a mountain. The Grouse Grind is North Vancouver’s most popular and accessible hike. You can easily take a city bus from downtown to the base of the mountain. Once you get there you’ll have the option to hike up the mountain (1hr to1.5 hrs) or, you can take a gondola up to the top of grouse mountain. Once at the top there’s a restaurant, a wind turbine that can be ascended to a view point for a fee, and gorgeous views of downtown Vancouver, Stanley Park, the Fraser Valley, and the Gulf Islands than line the coast.
If you visit Vancouver in the summer, don’t miss the stunning natural beauty to be seen within a stone’s throw of the downtown core.