From the moment I arrived in Vancouver for the very first time, back in the early 90’s, right up to today, there has always been something I loved about it, something magical. It wasn’t just Vancouver, I realized later, it was the West Coast.
I lived there for 15 years, and this is where Ian and I started our adventures together. This is where our first child was born and where our second child was conceived. With our second child on the way, we decided to move back to Halifax to be closer to family. But part of our hearts always remained in BC.
Fast forward 10 years and we were long overdue for a visit! Old friends to see, favourite places to return to and this time show our kids, and new places to explore (i.e. the stunning Okanagan). So come along with us as we share with you a fantastic 2 week adventure in beautiful British Columbia! If you are planning to spend some time in BC in the future, we definitely have some suggestions for you.
We spent the entire first week in Vancouver, and certainly could have spent even more time there if we had it.
Lynn Canyon Park & Suspension Bridge
If you love a beautiful hike in an old growth forest, waterfalls and a suspension bridge, this is a perfect place to go. Originally we were going to take the kids to the popular Capilano Suspension Bridge, which has a bit bigger bridge and a few other attractions, but once we compared the prices for the 2 options, Lynn Canyon won out hands down.
Capilano Suspension Bridge would have put our family of four out $115 + tax + parking fees. (note: there is a free shuttle that takes you from downtown to the park).
Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge and 617 acres of park & trails, including waterfalls, ecology centre and parking: FREE
Capilano does have a few more things to do, such as the Nature’s Edge Boardwalk and the Treetops Walk, but if you are just looking for an awesome suspension bridge and a gorgeous hike, you might want to save your $115 for another adventure, cause there are plenty. Read on…
One of my all-time favourite drives has got to be the Sea to Sky Highway between West Vancouver and Squamish (heading to Whistler). The mountains, the rock faces, the islands dotting the water along the way. I could look at this all day. So we had to take a drive so I could get my fix, and show the kids, of course.
A pleasant surprise for us – and the kids especially! – was that Squamish now has a huge new attraction, the Sea to Sky Gondola. This was an extensive devolopment that was completed in 2014, long after we had left the West Coast. A 10 minute ride to the top of the mountain offers stunning views of the Howe Sound fjord, Sky Pilot mountain and the incredible Stawamus Chief. The kids loved every second of it!
Once at the top, we walked across the 100 meter long suspension bridge that lead us on a lovely trail with multiple lookout points. After the walk we treated ourselves at the restaurant and soaked up some more scenic views (on a warmer day we would have done this from the huge patio). This was definitely worth every penny, especially watching the kids loving every minute of the views, both from the top and all the way up and down the gondola! (Cost: $104 + tax, almost exactly what we saved on the suspension bridge!)
I’ve always loved Granville Island! It’s a great place to go for tourists and locals alike. So we spent an afternoon exploring as much of it as we could. The biggest attraction, of course, is the Granville Island Public Market, which is an amazing market, but there’s so much more than that. From theatres to artisan workshops and studios to great outdoor playgrounds/waterpark for the kids, the Granville Island Kids Market, and until recently the Emily Carr University of Art & Design.
I love wandering through the shops and art studios and picking up one of a kind pieces. We finished the afternoon off with a drink and a snack on a patio, another favourite activity!
Stanley Park Seawall
My main form a transportation for many years while living in Vancouver was cycling (along with thousands of other people), so it just made sense for us to rent some bikes and show the kids another old favourite, the Stanley Park Seawall.
Well, as beautiful as it was, I have to admit we weren’t as thrilled about it as I’d expected. First of all, we rented some CHEAP RUN-DOWN bikes from a shop on Robson Street, and I’m amazed that someone would even consider renting out bikes in such poor condition.
It probably took us about half way around the 9km loop to stop being distracted by our rickety bikes and start to enjoy the ride and the beauty around us. All in all, it was still worth it though. We lucked out with the weather and had a beautiful warm sunny day and were able to take a break at one of the beaches, have a snack and play on the logs.
Although we stayed with good friends out in Maple Ridge, we spent most of our time touring around, visiting old haunts and other old friends. So naturally most of our dietary needs were fulfilled in restaurants.
In fact, it was early in the morning when we first landed in the Vancouver airport, so we had to count down the hours till one of our favorite sushi places opened its doors for lunch. Britannia Sushi in our old neighbourhood on Commercial Drive was an old standby not only because of its convenient location but also because it was hard to find sushi at such an outstanding price: 22 piece combo for $7.25! And the specialty rolls were excellent too.
The Afghan Horsemen was also high on our list and we were happy to have made it there this time around. We love to give our kids cultural experiences and we knew they would love this one so we said nothing to them about the restaurant before going there. I would have loved a photo of their faces when they were told to take off their shoes before entering the dining room: ornate fabrics cover the walls and ceilings, Afghan rugs everywhere, multicolor cushions on the floor surrounding low tables. And the food is wonderful, with a hint of Greek and Indian flavours.
Our second week was BUSY. Our time was split between the Okanagan Valley, the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island. If you know BC at all, you will know that we covered a lot of area in a short time!
We started the week by driving to the Okanagan. During all of our years of living in Vancouver (15 for me, 10 for Ian), we did little more than pass through this beautiful part of the province, with the exception of a weekend Ian spent climbing with a friend in Skaha. If you love to rock climb, this is the place for you!
First of all I have to say that I was absolutely blown away by the natural beauty of this region!! I cannot stress enough how absolutely stunning it was. My old favorite drive on the Sea to Sky highway has a serious rival in this area.
And secondly, I have to admit that one of the main reasons for our efforts to make the 4 hour drive from Vancouver was the fact that we really would love to be living back out on the West Coast one day, but Vancouver just might not be the spot for us any more. It has grown so much in the 25+ years since my first visit, the traffic is a little too much for us, and the price of real estate, well it’s over the top. We would love something a little less rainy, a little slower and more affordable. Well, our research pointed us straight to the Okanagan Valley.
So we spent 3 days exploring all of the little towns from Penticton in the south all the way up to Kelowna. Again, the weather was on our side, with perfect blue skies and warm fall days the whole time. We even got to visit a wonderful family we met during our travels in Costa Rica last year! They have since relocated from Alberta to Peachland, and have the most envious view from their front porch! ❤
It’s hard to put a value on an old friend, isn’t it. It was a Friday and we were in Penticton. With only 5 days left of our trip and big plans to spend this Thanksgiving weekend in Victoria, on Vancouver Island, decided we HAD TO make the trip to the Sunshine Coast to see an old friend. Up until this point our schedules just weren’t cooperating and it looked like we were not going to be able to see Ian’s oldest and dearest friend Jim. But we made it happen.
Instead of heading straight to Vancouver Island, we drove past our turn off and headed up the Sunshine Coast. Because of the long weekend, the ferry only had room for walk ons, so we left our rental car in an overnight parkade, grabbed our backpacks and started walking. (sounds so dramatic doesn’t it – we actually knew it would be full ahead of time, so we were fully prepared, and were happy to save the money that the BC Ferries charges for the vehicles!)
This is the crazy distance we traveled in a little over 24 hrs:
It wasn’t easy but it was totally worth it. We had 16 hrs with an old friend. Everyone had a GREAT time and I know Ian was happy! We relaxed in an old cabin by the fire, played with Jim’s dogs, had some nice walks and watched the deer come and eat the apples fallen from the tree right in front of us.
Our last and final stop was on Vancouver Island to see some friends in Victoria. Similar to our Sunshine Coast visit, it was condensed, but this time we had a few more days and a few more people to see. Because friends were our focus, we didn’t even think about visiting the usual Victoria attractions this time around, like the Parliament Buildings, Butchart Gardens, Royal BC Museum, etc. Instead, the kids played nonstop and the adults did some serious catching up.
We found time to relax and unwind, have a nice hike (with all the kids and a senior citizen dog!) to the top of Mount Douglas, and enjoy a great Thanksgiving dinner with lots of friends.
We even got a chance to sneak out to the beautiful community of Sooke to visit with some friends we met in Costa Rica – actually one of the families we pet-sat for in San José for several weeks. Originally from BC, they decided to relocate back here after more than 20 years of living abroad. It was so nice to be able to spend some time catching up with them, and of course to see their awesome animals again! (yes, Isla was in heaven. She sure loves her animal friends 🙂)
So those were some of the highlights of our 2 weeks in beautiful British Columbia. I hope you enjoyed coming along with us! There are so many more great places to visit and things to do in BC, it’s so hard to choose just a few. But that means there will always be reasons to go back.
Here’s one last momentum of our visit: hope you enjoy! If you know someone heading to Vancouver, go ahead and share this post so they can see some of the great things it has to offer.
Your turn: In the comments below, let us know some of YOUR favourite places to go in BC.
Till Next Time,
Keep Going 4Ward!
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