Our 5 Day Vancouver Travel Diary + Hiking Video
I turned 30 on June 16th. To celebrate, my husband, brother, sister-in-law and I flew to Vancouver for a long weekend. This was my first time spending any real time in Canada (I've only connected for other trips), and I can tell you that we will definitely be back! I loved our time in British Columbia. We spent most of the trip in Vancouver, with one day on Vancouver Island to visit the capital, and another day in Squamish to hike in the mountains. Every part of our trip was filled with breathtaking views. I'd love to see other parts of BC and travel to other regions of Canada... Excuse me while I update my ongoing list of places I want to visit!
While traveling, I always do my best to document what we did each day. Below is a travel diary along with pictures and a map at the bottom showing where we stayed, where we went, and where we ate/drank. When I'm researching a city and planning a trip I find it helpful to come across blogs like this. I only hope that what I'm about to share will help you in some way. Or, at the very least, it will be enjoyable to follow along and look at the pictures! Toward the bottom of this post there's a short video from our hike (spoiler alert: we got our butts kicked). I'm in the process of editing our full vacation film, so check back soon for that!
Day 1 - Thursday
We arrived in Vancouver early Thursday evening and checked into our Air BnB. Our apartment was right on the edge of Chinatown and Gastown, which was perfect for us. We wanted to stay in a high-rise for the great views (35 floor!), and be walkable to popular bars and restaurants. We dropped off our bags, and headed to the grocery/liquor store to stock up for the week. Once back at the apartment we had a few drinks before heading to Tacofino for dinner in Gastown. Um guys, maybe we were starving, or maybe the tacos really were that good. Either way, I can tell you we talked about those tacos for days, and their logo even inspired me for my next tattoo. After dinner we got drinks at the Alibi Room. They had a massive draft beer selection (the largest in Vancouver, I hear) and a really cool space to hang out.
Day 2 - Friday
When I woke up the morning of my 30th birthday, I walked into the living area and saw our view for the first time. I didn't realize how foggy it was the day before. We had panoramic views of the city, the harbor, and the mountains from every inch of the apartment. It literally took my breath away. I gasped and nearly woke everyone up with excitement like it was Christmas morning. After making coffee and breakfast at the apartment, we headed out to catch a free shuttle to the Capilano Suspension Bridge. We were picked up around 9:30 AM. As the bus went to various stops around the city it definitely started to fill up quickly. The park was extremely busy at 10 AM on a Friday morning. (I recommend going right when they open and/or going in the middle of the week). The park was beautiful, and it was our first taste of the natural beauty BC has to offer. Afterwards, we took the shuttle back downtown and had a quick bite to eat and a birthday waffle at Nero. We then rented bikes at Spokes and rode around Stanley Park. The ride around the seawall was about 5 miles and took approximately an hour. It was a leisurely ride. We didn't have a lot of energy to ride into the park and explore. Stanley Park is 1,000 acres in size and ranked the best park in the world. You could spend an entire day there. After that we went back to the apartment to clean up for dinner and have happy hour on the balcony. Hanging out on the balcony was one of our favorite things to do - every morning and every evening. We had birthday wine and charcuterie at Salt, which was delicious! We then walked around the corner for dinner at The Flying Pig (get the roasted brussel sprouts and the salmon platter).
Day 3 - Saturday
We got got up early for a full day guided tour of Victoria and the Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island. We booked our tour with Discover Canada Tours, which I highly recommend! They were cheaper than the competition and a ton of fun. (Special shout out to Kiel the tour guide and Barry the bus driver.) The ferry ride to and from Vancouver Island was awesome. Honestly it felt like we were on a mini-cruise. The lower levels of the ship held parked cars and the top two levels had a food court and observation areas. It was windy and cold once we were out on the open water, but the views were beautiful. We had hoped to see whales, but were unlucky. Several websites said it was a high possibility, but then our guide said we only had about a 1 in 15 chance. This was disappointing for us. We hoped we were getting transportation and whale watching in one. The Capital City of Victoria is very unique. Part of it felt like we were walking around a little English town, and the other part felt like we were in China. Victoria has the 2nd largest Chinatown outside of China (San Fransisco is the largest). The Butchart Gardens were also very beautiful. While we loved our guide and would highly recommend booking with this company, we all agreed that we could have skipped both Victoria & The Gardens and gone on a guided whale watching tour instead. Given more time, it might have made sense to spend a couple of days on the island to experience different parts. We only had time for one day, and a day trip was a big undertaking.
Day 4 - Sunday
We were pretty exhausted from the day before, so we allowed ourselves to sleep in a little. Randomly, Shay’s roommate from college was in Vancouver at the same time as us, so we met him for breakfast at Nelson The Seagull. Their coffee and simple breakfast menu was perfect. From there, we went to Granville Island where we planned to rent a boat for the afternoon. Unfortunately, it rained all day and we were only able to go on the boat for an hour. Instead we walked around Granville Island, toured the market a little bit, and then began an impromptu brewery crawl. We visited the following breweries: Granville Island, 33 Acres, R&B, and finally Steel Toad. (Disclaimer: This was an unplanned brewery crawl. We went to ones that were convenient to us. We didn't do any research on this.) We also stopped for sweets at Earnest Ice Cream in between. Even though the weather ruined our boating plans, we made up for it with a little Sunday Funday!
Day 5 - Monday
We woke up early and rented a car downtown to drive one hour up to Squamish for some hiking. The drive along the Sea to Sky Highway was stunning! It was definitely the most scenic drive I’ve ever been on. We decided to hike the Sea to Summit Trail, which from my early research was supposed to be an “intermediate” hike. We all came to the conclusion that it was definitely an “advanced” hike. The trail map provided to us was the first indication that we were in for a real treat (see below). We climbed over 3,000 feet in 3.5 hours, at times using ropes to assist us up and over large rocks. It was the most physically challenging thing I’ve ever done. The views at the top (along with the beers) made it all worthwhile though! I'll let the pictures and video clips speak for themselves. If hiking isn't your thing, you can take a gondola to the top instead. Once we were back in Vancouver, we cleaned ourselves up and went to dinner at Wildebeest. We had the “omakase” dinner, which in Japanese means “trust the chef.” We ate so many amazing dishes off of their menu, including elk and bone marrow. It was the perfect dinner to wrap up an amazing birthday trip. We all agreed that day 5 was our favorite day! We passed out pretty quickly that night, slept in, and flew home the next day.
While working on the full vacation film, I realized I had so much footage from our hike that it deserved its own little video!
Below is map of the places we visited, as well as a lot of places we missed. I hope to catch some of these the next time I’m in Vancouver. As I mentioned, this was our first time visiting the area. I'm certain we missed some things; it's impossible to see and do everything! I'd love to hear what your "must-do" Vancouver things are. I'd also love to hear where else you've been in the BC area, as I'm certain we'll be back!