Road Affair is reader-supported and may earn commission from purchases made through links in this article.
Vancouver is a fantastic place to visit on vacation and one of the best places to visit in Canada. With so many outstanding attractions and things to do in Vancouver, it’s easy to spend your entire vacation exploring the city and surrounding mountains. However, to get a true feel for the Canadian countryside and mountain life, you should try to escape the city on a day trip to explore all British Columbia has to offer. From mining towns to hot springs and historic forts, we here at Road Affair have weighed all the options and crafted this list of the best day trips from Vancouver so you can get the most out of your holiday to the Canadian Rockies. So, let’s get this show on the road, eh?
- 1 Victoria
- 2 Whistler
- 3 Squamish
- 4 Seattle, Washington
- 5 Bowen Island
- 6 Harrison Hot Springs
- 7 Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park
- 8 Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington
- 9 Fort Langley National Historic Site
- 10 Hell’s Gate Airtram
- 11 Grouse Mountain
- 12 Capilano Suspension Bridge
- 13 Lighthouse Park
- 14 Cultus Lake
- 15 Deep Cove
Vancouver is often thought of as the capital city of British Columbia, but it’s actually Victoria! Victoria is the largest city on Vancouver Island and a great place to visit on a day tour from Vancouver. Tourists can take the ferry from the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal to Victoria in about an hour and a half. Other options include flying from Vancouver International Airport or booking this full-day tour to Victoria and Butchart Gardens by seaplane and bus.
There are so many incredible things to see and do in Victoria that it will be hard to pack it all into one day. One must-see in the area is Butchart Gardens, a sprawling 55-acre garden with 26 greenhouses, Saturday night fireworks, boat tours, and nightly entertainment. Butchart Gardens is located a 30-minute drive from Downtown Victoria. Those visiting without a car can book this roundtrip express shuttle to and from the gardens. Victoria is packed full of excellent museums to explore, too, like the Royal BC Museum, Miniature World, the Maritime Museum of British Columbia, and Dino Lab Inc., along with historic sites like Hatley Castle, Craigdarroch Castle, and Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse. Visitors can enjoy a leisurely walk along the colorful Fisherman’s Wharf Park, explore the second-oldest Chinatown in North America, set sail on a three-hour whale-watching tour, or take a hop-on, hop-off bus tour of the city. There are also some excellent attractions to visit just outside of Victoria, like the Malahat SkyWalk, which offers jaw-dropping views of the island and sea, and the Victoria Butterfly Gardens, an indoor tropical paradise with free-flying butterflies and other exotic animals.
Whistler is easily one of the best places to visit from Vancouver as it’s home to some of the best ski runs and mountain bike trails in the country. It’s also only an hour and a half drive from Vancouver! Seriously, if you’re looking to experience all the best things to see in Canada outside Vancouver, Whistler is the spot to visit. Not only can you hit the over 3,300 hectares of ridable terrain and over 200 ski runs at Whistler Blackcomb Resort, but you’ll also find several attractions in the village, like the Scandinave Spa, the Peak 2 Peak Gondola, the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre, the Audain Art Museum, and the Whistler Museum. The area is home to a plethora of adrenaline-fueled activities to experience as well like bungee jumping at the Whistler Bungee Bridge, bobsledding at Whistler Sliding Center, backcountry rock climbing in Garibaldi Provincial Park, ziplining, hiking, white water rafting, and much more. Whistler also hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics and you and your group can explore the Whistler Olympic Park in both summer and winter. If all these incredible attractions haven’t yet convinced you to visit the area, then check out our article on the best things to do in Whistler!
Tourists can get to Whistler via a rental car, by booking a ticket for the express bus to Whistler from Vancouver (the bus ride takes one hour and 45 minutes), or by taking the Skylynx public bus (takes about two hours and 15 minutes). Another option is to leave all the travel fuss up to someone else and book this Whistler day tour, which includes stops at Shannon Falls and the Sea to Sky Gondola along the way.
Squamish is the ideal short trip from Vancouver for those who don’t want to venture too far outside the city. This quaint mountainside town is located about an hour’s drive from Vancouver, either by car or by catching the Skylynx bus from outside the Pacific Central Station.
There are a few attractions to visit on your way up to Squamish. Stop in at Britannia Mine Museum located about 15 minutes south of Squamish. Here, you can explore the tunnels on foot, ride the mine train through the old mining site, and learn more about mining in the area through their interactive exhibits. Less than a 10-minute drive north will take you to the popular Sea to Sky Gondola along with the beautiful Shannon Falls. Both of these attractions are well worth a visit. The Sea to Sky Gondola offers a breathtaking scenic ride up to Habrich Ridge, offering great views of the Howe Sound and Squamish. At the top of the gondola ride, you can explore several loop walking trails or enjoy a refreshing pint on the patio of the on-site restaurant. Right next to the Sea to Sky Gondola sits Shannon Falls, the third-largest waterfall in British Columbia standing at a staggering 1,105 feet. The Shannon Falls Viewpoint is a great family-friendly trail as it’s only a five-minute walk from the parking lot and is stroller accessible.
Once you make it into town, you can enjoy a nice stroll around and pop into boutique stores and cafés, conquer your fear of heights at the Rope Runner Aerial Adventure Park, grab a pint at Backcountry Brewing or Howe Sound Inn & Brewing, or explore the vintage trains at the Railway Museum of British Columbia. Other activities in the area include white water rafting, rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, canoeing and kayaking, and backcountry skiing and snowboarding.
Seeing as Vancouver is right on the border with the United States, why not pop across to Canada’s neighbor to explore the unique city of Seattle? Seattle is known for many things: it’s the coffee capital, the birthplace of grunge, and home to big tech companies like Amazon. It’s also home to more breweries than any other city in the United States! The city is located about a three-hour drive from Vancouver or a three-and-a-half Amtrak bus ride.
There is so much to see and do in Seattle, from visiting the famous Space Needle and sampling local brews to exploring Pike Place Market, the oldest farmer’s market in the USA. There seems to be an endless amount of tours for every interest to indulge in in the city, like this one-hour harbor cruise, this one-hour guided tour of the underground passageways below Pioneer Square, and this guided three-hour city highlights tour. The city is also very easy to explore all on your own as you can walk to several popular attractions all in the downtown core, like Chihuly Garden and Glass, Kerry Park, the Seattle Aquarium, the Gum Wall, the Seattle Pinball Museum, and much more! Just remember if you plan to cross the border into the U.S., then you’ll need to bring your passport (and a visa, if needed).
If you’re looking to escape the crowds of the city and experience the peaceful Canadian countryside life, then make your way to Bowen Island! This small island north of Vancouver is a great day trip from Vancouver for those who don’t want to rent a car. Simply hop on the 257 bus (Horseshoe Express) from any of the stops on George Street in downtown and you’ll get to Horseshoe Bay in just under an hour. From Horseshoe Bay, you can catch a 20-minute ferry to Bowen Island.
Once you get to Bowen Island, you have a few options for exploring. The first is to rent an e-bike with Bowen eBikes. E-bikes are a fantastic, low-energy way of exploring the trails and natural beauty of Bowen Island. The staff is more than happy to create a custom route for you on a map and point you in the direction of swimming holes, cider mills, beaches, or scenic points. Another great way to explore the island is by boat. You can do this by renting kayaks or stand-up paddleboards with Bowen Island Sea Kayaking or by joining in on one of their half-day or full-day tours. Lastly, you could opt to explore the island on foot. There are plenty of fantastic hiking trails near the ferry terminal. You could enjoy an easy jaunt around Killarney Lake, hike up Mount Gardner, or take a leisurely walk to Dorman Point in Crippen Regional Park. If you do bring a car with you, then take a self-driving tour of Bowen Island, and don’t forget to hit the top attractions, like the Bowen Island Whale Trail Site, Riley’s Cidery, Bowen Cider House, Tunstall Bay, and Alder Cove Beach.
Harrison Hot Springs
Another fantastic small-town retreat for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city is to the town of Harrison Hot Springs. As the name suggests, there are a few hot springs to enjoy in the area. The two hot springs, Potash and Sulphur, sit at temperatures of around 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) and 145 degrees Fahrenheit (62 degrees Celsius). The hot spring source pumps this warm water into the Harrison Hot Springs Mineral Pool, which is open to public visitors, and to the indoor and outdoor pools at Harrison Hot Springs Resort, which is open to guests of the hotel.
Despite the name, the hot springs aren’t the only thing to see in this charming country town. Harrison Hot Springs is also home to a large inflatable water park, Harrison WaterSports and Waterpark. Here, visitors can bounce around and swim in the freshwater lake, rent Jet Skis, or get competitive on the bumper boats. Harrison Hot Springs is also home to the Circle Farm Tour, a self-driving route that can be done by car or bike to/past several farms where tourists can stop in and sample fresh local produce. Tourists could also catch a car race at Agassiz Speedway, rent family-sized bike carts from Harrison Hot Wheels, let the little ones swim in Harrison Lagoon, or take a short detour to the stunning Bridal Veil Falls. There are also several outstanding hiking trails in the area.
Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park
As mentioned previously, Bridal Veil Falls is a stunning attraction. Located in Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park, this jaw-dropping natural attraction is only a two-hour drive from Vancouver. Visitors can spend the day hiking one of the several trails located in the park before heading to the viewing platform to take in the views of the waterfall nearly 200 feet over the rocky cliff. The waterfall is especially spectacular in the wintertime as the falling water freezes, creating a dramatic scene that is sure to take your breath away.
Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington
Another awesome place to visit just a stone’s throw away across the Canada/USA border is Mount Baker. This beautiful natural area is located only two hours from Vancouver and offers some pretty incredible natural beauty. In the wintertime, visitors will find excellent world-class skiing on the mountain at Mount Baker Ski Area, along with several other winter activities like cross-country skiing and snowshoeing at Salmon Ridge Sno-Park. In the summertime, visitors can explore one of the many hiking trails to viewpoints and waterfalls, and maybe even catch a glimpse of the ever-beautiful wildflower fields that bloom in late August.
Fort Langley National Historic Site
If you’re on the hunt for a family-friendly attraction near Vancouver, then look no further than Fort Langley National Historic Site in Fort Langley. This unique museum is set in an old Hudson’s Bay Company trading post along the Fraser River, roughly an hour’s drive from Vancouver. Fort Langley National Historic Site is a fantastic place to learn more about life in Canada during the 1800s. Visitors can take a guided tour of the recreated 19th-century buildings, catch a blacksmith show, pan for gold along the banks of the Fraser River, learn how fur goods were traded by Métis craftsman boats, and much more. Stories and artifacts from Semiahmoo First Nations people are also highlighted in the Che’ Semiahmah-Sen, Che’ Shesh Whe Weleq-sen Si’am / (I am Semiahmoo, I am Survivor of the Flood) exhibit. This is a great educational and interactive place to visit for the whole family and a fun way to learn about Canadian history.
Fort Langley National Historic Site is open throughout the year every day from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. It is closed from December 23 to January 1st.
Hell’s Gate Airtram
Located roughly three hours from Vancouver, Hell’s Gate Airtram is the ultimate Vancouver day trip destination for locals or tourists who want to experience something unique. Hell’s Gate Airtram is located right on the Fraser River, where the waters narrow and cause an astonishing surge of water to be thrust through the small gap. In fact, nearly 200 million gallons of water get pushed through the 110-foot-wide canyon every minute. Now, we aren’t sending you swimming or rafting down these waters, but instead, flying over them! Visitors can hop in the gondola-like air tram 1,000 feet into the canyon and watch as Mother Nature flexes her power. Once visitors reach the other side of the canyon, they’ll find a restaurant, gift shop, and a visitor’s center highlighting local history. Once you’ve finished your ride you can get another look at the canyon and powerful waters from the suspension bridge or the viewing platform, or try your luck panning for gold!
Grouse Mountain is an excellent place to spend a day regardless of which season you visit during. This outdoor haven and ski area is located on the outskirts of the city, only a 25-minute drive from Downtown Vancouver. In the wintertime, visitors can join in on several snowy activities like tubing, sleigh rides, skating, snowshoeing, and of course, skiing and snowboarding. Grouse Mountain ski area offers 33 ski runs, including six terrain parks and 16 night skiing runs, that are perfect for riders of all skill levels.
In the warmer months, tourists can hike the steep steps of Grouse Grind to the top of Grouse Mountain for unmatched panoramic views of Vancouver and the surrounding sea and forest. The trail is a 2.9-kilometer out-and-back trail that takes around two-and-a-hours to hike roundtrip. Other warm-weather activities on Grouse Mountain include lumberjack shows, tandem paragliding, mountain ziplining, a ropes course, and a Grizzly bear sanctuary.
Capilano Suspension Bridge
Not far from Grouse Mountain is another popular attraction on the outskirts of North Vancouver, the Capilano Suspension Bridge. This is a great attraction near the city for visitors of all ages, especially those with an appetite for adventure. The landmark bridge stretches 230 feet above the Capilano River, offering stunning natural views of the surrounding landscapes. Visitors will also get access to the Cliff Walk, a cantilevered path that features two glass walkouts over the Capilano Canyon. Needless to say, this is where one can conquer their fear of heights! Those visiting during the holiday season (mid-November to January) have the opportunity to visit the bridge during the Canyon Lights event, which sees the forest and pathways lit up with hundreds of dazzling lights.
Capilano Suspension Bridge has all the amenities to spend a day exploring, including an on-site restaurant, a snack bar, and a Treetops Adventure course. The attraction is located a 25-minute drive from Downtown Vancouver or visitors can opt to take the free Capilano Bridge Shuttle to and from Downtown.
If you’re looking for a day trip destination not far from Vancouver, then make your way to Lighthouse Park, located about a 30-minute drive from Vancouver. Lighthouse Park is an excellent place for hiking, as the area boasts several trails that offer incredible views of Vancouver and the Strait of Georgia. Both the lighthouse and light station at Point Atkinson are some of the most recognizable landmarks due to the contrast of Vancouver in the background and there is an excellent Lighthouse Viewpoint to hike to. Our suggestion is to spend the day exploring the old-growth coastal forest, then make your way to either Eagle Point or Lighthouse Viewpoint for a sunset picnic. Alternatively, you could book this four-hour guided hiking tour of Lighthouse Park and Horseshoe Bay.
Cultus Lake is another excellent day trip destination for those who want to spend some time outdoors. Located an hour and a half’s drive from downtown, this large lake has plenty of options for fun in the sun. Visitors can hike or bike one of the many trails in Cultus Lake Provincial Park, spend the day swimming on the rocky shores of the lake, or rent a boat or kayak from Cultus Lake Marina for a day on the water. The lake is also home to Cultus Lake Waterpark and Cultus Lake Adventure Park. Visitors can spend the morning riding the thrill rides, then pop over to the water park for an afternoon of lounging in hot tubs, riding the waterslides, or swimming in the lake. The waterpark and theme park are open seasonally from June to September.
Less than a 20-minute drive from Cultus Lake is Chilliwack River Provincial Park. Here, visitors can enjoy the riverside park or sign up for a rafting trip with Chilliwack River Rafting. River Wrangler Fishing Charters is also nearby and offers jet boat tours along with salmon and sturgeon fishing charters.
Deep Cove, known as The Cove by locals, offers plenty of water sports activities and hiking opportunities. Visitors can set off on a stroll through Cove Forest on one of the many trails. One of the most popular trails to hike is the Quarry Rock Trail, which leads from Corner Beach along the cliff sides to a panoramic viewpoint that overlooks the water and the town. The out-and-back trail is a bit tricky as it has a good amount of stairs, but well worth the climb. It can take anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half to hike roundtrip, depending on fitness levels.
Those looking to cool down on a hot summer’s day should head over to Deep Cove Kayak Center, where visitors can rent stand-up paddle boards, kayaks, tandem kayaks, surfskis, or starships. The center also offers paddle lessons, along with day and nighttime tours of the cove. Visitors who want to cruise on the water instead of paddling can look into renting a pontoon boat from Deep Cove Marina for a more relaxed way of enjoying the waters.
Deep Cove is located only a 30-minute drive or a one-hour bus ride from downtown Vancouver.
Well, that brings our list of the best day trips from Vancouver to an end. We are certain that regardless of which of these day trip destinations you choose, you’ll have an unforgettable time. So drive safe and enjoy all the beauty that British Columbia has to offer you, eh!