For nature lovers, Vancouver is basically heaven on Earth. It has just about everything you could possibly want: old-growth rainforests, large rivers, picture-perfect lakes, steep canyons, mountain vistas and sandy beaches with logs on them. And it’s all right there on your doorstep. No long commute required.
The way I see it, Vancouver is a city in the middle of a national park. In fact, I doubt that many national parks that could rival the natural wonders that are begging to be explored in and around the city of Vancouver.
I feel very fortunate to live in a place that I love and be able to spend my free time exploring the amazing geography and natural wonders that surround me on all sides. So, I thought I’d put together a Vancouver Bucket List designed for outdoorsy nature lovers who want to try new things and see new sights.
Whether you’re a local wanting to explore more of what’s in your backyard or a tourist looking to visit Vancouver someday, these are some epic nature experiences that I recommend you add to your bucket list and experience before you die.
Yes, there are much crazier and wilder places to add to the bucket list but these natural experiences are all incredibly amazing and are easily accessible to anyone.
1. Go skimboarding and stroll along the Spanish Banks at low-tide.
See, it’s even awesome to explore the Spanish Banks in the winter. You really haven’t experienced the grandeur of the Spanish Banks until you’ve seen it at low tide. The sand flats go on for miles and the city is just a miniature village far away in the distance.
I highly recommend bringing a skimboard and going there right after the tide has gone out. This way you will probably see some eagles feasting on the crabs that are exposed on the sand flats. Look for a low tide below 1 m and you will be able to walk nearly halfway into English Bay.
2. Experience the best sunsets in the city at Wreck Beach.
Here from a grassy meadow, you can see the totems of Wreck Beach in the distance. There is no place in the world like Wreck Beach! A hot summer day at Wreck Beach is like a trip in a time machine back to the golden days of 1969’s Summer of Love.
The best time to be sitting in the sand at Wreck Beach is during the sunset. The energy builds like a Mozart symphony and everyone cheers when the sun slips below the horizon. I highly recommend doing the spectacular 1-hour Gun Turrets hike around Point Grey from Spanish Banks over to Wreck Beach and getting a cab back to your car.
3. Bike the entire 28 km seawall that stretches along the city’s coastline.
I’m sure you’ve biked the seawall before but have you done it from end-to-end in a single day? That’s something definitely worth adding to your Vancouver bucket list. As luck would have it, Vancouver has the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront pathway for walking, biking and roller blading.
From the beginning of the seawall at Canada Place you should bike around Stanley Park, past English Bay beach, around the inner harbour of False Creek and through to Kits Beach. Then why not continue out to the end of the main trail at the Spanish Banks for even more sweeping ocean and mountain panoramas as the tides and cloud formations change.
4. Explore the gardens in full bloom at Queen Elizabeth Park.
I’m not so big on the idea of kings and queens, but Queen Elizabeth Park in full blown is a sight to see. The sunken gardens are built out of the largest rock quarry in the city and they are surrounded by steep cliffs at the highest point in Vancouver city limits Queen Elizabeth Park offers sweeping vistas of Vancouver’s skyline and spectacular flower gardens featuring every colour in the rainbow. Nearby
From Queen Elizabeth Park you can enjoy the sweeping vistas of Vancouver’s skyline, the North Shore Mountains and Mount Baker while walking through spectacular flower gardens splashed with every colour in the rainbow. Nearby Van Dusen Gardens is also a natural gem worth exploring a few hours (see if you can make it out of the Monkey Tree Hedge Maze alive).
5. Bike out into the Georgia Straight on the massive Iona Jetty.
When I need to get away from the city and experience some peace and quiet without going too far, I’ll bike to the end of the 4 km Iona Jetty on Sea Island just south of the city.
The Iona Jetty is the best place in the city to spend a lazy afternoon watching the airplanes taking off and landing at YVR Airport since they descend directly overhead of the viewing platform at the end of the Iona Jetty. It’s also one of the best spots near the city to go star gazing or meteor spotting.
6. Hike to the Dog Mountain bluffs on Mount Seymour.
As far as effort for reward and hike-to-view ratio, the 45-minute to the Dog Mountain bluff stands alone in the North Shore Mountains. Skip the summer rush hour on the Grouse Grind and do this hike or nearby Mount Seymour instead. The view from the bluffs is a simply incredible sight to experience on a clear sunny day.
Dog Mountain is so beloved with Vancouverites and their furry haired friends that hundreds of locals have left the ashes of their dogs on the mountain in a “Dog Heaven” shrine in the forest. If you want some more epic hikes for your bucket list, read my list of 10 amazing day hikes near Vancouver.
7. Explore the old-growth groves and secret coves of Lighthouse Park.
When most people go to Lighthouse Park they walk straight down the road in the middle. Don’t be like most people. Explore the trails in the eastern part of the park to find some amazing old growth groves and some of most picturesque little coves overlooking the city skyline faraway in the distance.
In the Western part of the park you will find more old growth trees and some massive cliffs overlooking the entrance to Howe Sound. It takes a few trips or about a day to properly explore this natural gem so be sure to bring a picnic lunch to have on the rocky cliffs.
8. Bike the paved Seymour Valley Bikeway deep into the mountains.
You will find the Seymour Valley Bikeway tucked away behind Capilano University and all the fishermen on Rice Lake. It is a 10 km paved trail that cuts deep into the Seymour Valley and makes the natural wonders of this valley accessible to everyone. Just off the
Just off the trailway are a lot of popular film spots from Hollywood movies and the scenery reminds me a lot of the Yosemite Valley in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. At the end of the paved pathway is one of Vancouver’s hidden gems, complete with spectacular old-growth forests, a great boardwalk and one of the biggest salmon hatcheries around.
9. Walk the dikes at the massive Reifel Bird Sanctuary.
The only place in the Lower Mainland that I’ve seen the friendly Sandhill Piper pictured above is at the Reifel Bird Sanctuary. This magical place is just a 45-minute drive from the city. Located at the mouth of 1,400 km long Fraser River, it’s one of best spots to see migratory birds.on the Pacific migratory flyway that extends from Baja California to the Alaskan coast. Also, if you like ducks, you will see more of them here than you have probably ever seen in your life!
It’s a pivotal spot on the Pacific migratory flyway that extends from Baja California to the Alaskan coast. In every season you will see different kinds of birds. Also, if you really like ducks you will see more of them here than you have probably ever seen in your life! You can even feed the ducks at the entrance.
10. Go on a kayaking tour from Deep Cove to the waterfalls of Indian Arm.
If you want to experience some epic waterfalls and mountain scenery, then you need to explore Indian Arm. In a weekend, you can kayak the 20 km or so up Indian Arm and camp at the end of this spectacular natural fjord.
If you’re really adventurous, you can hire a boat from the marina in Deep Cove and they will drop you off at the end of Indian Arm. From there, you can explore some fascinating natural wonders by taking the backcountry valley trail that goes all the way through to the Coast Mountains to the town of Squamish.
Well, that’s my Vancouver Bucket List. If you want some more places to add to your bucket list, check out my post on the 7 Wonders of British Columbia.
Which one of these adventures are you going to do next?