Vancouver has everything – mountains, parks, lakes, beaches and a cultural city centre. Even so, expat Kiwi Chloe Milne discovered a city accessible enough to be explored in just three days.
Start your west Canadian adventure in the city’s CBD. Wander Vancouver’s picturesque streets, peruse indie bookstores and stop at eclectic cafes, like The Buzz and Cafe Medina. Fancy a shopping fix? Explore Robson Street, Holt Refrew and Pacific Mall for both high-end and high street brands.
A Seabus ride from Waterfront Station – have your camera ready for a panorama of mountains, sea and downtown Vancouver – takes you to Lonsdale Quay Market, the perfect cheap lunch destination. The market has everything from sushi to souvlaki, burgers to Beijing Chicken, plus freshly squeezed juices, handmade chocolate and more. Olde World Confections is a compulsory destination for fudge, peanut brittle, candy apples and, my personal favourite, coconut-toasted marshmallows.
There’s no better way to work off all that food than a walk along Marinaside Crescent. The walking tracks along False Creek offer magnificent views of the marina and southern Vancouver. Follow the walkway east around the inlet to Science World, a kid-friendly interactive museum dedicated to scientific exploration of all kinds.
The popular Tap and Barrel, a few minutes' walk from Science World, is the perfect place to unwind after a day of exploring. Ask for a table on the balcony to watch the sun set over the city – if you’re lucky, you might even catch the nightly crow migration, during which thousands of the birds head east from downtown to the suburb of Burnaby.
Round off your dinner with a walk south to the nearby Earnest Ice Cream for a one-of-a-kind ice cream concoction.
It might be a bit touristy, but the Grouse Mountain cable car (properly known as Skyride) is a Vancouver must-do. North America's largest aerial tramway system offers magnificent views of the city, mountains and the ocean beyond. At the top, visit Grinder and Coola, the resident bears, enjoy the wilderness landscape, catch a lumberjack show in the summer, or enjoy snow sports in the winter.
Postpone lunch for a trip to nearby Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. Even if you're not a fan of heights, you might want to brave them anyway – the suspension bridge and the Treetops Adventure, a sky walk across through the forest canopy, are not-too-be-missed nature experiences. Warning: the busier the bridge is, the more it sways – I recommend having lunch after the walk.
Gastown is a lovely neighbourhood with cobblestone streets, flower-adorned lamp posts, indie clothes stores, hip design studios and lots of great places to eat. Take an obligatory tourist snap beside the historic Steam Clock before checking out the First Nations designs at Hill’s Native Art on Water Street.
The Flying Pig is a popular Gastown dinner destination. Try the pulled pork poutine: Canadian comfort food with a southern US twist.
If the donut flavours “Triple Chocolate Threat” and “Canadian Whiskey Bacon” sound good to you (of course they do), stroll over to Cartems Donuterie on Pender St .
Stanley Park is one of Vancouver’s best assets, a 1000-acre forested park with ample opportunities for walking, biking, running and endless exploring. Circumnavigate the area by bike, visit the Vancouver Aquarium or enjoy a picnic with a view of the harbour. If you’re lucky, like me, you might even spot Orcas migrating.
Take the ferry to Granville Island. Wander the art galleries and craft stores, take in the gorgeous view back to the city, then head to the Granville Island Public Market. The huge indoor space is filled with fresh blooms, colourful fair trade clothing, indigenous art and food – lots and lots of food. For a lunch on the go, grab a latte from Blue Parrot Coffee, a classic Montreal-style bagel from Siegel's Bagels, and some mozzarella and salami from Duso's Italian Foods.
Take a False Creek Ferry from Granville Island to Kitsilano Point, then wander along the coast to the beach, one of Vancouver's favourite summer getaways. Kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and jet skis are all available for hire from the beach itself. The super fit might even want to try Stand Up Paddle Yoga (yoga on paddle boards) – even from the beach it looks challenging. Stay late enough and you might catch one of Vancouver's incredible sunsets – west-facing Kitsilano Beach is one of the best places to see them.
Near Kitsilano Beach is Yew Street, a bustling area with an exciting restaurant scene. Try Local Public Eatery for beachy, outdoor eating or Sunset Grill for quality craft beer.
Don’t leave Vancouver without sampling Timbits (similar to donut holes) from Canadian fast food chain Tim Hortons.
Have extra time in the city?
Take a day trip to the beachside town of White Rock for a gelato and walk along the pier. Prefer the mountains? Head north to Deep Cove for kayaking, or take a skiing trip to Whistler.