whale watching

Vancouver in 3 Days… Ready, Steady, Go!

Running Race

Our friends are coming to visit in July, just staying for 3 days before they take the train over the mountains to Calgary and on to Toronto.  It’s their first trip across The Pond, so the whole family got together to produce our list of What You Need To See In Vancouver In 3 Days.  Here is the email we sent them:

“I chatted with the girls about what they think is essential to get a flavour of Vancouver in 3.5 days, and we all agree that Mountains, Sea, Stanley Park and Granville Market need to be on the list. One thing you need to know about Vancouver is the city centre itself is very small (you can walk across the main part in half an hour).  The areas to the east (anything east of Gastown) are pretty run down, and not the best for visitors if you want to see the pretty parts.  The city is very young, and most people live here because it’s a good place to reach the sea and the mountains.  So, compared to Europe, art galleries, history, architecture (except modern) and shopping are not what you come for.  Vancouver is all about amazing views, friendly (and occasionally high) people, wonderful food, multicultural harmony and incredible wildlife.

The tour bus is a great idea for your first afternoon, and the hop-on, hop-off buses and trolley buses have stops near most downtown hotels.  I checked the route map for the trolley bus to see what it covers, and we’d suggest you hop off at Canada Place and walk to the end for the view, then if you still need to stretch your legs, walk along the sea wall past the Olympic Cauldron to the Westin Bayshore, then hop on and hop off again at the Aquarium which is stunning and has Beluga Whales.  The rest of the tour takes you round Stanley Park, across to Granville Island and into the Eastside (see previous comments – stay on the bus), but we love the Old Spaghetti Factory in Gastown, and you can walk back through the city if your hotel is near enough, after the obligatory picture of the Gastown Steam Clock.

On your first full day, try Capilano Suspension Bridge and Grouse Mountain, if you feel up to it and if the weather is OK (the views on a clear day are amazing).  Come back via Lonsdale Market for dinner and catch the Seabus back to Waterfront.  Most people find the jet lag means you are up way too early, and exhausted by 3pm, so plan early starts and it’s best to keep the afternoon flexible for the first few days.  Next day, try Granville Island market which means going to Science World and taking the little water ferry down to the market, then across to English Bay for some beach time, or walk from the market round Vanier Park.  You can even continue round to Kitsilano for dinner on the beach.  Then, we recommend a whale-watching tour – Prince of Whales (ouch, bad pun) leaves from the Vancouver waterfront but we went with Seabreeze and they have a shuttle to pick you up from the hotel.  It’s not cheap, but the islands are so beautiful and you are pretty much guaranteed to see killer whales, sea lions and maybe humpback whales and porpoises.  If not that, then a shorter harbour cruise or a kayak tour, or even a stand up paddleboarding lesson.

The Aquarium, tour bus, Grouse Mountain, Capilano and whale tours are all pricey, and if your budget is limited, we know free alternatives to all of them.”

So that is our best option for the Tourist 3-Day Package.  But how about the Potential Immigrant 3-Day Package? Or the Doing Vancouver On A Budget 3-Day Package?  What are your best suggestions?  What did we miss out?

Here Be Whales!

Here be Whales!

Where did the summer holidays go?  We were looking forward to it so much – 10 weeks of lazy days and slow starts, picnics and barbeques and camping, and now it’s nearly over.  This was our third summer in Vancouver; our first year the older girls started school in April and finished in June, and neither Dim or I were working until late August so we had a blast.  The following year we joined the ranks of Happy Campers, booking the girls into a few activity camps, including their first residential.  This year, with both of us working Monday to Friday, we went a bit overboard, with the result that the girls are more tired than they were when they broke up; karate camp, riding camp, day camp, science camp, not to mention the cost.  I guess we’ll learn to balance it next year and give them a few days off.

One of the highlights for me was a whale watching trip from Steveston, Richmond.  Despite the rough start crossing the Gulf to the San Juan Islands (too rough to pour and drink a coffee – barbaric!), when we arrived at the Islands, the sea was like a millpond.  We joined the ranks of tourist boats watching a superpod of 40-50 orcas, fishing for Chinook salmon, and we watched for nearly an hour as they popped up, dived, played and fished.  We live in a truly fabulous place, and I have never felt so lucky.

We took the trip with Seabreeze Adventures who also do river trips looking for seals and sealions.