It is always exciting to visit a new country. And this trip that we planned was a road trip. With every road trip, there goes a lot of planning and prep work. Okay! rewind to those days where we sat down thinking whether we should do this trip or not. We are living so close to Canada and we did not want to miss this opportunity to visit this new country. That urge to go made us sit down and start our Canadian visa application. I have a different blog on “How to apply for Canadian visitor visa?”in my blog page. You can check that out for more information about it.
We toured the Vancouver, British Columbia in the month of September. It was almost the end of fall and was getting slightly colder. It takes more than 7 hours to reach Vancouver, BC by road from Oregon. I am also estimating the time it takes to cross the border and clear all the border security needs.The trip from Portland, Oregon to Vancouver, British Columbia was very beautiful. We have to cross the cascades and peaks to reach this yet another surreal country.
We definitely did not want to make our trip tedious by driving all the way up in one day. You can even choose to make a stop over near Seattle and start the journey the next day. We made a stop over on the first night, stayed at Tacoma and then began the trip early next morning.
Vancouver is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is surrounded by sparkling harbor and flabbergasting mountain ranges. They call them the North Cascades. The first thing we wanted to do after crossing the border was to eat lunch. We had opted to choose the Punjabi cuisine as we knew that there were a larger Punjabi population in Canada. So we pit stopped at Surrey, BC. Savored some Punjabi deliciousness and then started to Vancouver city.
STANLEY PARK, VANCOUVER, BC
I am definitely going to break down this trip into 3 different days. The first half of the first day was on driving from Seattle to Vancouver, BC. We reached Vancouver city in the afternoon. We decided to head to Stanley Park situated in the heart of the city. The day was a bit cloudy and the park is next to the harbor. We enjoyed watching the various ships and boats parked at the harbor. The park is one of the biggest parks in North America and one of the prettiest too. The major attraction of this park is the Totem Poles. Totem Poles convey stories of the First Nations history and culture. It is very calming to see and watch each one of them.
The next best attraction in this park is the 9kms long Seawall. You can either bike or walk the seawall. We couldn’t bike and hence we chose to walk some distance. It is extremely beautiful to walk and enjoy the serene sea and the skyscrapers. The popular bridge named “Lions Gate Bridge” actually adds up the beauty of the harbor. We spend almost 4 hours at the Stanley Park and decided to explore the rest of the area by car. We drove to various view points and clicked pictures.
Cost: Stanley Park is free to enter. You can hire bikes with some rental charges. You can even choose to ride the Horse Carriages which is about 75 CAD.
SEA TO SKY HIGHWAY to Mt. WHISTLER
Now that you have an idea about the city’s major attraction, I will take you to the mountains and waterfalls which adds up the beauty of British Columbia. This place is surreal and totally incomparable. We started to Mount Whistler around 8 am. We had some pit stops planned.
The Sea to Sky highway between Vancouver and Whistler is one of the most scenic routes in the world. This was a spectacular drive which we will never forget in our life. You can easily turn this road trip into a 2-3 days one because the view points are endless and the views are limitless..
The sea to sky highway is called the Highway 99 and it run to about 160 km between Vancouver and Whistler. Sea to Sky highway never disappointed us at all. It was worth every minute. I did not have chance to keep my camera inside in at any point of the drive. It was picturesque all throughout.
Highlights of Sea to Sky highways
- Lions Gate Bridge – The first thing that would catch your attention would be the Lions Gate bride which is apparently the brother of Golden Gate Bridge of California. It looks exactly the same and you will also get a closer look of it when you start your trip to the Whistler.
- Shannon Falls – Shannon Falls is located just south of Squamish and the first stop that we took in the Highway 99.The falls are an impressive 335 metered tall. There are convenient parking facilities, rest area and then you can take this short hike to see the falls.
- Stawamus Chief Provincial Park- Stawamus Chief is a massive granite cliff and famous hiking spot. Of course, we did not dare to do that. Instead we made a pit stop to click some pictures. It would definitely be worth the effort.
- Howe Sound – We did see a part of this beautiful water body. We did want to try out the Sea to SKy Gondola to get a clearer view of the Howe Sound. Unfortunately, the Gondola was undergoing some construction and service works. Hence, we could not ride it. But never miss it if you ever plan to do this road trip.
- Garibaldi Provincial Park – The Garibaldi Lake view is incredible. To view this, you need to a 6 hour hike. We did not do it. Then how did we know about Garibaldi lake? Keep reading and the answer is not so far.
- Brandywine Falls Provincial Park – Brandywine falls is a 70 meter high waterfalls that can be admired easily from a accessible viewpoint. The hike through the forest was so refreshing and we also enjoyed the sunset from here.
- Whistler Mountain – We arrived at Whistler Village around noon. It was perfect time for the lunch. But before we headed for lunch, we wanted to check out the Glacier Sea Plane tour conducted by the Harbour Air company. We got the tickets and time slots. For more information about Harbour Air Tour Company, click here.Then we headed to the Whistler Riverside Cafe. The breakfast and lunch that they served were fresh and delicious. We opted the Reuben Sandwich and Waffles. The maple syrup was to die for. And duh! it is Canada – the land of maple trees. This place is very close to the Harbor Air Company and worth visiting.
After finishing up the brunch, we headed to the Blue Lake in Whistler which was yet another picturesque natural lake. Now, lakes and rivers are pretty common in British Columbia. The beauty of all these are that they are turquoise in color. After enjoying the breeze near the lake for few minutes, we headed back to Harbour Air for our tour.
Our tour was scheduled at 1pm. We had taken the one hour glacier tour which took us around the marvelous peaks and glaciers around the Whistler region. I highly recommend taking this tour if you can’t hike up to those peaks and lakes situated on higher elevations. We got some breathtaking views of Garibaldi lake. I was literally taken aback when I saw those dark turquoise shade lakes which actually felt like a giant block of dark blue gel to me. It was pristine and untouched.
Yet another beauty that we saw during the glacier tour was the Black Tusk Mountain. Black Tusk is a remnant of a volcano which has eroded immensely over the time. Black Tusk is one of difficult hiking spots in Whistler. The dark, sharp edges of Black tusk make it one of the most scenic and unique hikes in British Columbia. Fortunately, we had a person who had made it to the pinnacle of Black Tusk and it was really joyful to listen to his hiking stories while getting the bird’s eye view of the mountain. The pilot gave commentary during the tour and gives you details about all the glaciers and peaks. We could see the glaciers so close and it was a treat to our eyes.
After touring the glaciers sitting on a sea plane, I felt what life is offering us every day. I never imagined I would have gotten this opportunity in my life to see some incredible views of nature. I felt really blessed and fortunate. I felt happy that I was able to show this to my daughter. She had learnt about sea planes the other day and she was lucky to see it in real. We ended the day in a grateful note and settled back in our Airbnb. The drive back was beautiful too as we witnessed the golden sunset near the Squamish valley.
We wanted to do something really close by and not go anywhere far off on day 3. Need something you need near the downtown Vancouver, but don’t want the hustle and bustle or you really want to get deep into the woods – Capilano Suspension Bridge Park got you covered. This bridge actually brought the courage in me. It was a 140m/460ft long and 70m/230ft high bridge made of logs swaying over the capilano river. And imagine how I would have felt crossing this carrying my daughter who did not want to go to her dad before we entered the bridge. She was in my arms, pretty tightly caught and of course i wanted to keep her safe. My arms started becoming sore in the middle of the bridge and I started sweating like crazy. But we enjoyed this experience thoroughly. I would definitely recommend this to all families. I just felt the fear only once. While coming back, I was pretty chill and happily enjoying the views. Honestly, this bridge can be crossed with ease and swiftness without worry of slipping and falling. So, please do not miss this spot.
This park has little things to offer for everyone. You can learn about trees, birds, wildlife etc. Also, there are multiple smaller suspension bridges leading up to tree houses. Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is a set of seven suspension bridges. They stand as high as 100 feet above the ground. I am sure kids would enjoy these little bridges. Also, they have free guided tours every one hour. We followed one guide and learnt about trees and birds. It was so much fun!
The Cliff walk is a path that is suspended from a granite rock all in a semi circle. The narrow path doesn’t allow room for viewers to walk past one another,so people have to lean on one side to get by. It looked a little scary for us and we did not want to do it with a toddler.
As we opted not to get on the cliff walk, we just kept exploring the park. The views started getting more beautiful and greener as we continued. It was exactly like how we hoped it would be. A perfect little habitat.
How to get the tickets to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park?
You can either book online and show the online QR code at the kiosk. This would be easier and sometimes cheaper. We got some discount when we booked online. Whereas, the line at the ticket counter could be insane depending upon the season.
2. GASTOWN, VANCOUVER DOWNTOWN
Our actual plan was to hit the Granville Public Market which was an exact replica of Pikes Place in Seattle. And seeing the traffic condition, we decided to head to Gastown instead. This place is definitely touristy because of the red brick buildings and cobblestone streets. This place was an amalgamation of locals, artists and tourists. I loved the vibe. The people were so joyful and cruising along the crowd.
Things not to miss @ Gastown.
- Gassy Jack Statue
Gastown was established in 1867 when John aka “Gassy Jack” Deighton, a barman opened the first saloon. Gassy Jack received his nickname for his talent in telling tall tales and talking without end. eventually Gastown was named after him.
*The historical architecture
Gastown has a lot of historic significance and they have numerous beautiful buildings which adds up to its glory.
This was a major attraction and it acted like a magnet attracting all the tourists. This was steam powered clock which would vent steam every one hour with some sound effects. It was an old gem.
- The Canada Place
Yet another iconic building situated in the hear of Vancouver Downtown. It right next to the sea and we could view the ships passing by this place. This is the home port for Vancouver – Alaska cruise and houses Vancouver Convention Centre East, Pan Pacific Hotel, Fly over Canada, World Trade Centre and West Park.
Places you can cover if you have more days
- Grouse Mountain ( free shuttle from Capilano Suspension Bridge Park and it has lots of activities like gondola ride, bear watching etc, lumberjack show etc)
- Sea to Sky gondola
- Lynn Canyon Park (free to enter and it has a suspension bridge too)
- Granville Public Market
- Fly Over Canada
- Peak to Peak Gondola ride, Whistler Blackcomb ( this would be iconic and it was closed for winter. But do check it out if you are planning a trip during summer. I would still recommend doing the sea plane ride to get a much closer look of the alpine glaciers.
- Drive up to Pemberton which towards the north of Whistler and there are multiple beautiful waterfalls.
Things to know before the trip:
- Carry your passport, Canadian visitor visa and valid documents needed to enter back to the United States.
- Get the currency transferred and kept. There could be places where you might need it.
- Before starting your trip, make sure you check the border security waiting time update. You can choose the entry point accordingly. Click here to go their website.
- Indian food is in abundance. You even get Indian food in local grocery market deli. What more do we Indians need?
- Be careful while driving up the mountains. The roads are curvy and slippery. Make sure you have snow chains in the car if you are planning a winter trip.
- The weather is unpredictable, there are chances that it might rain in the morning and be sunny in the afternoon. Check the weather app and be prepared with the right gear.
- Choose summer or fall to be the travel season. Of course, Vancouver can get pretty ugly winter weather too.
- Each place has a story to tell and it could be related to the first nation history. It will be interesting to read the information board before you head to the actual spot.
We really enjoyed this short sojourn to Vancouver, British Columbia, We loved the city vibe and the beautiful endless mountain ranges and sea line. It was a sweet treat for all of us. We felt there could have been more that we could have explored if we had some more time. And therefore, we left this country with a hope to be back sometime soon. May be next summer!