We may not have run into Vancity Reynolds, but we did see some wild Orcas 👀

Canadian flag flying at Granville Island - Vancouver city guide

If you haven’t heard, there’s a ‘new’ direct flight to Vancouver from Singapore! And since Canada is a surprisingly unchartered territory for The Travel Intern, we decided to seize this opportunity to uncover the best things to do there as a first-timer.

Vancouver is one of the most popular cities in Canada to visit. Nestled between the ocean and mountains, this city has beautiful views and weather. There isn’t as much snow as the rest of the country during winter and it’s not humid year-round!

Orca tail spotted while whale watching in Vancouver - Canada attractions

I too have never been to Canada prior, so I was looking forward to maple trees and nature views! Plus, I have distant relatives I’ve never met living there so it was nice to reconnect and get recommendations on what to do from a local.

From spotting orcas in the wild to zipping across the mountains, here’s my list of unforgettable things to do in Vancouver!

1) Cross the Capilano Suspension Bridge

Capilano Suspension Bridge Park - Things to do in Vancouver

Opened in 1889, Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is Vancouver’s very first tourist attraction. Crossing the century-year-old wobbly bridge was daunting but I was reassured that the bridge had been reinforced in 1956 and could hold the weight of 75 elephants!

Girl on Capilano Suspension Bridge - Vancouver attractions

After crossing, we were greeted by a temperate rainforest with giant Douglas fir trees and lookout points over the Capilano River. There’s also a raptors presentation where we got to meet a rescued owl and kestrel native to the region 🦉

Craving for more adrenaline? Head over to Cliffwalk. It’s a 213m narrow walkway mounted to the side of a granite cliff face above the canyon. The views of the forest and river are breathtaking and we even spotted a waterfall in the distance!

Entrance fee: CA$70/pax
Opening hours: Varies
How to get there: Take the free shuttle bus that runs every 15mins from Downtown Vancouver to the park (Google Maps)

2) Go Whale Watching from Fisherman’s Wharf

Orca in Vancouver spotted on whale watching tour - Vancouver attractions

Vancouver’s proximity to the ocean makes it the perfect place to spot humpback whales and orcas (Killer Whales). In fact, there have been sightings of orcas from the SeaBus in the city — though rare 🐋

Spotting whales was at the top of my bucket list, so I was delighted to learn that whale sightings are almost guaranteed in the area! Vancouver Whale Watch tours run from Apr – Oct, and May – Sep is the peak season to spot these gentle giants.

The tour departs from Fisherman’s Wharf in Richmond. Public transport is not as readily available so take the shuttle service (CA$20/round trip) from your accommodation in Richmond or Vancouver City instead. The tour route depends on where the whales have been sighted on the day itself.

Sea lions on Whale Watching Tour - Things to do in Vancouver

We sailed on a large zodiac-style boat for an hour before spotting a pod of eight orcas near Bowen Island! While we had to watch from a distance for their safety, it was pretty surreal to see them in the wild. One even lept out of the water 🤩

We didn’t spot any humpbacks as the chances of catching both species in the same trip are low, but we did see other wildlife like sea lions and bald eagles 🦅

The tour also came with a lunch pack which included a turkey sandwich, granola bar, a cookie and apple juice.

Cost: From CA$179/pax
Tour timings: 12PM (Apr – Jun, Sep – Oct), 9AM & 2PM (Jul – Aug)
Meeting point: 12240 Second Ave #210, Richmond, BC V7E 3L8, Canada (Google Maps)

*Note: The tour duration varies from 3 to 5 hours depending on the location of the whales.

3) Take a panoramic seaplane flight over Vancouver City

Panoramic vew of Vancouver City from the Seaplane - Vancouver attractions

British Columbia (the province Vancouver is part of), is made up of islands, swooping rivers, forests and snow-capped mountains — and the view of it is unbeatable from a seaplane! It’s pretty cool that the city sits amid all this nature.

Even though there was no tour commentary, it felt like we were having a crash course overview of Vancouver. The 20-minute Vancouver Classic Panorama flight by Harbour Air took us over iconic landmarks like Stanley Park, English Bay, the Lions Gate Bridge and the North Shore Mountains. I even saw two rainbows from the window 🌈 

Harbour Air sea planes parked - Vancouver activities

Aside from sightseeing tours, seaplanes are also a faster mode of transport for locals to travel to other cities in British Columbia.

Cost: From CA$169/pax for 20min flight
Tour timings: Varies
Meeting point: Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre, 1055 Canada Pl, Vancouver, BC V6C 3T4, Canada (Google Maps)

4) Explore Granville Island

Giants artwork on Granville Island - Things to do in Vancouver

Contrary to its name, Granville Island is not an island, per se.

It was a man-made industrial island in 1916 but has since been transformed into an artisan and cultural hub that’s now part of the city. With murals, brightly painted shop buildings and preserved train tracks, Granville is like a hipster neighbourhood with an old-world charm.

The highlight of the island is Granville Public Market where you can find fresh produce, seafood and a food hall. Some of the stalls like Lee’s Donuts have operated since the market opened in 1979!

Charcuterie tasting on the Vancouver Foodie Tour - things to do in Canada

Fun fact: There are no chained restaurants, businesses, or coffee shops allowed in Granville. This is to protect the local and family businesses that have been around since the market was established!

While it’s a popular tourist attraction, Vancouverites are extremely supportive and no businesses were lost during the pandemic — so impressive.

We wanted a more in-depth experience so we went on a Granville Island Uncorked Tour to sample cheese, charcuterie, salmon, pickles and more from the market. Aside from the market, we also explored the rest of Granville, eating and drinking our way through the different businesses — yes there is wine, beer and sake on this tour!

Granville Island Broom Co  - Vancouver city guide

Granville Island Broom Co sells traditional hand-crafted brooms.

As an arts hub, there are also many galleries and unique small businesses. We even got to meet a few artisans while they worked on their crafts. Some unique ones include a glass-blowing workshop and a broom shop — just like the ones in Harry Potter!

Granville Island Uncorked Tour
Cost: From ~CA$170/pax
Tour timing: 2:30AM – 5:30PM (Thu & Sat)
Meeting point: Outside Granville Public Market, opposite A Bread Affair (Google Maps)

5) Forest bathing at Stanley Park

Group gathered in a circle for forest bathing therapy in Stanley Park - Things to do in Vancouver

No, forest bathing is not the act of showering in the forest.

It’s actually forest therapy, where one spends time in a forest while using the senses to connect with nature — extremely therapeutic. It’s said to improve your sleep, stress levels and even immune system. While people spend time outdoors around nature, we tend to overlook the little details that help ground the chaos of the city.

Our forest bathing experience in Stanley Park was led by Talaysay Tours, which focuses on Indigenous tourism and education. We were invited to use our five senses to notice the little things in the forest — like the tiny spiderwebs between petals! Our guide also shared stories about the First Nations that used to live in the same forest.

Guide sharing about the First Nations during the Forest Bathing session in Stanley Park - Things to do in Stanley Park

It was only until she sent us off to explore alone and “find our room in the forest”, did I felt truly connected with nature. As a city girl, the fresh air and the feeling of moss cleared my head and I felt oddly content there.

Then, she’d call us back into a circle to share what we found and how it made us feel — which was vulnerable and heartwarming. Personally, it brought out my inner child and felt like I was in an enchanted forest in a book of fairies 🧚

Girl in Stanley Park - Things to do in Canada

The tour ended with a cup of tea made from the needles of a grand fir tree she foraged in Stanely Park — the way the First Nations once did.

Given its size and countless hiking trails, I wished we had more time to explore the rest of Stanley Park. Nonetheless, the experience was a refreshing break from the city and one of my most memorable experiences in Vancouver.

Cost: CA$74/pax
Tour timing: Varies, email [email protected] to inquire
Meeting point: Stanley Park Bus Loop, Vancouver, BC V6G 3E2, Canada (Google Maps)

Read more: 21 Most Rewarding Hikes Around the World — From Stunning Glaciers to Active Volcanoes

6) Try Breakfast Poutine at OEB Breakfast Co.

The Soul in the Bowl™® breakfast poutine at OEB Breakfast Co - What to eat in Vancouver

Trying Poutine, Canada’s national dish, is a right of passage. Golden brown french fries topped with cheese cards and brown gravy — it’s a sinful bowl of savoury goodness 🤤

OEB Breakfast Co. switches it up with a breakfast twist, incorporating proteins like bacon and poached eggs into their Breakfast Poutines. Instead of fries, their breakfast dishes are served with fried herb potato wedges.

We tried the Soul in a Bowl™® (~CA$20), which includes slow-cooked bacon lardons! It’s a little heavy for breakfast so we recommend getting it to share — an excuse to try their extensive breakfast menu 👀

Cost: From CA$16/main
Opening hours: 7AM – 3PM
How to get there: 4min walk from Yaletown-Roundhouse Station (Google Maps)

*Note: The cafe has vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options available too.

7) Stroll through VanDusen Botanical Garden

VanDusen Botanical Garden - Vancouver attractions

VanDusen Botanical Garden looks straight out of a children’s book.

The grounds have more than 7,500 plant species from around the world spread out over 55 acres, making it easy to lose track of time while wandering around. The rolling manicured lawns are also perfect for lounging on the grass or picnicking with Canadian geese.

Hedge Maze in VanDusen Botanical Park - Vancouver attractions

There’s also a hedge maze on the eastern side of the garden.

Don’t be fooled by its seemingly small size; it was hard and I kept running into dead ends like in Alice in Wonderland. Alas, I couldn’t find the actual exit, ending where I started 🤡

Girl walking amongst tulips in VanDusen Botanical Park - Canada attractions

I visited during Spring (Apr) and caught the tulips and rhododendrons in bloom but sadly missed the annual sakura festival, which happens every mid-April 🌸

Nonetheless, the garden is gorgeous year-round, with autumn foliage in the fall (Sep – early Dec) and the VanDusen Festival of Lights in December. The latter is a popular Christmas attraction as over a million lights are used to decorate the gardens.

Entrance fee: CA$13.80/pax (Spring/Summer), CA$9.80/pax (Fall/Winter)
Opening hours: Varies
How to get there: 20min walk from Oakridge-41st Avenue Station (Google Maps)

Bonus: Take a day trip to Whistler

Whistler Village - Attractions in Canada

Being in British Columbia means easy access to the mountains for winter sports and just a 1.5-hour drive north of the city is Whistler. Given that the 2010 Winter Olympics were held at Whistler Blackcomb, it’s an iconic ski resort.

Aside from skiing and snowboarding which is popular during the ski season (Nov – Apr), Whistler is home to other attractions that are accessible throughout the year. Whistler Village has everything from pubs, restaurants, souvenir shops and clothing shops. PSA: They have a well-stocked Lululemon with exclusive Whistler apparel and prices are almost half of Singapore’s 🤪

There are also many hiking trails, some of which are backdropped by snowcapped mountains!

Girl ziplining at Ziptrek Eco Tour Whistler - Canada attractions

For those not big on skiing but still want a taste of adventure, consider going on a zipline tour! We took the gondola to the halfway point of the mountain before hiking through the alpine forest to get to the zipline stations. There are five different ziplines for the Ziptrek Ecotours Eagle tour, including one with a 30-storey drop!

Nothing beats the feeling of zipping across the Fitzsimmons Valley while having unobstructed views of the mountains to yourself. A little girl in our group even convinced everyone to go upside down, making it more thrilling!

Guide sharing about the forest in Whistler on the Ziptrek Ecotour -Canadar atttractions

As it’s an ecotour, our guides made stops to share about the forest’s ecosystem, indigenous history and sustainability efforts. We even saw a bear claw mark on a tree!

The tour lasts around 3 hours and the final zipline leads right back to Whistler Village. Another popular tour is the Sasquatch® which only runs in the Summer (Jun – Sep). It’s the longest zipline in North America at 2km long!

*Pro-tip: Bring a phone leash so you don’t have to worry about dropping your phone.

Opening hours: Varies
How to get there: 1.5hr drive from Downtown Vancouver or 1hr 45min shuttle bus (CA$44/round trip) from Burrard Station (Google Maps)

Ziptrek Ecotours Eagle Tour
Cost: ~CA$170/pax
Tour timings:
Meeting point:
Carleton Lodge, 4282 Mountain Square, Whistler, BC V0N 1B4, Canada (Google Maps)

Where to stay in Vancouver

Paradox Hotel

Paradox King room at Paradox Hotel - Where to stay in Vancouver

Paradox Hotel is located in the heart of Downtown Vancouver, within walking distance to malls, supermarkets and museums. Opened in 2022, the rooms are stylish and new — with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the city.

Toilet at Paradox Hotel - Vancouver city guide

The best part of the stay was the service — after a long day out, I came back to fluffed pillows, folded pyjamas and a sweet treat! It was the first time I’ve felt truly cared for by a hotel 🥹

The hotel also has a list of amenities like a lounge bar, fitness centre and digitally-guided yoga room for guests to enjoy. If you’re feeling boujee, drop by the internationally acclaimed Mott 32 on the second floor for a meal (their Peking duck is divine).

Cost: From ~CA$450/night for a Paradox King Room (up to 2pax)
Address: 1161 W Georgia St, Vancouver, BC V6E 0C6, Canada (Google Maps)

Versante Hotel

Versante Hotel room - Where to stay in Vancouver

For those who prefer a laid-back neighbourhood, Versante Hotel is situated in Richmond, just a 5-minute drive from the airport. It’s Richmond’s only luxury boutique hotel and the rooms are modern with a touch of character. My favourite part was the Dyson hairdryer though 🤭

While it’s not in Downtown Vancouver, it’s close to other attractions like Fisherman’s Wharf, Richmond Night Market, Vancouver Whale Watch and McArthurGlen Designer Outlets. Plus, Vancouver City is just a 30-minute train ride away.

CostFrom ~CA$309/night for a Superior King Room (up to 2pax)
Address: 8499 Bridgeport Rd, Richmond, BC V6X 1R7, Canada (Google Maps)

Getting around Vancouver

Sea to sky highway on the way to Whistler - Things to do in Vancouver

The Sea to Sky Highway on the way to Whistler is one of the most beautiful drives in Canada!

Walk: Shops and landmarks are close to each other in Downtown Vancouver so it is walkable in the city centre. Plus, it doesn’t get as hot or humid as Singapore in the Summer either!

Public transport: Vancouver is also well connected via SkyTrain and buses. It’s the most affordable way to travel around the city if you do not have a car.

Ride-hailing: Public transport does not run as frequently to certain neighbourhoods outside the city centre like Richmond and North Vancouver, so take an Uber or Lyft instead.

Vancouver city skyline - Vancouver attractions

Ferry: As British Columbia is made up of several islands, ferries are a common mode of public transport. Take the Seabus from Downtown Vancouver to cross over to North Vancouver. If you’re travelling further to coastal or island provinces like Victoria, the Gulf Islands, and the Sunshine Coast, you can take the BC Ferry.

*Pro-tip: Get a day pass (CA$11.25 + one-time CA$6 deposit) at the train station which can be used for the SkyTrain, buses and SeaBus across all zones, as a single tap-in for the train costs CA$6.20.

Getting to Vancouver

AirCanada Plane - Getting to Vancouver

As of 4 April 2024, Air Canada relaunched their flight route to Vancouver from Singapore — making it the only airline that flies direct! There are only four outbound flights a week (~14.5 hours) and you’ll land on the morning of the date you flew on. Thus giving you an extra full day to explore if you can fight the jetlag!

Time passed quickly thanks to their entertainment system with movies that had not yet been released in Singapore. But my favourite was the complimentary WiFi for Aeroplan members (Air Canada’s frequent-flyer program) to stay connected — it’s free to sign up! Air Canada is also part of Star Alliance for those keen on collecting miles.

Girl under row of Cherry Blossoms trees at Richmond in vancouver - Vancouver city guide

We managed to catch the tail end of the cherry blossom season in a random neighbourhood in Richmond!

One thing that surprised me about Vancouver was its huge immigrant population. The crowd is so diverse it felt like I blended right in! Plus, there’s good Asian food everywhere, making it hard to get homesick and tempting to migrate 🤪

As a city girl who’s outsidesy (not to be mistaken with outdoorsy), Vancouver is the best of both worlds. Despite having epic ocean, forest and mountain experiences, we barely scratched the surface. There are still many things to do in Vancouver, making me daydream about my next trip back!

Until then, there’s more of Canada left to explore — the second-largest country in the world and all 🤸

What are your favourite things to do in Vancouver? Let us know in the comments!

This post was brought to you by Air Canada, Destination British Columbia, Destination Vancouver and Tourism Richmond as part of a media familiarisation trip.

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