The Best Outdoor Activities in and Around Vancouver

A walk along the Vancouver Seawall is one of the top outdoor activities in Vancouver
A walk along the Vancouver Seawall is one of the top outdoor activities in Vancouver | © Douglas Lander / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Culture Trip
8 September 2020

Vancouverites are spoiled for choice when it comes to enjoying the great outdoors. Surrounded by snow-dusted mountains on one side and the Strait of Georgia on the other, Vancouver has a topography that lends itself well to outdoor pursuits. From biking in Stanley Park to hiking the Grouse Grind, here are some of the best ways to enjoy this Canadian city’s open-air activities.

Get lost in Stanley Park

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View of Canada Place and Vancouver skyline from Stanley Park
© NielsVK3 / Alamy Stock Photo
Bordered by the English Bay and Vancouver Harbor, Stanley Park is completely surrounded by water and has some of the city’s most beautiful views. This lush green forest is full of flora that is found only in the area and can be viewed from the many paths and trails that run through the park, including the Seawall, a stone wall that surrounds the park and runs along the water’s edge. The park is also home to the Vancouver Aquarium and several restaurants and snack bars to make spending a day in the woods easy.

Relax at one of the many beaches in the city

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People sunbathing and swimming in English Bay at Kitsilano Beach, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
© John Mitchell / Alamy Stock Photo
This Canadian city is teeming with beaches. One of the most popular, Kitsilano Beach (known locally as Kits Beach) is not just a beach. There’s ample green space for sunbathers and several volleyball courts on the sand. There’s also Kitsilano Pool, Vancouver’s only saltwater swimming pool. In Stanley Park you’ll find First, Second and Third Beaches: First Beach is the park’s most popular and is busy with swimmers, as well as with people using the volleyball courts and a rental facility for kayaks and paddleboards; Second Beach comes with a view of the English Bay and a busy pool; Third Beach, on the southern coast, is the most isolated, offering quiet sandy beaches and sunset views. Further outside the city are Barnet Marine Park in Burnaby and Cates Park in North Vancouver.

Walk, run or cycle along the Vancouver Seawall

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The Vancouver Seawall is great for walking, jogging and cycling
© Marc Bruxelle / Alamy Stock Photo
Dubbed the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront path, the Vancouver Seawall stretches for 17mi (28km) from the Vancouver Convention Centre to the beaches at Spanish Banks Park. You could easily spend an entire day walking, jogging or cycling this route, stopping off at some of the city’s most famous landmarks and attractions along the way. The popular Stanley Park loop is home to forested hiking trails, beaches and the Second Beach Swimming Pool – an ocean-adjacent heated outdoor pool with three 164ft (50m) lap lanes for serious swimmers.

Find tranquility in the middle of the city at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden

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Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden and Park, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
© Michael Wheatley / Alamy Stock Photo
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is a beautiful, serene garden in the middle of idyllic Vancouver. The garden was built in order to construct, maintain and enhance a bridge of understanding between Chinese and Western cultures. There are colorful flowers dotted around the site, as well as lush, grassy areas and a plethora of historical artefacts on show in the on-site Ming Dynasty scholar’s room. The benches here offer a place to sit, relax and soak in the tranquility of the garden, and the juxtaposition of the traditional Chinese natural space with the modern city towers in the background makes for a striking photograph.

Hike and get a workout on the Grouse Grind

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A view of the popular "Grouse Grind" trail up Grouse Mountain, Vancouver. Climb the Grouse Grind via 2,830 stair
© Lydia Bigley / Alamy Stock Photo
The Grouse Grind is one of Vancouver’s most-used hiking trails (over 150,000 people tackle it annually), not to mention one of its most intense workouts in the area. Known as Mother Nature’s StairMaster, the trail climbs 2,800ft (853m) up Grouse Mountain in fewer than 1.8mi (3km). On average, it takes 2,830 steps and around two hours to complete, and many regular hikers have a Grind Timer Card that uses a radio frequency chip to track their performance. Upon reaching the summit, hikers will be rewarded with beautiful views of the city before taking a gondola lift ride back down (descending the trail is prohibited for safety and trail-erosion reasons).

Take in the view from Queen Elizabeth Park

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Bloedel Conservatory at Queen Elizabeth Park
© Hayley Simpson
Queen Elizabeth Park is the city’s highest point, clocking in at 499ft (152m) above sea level. Thanks to its location south of the city, the park has some of the best views: you’ll see Vancouver’s towering skyline backdropped by the beautiful North Shore Mountains. Come by with a picnic, wander through the arboretum filled with exotic and native trees and soaring sculptures, or play a game of tennis, lawn bowling or pitch and putt.

Cross the bridge onto Granville Island

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© Hayley Simpson
Granville Island, perched beneath Downtown Vancouver, is one of the city’s must-visit attractions. Wander through the Public Market, bursting with fresh produce, pastries and a food court of world cuisines, and then pop over to the market’s waterfront to take in the views. Head east towards False Creek or west to Kits Beach, a sandy beach stretching out toward the English Bay.
These recommendations were updated on September 8, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.