From sea to sky, beautiful British Columbia is bursting at the seams with places for every kind of budding adventurer to explore, so grab a double-double from Tim Hortons and hit the road.
7 milesA favourite of nature-loving locals, Grouse Mountain has been a great escape for city dwellers since as far back as 1894. While walkers will get a kick out of the climbs, more casual sorts will be thankful for the cable cars travelling up to cosy log cabins and laid-back lookout points, where you can simply sit quietly with a mug of steaming cocoa and take it all in at your own pace.
If you’re really up for a challenge, we recommend taking on the Grouse Grind — an epic 2,830-step hike straight up to the mountain’s apex. Sometimes referred to as "Mother Nature’s Stairmaster," this spiralling walk through alpine forest and across rugged terrain will certainly stretch the legs after a long drive. Intimidating though it may sound, the sweeping panoramic views over Vancouver, not to mention the overwhelming relief upon reaching the top, are quite rewarding. Consider yourself king of the castle … until your ankles give way at least. If you’re not too knackered, finish the day with a spot of disc golf and spend the rest of your vacation wondering why you’ve never heard of it before.
12 milesA rainforest isn’t something you’d usually associate with a major city in North America, which is why a trip to the extraordinarily special Lighthouse Park should be right up at the top of your to-do list. Located a short way west of Vancouver’s centre, this 185-acre expanse of gigantic ancient trees, weathered rock bluffs and criss-crossing nature trails that take you up into canopies and down to the coastline is an absolute treat for those looking to get out of the urban sprawl for a bit.
The views across the water to Vancouver Island and its neighbouring atolls alone are worth the trip — a sight even more spectacular as the sun goes down — but there are even more rewards for those who explore a little further. One day you may find the outdoor amphitheatre playing host to a community show, while another you might happen across the 19th-century Point Atkinson Lighthouse after which the park is named. Pack a substantial picnic and pitch up for a perfect day.
13 milesMost recently finding fame as a storybook setting come to life in the TV series "Once Upon a Time," the town of Steveston blends old school fishing village traditions with contemporary eccentricities, all coming together to create the absolute epitome of the word "charming." With wooden boardwalks leading you round the wonderful array of independent shops and the smell of the sea luring you into the door of quaint harbourside cafes, you’ll find that the hours spent here slip away all too quickly.
Once you’ve had your fill of seafood and tried to count the colourful boats coming and going, it might be time to think about hopping on one. With trips across the Sound to the islands or up the Fraser River to watch orcas in the wild, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Ensure you go off the beaten track for a chance to see some of the most historical architecture in the region, including London Farm and The Cannery.
32 milesMining heritage runs deep in British Columbia, and while the idea of a museum dedicated to all things underground might not exactly thrill the average holiday-goer, the Britannia — with its national historic status and near bottomless trove of intriguing artefacts — really shouldn’t be overlooked. Kids will relish the chance to pan for their very own gold. A subterranean train that takes you through inky blackness into the innermost sanctum of the facilities provides quite a story to tell back home.
Unmistakably recognisable from rolling Highway 99, owing to its unusual and almost Brutalist design (and the whopping great machinery on display out the front), the mine is also a hub for the Britannia Beach locals, with entertaining and educational events neatly planned to coincide with cultural happenings throughout the year.
75 milesThis dynamic township, located a scenic lakeside drive along British Columbia’s stunning Sea to Sky Highway, is a mecca for those in love with the outdoors. In summer it becomes a haven for mountain bikers and avid hikers. In winter, it’s a beacon for snow sports enthusiasts, so much so that it is often regarded as one of the world’s greatest skiing spots. Considering that the village itself is nestled at the base of not one, but two mountains (Whistler and Blackcomb), it’s not difficult to see why it attracts very friendly crowds.
Aside from the above activities, there are all sorts of other family orientated things to do. From sightseeing on snowcats and ATV tours, to tube parks, ice skating and zip trek lines that smoothly fly you hundreds of feet over forested valleys, there’s no chance of boredom provided you don’t mind getting a lungful or two of fresh air. What’s more, every single après taste is catered to in terms of food, drink and general post-workout fun, so whether you’re coming from near or far, you’ll feel like part of the furniture in no time at all.