After our two trips to Alaska we were interested to try British Columbia. So we decided to travel down the British Columbia coast line by boat and see how it compared to Alaska. We flew into Vancouver and set sail exploring the fjords and ending up in Seattle. I would describe BC as a less extreme version of Alaska, warmer and brighter but less wild. If you want to get some warm sun during your summer holiday then BC might be the better choice for you. There are many of the same activities on offer, and although the wildlife is less extreme the major cities of Vancouver and Seattle (US) have lots do see (in comparison to Sitka and Ketchikan in Alaska). The summer months of July and August are the best time to go with temperatures seeing lows of 12C and highs of 27C. This part of the world sees a lot of rain so summer really is the best time to visit.
Vancouver – AT’s Top 5 things to do!
- Capilano Suspension Bridge – one of the most iconic sites in Vancouver, Capilano Suspension Bridge Park set in the middle of a huge forest with a clifwalk and a network of suspension walkways hanging 91m high offering panoramic views of the rainforest and canyon below.
- Victoria and Butchart Gardens – Victoria is the capital of British Columbia located on the southern shore of Vancouver Island and is know for its parklands and outdoor activities. Victoria’s British colonial past is evident in its’ Victoria architecture with an afternoon tea is very much at home here. Butchart Gardens are very impressive, 55 acres of beautiful immaculately kept gardens, flowers displays, trees, water fountains and carousel.
- Grouse Mountain – The best view of Vancouver can be found from the top of Grouse Mountain along with a host of other activities. The Grouse Grind 2mile trail (aka Mother Nature’s Stairmaster). There is a Lumberjack Show which as you can imagine involved a display of the skills of a Lumberjack over a 45minute extravaganza. Our favourite was watching grizzly bears in their habitat. For when you get hungry the Observatory restaurant is fantastic, great food with 360-degree mountaintop views.
- Gastown and the Steam Clock – Check out Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhood. Founded by in 1867 originating from a single tavern Gastown maintains its historic flavour and independent vibe. Its a cool place to walk, shop, check out small galleries, boutiques and culinary fare.
- Granville Island Public Market – Rows upon rows of market stalls selling fresh produce including seafood, bakery foods, fresh fruit and veg, sweets and snacks, and gourmet foods. Its a lively indoor market with the best local produce on offer. Granville Island also has many cultural offerings such as theatres and art galleries, with the fans favourite being the mini tugboat ferries for a tour of the island.
Exploring the Fjords and the BC coastline
- Fishing – If you like fishing BC’s waters are fantastic. Whether trawling, bottom fishing, or jigging you’ll be catching some large and delicious fish! You can catch salmon, trout, char, steelhead, rockfish, yellow-eyed rockfish, lingcod and halibut. And don’t forget to lay your crab pots early in the morning. Come back the next morning and you’ll pull up your own sea food bar: crab, shrimps, prawns, and the occasional octopus!
- Howe Sound – Sail though the fjords of Howe Sound. A beautiful sound or to be exact a network of fjords just northwest of Vancouver. Here you will see beautiful nature as you cruise through the still waters, think green forests on every hill side and mountains shooting out of the water. A playground for sailing, camping, hiking, fishing, diving and other recreational activities. There are many islands and communities in Howe Sound, the most populated being Bowen Island. Gibsons and Langdale on the Sechelt Peninsula have relatively large settlements along with Horseshoe Bay and Lions Bay on the eastern shoreline.
- Bear Watching – there are a number of places you can see brown and black bears closer to Vancouver but our favourite is the Great Bear Rainforest. The rainforest stretches 400km along the north and central coast of BC. The world’s largest intact temperate rainforest and the only place you can see the Spirit (Kermode) bear (which has white fur!). This rainforest is not only beautiful but packed with different plants and animals. On land there are grizzlies, black bears, spirit bears, and coastal wolves. Of the coast you can see humpback whales, orcas, dolphins, porpoises, otters and sea lions.
- Whale Watching and Sea Plane – Take off in a sea plane form Vancouver for a day trip that takes you on an aerial tour of the surrounding landscapes and lands for a 3 hour whale watching touch. You’re very likely to see humpback whales, orcas, dolphins, proposes, seals and sea lions.
- Seattle Space Needle – The observation tower which has become an icon of the city is 184m high (observation deck is 160m). View the downtown Seattle, Olympic and Cascade Mountains, Mount Rainier, Mount Baker Elliot Bay.
- The Public Market Centre – Or the Pike Place Market is a public market which has been operating since 1907 and is now famous for its diversity of local products and features in blockbuster movies such as Sleepless in Seattle. Small independent merchants, craftsmen, craftswomen and farmers gather to sell products ranging from arts, to clothes, to antiques, to food products. There are also some family-owned restaurants offering fresh seafood, meats and more. Perhaps the most famous section is the fishmongers where the boisterous and loud sellers throw fresh fish across the counters!
- Starbucks – Go grab a coffee from the very first Starbucks coffee shop. Even if you don’t know Howard Schultz’s (founder) story or you don’t like how Starbucks does business, its still pretty incredible to visit the birth place of one of the biggest companies in the world and their first ever shop which opened in 1971. It has been kept in its original style and the coffee is delicious.
- Freemont Troll – A huge sculpture of a troll living under a bridge in the Freemont neighbourhood. Inspired by the Scandinavian fairytale Three Billy Goats Gruff. A quick stop off for five minutes is enough but worth checking it out.
- Boeing Tour – Certainly the most impressive factory we have ever seen. The scale is hard to comprehend. The worlds largest aircraft manufacturer shows off its achievements and allows you a rare look into how these amazing machines are build. They also give you a preview of new planes to which will be released to the market. Very impressive.
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