BRITISH COLUMBIA

Things To Do In Vancouver: Day Trips

07/06/2013 10:34 EDT | Updated 07/07/2013 05:54 EDT
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One of the reasons we all love Vancouver is the ease with which we can step out of the city, slow down, relax and immerse ourselves in beautiful B.C.

And you really don't have to go very far: whether it's a different ocean view, a climb up a mountain, or simply a relaxing drive with a nice meal and a little shopping you're after, it's all in easy reach.

One of the best places heading north out of the city is the town of Squamish, where the Stawamus Chief towers over the town, giving hikers and rock-climbers a gorgeous view from its summit.

A little further along the Sea to Sky highway is Whistler, with its parks, beaches and lakes. Take or rent your bike and explore its extensive network of backcountry trails or hike the incredible alpine terrain.

A short ferry trip from the Horseshoe Bay terminal is Bowen Island and its small community of about 3,000 people. For somewhere so close, the island feels a world away from the city and offers lots of options for a laid back lunch before an afternoon exploring its streets and shoreline.

Eastwards, you could take in Harrison Hot Springs, a quaint community at the far end of the Fraser Valley that boasts naturally-heated springs. If you don't feel like paying the resort prices at the Harrison Hot Springs Hotel, you can access the therapeutic waters at the public pool.

Or check out Cultus Lake, a popular freshwater destination that attracts young people and families alike. You can camp overnight or just enjoy the lake during the day.

If you are up to trip over the border, head south to Bellingham, Washington, which is far more than a destination for cheap flights and highway outlet stores. The town has taken great pains to preserve its historic character, particularly in the Fairhaven neighbourhood, where you'll find some of the nicest shops and cafes.

Check out the best places in B.C. to take a day trip from Vancouver:

Best BC Day Trips From Vancouver

Harrison Hot Springs: At the far end of the Fraser Valley lies Harrison Hot Springs, famous for the geothermally-heated waters that give it its name. You can experience them two ways: at the Harrison Hot Springs hotel, where a luxurious outdoor pool is fed by the springs themselves. There's also the public pool, which, like the resort, gets its warm water from the south end of Harrison Lake.

The Stawamus Chief: Few hikes in B.C. are so challenging, yet so worth the view. The Stawamus Chief is just an hour's drive from Vancouver. Better known simply as The Chief, it's a giant rock face that towers over the town of Squamish. There are three ways to the top: a 1.5 kilometre hike to the first peak; a 1.7 kilometre hike to the second; and a 1.8 kilometre hike to the third. Don't be fooled by the length, the climb ranges from 540 to 630 metres of elevation. Once done, you can cool off in Shannon Falls, one of the province's highest waterfalls.

Cultus Lake: Pack a picnic, swim trunks and sunscreen for a day at Cultus Lake, a popular freshwater destination at the eastern end of the Fraser Valley. Take a dip in the warm lake, where you can also wake surf and water ski. If you're in no mood to jump in the water, there's also plenty of great hiking and biking trails throughout the park that surrounds the lake.

Whistler: The upgraded Sea to Sky Highway has turned Whistler from a weekend getaway to a simple day trip, with only a 1.5 hour drive up from the city, if you don't stop along the way. Once in town, there's a multitude of activities at your fingertips. You can go ziplining, mountain biking or take a gondola up Whistler Mountain for a tour of the alpine zone. Or, if you fancy a calmer getaway, you can simply walk the village, which has plenty of options for great food and shopping.

Bellingham, Washington: Yes, there is more to Bellingham than cheap shopping. The city boasts diverse neighbourhoods with a variety of Victorian homes and waterfront bungalows, while the downtown boasts a strong historic character. The Fairhaven neighbourhood has some of the city's best coffee shops and restaurants, according to a community Facebook group.

Alice Lake: There's no end to the great day trip destinations near Squamish, and Alice Lake is among the best. The quaint park is cut off from the world by thick forests and tall mountains, and provides great views of the majestic Tantalus Range. For a leisurely time, the trail around the lake provides a nice evening's walk, while the Four Lakes Trail is a more challenging endeavour that may allow you a first-hand look at animals such as warblers, Steller's jays and chipmunks.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary, Delta: It's a place where birds flit so prominently and so lightly, you can hardly feel them if they land in your hands. The Reifel Bird Sanctuary is a piece of land where waterfowl such as snow geese make their nesting grounds. With opportunities to see birds such as snowy owls, sandpipers, woodpeckers and more, there are few better places in B.C. for birdwatching.

Bowen Island: Bowen Island is one of the the best day trip locations so close to the city. Only six kilometres wide and 12 kilometres long, the island has plenty of attractions for people making short visits. A short ferry ride to the island takes you right into a small village with plenty of great coffee shops, gift stores and picnic grounds with gorgeous views of Howe Sound. Further into the island there are hiking trails galore in Crippen Regional Park. The best place to see the island? From the summit of Mount Gardner, its highest peak at 719 metres.

Agassiz Slow Food Cycle: The most prominent features of the Fraser Valley are the hectare upon hectare of lush farmland. One of the best places to take them in is Agassiz, which hosts a once-a-year Slow Food Cycle Tour that allows foodies and families alike to see where our food comes from, and meet the people who grow it, says Slow Food Vancouver. This year's event, taking place July 27, will see cyclists tackle a 25-kilometre route throughout the community with plenty of food to sample along the way.