Florine’s British Columbia Guide

What to do in Canada? Florine wrote a personal British Columbia Guide where she shares all her food and travel tips!

First of all: you’re going to one of the best places on Earth! I studied for 5 months at UBC, and did quite a lot of not studying around there. If you’re looking for more tips, my slightly hipster go-to guide is https://www.narcity.com/ca/bc/vancouver, a great blog with all things to do in and around Vancouver. Use https://www.vancouvertrails.com for good information about hikes. Usually the best way to travel around here is just to ask local visitor centres, hotels or people on the street about the best things to do around there.

To give an idea of time and distance, this was our itinerary for 3,5 weeks. It was easily doable to drive to the Rockies, back to Vancouver, and then to Vancouver Island, but beware you won’t be driving very fast through the mountains and with questionable road conditions. We drove 4500 km in total, it’s a very big country!

Vancouver city

Accommodation
Try to find a place Downtown (Gastown, Yaletown, West End). Gastown is the area with most bars and restaurants. Kitsilano is a nice neighbourhood for restaurants and shops, although a bit less cozy than Gastown, a little outside of downtown, closer to UBC. You want to avoid East Hastings and East Vancouver in general, a lot of homeless people on the street.

Activities in Vancouver

-Stanley Park: rent a bike and cycle around in about 2 hours, there’s a great bike path right along the ocean (continues all the way around Downtown Vancouver). Have some tea at the classic Teahouse Stanley Park.

-Granville Island Market: great place with a small harbour and amazing food, both restaurants and fresh food markets. Open daily until 7pm.

Vancouver Art Gallery: free every Tuesday night, great modern art exhibitions

-Take the seabus to North Vancouver, watch the sunset at the water side with many amazing restaurants and bars.

Restaurants & bars

You can’t go wrong with restaurants in Vancouver, they’re all amazing. With restaurants in Vancouver it’s common you have to wait around 15-45 minutes, but it’s always worth the wait. Tip around 15-20%. Vancouverites eat pretty early, so expect there to be a line already at 6pm. A very popular thing here is brunch, especially on the weekends. Make sure to get some brunch classics, like Eggs Benedict (Vancouver special Bennie’s)!

  • Gastown: 
    Some of my favourites, but honestly, everything is great:
    *Tacofino: Mexican-Asian fusion, the best tacos EVER. Try their Gringas, they’re grilled tacos. Gets very busy here, but you can always get takeaway.
    *Purebread Bakery: best. cakes. & pies. Try the chocolate salted caramel cake, worth every calorie.
    *MeeT in Gastown: comfort vegetarian food, the burgers and fries are their specialty
    *The Diamond: Fancy bar, make a reservation! Serve good cocktails and sushi.
    *Cuchillo: looks weird from the outside, but their Latin food is truly amazing.
    – Nuba bistro: haven’t been there, but I heard their Lebanese brunch is really amazing.
    *Catch 122 bistro: amazing place, serves different small dishes to share.
    *Guilt & Company: great bar with live music most nights.
    *The Lamplighter bar: bar with dance floor, nice pizzas, fun music
    Kitsilano & Main street
    *The Acorn: best vegetarian food in the city. Very fancy menu, seasonal, delicious.
    *Vij’s Rangoli: best Indian food. Sibling to the more expensive Vij’s restaurant, which has a very famous chef. Vij’s Rangoli is the cheaper and more casual version, where the food is just as good
    *Napoletana Bibo pizzeria: best Italian pizza. Wooden ovens, thin crust.
    *Jiu Jiang Japanese Restaurant 5707 balsam street, Vancouver. The cook shop for the fish every morning on their own, super fresh! If you like Japanese food you’ll like this place.
    *Zen on Yew: amazing brunch and eggs benedict.
    *Chickpea: best food ever. Mediterranean, huge quantities, very diverse, amazing flavours.
    *Heirloom: amazing vegetarian food, high quality
    *Colony: chill bar for Tuesday nights
    *Storm Crow: comic-themed bar, fun with board games and thematic drinks
  • Downtown:

*The Famous Warehouse: all-day $6 meals. Burritos, burgers, and salads
*Davies street and Granville are you best bet for parties. Studio (Latin on Tuesday), Republic (dancehall nights on Tuesdays), Junction (gay bar), or Celebrities
*Wildlife Thrift Store: good quality second hand products, clothes and home items

 

  • UBC Campus:
    *Seedlings: sustainable and cheap lunch at Thea Koerner House
    *Agora: vegan cheap lunch and Wednesday $5 3 course dinner at MacMillan
    *Rain or Shine ice cream: they make their own waffles and have really nice original flavours.

Hikes around Vancouver

Chief hike in Squamish
Most amazing views. Next to the Sea to Sky gondola. Visiting all three peaks takes about 6 hours, just the one is 3.5 hours. The hike is intermediately difficult, and definitely my favourite around Vancouver. Alternatively you could take the Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish, $40 retour trip in the gondola, definitely worth the trip! Don’t forget to go to the Shannon Falls, they’re right next to it. 3rd highest falls in North America and really beautiful.

Whistler
Skiing and Peak to Peak lift, but also Loggers lake riverside trail for hiking. There are some deserted graffitied trainwrecks close to the village.

Bowen Island
Take the ferry from Horseshoe Bay ($10 retour) and hike the 10km Mount Gardner trail. Really good views, take about 4-5 hours for the whole trip.

Capilano Suspension Bridge 
$40, bit of a tourist trap. Lynn canyon is better option. Lynn Canyon and suspension bridge: free, great park to walk around.

Snowshoeing at Mt. Seymour
The dog mountain trail gives a great view of the Vancouver skyline.

Quarry Rock and Deep Cove
Deep cove is a small village, where you can start hiking up to Quarry rock in about an hour. Great views. Deep Cove is known for its amazing doughnuts and you can go kayaking or stand up paddling. Nice cafe with swings: Buddha-Full, the one in Northwoods.

Grouse grind, Mother Nature Stairmaster
Tough hike, done by hockey teams and fit Vancouverites as a workout.

Rocky Mountains

Kelowna
Kelowna is a good place to stay on your way to Banff. Make sure to stop at the Bridal Veil Falls provincial park on the way there: beautiful waterfalls, right next to the highway. Kelowna itself is known for its vineyards: have dinner and a wine tasting at the Old Vine, one of the most beautiful vineyards in Okanagan Valley. Although Kamloops is a more popular option to stay the night (especially for truckers and people just spending the night), I’d recommend Kelowna because there’s more to see in the city and the surrounding nature.

Kamloops
The North Bound way to get to Banff, but the city itself is horrible, like walking in a big trucker stop. However, Clearwater is close to this place, and it has some of the most beautiful waterfalls in Canada. Make sure to see at least:
– Spahats Falls
– Dawson Falls
– Helmcken Falls

Lake Louise
Definitely a must. If you have the funds, have some high tea or go visit Moraine Lake (down the road from Lake Louise – very iconic). The lake might is frozen until June, so definitely walk on it (or around it – there’s a path). Ice skating on the lake costs $13. Near lake Louise is lake Moraine, only open in summer but a great view.

Banff
Banff is the classic Canadian spot in the Rockies, gets pretty touristic though. I love the Hot Springs at the Fairmont (only $9 and you can rent historic swimsuits). Melissa’s Missteak is a great place for a big breakfast or lunch (always a line, but moves pretty fast). Do the gondola if you can, I’ve heard it’s really nice, but be prepared that it’s quite expensive ($60). We stayed at the Rimrock, the city’s most classic old hotel.

Highway 93
One of the worlds’ most scenic drives connecting Banff to Jasper. Make a stopover at Bow Lake, and take the 15min hike to the summit of Bow Mountain. There, you get a great view of Pyron Lake. A little farther down is the Athabasca glacier, where you can take a bus up to the top, or just view from below.

Vancouver Island

North: Campbell River area
Elk Falls Suspension Bridge: a suspension bridge right over a beautiful waterfall. Really cool! The drive to Buttle Lake is also very scenic.

West: Tofino area
On your way to Tofino you should stop at Cathedral Grove. It’s famous for its huge and old trees. There is also a trail to an old railway bridge. The trees are pretty impressive but in my opinion, the bridge is even cooler. It gives you a beautiful view and the possibility to take some nice pictures. Once you are in Tofino there is a lot of stuff to do. You can go surfing, hiking or kayaking! Long beach is nice for a beautiful walk as well. In case you have a car and want to have a nice spot for the sunset, I can recommend the Amphitrite Point Lighthouse in Ucluelet (Ukee), it’s a beautiful 2.5km walk around. The Wild Pacific Trail starts there, a really nice walk along the ocean.

Restaurants:
*Tacofino of course!! This food truck is where the legend started

South: Victoria area
Victoria is a small but nice city, about one day will be enough to see it. In the evening, the parliament building is illuminated and looks gorgeous, during the day you can have a picnic at the lawn there. Take a hike along the Breakwater Lighthouse route. If you want to spend another day of hiking, Mount Douglas is a good place to go. It gives you a nice view of Victoria and the surrounding region. The view from Mount Finlayson is even better but it is harder to get there without a car and the trail is more challenging. In case you have to spend a day inside because it’s raining, I can recommend the Russell Book store, Royal BC museum, or the Craigdarroch Castle (Victorian days).

Restaurants:
* The Local: outside patio, great food
* Irish Times Pub: live Irish music, great vibe
* Finn’s: outside patio, nice seafood
* 10 Acres Bistro: all locally sourced food
* Be Love: vegetarian heaven! And it doesn’t take like your average veggie-gluten free food that doesn’t taste like cardboard

Sunshine Coast

Best way is to ask local visitor centres, hotels, and people about the best places to visit and/or hike. Some places to visit along the Sunshine Coast:

Sechelt
Walk along the sea wall, stop at Batard Bakery for more coffee and foods (as you may notice we basically travel to eat and drink coffee). If you have a time, try the cidery The Bricker Cider Company. Eat at the Wobbly Canoe for a nice sunset spot on the beach.

Desolation Sound
Kayak! We couldn’t kayak yet in Desolation Sound, because it was too early in the season in April, so keep that in mind.

Hike Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park
The hike is nice and you get to see the Egmont Rapids, it takes about 2 hours.

Roberts Creek
A nice little place with a beautiful beach and pier. Stop at Gumboot cafe for lunch & coffee.

Hidden Grove
If you go north from Sechelt, there are some lovely Provincial Parks. I would recommend some hikes through Hidden Grove. They’re short and easy but surrounded by gorgeous trees and just gets you into nature’s feel. Stop in Halfmoon Bay, Secret Cove, kayak Desolation sound, lots of amazing places to eat in Powell River, I’d recommend Costa del Sol Cuisine or Coastal Cookery.

You have two take two ferries to get there (Horseshoe Bay to Langdale and then Earls Cove to Swartz Bay).

Our itinerary for four days: