Travel

5 ways to soak in Vancouver’s nature if you’re not outdoorsy

You don’t have to be an outdoor thrill-seeker to see all that Vancouver has to offer

  • Jan 18, 2022
  • 2,171 words
  • 9 minutes
Prospect Point is one of several spectacular vantage points in Vancouver’s Stanley Park that are easy to access by car or short walk, proving you don’t have to be super outdoorsy to soak in the city’s legendary nature. (Photo: Alexandra Pope/Can Geo Travel)
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Vancouver is often advertised as an adventurer’s paradise — a place for nature-lovers and outdoor thrill-seekers. What if you’re the former but not exactly the latter? As much as Vancouver is perfect for those craving an adrenaline rush, it also has space for people who love nature but want to take things at a slower pace. Whether it be more accessible attractions for the whole family or hidden gems away from the crowds, here are some suggestions for the less athletically-inclined.

Take it slow on Grouse Mountain

 
 
 
 
 
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The classic winter activity of hitting the slopes: perfect for sport enthusiasts and adventurous types, but maybe not so perfect for the casual explorer. Fear not, there is plenty more to do on the peaks besides strapping on skis. 

Take Grouse Mountain, for example, one of the top destinations in the iconic North Shore mountain range that embraces the city. Grouse is dotted with lookouts that provide beautiful views of Vancouver and the surrounding landscape. If you time your visit for sunset, you’ll be able to catch the must-see view of the cityscape lit up at night.

If you’re up for a lower-intensity winter sport (compared to skiing or snowboarding, anyway), make sure to check out the skating pond in the winter — a perfect way to soak in the mountain air on level ground.

See the city from Burnaby Mountain

 
 
 
 
 
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As beautiful as the scenery is from high on the mountains, getting up there is often a full-day activity. What if you want to put in a little less effort to see the cityscape? Burnaby Mountain offers a compelling alternative. Yes, it has ‘mountain’ in its name, but don’t worry — this Burnaby landmark rises to only 370 metres and is an easy drive or bus ride from downtown Vancouver. 

This low-key hangout spot is perfect for families and solo travellers alike. Head up to the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area and enjoy a picnic on the grass, wander through the rose garden and marvel at the carved wooden poles of Kamui Mintara, also known as the Playground of the Gods (pictured above). This installation was created by artist Nuburi Toko, who is part of the Ainu tribe indigenous to Japan. Once you’ve had your fill of exploring the area, head back to the parking lot and watch the sun set over the city. It’s the perfect activity to get you out of the city, but not too far.

Catch the sunset from Iona Beach

Iona Beach in Richmond, B.C. is a quiet place to enjoy an unobstructed view of the West Coast sunset. (Photo: Windy Corduroy/Can Geo Photo Club)
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Can’t get enough sunsets? Wreck Beach is a popular spot to see an unspoiled view of the sun setting over the Pacific. Unfortunately, the only way to get there is by climbing down 490 sometimes steep steps (and, of course, climbing back up them when you’re done). It’s also a clothing-optional beach, which may be a deterrent for some people.

Fortunately, there is another option for sunset chasers. Iona Beach is a 30-minute drive from downtown Vancouver and perfect for those who want to get away from the crowds. The isolated jetty is something of a hidden gem that contains easy trails and gorgeous views — with zero staircases! This calm beach tucked away in Richmond is not to be missed.

Go birdwatching at the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary

 
 
 
 
 
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So you had a nice walk along the beach and you’re looking for another activity, but still one that is less intense than the hiking trails Vancouver is known for. Why not head south to the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Delta? This vast wetland area plays host to millions of migrating birds whose routes pass through the city each year, and its flat trails make it accessible to wildlife seekers of all ages and abilities. 

There’s even the option of purchasing bird feed, which can be a fun activity to keep the kids engaged. Note that all visitors need to make a reservation, so be sure to plan ahead. 

End the day at Stanley Park

The totem poles in Stanley Park are a testament to the park’s pre-colonization history. (Photo: Alexandra Pope/Can Geo Travel)
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After a long day of exploring the scenery outside of the downtown core, you may wind up back in the heart of the city to end the day. Visitors hear a lot about biking Stanley Park’s famous seawall, but for those who are daunted by the task there are a couple of viewpoints that are easy to get to by car and offer a slower alternative. 

Brockton Point Lighthouse on the east side of the park offers beautiful views of the water and the North Shore mountains. From there, it’s a nine-minute walk to see Stanley Park’s beloved totem poles. They come from as far as Haida Gwaii, and the most recent addition was carved by Robert Yelton of the Squamish Nation. Pre-colonization, Stanley Park was the site of Squamish villages, and these landmarks can also help travellers learn about the history of the city they’re exploring.

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