Vancouver is, without doubt, a solo-friendly city.
Easy to navigate and safe to explore, Vancouver offers an urban setting that vibrates with people enjoying outdoor activities. If you’re a serious outdoor enthusiast you’ll find hiking trails just a bus ride away on the North Shore and sailing from the city centre right into the Strait of Georgia. There are also more relaxed outdoor activities which actually suit me better.
Wherever you’re staying in Vancouver, the TransLink transit system will get you to the centre of the city with ease so that you can take in these five loves of Vancouver’s waterfront. I’m presenting them in the order of my half-day Vancouver itinerary.
This small wharf is often overlooked by tourists. Run by the False Creek Harbour Authority its primary purpose is to provide safe and affordable moorage for commercial fish vessels. It’s not a tourist spot. There is, however, one very good reason for a tourist to visit.
- Go Fish Ocean Emporium. It’s a simple shack—like a food truck, but permanent. And there is only outdoor seating. Ah, but the food! They offer the standard of course: fish and chips cooked to perfection. They serve more elaborate meals as well, such as a seared albacore tuna sandwich with tartar and wasabi mayo, pickled cucumber, organic greens, nori togarashi spice and ponzu sauce—the Daily Special when I was there. Go Fish also provides a great view of the harbour boats, False Creek, and Vancouver’s downtown. If there are no clouds, you will even see the mountains of North Vancouver poke through.
Located on the south shore of False Creek, a short walk from Go Fish Ocean Emporium is Granville Island which can be explored over an hour or many hours. It offers lots of variety and is a destination for tourists and locals alike.
- Food. Their famous fresh food market also has numerous restaurants with seating indoors and out.
- Art. There are many artist studios and galleries including the Emily Carr University of Art & Design’s Charles H. Scott gallery.
- Entertainment. There’s the Arts Club Theatre Company for professional theatre (check out what’s playing for a great evening activity) and frequent festivals throughout the year.
- More. Thirsty? Check out The Granville Island Brewing Co. Nautically fascinated? See boat builders in action. Have children with you? Take them to the Kids Market.
False Creek is, as the name suggests, not a creek. It’s more of an inlet off of English Bay. And as indicated above, both Fisherman’s Wharf and Granville Island are located on the south side of the creek. To continue our tour, you need to get to the north side. You have three options by water.
- Take the ferry directly from Granville Island to the West End (Aquatic Centre)
- Take a tour of False Creek to view the city from a different perspective then get off at the West End stop.
- Get a day pass and hop on and off the ferry to take in Science World, Yaletown and, if it’s the weekend, the Maritime Museum before getting off at the West End stop.
Get off the ferry at West End (Aquatic Centre) and turn left. You will be facing west toward English Bay. You are mere blocks from downtown yet at the beach. Your walk will include flower beds and palm trees, the delightful A-maze-ing Laughter bronze sculpture, Beach Sculpture by Bernar Venet that looks like a ship’s ribs and the English Bay Inukshuk. There are fine restaurants along the street as well as the concrete art deco bathhouse (circa 1931). If you started this tour early and haven’t yet had lunch, dine at the Cactus Club Cafe on the beach—it’s known for great food and sustainable practices.
Seawall around Stanley Park
Continue walking west and you’ll soon be walking around the Stanley Park seawall. This is the longest part of this tour—the seawall is 9 kilometres long. You can cut out at certain parts but take in the whole thing and you’ll see some massive cedar trees, the Lion’s Gate Bridge, North Vancouver, the Girl in a Wetsuit (a sculpture that sits on a rock out in the water) and First Nations totem poles.
Exploring Vancouver’s waterfront can be done on foot like I did or on roller blades or by bike. Whichever you choose, you’ll enjoy a wonderful day.
Have you been to Vancouver? What are your top recommendations for this fresh-air city?