As a seaside city, it should come as no surprise that one of the best ways to explore Vancouver is by boat. Whether you paddle along in a sleek kayak or hop aboard one of the many touring vessels, no vacation or stay-cation in Vancouver is complete without some time spent out on the ocean in the shadow of the towering mountains and lush rainforests.
Once you’ve planned your stay-cation, made your itineraries and helped visiting friends/family find cheap flights to Vancouver, explore your options for a water-based adventure. While you can’t go wrong with any type of Vancouver boat trip, the one best for you depends on your sense of adventure. Start by considering these three watery excursions:
One of the best ways to explore the abundant marine life, craggy shores and natural beauty of Vancouver Island is by kayak. Even inexperienced paddlers can navigate the channels and passages surrounding the islands — and exploring via kayak allows you to get up close and personal with wildlife.
Vancouver offers both freshwater and sea kayaking. In and around Vancouver, you’ll find plenty of rental shops where you can grab the gear you’ll need as well as tips and advice for where to find the best paddling. Lakes near the city include Burnaby, Buntzen and Deer Lake; Harrison Lake is a little farther away, but offers a wilder, more rugged environment. In addition, the rivers on Vancouver Island are scenic, but can be quite hazardous to inexperienced paddlers — particularly during the spring floods.
Most visitors opt for sea-kayaking adventures. From the city, there are a number of easy day-trip routes, notably Indian Arm, a scenic inlet just a few minutes from the city. Here, you can paddle around small islands past waterfalls in the shadow of the mountains. The most popular ocean trip by far is to the Johnson Strait, where there’s a good chance you’ll be joined by an orca or two during your adventure.
Unless you’re an experienced paddler who is familiar with the area, it’s generally best to kayak with a guide. The weather in Vancouver can be harsh at times, and the rugged landscape may be difficult for a non-local to navigate. Several tour companies offer daytrips and multi-day camping adventures; most include the equipment you’ll need for your excursion in addition to an experienced and knowledgeable guide who will help you stay safe and get the most out of your adventure.
If you’d rather let the wind do the work of getting you out on the water, then consider chartering a private sailboat tour to explore the island coastline. Sailboat tours generally charge by the hour, but offer customised touring based on what you want to see. Most also include refreshments or catering, allowing you to sit back and soak in the beauty of Vancouver.
If you want to explore on your own, consider renting a boat. Some companies, like Coal Harbour and Lonsdale Boat Rentals, allow visitors to rent a comfortable motorboat for full or half-day excursions in Indian Arm. Some even come fully stocked with fishing gear, allowing you to drop a line or two while you cruise the calm waters.
While paddlewheel river boats may be popularly associated with the Mississippi River, they can actually be found on a number of rivers and lakes — including Vancouver’s Fraser River. One of the most enjoyable ways to explore the river and catch views of the city is via a paddlewheel river tour. Book a day cruise on the MV Native to sail up the mighty Fraser River; the tour company offers a variety of specialty cruises as well, including sunset dinner cruises and Friday night dance cruises. Paddlewheeler Riverboat Tours also offers daytrips aboard the catamaran BetaStar; these cruises traverse the Fraser River to landmarks including historic Steveston and Fort Langley.
Seeing Vancouver from the water offers a different perspective of this exciting and vibrant city while allowing you to experience the area’s greatest treasures and scenic vistas. Whether your paddle, steer or cruise, a watery adventure in Vancouver is a must for any itinerary.
Guest blogger and Travel writer Sarah Stack covers the Pacific Coast. An avid kayaker, she has visited Johnson Strait several times to view the orcas.
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