AAA Travel Tips & Articles / Vancouver Off the Beaten Path

Vancouver Off the Beaten Path

AAA/Katie McPhee
By AAA Travel Editor Katie McPhee
May 14, 2018
Secluded beaches, rewarding hikes and bustling coffee shops—there is plenty to see in Vancouver besides the usual tourist stops. In a city that welcomes more than 10 million visitors each year, it’s easier than you may think to travel like a local and explore Vancouver off the beaten path.
Giant logs on a wide stretch of beach at Kitsilano Beach Park in Vancouver British Columbia
AAA/Katie McPhee
Kitsilano Beach Park
1499 Arbutus St.
(604) 873-7000
For a good view of the Vancouver skyline, you’ll need to venture away from downtown. Head to Kitsilano Beach Park for picture-perfect panoramas of the city across English Bay, plus plenty of outdoor activities including beach volleyball, tennis and swimming at the seasonal Kitsilano Pool, the longest outdoor saltwater pool in Canada. The surrounding neighborhood of Kitsilano is a fun place to wander, with dozens of places to eat and stores selling yoga and fitness gear, children’s clothing, home décor and gifts. Hanging out in “Kits” is one of the best things to do in summer.
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Cappuccino with foam art at 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters in Vancouver British Columbia
AAA/Katie McPhee
Local Coffee Shops
Ditch the Starbucks and get your caffeine fix somewhere off the beaten track. Start your morning in Vancouver like a local and grab an espresso and quick breakfast at a local coffee shop. British Columbia-based 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters has cafés downtown (at 689 Thurlow St.), in Kitsilano and in Mount Pleasant and carries dozens of flavors of their beloved Lucky’s Doughnuts in addition to top-notch coffees. Other local shops include Revolver (325 Cambie St.), Greenhorn Espresso Bar (994 Nicola St.), Kafka’s Coffee and Tea (2525 Main St.) and JJ Bean (many locations).
Viewpoint from Quarry Rock overlooking the water in Deep Cove North Vancouver
AAA/Katie McPhee
Quarry Rock Hike at Deep Cove
See Vancouver like a local on a hike through the dense forests of North Vancouver. A popular place to get some fresh air and stretch your legs is on a 3.8-km section (2.4-mi.) of the Baden-Powell Trail in Deep Cove. You’ll want to arrive early to find a parking spot at Panorama Park (the crowds tend to arrive around 10 or 11 a.m.), then head out on a 45-minute hike to the scenic viewpoint at Quarry Rock. At the lookout you’ll have a bird’s-eye perspective of the marina, the sparkling waters of Indian Arm fjord and the distant Vancouver skyline. After the return trip, join the locals for celebratory treats at Honey Doughnuts & Goodies (4373 Gallant Ave., North Vancouver).
Adventure-themed mugs and pouches at LaLa's In The Cove in North Vancouver British Columbia
AAA/Katie McPhee
Shop Local
Vancouver weather is often gloomy and wet, but that just gives you an excuse to spend more time shopping indoors. Off-the-beaten-path stores like MacLeod’s Books (455 W. Pender St.) and The Paper Hound (344 W. Pender St.) are havens for bookworms, while Oh My Gifts (2039 W. 4th Ave. in Kitsilano), Delish General Store (1535 Johnson St. on Granville Island) and LaLa’s in the Cove (4381 Gallant Ave., North Vancouver) stock jewelry, candles, scarves and other locally made goods that make for unique souvenirs.
Crowds watching the sunset at English Bay Beach Park in Vancouver British Columbia
AAA/Katie McPhee
Sunset at English Bay Beach Park
1700 Beach Ave.
Join throngs of locals for the nightly ritual of watching the sunset at English Bay Beach Park. Find a bench or a log to sit on, then relax as you soak up the changing colors of the sky. It’s a great spot for people watching, too; crowds gather to play music, dance and party as the sun goes down. Two nearby restaurants— Cactus Club Cafe and The Boathouse Restaurant—capitalize on the view with elevated outdoor patios overlooking the beach park. Another popular westward-facing beach is aptly named Sunset Beach Park, just south along the Seawall.
People crossing the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge in Lynn Canyon Park North Vancouver
AAA/Katie McPhee
Suspension Bridge at Lynn Canyon Park
3663 Park Rd.
North Vancouver, Canada
(604) 990-3755
Most tourists have heard of Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, but did you know there is a less-crowded (and free) alternative nearby? Lynn Canyon Park is one of North Vancouver’s best off-the-beaten-path attractions. Spend a few hours exploring hiking trails, waterfalls and swimming holes, then gather up the nerve to walk across the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge that hangs 50 metres (164 feet) above a creek. Public washrooms and a seasonal café are on-site, as well as a kid-friendly ecology center.
Sand and sunbathers at Third Beach in Stanley Park Vancouver British Columbia
AAA/Katie McPhee
Third Beach
Stanley Park Dr., north of Ferguson Point
(604) 873-7000
Seek out a quiet stretch of sand at secluded Third Beach on the west side of Stanley Park. Locals flock here to soak up the sun and enjoy the superb views of English Bay; the sunsets are particularly beautiful from this vantage point. Parking is plentiful—both for cars (pay by the hour or by the day) and for bikes—and the beach’s location along the Seawall makes it easy to access the rest of the park. Amenities include public washrooms and a concession stand. One of Vancouver’s most popular restaurants is nearby—the AAA Three Diamond Teahouse in Stanley Park.
A bed of ferns at VanDusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver British Columbia
AAA/Katie McPhee
VanDusen Botanical Garden
5251 Oak St.
(604) 257-8335
A short drive south of downtown will bring you to an oasis of dogwoods, rhododendrons, Japanese maples and giant sequoias. Formerly a golf course, VanDusen Botanical Garden offers a tranquil retreat away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Wander the paved footpaths to discover dozens of themed areas along with lakes, ponds, sculptures, totem poles and a hedge maze you can walk through. There is something in bloom here no matter the season, and it’s enjoyable even on a rainy day.
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