The weekend has finally arrived and you have a nice 48 hour window in front of you to leave Vancouver, Canada and explore BC and beyond. If you’re a traveller like me you don’t want to blow your budget on buying or hiring a car, therefore getting around can sometimes prove challenging.
These weekend getaways are easy to reach by bus, train or boat and get you far enough into the wilderness to make it feel like you’re having an adventure, as well as allowing you to see all that BC has to offer.
Got limited time? Whistler is convenient to get to and filled with plenty of activities no matter what the season. Hit the slopes in winter or get snowshoeing (it’s kind of a big deal over this side of the world). Soak it up in summer with hiking, animal spotting, relaxing by lakes and camping.
Whistler has plenty of options for everyone, although the natural landscape is its biggest draw-card. One of the most popular tourist attractions is the impressive Peak2Peak gondola. Starting in the Whistler Village, the gondola takes passengers across to Blackcomb Mountain with plenty of views, hikes and restaurants along the way.
With several bus companies making the journey a few times a day, you’ll find it easy and reasonably priced to get up to the mountain. Greyhound, Epic Rides, Perimeter and Pacific Coaches all run return bus trips to Whistler with prices starting at $35. The journey took around 2 hours from downtown Vancouver to Whistler village in light traffic.
Nestled in the Howe Sound island municipality, Bowen Island is the perfect spot for a few nights stay. Easily accessible from Vancouver and filled with beautiful scenery along the way, you’ll be relaxing in next to no time. Catch a bus to Horseshoe Bay and then board the ferry as a foot passenger (tickets can be bought prior to or on the day). The ferry takes around 30 minutes and brings you directly into Snug Cove and the main street area.
Bowen Island is a cosy little spot with most of your needs being located right in Snug Cove. I wasted away the afternoons on Doc Morgan’s amazing patio with some tasty appetizers and drinks in sun. If you want to sink pints with the locals then head to the Bowen Island Pub for a drink. It’s by no means fancy, but they make a decent burger and you can usually catch the game on the TVs.
The greatest view around the island is by sea; visit Bowen Island Sea Kayaking for hire or a guided kayak tour around the island. If you have lost your sea legs then try hiring a push bike to see some amazing views: the beaches near Cape Roger Lighthouse are photo-worthy. Want to walk? Pick up a map on board the ferry; the hiking trails are listed on the map with several being accessible from Snug Cove.
With its quiet ambience, Victoria has a lot of colonial charm and is a great spot to slow the pace for a few days. Famous for their internationally renowned Butchart gardens, beautiful heritage buildings and of course my personal favorite, whale watching, Victoria has a lot to offer.
A skytrain ride to Bridgeport station followed by a ride on the 620 bus will get you to Tsawwassen ferry pier. Board the ferry as a foot passenger and then relax on the 1.5 hour ferry ride over. Keep an eye out for potential whale and seal sightings. You will need to catch the 70 or 72 bus from Swartz Bay into Victoria.
Once you’re in Victoria, make a stop at the Tourist Information Center on Wharf St to know what your options are. If you’re keen to see the Butchart Gardens then catch the 75 bus there. It’s around 45 minutes so allocate enough transit time.
Animal lovers can book a whale watching tour and try and get a glimpse of seals, sea lions and orcas. If you’d rather pay homage to the British then raise your pinkies to some amazing high tea options at the Fairmont Hotel’s impressive high tea menu.
Make sure you check out the endless local craft breweries. I recommend Hoyne Brewing and Category 12 Brewing.
Harrison Hot Springs
Worked a hard week? Maybe you just want to pretend like you have to justify a day at the spa. Whatever your excuse, Harrison Hot Springs is all about therapeutic relaxation and ‘me time’. Known for its natural mineral springs, Harrison attracts people from all over the world wanting to bathe together.
The Harrison Hot Springs Sauna & Spa is located at the source of the pools and is the place you want to stay for VIP treatment. Although it’s pricey, guests enjoy access to all five mineral pools, which is a good trade off if you plan on soaking all weekend long.
If you are on a tighter budget, look for accommodation elsewhere and simply visit the Harrison Public Pool, specifically designed for locals and day guests. The pool is open until 8pm at night and guests will enjoy the greatly reduced admission of $12.75 for a whole day visit. You can even go out and come back in.
It’s not all just soaking and spas, Harrison hosts some stunning surrounds perfect for horseback riding, kayaking and fishing. With several farms nearby you should be able to do a tour or at least sample some local produce.
Simply sit back on a Greyhound bus to Chilliwack and you’ll be cleansed in no time. You will need to transfer at Chilliwack which takes around 1 hour, but it’s well worth it.
With its wild beaches and rugged coastline, Tofino is a firm favourite for surfers and tourists alike. Located on Vancouver Island, Tofino has a lot for all of you adventure seekers and water lovers.
If you fancy letting your dreadlocks down and getting amongst the waves, try a surf or paddleboard school. Make sure you have access to surf gear and wetsuits as the water can be icy.
Want to gain an understanding of the way indigenous tribes lived off the land in such a diverse climate? Take a guided tour with Long Beach Nature Tours to delve further into the history of Tofino’s First Nations communities and the amazing landscape they live in.
If you’re craving some booze with your beach time, make sure you visit the Tofino Brewing Company to taste the difference. With a tasting room open 7 days a week you can try all of their usual suspects and a few select seasonal brews.
Unfortunately Tofino isn’t the easiest place to get to. If you get the ferry to Nanaimo, you can catch a bus via Tofino Buses which takes roughly 4 hours for around $45-50. With such a beautiful coastal line it won’t be a boring ride. Considering it took around 6 hours to get to, Tofino is better suited for a long weekend away.
One of BC’s loveliest areas, the Okanagan Valley is host to stunning scenery and BC’s wine region. This is the perfect weekend away for all the wine lovers out there.
A mere 4 hour bus ride via Greyhound, Kamloops is closer than you think, which means the wine is closer than you think. Can you tell I like wine? Enjoy wasting away the day on a winery tour, complete with personal driver and tastings. TasteFull excursions and DiVine Tours both explore the local vineyards with a range of tour options.
Wine aside, Kamloops is host to some great natural beauty. Make the most of it with bike riding, golf, hiking, horseback riding or whitewater rafting. Take advantage of Kamloops very own Mounted Patrol and create a quintessentially Canadian photo memory. With a country town vibe you’ll have the pleasure of enjoying events such as the annual Rib Fest, which is exactly what you think it is: a delicious rib cook off.
Ok, so it’s not BC or even Canada for that matter, but Seattle, USA is one of the most popular day trips to do from Vancouver and with so much to see, why wouldn’t you? Heading across the border is easy, with direct bus routes leaving Vancouver several times a day. Quick Shuttle and Bolt Bus are local favourites, with return trips being around $50. The trip takes around 3.5-4 hours depending on how busy the border crossing is. Early morning trips tend to have lighter traffic.
Once you arrive in Seattle you will be absolutely spoilt for choice. Make sure you check out the Space Needle for a breathtaking 360 degree view of the city or brave the crowds of the Iconic Pike Place Market. If you’re a Starbucks fan head to the original shop, but be warned, the line is long!
Music fans will enjoy countless happy moments at the EMP museum, with special permanent Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana exhibits. It’s endless fun for all ages, especially with its interactive sound lab and giant TV screen playing music videos.
Chow down on hot dogs and enjoy a Mariners game at Safeco field or visit one of the 200 independent breweries and taste Seattle’s best craft brews. Fellow coffee lovers, you’ve come to the motherland! Seattle is famous for amazing coffee so make sure you try as many as you can, just not before the bus ride home.