Vancouver’s North Shore is located just across Burrard Inlet from the city of Vancouver, British Columbia, making it a convenient base to explore all the area has to offer. Lodging is more reasonably priced on the North Shore, and with access to Vancouver’s public transportation, it is easy to get to wherever you want to go. The Holiday Inn North Vancouver looks like a chateau and is easily accessed from Highway 1 and is family friendly. For this trip, plan a day in Vancouver, a day on the Northshore and a day exploring the Sea to Sky Highway.
The North Shore
Coastal mountains practically push the town into Burrard Inlet. It is such a contrast to the large city across the inlet and the North Shore with all the outdoor activities and scenery nestled right next to the suburb. Begin your day at the Lonsdale Quay Market. Located right on the water, the market is a mix of shops, an international food court and a farmers market. Every food choice we tried at the food court was excellent and freshly prepared. Make sure to explore the area as well with the shops, breweries and the new Polygon Gallery. The waterfront is interesting, especially with all the shipping activity for the busy port.
In the afternoon, head to the must-see attraction on the North Shore—the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. January is a great time to visit because Canyon Lights is still going on through January 27, 2019, and you won’t have all the crowds. With the early winter sunsets, you can do a day and nighttime visit. Explore and hike the park then plan an early dinner at the new Cliffhouse Restaurant and Bar for a West-Coast inspired menu. Afterward, head back out to the park, which now looks totally different with Canyon Lights. View the tallest Christmas Trees in the world and enjoy the hundreds of thousands of lights, which are just beautiful.
If you still have any energy left or you can make the time to visit the first night you arrive, head up to Grouse Mountain. Take the gondola up to the top for a winter wonderland. For your first stop, look for a glowing light tunnel. The Light Walk is open throughout the winter and loops around Blue Grouse Lake. You will need snowshoes or snow cleats, which you can rent at the Outpost. Enjoy the outdoor skating rink or some snowshoe fondue, which you can set up with your family of friends. It includes snowshoe rental, headlamps and an experienced guide. After your adventure enjoy cheese, broth and chocolate fondue at the Altitude Bistro.
From the Lonsdale Quay you can catch the Seabus to Vancouver. This is a fun low-cost harbor cruise. When you arrive on the Vancouver side, it is just a short walk to Canada Place. This is an iconic Vancouver landmark. Head to the west promenade where you will find the Canada Trail, stroll down the trail and learn about Canada’s 10 provinces and three territories. At the end you will reach North Point, where there are incredible views of the North Shore mountains, the Port of Vancouver, Stanley Park and the Burrard Inlet. Next visit the Port Discovery Centre and learn about Canada’s busiest port and all that entails. The FlyOver Canada Experience is a simulated flight that has you suspended in the air with your feet dangling as you fly over Canada from east to west. Special effects like wind, mist and scents make you really feel like you are flying.
Located across the street is the Vancouver Visitors’ Center. Stop in for maps and to get information on the city. There are world-class museums, a vibrant Chinatown, parks and much more. The seabus terminal is located with connections to a variety of public transit where you can reach just about anywhere you want to go in the city. My must-see stop is Stanley Park. Depending on the weather you can bike or hike around the scenic park, which is a point surrounded by water on all sides. Plan to visit the Vancouver Aquarium located in the park. The indoor portion of the aquarium has a variety of exhibits and tanks. The Graham Amazon gallery is a unique experience in the winter. You step through the door, the temperature and humidity soar, and you feel like you are walking through a rainforest. Add in an anaconda and other scary creepy crawlies, and the effect is complete. Rain or shine, you can visit the outdoor section of the aquarium and see penguins, seals, sea lions, walruses and otters. Check the schedule for various feedings and shows which highlight the animals. The sea lions are especially engaging and love to “talk” to the visitors.
Sea to Sky Highway
Begin your day with a trip to Dundarave, a cute West Vancouver neighborhood. The Bakehouse opens early and has fresh baked pastries and yummy scones. You can order everything off the menu, so our group had scones, a tuna melt on fresh French bread and a grilled cheese with tomato. Great coffee, and everything was so good! After breakfast, begin your drive on the Sea to Sky Highway. I think this is one of the most scenic drives in North America—just stunning views even on a rainy day.
Your first stop is Britannia Beach to tour the Britannia Mine Museum. This is an outstanding tour! Our guide, Paula, was knowledgeable and fun. After watching a short movie about the history of the mine, you take a tour of the mine riding a train into the mine and learning how the copper was mined. It was very interesting to learn about the conditions miners experienced. The tour also includes a tour of the large mine building where the copper and other minerals were extracted from the ore. Allow yourself plenty of time to explore the sight once your tour is done. There is so much to see! The gold mining was fun because they really go all out with the equipment and warmer water, which is nice in the winter. They also seed the dirt so you really do have the opportunity to find gold or other gemstones. I have to admit, it was pretty exciting to see a flake of gold appear in your pan.
Continue a couple of more miles down the road to the Sea and Sky Gondola. This park offers a ride to the top with breathtaking views of Howe Sound on your way up on the 10-minute gondola ride. Once at the top, enjoy the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge—which is not for the feint of heart. There are multiple viewing platforms; some as close as the lodge and others reached by hiking trails. You can do some winter hiking or snowshoeing. Kids will love the tube park.
When finished, you can head into Squamish, which has a variety of shops and restaurants. Before you head back to your hotel, make sure to drive a few minutes out of town to the Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park and Eagle Viewing Shelter to view North America’s largest collection of wintering Bald Eagles. From the Eagle Run Dike, you can easily view the Bald Eagles with your bare eyes. They stand out against the bare winter trees. Well worth a quick stop. There are plenty of interpretive panels to learn more about the eagles, and on weekends, volunteers are available to answers questions.
January is a great month to visit Vancouver’s North Shore and the surrounding area. Off-season allows for a slower pace and less crowds. Insider tips: Many area attractions offer a family rate for two adults and two children. Also note, Tourism Vancouver’s Dine Out Vancouver Festival takes place January 18 through February 3, 2019. A variety of dining experiences are available at all price points and are located in both Vancouver and the North Shore.
Things to Know:
Vancouver’s Public Transit
Holiday Inn and Suites North Vancouver
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
Lonsdale Quay Market
Grouse Mountain Resort
Britannia Mine Museum
Sea to Sky Gondola