Vancouver is an accessible city—nature is within easy reach for people of all mobility levels, and many attractions and natural spaces accommodate wheelchairs, as does the city’s transportation system.
Whistler, a 90-minute drive up the Sea-to-Sky Highway, also allows access to nature, regardless of your physical limitations. The mountain town, and Host Mountain Resort for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, also boasts a renowned adaptive sports program.
Please Note: The following information is based on research and conversations with businesses at the time of writing. For current information—and to ensure that your particular needs can be met—we strongly recommend that you contact each business directly.
If you arrive in Vancouver by air, Vancouver International Airport (YVR) has many features to support accessible travel, ranging from universally accessible washrooms to food and service counters that welcome people using wheeled-mobility devices. From YVR, make your way to your hotel by bus, SkyTrain, or taxi. Vancouver’s bus and SkyTrain systems are wheelchair accessible, and Black Top and Checker Cabs offer wheelchair ramps on request.
A number of private charter companies, including KJ Limousine Services, Vanwest Charters, and Wilson’s Transportation provide a variety of accessible vehicles, from vans to minibuses to highway coaches. Also, Quick Coach, which offers a shuttle service between Vancouver, Seattle, and Sea Tac Airport, may be able to provide an accessible vehicle for this service if you request it at least a week in advance.
Travelling from Vancouver to Whistler, Kamloops, and even Jasper, Rocky Mountaineer provides luxurious train travel experiences with incredible views of the valleys, canyons, mountains, and rainforest by day, and a comfortable sleep in a hotel by night. Arrangements can be made at the time of reservation for wheelchair users. For details visit Rocky Mountaineer’s accessible travel information page.
For more accessible accommodation options, visit Tourism Vancouver’s website and use the Amenities drop-down list, or search using appropriate keywords.
A great way to get your bearings—and get a flavour for the city—is to start with a guided sightseeing tour. Westcoast Sightseeing has an accessible bus, available upon request. (Note: The company’s Hop-On, Hop-Off tour is not equipped for wheelchairs that require ramp access.) Forbidden Vancouver offers insight into the city’s hidden histories; tours are fully accessible and guides are trained to describe the tour highlights to those with limited vision.
If your preference is to explore independently, you’ll find that most of downtown Vancouver’s sidewalks and attractions are wheelchair accessible. Grab a bite in one of the city’s historic neighbourhoods like Chinatown or Gastown, soak up some culture at the Vancouver Art Gallery, and get a bird’s-eye view at the Vancouver Lookout or Grouse Mountain. Additionally, accompanying aides receive complimentary admission at Science World.
Get some fresh air along the 10-km (6-mi) paved seawall path that encircles Stanley Park. While you’re in the park, don’t miss the totem poles and the Vancouver Aquarium, two of the city’s most popular—and accessible—destinations.
Want to travel by boat? The Aquabus passenger ferries that run across False Creek are a great, inexpensive way to get out on the water, and more than half of their fleet is wheelchair accessible. Places to get on and off include Olympic Village, home to popular eating and drinking spots and a pretty waterfront walkway; Yaletown, a former warehouse district where you now find trendy eateries and cocktail lounges, as well as excellent boutique shopping; and Granville Island, a favourite among locals and visitors alike for its galleries, live theatre venues, and lively public market.
To enjoy time in the rainforest, join the BC Mobility Opportunities Society to visit Pacific Spirit Regional Park, adjacent to the University of British Columbia (UBC) campus; you can take transit there. In summer, the society offers guided hikes in the 760 ha (1,885-ac) of woodlands using all-terrain TrailRider wheelchairs. Wheelchair rental is available year round.
UBC is also where you’ll find the Museum of Anthropology, home to an outstanding collection of art from around the world, with a strong emphasis on the Indigenous Peoples of British Columbia.
For a change in scenery, drive or take a taxi 30 minutes south of downtown Vancouver and visit historic Steveston Village in Richmond. Indulge in fresh-off-the-boat seafood (which you can buy directly on the dock), including fish and chips cooked to perfection, and explore two national historic sites: Gulf of Georgia Cannery and Britannia Shipyards.
If you have a vehicle at your disposal, head to the National Historic Site at Fort Langley. Set along the Fraser River, the fort’s rough-hewn timber buildings recreate life as it was in the 1800s. Here, pathways are hard-packed surfaces with a maximum slope of five per cent.
There are a few options for cruising along the Sea-to-Sky Highway. The YVR Skylynx service will transport a wheelchair in the luggage bay free of charge and the front row seat will be reserved (the wheelchair user must be able to board the bus with assistance from the driver). The Whistler Shuttle service is also able to transport wheelchairs in luggage storage; be sure to indicate in advance on the special instructions page, or let the reservation agent know when making the booking. In the greater Vancouver area, there are accessible rental vehicle options like Alliance Mobility and Delta Wheelchair Vans. If you prefer an elevated experience, consider booking a flight on Sea to Sky Air‘s accessible fleet.
When you reach Whistler, you’ll discover that the four-season resort town offers all manner of outdoor pursuits, coupled with a wide range of indoor activities. See the Access Whistler map for accessible pathways and facilities in the Village.
Need sustenance but don’t know where to start? Discover some local faves with Whistler Tasting Tours. Let them know your dietary and mobility needs, and they can customize your Whistler Village dining experience. And when you stop for a pre- and/or post-tour bite, you’ll find that most eateries in the Village are wheelchair accessible.
If you prefer to be indoors, learn about local Indigenous culture at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre, where you can join a guided tour of the collection and try your hand at a traditional craft. Nearby, pop into the Audain Art Museum to immerse yourself in art from coastal British Columbia.
If you want to get the lay of the land, hop on the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola. Connecting Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, this eye-popping lift showcases unbeatable views of mountain peaks, glaciers, lush rainforest, and, of course, Whistler Village and the surrounding valley.
Whistler Adaptive offers year-round, learn-to-play programs for those eager to spend time in nature. Whether you want to hike or bike, paddle or row, ski or snowboard, contact them directly to learn more about how they can meet your individual needs.
Transfer back to Vancouver or Vancouver International Airport. If time allows, stop in for some last-minute shopping at McArthurGlen Designer Outlet Vancouver. The Canada Line Templeton Station is located across the street from the outlet; trips between Templeton Station and Vancouver Airport are free of charge.
Please Note: The information above is based on research and conversations with businesses at the time of writing. For current information—and to ensure that your particular needs can be met—we strongly recommend that you contact each business directly.
Header image: Vancouver Skyline | Jordan Manley
Last updated: Dec 22, 2020
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