Top Vancouver Side Trips for Alaska Cruisers

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Cruising to Alaska this season? Lucky you. If you’re departing or stopping in Vancouver, don’t miss the chance to see some of British Columbia. Here are the top things to do and see for both a short side excursion and longer stay.

In and around Vancouver

Enjoying an al fresco meal outside Granville Island Public Market.

Enjoying an al fresco meal outside Granville Island Public Market. Photo: Tourism Vancouver/Clayton Perry.

The City – Delve into all things urban in Vancouver, a glamorous West Coast city flanked by mountains and ocean. Spend the day nibbling and shopping at Granville Island Public Market—everything artisanal in a colourful indoor-outdoor marketplace set in a reinvented cement factory. Taste small-batch sake, fresh-caught seafood, BC fungi and cheeses, and sausages made by a master. You’ll find artist ateliers and craft studios, eclectic boutiques, galleries, theatres, cafés, restaurants, and live entertainment. Join a behind-the-scenes guided culinary market tour with Edible Canada. Or book a city food exploration or on-foot tasting session with Vancouver Foodie Tours.

Take a Harbour Air flight-seeing tour jetting off the water from stylish Coal Harbour (be sure to get a waterside drink or dinner après-excursion), rent kayaks for a paddle tour, or try a boat cruise. If R&R is what you’re craving, head to Spanish Banks beach, picking up a gourmet picnic en route at Urban Fare. Northwest Coast First Nations culture and history is central to the area and nowhere else on such spectacular display as at the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology at Point Grey. Among the treasures are 40-foot-high totem poles, axe-hewn cedar canoes, and half a million global ethnographic objects and artifacts, plus celebrated works from internationally renowned artists such as Bill Reid.

Whistler – A little over an hour’s drive north from Vancouver past the steep fjords of Howe Sound, Whistler Blackcomb is a premier North American ski resort. It’s also ideal during Alaska cruising season (May to September) for epic mountain bikinghikingziplining, and a paddle or summertime swim at Lost Lake, plus shopping and socializing in pedestrian-only Whistler Village. Cycle or walk the easygoing 25-mile paved Valley Trail. For spectacular glacier views and wildflowers, take the PEAK 2 PEAK gondola to the summit to hike one of the 31 miles of full- and half-day treks, especially the popular High Note Trail.

The British Columbia Legislature in Victoria.

The British Columbia Legislature in Victoria. Photo: Deddeda Stemler.

Victoria – Just a short ferry ride or float plane hop from Vancouver, flower-filled Victoria is sunny and cycling-friendly, known for its charming architecture and stately capital city Parliament buildings. Favorites are strolling the 55-acre Butchart Gardens where 300,000 bulbs bloom each spring, sipping afternoon tea at the venerable Fairmont Empress, enjoying anything from a Bento box to tamales while shopping farmers’ stalls at outdoor Moss Street Market, and craft beer tasting at the source—a huge locavore-driven microbrew scene, including Canada’s first brewpub. Chances are good to sight whales on a guided outing since three resident orca pods reside here year-round.

Victoria's Canoe Brewpub, Marina and Restaurant 4.

Victoria’s Canoe Brewpub. Photo: Tourism Victoria.

Make it a BC Vacation

Exploring the Rockies on the Rocky Mountaineer.

Exploring the Rockies on the Rocky Mountaineer. Photo: Rocky Mountaineer.

If you’ve got the time, a leisurely Rockies rail journey or road trip is one for the life list. Stop en route in BC’s Okanagan Valley for golfcycling, and wine tasting. Though they produce internationally acclaimed vintages, many wineries are small-yield, so you can only sip ‘n swirl in person. Ride the Rocky Mountaineer in cushy seats with white linen service from Vancouver to Lake Louise/Banff or Jasper, Alberta. Whichever historic route you choose, you’ll find the scenery of glaciers, waterfalls, and wildlife superlative.

Featured image: Aerial view of downtown highrises, Canada Place, Vancouver Convention Centre, Coal Harbour and Stanley Park.