Our Vancouver Itinerary
2 Days in Vancouver: Itinerary
Day 1: Downtown Vancouver
Day 2: North Vancouver
Day 1: Downtown Vancouver
After 17 nights at sea on our trans-Pacific cruise, we finally arrived for 2 days in Vancouver. The sun was shining again and we had some fantastic views as we sailed into Canada Place under the Lionsgate bridge. After a last breakfast in the Lido buffet, we headed down to our cabin to await instructions. We did what they call self-disembarkation which basically means that you carry your own luggage. So were among the first off the ship at 7.30 am. We were stopped by customs for a brief chat but no problems and then we’re on our way to the hotel within a few minutes.
Because we needed more clothes for the cruise we had a bag flown out to Japan. So now we’ve got an extra bag to carry, post-cruise, and Vancouver turned out to be hillier than we thought. So it was a bit of a hike up Burrard St to the hotel but we got there. Far too early for check-in, of course, so we left our luggage and headed off for Stanley Park.
We spent most of the morning exploring the park. Indeed, it is huge, a mixture of lakes, ponds, forest and parkland. We really enjoyed the walk around the sea wall past the beaches and of course, we saw the Lionsgate bridge again.
From above this time which is a completely different perspective. We even sat on the sand for a short break. Although I loved the cruise, I have to say it was great to be back on dry land and continuing with our around the world adventure in Canada.
So much walking after a rather inactive cruise wore us out so we caught a bus then an aqua bus to Granville Island.
The main feature on Granville is the large market. We spent some time looking around the market and found some food for lunch. Apart from lunch, we didn’t find a great deal of interest it is mainly eating and shopping but we did find a micro-brewery so sampled the local beers before heading back across the river to Downtown. Where we saw the Steam Clock in Gastown.
Then we walked past the Volendam which was still docked at Canada Place. As well as the cruise terminal there’s plenty of shopping and eating around here also Afterwards, we went back to the hotel for a rest before dinner.
Day 2: North Vancouver
The next morning we set off reasonably early for Grouse Mountain after a quick stop for breakfast. In Vancouver, you can get a day pass which covers you for all transportation including the sea bus across to the North Island so we headed down to the Waterfront Station to make the crossing.
The Sea bus is really cool. Surprisingly, passenger loading/unloading is just like using the subway. You wait behind the doors and then the ferry comes in and unloads on one side. Then the barriers open and everyone walks in. Very quick and efficient and within a few minutes we were sailing across the bay. The sea bus arrives on the north side at Lonsdale Quay and from there we got bus 236 to Grouse Mountain. The buses seem to be coordinated with the sea bus as they were all waiting and took off within a few minutes. It’s really very easy and a cheap and efficient way to get to attractions in North Vancouver.
The trip up to the mountain takes about 25 minutes. We passed the Capilano Park on the way so this is the same bus if you want to go there. We intended to visit Capilano on the way back but in the end, we spent so much time on Grouse Mountain that we didn’t have time. Never mind, it is, of course, a good excuse to come back to Vancouver on another trip. Not that we need much of an excuse as we really love it here.
The bus dropped us right by the cable car station for the mountain. As it was the end of the winter season and not quite the beginning of the summer season they were doing maintenance on the large cable car so only the smaller blue one was running. Fortunately, it is still quite big though and plenty of people were squeezed in. The trip up is slower on the blue but that gives you more time to look across the fantastic views of Vancouver on the way up.
At the top, there is so much to do and see. There was a lot of snow and it was still very deep off the path. It was even quite deep on some of the paths. The sun was blazing down so it was really warm even at the top of the mountain so it was strange walking around in the snow especially for those of us without winter shoes on. Fortunately, my sketcher trainers dry out quite quickly.
We started by walking down to the bear habitat to see Grouse’s 2 grizzly bears, Grinder and Cooler. These two bears were rescued as orphaned cubs. They had just come out of winter hibernation and were busy stretching and rolling around in their exercise area. They are building a 5 acre home for them, near where they are at the moment, and this will be ready for the summer season. It’s actually a while since we were there so I guess this is up and running by now. It will be great for the bears but much harder to find them and get a close-up view. We were within a few feet of them watching them moving around which was fabulous. However, they have huge claws on their front feet so that was definitely close enough.
Eye of the Wind
We booked a tour of the Eye of the Wind which is the wind turbine on top of the mountain. So we headed back to the lodge to meet our guide. Who should be meet on the way back but Jason and Matthew from our cruise table, small world!
Getting to the Top
As there was still thick snow at the peak of the mountain the chair lift was not in operation so the only way to go to the top was via the tour. In summer you can buy a ticket to go on up to the peak on your own. Our guide took us to the chair lift – there were 12 of us in the group – and we went up in groups of 4. The chair lift is the one used by the skiers in the winter where you just sit on and go with your skis on – although they stopped it for us – it just has a little bar that pulls down and I’m sure you could easily fall out – although nobody did!
The trip up the mountain in the chair lift gave us some great views of the bears since we went almost over their habitat area. Unfortunately, the bright sun off the snow made it difficult to look at much else for those of us without sunglasses. At the top of the lift, we walked down through pretty thick snow and ice to the wind turbine. At this point, I was quite relieved to discover that there is an elevator in the middle of it so no climbing loads of stairs to get to the top!
Inside the Wind Turbine
The elevator took us up to the viewing platform in a few seconds. This is a glass pod like the ones on the London Eye (and designed by the same company apparently) so you get a 360-degree view across the mountain. We could see Mount Baker in Washington state as well as Vancouver Island and the Glacier Mountains. It really was a spectacular view across the entire area.
The blades of the wind turbine were turning in front of us. They are enormous up close although they were only turning slowly while we were there as there wasn’t much wind but they can go up to 90kph. The pod itself rotates when the wind direction changes so we would move with the blades to get maximum wind. In fact, you can feel it moving although it is very slow and it changed direction twice while we were on it. This was definitely one of the most amazing things we’ve done on the trip. We were allowed to stay as long as we wanted to, within reason, and we were the last ones down from the top.
Afterwards, we all went down the chair lift to the lodge level. The views on the way down were much better as we were facing away from the mountain this time and the snow glare wasn’t so bad. You could hear the water running down the mountain where the snow was melting. Around the lodge, they were busy clearing it manually to make more of the paths accessible.
Next, we went to see a film at the Theatre in the Sky. This gives you an eagle’s eye view of Vancouver, which was very good and a short film on the history of the mountain. After a quick trip to the souvenir shop, we headed back down to the base of the mountain.
Unfortunately, we’d left it too late to visit Capilano as it closes at 5 pm in the winter so we caught the bus back to Lonsdale Quay and went to look round the market instead. We found a little craft brewery which did sampling flights so we spent some time there and then caught the sea bus back to Downtown Vancouver.
An interesting little incident occurred on the sea bus as we travelled back. We commented earlier on the fact that there never seemed to be anyone checking tickets but today, 2 transport policemen got on. The woman next to us didn’t have a ticket so got a fine, no idea how much but interestingly the policeman was English moved to the Canada police some years ago.
Back in Vancouver, we went to Steamworks to sample the beer there also. They had 10 different beers so we had a flight of 5 each to cover them all. Finally, we both picked the oatmeal stout as our favourite. The brownie sundae was also pretty good.