Looking to break out from the bustle of the city and hit the road for an adventure? In Vancouver, you’re spoilt for choice. Given that British Columbia is larger than France and Germany combined, you’ll find that the province offers up breathtaking landscapes that can be explored for a lifetime, but, fortunately, many amazing destinations are reachable within just a few hours radius of Vancouver and offer scenic driving routes along the way.
Join us at BeWild! Adventures as we list some nice drives and picturesque destinations that you can enjoy by car in the Vancouver area. And if you’re looking for a guided trip while in Vancouver, why not explore our option of Private Tours from Vancouver, where we’ll use our expertise to customize the perfect day trip to meet your travel needs!
We begin our list with Grouse Mountain, reachable within 30 minutes from downtown Vancouver. If you are pressed for time, or just crave a quick escape from the bustle of city life, Grouse Mountain is on Vancouver’s doorstep and it offers a range of delightful activities, along with beautiful scenery. A short, pleasant drive will take you to the base of this mountain that rises 1,250 metres above the city below, providing you with stunning views over Vancouver, the Pacific Ocean, and nearby islands.
Upon arrival, enjoy the Skyride, an aerial tramway that takes you to the Peak Chalet at the mountain’s top, where you can grab food and refreshments. If you are looking to explore the site’s natural landscape (and partake in some pretty strenuous exercise!) hike the Grouse Grind, a steep walking route that has been nicknamed, ‘mother nature’s StairMaster.
Undoubtedly one of British Columbia’s most iconic spots and a firm favourite for many visitors to western Canada, Garibaldi Lake is an alpine lake famous for its glowing, glacial waters. This destination is located on BC’s magnificent Sea-to-Sky Highway, one of the world’s greatest scenic driving routes.
The route to the beginning of Garibaldi Lake’s hiking trail will take you around 1 hour 20 minutes from the centre of Vancouver. The hike itself can take up to six hours but is definitely worth including as part of your travel itinerary – this is a landscape unlike anywhere else! And the drive out to Garibaldi Lake will take you through miles of stunning forest and mountain scenery.
For those with more time, you may want to base yourself in Whistler or Squamish for an overnight stay from where you can continue exploring the Sea-to-Sky route and its highlights. We explore Whistler on our Waterfalls & Whistler Winter Tour.
Located just 20 minutes from Vancouver, Burnaby Mountain is a handy option for those wishing to take a short, scenic drive to an excellent viewpoint. From the park, you can enjoy splendid views over downtown Vancouver, Burrard Inlet, and the North Shore Mountains.
Explore the many trails in the area and be sure not to miss the Playground of the Gods (Kamui Mintara in Japanese), a series of wooden totems carved by Japanese artist Nuburi Toko and inspired by animistic traditions of Hokkaido’s Ainu people — many initially assume the sculptures are of First Nations design given the striking features shared across the cultural traditions.
This charming mountain village never fails to win the hearts of visitors. Located a couple of hours from Vancouver on the Sea-to-Sky Highway, you will be able to savour superb landscapes the entire length of this trip.
Upon reaching the town of Pemberton, you’ll immediately fall under the spell of this enchanting town where life moves at a very different rhythm to that in the city. The local farmland and looming presence of nearby Mount Currie will provide plenty of Instagrammable moments and there is an array of hiking routes for stretching your legs and getting out into nature.
Pemberton is a perfect choice of destination for those wishing to take in the Sea-to-Sky Highway.
A mere 30 minutes in the car will bring you to Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver. Facing the waters of the Burrard Inlet, Lighthouse Park holds the status of a National Historic Site of Canada. The walking routes inside the park are suitable for those of all levels.
Journey to the southernmost tip of the peninsula to enjoy views of the famous Point Atkinson Lighthouse. A wooden lighthouse was erected at the site in 1875, though the present-day concrete building has been serving sailors since 1914.
Drive to Lighthouse Park to relax among the temperate rainforests and savour in some magnificent stretches of the coastal landscape.
Our final recommended drive from Vancouver takes you from the mainland onto the small Howe Sound island of Bowen. Often voted as one of British Columbia’s most beautiful destinations, you can reach Bowen Island by taking a 20-minute ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Snug Cove. It is simple enough to make the trip without a car, but having your own vehicle will give you more freedom for exploring the best the island has to offer.
Enjoy the coastal mountains of the island and the dramatic shift in the pace of life, which you’ll notice as soon as you leave the ferry. Climb Mount Gardner for the best views on the island, while away some time on Pebbly Beach, or simply enjoy local hospitality as you watch the world go by from one of the island’s fine cafes or restaurants.
This brings us to the end of some of our favourite drives out of Vancouver. We hope we’ve given you a few ideas for your next visit to British Columbia. If you have any questions or comments about this blog or our tours, please get in touch.