British Columbia’s coastal cities, linked by a scenic floatplane or ride in a ferry, come to life in the summer. Art and food festivals take over the streets, and there are water adventures galore, even a pub crawl by boat. Here’s how to make the most of your time outdoors.
Cobblestoned streets and Victorian architecture give the capital of British Columbia a genteel look befitting western Canada’s second-oldest city. That same heritage has made afternoon tea, shopping for antiques on Fort Street and a stroll through Butchart Gardens,which hosts concerts and Saturday-night fireworks, traditional pursuits for a summer’s day.
But lately a craft-beer craze has begun livening Victoria up. You can take in the scene with the Pickle Pub Crawl, a ferry service that lets you hop on and off at four venues, including the Canoe Brewpub and the Bard and the Banker. It departs from Victoria’s Inner Harbour, where you’ll also find Red Fish Blue Fish, an outdoor upcycled cargo container dishing out sustainable seafood, like wild salmon and fish-and-chips made with B.C. halibut. In August, Victoria Symphony Splash brings classical music to a stage moored in the harbor.
For a glimpse of how some of the locals live, head to Cook Street Village, a neighborhood of tree-lined streets, cheerful-hued historic homes and spots for a tasty brunch. Even here the water beckons: Dallas Road leads to Clover Point Park, a secluded beach where you can picnic among kite fliers, windsurfers and gorgeous views of Mount Baker and the Pacific.
Surrounded by mountains, forests and beaches, Vancouver wows with its natural good looks whatever the season. Still, summer is an enticing time to visit thanks to relatively mild days and a bevy of outdoor events. Theater lovers can head to the waterfront, where the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare festival sets up a tented theater in the warmer months. Venture away from the bay and you’re bound to run into the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, which puts on alfresco shows across the city.
Looking to grab a bite between shows? The Food Cart Fest, launched in 2014, is back with 20-plus street-food vendors, live music, table tennis and kids’ activities. Make a beeline for Tacofino, Vij’s Railway Express and Le Tigre, all run by former Top Chef Canada contestants. More inventive dining awaits at the Settlement Building, a converted warehouse in the emerging Railtown neighborhood. The industrial-chic space is home to the Belgard Kitchen, the Vancouver Urban Winery and Postmark Brewing—and those last two are just the tip of Vancouver’s artisanal-brewery-and-distillery scene. Notably, Dogwood Brewing is the city’s first organic option, while spirits are made by hand from 100 percent B.C. grain at the Liberty Distillery, on Granville Island.
Be sure to check out the rest of the island after indulging in the Liberty’s signature cocktails. Granville is famous for its public market, and you can also pick up artsy souvenirs at the just-opened Delish General Store. Then end your trip below or above the water with Sea Dragon Charters’ snorkeling excursion at the Pam Rocks seal colony or Ecomarine’s stand-up-paddleboard tour along the shore of Stanley Park at sunset.
Bard on the Beach203–456 W. Broadway, Vancouver;604-739-0559; bardonthebeach.org; tickets, from $21*
Butchart Gardens800 Benvenuto Ave., Brentwood Bay;250-652-5256; butchartgardens.com; admission, from $26
Delish General Store1535 Johnston St. #108, Granville Island, Vancouver; delishgeneralstore.bigcartel.com
Dogwood Brewing8284 Sherbrooke St., Vancouver; 604-325-3693; dogwoodbrew.com; tastings, $5
Ecomarine1668 Duranleau St., Vancouver; 604-689-7575; ecomarine.com; stand-up-paddleboard tours,from $40 a person
Food Cart Fest251 W. First Ave., Vancouver; foodcartfest.com; Sundays, June 28–Sept. 6
Liberty Distillery1494 Old Bridge Rd., Granville Island, Vancouver; 604-558-1998; thelibertydistillery.com; tours, $8 a person
Pickle Pub CrawlVictoria Harbour Ferry, 189 Dallas Rd., Victoria; 250-708-0201; victoriaharbourferry.com; wristbands, from $12
Red Fish Blue Fish1006 Wharf St., Victoria; 250-298-6877; redfish-bluefish.com; dinner for two, from $24
Sea Dragon ChartersHowe Sound, W. Vancouver; 604-329-3486; seadragoncharters.com; two dives, $88
Settlement Building55 Dunlevy Ave., Vancouver; 604-566-9463
Vancouver International Jazz FestivalCoastal Jazz & Blues Society, 295 W. Seventh Ave., Vancouver; 604-872-5200; coastaljazz.ca; June 18–July 1; prices vary
Victoria Symphony SplashInner Harbour, Victoria; victoriasymphony.ca; admission, $5 donation a person recommended; concert is Aug. 2
- *Prices have been converted to U.S. dollars. Estimated meal prices do not include drinks, tax or tip.
- NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
- Published: June 2015