Sitting along the north shore of Burrard Inlet, North Vancouver is just what its name suggests; north of the city of Vancouver. In fact, it’s considered a suburb of the large metropolis, while still having its own city vibe. It’s an urbanised waterfront community that dates back to 1907, with parts of it now being filled with modern residential buildings.
North Vancouver has so much to offer and makes for a great holiday destination. Visit as a side trip of the larger city of Vancouver, or visit North Vancouver all on its own and enjoy its numerous year round outdoor activities. Mountains, canyons, parks and the quay are just a few of the things that the city has to offer. If you are planning a vacation here, these are the 15 best things to do in North Vancouver.
1. Explore the quay
The main transport hub of the city, Lonsdale Quay is also a fantastic place to explore, as it has so much going on at all times of the day. Watch ships coming and going, yachts sailing by and people floating around.
Walk along the quay and enjoy the views across Vancouver Harbour, where you can snap photos of the Vancouver skyline and Canada Place; an iconic boat-shaped convention centre. Stop and grab a bite at one of its many eateries or enjoy a beer at Green Leaf Brewing.
While here, don’t forget to stop in at the Lonsdale Quay Market to stimulate your senses. The market is not only a great place to pick up fresh fruit, but also for shopping for souvenirs from one of the many local venders that offer everything from clothing to artisan wine.
2. Walk along the waterfront
Or jog, cycle or inline skate. The 35 kilometre North Shore Spirit Trail stretches from Lions Gate Bridge Road in West Vancouver all the way to the very east end of North Vancouver, ending at Lynn Creek.
The trail is a well-signed pathway that’s separated from traffic, making it safe for people of all ages. It’s a stunning trial that has so many things to enjoy along the way, including beaches, parks and quant communities.
The North Shore Spirit Trail also passes by many city attractions, including Waterfront Park, Lonsdale Quay, and the Park and Tilford Gardens. There’s also many places to stop along the way for a rest, a meal and to enjoy the scenery.
3. Stop and smell the flowers
The Park & Tilford Gardens is the place to do this, which is a complex at the very east end of North Vancouver close to Lynn Creek. The complex was established in 1969 as a community project and consisted of eight areas.
Today, the garden has shrunk to half its original size, but is just as magnificent as ever. It still has eight themed gardens to wander around, including a herb garden, Oriental garden and rock pool.
Be sure to check out the Native garden and its totem exhibit, with carvings done by Cody Mathias; a member of the Squamish Nation. Also found in the gardens are busts of famous botanists Carl Linnaeus, Douglas and Menzies.
4. Go shopping….at night
Every summer between May and October is the Friday night Shipyards Night Market, which is arguably the best spot in all of North Vancouver to spend a Friday night. The market opens at 5pm and closes at 10pm.
This is by far the best place to eat, shop and be merry, as there are fabulous food trucks, local artisans and local bands set up each and every week. It all happens in the historic Shipyards District right along the harbour.
There are over 100 farmers, artisans and bakers from all over British Columbia that come to sell their homemade goods, which includes clothing, jewellery, soaps, preserves and chocolate. As well, there are over 40 food trucks that serve amazing food that’s made with love.
5. Stare at photographs
The Polygon Gallery does display more than just photographs, although this is what it’s most known for. In fact, it’s the largest non-profit photographic gallery in all of Western Canada!
The gallery has been operating since 1981, but in 2017 it moved to its new location along the waterfront between the Lonsdale Quay Market and Shipyards Night Market. The new gallery consists of over 2,300 square metres of exhibit space.
The Polygon Gallery has a collection of pieces from Vancouver photographers Stan Douglas and Fred Herzog, as well as from international names like Andy Warhol and Ansel Adams. It also often hosts exhibitions featuring some great photographers from all over the world, so be sure to check what’s on when you’re in town.
6. Cross a bridge
If you’re not acrophobic, then a walk across the Capilano Suspension Bridge is a must. The 140 metre long bridge crosses the Capilano River just west of the city in the District of North Vancouver.
The bridge sits 70 metres above the river and attracts over 800,000 visitors each year! It’s also so much more than just a suspension bridge, as there are many things waiting for you on the other side.
Treetops Adventures sits on the west side of the bridge, which boasts seven footbridges that are suspended 30 metres above the floor of a stunning Douglas fir tree forest. There are also nature trails, gardens and the largest private collection of First Nations totem poles in all of North America.
7. Enjoy a picnic
Or a swim, a hike or spectacular views. All of this and more can be enjoyed at Stanley Park; a massive 405 hectare park that’s surrounded by Vancouver Harbour and English Bay.
The park is was created purely by nature thanks to the evolution of a forest, with most manmade structures being built between 1911 and 1937. It has a lot of history, is home to loads of attractions and is a lot of fun.
There are picnic areas, beaches, forests, trails and lakes, as well as swimming pools, tennis courts and an 18-hole mini golf course. If that’s not enough, the park is also home to one of North America’s largest urban great blue heron colonies.
8. Go nose-to-nose with a sea lion
The Vancouver Aquarium is also home to dolphins, sea otter, penguins and beluga whales. In fact, the aquarium houses over 50,000 animals that live in 30 different native settings.
Steller’s Bay is where you will find the beluga whales, sea lions, fur seals and walruses, while the Wild Coast is home to a Pacific white-sided dolphin, harbour seals and British Columbian invertebrates. If its fish that you want to stare at, head to the Tropics to see clownfish, black tip reef sharks, pajamafish and an endangered Asian turtle.
The Vancouver Aquarium is more than just a place to look at marine life, it’s also a rescue centre. There are a number of animals living here that have been rescued, and, when possible, are sent back into the wild once healed.
9. Hit the slopes
The mountains are literally in your backyard in North Vancouver, which means skiing, snowboarding and anything else that you want to enjoy on the slopes is an easy endeavour. Grouse Mountain is the closest, which is part of the Pacific Ranges and boasts an elevation of 1,200 metres!
The mountain is an alpine ski area that’s home to 33 runs that are served by four chairlifts and one magic carpet. There are runs for all levels, ranging from beginner to expert.
Visit in the warmer months and go hiking along 2.9 kilometres of trails, one of which climbs to 853 metres. Grouse Mountain also features a wildlife refuge, a 100-seat mountaintop theatre, an aerial tramway, a zip line and a disc golf course.
10. Feed ducks and rabbits
If you’re travelling with the kids, a visit to Maplewood Farm is a must. The kids can not only see farm animals, but also feed them.
There are over 200 birds and animals that call the farm home, including donkeys, goats, rabbits, chickens, pigs, ducks and rabbits. Plus, feeding the ducks and rabbits it not only allowed, but encouraged, so be sure to bring some food along for them.
The farm has plenty of places to enjoy a picnic, some of which are completely covered. There’s also a playground, a petting area and tractors that can hired to go on a fun little ride.
11. Learn about North Vancouver’s fascinating history
The city has a rich history, all of which can be learned about at the North Vancouver Museum & Archives (NVMA). The museum is home to over 10,000 historic artefacts that are important locally and across the region.
There are historic pictures of the indigenous communities, as well as of the city’s industrial past. The museum also displays artwork, ship models, carvings, textiles and a model float plane.
The MVMA also stores thousands of private records, business document and archival documents that are not seen by the public. There are special exhibits that take place throughout the year, so be sure to check their website to see what’s on while you are visiting the city.
12. Visit a park
There are many in North Vancouver, varying from parks along the water to small neighbourhood parks. Visit a park along a creek complete with trails, a park in a plaza or a park in a cemetery.
If you want to go on a picnic, try Waterfront Park, Cloverley Park or Victoria Park, while Mahon Park, Heywood Park and Tempe Heights Park are great for the kids. If you want to relax on a beach, head to Kings Mill Walk Park.
Eastview Park at the northeast corner of the city boasts a disc golf course, while Ray Perrault Park features bocce courts, tennis courts and a sports field. No matter what facilities you’re looking for, North Vancouver has a park for you to visit.
13. Climb a rock
There’s nothing more satisfying for an adrenaline junkie than climbing the face of a rock. If you’re visiting North Vancouver, you’re lucky enough to be able to do this.
There are two great places that this can be done, both of which are in West Vancouver; just west of North Vancouver. You should, of course, never go rock climbing alone, and can easily find a guide if you are a lone climber.
Lighthouse Park offers around 12 routes on solid granite overlooking the ocean. Cypress Mountain has even more climbing routes that range from V0 – V10 on the Hueco System
14. Experience a city event
There are a few notable ones that should not be missed when visiting the city. Luckily, events happen year round, so no matter when you visit, there’s probably an event to experience.
Visit in December and enjoy one of many events that take place just in time for the festive season, like live music in Civic Plaza, holiday markets at the Shipyards and the Park & Tilford Holiday Hi-Light Festival. Come for a summer holiday and experience the amazing music at Summer Sessions, Hot Summer Nights and the weekend Fun City Festival.
If you love music, don’t miss Jazz in the Plaza. Nature lovers should visit in September for Rivers Day, where you can plant trees and learn about the nature in the area.
15. Look at art
You don’t have to go into a gallery to do this, as there is plenty of public art displayed throughout the city. It can be found in libraries, parks, along nature trails, in shopping malls and on public walkways, with each piece being one-of-a-kind.
Go on a self-guided tour and look at art throughout the city. There are four different self-guided public art tours that can be enjoyed in North Vancouver; Lower Lonsdale Public Art Walking Tour, Lonsdale Avenue Public Art Walk, Lynn Valley Public Art Experience and VNSTA Public Art Trail.
On these walking tours you will see things like stained glass windows, totem poles, stainless steel sculptures, murals and collages. If you’re with the kids, be sure to also include a visit to Fun Alley.