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Splash into Summer: Making the Most of Vancouver’s Ocean Playground

In this seaside city, there’s more than one way to hit the water

By CHLOË LAI

Ecomarine Paddlesport Centres’ kayaks provide the perfect vantage point for stunning souvenir snaps (Photo by KK Law)

Power Up Your Paddle

Truth is, the best seat in the house isn’t in the house at all: it’s out on the water. Set out on a kayak or stand-up paddleboard from Ecomarine Paddlesport Centres and glide through False Creek to soak up prime views of the city. Say hello to herons and seals as you navigate between the daydream-inspiring yachts and sailboats—as well as the occasional pirate ship—that cruise around Granville Island. For more peaceful paddling, join one of Ecomarine’s sunset tours, or head up to Deep Cove Kayak Centre to explore the tree-lined Indian Arm fjord.

When it comes to spectacular showmanship, the humpback whale is a natural (Photo by Valerie Shore/Eagle Wing Tours)

Meet the Whales

Whether your generation is more Free Willy or Finding Nemo, a cetacean sighting is bound to be on your bucket list. Take the wildlife-spotting route from Vancouver to Victoria on one of Prince of Whales’ luxurious catamaran-style vessels, or cast off from the historic fishing village of Steveston with Vancouver Whale Watch, which offers shuttle service from downtown. Tours with Wild Whales Vancouver depart from iconic Granville Island, for close encounters with orcas, humpbacks, bald eagles and more. Now if only you knew how to speak whale…

Electric Harbour Tours’ eco-friendly boats are also exceptionally quiet, perfect for spotting wildlife in the water around Stanley Park

Sea It All

Why is there a human-shaped rock sculpture at English Bay? What does Guinness beer have to do with the Lions Gate Bridge? Sightseeing is best when you know exactly what you’re looking at. Get up to speed on local history as you zoom across Burrard Inlet on a fully narrated open-air zodiac tour with Sea Vancouver, or step aboard one of Electric Harbour Tours’ zero-emission boats in Coal Harbour—story-slinging sea captain included. Need a bigger boat? Harbour Cruises’ vintage paddlewheeler, the Constitution, makes waves with its nostalgic vibes and fully licensed bar.

Swimmers, splashers and water-lovers of all ages enjoy Kitsilano Pool, Vancouver’s only saltwater swimming pool (Photo ©Majaphoto/istockphoto.com)

Dive Right In

The Pacific Ocean is pretty fantastic on the surface, but there’s even more beauty deep down: British Columbia is one of North America’s top scuba diving destinations. Sea Dragon Charters departs from Horseshoe Bay for diving and snorkelling expeditions in the wild waters of Howe Sound, home to wolf eels, Pacific octopus and the diver-friendly wreckage of a Canadian Navy destroyer. Experienced divers can rent gear from Rowand’s Reef and choose their own underwater adventure. If the open sea isn’t your cup of tea, get your feet wet in the ocean-adjacent Second Beach Pool or Kitsilano Pool.

BC Ferries’ two-hour sailings from Horseshoe Bay to Vancouver Island have beautiful West Coast views (Photo by KK Law)

Escape the City

For many, a getaway-within-a-getaway is just what the doctor ordered. With Harbour Air, the ocean is your runway: the world’s largest all-seaplane airline takes off and lands in a satisfying spray of seawater, with exceptional aerial views of Vancouver along the way. Don your captain’s hat and explore Howe Sound’s lush islands and hidden coves with a sleek speedboat rented from Sewell’s Marina, which also offers salmon-fishing charters. Or sprawl out on the sundeck and let BC Ferries take you across the Salish Sea to Victoria, Nanaimo or one of the picturesque Gulf Islands.

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