The sun may be hot, but the water is cool—and you don’t have to leave town to soak up Vancouver’s marine scene. Beat the heat with urban water adventures for both families and thrill seekers
By Kristina Urquhart
+ Fun for kids of all ages
++ You don’t have to be a champion swimmer to try one of these intermediate activities
+++ Have a need for speed? These exciting water sports will get your adrenaline pumping
Paddle Boarding ++
Water babies should try this sport, which is gaining in popularity. You use a long paddle to row a surf-like board—while standing on it. Sound tricky? Once you get a feel for it, this is a relaxing way to navigate the waters. Find rentals at Ecomarine Ocean Kayak Centre on Granville Island.
Sea kayaking is possible even from downtown Vancouver. Leave from Creekside Kayaks or Ecomarine Ocean Kayak Centre, both on False Creek, and glide your way through English Bay. Both companies offer rentals, guided tours and lessons so you can learn the difference between paddle and portage, and what to do if you accidentally dunk into the H2O.
Take a dip in the deep blue at any of the sandy beaches that flank protected English Bay. The swells are small and perfect for sloshing in the surf or playing an impromptu game of Marco Polo. Lay down your towel on Second and Third beaches in Stanley Park or at English Bay Beach. Across the basin on the city’s west side is Kitsilano Beach and neighbouring Kits Pool, both popular places to make a splash while admiring the mountain views.
Aye, aye, coxswain. If you’ve always wanted to be the captain of your own ship, speed boats are available at Granville Island Boat Rentals. Whether you want to meander your way through the waves or reach daredevil speeds to make your own whitecaps, a boat is the best way to explore the city’s waterways.
Eager to ply the waters in your very own Bluenose? Take a basic sailing course over a weekend with Simply Sailing, and learn the ropes in a working boat under the guidance of experienced skippers before it’s anchors aweigh into the open waters of English Bay. Ahoy, mate!
Cast off with a guided fishing charter such as Aquatic Venture, which departs from Granville Island for sport fishing and crab feasts in English Bay and beyond. With the cityscape as your backdrop, wait for a big salmon to take the bait. It couldn’t get any more picture-perfect.
Exercise your throttle thumb and make waves on a jet-ski. Zip out of False Creek and into English Bay for some quick turns and figure eights. Rent one from Vancouver Water Adventures, and leave their leisurely water bikes to those who like to play it safe.
Whale Watching +
Orcas are sometimes called killer whales, a misnomer for these cute sea creatures which can be found breaching, spyhopping and lobtailing in the Strait of Georgia from May to September. Board a boat in a quest to see these entertaining mammals in their natural habitat, and be glad for your protective gear—mist from the water is almost a guarantee. Click here to search for local whale watching companies.
Landlubbers don’t have to miss out on all the aquatic fun. You’ll be well above water on one of the floatplanes that regularly buzz in and out of Coal Harbour, taking passengers on scenic sightseeing tours and chartered flights. Harbour Air makes water landings multiple times daily, so just go with the flow.
While sun worshippers on a sandy beach may balk at a windy day, it couldn’t be more perfect for a windsurfing rental. Mount a surfboard attached to a large sail and let the breeze take you away. At Jericho Beach, a short drive from downtown, Windsure Adventure Watersports offers one-day and multi-day windsurfing lessons and rentals. Ride into English Bay and try not to be distracted by the city views.
Water Parks +
There’s nothing like a cool blast on a hot summer day. Water geysers and cannons spray squealing kids at both Granville Island Water Park and the Variety Kids Water Park at Lumbermen’s Arch in Stanley Park. Tots can shed their water wings—ankle-deep water is all you’ll find here.
Wakeboarding and Waterskiing +++
If the tides have turned and you’re feeling like Aquaman, try a challenging sport such as wakeboarding or waterskiing, offered at BC Wake Boats. Both activities involve being pulled behind a boat by rope: in wakeboarding, you’re crouching on a board; in waterskiing, you’re strapped to one or two skis. Take the plunge and attempt a few fancy tricks, but be warned—you will definitely take a dip in the drink.
If getting water-logged doesn’t float your boat, climb aboard Harbour Cruises, which sets sail from Coal Harbour on sightseeing cruises. Choose a quick tour or make an evening of it with the dinner option. Less time to spare? Hop on mini-ferries Aquabus or False Creek Ferries for a quick cruise that stops at various points downtown.