Travel in Canada: Vancouver and the Moose Bus Island Explorer

After arriving early morning in Canada from Seattle, I had one day to check out the city of Vancouver before beginning my tour with Moose Bus.

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Digital Orca in downtown Vancouver

Now, considering it wasn’t quite 4 AM, one of the first places I checked out was Breka Bakery. This quaint Vancouver coffee chain serves up delicious brews, and is open 24 hours a day. 😀

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java and blogging 🙂

After the sun finally rose, I realized it was going to a gorgeous day. As such, I spent most of my time in the great outdoors, enjoying the beautiful summertime weather. Here are my three favorite spots to check out in Vancouver during summer. 🌞🌲

Top Summer Spots in Vancouver 

Coal Harbour

Vancouver’s port is the largest in Canada and is also one of the top cruise ship terminals in the world.DSC_4780The North Shore Mountains also surround Vancouver, and the harbour is one of the top spots to take in the seafront views.

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Harbour Air Seaplanes make scenic flights all over British Columbia

At the harbour there are many shops and restaurants, as well as, the Digital Orca, a sculpture constructed from aluminum, that looks almost like a pixelated simulation.
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coffee shop at the harbour
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city buildings near the harbour

Granville Island

Granville Island is across the bridge from Vancouver, and is home to an adorable market and lots of up-scale shops.

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industrial views from Granville Bridge

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Canadians seem to specialize in maple, so in the shops I found everything came with maple flavoring. They also had lots of moose and bear souvenirs. 🐻🍁

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moose and bear stuffed animals; maple syrup and maple cookies

Since I’m on a budget I opted to shop at 7-eleven and Dollarama, where I found more affordable snacks and souvenirs. My friend from Canada recommended I try ketchup-flavored chips, so I grabbed some as a snack and headed to my third and final top summer spot in the city.

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Canada visors, t-shirts, and neck pillows for about 2 USD

Stanley Park

Stanley Park is the perfect summer spot, since it has a scenic Seawall, which is easily accessible by bike or on foot.DSC_4809The path loops around the exterior of the park, where you have stunning views of the sea and snow capped peaks.DSC_4821Stanley Park is actually 10% larger than Central Park in New York City, and aside from the Seawall, its home to the Vancouver Aquarium and a large collection of cultural totem poles.

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boats and rentals at Stanley Park

The totem poles are sculptures carved from ancient cedar trees by the Canadian First Nations indigenous peoples. DSC_4819The totem poles are used in storytelling to represent important events, such as the life of an honored person.DSC_4817

Accommodation:

While in Vancouver I stayed at Cambie Gastown, which was actually quite crap, but on the bright side, they were filming the Deadpool sequel across the street, so I got to catch a glimpse of Ryan Reynolds! 😮

rhn

Fun fact: Vancouver is often nicknamed the Hollywood of the North, since so many movies are filmed here.

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historic Gastown district of Vancouver

The next day I joined Moose Bus on my Pacific Tour. This 14-day tour actually consists of five different mini-tours, the first being the 4-day Island Explorer loop.

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Moose Bus Island Explorer loop

Moose Bus Island Explorer

On this first loop, I was with 14 other travelers from Europe and Australia.DSC_4849Our journey began with a scenic ferry ride across the Georgia Strait from Vancouver to Vancouver Island.DSC_4856DSC_4866DSC_4879DSC_4853
This 1.75 hour journey offered absolutely spectacular views of the mountains, plus the on-board facilities were really quite chic, with a cafeteria, work stations, WiFi, and on-site gift shop.

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tl: cafeteria; bl: indoor seating; tr: gift shop; br: moose jammies! ❤

This gave me a chance to chat with the girls on my tour. One of the girls from Netherlands has also been traveling for 10 months. She has been to all the opposite countries as me, so we joked that together we had traveled the world. 🙂

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left: Dutch girl; right: German girl

Once we were on Vancouver Island, we began our drive to Tofino. Along the way we made a pit stop for lunch at Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park.

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picnic lunch (we purchased our own food at the grocery store beforehand)
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bear-proof garbage bins 🐻 😮
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Little Qualicum Falls
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cute squirrel; the German girl said ‘squirrel’ is the most difficult English word to pronounce🤔

Shortly before arriving in Tofino we also made a scenic photo stop at Wally Creek.DSC_4910 - EditedFinally, after nearly six hours on the road, we arrived in Tofino, an adorable little fishing village that sits on the shores of Clayoquot Sound.DSC_4914DSC_4915Our hostel, Whalers on the Point Guesthouse, was incredibly inviting, with a modern kitchen, and a cozy common room with fireplace. I even discovered later that they had an on-site sauna. 🙂whalers Collage

The next day, we had free to explore Tofino, so I went with a British girl from my tour to Pacific Rim National Park.

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Pacific Rim National Park’s West Coast Trail

The park encompasses islands, beaches and forests, with the possibility of spotting marine life, land mammals, and birds.

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black and blue Steller’s Jay

Our route began in the town of Tofino, where we walked the Pacific Rim National Highway to Radar Hill.DSC_4922Along the way we stopped in town at Tuff Beans Bakery for tea and Nanaimo Bars, which are a local dessert made of crumbled wafers, butter icing, and chocolate.PicMonkey CollageAfter about 1.5 hours of walking we arrived at Radar Hill, a military lookout constructed in the 1950s during the Cold War.DSC_4926 Now-a-days the summit of the hill has a war memorial, plus it offers unobstructed views of surrounding mountains, beaches, and forests. Just beautiful!DSC_4936DSC_4924From there we began our walk back towards Tofino, stopping at five scenic beaches and the Tonquin Trail.DSC_4972The first beach was Cox Bay Beach, which seemed popular with surfers.

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Note the wet suits. The water was absolutely freezing! (55-60 degrees Fahrenheit)

DSC_4951The next beach was Chesterman Beach, where families were out walking their dogs and celebrating the national holiday, Canada Day.DSC_4953 DSC_4977DSC_4961My British friend is an ESL teacher in Japan, so she was collecting rocks and shells there to show her students back in Tokyo. 🙂DSC_4971 DSC_4956

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sand dollar on Chesterman Beach

The sand on the beaches was smooth and seemed to stretch for miles. Green forests surrounded the beaches and a misty fog hung in the air.DSC_4957

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rugged rocks on Chesterman Beach with a lighthouse in the distance

The beaches were also dotted with gorgeous cabins and resorts.DSC_4981DSC_5016

After the two beaches we took a quick lunch break at Wildside Grill, where they had lots of seafood options, like fish and chips, salmon burgers, and white fish tacos.

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panko-crusted fish and chips

We also popped into the local microbrewery, Tofino Brewing Co, where we sampled a dark stout brewed with kelp.

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Kelp is seaweed, but the beer tasted just like a normal stout. Very tasty! 🍺
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funny sign at the brewery (Canadian drinking a beer and riding a beaver)

After the break we continued to the three remaining beaches: Mackenzie Beach, Middle Beach, and Tonquin Beach.

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Middle Beach is actually a small secluded cove

The latter beach connected to the Tonquin Trail, which was a lovely 1.6-mile wooded trail, making our total distance for the day 23 miles! 😮DSC_4989DSC_5013DSC_5011To cap off the evening we had a group dinner, cheered at a local skate competition, and watched the Canada Day fireworks over the water. The sun sets around 9:30-10 PM here, so you really get to seize each day. 😀

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Moose Bus provided one dinner of steak and potatoes
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impressive skate park for such a small town
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idyllic harbor where we watched the fireworks in the evening (the show was at least 15 minutes, which is comparable to shows I’ve seen in the States) 😀

The next day we began our drive down to Victoria. Along the way we stopped at Long Beach for a scenic walk, the town of Coombs for a quick lunch, the village of Chemainus for a quick bathroom break, Sproat Lake Provincial Park to stretch our legs, and also Cathedral Grove, which is home to 800-year-old Douglas fir trees.

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walking along Long Beach
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Western sandpiper shore bird on Long Beach
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Coombs Emporium had burgers and ice cream (very family friendly)
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Chemainus, a quaint town covered with historic wall murals, although my favorite part was this cute little church ❤
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800-year-old Douglas Fir tree
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Check out those roots! Wow!

Now our final stop before arriving in Victoria was the Mt. Tolmie Viewpoint. Just gorgeous!

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the city of Victoria
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looking out over Victoria ❤

DSC_5048At around dinner time we finally arrived in Victoria, where we had the evening to explore the town and do some souvenir shopping.

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Wonder if he’ll fit in my suitcase? 😛

Now Victoria is the capital of British Columbia and has one of the most gorgeous harbors in the world. Victoria Harbour is covered in colorful flowers, plus it offers a lovely view of the British Parliament Building as well. 🌹🌻 Historically, the area was once under British colonial rule, which is noted in its gorgeous Victorian architecture that is still seen throughout the city today.

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The parliament building does offer guided tours, which gives more insight into the significance of this building.
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bushes trimmed into an orca with her baby pose in front of a historic hotel

Victoria also has an incredibly picturesque Fisherman’s Wharf, where restaurants, shops, and even floating homes sit along its dock.

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cute little floating homes in the Fisherman’s Wharf. One was priced at over 450,000 CAD! 😮

Now my fourth and final day on the Island Explorer Tour was spent doing an optional excursion in Victoria. It’s something absolutely incredible that was on my must-do bucket list in Canada! As such, I think it deserves a post of its own. Stay tuned to hear all about it. Until then! 🙂

Accommodation Cost: Please note that I chose the Moose Bus accommodation package for my trip, which came to around 30 USD/night. My pre-tour and post-tour accommodation at Cambie Gastown was additional, and cost 24 USD/night. It may seem expensive, but booking at these hostels individually and on the spot during the high summer season can easily set you back 40-60 USD/night for a dorm bed! Also note, the hostels so far haven’t included towels, breakfast, locks, or really anything complimentary for that matter. Hah! It is very different from the hostels I’ve stayed at in Asia, Central America, and Eastern Europe. Anyway, as a tip, it seems better to book a package and book in advance for discounted rates. 😀

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