WHY YOU'LL BOTH LOVE IT Lots of ways to relax, lots of things to explore—almost simultaneously. Stay a night or two in Vancouver to experience the city, then travel to Vancouver Island for beaches, pretty drives, and outdoor adventures.
RELAX & EXPLORE VANCOUVER British Columbia's largest city offers a rare combination of sophisticated urban outings and sporty, nature-driven activities. Start your trip with a leisurely stroll along the Stanley Park seawall, a pretty 13.7-mile path by the water. Watch the beluga whales, sea otters, and sea turtles at the Vancouver Aquarium, then hop aboard one of the passenger ferries ("aquabuses" to locals) to Granville Island, where you can nibble your way through the Public Market (a fantastic indoor farmers' market) and peruse work by local artists. Serious shoppers will also want to check out the upscale stores on Robson Street, then pop into one of the sidewalk cafés for dinner. Fifteen minutes from downtown Vancouver is the Capilano Suspension Bridge; if you hate heights, this may not be for you, but if you can take it, the view of the canyon and surrounding forest is breathtaking. If all this low-fi activity leaves one of you craving an adrenaline rush, you can take the Skyride Gondola up to the top of Grouse Mountain to access hiking trails, ziplines, and ski runs.
RELAX & EXPLORE VANCOUVER ISLAND Plan to spend several days exploring this island (it's big!). Start in the quaint capital city of Victoria. The historic architecture, formal flower gardens, and horse-drawn carriages may make you feel as if you've stepped back in time to Victorian London. Afternoon tea remains a tradition—The Dining Room Restaurant in Butchart Gardens is a picturesque spot to have a pot and nibble tea sandwiches and scones. Another day, stroll around downtown, taking in the ornate, colorful buildings, then embark on a whale-watching tour that departs from Inner Harbour.
After Victoria, drive to the Cowichan Valley (a.k.a. the "Gourmet Trail"), where you can go wine tasting at the local vineyards and dine on superfresh seafood in storybook towns like Ladysmith. The next day, continue on to Nanaimo, a harbor city from which it's easy to catch a ferry to the Gulf Islands (a great day trip: Salt Spring Island, which offers upscale eats and shops). Or consider driving to nearby Parksville, the beginning of beach country. Visit one or a few beaches, or take a drive along the Oceanside Route to see charming historic lighthouses. While in Parksville, spend a few hours walking amongst giant fir and cedar trees at Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Provincial Park.
Be sure to reserve a few days to explore Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, along the western coast of the island. Stay in Tofino, a charming seaside town that offers easy access to the park's beaches and rainforests. One of you (the "active" one, clearly) can hike along the trails through the misty rainforest, take a surf lesson, or go deep-sea fishing while the other simply beachcombs along the miles of sandy shoreline or gets a massage at the Ancient Cedars Spa. But the real draw of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve area is its abundance of wildlife, which is bound to get rave reviews from both of you. Be sure to sign up for a tour (via boat is best, and not too scary): Watching a whale breach or a bear hunt fish in the wild is thrilling—and, if you're a photography enthusiast, so is getting the perfect shot.
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