I’ve visited, lived and worked in a lot of Canadian cities and Vancouver is by far my favourite. In addition to having amazing access to the mountains and ocean, the city itself is absolutely beautiful. I’ve spent the last few months walking as much of the city as I can, and I’ve come across a whole lot of excellent viewpoints in Vancouver.
So in this post I’ll show you my favourite spots. I’ve divided the post into three sections, depending on what sort of views you’re after:
- City views & skylines
- Ocean and beach views
- Hikes with views of the city
Tip: I recently upgraded to a mirrorless camera and my Vancouver photos are so much better now. I’ll highlight the ones taken with the new camera and I recommend checking it out if you want to improve your own photos.
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Best Viewpoints in Vancouver: City Views
Stanley Park Sea Wall
For those unfamiliar with Vancouver, the sea wall is a concrete walkway that lines the downtown perimeter. It allows pedestrians, bikers and rollerbladers to walk adjacent to the water for an uninterrupted 28 km.
There are a few nice viewpoints along the Stanley Park section of the sea wall. For example, I really like the view underneath the Lion’s Gate Bridge. Another great viewpoint is facing away from the bridge and towards Siwash Rock.
Tip: If you don’t want to walk around the full Stanley Park sea wall, you can drive / Uber to either Prospect Point or Third Beach and walk to where the sea wall passes under the Lion’s Gate Bridge from there.
Best For: Mountains of the North Shore
If you’d rather get a higher vantage point than what the sea wall can offer, head to Prospect Point. This viewpoint is also part of Stanley Park and faces North Vancouver. There’s parking nearby and if you go during the day in the summer there is an excellent gelato place there too.
One downside is that I find it a little difficult to capture the Lion’s Gate Bridge here, since there are a lot of trees and other distractions in the way.
Queen Elizabeth II Park
Queen Elizabeth II Park is the only viewpoint in Vancouver that I haven’t visited yet, although I know it’s a really popular one. I’m planning on visiting it soon, so for now I’ll leave this here as a place holder and update as soon as I’ve been!
False Creek is the body of water that separates Granville Island from downtown Vancouver. You can quickly cross it by taking either the Aquabus or False Creek ferries. This is where my morning walk starts most days – I usually walk on the downtown side, either west toward English Bay or east toward Cambie Bridge. There are a few marinas adjacent to the path, so you’ll see lots of boats. It’s not my favourite view in Vancouver, however it does face east and south so it gets really lovely sunrises.
Tip: Since this is a great place to walk at sunrise, make a stop at the nearby Coo Coo Coffee beforehand. They open at 7:30 am and have bullet coffee (and regular coffee) and the BEST homemade protein bites. They’re so good that if I get to the cafe after 9:00 am they’re already sold out.
Best For: Gondola photos with a City Backdrop
Honestly I don’t love the view from the top of Grouse Mountain; I find there are too many trees obstructing the view. Don’t get me wrong, I love trees! But if you want city views specifically, I’d recommend Cypress or Dog Mountain (see below). That said, you can capture a cool photo wherein the subject is the gondola going down the mountain with the city behind it. (I didn’t get a nice shot of it, so please enjoy this stock photo of Grouse Mountain.)
Lonsdale Quay is in North Vancouver and has an excellent view of the downtown skyline and Vancouver Harbour.
I absolutely love Lonsdale Quay. For starters, the easiest way to get here from downtown is to take the Sea Bus, and I love any adventure that starts with a boat. The market here has tons of great food options (my favourite is the WELA Progressive Food Bar) and cookies from C41 Coffee. A short walk from the market is the Shipyards, which has more shops, more restaurants and more views of Vancouver Harbour.
Tip: When you’re taking the Sea Bus towards Lonsdale, look to the north. You’ll catch a glimpse of the Lions mountains.
Burrard Bridge or Cambie Bridge
Another cool view of downtown Vancouver comes from either Burrard Bridge or Cambie Bridge. The bridges cross False Creek and offer views of the downtown condo buildings. Cambie Bridge is one I walk over to get to the grocery store and for the first few weeks it was cloudy and overcast, so I never appreciated the view. Then one day the clouds mostly cleared for a brief moment and the sun hit the water at a nice angle.
I wouldn’t exactly call this a viewpoint in Vancouver, but I really like the area nonetheless. There are some beautiful buildings in the area around Coal Harbour and the Financial District – all of which have been wonderfully landscaped. This means you can use the flowers and trees to play around with different compositions (something I clearly have fun with). And of course, you’ll also have views of the boats and seaplanes in the Vancouver Harbour.
Tip: One of the reasons I upgraded my camera was to have a touchscreen display to help with focuses. This made it a lot easier to focus on a specific object (i.e. a building) and blur out the rest (i.e. the flowers and leaves). If you’re going for that blurry look, remember to use a wide to somewhat-wide aperture (I used f/3.5 for most of the photos below). >>Check it out here.
Beaches with Views of Vancouver
Jerico Beach // Spanish Beach
Jerico Beach and Spanish Beach are very close to one another and they offer almost identical views of downtown and West Vancouver (the photos below are from Jerico Beach).
What I love about this viewpoint in Vancouver is that is offers a great view of the city skyline, a great view of the North Shore AND a great view of the distant mountains around Howe Sound.
Tip: Try to time it so you visit when sunset occurs at low tide. This way, you can walk along the sand out into Burrard Inlet. Just be careful because when the tide starts coming in, it comes in QUICKLY. We ended up walking through knee-deep water to get back to the shore.
Best For: Sunset behind Mountains & Sailboats
Kits Beach is probably the most popular beach in Vancouver. The view itself is quite similar to that of English Bay Beach, however the area itself is much nicer. The beach is huge and has volleyball nets, there’s a playground nearby and a restaurant with humungous windows (an excellent option if you want good views + good food).
Tip: The photos below are from a spontaneous trip to Kits and all I had was an iPhone. If you can, bring a telephoto lens for a DSLR / mirrorless camera so you can really zoom in on the sailboats and capture them in front of the mountains.
English Bay Beach
Best For: Ocean Views
I walk the stretch of sea wall in between Burrard Bridge and English Bay Beach almost every day. Although I typically go in the mornings, it’s most beautiful at sunset. The Inukshuk is a great subject for a sunset silhouette, as are the shipping tankers in the distance.
Best For: 180-degree Ocean Views
Depending on where you are in Vancouver, Wreck Beach is a bit of a trek. Lying just outside UBC, Wreck Beach faces west and slightly southwest. This means that you aren’t facing the city or the mountains, which makes for a different view than what you’d find at other beaches.
Tip: Wreck Beach is a clothing-optional beach, so you may see some naked people. If you want to avoid seeing that, go in the evening or early morning and in the winter. The chilly temperatures mean you’ll see fewer people bearing it all.
This isn’t a beach, but I think it’s a great (and underrated) viewpoint in Vancouver nonetheless. I really like the view of Indian Arm from the middle of it. If you have a little extra time, I highly recommend renting kayaks from Deep Cove and paddling on Indian Arm. Alternatively, you can view Indian Arm without kayaking either by hiking to Quarry Rock or by hiking to the end of Belcarra.
Best Viewpoints in Vancouver to Hike To
The following locations require some hiking to reach but are definitely worth the effort. Remember that these are wilderness hikes in the mountains, so you should always be prepared with the 10 essentials and let someone know what your plans are.
Best For: Views of Vancouver & surrounding suburbs
Dog Mountain offers the best view of all of Vancouver relative to the amount of hiking required. Leaving from the parking lot at Mountain Seymour Provincial Park, you’ll need to hike 2.2 km to reach the Dog Mountain summit. The elevation gain is pretty low, and I’ve even included this hike as my #1 recommendation for easy hikes in Vancouver.
In addition to the view of the city, there’s also a nice view of the mountains to the west. I don’t have a nice photo of those mountains, though you can see them in the YouTube video I made about this hike.
Best For: Views of Howe Sound
This hike starts at the parking lot for Cypress Provincial Park, in West Vancouver. It’s one of the most popular hikes in all of Vancouver – and rightfully so. You get an awesome view of Bowen Island and Howe Sound. There’s also a nice view of the city, but it’s quite similar to the one above.
Tip: On your way back to the parking lot, make a detour to Yew Lake Lookout. It doesn’t sound like much, but it offers a really nice view of the Lions, two peaks poking out above the other mountains (as seen in the third photo).
Best For: View of North Shore Mountain
I’ve summited quite a lot of the mountains on the north shore, and Goat Mountain remains my favourite. It offers exceptional views of the mountains in between Vancouver and Squamish. You won’t get much of a view of Vancouver itself, but man, just look at those mountain ranges.
The hike begins at the top of Grouse Mountain and from there, it’s about 3.5 km to Goat Mountain. You can read more about the hike itself in this post.
Tip: This is a serious wilderness hike. It isn’t physically demanding, but it is remote. We didn’t have cell service and saw a baby black bear on our hike (mama was surely around too). Ensure you’re well prepared and experienced enough for a hike like this.
Best Viewpoints in Vancouver – Final Thoughts
I hope this has inspired you to explore some new viewpoints in Vancouver! If I had to pick my absolute favourites, I think I’d go with the Stanley Park Sea Wall and Goat Mountain. Though it’s hard to choose since many of them are so different. What’s your favourite? And if there are any you think I’ve missed, please leave a comment and let me know!