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We Vancouverites consider ourselves some of the luckiest people in the world. We get to enjoy a bustling cosmopolitan city and live remarkably close to nature. The sea, mountains, and temperate rainforest are right at our doorstep, making Vancouver an extremely livable city that attracts millions of tourists every year. For many visitors from abroad, no trip is complete without seeing some exotic Canadian wildlife. While many will flock to the many national, provincial and regional parks near the Greater Vancouver area, encounters do occur within the city. Although sightings of large animals such as coyotes, black bears and even the occasional cougar do happen in suburban neighbourhoods, it is possible to view wildlife safely and in their natural, yet urban, habitat. Here are some suggestions to help you check off those exotic Canadian animals from your bucket list.

Stanley Park

Photo By: Bird Canada

Photo By: Bird Canada

Although an urban park, Stanley Park is truly a wild haven at the heart of the city. With over one thousand acres of dense forest, wetlands and lakes, it is home to many native and introduced species of mammals, such as beavers and river otters (look for them around Beaver Lake and the Lost Lagoon). However, it is the over 200 species of birds that make wildlife viewing exciting, especially in the spring. While duck, gulls, and Canadian geese are ubiquitous, look for nesting pairs of bald eagles and great blue herons high up in the trees. Even though there are only about five bald eagle nests and ninety great blue heron nests, they are fairly easily seen nesting or flying around the park, lakes and seashore.

City Parks

Photo By: Lisa Johnson/CBC

Many other city parks are home to wild populations of birds and mammals; Hinge Park in Olympic Village has been home to a beaver or two this past winter. While it might take a bit of luck to see a beaver, the dam they built in the pond is hard to miss. In Vanier Park, Kitsilano, it was a family of river otters that were seen this past winter  frolicking in the pond.  Further afield, Burnaby Lake Park is another great bird-watching location, with great blue herons, eagles, raptors and numerous species of waterbirds wading in the lake. Parks further from the City of Vancouver may also be home to larger wildlife such as coyotes, deer, black bears and even cougars!

Grouse Mountain

Image By: Grouse Mountain

If you wish to view some large Canadian wildlife safely and within minutes of downtown, you can head up to Grouse Mountain and visit the Refuge for Endangered Wildlife. There you will find Grinder and Coola, the two resident grizzly bears who were both rescued fifteen years ago and have just come out of hibernation. Towards the base of the mountain, you will also find Alpha, a timber wolf who was once in the movie industry. You can learn all about these animals and more by catching a Ranger Talk, or attending a Birds in Motion demonstration, where you will get to witness the impressive hunting skills of Grouse’s birds of prey.

Seawall

Photo By: Vancity Buzz

Vancouver’s famous seawall stretches from the Burrard Inlet to Stanley Park and all the way to Point Grey, making it Vancouver’s favourite urban features. While out for a walk or bike, the seawall can also be an opportunity to see some marine wildlife – and we don’t just mean the everyday seagulls! You may find other birds such as cormorants and great blue herons perched by the water, as well as harbour seals swimming or poking their head out of the water. You can often find them near marinas, such as in Coal Harbour or at Granville Island, where fishermen sometimes feed them. On rare occasions, whales may visit Vancouver’s harbour and may even be seen from the seawall, such as Bigg’s killer whales looking for some seals, or last summer’s grey whale that was seen over a few weeks within meters of the seawall. This past couple of weeks, a humpback whale has been seen in the harbour, so if you don’t have the chance to get out on a boat, you may still get lucky.

Strait of Georgia

Photo By: Hello BC

The best place to see whales, however, is aboard a whale-watching boat heading out of the harbour into the Strait of Georgia. Although trips do go out year round, mostly from Victoria, we are now approaching the prime whale-watching season. Boats will mostly be on the lookout for killer whales, the iconic black and white British Columbian species. Killer whales are often found in groups called pods that can contain three or four to over thirty. Humpback whales are also frequently found during the spring to early fall  as they head north to feed in our waters. Other species frequently seen around Vancouver include harbour and Dall’s porpoises, seals and Steller sea lions later in the season. Whale watching is also a great chance to appreciate the coastal beauty of British Columbia, with terrestrial species such as deer and even eagles!

The Vancouver Lookout opened in August of 1977, and since then, the tower has seen many visitors come and go, as well as countless days and nights. The view from 553 feet (or 168 meters) above the ground is spectacular and breathtaking no matter the time of day or season, but there are some wonderful points of interest worth noting.

Many guests have asked about whether the view from the Vancouver Lookout is more captivating in the morning light, or once the sun goes down. No need to look any further, for we are going to compare and contrast the two views right here and right now!

Vancouver Lookout Day View

Why the Morning View is Unique:

In the bright light of day, you can see out for miles and miles. The enthusiastic tour guides are able to point out fascinating landmarks and buildings that cannot be easily seen without the clarity of daytime. You can see all the way to Burnaby with its tall buildings sticking out into the horizon, and even Mount Baker all the way in Washington state if it’s an especially clear day!

What & Where to Look:

Stanley Park – The park is easy to catch with its many trees shrouding the entire piece of land! It sticks out into the Burrard Inlet, and is a natural retreat away from the bustling downtown core.

Sun Tower – The mint green colored roof of the Sun Tower will catch your eye, and having been home to the Vancouver Sun newspaper, the architecture is definitely worth writing home about.

The Mountains – We are surrounded by beautiful mountains here, and three distinct ones pop out in the light of day. Grouse Mountain, Mount Cypress, and Mount Seymour are visible across the Burrard Inlet, and make for beautiful photographs.

Rogers Arena – The arena where the famed Canucks hockey team plays is almost directly in front of you when you enter the Lookout. Just take your eye to the smaller, dark dome to the left of the larger white one and you’ll be staring straight at the arena, where concerts and exhibitions are often held at when games are not being played!

Vancouver Lookout Night View

Why the Night View is Unique:

The city seems to come alive at night, with all the lights from the buildings, cars, and skyscrapers bursting through the darkness. In downtown Vancouver, the bright lights mimic those of New York City, although with a quieter charm. With beautiful views of lit up bridges, streetlights and glowing windows from across the entire city, the night view from the Lookout is sure to steal your heart away.

What & Where to Look:

Gastown – The oldest part of Vancouver is also one of the most charming places. At night, the rounded street lamps of Gastown light up the entire street, and is reminiscent of a little village. With souvenir shops and the most low lit pubs around, Gastown is the perfect place to enjoy a pint in.

BC Stadium – The big white dome is hard to miss in the daytime, and even harder to miss at night. With the world’s largest retractable roof and the ability to light up in animated color at night, the stadium is one of the most beautiful sights to behold after the sun goes down.

Lions Gate Bridge – The bridge crosses from the city of Vancouver to North Vancouver and West Vancouver on the other side of the Burrard Inlet. The suspension bridge was designed by the same architect that designed the Golden Gate bridge in New York City. Its twinkling lights reflected in the water below will make for a beautiful sight.

Canada Place – Built in 1986, this building is reminiscent of a sailing ship, for the theme of the World’s Fair that year was transportation. The structure itself lights up in beautiful colours at night and truly looks like a ship sailing out to sea!

Now that you have a good idea of the structures and buildings that stand out in the day and night, here’s the kicker: your ticket for the Vancouver Lookout is valid ALL DAY so you can take in the mesmerizing sights and enjoy a tour in the morning, and come back at night for the breathtaking view of the city lights.

See you there!

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