Harbour Air (1075 W. Waterfront Rd. [Coal Harbour terminal]; tel. 800/665-0212 or 604/274-1277; www.harbour-air.com) and West Coast Air (www.westcoastair.com) operate under the same company, offering daily floatplane flights from the downtown Vancouver terminal next to the Canada Place cruise-ship terminal. Floatplanes are single-prop, usually six-seater planes that take off and land on water. The 20-minute "Vancouver Panorama" tour (C$99 per person) flies over Stanley Park, the North Shore Mountains, and all around the metro region, giving you an unparalleled bird's-eye view of the magnificent terrain; on the Mail Run, small planes zip between island villages to pick up or drop off parcels (C$185 per person). Other tours will take you to Victoria, glacial lakes, and whale-watching spots. The full-day "Victoria Day Trip" tour (C$315 per person) flies you across the Strait of Georgia to Vancouver Island, where you can spend the night, go orca watching, or tour the world-famous Butchart Gardens.
From April through September, Helijet Charters (tel. 800/665-4354; www.helijet.com) offers a variety of daily tours that depart from their terminal next to Canada Place and their helipad on top of Grouse Mountain. The "Coastal Scenic Tour" is a 20-minute tour of the city, Stanley Park, and North Shore mountains for C$179 per person.
Harbour Cruises (501 Denman St.; tel. 604/688-7246; www.boatcruises.com) will take you on a 2 1/2-hour Sunset Dinner Cruise, including a buffet meal and onboard entertainment. Cost is C$75 adults, seniors, and students; C$65 children 2 to 11. The cruise leaves daily at 7pm May through mid-October. The 4-hour Indian Arm Luncheon Cruise (May–Sept) includes a salmon or chicken lunch, with departure at 11am. Cost is C$65 per person.
Harbour Cruises also conducts a 1-hour narrated Harbour Tour aboard the MPV Constitution, a 19th-century sternwheeler with a smokestack. Tours depart at 11am, 12:15, 1:30, and 2:45pm daily from late April to late September (dates vary yearly). Fares are C$30 adults, C$25 seniors and children 12 to 17, C$10 children 5 to 11, and free for children 4 and under. This tour allows you to see harbor facilities and gets you out onto Burrard Inlet, but the narration, read from a script, is rather dull and unengaging.
Accent Cruises (1676 Duranleau St.; tel. 800/993-6257 or 604/688-6625; www.accentcruises.ca) runs a 3-hour Sunset Cruise departing Granville Island daily at 6pm. Cost for adults is C$60 with dinner, C$30 for the cruise only.
Paddlewheeler Riverboat Tours (New Westminster Quay, New Westminster; tel. 604/525-4465; www.vancouverpaddlewheeler.com) operates Fraser River tours from New Westminster aboard the 19th-century vessel SS Native. The company offers a 3-hour Sunset Dine and Dance cruise Saturday evenings at 7pm. Ticket prices are C$65 adults, C$60 seniors, C$50 children 6–12. More interesting but less frequent are day trips to historic Fort Langley, Steveston, and Harrison Hot Springs; call or visit the website for dates.
Big Bus (317 Water St.; tel. 877/299-0701 or 604/299-0700; www.bigbus.ca) runs a fleet of double-decker buses on a 90-minute "hop-on, hop-off" sightseeing loop around the city. Two-day passes cost: C$45 adults, C$40 students and seniors, and C$25 children 6 to 12, free for children 5 and under, and C$100 family pass. Buses depart from Canada Place daily between 9am and 6pm, running every 15 to 20 minutes during peak summer hours; a 1-day pass is also available for weekend warriors.
Landsea Tours (tel. 877/669-2277 or 604/255-7272; www.vancouvertours.com) offers a wide array of tour options, including a 4-hour excursion through Vancouver in a 24-person van. Offered year-round at 9am, and April to early November at 2pm as well. The tour costs C$69 adults, C$45 children. The van picks you up from downtown hotels. You can also take a tour up to Grouse Mountain and the Capilano Suspension Bridge. Departing at 11am year-round (and 8am from early May to late Sept), it costs C$139 adults, C$99 children 3 to 12. Other options are tours of wineries, Victoria, and Whistler.
Vancouver Trolley Company (875 Terminal Ave.; tel. 888/451-5581 or 604/801-5515; www.vancouvertrolley.com) operates propane-powered trolleys on a route through downtown, the West End, Stanley Park, Kitsilano, Yaletown, and Chinatown. Between 9am and 6pm in spring and summer (until 5pm in fall and winter), passengers can get on and off at any of the 30 stops, explore, and catch another scheduled trolley. Onboard, drivers provide detailed commentary. Purchase 1-day and 2-day tickets from the driver (or, in summer, at the Gastown ticket booth at 157 Water St.) for C$38 adults, C$35 seniors and children 13 to 18, and C$25 children 4 to 12.
First Nations Tours
The Tsleil-Waututh Nation of North Vancouver leads a number of cultural and ecotours that provide an introduction to both First Nations culture and the stunning Indian Arm fjord. Their company, Takaya Tours (700 Apex Ave.; tel. 604/904-7410; www.takayatours.com) operates from the Cates Park Paddling Centre, North Vancouver in summer (tel. 604/985-2925), and conducts a roster of outdoor tours such as excursions in traditional northwest canoes and plant nature walks. Prices run from C$35 to C$60, with dinner options available for groups.
Playing off Vancouver's growing reputation as a culinary tourism destination, Chef and Chauffeur (603-36 Water St.; tel. 604/267-1000; www.chefandchauffeur.com) has launched several tours of the Fraser Valley, located an hour east of the city, and the more distant Okanagan Valley, famed for its fruit, produce, meats, cheeses, and wines. Participants start the day with coffee, fresh orange juice, and cinnamon buns or berry scones while their guide maps out the day's adventures. The tours, in a luxury SUV, visit a variety of wineries, farms, bakeries, and cheese makers. Optional dinner and overnight add-ons are available. Tours range from C$195 to C$2,995 per person.
Walkabout Historic Vancouver (tel. 604/720-0006) offers three 2-hour walking tours (downtown and Gastown, Gastown and Chinatown, and Granville Island), and for large groups the guides dress as 19th-century schoolmarms. Tours depart daily at 10am and 2pm April through October, and by request during other months. Tours are wheelchair accessible. The cost is C$25 per person; you must reserve in advance.
During the summer months (July–Aug), the Architectural Institute of BC (tel. 604/683-8588, ext. 306; www.aibc.ca) offers a number of architectural walking tours of downtown Vancouver neighborhoods, including Chinatown and Granville Island, for only C$10 per person. The 2-hour tours run on a rotating basis from Tuesday through Saturday, departing at 1pm sharp from the AIBC Architecture Centre, 440 Cambie St. Call or visit the website for details and to book.
The Vancouver Police Museum offers an entertaining "Sins of the City" walking tour.
Or devise your own walking tour with brochures from the Tourism Vancouver Visitor Centre at 200 Burrard St.