Vancouver in April??

Old Aug 9th, 2021, 01:36 AM
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Vancouver in April??

I am considering Vancouver (amongst others) as a destination to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. We would be there late March/early April most likely for 7-14 days.

Initial thoughts are to spend a 5-7 days in the city perhaps split at the beginning and end with side trips to Whistler, Vancouver island maybe a national park in the middle. Does that seem a reasonable balance? Happy to rent a car or use public transport and are very open to other suggestions.

Another option could be to combine Vancouver with say Banff (my wife has a distant cousin who is a guide there!) . Any thoughts or other suggestions would be very much appreciated.

Yet another option I have looked at is some sort of train trip. So far I have only found pre packaged trips from the U.K. but they do seem prohibitively expensive. Presumably it is possible to DIY direct with the rail companies?

My main/ initial concern/question is - is a decent time of year from a weather perspective? The opinions I see online seem very mixed.
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Old Aug 9th, 2021, 08:46 AM
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Vancouver's climate is very similar to that of the UK, except perhaps a couple degrees colder in the Winter, and a with few more sunny days in the Summer. Here is a good comparison. I imagine arriving from the UK that the weather wouldn't be too different, especially in the Spring. March/April in Vancouver will likely be around 10 C, overcast, with light rain scattered throughout the day.

The only train from Vancouver to Banff is a very expensive, but very scenic, luxury tourist train. I don't know anyone who's done it personally, but if you're the sort of person who enjoys luxury train travel, I imagine it would be worth it. VIA Rail also has a (slightly cheaper, but still pretty expensive) train from Vancouver to Edmonton, but imo, it'd only be worth it if there was stuff you wanted to see and do once you got to Edmonton (and having lived in Edmonton for 2 years, I can say there's really not much to do there besides the mall, especially in the winter). Inter-provincial travel by bus/train in Western Canada is actually pretty terrible at the moment, even by North American standards: since Greyhound Canada went out of business, there's limited service and the stuff that does exist is usually more expensive than flying (but shorter-distance regional busses can still be cheap and reliable). The only affordable train trip from Vancouver is the Amtrak down to Seattle, so if you're interested in going to Seattle as well, it might be worth it, and the train is usually cheaper and more convenient than renting a car and driving down (even locals who own cars will often choose to take the train instead).

Vancouver is pretty easy to get around by public transportation, but if you're leaving the city or want to go to any national park, renting a car is pretty much a must. Whistler and the Sea-to-Sky highway is an easy daytrip from Vancouver. People usually recommend renting a car for the day, since the Sea-to-Sky Highway is one of most beautiful drives on the continent, but there's also a 25$/person shuttle bus to Whistler that picks up and drops off at downtown Vancouver several times a day. 4-5 days in Vancouver (including a daytrip to Whistler) is probably a good allotment of your time.

Vancouver Island has an even milder climate than Vancouver does and is the retirement capital of Canada as a result. The ferry from Vancouver to Victoria takes about 4 hours. Victoria itself is worth atleast 2 days and 1 night. Victoria also has a reputation for being the most British-feeling city in Canada, and is beautiful at that time of year, as the entire city is in bloom (make sure you visit the stunning Butchart Gardens 20 minutes outside the city). If you're into hiking/outdoors stuff, there's a lot of stuff to explore and do on Vancouver Island, but getting around the island by public transit is next to impossible, and a car is highly recommended. One of my favourite National Parks in Canada, Pacific Rim National Park, is about a 4 hour drive North of Victoria, and I would recommend it as a hiking destination, especially during this time of year, as most of the Rockies will be covered in snow, and exploring them will more likely require snowshoes or cross-country skies rather than hiking boots. People who go to mountains at this time of year do so specifically for winter activities.

I'm not an expert on the subject, so take what I'm about to say with a grain of salt, but, Tofino, next to Pacific Rim NP, is a popular destination for whale watching, and I believe peak season for Gray Whales is March-April as they migrate North to Alaska. (Peak season for Humpbacks and Orcas is moreso during the Summer). So if whale-watching is something that interests you, that is a possibility as well.

Banff is about a 10-hour drive from Vancouver, and the Trans-Canada Highway across BC is one of the most scenic drives in all of Canada, so if it's your first time doing it you'll want to split the drive up over two days in order to stop and appreciate all the scenery. Banff is absolutely gorgeous and a must-see at any time of the year, but know that going there will add atleast 4-5 days onto your trip, accounting for travel time. Unlike Vancouver and the Island, late March/early April is still Winter in the Mountains. Ski hills are still open for the season, and temperatures are usually just a few degrees above freezing during the daytime (Whistler might be a little warmer). Highways in the mountains can be icy and slippery in March/April as well. They're usually not too bad at this time of year, but just be warned that there's still a chance it could happen.

How I would recommend spending time based on how many days you have available:

4-5 Days: Vancouver & daytrip to Whistler
7 Days: Add Victoria
9-10 Days: Add Pacific Rim National Park/Central Vancouver Island
14 Days: Add either Seattle or Banff

If you have even longer, then I would add Jasper National Park & the Icefields Parkway, as well.

Last edited by SirhanTheStrong; Aug 9th, 2021 at 09:02 AM.
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Old Aug 9th, 2021, 09:26 AM
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I would just like to add one thing:

The Chilliwack Tulip Festival runs from approximately mid-April to early-May. It's a 90 minute-drive from downtown Vancouver, and if you are visiting while it's on, and have access to a car, I would recommend that as a daytrip as well.
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Old Aug 9th, 2021, 01:40 PM
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I really like Vancouver and surroundings. Main downside is the cost of lodging. I've used both public transportation and a car rental to get around. I think mixing it up can work. Last trip I stayed in Richmond for an overnight and used the public ferry (Seabus) and bus to go to Grouse Mountain (chairlift up, walk down!). Also the train/bus combo to visit Steveston. Another time we picked up a car downtown, make a brief stop at Stanley Park (metered parking $$$) then drove along Spanish Banks beaches, visiting the Anthropology Museum and Nitobe Garden on the way back to the airport. So that is two full days and then another full day for downtown sights. We did the ferry to Vancouver Island as well (another trip).

There are still places in Vancouver I still need to visit. Gardens should be amazing.

Last edited by mlgb; Aug 9th, 2021 at 01:44 PM.
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Old Aug 12th, 2021, 03:35 AM
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Thanks for the feedback. Upon reflection, given that our anniversary is not moveable, the weather in March /April I feel will be an issue for us as it seems to be a bit of an "in between” time of year and we get enough of that in the UK! Cold and snow I can cope with, sun and high temps no problem, grey and damp not so much. if it was just a city break I wouldn’t be too bothered but it is a long way for a short break and, given that Canada deserves more time I think we will defer to time when we stand a fighting chance of decent weather and we can spend longer.

I may incorporate into my long held ambition to travel the length of the americas by road. maybe fly into LA drive up to Seattle and hop across the border.

I am now turning my attention to other options - maybe somewhere in the US if only BJ & JB can get their respective acts together and allow we brits into the country!
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