Japanese Friendship Garden, Hope
By Mary Ann Bell
This time of year, with summer soon to become a memory, we find ourselves wanting to be outside as much as possible and we’re constantly on the lookout for great spots to throw down our picnic blanket and enjoy our meals al fresco! The evenings may be getting a little cooler, and the leaves may be starting to change colour, but we think that first hint of fall foliage makes our picnic spots even more special. And, whether it’s a simple sandwich, a multi-course takeout meal, or a basket full of fresh, local goodies, a picnic is a wonderful way to experience the region.
Here are 10 of our favourite picnicking spots in the Vancouver, Coast & Mountains region.
If you’re driving between Vancouver and Whistler, you can’t help but notice this spectacular waterfall en route. Shannon Falls in Squamish is the third-highest waterfall in BC and is a wonderful stop, or final destination. The park is situated in the rainforest with paved trails and picnic tables scattered throughout. Be sure to take a few minutes to walk to the base of the falls and enjoy the changing colours of the trees set against the deep green of the old-growth evergreens. If you have some time, follow up your picnic with a visit to the Sea to Sky Gondola. The gondola is located a short walk north of the falls and provides impressive views of Howe Sound and the surrounding mountains.
Located a 5-minute drive from Horseshoe Bay Village, Whytecliff Park offers panoramic views over the Georgia Strait and Howe Sound. With large grassy areas, shaded picnic tables and access to the rocky beach, there are lots of different spots to settle in for a picnic. The beach is perfect for beachcombing and at low tide, the kids will love clambering around on the rocks. Golden hour is truly special at Whytecliff in the fall, as the changing colours on the trees are enhanced by the glow of the setting sun. On weekends, we recommend arriving early, as Whytecliff is a popular picnicking destination.
If you’re willing to work for your picnic, and want a spectacular view, head to Bowen Island and take the trail to Dorman Point. The trailhead is easily accessible from Snug Cove and the return trip is about 90 minutes. There are some steep sections but overall the hike is an easy one and the payoff is completely worth it. There are 2 viewpoints on the trail so be sure to go downhill and to the right, from the highest point, for an unobstructed view of Whytecliff and UBC. Grab sandwiches and treats from the Snug Café and head out!
With some of the best views of the Fraser River and the Gulf Islands, we recommend an evening picnic at Garry Point Park as a must-do! The sunsets are pure perfection and there are lots of spots in this wide-open park to spread your blanket and watch the sun melt into the horizon. With its close proximity to Steveston’s fishermen’s memorial and the fish sales float, it seems appropriate to recommend the fish & chips from Pajo’s as your picnic fare of choice. Take some time to stroll around Steveston in Richmond and visit the Gulf of Georgia Cannery and the Britannia Heritage Shipyards.
The Sunshine Coast has a myriad of marine parks and beaches, but a favourite for families is Porpoise Bay Provincial Park on Sechelt Inlet. With a sandy beach, marked swimming area, grassy picnic spot and a playground, Porpoise Bay is great for a day of play and picnicking. Walk down to the beach for a few minutes and you’ll come across a tire-swing that the kids will love and you can head in the opposite direction for an easy walk to an estuary that is home to a wide variety of shore birds. Fall colours isn’t just about changing leaves … it’s also about changing bark. Keep an eye out for arbutus trees with their reddish-orange bark.
If you’re planning to travel through the Fraser Canyon this summer or fall and you’re a history buff, be sure to stop for a picnic at Alexandra Bridge Provincial Park. This small park is centred on the site of the original Cariboo Wagon Road bridge over the Fraser River and has served as a stopping-over point since the area was first populated. There are picnic tables and a grassy area to enjoy your lunch, and then you can access the historic bridge from a trail through the day-use area. In Fall, golden yellows and oranges stand out against a backdrop of evergreen trees along the banks of the river.
Forested trails, rocky shorelines, mountain views and a large, covered picnic area make Belcarra Park a popular picnicking destination. Located a 45-minute drive from Vancouver, a visit to Belcarra in Port Moody feels like a getaway. There are 2 main picnic areas, White Pine Beach with its sandy beach and swimming areas, and Belcarra, which is more forested and has panoramic views of Indian Arm and North Vancouver. Grab a picnic table and take in the views, under the changing colours of the stately trees that line the beach, before heading off on of the many hiking trails in the park.
Centennial Beach at Boundary Bay in Tsawwassen is arguably one of the nicest beaches in Metro Vancouver, not only for the surprisingly warm water, but the fact that the water is so shallow that, at low tide, the tidal flats allow you to walk forever. Stake a claim on the beach and spend the day snacking and beachcombing for sand dollars, clams, crabs and jellyfish. Bring your picnic or take advantage of the well-stocked concession stand!
Most people stop in Hope on their way to other destinations in the province, but we highly recommend taking the time to picnic in Memorial Park. Located in the heart of Hope, the park has a series of chainsaw carvings, play areas, the small, but peaceful, Japanese friendship gardens, towering evergreens and lots of picnic areas. Stop in at the Blue Moose, right across the street from the park, to grab a sandwich and a coffee and enjoy them at Memorial Park. In the fall, the Japanese Maples in the friendship garden will blaze in spectacular shades of red and orange.
Located in scenic Deer Lake Park, the Burnaby Village Museum might not be your first thought as a picnic location. But, with free admission, picnic benches and a wonderful grassy area, the Village is a unique spot to enjoy a picnic, while learning about Burnaby’s history. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own picnic lunches, or you are welcome to pick up lunch (or an ice cream) from the Ice Cream parlour. The Village is an open-air museum that depicts life in Burnaby in the 1920s. Don’t miss the blacksmith demonstrations, a visit to the General Store and a ride on the restored 1812 CW Parker Carousel. Note that the Village closes for the summer on September 4 and will re-open for one day on September 24 to celebrate World Rivers Day.
Published: August 24, 2017
As a tourism marketer and community manager for some of British Columbia’s most spectacular destinations, Mary Ann Bell spends her days writing, tweeting and posting! When she’s not online, Mary Ann can be found exploring Vancouver’s North Shore trails with her family and her camera, and trying new restaurants in the hunt for the best taco in Metro Vancouver.