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Our gay guide to Vancouver includes the best of the city's gay scene, things to do, where to stay, and practical tips for LGBTQ travelers.
Greenpeace, Ryan Reynolds, Hayden Christensen, and Botox – what do they all have in common?
That's right, they were all created in this super cool city located right on the far West coast of Canada. Vancouver is the largest city in the British Columbia Province, famous for being one of the most diverse regions of Canada. It is also nicknamed “The Hollywood of the North” due to its popularity as a filming location for TV series and movies after LA and NYC. Oh, and did we mention the part about Ryan Reynolds and Hayden Christensen?
We visited Vancouver several times on our trips to Canada and always have a fantastic time. As well as a bustling Gay Village over at Davie Street, Vancouver has tons of fun things to do, with the mountains on its doorstep and the natural paradise of Vancouver Island a short ferry ride away.
Most importantly of all, we found Vancouver to be a very tolerant city, accepting of everyone. We frequently saw many gay couples walking the streets hand-in-hand all across town and felt comfortable doing the same. Of course, this comes as no surprise as this is Canada, a country we absolutely adore and rate as the most gay friendly country in the world.
In this detailed gay guide to Vancouver, we summarise our experience discovering the gay scene of Davie Village, as well as some of the best things to do in the city, gay hotels to stay and more practical tips for LGBTQ travelers.
Vancouver gay area: Davie Street
Vancouver's gay village, also known as the Davie Village, is the heart of the city's LGBTQ community. It is based mainly along Davie Street between Jervis Street and Burrard Street. This is where the majority of the gay bars and clubs are. Although it's not as big as the gay scene of Montreal or Toronto, it's just as fun.
There is also a more bohemian area popular with the lesbian community of the city at Commercial Drive, called “The Drive” over in East Vancouver, which we did not visit so have not covered in this guide.
Davie Street is also the first place in Canada to have a permanent rainbow crossing, proudly installed in July 2013. You can find it at the intersection of Davie and Bute Streets. Next to the rainbow crossing is the Jim Deva Plaza, which is a living memorial to the late Jim Deva, one of Vancouver's best known gay pioneers and heroes.
Discover Vancouver's gay scene
On our first visit to Vancouver, we took this awesome tour of Vancouver's gay scene with the very handsome local Glenn. He took us by the hand and showed us the main landmarks and icons of Vancouver's LGBTQ2+ community from the earliest gay bars on Granville Street to the modern-day gaybourhood on Davie Street. It's a fantastic way to learn about the city's rich queer history and also make a whole bunch of new friends.
Gay hotels in Vancouver
Vancouver is an extremely safe city for LGBTQ travellers. We never had any problems as a gay couple anywhere we stayed and felt very welcome. The city offers a mix of gay friendly hotels to suit all budgets, from excellent luxury options, family-run guesthouses to hostels. We've set out below some of the best we tried and loved:
Why we love it
- Stunning design both inside and out
- The incredible rooftop park
- Overhead rain showers, the height of luxury
- Romantic dinners at Honey Salt restaurant
If you really can’t vibe with historic lodgings, then trust me when I say that The Douglas can provide you with the complete opposite setting.
With an ultramodern exterior that reminds one more of a high rise building than a hotel, The Douglas stands as the best place for gay travelers wanting a cool, chic spot to rest their head for the evening. However, you might have a hard time stepping outside again…
With warm lighting and dark wood accents combined with the cutest, softest plaid blankets strewn lovingly across the bed, the rooms scream rural log cabin meets bustling city life, and we are living for it! And that’s not even mentioning the huge shower with a ceiling-mounted shower head. Be prepared to live out all of your Rachel McAdams “The Notebook” fantasies in this one, boys.
The fabulous amenities don’t stop at the rooms either. One of our absolute favorite parts of The Douglas is their 30,000 square foot rooftop park. If you love taking in fresh air, city views, and some of the most fantastic sunsets, you’ll probably find yourself lounging up there at least a couple of nights throughout your stay. We also loved their quirky elevator lights, their hidden bar (it’s tucked away behind the bookcase in the main bar, but shhhh, we didn’t tell you that!), and their romantic Honey Salt restaurant.
It may not be a gay-only spot, but you will undoubtedly feel welcomed by the friendly staff, and Davie Village is just a short taxi ride away for all of your gaycation desires. Rooms start at CAD$354 (USD$280/£200) a night, which we think is well worth it for the luxury The Douglas provides to each and every guest.
Visit Whistler from Vancouver!
If you're heading to Vancouver during the snowy months, then we cannot stress the importance of checking out Whistler, especially if you're a ski nerd like my Seby.
Honestly, you'll love us forever. It's a cutesy small town up in the mountains with a large famous ski resort. The views alone are a reason to come, not to mention riding the Sea to Sky Gondola. The skiing is, of course, the highlight. The best time to come is during Whistler Pride in January.
West End Guesthouse
Why we love it
- Historic yet modern
- The cute splashes of pink on the outside
- Within walking distance of Davie Village
- The cozy fireplace in the parlour
Bed and Breakfasts are often considered simple and quaint, but the same can not be said in the case of the West End Guesthouse.
If you’re looking for a gay friendly place that is interesting, fun, quirky, and accommodates for all of your most basic needs, then this is definitely going to be the place for you!
Not only is the West End perfectly located within walking distance to Vancouver’s hub of gay activity, Davie Village, but it is also owned by an extremely cute gay couple. David and Paul tend to their guests even better than they do their eight guest rooms, which is saying something because the intricately styled rooms are always kept in immaculate condition.
While the full breakfast (which, by the way, changes daily and is always yummilicious!) obviously adds to the appeal of the place, what truly sets the West End apart from any other B&B is their history. The building is historic in both age and decor, having been built in 1906 and still retaining much of the original structure and aesthetics. We love that you can walk through the place and see some of the history of Vancouver displayed on the walls, and sitting by the fireplace in the parlour during the evenings truly makes you feel as though you’re being transported back in time. However, if the age of the home worries you, don’t fret! All of the interiors and plumbing have been updated to guarantee a comfortable stay.
It’s easy to see why the West End Guesthouse is rated as the #1 B&B on Tripadvisor and why it is listed on acclaimed LGBTQ+ directories like Purple Roofs.
Why we love it
- Price, duh! Who doesn’t love a good deal?
- Excellent complimentary breakfast each day
- Lovely private rooms or dorms
- Restaurant, lounge, laundry and a shared kitchen on-site
We understand that not everyone can afford big, lavish hotels during their travels. We also understand how some would greatly prefer the simplest option available since they prefer spending time experiencing the destination to its fullest extent.
Vancouver is a fairly expensive city overall, but for those looking for something nice and easy, we highly recommend the gay friendly SameSun Hostel.
SameSun provides its own set of comforts to each guest fortunate enough to stay with them. They offer a great free breakfast with options such as a variety of bagels, fruit, and oats. They also have juice and coffee. However, if any of those options don’t sound quite as appealing to you as a cooked breakfast, they do have a common kitchen where you can whip up any meal that your heart desires.
If you find yourself wanting to take a rest day on your vacay, SameSun does have some cool spaces and activities. Our favorite room by far is the main dining/hangout room, which features a mural of trees all down one wall so it feels like you're out in the beautiful Canadian wilderness rather than the middle of Vancouver!
The downstairs Beaver Taphouse Restaurant and Lounge is also a great place to hang out and meet people while enjoying a drink or a meal. SameSun also organize plenty of fun activities including karaoke and you can score discounts on tickets to Vancouver Canucks games at reception.
Gay bars in Vancouver
Vancouver has a thriving gay scene with some really fun gay bars and clubs. Most bars double up to transform into fierce and fiery dance floors as the evening grows long, meaning you and your pals can have just one set location to party the night away! These are our favourite gay bars and clubs in Vancouver, which are largely based in or around the Davie Village:
This gastropub is an absolute gem tucked away within the heart of Davie Street Village. The Fountainhead Pub entices all passers-by with its modern interior and gay decor, but the establishment keeps LGBTQ visitors inside by offering fantastic drinks, classic bar food, and, of course, excellent opportunities to people watch. We personally love their shots because of their hilarious and provocative names, ranging from the Adult movie Star to the Blow Me Scotty. Can you say dirty, flirty, and fun? Even if you’re more of a late-night partier, definitely stop in one afternoon to try out their daily brunch specials.
The Fountainhead Pub is located at 1025 Davie Street and is open every day until around midnight, and until 1am on weekends.
If any of these words stand out to you, please raise your hand: Music, Drinks, Culture, Community. Now, any of you with your hands raised must make a pact to visit 1181 next time you’re traveling to Vancouver! Those words serve as 1181’s mission statement, and they completely deliver. This lowkey, unpretentious gay bar and lounge is one of the staples of Davie Village, and to this day, they strive to keep up to date with trends and make changes as needed to ensure ultimate guest satisfaction. If you’re into drag shows, we recommend stopping in on Sundays for an evening of wild gay entertainment provided by some of Vancouver’s finest queens.
1181 is located at 1181 Davie Street (surprise, surprise!). It is open every day until 3am.
Looking for a gay place to put on your best leather fit and dance the night away? Head to PumpJack Pub! With a variety of themed nights, there is no shortage of fun to be had at this local, gay hangout. Every weekend PumpJack hosts an outstanding DJ and opens up the floor for Underwear Parties, “Bear’s Night Out”, Go-Go Nights, and “Wet ‘n’ Wild Fridays”. We hear it gets very messy on those particular Fridays, so have a blast out there, boys! Also, if you find yourself bored and wanting to party on a Sunday afternoon, make sure you stop by for one of their famous “Keggers”.
PumpJack Pub is located at 1167 Davie Street. It is open every day until 3am.
The Junction prides itself on being the place where everyone meets. We can certainly vouch for its amiable and welcoming atmosphere. We always enjoy spending evenings here, sipping on some tasty cocktails in their outdoor patio, but we’ve also spent plenty of gay night outs grooving on their dancefloor. Whether you’re stopping in for a quick, relaxing meal with friends (their pub food is soooooo good!), or you’re searching for an energetic nightclub with an impressive live DJ, The Junction has it all. If you’re longing for a more intellectually stimulating activity while on your trip, head over on a Monday evening for their trivia night.
The Junction is located at 1138 Davie Street. It is open every day until 3am.
Gay clubs in Vancouver
The gay clubs of Vancouver have a unique and electrifying atmosphere which we LOVE, and know you will, too! As we said above, most of the gay bars double up and become gay clubs later in the evening, so definitely check those out as well. For this section, we’ve focused on Vancouver’s gay dance clubbing venues that get going after midnight.
Celebrities has been building up their reputation in Vancouver since the 1980s, which certainly explains why they are the most popular gay club in the area. In recent years, they have hosted famous artists such as Diplo, Skrillex and Travis Scott, so you know they’re not playing around with their name. However, when you first walk in and witness their extravagant light shows and impressive visuals, accompanied by what just so happens to be the largest dance floor in Davie Village, you honestly begin to feel like you’re a celebrity being welcomed into your own exclusive, backstage celebration!
If you want to visit Celebrities Nightclub, make sure you clear your schedule because they are only open Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. Celebrities is located on 1022 Davie Street. The gay parties get busy after midnight and go on until around 3/4am.
I’m not sure there’s anything more impressive than viewing a Numbers Cabaret at night. When you first walk up, you see rainbow lights shining across the three-story building and rainbow flags hanging from windows. Then you’re ushered up inside by rainbow stairs. It is quite a transformative experience! Numbers is the longest running gay club in Vancouver, and it’s easy to see why. With a fantastic dance floor, pool, darts, and a special karaoke room, they give everything you could ever want from a clubbing experience. We think you should definitely stop by and experience this wonderful slice of queer Vancouver history during your stay.
Numbers starts popping off every night until around 3AM. It is located on 1042 Davie Street.
Gay saunas in Vancouver
Who doesn’t want to participate in a little bit of flirty, frisky entertainment while on their vacation? I mean, that’s why gay saunas exist in the first place, right? Vancouver is home to two great saunas that offer plenty of specialty packages to fulfil all of your desires while away from home. Feel free to check these places out whenever you find yourself in the mood.
Home to Vancouver’s largest hot tub and some of the freakiest gay event nights in town, F212 is definitely the place to go for some much needed self-love time. Aside from the tub, they also offer a dark video room for open play and a cruiser shower. As for events, if you swing by on Sunday or Monday evenings, you’re bound to be in for a treat with one of their lights out sessions. Tuesdays are for the hunky gym gay gods, and group play parties are hosted on Thursday nights.
F212 Steam is located at 1048 Davie Street and is open 24/7, so if you find yourself leaving Numbers Cabaret with a sense of disappointment because you just want some extra fun, feel free to take a quick excursion to this fabulous pleasure center since it’s already right next door!
Having been open for over 40 years, you can clearly trust Steamworks Baths to take care of your every need and work out all of those rough kinks that have been troubling you. Not only do they try to set the standard across the nation for high-quality gay bathhouse experiences, but they also engage in local community programs to better the area. We love a place that gives back! And we also love a place that offers extensive public play services… Meeee-ow!
To visit Steamworks, you’ll have to wander outside of Davie Village, but it is well worth the trip. They are located on 123 W Pender and are open 24/7, but if you stop in on Sundays between 4PM and 8PM, they will give you a discounted locker.
Vancouver gay beaches
Since Vancouver is located right along the Pacific Coast, they have plenty of beautiful beaches to wander about during the summer. But even if you’re visiting in the winter months and you want a natural escape close to the shoreline, these beaches provide fantastic seaside views and neighboring trails. Here are some of the main gay beaches to check out in Vancouver:
With a 7km shoreline and sandy beach area, Wreck Beach is the largest clothing optional gay friendly naturist beach in North America. It is located about 15 minutes from downtown. To reach it you have to climb a steep incline. While that climb can obviously make for a rough trip, you can at least take comfort in the fact that the beach is fairly isolated, and the small hike gives you an opportunity to do some last-minute work on your beach body. This beach also goes the extra mile by providing exciting, regular events like their Bare Buns Run, Skinny Dip Day, Nude Art Show, and Coastal Clean Up Day.
For the majority of the year, Sunset Beach serves as a quiet getaway spot for the locals of the residential West End neighbourhood. However, for one weekend in August, everything changes… Vancouver holds its annual Gay Pride Festival on the shores of Sunset beach where things tend to get extremely wet n wild! Also, from late July to early August, try to snag a spot on Sunset Beach to catch a lovely view of Vancouver’s annual fireworks show, The Celebration of Life.
English Bay Beach
English Bay Beach is close to Davie Village, and it offers up an abundance of unique amenities, making it an essential stop for your Vancouver holiday. We’re talking restaurants, washrooms, kayak rentals, volleyball courts, and at least 66 palm trees. This is the real deal, people! Despite being the most popular beach in the downtown area, it’s all too easy to find a quiet spot for enjoying cocktails at sunset, which is exactly how Seby and I chose to spend some of our most romantic evenings together while visiting the area.
Vancouver Gay Pride and other events
Not many locations have Pride events running year-round, so Vancouver is one of the best places to visit if you’re wanting new experiences and wild parties at any time of the year. If you can, definitely try to plan your trip around these annual gay events in and around Vancouver:
Whistler Pride: January
Whistler Pride and Ski Festival is an event that has been running for almost 30 years. It is also one of the largest LGBTQ+ ski events in all of North America. While it may seem oddly specific to hold a gay skiing event, you’ve got to remember: (1) this is Canada, so they’re kind of obligated to have a gay event that specifically caters to winter sports fans, and (2) they also offer multiple displays of the local arts and culture and plenty of parties for those who prefer more social events. Despite taking place in a small town roughly 2 hours north of Vancouver, we highly recommend attending Whistler Pride. Who knows, maybe it will give you the chance to meet your own personal snow bunny?
RUBBOUT weekend: March
Interested in partying with other men who love all things rubber and gear? Then RUBBOUT Weekend is without a doubt going to be the best gay event for you! It is the longest consecutively running men’s rubber event in North America, originating in 1991. Their specific panels have evolved over the years, but they are now most famous for their Gear Swap and Puppy Play Parties. They also hold an afternoon brunch and plenty of workshops on the different facets of the rubber community. While they admit that many come to participate in some thrilling hanky panky(!), RUBBOUT also acknowledges that plenty of people leave with lifelong, international friendships.
Coronation Ball: March
We obviously love Canada for a lot of reasons, but also, how many other places in the world can say that they have their own political and legal system for the drag community that is run by a monarchist society? So… In short… We seriously love Canada! Each year the Mother Court crowns a set of monarchs, and to celebrate their newly appointed leaders, they hold the Coronation Ball. It is obviously a blast to party the night away with these gorgeous queens and kings, but what’s most impressive about the gay event is that all proceeds from the night go to local charities including the Rainbow Refugee Group, Women Against Violence Against Women (WAVAW), the Health Initiative for Men (HiM), and the Zee Zee Theatre.
For the record the 46th elected monarchs of Vancouver were: Empress XVI Jane Smoker and Emperor XLVI Tommy Della Notte.
Ignite Festival: April
Ignite Festival takes place each year over the long Easter weekend. It is one of the most inclusive and mentally engaging events that Vancouver has to offer. Ignite offers a place for gay men and masculine-aligned non-binary people to explore embodiment and intimacy. Through simple touch, yoga, meditation and dance, the leading organization, Men in Touch, aims to encourage men to feel as though their bodies, hearts and minds have been revitalized. Anyone out there who has a lingering sense of toxic masculinity, this is the place you can go to learn how to better open up and allow yourself to be vulnerable to your loved ones.
STRUT walk-a-thon: June
“A mile in heels is easier than a lifetime in the closet.” Wouldn’t you agree? STRUT Vancouver uses this quote as their slogan in order to inspire people to join them in their annual walk-a-thon. The walk itself is used to raise funds that contribute to the efforts of Foundations of Hope, an organization that provides support to LGBTQ+ refugees and newcomers. It may sound like serious business, but I promise, the event is still a lot of fun, especially because the organizers encourage all participants to actually complete the walk wearing heels… Talk about an exciting challenge for a good cause! STRUT is organized by the awesome Rainbow Foundation of Hope.
Gay pride Vancouver: July/August
Since its start in 1978, Vancouver Pride has become the largest parade of any kind in Western Canada. If you know anything about Canada, then you probably know that they can put on a fantastic festival, and with Vancouver Pride pulling in roughly 650,000 attendees back in 2017, I’m sure you can also imagine just how much fun they have each year! The Vancouver Pride Society prides itself (ha, get it?!) on intersectionality when leading their event, aiming to provide a safe place for their community.
Vancouver Film Festival: August
Do you consider yourself a film buff? Are you constantly searching for a place to appreciate gay film achievements with likeminded individuals? Well, the Vancouver Film Festival is the largest queer arts event in Western Canada and they really show up for all of their contributing artists. LGBTQ+ films from all around the world are showcased at this event. They also host wonderful workshops, panels and parties. And the best part? At the end of the festival, they hold a closing gala with an awards ceremony, meaning you can live out your Oscars fantasies in real-time. Just try not to fangirl too hard!
Gay Restaurants in Vancouver
Vancouver has some fantastic gay restaurants to check out, both for date night romance, a quick bite or for some good old fashioned Drag Bingo! There are many many many excellent restaurants to try in the city. For this guide, we've set out a few of our favourites, including a few fabulous not-to-miss gems which we know you'll also love as much as we did!
Mary's on Davie is an adorable 50s style diner with a sassy streak and delicious food, especially for breakfast/brunch. The gay restaurant looks awesome and the staff are hilarious. The highlight is their Drag Bingo nights…an absolute must: you haven't lived until you've had a drag queen heckle at you during drag bingo! We loved their breakfast dishes, in particular, the pancakes and their eggs Benedicts.
Mary's on Davie is located at 1202 Davie Street and is open daily from 9am until 7pm.
Frankie's is a sophisticated and romantic spot for some delicious Italian cuisine, perfect for a date night. The staff are warm and friendly, which really sets the tone. We loved dining on their classic Italian dishes, like homemade pasta, risotto, carpaccio and wines matched to each course. It is very popular though, so make sure you book a table beforehand or you might miss out.
Frankie's Italian Kitchen is located at 765 Beatty Street and is open every day from 2pm until 10pm.
For the best burgers in Vancouver (seriously, they've been voted that for 13 years straight!) head to Vera's Burger Shack. There's more than one location, but if you're in the gay neighbourhood there's one right on Davie Street. Everything is made fresh from scratch and the burgers are the sort of juicy, melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness that you will dream of for days to come! Some of our favourites include the Stingers with jalapeno and the Greek with a lamb patty.
Vera's is located at 1030 Davie Street and is open every day from 11am until around midnight, but later on weekends.
Honey Salt is the in-house restaurant at the Douglas Hotel. We loved it! It's super classy and another favourite of ours for a cheeky romantic date night. We came for dinner and had some delicious steak and seafood, which was gooood! Their desserts are also divine, in particular, their massive banana cake – enough to feed two families (or in our case, my greedy Frenchman!). Be sure to also try their mouthwatering “brookie” brownie cookies!
Honey Salt is located in the Douglas Hotel at 39 Smithe Street and it's open every day from 7am until 10pm.
Things to do in Vancouver
Vancouver is a diverse, bustling city on the west coast of Canada in the British Columbia province. It's gorgeous because on the one side you have the ocean breeze and on the other side, the city is surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Nature is everywhere here, and we lapped up every second! Here are a few of our favourite things to do in Vancouver to wet your Bucket List appetite:
LGBTQ history tour of Vancouver
Gay travellers to Vancouver HAVE to experience this fabulous “Really Gay History Tour” to learn more about the city's LGBTQ past. Tour guide Glenn is unmissable in his flamboyant pink outfit and super charming smile! He told us all about Vancouver's gay history from the famous “kiss-in” of Granville Street to gay ministers and the sad story of “patient zero” in the AIDS epidemic. Aside from the serious stuff, the tour is light-hearted and barrel of laughs thanks to Glenn's wicked sense of humour!
Take a stroll on the Vancouver waterfront
The waterfront area of Vancouver is our favorite spot. We loved coming here for evening strolls and watching seaplanes take off. The city views here are also gorg because you have the mountain backdrop. Come at sunset and it's particularly stunning! When strolling the waterfront, be sure to check out another favorite landmark of ours – the iconic blue raindrop statue called The Drop. Also, check out the impressive FlyOver Canada simulation ride in Canada Place, where you can experience many parts of the country in one go!
Hiking in Vancouver
We love a hike! Any way to get our minimum daily 10k steps is a must – doing it surrounded by jaw-dropping scenery, is a bonus! The hikes around Vancouver are glorious! This place is a paradise for seasoned hikers. Some of the best hikes in and around Vancouver include Mount Woodside in Agassiz, Iceberg Lake on Rainbow Mountain, St, Mark's Summit in the Cypress Provincial Park, Tunnel Bluffs, and Watersprite Lake near Squamish – to name a few. It goes without saying that if you do intend to do some serious packing, remember to bring a sturdy pair of shoes or ideally, hiking boots.
See Vancouver from up above
If a simulated flight is not quite exciting enough for you, then we recommend hopping on a panoramic flight over Vancouver by seaplane. The famous seaplanes depart from Vancouver's Coal Harbour then fly over the city, all the way to the surrounding parks and beaches. We loved spotting the Lions Gate Bridge and other landmarks from this unique perspective. You can also feel good about it since these seaplanes are part of the first carbon-neutral airline in North America.
Shopping and coffee in Gastown
Gastown is Vancouver’s most historic neighbourhood, with cute cobblestone streets and restored Victorian buildings. We love just getting lost in Gastown – every corner is super Instagrammable. One of the most famous landmarks in Gastown is the steam clock on the corner of Cambie and Water Street. It is powered by a steam engine and produces a puff of steam from its top every hour. Nickelback fans will recognise it as the clock featured on the album cover of Here and Now.
Cycling in Stanley Park
Weather permitting (be warned: it sure rains a lot in Vancouver!), we recommend cycling in Stanley Park. This large 405-hectare (1,001-acre) public green space lies at the Northern edge of Downtown Vancouver and is almost entirely surrounded by the waters of the Vancouver Harbour and English Bay. There is a 9km seawall bike path, which you can either walk (2-3 hours), or cycle (1 hour). Highlights to check out include the Rose Garden, the Lovers Walk and The Teahouse restaurant.
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
The Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is a large green space separated in two by the Capilano River. In 1889, a 137m (450ft) long suspension bridge was built to connect the two sides, which hangs around 70m (230ft) above ground. Depending on your vertigo level, it's a lot of fun/nerve wracking to cross! On the other side of the suspension bridge is a larger park with 7 smaller suspended footbridges. The Park also celebrates the First Nations people which includes several intricately carved Totem poles.
Go whale watching
The waters surrounding Vancouver are filled with marine life, so it's the perfect spot to fulfil any Free Willy whale-spotting dreams you might have. Going on a half-day whale-watching tour almost guarantees you seeing at least one kind of whale, if not more. The waters around Vancouver are home to orcas (killer whales), humpback whales, grey whales and minke whales so if you're very lucky you might see a whole bunch of them in one go.
Take the Sea to Sky Highway to Whistler
The Sea to Sky Highway is the name of part of Highway 99 in British Columbia that connects Vancouver to Whistler. It's also extremely scenic! Whistler itself is absolutely gorgeous, particularly in the winter months when its ski resorts come to life. If you're not using a car you can also do a day trip to Whistler via the spectacular Sea to Sky Gondola. This gondola offers incredible views and the chance to spot bears or other wildlife.
Spend a weekend in Vancouver Island
Vancouver Island is a beautiful and untouched destination that justifies a weekend trip. We came for a whole week and would gladly return for more. We stayed at the very romantic Kingfisher Resort: absolutely stunning and it has an incredible spa set inside rock caves. There are tons of exciting things to do on the island – some of our favourites included hiking in the Beacon Hill Park, visiting the Ammonite Falls and exploring the Old City Quarter of Nanaimo.
Plan your trip to Vancouver
We've put together some handy hints and tips to help you plan your own trip to Vancouver. Read on to find out everything the gay traveller should know before they go.
Travel insurance: We always recommend travel insurance so that you will be protected in the case of injury, illness, theft or cancellations beyond your control. We've been using Heymondo for years and cannot recommend them highly enough. Their coverage is very comprehensive and it's easy to make a claim online.
How to get there: You can reach Vancouver by driving, catching a train, bus or even a ferry, but most visitors arrive by flying into the Vancouver International Airport. It takes at least 25 minutes to get to downtown Vancouver from the airport and we recommend pre-booking a private airport transfer so you don't need to worry about juggling your luggage on public transport.
Visa requirements: Residents of the United States can visit Canada without a visa, but residents of some other countries (the UK, Australia, most European countries) need to apply for an ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization) to enter Canada if they're arriving by air. There is only a small fee for an ETA and it doesn't take long if you have the necessary documents. Of course, citizens from other less privileged countries will need a visa. You can check your visa requirements and apply for your ETA or Canadian travel visa here.
Getting around: Vancouver is a very walkable city, so you can get some exercise while exploring. There's also an excellent public transport system consisting of buses, the SkyTrain, SeaBus and taxis.
Currency: The currency in Montreal and the rest of Canada is the Canadian dollar. The currency code is CAD and the symbol used is $ although sometimes it's written as CA$ to distinguish it from US or other dollar sign currencies. Currently, US$1 converts to about CA$1.33, €1 is roughly CA$1.46 and £1 is worth around CA$1.72.
Tipping culture: It's generally expected that you will tip for good service in Vancouver and the rest of Canada. Like the United States, Canada has a strong tipping culture so how much you leave will indicate how good you thought the level of service you received was. Have a look at this guide for details on exactly how much you should tip in Canada at different places if you're not familiar with tipping cultures.
Internet access: Vancouver has one of the largest free WiFi networks in North America, with WiFi hotspots all over the city! However, if you are planning to be doing a lot of work or needing reliable internet access at all times then you might prefer to bring a portable WiFi device with you.
Accommodation: There are lots of accommodation options in Vancouver, beyond what we've mentioned here. We love to use Booking.com when deciding where to stay because they have an extensive selection and the best prices. They also provide excellent 24/7 customer support if needed and free cancellation for most listings.
Sightseeing and adventure: We've mentioned a few fun things to do in Vancouver here, but if you're looking for more, we love to use GetYourGuide.com. The booking process is easy, there are countless of cool activities to choose from and their 24-hour customer support is excellent.
When to visit: Vancouver has four distinct seasons so deciding when to visit really comes down to what sort of weather you'd prefer or which events you want to attend. Winter can be quite magical with the snow and you'll be ideally situated for snow sports at Whistler. If you prefer warmer temperatures then the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn will provide cheaper prices, especially for accommodation. Summer is filled with lots of festivals and, of course, gay Pride!
Vancouver gay map
Here's our gay map of Vancouver with all the gay bars, clubs, hotels and sightseeing highlights we've mentioned in this post marked on it. Use it to plan your own amazing gay trip to Vancouver!
For more inspiration:
- Experience one of the most unique gay Pride events at Whistler's Snow Pride!
- These are the best gay bars and clubs in Toronto
- If you're travelling as a couple, check out these romantic things to do in Toronto
- As well as the best gay events in Toronto
- Find out what it's like to grow up gay in Canada in our interview with Barry from Toronto
- While on that side of the country, check out the best gay events in Montreal as well
- Foodies will love these fabulous gay friendly restaurants in Montreal
- For more snowy fun, check out the best gay skiing events in the world