Photo: My dad and I at the top of the Stawamus Chief – Father’s Day 2009. Source: Robyn Hanson.
Father’s Day falls on Sunday, June 19th. In the past few years my sister and I have taken our dad on Father’s Day adventures – mini day trips, so to speak. After all, it’s our dad’s infectious love for the BC outdoors that really inspires us to get out exploring. Our appreciation for our backyard is really because of him. So here’s a list of some great day trip ideas you can do with dad on Father’s Day. Thanks for the inspiration, Dad!
1. Hike the Stawamus Chief
A few years ago my sister and I took our dad on a Father’s Day adventure up to Stawamus Chief in Squamish. He had hiked the granite monolith back in the 70′s, but had continued for decades to speak fondly of his experience. We figured that it was probably time for him to revisit the Chief, so we picked him up on Sunday morning, grabbed some picnic supplies at the Safeway in West Van before driving along the Sea to Sky for our adventure. He was stoked!
The Chief, by the way, is the hike that takes you up to the top of the granite cliff faces next to Squamish. Yes, it’s strenuous, but not impossible. Bring comfy hiking shoes (especially shoes that have proper grip) and be prepared to use your hands and knees. If you’re up for some physical activity and your dad’s the athletic kind, give it a go.
The hike takes you from Shannon Falls up along through the temperate rain forest – you’re climbing up granite steps and tree stump stairs for about an hour, before you get to a three way split to the First, Second, and Third peaks. Take the First Peak (trust me) – it’s the easiest of the three, and yet, still involves climbing ladders and using ropes to get to the top. I wouldn’t recommend it for those afraid of heights, but the panoramic view of Howe Sound from the top is spectacular and well worth the effort. Time needed? Give yourself at least 3 hours, although it varies depending on your ability.
2. Wine Tasting
My dad loves wine. When I was a kid he used to take us on road trips to the Napa, Sonoma, and Okanagan Valleys. He grows grapes in the backyard and makes his own wine. He even teaches wine education courses! Needless to say, he’s super passionate about wine, and I can only imagine there must be other wine aficionado dads as well.
Since the Vancouver, Coast & Mountains region boasts numerous award-winning wineries, why not take dad on an afternoon wine tasting adventure? Whether you do this on Father’s Day, or write up your own gift certificate to treat him on a day of his choice, there’s a lot of choose from.
There’s fruit wine tasting at Westham Island Winery in Ladner. On Father’s Day they’ll be celebrating the Strawberry Festival. The Blazing Saddles band will be playing from 10am until 4pm, and hot dogs, smokies, and strawberry shortcake will be served (all by donation). There will be wine tasting, a picnic area, and if you bring your own containers, you can go berry picking!
In the Fraser Valley you have your choice of about a dozen wineries, including Neck of the Woods, Vista D’Oro Winery, Lotusland Vineyards, Township 7, The Fort Wine Company, and Domaine de Chaberton (with their gourmet restaurant, Bacchus Bistro). Why not spend the afternoon winery-hopping? Offer to be the designated driver, of course. Oh, and don’t forget about mead (honey wine) at Campbell’s Gold! I just tasted some last weekend at EAT! Vancouver – delicious!
And at the northern end of the Sea to Sky Highway in Lillooet is the Fort Berens Estate Winery. You could easily turn this into a weekend family retreat, staying in Whistler, Pemberton, or Lillooet on the drive up, and spending the next day sampling the wines at Fort Berens before driving back down via the Fraser Canyon – an ultimate road trip must.
Fishing is one of those quintessential experiences one does with their father, no?
If you don’t have a fishing license (or even a fishing rod for that matter), head over to the Father’s Day Fishing event at Rice Lake in North Van. It goes from 10am until 3pm on Father’s Day at the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve. Don’t know where that is? It’s that lake at the north end of the trails in Lynn Canyon Park. This is a fish license-free event and fishing tackle will be available to use when you’re there. You can learn about ethical fishing techniques, release some rainbow trout into Rice Lake, and best yet – enjoy a wild salmon BBQ. For more details, visit the Seymour Salmonid Society’s website here.
For something a little more, shall I say, hardcore… why not head to the Fraser Valley for catch-and-release sturgeon fishing? Because you usually have to reserve ahead for a guide, you’ll probably want to do this as a future day trip with dad, but nevertheless, the Fraser River is a world famous destination for sturgeon. As Cascade Fishing Adventures say on their website, their guests claim that the Fraser River’s white sturgeon “are by far and away the most exciting freshwater sport fish to be found.” After watching Simon of Simon Sees fish for sturgeon in the video below, I can see why!
If you’re not sure who to go fishing with, there’s a whole list of companies here, although S.T.S. Guiding Service is offering a Father’s Day Deal for the entire month of June. Full details on the special can be found here.
4. Whale Watching
People travel from all over the world to go whale watching in BC, and yet many locals have never been. If your dad loves scenery, photography, nature, and the outdoors, a whale watching adventure would be a pretty sweet Father’s Day gift.
If you’re feeling spontaneous, bring dad out to Steveston tomorrow as, according to this tweet, Steveston Seabreeze Adventures will be offering 20% off for fathers on Father’s Day. Steveston Seabreeze is one of two Steveston-based whale watching companies, the other one is Vancouver Whale Watch. Both companies depart out of the Steveston harbour and offer guaranteed sightings. Success rate’s often around 90%.
Plan for a whole day out to Steveston as whale watching often eats up the better part of the day. Trips out of Steveston can take 3-5 hours depending on the location of the orcas. Also note that orcas travel FAST and FAR. In the morning they could be near Victoria at the southern end of Vancouver Island (2-3 hours from Steveston), and in the afternoon they could be at the mouth of the Fraser River (just minutes from Steveston). Regardless, half the enjoyment is the journey out to find the orcas as you’ll often see more than just orcas, as revealed by this video by Chris of the Richmond Reel. Oh, and if you’re wondering, transient orcas as well as J-Pod have been seen pretty regularly this month. K-Pod and L-Pod, the two other residential orca pods, should be arriving any time now!
Another option is to simply depart from Vancouver. There’s Wild Whales Vancouver which departs from Granville Island, and Prince of Whales which departs from Coal Harbour. Prince of Whales has a really unique whale watching tour package called Whales & Fly. You go whale watching out of Vancouver and end up in Victoria, before flying back to Vancouver via Harbour Air. This, I think, would be an amazing Father’s Day experience!