Vancouver blossoms in the spring with festivals celebrating everything from the arts to children.

But no matter what time of the year you visit, this city on the mainland of British Columbia offers spectacular vistas, animal encounters, cool bars and funky neighbourhoods that are just waiting to be explored.

8am

For breakfast head over to Granville Island, 15 minutes from downtown. Here you’ll find a food market jam-packed with vendors that include bakers, fishmongers, cheese specialists, chocolatiers and more. Local artists have set up shop just outside, where you’ll also find Canada’s only artisan sake distillery. The best way to get to Granville is by jumping on a cute Aquabus at the end of Thurlow Street for the five-minute ride across False Creek.

10am

Time for some exercise. One of the largest urban parks in North America, Stanley Park can fill your whole day. Rent a bike or Rollerblades or use your own two feet to follow the seawall around this tranquil oasis in the heart of Vancouver. You’ll pass by soaring totem poles, the Prospect Point Lighthouse and Third Beach – a great place to stop for ice cream.

12:30pm

Yaletown is a trendy and upscale renovated warehouse district and it’s an easy walk from the centre of downtown. Today it’s considered Vancouver’s “little Soho”. One of the best spots for lunch is the Homer St Cafe and Bar. This restaurant is new to Vancouver’s culinary scene, featuring seasonal menus centred on fresh, locally sourced ingredients – including a strong focus on all-the-rage rotisserie.

2pm

Time for some retail therapy. Robson Street is the main shopping drag in Vancouver and one of the best shops here is Roots, a Canadian brand that has good-quality and well-priced clothing and accessories.

4pm

Walk down to Vancouver’s waterfront at Canada Place and grab a ticket for a ride on the FlyOver Canada. This “flight” allows guests to virtually soar from coast to coast on a breathtaking aerial journey that showcases the country’s grandeur.

5pm

Time for a snack at one of Vancouver’s exotic food carts. Some options include: Feastro the Rolling Bistro for prawns and fish & chips; The Kaboom Box – try the hot smoked salmon “salmwich”; and Mom’s Grilled Cheese Truck serves gourmet grilled cheese and roasted tomato soup.

6pm

Time for a pre-dinner drink in Vancouver’s most historic neighbourhood, Gastown, originally called “Gassy’s” after the saloon proprietor Gassy Jack Deighton. Today, with its cobbled streets and restored Victorian buildings, Gastown is a happening place for shopping, dining and strolling.

8pm

For dinner, head to The Fish House in Stanley Park. Here you can choose from a menu featuring fresh seafood indigenous to the West Coast while kicking back with a glass of wine and taking in panoramic views of English Bay and the surrounding forest.

IF YOU GO:

GETTING THERE:

Air Canada flies non-stop from Sydney (14 hours there and 15 back).

TOURING THERE:

The Rocky Mountaineer has a range of circle journeys that leave from Vancouver travel to the Canadian Rockies and back to Vancouver. The train operates until October.

MORE:

Tourism Vancouver

The writer was a guest of Rocky Mountaineer, Canadian Tourism Commission, Destination British Columbia and Travel Alberta.