There has never been a better time to try out birding! This accessible activity is rooted in mindfulness and connection with nature. It can be as easy as going to your local park. You can make an afternoon or day trip of it, or you can even treat yourself to a weekend birding getaway.
If you’re living in Vancouver, or just arrived in the big city as a hub for your BC travels, this Field Notes blog will guide you to some Vancouver-adjacent birding adventures through communities on the BC Bird Trail.
These bird watching locations are all within a half-hour’s drive from Vancouver and most are accessible by public transit. They’re perfect options for squeezing a little fresh air into your day.
Terra Nova Rural Park on the South Fraser Bird Trail
- Roughly an hour by public transit from downtown Vancouver. Take the Canada Line to Richmond-Brighouse, then take the 401 bus to No. 1 Rd. From there, Terra Nova is a 15-20 minute walk away.
- A 30-minute drive from downtown Vancouver
Sitting right where the Fraser River meets the sea, Terra Nova Rural Park is part of the Pacific Flyway. Located in Richmond, this park offers excellent opportunities to see migratory birds, and the viewing platforms along the trails are perfect for bird watching.
Garry Point Park on the South Fraser Bird Trail
- One hour by public transit from downtown Vancouver. Take the Canada Line to Richmond-Brighouse, and from there, take the 406 Eastbound bus to Chatham St @ 7th Ave. From there, Garry Point Park is a 7-minute walk away.
- A 45-minute drive from downtown Vancouver
Enjoy a stroll through this waterfront park in Richmond known for a variety of raptors, shorebirds, and waterfowl. You can also take the 6km West Dyke Trail along the Strait of Georgia that connects Garry Point Park with Terra Nova Rural Park for some extra birding.
Boundary Bay Regional Park on the South Fraser Bird Trail
- Roughly an hour and a half by public transit from downtown Vancouver. Take the Canada Line to Richmond-Brighouse, from there take the 601 bus to the South Delta Exchange, then get on the 619 bus from Boundary Bay. Get off at Boundary Bay Rd at the 400 Block. From there, it’s a 10-minute walk to Boundary Bay Regional Park.
- A 45-minute drive from downtown Vancouver
Also a part of the Pacific Flyway migration route, this park offers opportunities to see a large variety of migratory birds. Keep an eye out for shorebirds like Western Sandpipers, Dunlins, and Black-bellied Plovers, as well as waterfowl like Northern Pintails, grebes, and Green-winged Teals. Try walking along the Raptor Trail for a chance to see owls and hawks.
Green Timbers Urban Forest on the South Fraser Bird Trail
- Roughly an hour away by public transit from downtown Vancouver. Take the Expo Line to Surrey Central Station. From there, catch the 325 or R1 bus. If you catch the 325, get off at SB 140 St @ 100 Ave and walk about 20 minutes to the park. If you take the R1, get off at EB 104 Ave @ 114 St and walk down to the park, about 20 minutes.
- A 30-50-minute drive from downtown Vancouver.
One of Surrey’s largest parks and home to over 10 kilometres of nature trails. Bald eagles, woodpeckers, owls, and various waterfowl are known to make appearances in this urban oasis. For more fun, check out the nearby Surrey Nature Centre, perfect for hands-on nature learning for kids and adults alike.
A little bit farther out, these locations are more of a journey but still very doable as a day trip. We’ve also added in some close-by suggestions for lunch or dinner to keep you fueled up before you head back into town.
Derby Reach Regional Park on the Fraser Valley Bird Trail
- A one-hour drive from downtown Vancouver
Derby Reach features 12.9 km of trails through forested areas nestled along the Fraser River banks, offering opportunities to see a variety of local and migratory birds, such as warblers, woodpeckers, and waterfowl like mergansers, grebes, and ducks. Less common sightings include American Kestrels and Red-tailed Hawks, and even Turkey Vultures have been spotted in the area during late summer and early fall.
Once it’s time for a bite to eat, head down to the historic Fort Langley, about a 10-minute drive. Sabà Cafe and Bistro and Blacksmith Bakery are a couple of delicious options.
Fishtrap Creek Park on the Fraser Valley Bird Trail
- An hour and a half by public transportation from downtown Vancouver. Take the Expo Line to Lougheed Town Centre Station. From there, take the 509 bus to Carvolth Exchange and then catch the 66 Fraser Valley Express bus to Chilliwack, getting off at Highstreet Mall Bay A. You’ll then catch the 1 bus to Old Yael at Mitchell, which is only a 3-minute walk away from the park!
- A one-hour drive from downtown Vancouver
Fishtrap Creek Park is nestled in the city of Abbotsford and features towering trees full of wildlife and lookout posts along the creek paths, all perfect for birdwatching.
Abbotsford offers many delicious options for lunch and dinner and the city core is only a short drive from Fishtrap Creek Park or you can hop back on the 1 bus towards UFV (University of the Fraser Valley). Try elegant farm-to-table cuisine from Restaurant 62 or check out the Sprouted Oven for some plant-based pizzas and sandwiches.
Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve on the Fraser Valley Bird Trail
- Just over an hour’s drive from Vancouver
Home to one of the largest heron nesting colonies in the Lower Mainland, this facility includes an interpretive centre managed by the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve Society and multiple trails outfitted with bird blinds. Head up to their observation tower for a “heron’s eye view.”
For food options, Farmhouse Brewing Co. is close by with BC craft beer and farm-fresh pizza and charcuterie. Or try Garrison Bistro for a larger, seasonally-based menu.
Cheam Lake Wetlands Regional Park on the Fraser Valley Bird Trail
- An hour and a half drive from Vancouver
This 107-hectare park is made up of lake, marsh, and forested areas. These diverse habitats are home to over 180 different bird species.
Back in Chilliwack, try Bravo Restaurant for Pacific Northwest-inspired cuisine or Bow and Stern for delicious seafood options with an afternoon and late-night happy hour.
Lhá:lt/Harrison-Chehalis Wildlife Management Area on the Fraser Valley Bird Trail
- A two-hour drive from Downtown Vancouver
Stretching the entire Harrison river, this area is renowned for bald eagles feeding on the salmon in the fall, with winter bringing the graceful trumpeter swans. Follow the Eagle Viewing Trail at the Sandpiper Resort for the first of many spectacular views. Continue birdwatching and enjoy the views of the Harrison River by stopping at The River’s Edge Restaurant for lunch or dinner.
Treat yourself to a weekend birding getaway on Vancouver Island, and pay a visit to these prime birding spots in between checking out everything the local communities have to offer. The Central Vancouver Island Bird Trail has many options in its self-guided itinerary for places to stay, food to enjoy, and birding adventures to be had. Here are some great birding places to stop by and check out.
Getting to the Island:
- Catch the ferry from Horseshoe Bay on the mainland to Departure Bay on Vancouver Island. From there, explore birding opportunities along the Central Vancouver Island Bird Trail.
Faye Smith Pavilion & Brant Viewing Area
The interpretive pavilion honours Faye Smith, a longtime wild salmon advocate dedicated to protecting salmon habitats from the Englishman River to Little Qualicum watersheds. Take in the panoramic view and learn about the intertidal ecology, wild salmon, and myriad bird species.
North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre
If you’re looking to meet some birds and support their rehabilitation, drop by the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre, located in Errington. They offer lots of opportunities to learn about local birds and their habitats in BC.
Nanaimo River Estuary
This diverse area is where the Nanaimo River meets the Salish Sea, creating the largest estuary on Vancouver Island. A highly productive ecosystem that supports a large number of plant life, fish and wildlife species. In the warmer months, watch for sandpipers, raptors, swallows, warblers, and more, ensuring you’ll see plenty of activity during your visit. In winter, the water comes alive with swans, ducks, and grebes. It’s the perfect destination all year!
The Columbia Valley Bird Trail is another great region of BC perfect for an extended getaway. It’s a bit of a drive from Vancouver (roughly ~10 hours) or a short flight to Kimberley or Cranbrook. From observing the striking breeding plumage of waterbirds in the Columbia Wetlands to the 28km North Star Rails to Trails that connects parts of the region, there are lots of birding opportunities in the valley. Learn more about the communities that make up the Columbia Valley Bird Trail.
We hope this list of bird-watching locales inspires you to plan a birding excursion and to look up, and stay grounded on The BC Bird Trail.
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