Need something to do this weekend? Here are five boat-rental spots that will get you out onto the water. (Looking for more summer activities? Check out our Summer in the City guide, where we also spotlight the beauty of the BBQ boat.)
Pirate Adventures, 1820 Mast Tower Road, Granville Island
Does one of your childhood fantasies involve donning an eyepatch, your finest cotton waistcoat, and a badass bandanna as you shoot cannons at the villainous buccaneers trailing your galleon? If so, then boy, do we have a treat for you.
Boasting a 50-foot-long wooden vessel and a crew of enthusiastic pirates—the good ones, of course—ready to heed your beck and call, Vancouver’s Pirate Adventures is designed for the kid in all of us. The exparriential boating tour (sorry) preps guests for their roles at sea with face-painting and a trunk-load of pirate costumes before whisking them off for a jaunt around the city’s scenic Granville Island and False Creek waterways.
Once on deck, you’ll be able to do your best Jack Sparrow or Elizabeth Swann as you navigate the ocean for hidden treasures, defend the ship against the wicked Pirate Pete, and indulge in some “grog”—that’s buccaneer-speak for beer—with your fellow swashbucklers. And because pirate life comes with its pros and cons, you’ll even be able to experience a mutiny before sharing the riches you uncover with your crew.
The 75-minute sail kicks off on Granville Island and is available for kid and adult parties all summer. There’s also a cruise that takes place during the Celebration of Light fireworks and a special sunset sail designed for couples complete with romantic music and a celebratory toast with a “pirate twist”. Pirate puns and lingo are encouraged.
Granville Island Boat Rentals, 1696 Duranleau Street, Granville Island
You don’t have to own a lot of things in Vancouver to have fun. No bike? Rent one out from one of the many bicycle shops or the new Mobi bike share program. No car? Take a spin in a vehicle of your choice through countless car-share companies in the city. No boat? Simply check out Granville Island Boat Rentals, a vessel company that offers one of the newest fleets of boat rentals around town.
Their affordable hourly rates (which includes a free one-day boating license) gives you the chance to cruise through the harbour sans the too-much-luxury stigma. Depending on the size of your party, choose from one of its 16- to 18-foot boats that can accommodate up to six passengers.
So what do you do when you’ve got a boat? The activities are endless, including using your own (or rented) fishing rods to try your hand at catching some fish, crab-trapping, or roaming through Deep Cove for a glimpse of Granite Waterfalls. The next time you see a fancy boat sailing through English Bay, just think—you too can rent a snazzy-looking motorboat and show it off for the day.
Deep Cove Kayaks, 2156 Banbury Road, North Vancouver
Remember a decade ago, when the provincial government unveiled its “Best Place on Earth” slogan, much to the chagrin of B.C.’s generally humble residents? Well, when you’re paddling around the calm waters of Deep Cove or through the verdant fjord of Indian Arm, and you glance up through the mist to see a magnificent bald eagle silhouetted right above you, you might be inclined to think that you really are in the greatest spot in the world, if only for that moment.
Deep Cove Kayak has been delivering those moments for 35 years, offering lessons and tours for novices. If you have some experience and just want to rent a kayak and explore on your own, you can do that too. Deep Cove’s fleet also includes standup paddleboards, surfskis, and canoes. Also dragon boats, but those require a group booking, for reasons that ought to be obvious to anyone who has ever seen a dragon boat.
Deep Cove really is one of the prettiest places you’ll ever see, and you might even encounter a curious seal or otter as you paddle around. Oh, and if you happen to see the aforementioned eagle, tell it we said hi.
Bon Chovy Fishing Charters, 1814 Mast Tower Road, Granville Island
If, like many Vancouverites, you’ve got a penchant for sushi and you’re curious to know how that fresh, wild salmon gets to your plate, we suggest a day trip with the experienced fishing guides at Bon Chovy.
While they can’t guarantee a catch (you know the mantra: it’s called fishing, not catching), how can anyone argue with hanging out on a boat with good company, especially in the midst of summer? At the very least, it serves as an exciting new way to see the city of Vancouver, and a peek into the marine life that is literally at our back door.
Whether you’re a seasoned angler or a total chowder (fisherman's talk for first-timer), guides will be there to talk you through bait and tackle, assist you with setting hooks, and point you in the right direction when it comes time to taking your silvery slab of meat home. These fellas know the Georgia Strait and its surrounding waters better than most, and will be sure to work every tack in the book in your search for line-caught Chinook salmon.
Fairweather fishermen needn’t worry; June, July, and August are usually quite pleasant days on the water, and productive to boot: co-owner Jason Assonitis says the mouth of the Fraser can be a popular area for catching fish, as salmon start returning to the river to spawn in late summer. Some rules worth noting before you hop aboard? Don’t bring a banana on the boat—a well-known superstition among die-hards—and don’t forget your fishing license.
Harbour Cruise Sunset Dinner Cruises, 501 Denman Street
There’s a reason why tourists pay thousands of dollars to revel in the beauty of a Pacific Northwest sunset glinting off the water. Few places in the world are more scenicthan Vancouver in the summer—and while visitors get to appreciate the city for just a few days, locals have months to enjoy the spoils of the season.
Running from May through mid-October, Harbour Cruises’ Sunset Dinner Cruise offers individuals the chance to explore our world-renowned city from the water, while delighting in a first-class meal. Guests are invited to drink chilled glasses of wine as the boat drifts slowly past Vancouver’s famous views, including the downtown skyline, the North Shore mountains, and Stanley Park. Driven by a large waterwheel, the three-level paddleboat is both leisurely and quiet, which ensures the vessel doesn’t overshadow the live musicians that serenade passengers over dinner.
The food is based on local staples, with choices including slow roasted beef sirloin, fillet of British Columbian salmon, and fresh seasonal vegetables. Running every night including holidays, the Sunset Dinner Cruise offers plenty of opportunity for Vancouverites to get a new perspective on their city.