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Vancouver is an awesome city to explore on foot, but there are some experiences that you just can’t get on the ground. If you want to check out the iconic sights of the city from above (and why wouldn’t you?!) then one of the best things to do in Vancouver is to hop aboard a seaplane flight.
I’ll admit, I know that the word “seaplane” doesn’t always fill people with confidence. But I promise Vancouver seaplanes are totally safe and offer an incredible experience to add to your Vancouver itinerary.
Pretty much everything in this city runs like clockwork, and that includes the seaplanes. All of the companies that operate here have stellar safety records, so you can rest assured that you’re in good hands.
Whether you want to book a Vancouver seaplane ride for a fun day out, a romantic honeymoon idea, or as a scenic way to get from A to B, there are a few things to check before you take to the sky.
So without further ado, here are the 10 things you need to know before booking a Vancouver seaplane tour.
1. What is a seaplane?
Unless you’ve traveled to specific destinations, like the Maldives or the Caribbean, you might not have come across a seaplane before, so let’s start with the basics.
A seaplane is a fixed-wing aircraft that is designed to take off and land on water. That’s why they’re also sometimes referred to as “floatplanes.” They have big pontoons or floats instead of wheels, which means they can land in relatively shallow water.
You’ll usually find seaplanes on island destinations like Greece, Fiji, and the Bahamas. But they’re not limited to those locations. In fact, Vancouver has the largest seaplane fleet in North America!
Seaplanes are a popular Vancouver tourist attraction because the city is surrounded by water. Plus, with so many incredible sights to see, it’s a great way to make the most of your time and soak in as much of the city as possible. It’s like getting the ultimate Vancouver city tour from the air!
2. Where is the seaplane airport in Vancouver?
You’ll find the seaplane airport at Coal Harbour, which is located downtown on the waterfront. It’s also super close to the Olympic Cauldron, a must-see legacy from the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Coal Harbour itself is a pretty cool area to spend some time in before or after your seaplane ride. I’d recommend going to see the Jack Poole Plaza and checking out the Digital Orca, which is the work of famous Canadian author and artist, Douglas Coupland.
There are also plenty of great eateries where you can grab a bite or a drink, such as the Cactus Club and Meat & Bread. Honestly, if you don’t gain a little weight when you’re in Vancouver then you’ve probably done something wrong …. or it’s easy enough to work it off on one of the easy hikes around Vancouver!
Related read: Check out the best restaurants in Gastown – this is a historic Vancouver neighborhood right next to Coal Harbour where you can grab a excellent meal after your seaplane adventure.
3. What are the seaplane tours available in Vancouver?
As one of the best tours in Vancouver, there are lots of options! You can either take a Vancouver floatplane tour for fun or as a neat way to get to another destination. You can even fly as far as Seattle, Washington in the United States. That’s right, Vancouver seaplane tours fly internationally!
There are tons of different Vancouver seaplane tours you can take, whether you want to fly out of Canada in style or simply see Vancouver from a different perspective.
20-minute scenic flight
If you’re short on time or are exploring on a budget, this 20-minute seaplane tour is the perfect option. You’ll enjoy aerial views of the city’s beautiful skyline, Olympic facilities, and mountain peaks in the distance. The price of this tour at $159 CAD also includes a carbon offset levy, so you can feel good about taking to the skies.
This tour is simply a scenic flight, so you’ll return to the same place as where you departed in Coal Harbour.
45-minute scenic flight
If you want to spend longer in the air and see even more of Vancouver, then this 45-minute tour is a great option. You’ll get to see even more of the city and fly over Howe Sound, Vancouver’s triangular-shaped fjord, on your return. This is an especially great option if you don’t have long to spend in Vancouver and want to see as much as possible. It’s still relatively reasonable price-wise at $235 CAD per person.
Vancouver to Victoria one-way flight
If your next stop after Vancouver is Victoria, then why not take a seaplane as your mode of transport to get from Vancouver to Victoria? This flight takes just over half an hour and will take you and your luggage all the way to Victoria! The best part is that you’ll get to see some incredible scenery on the way, including Stanley Park, the Gulf Islands, and British Columbia’s parliament buildings. It’s the perfect way to both bid farewell to Vancouver and say hello to Victoria, which is often referred to as Canada’s most British city.
Related Read: Once you’re in Victoria, don’t miss the best tours in Victoria including whale watching, world-famous gardens, and castles!
Whistler Seaplane Day Trip
Whistler is a charming ski village located just a couple of hours north of Vancouver. If you’re short on time but still want to visit, then taking a seaplane is the perfect way to make the most of a Whistler day trip. This tour includes bike rental so you’ll be able to explore the village at your own leisure, whistling as you go – sorry, couldn’t resist that one.
At $473 CAD per person, this tour isn’t exactly cheap but if you’ve got room in your budget, it does make for a wonderful day out – plus, taking a seaplane is a million times cooler than driving!
Note, this tour is a day trip to Whistler and includes a return flight back to Vancouver.
Vancouver to Tofino one-way flight
Tofino is a small town located on Vancouver Island’s west coast and it’s famed for its surfer-friendly beaches and wild coastline. If you’re looking to escape the city and immerse yourself in nature, then this seaplane flight is the perfect option.
Honestly, traveling from Vancouver to Tofino can be a huge hassle and requires a lot of organization. But when you cruise on over in a float plane, all you need to do is sit back and enjoy the view. You’ll fly over Stanley Park, the Strait of Georgia, and Pacific Rim National Park before landing in Tofino.
Note that this tour only includes the flight to Tofino, so you’ll need to book your return separately. This way, you can choose how long you want to spend in the surfer’s paradise – I’d recommend at least two days to explore all of the fun things to do in Tofino!
Vancouver to Seattle one-way flight
Next stop: USA.
If you’re heading to Seattle from Vancouver, then taking this seaplane tour turns an ordinary journey into a memorable experience. At $399 CAD per passenger, it is a bit more expensive than a regular cheap flight, but also a lot more enjoyable. As well as some of Vancouver’s best sights, you’ll also fly over Lake Union and the Space Needle as you arrive in the Emerald City.
You’ll get 25lbs (11kg) of luggage, so try to pack fairly light! And since this is an international flight, you’ll need a valid passport and any other relevant documentation, such as an ESTA.
Vancouver to Whistler one-way flight
If you want to spend a little longer in Whistler, then it’s also possible to book a one-way Vancouver seaplane flight. You can then book your return later on, simply head on to the next destination, or plan an epic road trip from Whistler to Vancouver on the way back. A seaplane flight is one of the best tours to get from Vancouver to Whistler because you get epic scenery and transport all in one!
There are a ton of things to do in Whistler at any time of year, so there’ll definitely be lots to check out while you’re there. But make sure to take the Peak 2 Peak Gondola Ride between the Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. It’s beautiful in every season.
Related Read: For another top attraction, be sure to visit the Vancouver Aquarium!
4. Do you need to book your seaplane ride in advance?
If you’re visiting Vancouver in the summer, then you definitely need to reserve your Vancouver floatplane in advance. They book up fast!
Obviously, this isn’t ideal if you’re a more spontaneous type of traveler. However, the good news is that when you book a tour through Viator, you can change your booking as many times as you want until 24 hours beforehand. You can also cancel and get a full refund if you need to. So if your plans do change, you’re covered!
We actually did this multiple times to ensure that we got the best weather when we did our seaplane tour. We originally booked our Vancouver seaplane tour for a Thursday but then changed it twice in order to get a sunny day. And in the end, it was so worth it!
Vancouver is sometimes nicknamed “Rain City” because – you guessed it – it rains quite a lot. So being able to adjust your booking according to the weather forecast is a huge bonus. While you wait for the skies to clear, there are lots of fun activities to do in Vancouver when it’s raining.
Taking a seaplane is a really unique experience and you want to make sure that you have the best conditions possible to be able to see the views. I can;t think of anything worse than paying all that money to get up to the sky where all you’ll see is cloud.
Moral of the story: book your floatplane in advance on Viator and wait for a clear day!
5. What are the facilities at the seaplane airport in Vancouver?
The seaplane airport in Vancouver offers guests toilets, free tea and coffee, a gift shop, and comfy lounge seating. The lounge also gives guests great views of Stanley Park and the North Shore mountains, so you’ll have plenty to look at while you wait for your tour.
There’s also the Cockpit Cafe within the flight center. Head here for tasty coffee, salads, and sandwiches before your tour. It’s also fully licensed, so you can grab a local craft beer to steady your nerves if you’re a bit of an anxious flier!
6. When is the best time to do a seaplane tour?
The great thing about Vancouver seaplane tours is that they run all year round. So you can enjoy the experience whether you visit Vancouver in December or during the warm summer months.
The weather is more important than the time of year. I’d say that any clear and sunny day is ideal, as you’ll want to make the most of those incredible views!
November is the wettest month of the year in Vancouver with 20 days of precipitation, but even then, there should be some clear and dry days.
I highly recommend doing what we did and booking through Viator so you can keep on changing your booking to ensure that you get the best weather possible!
7. Is there parking at the Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre?
Yes, there’s an EasyPark lot right next to the Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre, which is super convenient. However, at $17.20 CAD for two hours, it’s a pretty expensive place to leave your car!
Instead of being bled dry by the parking meter, we recommend taking the train instead. It costs roughly $3.10 CAD for a trip inside zone one, which covers downtown and the waterfront. The SkyTrain service is not only cheap, but it’s also super clean and efficient. It’s also definitely better than getting stuck in traffic if you’re traveling to the flight center during rush hour.
You can take either the Canada or Expo line to Burrard Station, which is a five-minute walk to the seaplane airport.
Alternatively, Waterfront Station is a ten-minute walk from the flight center. It’s also served by the Canada and Expo lines.
8. Are seaplane tours safe?
In short – yes.
Obviously, it can feel a bit unnerving to be taking off and landing in the water. But seaplanes are actually some of the safest aircraft around. They’re subject to very stringent health and safety regulations – and you know that Canadians don’t mess around when it comes to safety!
All of the pilots are well-trained and highly experienced. All Vancouver seaplane tours must adhere to Canadian aviation standards and the tour companies all have excellent safety records.
It may not feel like it, but you’re actually a lot safer on a Vancouver floatplane than you are driving a car!
9. Are Vancouver sea planes suitable for kids?
Passengers of all ages are welcome on Vancouver seaplane tours. Infants below the age of 2 usually fly for free and must sit on their parent or guardian’s lap for the duration of the flight. Meanwhile, children aged 2-11 will have their own seats but fly at a reduced rate.
A Vancouver floatplane ride is definitely a fun activity for the whole family, so don’t hesitate to bring the kids along.
Related read: If you’re going to be in Vancouver as a family, kids will love visiting the Richmond Night Market!
10. Is a seaplane tour in Vancouver worth it?
Last but not least – yes, a Vancouver seaplane tour is TOTALLY worth it. It was one of our favorite experiences in the city.
And judging by the number of people doing it, we’re not the only ones who think so!
Vancouver is an absolutely gorgeous city and there’s nothing like soaring over it on a beautiful sunny day. The views are simply stunning and it’s an experience you’ll never forget.
Even if you’re not the biggest fan of flying, I promise you that a Vancouver seaplane tour is perfectly safe and totally worth it. I guarantee that you won’t regret it!
So, what are you waiting for? Book your seaplane tour in Vancouver now!
Where to Stay in Vancouver, Canada
Now that you know one of the adventures you want to take while in Vancouver, you’re going to need a great place to stay. Spending a few days in the city means you can pick the best day for a seaplane flight and enjoy all the other fun things to do in Vancouver while you’re here.
Because Vancouver is one of the most popular cities in Canada, rooms book up fast in the summer and winter. Booking your hotel or hostel well in advance is the only way to secure the best place to stay for you!
Some great hotels and hostels in Vancouver that we love are:
The Cambie Hostel Gastown – This budget hostel is an overall good budget choice. The location is in the heart of Gastown and close to lots of bars and restaurants and attached to the hostel is a very lively bar too. Rooms are clean but the bathrooms are a little cramped. It’s perfect for backpackers on a budget and is considerably cheaper than others offering comparable quality. You can either book a room on Hostelworld.com or Booking.com.
Times Square Suites – For a beautiful hotel close to Stanley Park you can’t go past the Times Square Hotel. It’s very hard to fault this hotel and the location is perfect. It is a good mix between being affordable as well as a very nice hotel.
Hyatt Regency Vancouver – For those wanting the perfect location halfway between Stanley Park and Gastown, the Hyatt Regency is a perfect choice. As you can imagine, it’s a luxury stay in a large hotel chain that is highly reviewed!
Click here to browse all hotels in Vancouver!
For more info on the best neighborhoods and hotels, check out my complete guide on where to stay in Vancouver. It breaks down everything you need to know before choosing the right hotel!
Other Things to do while you’re in Vancouver
Vancouver is a city filled with tons of things to do and see. So while you’re here, be sure not to miss some of the top attractions and activities:
- Whale Watching – Whale watching in Vancouver is the singular most poplar tour in the city. Set off from the city on a half-day on the ocean looking for whales. If you’re lucky, you might even see Orcas (also known as Killer Whales.) This whale-watching tour is a ton of fun, and at only about $200 CAD it is good value too!
- Hiking – There are a ton of amazing hikes in and around Vancouver. Challenge yourself with the famous Grouse Grind, wander the trails near the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge, or even drive towards Squamish and do The Chief.
- Eat ALL the food! – Vancouver is a foodie destination. Showcasing cuisine from all around the world in top-rated restaurants, you really need to make an effort to eat out a few times while in Vancouver. For breakfast, Jam Cafe or Medina are our go-to’s. For Asian cuisine, you can’t pass up Minami for sushi or Danbo for Ramen. You can also join this highly-rated food tour that takes you to some of the city’s best restaurants in the area of Gastown.
- Explore Kitsilano – One of our favorite areas in all of Vancouver is Kitsilano. This suburb is super trendy and has many cute stores, cafes, and restaurants that are well worth checking out. On top of that, Kitsilano Beach is one of the best beaches in Vancouver and the perfect place to relax. It’s also our favorite place to watch the sunset.
Thanks for reading!
I’m so happy you’re thinking about taking a seaplane while you’re in Vancouver. We loved our flight and it was a whole new perspective on a city we’ve visited many times. Whether you are on vacation or live here, it’s a fun adventure to help you see this beautiful part of the country.
Before you head to Vancouver, be sure to read our other West Coast blogs for more ideas and in-depth guides. You’ll find lots of tips and tricks to discover new places in this incredible part of the country.
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15 Things to KNOW about Visiting Lynn Canyon in Vancouver
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