It is not a secret that I am somewhat taken with Vancouver. It must be something between its amazing cityscape, its super-friendly and entrepreneurial inhabitants and its spectacular natural surroundings that attracts me, like so many others, and the fact that it feels very familiar; perhaps it’s the fact that like London, its winters are long, grey and rainy, but the spring, summer and autumn have you fall in love with it time and again.
The last time I visited, I did not only explore Vancouver and BC on the ground; I also went flightseeing. Twice. Flying into Vancouver’s International Airport is breathtaking on a normal day, but it’s even better when you’re on a small aircraft or helicopter exploring the landscape from a few different angles, not just the regular runway approach.
Grouse Mountain helicopter ride
Grouse Mountain, also known as Vancouver’s peak, is just a 30-minute drive away from downtown Vancouver. The Skyride gondola takes you right up to the top in a matter of 12 minutes. Grouse Mountain is a bit of an activity hotspot – from skiing in the winter (even night skiing) to ziplining, yoga sessions, lumberjack shows, hiking (try the Grouse Grind), a bear enclosure, and of course, scenic helicopter flights.
When I visited Grouse Mountain with Virgin Atlantic last May, they made sure I maxed out my experience of Vancouver from an aerial view by sending me ziplining on the peak and straight onto the helicopter afterwards!
Our pilot, complete with stylish aviators, didn’t muck around much and invited us to hop on and get our headphones on while he got the engine started right away. After a couple of minutes sitting in the helicopter on the ground and the noise of the rotor getting louder and louder, we took a little wobble and were up in the air!
I had never been in a helicopter before, and the sensation of taking off from the ground but not moving forward at a few hundred km/h as you do on a plane was really fascinating.
What followed then was a 20-min flight around Grouse Mountain with 360 degree views from high up in the air, followed by commentary from our uber-cool pilot, telling us stories about how they often fly out into the mountains for rescue missions when hikers go missing, for example.
But don’t take my word for it, have a look for yourself:
We were in the air for about 10 minutes, and at no point did I feel nervous about hovering so high above the ground in such a little flying box! I would highly recommend a flightseeing tour of some sort in British Columbia, as it is really spectacular from the air. Grouse Mountain heli tours were great – they offer three tours of varying duration, and you get to see Crown Mountain, Lion’s Peak or all of the former including a flight over English Bay, Stanley Park, and downtown Vancouver.
It has to be said, I do love flying, but honestly, this was such an exhilarating experience I wanted to learn to fly a helicopter myself afterwards! (I still do – anyone willing to teach me?)