Every major city in the world seems to have a large urban park it is famous for, and Canada’s stunning coastal city of Vancouver is no exception.
No trip to Vancouver, British Columbia, is complete without a day in Stanley Park, a monumental national historic site and one of the finest parks in the world.
Not only is it beautiful, the residents of this vibrant city and the millions of visitors each year actually use the park for walking, picnicking, cycling and exploring. There’s no fear of being overcrowded with 1,000 acres, 17 miles of woodland trails, a five and half mile-long seawall, two freshwater lakes, and beautiful beaches — all begging to be discovered.
All this and more is within walking distance of the city’s downtown area and just over the Lions Gate Bridge from picturesque West Vancouver.
A day spent discovering the trails of this natural West Coast rainforest is the ultimate experience and nature lovers will appreciate the perfect picture taking opportunities as they uncover hundreds of hidden treasures.
Grab a map. They’re easy to find and take your time since there’s lots to see and do. Look for some of the famous landmarks such as the Lost Lagoon, the Hollow Tree, Siwash Rock and Prospect Point.
The Seawall is a scenic waterfront path 17 miles long winding its way through the city and into Stanley Park and is one of the most popular places for recreational use in Vancouver. Walking the five-plus miles within the park will probably take two or three hours, so why not rent a bike? Join other cyclists along the clearly marked, family-friendly paved trail with water views on one side and natural vegetation on the other.
Watch for the life-sized stone statue of a “Girl in a Wetsuit” floating in the water. It will depend on how high the tide is as to how much of her you will see, but it is worth looking to see if you can spot her.
Also look for Siwash Rock, a 32 million-year-old rock outcropping that is said to be a man who, because of his unselfishness, was turned into stone.
The views of the city are amazing from the seawall and the cruise ships, boats and busy marine traffic make it even more interesting to visitors who have never experienced a harbor city.
The Vancouver Aquarium
Experience the splendor of marine life at Canada’s largest aquarium right in the middle of Stanley Park. Get up close to stingrays, see the natural habitat of the beluga whales, dolphins, and sea lions or help the trainers feed these illusive creatures.
Enjoy the underwater viewing gallery where you can watch Chester, a young, playful false killer whale as he cavorts with Helen, a Pacific white-sided dolphin.
Get up close and discover the treasures of the west coast and experience the spotlights on sea turtles, dolphins, frogs, octopus, sturgeons and even snakes. The aquarium can be an exciting place to visit and depending on the day there’s all kinds of events and activities going on.
Not only is this a favorite attraction for both locals and visitors, the facility is extremely active in marine research and conservation as well as marine animal rehabilitation. Their well regarded rescue program assists injured or abandoned marine mammals and then releases them into their natural habitats as soon as possible.
First Nation’s totem poles
Probably one of the most famous and much visited areas of the park is the totem pole display at Brockton Point. These monuments were created by the First Nations in honor of their history and events.
The collection of nine totem poles at Brockton Point are probably some of the most famous originating from Alert Bay on Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii and from the Squamish Nation.
Historic hollow tree
Generations of people have visited Stanley Park over the years and a “must do” on everyone’s list has always included having their picture taken in front of the Hollow Tree, a giant old Western Red Cedar that is more than 700 years old.
Because of it’s popularity, there’s even a Stanley Park Hollow Tree Conservation Society to help protect the tree from being removed after it was damaged during a heavy wind storm. Famous historical photos have included cars being parked in the trunk and most local families have at least one photo of themselves in front of this much loved landmark.
No matter the season, there is always something to enjoy within the park whether it’s viewing the towering Red Cedars in the winter, strolling through the rose gardens when they’re in bloom or spending an afternoon in the Japanese Gardens — it’s all breathtaking.
In the spring the rhododendrons colorful display is like none other in the city. Take the time to smell the flowers in one of the many gardens always well tended within Stanley Park.
This beautiful oasis is within the city of Vancouver and yes thousands of wild creatures live here and make this their home. The bald eagles and great blue heron use the old growth cedars, hemlocks and fir trees to build their nests on while raccoons, squirrels, beavers, and coyotes live among the vegetation and rocks within the park.
The waters along the seawall are home to harbor seals and other marine life local to the area. Watch the seals as they dive for food or sun themselves on the rocks below the wall.
Visiting Stanley Park is free! However, there are admission charges to enter the aquarium and some special events that take place. There’s a charge for parking your car but a ticket can be purchased and used anywhere in the park – just leave it on the dash.
There are all kinds of places to eat from enjoying the outdoor patio at Stanley’s Park & Grill or at Prospect Point Cafe where you can get a local beer and burger to fine dining at The Teahouse, with a beautiful view overlooking English Bay.
There are so many ways of exploring Stanley Park whether its by taking a guided tour, enjoying a leisurely horse-drawn carriage ride, riding a shuttle trolley or by riding on a tour bus.
One of the best ways is to explore the park on your own. Just make sure you take the time to experience as much of Stanley Park as possible because it’s something very special you will remember always.
- Stanley Park — vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/stanley-park.aspx
- Stanley Park tickets and passes — vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/fitness-passes-and-discount-cards.aspx
- Vancouver Aquarium — www.vanaqua.org