Ask any visitor to Vancouver what is on their bucket list of things to see and do in the city, one of them is guaranteed to include visiting Stanley Park. Stanley Park is the 1000 acre urban forest that occupies the western tip of the Downtown Vancouver peninsula. It is best known for the seawall, a 10 km paved, multi-use pathway around the perimeter of the park, but there is so much more waiting to be discovered inside by the curious traveller!
Stanley Park Seawall
To walk, run or cycle around the seawall is a great introduction to the park. Starting at Coal Harbour and going counter-clockwise, the first hidden gem is The 9 O’Clock Gun. The authentic cannon is fired daily at 9 pm for nostalgia, its previous purpose in assisting city residents to accurately set their clocks.
Continuing along the northern perimeter, you can stop for photo ops with statues of a runner (Harry Jerome, holder of seven world records), a “girl in a wetsuit”, the SS Empress of Japan figurehead and two lighthouses. Be ready for wind gusts around the western tip, the temporary seawall closure evidence of the damage that can be inflicted by exposure to the forces of nature.
A series of beaches are located along the south shores of the park and make perfect detours to feel some sand between your toes, collect shells or build an inukshuk. If you are out early in the morning, you may spot a group of swimmers who gather and brave the water every day, year round. Newcomers are welcomed with enthusiasm!
The Teahouse is an iconic fixture in the history of the park as it originally opened as a tea house over 100 years ago, but now makes a beautiful location for elevated brunch and dinner experiences with a view. There are two other lesser known restaurants.
Stanley Park Brewing is an operating brewery making both year round and seasonal brews that pay homage to the surroundings. The full pub menu can be enjoyed indoors or in the large outdoor area while watching a tennis match on the adjacent courts.
Stanley’s Bar & Grill, located in the Stanley Park Pavilion is tucked away in the middle of the trees and beautiful gardens near the aquarium. A historical building, it opened as a concession in 1911 and is a perfect spot to host private events such as weddings. Stop for classic lunch and a glass of wine oblivious that you are just steps from the city.
Tucked near the Coal Harbour border of the park is a 41 acre lagoon, no longer considered lost (it got its name from its formation prior to industrialization of the city as it came and went with the tide). Home to many species of water birds, its most unique resident is a large Great Blue Heron population.
If you are fortunate to get up close, you can appreciate their magnificent wing span, long necks and special feathers on their chests that release powder they use to clean themselves with!
Ted and Mary Greig Rhododendron Garden
Stanley Park has no shortage of foliage anywhere, but the six acre Rhododendron Garden, named after the owners of the nursery the rhododendrons migrated from, is a spectacular place if you happen to visit during the flowering season, usually during the months of April and May.
Different species from white to pink to vibrant purply red along with other plants including magnolias, azaleas and hydrangeas round out the colours of the rainbow in this botanical paradise.
You may think the park is just for nature lovers, but golfers can find an eighteen hole pitch and putt golf course near the east entrance of the park. Open from 8 am to 8 pm seasonally, rental clubs are available to enjoy a round surrounded by lush trees. A lawn bowling green is situated nearby, and is open to members from May to September or is available to rent for special events.
At first it may seem redundant to offer a swimming venue at a beach, but an outdoor pool at second beach may hold more appeal to those hesitant to brave the cold ocean water. Open for summer months only, the heated pool is friendly to all ages with both lane swim and kids features including water slides and a wading area.
You may not find any beavers at so-called Beaver Lake, but you will find an assortment of animals, including different species of ducks, chickadees, squirrels and butterflies.
But the best part of discovering the lake is the forest therapy available on the network of pathways leading in all directions through groves of ancient cedars and Douglas fir trees, oak and alder trees, on a floor of moss covered deadfall and dense ferns. Follow a formal self guided walking tour leading to landmarks such as the tallest and oldest trees or just wander around and breathe in the restorative fresh air.
You can’t get lost exploring Squirrel Trail, Bridle Path, Merrilees Trail and even Lovers Walk, as pathways intersect and one will eventually lead back to the perimeter and out from the canopy of green.
Stanley Park offers much more than what is visible at first glance. Go for yourself to discover all the secrets that can be found year round!
About the Author
More Things to See and Do in British Columbia
About the Photo
The photo in the header above is of the Brockton Point Lighthouse in Stanley Park, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Photo by edb3_16 from Surrey, BC, Canada.
About the Author
BJ Oudman is a Canadian travel writer who has visited 25+ countries.
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