AAA Editor Notes
Stanley Park shares the peninsula where the city's business district is located. Vancouver’s first City Council made a momentous decision in 1886, when it petitioned the government to lease 400 hectares (1,000 acres) of largely logged-over land for public and recreation purposes. The result of this wise move was the creation of one of North America’s largest urban parks—a cool, lush evergreen oasis right at downtown’s doorstep.
Named for Lord Frederick Stanley, Governor General of Canada when the park officially opened in 1888, Stanley Park was once land hunted and foraged by the Musqueam and Squamish First Nations peoples. And a large part of what makes it such a special place is the lush West Coast rain forest growth. One of the park’s great pleasures, in fact, is exploring the network of bark-mulched trails that wind through Douglas fir, western hemlock and western red cedar trees. These giants create a hushed environment of subdued light and cool air that is all the more remarkable given such close proximity to downtown’s hurly-burly.
Such a magnificent setting, of course, offers plenty of inspiring views, and there are more than 27 kilometres (16.7 mi.) of trails. For example, follow Prospect Point Trail, an invigorating uphill trek, to Prospect Point at the northern tip of the peninsula; from this elevated perspective the vista of Burrard Inlet, the Lions Gate Bridge, the North Shore and the mountains beyond is a stunner. For a more relaxed jaunt, amble along Stanley Park Drive, the seawall that encircles the peninsula. The route totals about 9 kilometres (5.5 mi.), and you’ll be gazing out over water essentially the entire time. There are separate lanes for walkers and cyclists/inline skaters.
There are other ways to enjoy nature. Walk to Beaver Lake, a body of water that is in the process of shrinking as it transitions from lake to bog (and may in time lose its watery aspects completely and become a meadow). Its surface is covered with yellow water lilies in summer. Or take a spin around Lost Lagoon, off the Georgia Street entrance to the park. This man-made body of water (created when the Stanley Park Causeway was built in 1916) provides a nesting ground for ducks, swans and Canada geese. The lagoon is located on the Pacific Flyway, which makes it a favorite haunt of bird watchers as well as one of the park’s most popular strolls.
Standing near the Brockton Oval (where you can watch a cricket match), just in from the seawall, are nine totem poles. They make a distinctive photo op, and you can learn about their history by reading the interpretive panels. Another example of First Nations art is the “Raven: Spirit of Transformation” sculpture, created from the stump of a Douglas fir felled by a destructive 2006 windstorm. It stands at the Miniature Railway Plaza. You’ll also want to take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage ; breathing in the scent of the cedar trees while listening to the gentle clip-clop of a Clydesdale’s hooves is an eminently relaxing way to tour the park.
There are free tennis courts near Lost Lagoon and the Beach Avenue entrance. The Second Beach Pool has English Bay as a backdrop. An 18-hole pitch-and-putt golf course also is located at Second Beach. At low tide, explore the rocky shoreline along Second and Third beaches. For kids there are three playgrounds—including the Variety Kids Water Park (June 1–Sept. 1) at Lumberman’s Arch, Second Beach and near the park’s Rose Garden—as well as a miniature steam train .
Shows take place at the open-air Malkin Bowl/Theatre Under the Stars in July and August. A park information booth is just inside the Georgia Street entrance, next to the seawall.
Picnicking is permitted. Food is available.