Vancouver’s Stanley Park


One of Vancouver’s best features, and certainly one of the reasons for its high livability ratings, is Stanley Park.   The Project for Public Spaces rates its 6th best in North America/16th best in the world, while a travel blog puts it as high as 2nd (second only to Hyde Park in London).  The point is, this is a world-class park undoubtedly on a par with the best, including New York’s Central Park and San Francisco’s Presidio or Golden Gate Park.

A nifty peninsula adjacent to the city centre, a bit reminiscent of San Francisco's Presidio (complete with bridge!).

One of the best things about the park is that it is incredibly accessible, directly connected to downtown Vancouver (which is just off the bottom of the map above) and only about 1 mile or so from the heart of the city centre.  While it is a pleasant walk from the city centre or along the waterfront, there is also trolley bus service right into the park (which also channels San Francisco’s two big urban parks).

The 19-Stanley Park electric trolleybus route operates about every 12 minutes all day every day and connects to all three SkyTrain lines.

The park begins right at the edge of the modern, dense and highly residential West End neighborhood, which borders downtown.

On Saturday, after my meetings were over, I took advantage of the free bikes that the hotel had available and borrowed the BMW bike to take a trip through the park.  First, I pedaled along the very pleasant waterfront promenade, which is lined with hotels, restaurants, and modern residential buildings on the city side and amazing views, lots of marina spaces, and the seaplane action of the Vancouver Harbour Water Airport.

All along the waterfront from my hotel adjacent to Waterfront Station to the park is a wonderful mixed-use promenade, mostly with separate bike and pedestrian pathways.

My trip through the park by bike was primarily along the acclaimed seawall.  Within the park, the seawall is a magnificent, level 5.5-mile path along the perimeter of the jagged peninsula, offering  incredible views of the harbour.  Apparently there has been a lot of controversy over the use of this popular path over time – luckily, it has been expanded and configured so as to minimize conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians, giving each a separate part of the path.  What also helps tremendously is that the cycling path is one-way…and I only encountered one person (who did not appear to be Canadian!) going the wrong way.  Of course, the setup also pretty much means that once you start, you’re going the whole way around!

The Rowing Club marks the beginning of the seawall path inside the park - very British colonial, don't you think?

The view back to downtown from the seawall path - with the cruise ship terminal at the left, the glass convention centre in the middle, and the seaplane airport in front to the right, all framed by the modest (but pleasant!) skyline.

The seawall path is lined with a variety of monuments, as well as other attractions – playgrounds, fields for sports (including cricket), and several beaches.  Inland, the dense forested area includes a variety of paths and even a couple of lakes.

This monument is to Harry Jerome, a Vancouver native and Olympic track and field runner who represented Canada in the 1960s and died at age 42 of a brain aneurysm. The statue is quite dramatic against the harbour backdrop!

One of the more dramatic sections of the seawall, revealing the Lions Gate Bridge.

While not quite in the class of the Golden Gate or the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Lions Gate is pretty impressive with the mountains in the background, in a very Pacific Northwest/Canadian subdued green colour.  Like those bridges, it is a child of the 1930s, and is now a National Historic Site.  It is called “Lions Gate” because of a pair of mountains directly to the north known as the Lions – the bridge’s formal name is the First Narrows Bridge because it crosses the first narrows of Burrard Inlet, which is the coastal fjord formed during the last ice age that separates Vancouver proper from West and North Vancouver. Incidentally, the bridge is also the namesake for Lions Gate Entertainment, the indenpendent film and TV production/distribution company that was founded in Vancouver – of Weeds and Mad Men fame.  This perhaps reinforces Vancouver’s claim as Hollywood North.

From Wikipedia - the suspension bridge has three (reversible) lanes and is over a mile long. Apparently it was opened by King George VI (of The King's Speech fame) in May 1939 - just before he got really busy back in Britain.

The sky in Vancouver was never boring - always something going on, often of a brooding nature...

The Prospect Point Lighthouse, at the northernmost tip of the peninsula.

The lighthouse is just visible around the cliff - this "beware falling rock" area was the narrowest point on the seawall, and cyclists have to walk bikes around the bend.

Finally, around the bend, looking out to what appears to be open sea - this is English Bay, which empties into the Strait (or Gulf) of Georgia, which separates the mainland from Vancouver Island (confusing, huh? That's where Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, is). There's a lot of water around here! Note the raised surface to the left is one-way for cyclists (and roller-bladers, etc.) while the outer walkway is for pedestrians only.

Overall, I was very impressed with the park and the seawall, and highly recommend it as a great afternoon!

On the way back to the hotel, crossing the interior of the park, and near Lost Lagoon - I caught this enterprising raccoon doing a little urban park hunting.

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Posted on 10/07/2011, in travel and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Yes, it is lovely. And I liked the way (almost) every cyclist trying to overtake would warn people ahead: “On your right!”

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