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Stanley Park Vancouver: Top 7 Reasons to Walk Stanley Park Seawall

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Palm tree along Stanley Park Seawall Vancouver

Walking the seawall perimeter of Stanley Park in Vancouver, you will

1. Experience the most scenic views in Vancouver

Siwash Rock in Stanley Park Vancouver Canada

2. Take the best photos of your trip

Walking along Coal Harbour in Stanley Park Vancouver

3. Feel as if you can almost touch ships as they glide by

4. Enjoy your kids having as much fun as you

5. Meet Vancouver residents enjoying their favorite activity

6. Pay absolutely nothing

Ice Cream sign, Stanley Park, Vancouver

All right, if you have better willpower than I do.

7. Feel uplifted and invigorated

“Virtually” walking the seawall on this page gives a glimpse of how Stanley Park offers "7-top reasons," but also why it may provide the most outstanding urban walk in the world.

Start at the northeast corner of the park closest to the major hotels and hostels and walk counter clockwise.

The Seawall facing Coal Harbour

Seawall at Coal Harbour in Stanley Park Vancouver Canada

Renowned for its natural areas, Stanley Park instead shows its “civilized” English face during the first portion of your seawall walk.

Canada Place as seen from Stanley Park in Vancouver, BC

Vancouver West End as seen from Stanley Park Vancouver

Moreover, you experience great views toward the city center and Vancouver’s densely populated West End residential district.

You also pass houseboats and many small boats.

Walking along seawall in Stanley Park Vancouver

Walking along seawall in Stanley Park Vancouver

In spite of the proximity to downtown, you never leave nature or the sights, sounds, and smells of the sea.

Totems near seawall in Stanley Park

Totem in Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC, Canada

 

The park features the cultures of those who came before. First nations people lived on this beautiful land as late as the 1920’s and many remain buried here.

You see these totems from the seawall.

The Seawall facing Burrard Inlet and North Shore

Walking seawall toward Lions Gate Bridge in Stanley Park

Walking along the northern side of the park, you spot Lions Gate Bridge ahead, with the North Shore Mountains on your right. Vancouver’s nearly pristine water supply comes from these mountains in areas not open to the public.

Directly below Lions Gate Bridge, you reach the very narrow entrance to Burrard Inlet, a fjord extending inland from Georgia Strait.

You can almost touch cruise ships and other vessels when they pass so close by.

Prime viewing times come after cruise ships leave Vancouver Harbour for Alaska during late afternoons from May through September. Near Coal Harbour, you can actually see the docks that ships use and then track their progress toward Lions Gate, as you walk.

Brockton Point Lighthouse, Stanley Park, Vancouver, Canada

Ship passing Brockton Point Lighthouse, Stanley Park

Earlier in your walk, another prime ship viewing spot came at Brockton Point Lighthouse as you turned west from Coal Harbour onto the Burrard Inlet portion of the seawall.

Traveling to or from berths on the much busier Vancouver side of the harbor, ships veer quite close to the lighthouse, as the photo shows.

Seawall, Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Seawall at low tide, Stanley Park, Vancouver

I love this walk rain or shine, day or evening, high or low tide.

At low tide, steps from the seawall lead down to tide pools for exploration.

Even at high tide you find plenty of sand for relaxation adjacent to the seawall, including 3 popular beaches.

Showers along seawall, Stanley Park, Vancouver

The first of these beaches at Lumberman’s Arch, popular mostly with families with small children, features the cool-looking showers above. (Shower photo courtesy of Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation)

Stanley Park seawall, Vancouver, BC, Canada

In a country where people of Chinese, Indo, and Japanese descent were denied the right to vote until 1947 (1948 for the Japanese), Stanley Park has always welcomed everyone. In 1889, Lord Stanley, the Governor General of Canada whose name became the park’s, dedicated it to “the use and enjoyment of peoples of all colors, creeds, and customs, for all time.”

Despite economic and other concerns, the people of Vancouver remain deeply committed to this park.

Driftwood along seawall, Stanley Park, Vancouver

The Seawall facing Georgia Strait

Seawall, Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Unstable cliff, seawall, Stanley Park, Vancouver

As you approach and go beyond the Lions Gate Bridge, the scenery becomes quite rugged; though the path stays flat and totally wheelchair accessible, as do many trails in other areas of the park.

On one side are cliffs that periodically release mud and rocks onto the path, and on the other, the wide Georgia Strait, the name for this portion of the Inside Passage, with Vancouver Island in the distance.

Large ships anchor offshore waiting their time at Vancouver docks. These turn with the tide.

I love this portion of the seawall most of all.

Third Beach, Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC

Because the day remained somewhat cool, fewer people used Third Beach (above).

Although everyone uses and enjoys them, Third, Kitsilano, and Spanish Banks beaches are the “in” beaches for young adults and teens in Vancouver. All offer warmer water during summer than most California beaches.

Speaking of warm, the mild Vancouver climate marks the northern limit of palm trees surviving outdoors in the western hemisphere. You will not find many, but the one in the first photo overlooks the seawall at Third Beach.

Third Beach, Stanley Park, Vancouver

There are many fun places to relax along the seawall, such as Third Beach. On warmer days be sure to bring a towel.

Rollerblade icon, seawall, Stanley Park, VancouverI highly recommend walking the seawall on a first visit to the park, which gives a better experience of its natural setting.

The walking path nearly always puts you next to the water, but where there is room, there are also separate paths for bicyclists and rollerbladers, sometimes away from the water.

For safety, the park asks that you bike or roller blade COUNTER-CLOCKWISE around the seawall. In places, you cannot safely pass. Walkers can hike in either direction.

You can also drive around the park in a counter-clockwise direction, but will appreciate its sublime beauty far more if you frequently get out at viewpoints and walk portions of the seawall for better views.

Teahouse, Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Several “upscale” dining options exist in the park, including the Ferguson Point Teahouse adjacent to Third Beach shown above.

The Seawall facing English Bay

Seawall, Stanley Park, Vancouver

Views from the seawall become more placid on the southern side of the park. No mountains rise up before you. Sailboats and kayaks take the place of cruise ships.

Old growth cedar, Stanley Park, Vancouver

Nevertheless, the south side provides easiest access to the bulk of the beautiful forested areas of the park, often just steps away. Larger than Central Park, Stanley Park features some 150,000 mostly evergreen trees.

Although what became the park was logged during the 19th Century, trees were so plentiful that loggers did not do a very thorough job. You still find isolated old growth gems like the cedar shown above.

Second Beach pool, Stanley Park, Vancouver

Second Beach pool fun, Stanley Park, Vancouver

On the southern side, you also gain access to the heated Second Beach pool, which appears smaller in the photos than it really is.

Lawn bowling pitches, Stanley Park

Once past Second Beach, the park again becomes English in feeling, with meticulously tended lawn bowling pitches (above), beautiful gardens, and other pleasures.

Stanley Park Lost Lagoon connecting paths

Lost Lagoon at twilight, Stanley Park, Vancouver

You may be asking, “Love it, but just how long is the seawall?”

Officially, the seawall runs 5 and ½ miles or 8.8 kilometers.

However, many people exit the seawall near Second Beach, and take paths along Lost Lagoon, in order to reach their starting point at Coal Harbour. This, I estimate, brings the actual walk to less than 6 miles.

With the splendid scenery and lack of hills, time passes quickly, but you can call a taxi from the Teahouse, Lumberman’s Point, etc., if you would rather not do the entire walk in one morning or afternoon.

Above: Along Lost Lagoon near this spot my father, whose health was deteriorating, and I set outside and enjoyed nature together for the last time, a passion he and my mother passed on to their children. We thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful park.

Can you see the large fountain in the distance near the main Georgia Street entrance to the park?

Stanley Park, Vancouver

Instead of returning to the starting point, you can continue along the seawall to the park boundary and then take the connecting path along English Bay (as seen in the photo above where the trees are) to the tiny ferries that bring you either to the Granville Island Market or to the great views from the beach and huge heated salt water pool (my favorite) at Kitsilano Beach. Use the Maritime Museum dock to access Kitsilano Beach by ferry.

You can also use Burrard Bridge, the first one reached, to reach “Kits Beach" easily.

Above: View of English Bay and the Vancouver city center and West End, as well as the North Shore Mountains, from Kitsilano Beach.

(Kitsilano Beach photo courtesy of Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation)

 

Raccoon at Lost Lagoon, Stanley Park, Vancouver

Small game and birds are plentiful. I have even seen what looks like a lodge of the beloved national rodent appropriately in Beaver Lake inland from the seawall.

Warn your children not to approach raccoons, which may bite.

When is the best time to walk in Stanley Park?

Spring comes to Stanley Park, Vancouver, Canada

Summers are sublimely wonderful, but you can enjoy this walk all seasons. Surprisingly, Vancouver's legendary winter rains seldom come down heavily. I enjoy walking then.

Above: You pass this lovely Rhododendron Garden shown here during early May on the way back to Coal Harbour.

Directions to the seawall from downtown Vancouver

Looking down on seawall, Stanley Park, Canada

With some 8 million park visitors per year, parking can be problem on warm weekends and holidays.

  • WALK: Take the path next to Vancouver Harbour from Canada Place downtown westward to the Stanley Park seawall along Coal Harbour. This direct connection offers great views and passes near most larger hotels.
  • BUS: Hop on BC Transit TransLink bus 19 downtown along Pender Street near most larger hotels to Stanley Park. Its last two stops drop you near the Coal Harbour portion of the seawall.
  • TAXI: Grab a taxi from your hotel to the entrance of the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club moorage at Coal Harbour. If returning from this point [Yellow Cab (604) 681-1111], be sure to specify the entrance to the moorage, in order to avoid confusion with the old RVYC clubhouse.
  • DRIVE: Drive west along Georgia Street downtown. As you approach the park, get in the Stanley Park lane on your right. A large overhead sign directs you. After entering the park, Stanley Park Drive will take you toward the right for parking spaces along Coal Harbour.

    If you drive, buy the daily parking pass from meters along roads in the park. Credit cards are accepted.

    Hourly or daily parking passes allow you to move to any available legal space in the park as often as you wish. Keep the pass on your dashboard and do not leave valuables in your vehicle.

Enjoy your seawall walk in Stanley Park!

Resources

Stanley Park home page
(Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation)

Park map (pdf. file)

VanDusen Botanical Garden

BC Ferries Northern Expedition Inside Passage Cruise

Comments

a vancouverite
September 5, 2011

Good observations of our beloved Seawall. fyi though, it’s Georgia *Strait* (recently renamed Salish Sea). Georgia Straight is our local A&E weekly newspaper.

And you forgot the best part of walking the Seawall – a beverage at the Sylvia Hotel! Still one of my fave places to hoist a toast at sunset.

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Marie Jeanne
September 5, 2011

What I lived in British Columbia for 30+ years and I didn’t realize that there was such beauty there.

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Vago Damitio
September 5, 2011

No fair! Your great pictures and story made me miss Vancouver even more than I already do. My favorite city ever. If you could take Vancouver and put it in Hawaii and then put Turkey on the other islands it would be my paradise.

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Don Nadeau
September 5, 2011

Thank you everyone for your comments and for reading the blog.

@ a vancouverite That misspelling is truly embarrassing. I’ve lived in Vancouver twice and should know better. Thank you for the heads up and I will correct.

@ Marie I know what you mean. Last month, I took the ferry Port Hardy to Prince Rupert for the first time, which opened up a new world of BC utter beauty. I’d never been to such large area of the province that had so few people.

@ Vago Wow, I’d go for that! A Lower Mainland area with a decent winter climate.

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Love the seawall path and always try to get out on parts of it during any visit to Vancouver! Great writeup – TONS of great pics!

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Don Nadeau
September 5, 2011

Thanks Andy!

Did you notice the link to the photos in your article about Granville Island? Now, those are pictures to treasure and remember! I surely am.

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Frank
June 12, 2013

I love Vancouver and have visited a few times in the summer. It’s the only other Canadian city (apart from Montreal) that I would ever live in. The only thing that makes me nervous is the rain - is it as constant and depressive as everyone says? Having said that, it probably offsets the seperatists that we have to contend with here…

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Don Nadeau
June 12, 2013

Thanks, Frank.

Without question, Vancouver can become depressing in the winter. No one should be surprised that its suicide rate jumps around February.

Nevertheless, you can easily enjoy being outdoors most winter days. During most winters the grass stays green and on most days temperatures stay above freezing (often just above). As mentioned in the post, rains seldom come down heavily in Vancouver, which makes it more enjoyable to walk.

Moreover, I’ve experienced spring flowers as early as mid-January. They always bloom at least as early as February. The long springs here, which can last nearly until July, really cheer things up. Vancouver also usually lacks the humidity and mosquitoes that mar summers in Quebec. It certainly lacks winter ice storms such as the 1998 one you mention in your blog.

The political situation in Quebec has produced tensions in my extended family over many years. I stay out of it, especially in relation to a post that I hoped would be totally uplifting.

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Lori @airbnbsuperhost
February 10, 2015

Great info and pictures Don!
Last time I “did the seawall” I saw three otters fighting over a fish!
The FishHouse Restaurant has a great lunch special from 2-4pm, Salmon burger and fries with a local craft beer for $15 all in a beautiful setting…Stanley Park.

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Don Nadeau
February 13, 2015

Thank you so much, Lori!

You’ve put my mind on one of those salmon burgers for sure! Can never spend too much time in Stanley Park.

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