Stanley Park

by - July 02, 2021

I can't believe I didn't write about Stanley Park, which is the most iconic place in Vancouver and is the one place which has everything: beach, forest, playground and touristy things to do!

Stanley Park is more than a thousand acres, which means that this post is unlikely going to be able to cover all that there is to do there. The park is so large that it makes up the northwestern half of Vancouver's downtown Peninsula, which is surrounded by waters of Burrard Inlet and English Bay. 

A Brief History: 

Stanley Park has a long history. The land was originally used by Indigenous peoples for thousands of years before British Columbia was colonized. For many years after colonization, the future park with its abundant resources would also be home to non-Indigenous settlers. The land was later turned into Vancouver's first park when the city incorporated in 1886. It was named after Lord Stanley, the 16th Earl of Derby, a British politician who had recently been appointed Governor General. It was originally known as Coal Peninsula and was set aside for military fortifications to guard the entrance to Vancouver harbour. In 1886 Vancouver city council successfully sought a lease of the park which was granted for $1 per year. In September 1888 Lord Stanley opened the park in his name.

Much of the park has evolved from the forest and its encounters with urbanization. There are many man-made structures in the park, but most of these were built in the early 1900s. Much of the park remains as densely forested as it was in the late 1800s. Some of the trees are hundreds of years old.

Some of the top sites and attractions in the park, from east to west, include:

The Seawall: The Vancouver Seawall is basically the walkway that perimeters the park. It took several decades to complete. The idea for the seawall came from the park board superintendent, W. S. Rawlings. Since then, the seawall has been extended and  is currently 22 kilometres (14 mi) from end to end, making it the world's longest uninterrupted waterfront walkway. The Stanley Park portion is just under half of the entire length, because the seawall starts at Canada Place in the downtown core, runs around Stanley Park, along English Bay, around False Creek, and finally to Kitsilano Beach. From there, a trail continues 600 metres to the west, connecting to an additional 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) of beaches and pathways which terminate at the mouth of the Fraser River.

Brockton Point and lighthouse – Brockton Point is the eastern most point of the park. there is a lighthouse here, designed by Thomas Hayton Mawson, that was built in 1914 to replace one built in 1890. There is also the 9 O'Clock Gun, which fires every day at 9 pm. Closeby is the Brockton Oval, which is a field used for athletics. Near Brockton Point is a well-known statue called the Girl in a Wetsuit, which was created by Elek Imredy and placed in 1972.

HMCS Discovery Building – This is the No public access but can be seen from land near Brockton Point.

Lumberman's Arch – This is a children's play area with a water spray park, and picnic area. Right near this area, nestled within the forest is also Beaver Lake, which as the name suggests, is a lake of beavers!

Malkin Bowl – Former mayor W.H. Malkin built a "shell" stage modelled after the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles in honour of his late wife in 1934. On July 8, 1934, Malkin Bowl hosts its first concert, a free performance by the Vancouver Symphony that draws 15,000 people. It was rebuilt after a fire in 1982. Located in front of the Stanley Park Pavilion.

Stanley Park Pavilion – This is an area where there are a number of sights, including the Stanley's Park Bar & Grill. The pavilion itself was built in 1911-12.

Miniature railway – A diminutive steam train that pulls passenger cars on a circuit through the woods first opened in the 1940s. A new train and track opened in 1964, which is near the pavilion. It is roughly $7 for adults, and between $3-$5 per child depending on their age. They also host birthdays here.

Horse-drawn carts - This is a cute attraction, where you are allowed a one hour carriage ride through the eastern part of the park. There are stables for the horses, and the horses themselves are gorgeous. The ride is slow and safe, so great for kids. It is pricey, but there are coupons and deals always to make this more affordable. We recently took it and had a blast ! Mind you, this is a paid and pricey attraction, so best to wait until you do find a good deal.

Rose Garden – This is a beautiful rose garden near the Stanley Park Pavilion. As the name suggests, it is primarily a rose garden, but its also a beautiful place to sit and take in the sights. 

Totem poles  – Near Brockton point are the totem poles, which are the most visited tourist attraction in British Columbia. Many of the original poles were moved to museums in order to preserve them. Several replicas were commissioned or loaned to the park board between 1986 and 1992. Located at Brockton Point.

Ceperley Meadow – Children's play area and picnic area directly behind Second Beach. There's also a gazebo which you can book for hosting birthdays! We did our daughter's first birthday there!

Lost Lagoon  - This is a large lagoon in the park, which includes lots of wildlife and beavers. There is a the Lost Lagoon Nature House, located on the south shore, which is run by the Stanley Park Ecology Society.

Prospect Point – This is a great lookout point, and the highest point in the park. It is very close to the Lions Gate bridge, which is near the A lookout at the highest point in the park. Located by the Lions Gate Bridge, which leads you to the North Shore.

Second and Third Beaches. These beaches are along the seawall, with second beach just past English Bay and Third Beach, a little further away from second beach. There is also a drum circle that takes place at the Third Beach. There is also a concession at Second Beach, with really nice fries and KOMBUCHA!

Ted and Mary Greig Rhododendron Garden – While the shrubs were donated in 1965, the garden was not dedicated until 1989. The rhododendrons are planted in a roughly circular form around the pitch and putt golf course near Lost Lagoon. Best time of year to visit is March-May. The peak is usually early May.

Two Spirits Sculpture – Slightly hidden, this sculpture is found just west of the crossroads of trails that enter into Stanley Park from the swimming pool located at Second Beach. The sculpture was created in the mid-1990s and depicts the silhouetted head of an aboriginal person against its own image. The sculpture was chiseled into a stump that remains from one the large trees in the area.

While these are just some of the sights, the park is full of trails and other hidden gyms, and you can easily spend a complete day here!

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