Wandering along the Stanley Park Seawall is the perfect way to see Vancouver. It is so nice to have such a huge area of greenery and beaches in the center (ish) of the city.
Once you have walked around Stanley Park, you’ll have a much better idea of Vancouver’s layout. On the Western side there are pretty views out to Vancouver Island, and you can count all the huge ships with red bottoms. Then as you go North you can see the Lion’s Gate Bridge, the North Shore of Vancouver and Grouse Mountain. Lastly, as you head East there are more mountain views and then some stunning vistas of Downtown Vancouver. I loved looking at the massive trees. Plus the views away from the park are stunning in all directions!
Stanley Park Seawall – the basics
Distance: 9 km (it’s a loop)
Elevation gain: minimal
Time: 2 hours
What to bring:
A camera! You can bring a small waterbottle and re-fill it from the fountains along the route.
There are sooo many facilities! There are loos and water fountains every few kilometers.
You can rent bikes (if you have a phone and a credit card)
There are shops, cafes and restaurants as well!
Dog friendly – keep them on a leash
How hard is it?
Super easy. You can manage this one!
Map: Click here for a map of Stanley Park.
According to the city of Vancouver, the seawall is “the world’s longest, uninterrupted waterfront path.” It is basically a 28km pathway that is divided with space for both walkers and cyclists. I’ll mostly mention the 9km section around Stanley Park in this post, but you can continue in both directions beyond the park.
How to reach Stanley Park
Bus: There are plenty of buses from downtown to Stanley Park. Look for the number 19 bus. You can pay for the bus with cash, by tapping your credit card or with a pre-loaded compass card.
Cycle: If you have a bike, the cycle lanes in downtown Vancouver are another fantastic. Cycle along the Sea wall for the best views.
If you don’t own a bike, you can hire one from Vancouver’s city-wide bike rental scheme, mobi. See details about hiring bikes on my post about a Weekend in Vancouver.
Walk: We normally walk over to the park along the sea wall.
Stanley Park Seawall – walk vs cycle?
It seems most people ride bikes around Stanley Park. There are always a lot of cyclists!! Having said that, it really is a lovely walk- even if most people zoom past on two wheels. Just remember if you decide to cycle, the Stanley Sea Wall is one-way for cyclists. You need to follow the path counter-clockwise.
On our first hike around the Seawall, we started in Yaletown and walked the whole way along the North side of False Creek. We took it easy and grabbed ice-creams near Sunset beach.
Stanley Park Seawall – getting started
There is a small, relaxed beach at the entrance to Stanley Park, where we saw a super-still heron (I’ve named him Baxter.) I thought Baxter might have been a pretty statue from afar because he just didn’t move at all. And then suddenly he dipped his beak into the water and pulled back with a fish that was waaay too big for his slender beak! He sort of struggled to swallow the fish because he’d grabbed it at the wrong angle. So he did a sort of twist and swallow manoeuvre to send it down his gullet. After that, Baxter went back to staring at the water, but he seemed less intense as you could see him fidgeting a little compared to his total stillness before.
There are quite a few massive ships and tankers that seem to wait in this area before they visit the port in Vancouver. I counted 17 on our walk. Most of them were still, but after a while one of them started to move slowly towards Vancouver. Actually, it can’t have been that slow, because once it made it around the headland we weren’t quick enough to see where it docked. The vast majority of ships were red, or at least had red bottoms. I wonder if that is just to make it easier to see them out at sea? Or is there one shipping company that just really likes red ships!? We also saw some pretty spring flowers that looked like teeny bells. These will turn into salal berries.
Pretty soon, I started to be distracted by all the amazing trees! Even on the edge of the park, it is really interesting to see how they grow out of the rocks. Some of them have huge curves as if they had grown for a few meters, then been knocked down on the wind, so started growing in a new direction. It is easy to get a little dizzy by standing just underneath the trees and looking up! Luckily the cycle path was close to the trees so I didn’t look too closely as I didn’t want to get in the way of the cyclists!
We kept walking around for even better views of the North Shore…
The next landmark is Siwash Rock, which is due for a change of name (learn more about the names for local places on this awesome video.) It is also known by its Squamish name Skalsh (Slhx̱í7lsh), which refers to a story about a man who was turned into this rock. To me, it looks like a beaver heading to a wedding, wearing a facinator. There may be a bike pile-up at this point in the path, as all the cyclists stop to take a photo.
I can totally see why people did stop their bikes here, I mean LOOK AT THAT VIEW!
The beaches on this side of the park were less sandy, so have fewer sunbathers. However they make up for it by being a good place to see goslings. The water is shallow, so it’s a safe place for goslings to learn how to be geese. Look at those little fluffy cuties! They weren’t as majestic as Baxter the heron but they were pretty busy finding things to eat in the seaweed.
Lions Gate Bridge
Just around the next bend we started to see the Lions Gate Bridge. It is huuuge! It looks like there is a pedestrian walkway up there so at some point I’ll walk over with my camera. The views were lovely down below the bridge so they must be amazing from up high!
After the bridge, the views become slightly more industrial. We could see the huge cranes and ships in the ports, as well as what looked like a mini mountain of bright yellow sulphur-powder shining in the sun. It is a little strange to see so much industry right in front of mountains and gorgeous scenery. I suppose in Vancouver where it is pretty in every direction, you have to spoil one view with factories and ports.
We saw the replica of the Empress of Japan’s dragon figurehead. This is from an English ship, built in 1891 that managed to go between the UK and Canada 315 times before she was scrapped in the 1920s. You can read more about this cool-sounding, speedy ship, and how this figurehead was rescued here.
Girl in a Wet Suit
We walked past the bronze stature of a girl in a wetsuit. When we first came close to her, there was a bright white seagull using her as a perch. However just as we got closer, a young adolescent seagull with all her grey fluff took the older seagull’s place. I actually thought I was taking a seagull-less photo until I looked closely and saw the young gull was actually just about to land in my piccy! We arrived at this side of the park during rush hour for geese. You can see them all heading home in a line after a hard-day goosing about.
Brockton Point Lighthouse
There are some pretty views from Brockton Point Lighthouse. Cyclists have to take a different route for this part of the walk so it is quite calm and really interesting to get a good view of the massive ships. Can you see the huge pile of yellow powder in my photo on the right? It was shining like gold in the sun.
Downtown Vancouver from Stanley Park
After Brockton Point Lighthouse, you get the first beautiful views of Downtown Vancouver. To the left of the photo is a huge Disney cruise ship! I am not sure if you can see it, but there were massive mickey mouse shapes on the ship’s chimneys! Vancouver itself looked beautiful from Stanley Park on such a sunny day. The water was sparkling so that made everything look perfect.
The last section of the walk goes past Dead Mans Island and the Royal Vancouver Yacht club. In the other direction, if you look into the interior of the park there are amazing trees! It is easy to forget that we’ll need to explore a lot more of the interior of this park. For this walk, I mostly took photos outwards, away from the park!
Watch out for Harbour Seals
Just as we thought we had seen all the best things on Stanley Island, we met one of the important residents of the Vancouver rowing club. This is Stella the harbour seal. She probably has other names from other locals, but she made our day sooo much better that Stella seems like an appropriate name to me. Look at her pretty spotty tummy!
These photos are from our first ever wander around Stanley Park. Since then, we have done this walk countless times and I still really love it.
Have you ever walked around Stanley Park? Which side do you like best? The views of the sea, the mountains or the city?