Believe it or not, Vancouver’s Stanley Park is larger than New York’s Central Park. With 400 hectares (1,000 acres) of bucolic beauty to cover, you’re going to want a guide to this recreational paradise. Find a printable map here or visit the information centre just east of the park’s Georgia Street entrance for maps and brochures. Feeling overwhelmed? Here’s our list of ten things you must do on your visit to Vancouver’s Stanley Park.
The popular beluga whales at this conservation and research centre have some friendly (and adorable) competition in the freshly arrived African penguins, which have waddled their way into every local’s heart. The Aquarium’s newest residents join more than 50,000 creatures from the land and sea, including frogs, jellyfish and sea otters. Book an animal encounter to get up close with critters in an interactive training session. The Vancouver Aquarium is located 1.2 km into Stanley Park, east of Pipeline Road.
Vancouver Aquarium, 845 Avison Way, 604-659-3474, vanaqua.org
If you only have a few hours to explore, we suggest tackling all or part of the 8.8-kilometre (5.5-mile) section of the seawall that circles the perimeter of Stanley Park. Don’t forget your camera, because you’ll see fantastic views of downtown Vancouver, Burrard Inlet, the North Shore mountains and the Lions Gate Bridge. You’ll see some cool landmarks, too. Look for the seaworthy “Girl in a Wetsuit,” a modern-day mermaid sculpted by Elek Imredy and the 32-million-year-old Siwash Rock rising from the water.
First Nations culture is an important part of the history of both Stanley Park and Vancouver. Parts of the park were the former site of a First Nations village. The totems and gateways at Brockton Point were carved in the late 1880s and replaced with lookalike versions in the 1980s to keep the originals preserved. For more information on the First Nations art around the park, click here. Brockton Point is at the far eastern tip of Vancouver’s Stanley Park, about 2.3km from the Georgia Street entrance.
Despite its name, this lagoon is easily spotted near the base of the park, just west of the Georgia Street entrance from downtown Vancouver. Before the Stanley Park Causeway was built in the 1920s, the tide flowed in and out of the pond, leading local poet Pauline Johnson to write “Ode to the Lost Lagoon”—which likely gave the pond its name. This is a good spot to see peacocks and other wildlife strutting by.
Stanley Park Horse-Drawn Tours
The best way to see the Stanley Park’s highlights is on this narrated tour loved by kids and adults alike. Horses clip-clop by Deadman’s Island, the Lions Gate Bridge, Lumberman’s Arch, totem poles, vistas of downtown Vancouver and many of the park’s other must-sees. To join the next available tram, which operates March to October, head to the kiosk just off the Georgia Street entrance to Stanley Park.
Stanley Park Horse-Drawn Tours, 604-681-5115, stanleypark.com
Future ferroequinologists and adult railfans can board the miniature train for a leisurely way to see Vancouver’s Stanley Park. Travel 2 km (1.4 mi) of track and tunnels as you tour the rainforest. Themed trains each season make for a diversity of experiences: in spring, get onboard the Easter train; in summer, experience First Nations culture on the Spirit Catcher Train; in October, get spooked on the Ghost Train; and in winter, celebrate the holidays aboard the Bright Nights Train as you ride past the Stanley Park’s two million twinkle lights. A schedule, available at from the City of Vancouver site here, lets you know what train is riding when. Board the train near Cob House, just off Pipeline Road.
Stanley Park Miniature Train, 311 (in Vancouver), 604-873-7000 (outside Vancouver), website
Rain or shine, Stanley Park’s beaches are super spots to sit back and appreciate the water views. In summer, bring a towel to stake your claim at popular Second Beach on the southwestern side of the park. Nearby is a seasonal, heated infinity-style pool, perfect for warming up after a chilly dip in the ocean. Further north, at Ferguson Point, you’ll find Third Beach—one of Stanley Park’s lesser-visited gems, which offers charming views of West Vancouver and English Bay.
Darling buds grace the park’s Shakespeare Garden, which is partly cultivated with plants mentioned in the Bard’s plays. Beyond lie the perennial and rose flowerbeds, a popular spot in the sunny season with more than 3,500 plants. Spring is when most of the 4,500 rhododendrons and azaleas bloom in the Ted and Mary Greig Rhododendron Garden, but several varieties blossom throughout June and into the summer.
Parking a car in the hollow stump of this Western Red Cedar was a popular activity in the early 20th century, making the tree one of the park’s most well known attractions (check out all the pictures of it on Flickr). But the tree has had its share of problems—though that’s to be expected of anything that’s 750 years old. After a 2006 windstorm damaged the tree, it needed heavy stabilization. These days, the tree remains a fantastic photo op, even if it can’t return to its former glory as a cool place to park a car.
Casual bites are on the menu at Stanley’s Park Bar & Grill and Prospect Point Cafe. Expect superb Pacific Northwest fare and North Shore views at the historic Teahouse. Seafood seared to perfection can be found at the charming Fish House in Stanley Park—a Vancouver favourite with great views of English Bay.