How did you see in the New Year? Champagne and fireworks? A quiet night in? Or did you join the Polar Bear Swim?
Since 1920 Vancouverites (and guests) have been celebrating New Year by plunging into the chilly depths of English Bay off Stanley Park. Now, Stanley Park is stunning any time of year, but swimming in English Bay might be more suited to the warmer months we think.
Stanley Park’s 400 hectares of lush forest is walking distance from downtown Vancouver. Opened in 1888, The park is named after Lord Frederick Stanley, Governor General of Canada at the time. With next to no landscape design, the park today is much as it was when opened, although storms have had their effect.
In December 2006, 115-kph winds caused the demise of an estimated 10,000 trees. A western red cedar, made famous by the cover of National Geographic magazine, was one of them. The fallen trees were utilised by local woodworkers and craftsmen, while First Nations people selected from 90 huge pieces to create canoes, portals, and ceremonial pieces.
Stanley Park’s sloping Rose Garden was established in 1920 and now has an estimated 3,500 bushes. If you’re lucky enough to be in Vancouver in spring, the spectacle of colour is magnificent.
Nearby in Shakespeare’s Garden, 45 trees mentioned in the bard’s work are dotted throughout with plaques displaying appropriate quotes.
The Seawall, an erosion protection project, consists of a 28-km walking/ cycling track. It’s the world’s longest uninterrupted coastline path. Taking 63 years in total to complete, it now serves as an excellent way to see Stanley Park and beyond.
When setting off, follow the Seawall anti-clockwise whether walking or cycling. Serious cyclists and runners do not appreciate potential head-on collisions and will definitely let you know about it so, to ensure enjoyment, head anti-clockwise.
Indian Totem Poles at Brockton Point tell of real or mythical events through their carvings. The eagle represents the kingdom of the air; the whale, the lordship of the sea; the wolf, the genius of the land and the frog is the transitional link between land and sea.
Almost opposite at Hallelujah Point, the 9’oclock Gun has been heard in the evenings since 1894 for mariners to set their chronometers. Today it alerts visitors to the park’s closing time.
27 km of trails meander past the famous Hollow Tree, Monument Trees, through Western Red Cedars, Big Leaf Maples, and Douglas Firs.
Bird watchers are in their element with 230 species of migratory birds using Stanley Park as a resting point on their journies.
5 pairs of breeding bald eagles call the park home living in nests the size of a Volkswagon Beetle. Bats relocate on balmy summer evenings, Great Blue Herons have been nesting here since the 20s, Racoons, squirrels, and beavers are all park residents and just off shore from the Seawall, Harbour Seals search for food.
At Lumberman’s Arch, leave the Seawall and head to Canada’s largest aquarium. With over 50,000 sea reliant animals, Vancouver Aquarium has exhibitions, kid’s activities, volunteer programs and seminars providing a heads up on their habitat.
Oceanwise is a Vancouver Aquarium initiative in conjunction with 680 partners across Canada. The Oceanwise symbol on a restaurant’s menu assures the use of ocean-friendly sustainable produce.
Head to Prospect Point for views of Lion’s Gate Bridge and beyond. Continue around the Seawall to Siwash Rock, a 32 million-year-old sea stack.
BYO swimwear and find Third Beach for a secluded swim. Second Beach and its Pool have all the facilities you may need, and if it’s a Water Park you’re after, Stanley Park has that too.
From Central Vancouver, it’s a beautiful walk. Take the Waterfront path and you’ll be there in no time.
Spokes Bicycle Rental is conveniently located at the entrance to the park so if the Seawall is your intention, do it on 2 wheels.
You can also take advantage of the Hop On Hop Off bus. The green line follows the Seawall so you can jump off, check out the individual sites, then jump back on when the next one comes around.
#eat & #drink
It wouldn’t be paraphernalia.co without some eating and drinking, but let’s not detract from Stanley Park’s history and beauty, so here is a list of restaurants, cafés and food trucks for you to check out. Of course, you could always pack a picnic and enjoy the views.
Stanley Park Pavillion is the oldest building in the park and provides a rustic atmosphere for a meal.
Teahouse takes in stunning views of English Bay at Ferguson Point.
Overlooking Lion’s Gate Bridge and Burrard Inlet, Prospect Point Café is generally an all year rounder but is currently closed for renovation.
Waterfall Café is handy for the aquarium and concession stands are scattered through the park for a quick snack or coffee.
Vancouver has an established food truck industry and you’ll find them in the park too. Japadog, Berry Mobile, Candy Meister and others.
Stanley Park is far more suited to exploring but it’s handy to know it has gift shops at cafés and attractions throughout the park. If retail therapy is required, you’ll find fabulous Canadian products; maple syrup, cured salmon, beads, carvings, hats, sunnies, a little apparel and more.
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Exploring Vancouver’s Stanley Park; it’s a thing we love….