Vancouver is known for many things, but the Stanley Park Seawall ranks pretty high on that list. With its well-maintained, paved paths for walkers, runners, and cyclists that run all along the Vancouver harbor, dotted the entire way with art and historical attractions, this is a wonderful place to spend a beautiful day with family, friends, or just out for a solo stroll.
When we first arrived in Vancouver, we didn’t see great weather. But on day 2 of our trip, even though we were both still exhausted from our longhaul trip back from Banff, we decided to get out and enjoy the stunning turn of weather – and it was definitely the right choice.
Walk along with us to get a preview of all of the things you shouldn’t miss on Stanley Park’s Seawall!
Enjoy the sea and skyline views!
Because of where we parked, one of the first things we encountered upon getting to the Seawall were some amazing views. The shot on the left is of Lion’s Gate Bridge, from the seawall, not far from the onsite coffee shop. Then, as you continue to walk or bike, you’re graced with the view on the right: the city’s skyline.
When we visited, there was a brisk breeze coming off the water, which had use both wearing jackets, despite the bright sun. Plenty of folks were also taking advantage of the clear weather (after all, it had just rained and gloomed for days prior), basking on the grass or strolling leisurely. The harbor, itself, also saw a fair bit of traffic as speedboats and sail boats made their way out to the Pacific. Between the city views and the beautiful weather, we could’ve stayed here all day.
Boyfriend Perspective: This view is pretty amazing. We don’t have port cities near mountains in Virginia. It was a rare treat to enjoy.
Take in artistic tributes to Vancouver’s history of sea trade
Our first pause point happened to be one of the most colorful parts of Stanley Park (until you get to the totem poles, that is!). Above on the left, this lovely monument to sea trade is a replica of the RMS Empress’s figurehead, which you can read more about on the plaque under the statue.
Near the figurehead are several benches, perfect for enjoying the day. Which we OBVIOUSLY had to take advantage of!
And if you walk to the right just a few steps, you’ll see this large-ish rock with what we both swore was a mermaid sitting on it. Of course, the Little Mermaid sculpture resides in Copenhagen, not Vancouver… but this is the Girl with the Wetsuit, an artistic tribute to the huge part the sea has played in Vancouver’s growth and development over the past century. Pro tip: make sure you bring a mid-to-long lens for your camera if you want a closeup of her lovely, goggle-free face 🙂
Boyfriend Perspective: This spot is quiet and well-maintained, with a view that is perfect for a quick snack. Heeeeyyy BooBoo!!! Where’s the pic-a-nic basket?
Spot the Brockton Point Lighthouse
This lighthouse is a Stanley Park fixture. It’s been a part of Vancouver since 1914, when an increase in population and trade traffic meant that more ships needed safe passage into harbor and back out to sea again.
Today, this lovely lighthouse can be seen day or night, as its red and white tower pokes out from the otherwise gently curving seawall. This was one of the few bottlenecks we found on the seawall, as everyone wanted a shot under the arches, or from the point, or any number of other Insta-worthy snaps. Add to this a vast number of people toting bikes down the nearby stairs and under the arches and you end up with a bit of a jostling crowd.
Boyfriend Perspective: Have you ever wanted to be a traffic cop in the middle of a big city intersection? You do?! Well, this is how you feel like one: go here and wait for all of the other visitors stopping to take pictures, and all of the local runners trying to maneuver. Nooope, scratching Traffic Cop off the career options list.
9 O’clock Gun: Start your night with a bang
Don’t set your watch by Stanley Park’s 9 o’clock gun tonight as it won’t be fired. It should be operating tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/4vWgU2nrtz
— Vancouver Park Board (@ParkBoard) November 24, 2015
Full disclosure, we visited early enough in the day that we didn’t get to see this beauty in action, but it’s one of the star attractions on the seawall. Brought to Vancouver in its already old age and first fired in 1898, it was never installed for defense purposes, like the canons around Quebec City. Instead, it was used to signal fishermen of the end of fishing on Sunday. Now, park staff fire the gun each day at 9pm, sharp, another reminder of this awesome city’s history.
If you can’t hear the canon yourself (and you have no excuse with videos like this floating around!), you can keep track with the 9 o’clock gun’s official Twitter handle, which also marks 9pm every day in a hilarious way.
Plane watch… or take a plane ride!
A friend told us that we definitely HAD to take a plane ride in Vancouver… but of course she mentioned this AFTER we got back. Thaaaaanks. Even so, the seaplanes departing from the harbor are almost impossible to miss – they take off every few minutes from the marina, buzzing along as they gain altitude.
Even if you don’t have the discretionary fund to take an aerial tour of the city and surrounding area, don’t despair… we didn’t, either. We found that Vancouver from the ground is just as beautiful, and if you’re enjoying a leisurely day in the park, watching the planes departing and arriving is its own kind of lazy fun. If you’re down for a spin over the harbor, TripAdvisor and Viator have a slew of companies willing to help you out!
Boyfriend Perspective: I have always found sea planes interesting in a quirky way, and it was pretty cool to sea one. I’ll… sea myself out.
Have you visited the Stanley Park Seawall? What was your favorite part?
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Also published on Medium.