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Stanley Park: Vancouver’s Urban Oasis

Nature abounds in the city of Vancouver. Here is your guide to Stanley Park, Vancouver's urban oasis and one of the most visited parks in the world.

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At the edge of Vancouver’s busy downtown area lies a captivating natural playground which preserves the majestic beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Stanley Park offers a welcome getaway for Vancouver’s busy urban population. Spared from the over-development seen in other parts of Vancouver – the park’s beaches, trails, and over 400 hectares of rainforest remain easily accessible to all. Some of Vancouver’s top attractions can be found in Stanley Park!

fall foliage and bridge at stanley park in Vancouver
Stanley Park: Vancouver’s Urban Oasis | Skyscanner Canada

A Brief History of Stanley Park

In 1888, Stanley Park was established as Vancouver’s first official green space. After all this time, this lush miniature forest remains the favourite among Vancouver’s more than 240 parks. To learn more about the ecological incentives by Stanley Park, visit their ecological society page

The Stanley Park Totem Poles

The totem poles at Brockton Point are British Columbia’s most visited tourist attraction. Before it became Stanley Park the area was home to the Musqueam, Squamish and Burrard First Nations people. This history is recognized with the Red Cedar Portals and the Nine First Nations totem poles on display, dating back to 1920. Be sure to spend some time in the Visitor’s Centre at Stanley Park, where visitors you can learn more about the story and culture of the Coast Salish people.

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Brockton Point Lighthouse

The Brockton Point Lighthouse is found along the Stanley Park seawall. This structure’s been standing since 1914! Visitors can get great views of the water by the Brockton Point Lighthouse. Every evening you’ll hear what’s known as the “9 o’clock gun”. Fired electronically at 9 p.m. by Brockton Point, the gun was made in 1816 and offered as a gift to Canada from the British government in 1856. Amongst other things, it was historically used by mariners to set their chronometers.

Things to do in Stanley Park

On top of fabulous ocean views and towering ancient trees, you will find an array of activities for everyone in Vancouver’s oasis. Here are just a few of the highlights of what to see in Vancouver’s Stanley Park. 

Visit the Vancouver Aquarium

The Vancouver Aquarium is one of the top research facilities when it comes to marine research. The aquarium is home to more than 50,000 animals including dolphins, sea lions, walruses and more. Many of these creatures are residents of the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre. The Rescue Centre helps marine mammals in distress and is the only centre of its kind in Canada. This makes it a fun and educational experience for the whole family! Exhibits have detailed information about different ecosystems, and educational programs cover topics ranging from over-fishing to climate change. As a research facility, education is a top priority at the Vancouver Aquarium – so come prepared to learn!

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Take a Dip in the Stanley Park Pool or Beach

For visitors in the summer months who are looking to go for a swim and take in some quality beach time, you have plenty of options within Stanley Park. You can visit the Second Beach pool which is a heated outdoor pool complete with an ocean view. Cool off in the Stanley Park Water Park, where people of all ages can splash around under the giant sprinklers. If you are willing to brave the cool temperatures of the Pacific, then English Bay Beach, Second Beach and Third Beach are all located within the park. The beaches all have amenities like concessions and washrooms so you can easily spend the whole day by the water.

rose garden in the summer in Stanley Park, Vancouver, Canada
Stanley Park: Vancouver’s Urban Oasis | Skyscanner Canada

Don’t Miss the Stanley Park Rose Garden

The Rose Garden is one the many designed gardens the park has to offer. They are amongst the top gardens in the city, and there’s nowhere better to experience some diverse flora than in Vancouver’s urban oasis. Like all of Vancouver’s Stanley Park, admission to the gardens is free. The best times to visit is from March to October, and particularly in May for the peak bloom season. Don’t forget your camera!

Visit the Stanley Park Railway

The Stanley Park Train is a replica of a historic Canadian Pacific Railway Engine that takes you through tunnels and forest. Open through spring and summer, it also features holiday themes at Easter, Halloween and Christmas. The Bright Nights Christmas train in Stanley Park attracts crowds with three million twinkling lights to delight young and old alike. 

Voted World’s Best Park by Travellers

Vancouver’s urban rainforest won the traveller’s choice award for “Best Park in the World” in 2014 from Tripadvisor. The towering evergreens are likely what gave Stanley Park the edge over other famous green spaces like New York’s Central Park, which took third place. Stanley Park’s 500,000 ancient Cedar, Fir and Hemlock trees attract tree-huggers from around the globe. Spotted here is one of Stanley Park’s earliest tourist attractions was the iconic hollow tree, a hollow stump of an 800-year-old Western Red Cedar. Visitors beware, the famous tree stump is rumoured to be haunted!

The Stanley Park Seawall

Vancouver’s seawall also claims first place for being the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront path. The famous greenway spans 28 kilometres of Pacific shoreline and is Vancouver’s most popular spot for recreation. The Stanley Park seawall extends from the Vancouver Convention Centre to beautiful Spanish Banks Beach. Arguably, it could be these magnificent ocean views that bring the millions of visitors to Stanley Park every year. The seawall attracts joggers, cyclists, roller-skaters and people just taking a leisurely stroll. Designated lanes allow for all types of travellers to safely enjoy the seawall together. 

Where to Eat Near Stanley Park, Vancouver

A day at Stanley Park will surely leave you hungry but fortunately, there are plenty of dining options which range from concession snacks to fine dining. On the north end of the park is Prospect Point Café which features a large patio. To the south is Stanley’s Park Bar & Grill, a great spot to enjoy locally-sourced food and some of BC’s finest craft beers. For a more formal dining experience, famous Stanley Park Teahouse combines French cuisine with a fusion of west coast flavours. While you savour the food, you can enjoy a breathtaking view of English Bay – arguably one of the better spots to watch the sunset in Vancouver.

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