Tracing the Ocean: Walking the entire Stanley Park Seawall

If you know me, you know I love accessible adventure. When I lived in Kamloops, Peterson Creek Park perched right outside my bedroom window, beckoning me on trail runs and hikes to downtown. In Kelowna, I tackled mountains and jumped in Okanagan Lake every month of the year. Even in Montreal, I found an outdoor escape alongside the Lachine Canal.

Now that I’m living in the Lower Mainland, there are a ton of hiking trails I can’t wait to experience. However, the majority of them are a solid one-to-two-hour drive from where I live. So, while staying at the Sylvia on English Bay, I was happy to find a trek I could do right from my front door (er, hotel room).

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Built in 1917, Vancouver’s Stanley Park Seawall is a 28-km pathway that offers respite to walkers tired of cowering beneath the high-rises in downtown. It’s a popular place to spend a sunny afternoon and escape the city (without really escaping the city). Inside the lush green park, you’ll find an aquarium, a tea house, a pool, ponds, forested trails and local wildlife, including herons and raccoons.

For a 3-4 hour adventure, stretch your legs on this 9-km walk that traces the perimeter of the park and offers endless ocean views.

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Note: There are separate paths for cyclers/roller bladers and walkers. If you’re not on wheels, make sure you stay on the ocean-side and only cross the bike lane on designated cross walks.

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Leaving Coal Harbour, enter Stanley Park and walk towards the beautiful building that houses the Vancouver Rowing Club. Continue past the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club. (Look for the biggest one, that’s mine. In my dreams, I mean.) Next you’ll see the Royal Canadian Navy and a sign pointing towards the Totem Poles. Go into this area for a bathroom break, gift shop-stop and—most importantly—to admire and read about the intricate Totem Poles. You can continue onto the trail from here, cutting off a lighthouse that juts out to the ocean, or double-back to see that, too.

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Further along the paved path, you’ll find my favourite statue, which pays homage to my Danish roots. Copenhagen has the Little Mermaid; Vancouver has the Girl in a Wetsuit. On low tide, you can climb the statue and sit next to her—just take care to avoid the seagull poop.

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Nearby, you’ll find a replica of the Japanese SS Empress figurehead looking out towards the Burrad Inlet. In the distance, you can see Lion’s Gate Bridge. Constructed in 1937 by engineer Alfred James Towle Taylor, there was fierce resistance to the bridge at first. Privately funded the Guinness family (yes, that Guinness), toll booths were installed to recoup construction costs (and probably make a little extra on top). Today, the suspension bridge is an icon that connects the North Shore and City of Vancouver. It’s namesake comes from The Lions, a pair of peaks I’ve yet to hike.

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Continuing under the bridge, walk past Prospect Point, admire the mint-green ocean waters and look out to the Siwash Rock. Nearby, a sign reads: ‘Indian legend tells us that this 50-foot-high pinnacle of rock stands as an imperishable monument to “Skalsh the Unselfish,” who was turned into stone by O’uas the Transformer as a reward for his unselfishness.’

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You’ll be tired by now, so stop into the concession at Third Beach. The ice cream is pricey but so, so good. If you’re feeling extra brave, dive into the ocean for a frigid refresh.

It’s not far now to Second Beach and the massive swimming pool next to the ocean. Entrance is only $6.10 for an adult. At low tide, you can join the families rummaging for sea glass and shells.

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In 600-some-metres, you’ll spot English Bay. Artists sell their paintings along the seawall, buskers strum acoustic guitars and the faint smell of marijuana in the air isn’t so faint anymore. It’s the finish line! You made it! Treat yourself to a bubbly beverage at Cactus Club—you deserve it.

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Have you walked the entire seawall? What was your experience? Comment below!

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