Stanley Park: What to See and What to Skip
There's a reason why Stanley Park was named the "top park in the world" by TripAdvisor. Containing over 27km of trails through rainforest, an unparalleled 8.8km seawall, sandy beaches, First Nations totem poles, plenty of wildlife, a public swimming pool, the Vancouver Aquarium, sports facilities, and several dining options make this huge public park hard to beat.
If you're like me, you'll find yourself returning again and again to enjoy the natural beauty found here. A trip to Vancouver isn't truly complete without exploring Stanley Park.
Below you'll find a list of my favorite spots and things to do in Stanley Park, and also a few things you can feel alright about not seeing.
WALK, BIKE, OR RUN THE SEAWALL
Nearly a century old, the 8.8km seawall wraps its way around the park along Vancouver Harbor and English Bay. Each new corner you turn rewards you with spectacular views onto Vancouver and the Pacific Ocean.
Walk the trails around Beaver Lake
There are areas within the 400-hectare rainforest where you don't feel like you’re in the vicinity of a bustling downtown core. Beaver Lake is certainly one of them. No traffic or noise pollution can be heard here. Go for a walk around the lily pad covered lake and you’ll encounter wildlife such as raccoons, frogs, herons, and friendly squirrels.
Walking to Beaver Lake is also a great way to cut through Stanley Park if you don’t have time to walk the whole seawall loop.
Skip the Aquarium…
I’m very torn about visiting the Vancouver Aquarium. I want to recommend it because I’ve always had a wonderful time visiting it as a child, but as an adult I don’t agree with wild animals being kept in small tanks anymore.
Instead look for wildlife
There are plenty of wild animals to see in Stanley Park, from raccoons to blue herons. Along the seawall it's often possible to see harbor seals hunting for fish. If you're really lucky you might even catch a glimpse of Orcas!
STOP TO SMELL THE ROSES
Stanley Park’s rose garden was first established in 1920 and now grows over 3500 rose bushes. You will smell it before you see it!
Head to the Lost Lagoon
The Lost Lagoon isn't really a lagoon, but an artificial lake at the entrance to Stanley Park. Walk the loop trail and you're sure to see turtles basking in the sun, frogs, blue herons, ducks, Canada geese, and swans. Sadly the swans wings have been clipped to prevent them from escaping the area. The fountain in the center of the lagoon was erected to commemorate Vancouver's golden jubilee.
Play a round of Pitch and Putt
A super fun way to spend a few hours in Stanley Park is to play a round of golf at the Pitch and Putt course. It’s open from spring to fall, seven days a week.
Avoid Second and Third Beach
The beaches in Stanley Park are gorgeous, there’s no doubt about that. What distracts from their natural beauty are the vast amounts of people that flock to the beaches on a hot sunny day. Yes, most beaches in Vancouver will be busy during the summer months, but I would rather spend the day walking through the park than lying on the beach frying in the sun, sandwiched between sweaty hipsters.
If you’re really dying to head to the beach, note that Second Beach is a bit more family oriented due to its proximity to the public swimming pool and playgrounds. Third Beach tends to be a bit more of a party beach in the summer, so if you’re into that, have fun!
Marvel at the trees
Stanley Park is a naturally occurring forest and was one of the first areas in the city to be explored in the 1800s. Around half a million trees grow here and most of them are hundreds of years old!
SKIP PROSPECT POINT
All the tourists stop here to take the same photo, spend money in the over priced gift shop and get back into their air conditioned tour bus. If you ask me, it’s a waste of time.
If you're looking for a more breathtaking and secluded view I’ll let you in on a little secret. There is a lesser known viewpoint that faces out into English Bay and it's one of the best spots in Stanley Park, in my humble opinion.
To reach the viewpoint, continue down the Marilees trail from Prospect Point, after a 15-minute walk you’ll reach the Siwash Rock lookout point. It's a quiet area and makes for a great photo spot. Don't take my word for it, check it out for yourself, but don’t all go rushing there at once!
There really is so much to see and do in Stanley Park that you could spend several days here and not have seen it all! Reserve at least a day of your time to discover this beautiful forest.