Stanley Park

Designers: Thomas Mawson and others | City: Vancouver, BC | Project Type: large parks
Date Visited: 12.24.12

Locations: 2000 West Georgia St, Vancouver BC
Size: 1,000 acres
Completion Date: 1888


Inspired by Olmstedian-design principles, Stanley Park is recognized not only as Vancouver’s oldest, largest and most popular park, but as one of the great urban parks of the world as well. Located close to Vancouver’s dense urban core, this magnificent and expansive evergreen oasis is a mosaic of landscapes, including seashores, shady forests, and freshwater lakes.

Once a sandy ocean bottom, the landscape of Stanley Park was thrust upwards and formed as a result of millions of years of geologic activity. Sandstone rock in the park was created from sandy deposits laid down by rivers 50 to 70 million years ago. A rich diversity of terrain, flora, and wildlife have risen out of the landscape, including a natural West Coast rainforest.

In 1886, Vancouver’s first City Council petitioned the Federal Government to lease 1,000 acres of a largely logged peninsula for park and recreation purposes. Stanley Park was officially opened in 1888, marking Vancouver’s first office “greenspace.”


Stanley Park Map. Credit:

The ocean surrounds most of Stanley park–English Bay, First Narrows and Burrard Inlet on three sides, with the city’s west-end district on the fourth–offering the park panoramic views of the mountains and the sea. Over 60% of the park is coastal temperate rainforest, which provides valuable habitat for wildlife.

I visited Stanley Park on an overcast and slightly rainy Christmas Eve, half-expecting to have the expansive park mostly to myself. Instead, I was surprised by the number of people jogging, cycling, and rollerblading their way down the seawall as well as the number of other bus passengers (many families with small children) going to the park on the #19.

Walking around, I loved the various signage in the park, mostly explicating the history of the landscape and how it was used by the First Peoples, the Coast Salish. Evidence of their lifestyles, such as fish traps, have been kept intact. Other culturally important monuments abound in the park, but none are as popular as their famous collection of Totem Poles displayed at Brockton Point.

And without intending to, I walked a whole loop around the Stanley Park peninsula, a length between 8 and 9 kilometers (5 – 5.5 miles). Walking along the paved, coast-hugging pathways, my attempt to steal glimpses of the North Shore Mountains through the clouds and the fog were in vain. Luckily, however, the mountains were more visible on Christmas Day. Still, it’s a lovely place. I can’t wait to return in the summer one day to explore more, watch for harbor seals and starfish, and finally see Grouse Mountain from the edge of the seawall.

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