Vancouver Urban Fringe Walk

(13km - 50m ascent – 50m descent)

I arrived back in Vancouver from my West Coast Trail hike a few hours before the fair Nello flew in from Oz to join me. After 21 hours of travel she was in need of a good stretch and after 80km of hiking I was in need of an easy warm-down walk. What better way to satisfy both our needs than to stroll around the the fringe of Vancouver - where the city meets the sea. It was also a good way to get to know this metroplis of western Canada a bit better.

We caught the bus from our hostel in the city centre to Granville Island and wandered down to the Farmers’ Market, the ideal spot to buy some lunch for our walk in Vancouver.  This is probably not a good place to start as it was difficult to pull ourselves away, the smells and sights of fresh fruit, berries, vegetables, cheeses and meats enticing us to stay and enjoy the market atmosphere. We sat down and had a latte while listening to a Cuban salsa band and finally set off.

On Granville Island

Vancouver skyline

The farmers' market at Granville Island

The first part of our walk was to catch the tiny bathtub shaped water taxi across to the north shore of False Creek, passing beneath the impressive  Burrard Bridge. From here we headed off on the Seawall Pathway, as it headed out of False Creek and curved around English Bay. The local joggers and cyclists were out in force, enjoying the cool overcast weather. 

All aboard the bathtub ferry

Modern art on English Bay

Burrard Bridge

A pair of Canada geese

Low tide at False Creek

The Inukshuk at English Bay

A new definition of urban forest

The beach at Third Beach

We soon reached Stanley Park, and tall apartments with the odd fir tree on their roofs gave way to a forest of tall firs and other conifers. The seawall at Stanley Park makes a pleasant walkway, with the harbour dotted with boats on one side and the forest on the other. Across the harbour to the north, cloud hung low over the distant mountains.

The sea wall bike path

The tranquility of Stanley Park

The more natural part of Stanley Park

We passed Second Beach and found a good lunch spot to sit and watch the joggers and cyclists pass to a backdrop of the harbour. After lunch, we wandered on to Third Beach, where we headed inland to follow a series of gravel paths through the natural forested section of the park. This led us to Beaver Lake, a shallow reed and water-lily filled natural pondage.

Some park residents

Beaver Lake

Circling the lake, we followed its outlet stream down a shady gully to regain the seawall. Back to the north-east, we could see the massive structure of Lion’s Gate Bridge, which crosses the harbour to North Vancouver from the end of the Stanley Park peninsula.

One of the many pathways through Stanley Park

The Lion's Gate Bridge

North Vancouver skyline

We followed the seawall path westwards for a short distance before again cutting inland to cross a more manicured section of Stanley Park, past the Aquarium, and over the narrow neck of land that separates the harbour from Hidden Lagoon.

A more manicured part of Stanley Park

The marina at Coal Harbour

Here we headed west through the now upmarket district of Coal Harbour, threading our way between luxury waterside apartments and a marina chock-full of luxury powerboats and yachts. After passing several classy wine bars, we finally found what we were looking for – a simple café that sold icecream (the priorities of Coal Harbour residents seem clear). This area is also the float plane dock, so we sat on a bench eating our icecreams and watching the float planes take off and land. Now that is something you don’t see in every city!

Float plane taking off near Coal Harbour

The sails of Canada Place

Artwork at the Convention Centre

The walkway now took us past the Convention Centre and down to Canada Place, where you can either admire the architecture or (if a foreigner) get  brief feel for Canadian history and culture. This would probably have been good place to end the walk, as it was becoming too urban and not enough fringe. However, the night before we had spotted the Steamworks Microbrewery and Pub in nearby Gastown, so headed on a bit further to finish there with a cold glass of their Pale India Ale.  A latte to start with and a beer to finish with – that is the way to do an urban fringe walk.