A classic staple to the Vancouver experience is the breathtaking Stanley Park. Travellers and locals alike rave of it’s beauty, activities, and more. But, you may be feeling a little overwhelmed since the park itself is quite large and vast, so it’s hard to know what exactly where to begin.
I’m from Greater Vancouver, and Stanley Park is one of my favourite spots in the city, partly because I always feel at home by the sea, surrounded by mountains. I love this park so much, I even included it in my post, My Favourite Places Around the World.
If you ask me, Stanley Park is done best as a “day trip”. There’s so much to enjoy, it’s best if you take time to explore, rather than quickly pop in and leave.
These are merely my own suggestions based off of what I personally have enjoyed seeing and doing over the years. This may seem like an extensive guide, but I’m telling you now, I’m barely scratching the surface, there’s so much to explore of this park! I’ll leave a link for a map of the park that has all the points I’ll mention and much more marked in case you wanted to print it off and see whatever else there is to do.
Extensive detailed map provided by the City of Vancouver’s website, available as a printout: DETAILED MAP PRINTOUT
What You Should Bring, and When You Should Go
- Good walking shoes
- Water & Sunscreen, a given for a long day spent outside especially on a hot summer day
- Snacks/packed lunch if you prefer to save and not purchase food at a cafe/restaurant. Keep in mind, there is cafe concession stands sprinkled throughout, and also a few higher end restaurants, so you do have some options 🙂
- Umbrella, especially if it’s not summertime!
Summer is definitely peak season, so if you are visiting during this time, expect a lot more people and activity happening around you. Fall and winter is my personal favourite time to go, since it’s much more relaxed and I love a good walk in the rain!
Top Activities To Do
Walk the Seawall
The main attraction of Stanley Park is its brilliant Seawall. Stanley Park is almost like a little island that juts out from the city, so it’s almost entirely surrounded by coastline. The Seawall is a walking and cycling path that winds all around the outer rim of the park. It passes through beautiful woodlands, beaches, and eventually brings you back to Downtown.
Walking around the Seawall alone takes around 2-3 hours depending on your speed, (9km the whole way around) so make sure you have comfortable foot wear.
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If this is all you end up doing, during your Stanley Park visit, I consider it a successful trip! Spending a few hours walking next to the water, all the while people watching the different groups that it brings is one of the best ways to spend a day in my opinion..
Plus, many of the other attractions I’ll be mentioning are found along the Seawall, so you can really take your time making your way around and explore all the stops, especially if you don’t have a car and enjoy walking.
There’s a few beaches you’ll pass along the way as well, and there’s no better way to give your feet a break than to squidge your toes in the sand for a while as you listen to the waves.
You can even rent a bike if you prefer cycling over walking. My Dad and I once rented a tandem bike. It was slightly hilarious but mostly fun 🙂
Keep in mind that when walking or cycling, the Seawall has a direction of travel (marked clearly on the map I linked above), so don’t be that guy and try to walk the other direction 😉
The Stanley Park Train
If a long walk isn’t your cup of tea, consider instead hopping aboard the whimsical and scenic Stanley Park Train, originally built in 1964.
While I haven’t ridden the train in years, it’s always a great and fairly inexpensive activity ($6.80 for an adult). This is an especially fun thing to do if you’re travelling with kiddos who may not be keen on walking or sitting in a stroller, they will definitely enjoy this!
This train doesn’t take you all throughout the park or anything, it’s just a lovely little track, so keep in mind that this isn’t a substitute that will show you the entire park.
Also, make sure you check out their website by clicking here since they often have seasonal activities tied with the train, especially during Christmastime.
Taking the guided trolley tour is another great option if you don’t want to do the full walk around of the Seawall, but still want to explore as much of the park as you can.
The Stanley Park Shuttle, styled like an old trolley is a 45 minute hop-on-hop-off tour. Not only is it narrated so you’ll be able to learn some facts about the park, but they stop at 15 iconic locations along the way (which are marked on the map I linked above with an “S”).
To my knowledge, the trolley is actually closed until 2018 (and mainly runs during summertime as it is), so be sure you check ahead before you count on this as your prime excursion.
Find the link to their website which has details of their hours and ticket prices here.
If you’re wanting to get a beautiful birds-eye view of the water and the mountains head up to Prospect Point.
You can either drive right on up, or at around the half-way point of the Seawall, walk up (it’s not a difficult hike up, and that’s coming from me, a hater of hikes. It takes maybe 10 minutes, 20 tops). You’ll know you’re close if you hit the Lions Gate Bridge, at which point you should see some signs that will direct you off the main walkway towards the lookout. The map I attached at the beginning of the post clearly marks this area as well, so no fear needed about getting lost!
There’s also a great little cafe up there if you’re looking for an inexpensive meal or snack option, as well as some souvenir shops.
As I had previously mentioned, my list is just a handful of the things that Stanley Park has to offer, which is why I highly recommend making a day of it so you can really explore and enjoy all that there is to see.
Once again, here is the map I referred to in case you missed it : MAP
Definitely download and print this guy off if you’re a stranger to the area, despite the helpful signs posted throughout the park, this will give you some peace of mind I’m sure!
If you have been to Stanley Park, I’d love to hear about your experience and what you liked or disliked about it! If you haven’t been, what draws you to Stanley Park the most? Let’s chat in the comments below, I love hearing from you!