It’s hard to believe there could still be a 3.3-hectare hidden gem right smack in downtown Vancouver.
But Portside Park might just fit the bill. It’s waterfront, has a big beach and offers some of the best views of the downtown skyline and North Shore mountains anywhere in Vancouver. And it’s practically empty – even on a sunny, summer day.
I stumbled upon Portside Park (officially known as CRAB Park at Portside) for the first time earlier this week. Part of the reason it’s still unknown is that it’s a bit hard to find, tucked away in an industrial part of town few people know to visit.
You have to follow Main Street all the way to its northern end in Gastown, cross a bridge over the railroad tracks and curl back around. And there it is – a secret garden in the concrete jungle.
Flat, grassy lawns – big enough for a soccer or football game – stretch to the edge of Burrard Inlet. A paved walking path skirts the shoreline, edging its way along a sandy dog beach that opens to the water. There are leafy glades, a playground and a big off-leash area for pets.
For photographers, the views are amazing. In one direction, you’ve got the Vancouver skyline, stretching all the way from the iconic sails of Canada Place to the UFO-shaped Harbour Centre. Meanwhile, across Burrard Inlet are unobstructed views of the North Shore, including the Lions peaks, Grouse Mountain and Mount Seymour. When I visited, there were actually four people painting the stunning scene with easels and oil paints.
But what I’m guessing will appeal to a lot of people is Portside Park’s uniquely gritty feel. It’s surrounded by nature but also by the industrial symbols of Vancouver – rail yards and towering port cranes loading and unloading shipping containers. It’s not postcard-perfect, like Stanley Park or Queen Elizabeth, but it’s just as appealing for other reasons. Plus it’s one of the few green spaces in downtown Vancouver that’s peacefully uncrowded even on nice days.
Having said all that, Portside Park also edges the city’s Downtown East Side. Expect to experience a much broader cross-section of Vancouver – everyone from executives on lunch break to the homeless and panhandlers – than encountered elsewhere in the city. It certainly doesn’t feel unsafe, but it offers a different perspective on Vancouver than, say, VanDusen Gardens.
Any other fans of Portside Park out there? Let us know below.
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