Vancouver is a seaside town through-and-through with north, west, and south boundaries extending to either the Fraser River or Burrard Inlet. Home to Canada’s busiest port and some of the world’s best beaches, existing along the water is a way of life for locals. We get to enjoy diverse wildlife, the hustle and bustle of industry that relies on these flowing thoroughfares, sandy beaches, rocky shores, and incredible sunsets that kiss the sea. With that, I’d like to introduce my latest series: “Inside Vancouver Waterfronts“. Today kicks off the series with a two-part profile of Vancouver’s Seawall.
Construction of the Seawall began in Stanley Park in 1917. Much of its incremental progress was overseen by Park Board master stone mason James Cunningham from the late 1920s until his retirement 35 years later. A plaque commemorating Cunningham’s work can be seen in the rock face above the Seawall at Siwash Rock.
On September 21, 1980, the entire Seawall loop around Stanley Park was declared officially completed with the final paving between Third Beach and Second Beach.
Since 1980, the Seawall has been extended outside of Stanley Park.
In 2010 and 2011, two portions of the Seawall, Stanley Park (near Second Beach) and English Bay (near Sunset Beach), were renewed to address ongoing concerns with erosion.
With deep foundations and renewed surfacing, the new Seawall is built to withstand the tides for many years to come. [Source: Park Board]
The starting point of the Seawall, where you can find the “0km” mark is in Coal Harbour in front of the Vancouver Convention Centre. Starting there, where Burrard Street meets the water, you can start your journey west, toward Stanley Park. There you will loop 9km around the park, under Lions Gate Bridge, and around the western side of the downtown peninsula as it opens up to English Bay beach. The Seawall is separated into two clearly marked paths: one for walkers and joggers, and the other for cyclists and rollerbladers. You can walk around the Seawall in whichever direction you like however the bike path is one-way, starting from east to west in the direction of the mile markers.
The Coal Harbour side of the Seawall has some of the widest paths of the entire route as it leads from the Vancouver Convention Centre to the entrance to Stanley Park. You will pass information signs near the convention centre that tell tales of Vancouver’s industrial past in the harbour along with Vancouver Biennale public works of art in Harbour Green Park.
If you’re already ready for a pitstop, The Mill Marine Bistro is a great place to grab a local beer and “healthy pub fare”. Sit out on the patio and enjoy a full view of the North Shore Mountains and the harbour where floatplanes take off.
A favourite route for runners, walkers, rollerbladers, cyclists, and those who want to take in a full view of Burrard Inlet. The Seawall loops around the entire circumference of Stanley Park taking you by the Nine O’Clock Gun, Totem Poles, Brockton Point Lighthouse, Lumberman’s Arch, Stanley Park Splash Park, and Girl in Wetsuit (whom many mistake a “The Mermaid”).
At the 5km mark you’ll pass under the Lions Gate Bridge and loop around to Third Beach and Siwash Rock. It’s around this location that you might spot harbour seals bobbing in the water or an eagle diving down to pluck its breakfast from the water. Sharp cliff faces dart upward before upper park trails wind down toward the Seawall just past Ferguson Point.
Second Beach Pool and Second Beach are your next points of interest along with additional trails that lead into the park at Ceperley Meadow and Lost Lagoon. Between Second Beach and English Bay you’ll find carefully-placed rocks balancing on boulders in the water, and views of Kitsilano, Point Grey, and UBC. Exiting Stanley Park, you’ll hit the 10km mark on the Seawall, which will leave park scenery behind for the glass towers of False Creek.
Next week I will feature the second half of the Seawall profile, from the 10km to the 22km marker, for the Inside Vancouver Waterfronts series, which will include False Creek, Granville Island, and Kitsilano.