Observations During a Walk Along Vancouver’s Seaside Greenway

The Seaside Greenway is a 28 km pedestrian and cycling path beside the sea in Vancouver. According to the official City of Vancouver website, it’s the “world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront path.” It travels from the Vancouver Convention Centre in the downtown area, around Stanley Park, and onwards to the Spanish Banks beaches. The scenery along the route is beautiful and interesting. The path is a wonderful place to exercise, to take photographs, or to relax and enjoy the scenery.

I enjoy walking along the greenway. In this post I share some of my photos and some observations about the first part of the route, which starts at the convention centre and ends at the entrance to Stanley Park. The route travels beside Burrard Inlet. In future posts I’ll discuss other parts of the journey.

PathOne

The start of the Seaside Greenway

In Vancouver, a “greenway” is a walking and cycling path in the city that is bordered by plants or by nature in some other form. The path is wide enough to have a separate lane for pedestrians and cyclists. The sides of the trail are often landscaped. On the seaside greenway, one side of the path is bordered by the ocean and in some places by a rocky or sandy beach as well. Greenways are attractive, go to interesting or useful places, and are great places for cyclists to travel safely.

Walkpath

Walking down to the greenway (The path can also be accessed without going down stairs.)

An ambitious person could travel along the entire Seaside Greenway in one day. It’s perfectly possible to travel along a section and then either backtrack or take a shortcut through the city back to the starting point, though.

Since the path is so long, it’s advisable to check a map, do some planning, and pack suitable (and lightweight) supplies before doing anything more than a short walk or cycle. Washrooms, places to buy food and drink, and benches for sitting down are located along the route. One or more of these facilities may be quite far apart, though. especially in some parts of the path.

Globe

The Vancouver Convention Centre with its revolving globe

The Vancouver Convention Centre is often the starting place for my walks along the greenway. The centre is located by the waterfront and consists of two buildings. The revolving globe in the one beside the start of the greenway (the west building) is a nice metaphor for exploration. The path begins to the right of the view in the photograph above. The route can be accessed from multiple places, however.

The east building of the convention centre is located very close by at Canada Place, which is a complex for business and tourists. The complex is a great place for visitors to explore. It contains a large pier with a promenade on top and various attractions on the pier. Interesting sights in the area are the huge Olympic Cauldron, the five sails on the pier, and the Digital Orca sculpture.

Teardrop

The blue raindrop

The first part of the Seaside Greenway is located slightly to the west of the Canada Place pier and its berth for a cruise ship and next to restaurants and stores. The west building of the Vancouver Convention Centre extends over the top of the stores. It’s impossible to miss the huge blue raindrop sculpture in this area.

Cruise ship berths are located on both sides of the pier and can be viewed from the structure’s promenade. The ships go to Alaska and are impressive when they’re seen close-up. It’s always interesting to look at them and to watch the activities as the staff prepare for their next voyage. I’d love to be a passenger on one of the ships. A voyage to Alaska is on my bucket list.

Canada Place

Canada Place can be seen from the start of the Seaside Greenway.

The blue sculpture that can be seen near the start of the greenway is known simply as “The Drop.” It was created by a group of four German artists collectively known as Inges Idee. The sculpture is 65 feet tall and was installed in 2009. It’s made of steel and is covered by polyurethane. The area where the sculpture is located is called Bon Voyage Plaza.

The sculpture represents a drop of rain in the act of touching the ground and is partly meant for amusement. Vancouver receives quite a lot of rain. According to the artists, it’s also meant to pay homage to the “element of water and the un-tameable forces of nature which are omnipresent in Vancouver.”

The artists coloured the drop blue in order to form a contrast with the yellow piles of sulphur on the other side of Burrard Inlet. The piles can be seen when the sculpture is viewed from a particular angle.

Bon Voyage

Bon Voyage Plaza

It’s enjoyable to watch the activity in Burrard Inlet during the first part of the walk. Float planes frequently take off and land and boats pass by. The marinas are good places to observe the different styles of boats and to daydream about a life at sea. Birds that live near the inlet and cultivated plants are also interesting sights. Restaurants, a community centre, and small park areas are located beside the path.

The walk may give a traveller ideas for later explorations. They may think that a restaurant looks tempting, for example, or they may decide to buy a ticket for a whale-watching tour. They may also decide to explore an area leading away from the trail.

MarinaOne

Part of a marina that can be seen during the walk

The greenway travels through an area known as Coal Harbour. Despite its rather unattractive name and its former identity as the site of a shipyard, the area is attractive today. The Coal Harbour Community Centre is located beside the greenway. It provides washrooms, snacks, and free wireless Internet. The city of Vancouver provides free Internet in a variety of locations in the downtown area. If you reach English Bay Beach via the greenway or another route, you’ll also find free Internet.

The mountains on the other side of the inlet and Stanley Park in the near distance are almost constantly in view during a journey along the first section of the greenway. The view in the opposite direction shows Canada Place and is also worth looking at. I enjoy trying to recognize landmarks that I know at and around Canada Place. Binoculars would be useful on the walk, but they aren’t essential.

Look Back

Canada Place (the area to the left of the skyscrapers) as seen from the greenway

Some of the boats moored beside the greenway can be chartered for special events. I attended a high school graduation event on one a few years ago. The class was small, so the students, guests, and teaching staff could all fit on the boat. I enjoyed the graduation ceremony as well as the voyage and the scenery. It was certainly an interesting way to celebrate the end of high school and the start of a new phase in the students’ lives.

The voyage took us away from the sheltered area of Burrard Inlet. At one point, the captain decided to speed up so that we could quickly pass through an area in which turbulence was developing. He slowed down when we reached a more sheltered area. The rocking motion and the increased roar of the engine as we outran the developing problem was a good reminder of the power of the open sea.

SeaWallOne

A view of the Lions Gate Bridge from the Stanley Park Seawall

The time needed to reach Stanley Park depends very much on walking speed and the number of times that someone stops to look at views or scenes beside the path. Forty minutes is a rough estimate for the time required for a walker without mobility problems to reach the park.

I often walk along the greenway to Stanley Park. Travelling to the park along Robson Street in the downtown area can be enjoyable for people who like to explore shopping opportunities. I take this route when I don’t have as much time available as I would like. The street goes directly to the park and travels through a residential area in its last section. It ends near Lost Lagoon, one of Stanley Park’s main attractions. The quickest way to reach the greenway from the end of the road is to travel through the underpass on the right. The journey doesn’t take long.

canadageese

Canada geese that I photographed in Stanley Park in summer

Once Stanley Park is reached, the greenway is usually referred to as the seawall. The scenery changes here but is still attractive. As before, it’s easy to leave and later return to the path, with one exception. On one part of the seawall, the ocean is located on one side and impassable cliffs on the other. The only way to leave the trail is to turn around or go forward. The seawall is wide enough for an ambulance, which may be reassuring in case of an emergency (provided a traveller has a charged cell phone with them).

The seawall travels beside Burrard Inlet for a while but then reaches a more open area of water. Eventually it turns back and travels beside the sandy beaches on the other side of Stanley Park. Maps are easy to find online and are available at tourist booths. The photo of one on a display board shown below gives a general idea of the layout of the park.

Stanley ParkMap

Map of Stanley Park (Photo by dronepicr, CC BY 2.0 license)

Tempting Stanley Park Attractions

Stanley Park is located on a peninsula, as shown in the map above. The yellow route on the perimeter of the peninsula and the area below it on the map is the Seaside Greenway. The greenway extends beyond the yellow line on the left of the map, however.

When a traveller reaches the Stanley Park Seawall, they may get sidetracked as they discover interesting things to do in the park. It’s possible to cut through the park and rejoin the Seaside Greenway on the other side, which may be an attractive idea for some people.

There are many routes and choices of activity in the park. A visitor should probably decide on their goal for each trip along the greenway, especially if their time in Vancouver is limited.

lord stanley

Lord Stanley welcomes everyone to Stanley Park

Stanley Park can be reached by bus, car, and taxi. It can also be reached by walking from the downtown area. The walk along the sidewalks beside the main roads is quicker than travelling along the Seaside Greenway but less picturesque.

Whatever decision is made, the exploration will probably be fun. The greenway network is growing and connects to trails in neighbouring cities. Provided a person has suitable shoes, appropriate clothing for the weather, and other essentials, exploring Vancouver on foot or on a bicycle can be very enjoyable. The greenways provide a great opportunity for making new discoveries.

Gastown and Gassy Jack in Vancouver: History and Attractions

Gastown is a unique and interesting area in downtown Vancouver. It’s a historically important part of the city as well as a tourist attraction. It’s the oldest neighbourhood in Vancouver and the site where the core area of the city was created. Gastown has modern street decorations created in a vintage style and is known for its cobbled streets, interesting shops and eateries, photogenic street lamps, a steam clock, and the statue of Gassy Jack, or John Deighton. Unless otherwise stated, I took the photos in this post. I live near Vancouver and often visit Gastown.

Gastown

A view of Gastown with the Harbour Centre and the Vancouver Lookout in the background

John Deighton (1830-1875) is traditionally said to have founded Gastown in 1867. He was known as “gassy” because he was very talkative. He was born in England and is often described as an adventurer. He participated in a gold rush (without much success) and worked as a steamboat pilot.

When Deighton discovered a suitable patch of land beside Burrard Inlet, one of his first acts was to build a saloon with the aid of workers at the nearby Hastings Sawmill. He told the workers that he would give them all the whisky they could drink if they helped him create the saloon. The building was erected within twenty-four hours.

The sawmill workers and sailors visiting the area were Deighton’s main customers. New buildings were erected around his Globe Saloon and a community soon developed in the area. The community was at first known as Gastown after John Deighton’s love of storytelling. In 1870, government representatives explored the area and renamed it Granville. The name honoured Lord Granville, the Secretary of State for the Colonies. British Columbia didn’t become part of Canada until July 20th, 1871.

Lamp

A lovely view of a Gastown lamp (Photo by Xicotencatl, CC BY-SA 4.0 license)

Granville was eventually renamed Vancouver and officially became a city on April 6th, 1886.  Captain George Vancouver was a member of the Royal Navy and is famous for charting the coast of the Pacific Northwest region of North America, which includes British Columbia.

Very soon after its official creation, the new city faced a disaster. A major fire occurred in Vancouver on June 13th, 1886. It quickly destroyed the wooden buildings that formed most of the city. These buildings included John Deighton’s saloon. Sadly, it also destroyed human lives. The fire was such an important event that it’s referred to as the Great Fire. The fire was spread by wind from a small fire that was deliberately lit to clear brush.

Vancouver was quickly rebuilt after the fire and continued to grow. The buildings in Gastown are old, but due to the fire they don’t represent Deighton’s community. They do represent the location of the community that stemmed from his popular tavern, though.

Steam Clock

The steam clock in Gastown

Today many of the buildings in the Gastown area have been refurbished, though the designers have been careful to maintain a particular style while doing so. The area is known for its boutiques, souvenir stores, art galleries, coffee shops, restaurants, music venues, and technology firms as well as its outdoor attractions. It’s an enjoyable place to explore and photograph.

Steamclockinterior

A view of the internal mechanism of the steam clock

The Gastown “steam” clock is actually powered by electricity, although it includes a small steam engine as part of its mechanism. The steam comes from an underground pipe. Moving weights are also part of the clock’s mechanism and can be seen in the photo above. The clock was built as a tourist attraction and has been very successful in meeting that goal. I often find it hard to photograph the clock because there’s a group of people around it.

The clock was built by Raymond Saunders in 1977. It releases puffs of steam every quarter of an hour and at the same time produces a sound from its whistles. It also marks each hour with the correct number of toots from a whistle. You can see the steam in my first photo of the clock.

Gassy Jack

The Gassy Jack statue

The bronze statue of Gassy Jack was created by Vern Simpson in 1970. The statue is standing on a whisky barrel. It’s placed at a relatively open area where several main roads intersect (Water, Powell, Alexander, and Carrall Streets). The area is known as Maple Tree Square and is believed to be the approximate location where the Globe Saloon was built.

The photo below provides a wonderful look at history. It shows Maple Tree Square in 1886 just before the Great Fire. The maple tree was a popular gathering place for local people (or at least for the men in the community, as the photo suggests). Unfortunately, the tree no longer exists. Maple trees can live for a hundred years or more, depending on the species.

Maple_Tree_Corner_Vancouver_1886

Maple Tree Square in Gastown in 1886 (Public domain image from the City of Vancouver Archives)

The Gastown area was in a bad state in the 1970s and was scheduled for demolition. History fans and local residents objected and the area was revitalized. It’s very popular today. Visitors to Vancouver should be aware that if they walk beyond Maple Tree Square, they may discover an area that hasn’t been revitalized and is home to people who need help in one form or another. The area is known as the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood. Government representatives and social agencies are helping people in the neighbourhood, but the problems there are proving difficult to solve.

It’s a shame that businesses and people in Gastown are doing well and just a short distance away they aren’t. The situation is sad, but it certainly doesn’t mean that tourists and residents should avoid Gastown. The area is a great place for visitors, including Maple Tree Square. Visitors may not want to walk much further to the east after they’ve explored the square and its immediate vicinity, though.

It’s perfectly feasible for someone with normal mobility to walk through the downtown section of Vancouver to Gastown. The area is located near the Waterfront Skytrain Station. If a person turns to the left as they leave the main station entrance, they’ll soon reach Gastown. I always enjoy a walk through the area. It’s well worth visiting.