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Canada Place to Stanley Park: A Beautiful Walk in Vancouver

Linda Crampton is a writer who lives in Greater Vancouver. She enjoys walking and likes to take photographs of her discoveries.

The five giant sails on the Canada Place pier are a notable attraction in Vancouver.

The five giant sails on the Canada Place pier are a notable attraction in Vancouver.

What Is Canada Place?

Canada Place is the name of a tourist and business complex located beside the waterfront in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia. It's also the name of the road by the complex. The area is very popular and offers wonderful views of Burrard Inlet, Stanley Park, and the North Shore Mountains. In addition, it offers an attractive waterfront walking and cycling path that connects Canada Place to Stanley Park and beyond.

Canada Place and the seaside walking route are great places for photographers, providing continuous views of the ocean and many interesting scenes. All of the photos in this article were taken by me during my visits to the area.

The path to Stanley Park is paved, flat and wide. There are lots of places to sit, rest, and enjoy the scenery along the way. There are also many places to enter and leave the path. The journey can be extended by continuing through Stanley Park, following the seawall path around the park, or even travelling along the full length of the 28 km seaside path.

A view of the five sails and the promenade on the pier

A view of the five sails and the promenade on the pier

Canada Place History, Facilities, and Attractions

Technically, "Canada Place" is the name of the large building with its attached pier that is shown in the photo above (and the name of the nearby road, as shown in one of the photos below). The term is often used for the building and the surrounding area, however.

The original Canada Place was built on the pre-existing pier and was the Canadian pavilion for Expo '86. Since that time, the complex has been modified and expanded. The area contains the Vancouver Convention Centre, the World Trade Centre office complex, a luxury hotel (the Pan Pacific), a marina, a float plane terminal, restaurants, cafes, and a gift shop.

The promenade along the pier is attractive and is decorated with flowers and other plants. A walk along the promenade provides some lovely views. The pier contains a display about Canadian history and geography known as "The Canadian Trail". The trail contains thirteen sections in order to represent Canada's ten provinces and three territories. In summer, guided walking tours of The Canadian Trail and the neighbouring port (Port Metro Vancouver) are offered.

The pier also contains an attraction known as FlyOver Canada, which is a simulated ride over the country. Special effects include mist, wind, and scents. These effects plus the motion of the ride are meant to mimic a real experience in an open vehicle. I've never been on the ride, but it seems to be popular. Unlike a walk along The Canadian Trail, the flight over Canada is not free.

Another attraction on the promenade is the giant sails. Each of the five sails is ninety feet high and is made of fibreglass coated with teflon. Until 2010, the sails were made of fabric. The sails are illuminated at night. Special colours are used for illumination during major events

Canada Place entrance with a cruise ship; the building with the large maple leaf is the welcome centre

Canada Place entrance with a cruise ship; the building with the large maple leaf is the welcome centre

Canada Place in Summer


Canada Day (July 1st) is always a big event at Canada Place. A large outdoor stage is set up for musical performances. Buskers, other entertainers, and food vendors can be found amongst the crowds. The highlights for many families are the parade and the fireworks display. The fireworks are released from barges in Burrard Inlet—the ocean inlet that is next to Canada Place and the trail to Stanley Park—and can be seen from many other places.

Outdoor musical performances are often held in the area. On one visit, I was treated to a performance of music and dance performed by a First Nations group. This was part of the CanadaFest celebrations, an event that celebrated both Canada's history and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

A cruise ship at the Canada Place pier

A cruise ship at the Canada Place pier

Other Attractions

Even when no special events are taking place on or around the pier, The CanadIan Trail, the giant sails, and the views of the inlet are worth investigating. In summer, it's fun to watch the huge cruise ships preparing for their journey to Alaska and to get glimpses of the interior of the ships. Local tour buses stop at Canada Place, and tickets are sold for bus trips to other attractions in Vancouver and neighbouring regions.

An interesting attraction located very close to Canada Place is the Olympic Cauldron at the Jack Poole Plaza. The giant cauldron was constructed for the 2010 Winter Olympics, which took place in Vancouver and Whistler. It's lit for special occasions. The plaza also contains the Digital Orca sculpture, which was created by artist and writer Douglas Coupland.

The international clock at Canada Place

The international clock at Canada Place

The Heritage Horns

The area around Canada Place has yet another attraction. Every day at noon, the heritage horns play the first four notes of "Oh Canada", which is the national anthem of the country. The horns sit on top of the Pan Pacific Hotel and are controlled by a computer program. According to the Canada Place website, the sound of the horns reaches 115 decibels. The horns use 109 cubic feet of air at a pressure of 150 pounds per square inch to produce the 6.5 second sound.

The Waterfront Path, Seaside Greenway, or Seawall

The waterfront path that begins at the Vancouver Convention Centre is a lovely place for exercise or exploration. It's popular with runners, cyclists, and inline skaters as well as walkers. I generally walk along the path. It's wide enough to accommodate the different types of propulsion.

Beautiful views can be seen throughout the walk. All that's necessary to enjoy them are some comfortable shoes and appropriate clothing for the weather, but a camera is a very useful accessory.

The part of Burrard Inlet located next to the waterfront path is known as Coal Harbour after the historical discovery of a coal seam in the area. The coal was never mined due to its low quality. Despite the rather unattractive name of the harbour, it's a pretty area. There always seems to be something interesting happening on the waterfront, such as float planes taking off and landing, boats passing by, people working, and sea birds swimming into view or posing for a photograph. It's easy to get sidetracked from planned exercise in order to take photos of the surroundings.

The path is maintained as a greenway, as its name implies, even though it runs through a city and passes by expensive condominiums in some sections. Cultivated flowers, shrubs, and trees border the path, as do two small but pleasant parks—Harbour Green Park and Devonian Harbour Park. The latter park contains two interesting sculptures. The path also passes by restaurants and a community centre.

The Marina

A popular marina is one of the sights beside the path. Whale watching tours and dinner cruises are available. Some of the boats in the marina can be chartered. A few years ago, the graduating class in the high school where I taught had their graduation ceremony during one of the dinner cruises. The event was very successful and enjoyable.

The luxury yachts and the more humble boats in the marina are interesting to observe. I often stop to daydream about the travel possibilities that they provide. There is a world beyond the coastline that I don't often see.

A great blue heron at Lost Lagoon

A great blue heron at Lost Lagoon

Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park

If a walker intends to turn around once he or she reaches Stanley Park, it's nice to pay a visit to Lost Lagoon first, which is near the entrance to the park. Lost Lagoon was once connected to the ocean via Coal Harbour but is now landlocked. It contains a nature centre for people to explore and is an excellent place to see water birds close up, since they are always on the lookout for food donations from visitors. A trail circles the lagoon.

Stanley Park is a wonderful place to visit, especially for nature lovers. The walk from Canada Place can be extended to an all-day outing if Stanley Park is explored or to a shorter outing if just part of the park is visited. There are many trails to follow and many things to do in the park. You may find that you are having so much fun at Canada Place, on the connecting trail, or in Stanley Park that time passes without you realizing how late it is. The nice thing about living near Vancouver is that I can always explore the areas that I missed on another visit.

Getting to Canada Place

Finding the way to Canada Place is easy once a visitor is in Vancouver or its surroundings. The complex can be reached by taking the SkyTrain, Seabus, a bus, a car, or walking from downtown.

SkyTrain is the rapid transit system in Vancouver and its neighbouring cities. Despite its name, the train follows an underground route in some of the urban areas on its route. One SkyTrain line provides a direct connection from the Vancouver Airport to downtown Vancouver. SkyTrain stations are located near Canada Place, and buses stop nearby. The nearest station to Canada Place is the Waterfront Station. The SeaBus terminal is also located at the Waterfront Station. SeaBus crosses Burrard Inlet, connecting the city of Vancouver with the city of North Vancouver. The exterior of the station is architecturally imposing. It was once a hotel.

Parking lots are located in the area around Canada Place for people who prefer to drive, although visitors will have to pay for this privilege. It's also possible to take a taxi to the area.

The Canada Place sign and "Canada's Storyboard", a video screen that displays facts about Canada and local events as well as works by Canadian artists

The Canada Place sign and "Canada's Storyboard", a video screen that displays facts about Canada and local events as well as works by Canadian artists

An Easily Accessible Route

Canada Place is close to the office buildings, stores, hotels, and attractions of downtown Vancouver, so it's easy to combine a visit to the area with a walk around downtown. Heading north towards the mountains will take a visitor to the waterfront.

A walk along the pier is always enjoyable. It would be a shame to miss travelling along the walking path towards Stanley Park, though. There are many access points to the path along its route. It's a lovely place to explore.

© 2012 Linda Crampton