Vancouver, British Columbia offers many stunning attractions that bring in tourists from around the world to see its natural beauty. One of the most popular is Stanley Park, a 1,001-acre public park that is located near the downtown area and almost surrounded by the English Bay and Vancouver Harbor. The area the park occupies was one of the first explored by the British when they arrived along the western coast of Canada, but it was the home of the indigenous Native Americans for thousands of years.
When you take a Stanley Park tour of this remarkable area, you’ll want to set aside a good part of the day if you want to see all of what it offers. The natural beauty of the area and the stunning views of the bay and harbor make it one of the most popular places for tourists and residents to visit. Over 8 million people visit the park each year.
The latest archaeological findings have detected the presence of indigenous people dating back more than 3,000 years. Different tribes either lived or used the resources of the land before Europeans began coming into the area in strong numbers by the mid-19th century. The Squamish Nation had a large village in what is now the park which included a longhouse constructed from slabs and cedar poles and another village existed to the west along the shoreline. Both existed until about 1888 when they were removed so the park could be founded and expanded.
The first European exploration of the area was conducted by Jose Maria Narvaez, a Spanish captain in 1791. He was followed a year later by Captain George Vancouver, for whom the city would be named. However, it was not until the Crimean War in the mid-1850s did the British start to colonize the area. The park area was used mostly for fishing, logging and hunting, although the population increased sharply in 1858 thanks to the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush.
The park itself did not really start to take shape until the turn of the 20th century. As the land was becoming settled and the indigenous people relocated from the park area, the land was recognized for its natural beauty and splendor. Plus, its location provided for easy access of the nearby residents which helped turn the area into Stanley Park.
By 1886, the land was leased for use as a park by the Vancouver City Council, renewed in 1908, and today the renewal is an automatic process. The park officially opened on September 27th, 1888 and named after Lord Stanley, the sixth governor general of Canada, but perhaps more famously known as the man who donated the Stanley Cup for the National Hockey League.
The foremost attraction of the park is its natural beauty which has been preserved thanks to the creation of the park. The homes that were built in the area have all been removed, yet there is still some of the history apparent when you tour the park. Many of the park’s trails started as logging trails and you can still see a few stumps that are notched which indicates the logging practices that took place during that time. The reservoir trails that lead to a ballfield was once the site of the old city reservoir.
One of the more interesting aspects about the park that you’ll see when taking a Stanley Park tour is that the area evolved over time into what it is today. This is unlike most large city parks, such as Central Park in New York City for example, which were designed by a landscaping architect. In addition to the trails, you’ll find children’s play areas, lakes, and beaches. Because the park evolved over the past century, many of the features you will visit are part of the city’s history as well.
Most of the structures on the park were built over a 26-year period from 1911 to 1937 under the direction of W.S. Rawlings. The construction of new buildings stopped during World War II, but resumed afterwards which includes the aquarium, polar bear exhibit, and miniature train. However, it is the Vancouver Seawall which arguably garners the most visitors.
The seawall was designed to help prevent the erosion of the park from the ocean and construction began in 1917. However, it took until 1971 before the wall was full constructed and today is used as a hiking and biking path that allows visitor a spectacular view of the ocean.
Another notable feature of the park is the Lions Gate Bridge which connects the North Shore area to downtown Vancouver. There are two pedestrian subways that also connect the park to the city. The Lost Lagoon is one of the major attractions where visitors can take in the scenery and enjoy the many species of birds located in the sanctuary.
The Vancouver Aquarium is another popular attraction which holds many species of fish, amphibians, invertebrates, reptiles, birds, and mammals which are mostly native to the region. However, the oldest man-made landmark in the park is the famed Nine O’ Clock Gun, a cannon which has been fired regularly since 1898.
On your Stanley Park tour, you’ll also see a miniature railway which you can ride, a large rock garden that was built around the turn of the 20th century, but forgotten and lost until a windstorm uncovered some of the remains. It has now been restored to its former glory. You’ll also find playgrounds, a seaside swimming pool, water spray park, tennis courts, and the famed Brockton Oval which is used for cricket, rugby, and track sports.
The history, attractions, and beauty of Stanley Park has made it one of the most visited in all of Canada. It’s remarkable combination of natural features and man-made attractions has made it the place in Vancouver for residents and tourists to breathe in the beauty of nature while engaging in many different activities. If you are going to be visiting Vancouver soon, Stanley Park is a must on your list of places to see.