The area is also where you’ll find the Shipyards Night Market in the summer, free outdoor ice skating in winter and the Burrard Dry Dock Pier year-round. Within a 5-minute walk there is also Lonsdale Quay, the Polygon Gallery, and the SeaBus terminal and, as of 2021, the North Vancouver Museum.
The Shipyards District
Located by the waterfront at the bottom of Lonsdale Avenue in North Vancouver, the Shipyards District is an interesting place to visit and walk around. Shipbuilders’ Square is where numerous community events take place including concerts in the summer. The Pipe Shop is a restored historic building that’s also used for events, as is Shipyard Commons which is a huge new covered area that was completed in 2019.
Below you’ll find information about these three venues, as well as the Burrard Dry Dock Pier. We also list a number of events that are held in the Shipyards each year.
North Vancouver’s Shipbuilders’ Square
Shipbuilders’ Square is what you might expect from its name. It’s a square in the middle of the Shipyards that’s used for events (like the Shipyards Night Market between May and September, or Shipyards Summer Sessions Concerts on Saturdays in July and August).
Located at 138 Victory Ship Way near the bottom of Lonsdale Avenue, Shipbuilders’ Square is bordered by the Tap & Barrel Restaurant, Pier 7 Restaurant, Pipe Shop and Shipyard Commons. There is an outdoor stage at Shipbuilders’ Square that’s used for live music events, and a wide open area. There is also a giant restored shipbuilding crane in the middle.
The newest addition to the Shipyards is Shipyard Commons which was completed in the last summer of 2019. Built to match the designs of the surrounding heritage buildings, it’s a massive outdoor yet covered structure with 20,000 sq. feet of event space. The facility also has underground parking.
Beginning in December of 2019, in winter Shipyard Commons is home to the biggest outdoor ice skating rink in Metro Vancouver. And in the summer it has a free 8,000 sq. foot water park that’s open between 10:00 am and 8:00 pm every day of the week.
Ice Skating at Shipyard Commons
At 12,000 square feet in size, the ice rink at Shipyard Commons is huge! Not only that, but it’s covered and the skating is free!
Between late December and the end of February, the skating rink is open daily from around noon until 7:00 pm every day except for Christmas Day (when it’s closed). Admission is free and last year skates could be rented at $7 for adults or $5 for children. Helmets and skating aids are available for use for free.
(Note: Skates can be rented up until half an hour before closing, while quantities permit, and helmets are mandatory for children under 13 years of age.)
For comparison, the Vancouver region’s other main outdoor covered ice rink is at Robson Square. The rink there is 6,000 sq. feet in area, so just half the size. Skating there though is also free.
(Note: Ice cleaning takes place daily a couple of times in the afternoon, at which time the rink is closed for between 30 and 45 minutes. The ice is also temperature-dependent. As a result, the facility may consequently close occasionally on days with warm weather.)
Burrard Dry Dock Pier
The Burrard Dry Dock Pier, also known sometimes as just Shipbuilders’ Pier, is the giant structure that extends 700 feet out into Burrard Inlet. The original structure was built in 1925.
Burrard Dry Dock Pier is reserved for major vessels including navy ships. Normally the pier is used by just everyday folk wanting a stroll, but occasionally a visiting naval ship will tie up there for a weekend. When one does, the public is often welcome to go aboard for a tour.
Burrard Dry Dock Pier & Naval Ship Trivia
Why do visiting naval vessels use North Vancouver’s Burrard Dry Dock Pier when they visit Metro Vancouver, and not other facilities like at Canada Place (where cruise ships dock at)? It’s because the pier in North Vancouver has only a limited number of posts in the water. The docks at Canada Place, on the other hand, have dozens if not hundreds, plus various other structures submerged under the water as part of its engineering design.
When navy ships visit a port, for security reasons, naval dive teams have to search and secure the area before the arrival of the vessel. Scuba divers must check behind every pole and structure to ensure the area is safe (and that no mines or other hostile objects have been placed there). The underwater areas of the Burrard Dry Dock Pier are easy to inspect. Canada Place, on the other hand, is anything but!
The Pipe Shop
The Pipe Shop is located right beside Shipbuilders’ Square at 115 Victory Ship Way. It’s an attractive building that used to be where pipefitters worked during the area’s shipbuilding past.
Built in the 1940’s, the Pipe Shop is 9,000 square feet in size and holds up to 360 people. It’s used for special events including artisan markets and private receptions.
Festivals & Events
A number of North Vancouver events take place at the Shipyards, and a number of other ones happen nearby. The following festivals and events all occur within the Shipyards:
- Summer Sessions Concerts – free live music on Saturdays in July and August in Shipbuilders’ Square.
- Polish Festival – a cultural event that happens in either Lynn Valley (a different North Vancouver neighbourhood) or the Shipyards in September.
- Shipyards Festival – a large event featuring free live music and family-friendly activities at multiple venues in Lower Lonsdale in September.
- Shipyards Christmas Festival – a community event celebrating the start of the Christmas season at the Shipyards at either the end of November or the beginning of December.
- Shipyards Christmas Market – a winter holiday craft fair in the Pipe Shop in December.
- Shipyards Night Market – an artisan market with food trucks and live music at Shipbuilders’ Square on Fridays between May and September. (Note: the night market was cancelled in 2020 due to the coronavirus. Hopefully it’ll be back again in 2021.)
- North Shore Craft Beer Week – a week of beer-themed activities including an Oktoberfest-style event at the Pipe Shop in October.
Also taking place in Lower Lonsdale each year (so not at the Shipyards but very close by) are the following events:
- Philippine Days – a cultural Festival at Waterfront Park in June.
- Canada Day at Waterfront Park – July 1st celebrations at the park on the far side of Lonsdale Quay.
- Caribbean Days Festival – an event showcasing Caribbean culture at Waterfront Park in July.
History of the Area
North Vancouver has a rich maritime and shipping-related past, and still-standing shipbuilding cranes and restored buildings attest to this history. Between 1906 and 1992 over 450 vessels were built in the Shipyards. Many of these were constructed during the First and Second World Wars.
In addition to naval ships and navy support vessels, lumber industry barges, ferry boats and even icebreakers have been built and repaired here, including the historic St. Roch which is today an exhibit at the Vancouver Maritime Museum.
Shipbuilding and repairs still happen in the area, but to a more limited degree. It’s hard to believe, but North Vancouver today is still also one of the largest container ports by tonnage in all of North America.
Other Places of Interest in the Area
Other attractions in North Vancouver’s Lower Lonsdale District, but not actually in the Shipyards, include the following:
- Lonsdale Quay – a world-famous indoor public market that’s open year-round.
- North Vancouver Museum – a museum about the history of the North Shore (and scheduled to open in the fall of 2020).
- Polygon Gallery – an art gallery specializing in photographic art.
For more information about the ice skating at the Shipyards see the City of North Vancouver‘s website.
Other articles that might be of interest include the following:
- Vancouver Festivals & Events
- Vancouver on a Budget
- Metro Vancouver Parts of Town
- Vancouver’s Top 100 Places