Burrard Dry Dock Pier is the large pier in the Lower Lonsdale and Shipyards District of North Vancouver. Locals often just refer to it as Shipbuilders’ Pier.
Lonsdale Quay’s Burrard Dry Dock Pier
The pier is around 700 or so feet in length and 50 feet wide. Its generous size leaves plenty of space for pedestrians, and even vehicles as needed on rare occasions.
History of Shipbuilders’ Pier
The area around Shipbuilders’ Pier was originally referred to as Wallace Shipyards in the early 1900s. Built in the mid-1920s, the Burrard Dry Dock Pier was named in honour of the area’s marine history.
The Lonsdale Quay area and the City of North Vancouver used to be known for their shipbuilding capabilities. This was especially the case during World War II when the area was responsible for constructing around one third of Canada’s total wartime marine fleet.
The Shipyard officially closed its operations in 1992, although shipbuilding and repairs still take place on the North Shore. SeaSpan operates facilities just a block or so east of the pier, at the Vancouver Drydock. They also have facilities about 4.5 km away at the Vancouver Shipyards at the bottom of Pemberton Avenue.
The Lower Lonsdale Area
Points of interest near the pier include a variety of shops, restaurants and attractions. Just a 5-minute walk away, Lonsdale Quay is home to a variety of restaurants and locally-owned boutiques. Next door to Lonsdale Quay, the Polygon Gallery features a collection of art and photography. As of 2021, the Museum of North Vancouver, or MONOVA, will be open just one block up from Lonsdale Quay.
Some of the restaurant choices around Shipbuilders’ Pier include the Tap & Barrel and JOEY. Other restaurants can be found within Lonsdale Quay and farther up on Lonsdale Avenue. (For a list of places to eat at see our article about North Vancouver Restaurants.)
Close to the foot of the pier is Shipbuilders’ Square. At different times of the year the area hosts various public events including many that are free. In the summertime, both the Shipyard Night Market and the Shipyards Summer Session Outdoor Concerts take place in the square. Both are free to attend and are tons of fun (although neither happened in 2020 because of COVID-19)!
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 as opposed to 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 of posts, 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!
Naval ships don’t dock in North Vancouver very often. When they do, however, the public is often welcome to go aboard for tours. This includes both Canadian ships and foreign ones visiting from abroad.
Tips and Advice
Below are some suggestions to help you make the most out of your visit to the area.
TIP #1: The dock isn’t a destination in itself (unless you love ships and there is a big one docked there that’s open for the public to board). It’s just a pier, although a really nice and big one. The Shipyards District and surrounding area, however, is worth travelling from across the Lower Mainland to explore, especially in the summer and when events are happening. When in the area though, the pier is a wonderful place for a short stroll.
TIP #2: North Vancouver’s waterfront is a great area to explore by bike and on foot. From the pier you can walk along the waterfront to Lonsdale Quay where you’ll find the indoor public market which is open year-round and a tourist attraction in and of itself. From there, head to Waterfront Park which is just a 5-minute walk further west. Waterfront Park is connected to the Spirit Trail which can be nice to explore.
TIP #3: One of the best times to visit the area is on Friday evenings between May and September. That’s when the Shipyard Night Market takes place. The area gets packed with shoppers, market vendors, food trucks and fans of live music. The pier gets busier than usual during the market, but it’s less crowded than the rest of the area and so a nice place for a stroll.
TIP #4: Fireworks take off from in front of Canada Place in downtown Vancouver on July 1st each year. A nice place to watch them from is Shipbuilders’ Pier. Waterfront Park is also a good North Shore venue, although it doesn’t get quite as close. From either location the Canada Day pyrotechnics are in the distance. There are smaller crowds though than on the Vancouver side of the water. Also, you can see both the fireworks and the City of Vancouver in the background.
TIP #5: The pier and entire Shipyards District is easily accessible from downtown Vancouver. The SeaBus connects Waterfront Station with Lonsdale Quay. Lonsdale Quay is less than a 10-minute walk from the pier and Waterfront Station is connected to much of Metro Vancouver via the SkyTrain.
TIP #6: Winter sunsets can be impressive from North Vancouver’s waterfront. Between early November and the end of February, when the sun and clouds are just right, evenings can be especially beautiful. From Shipbuilders’ Pier and Waterfront Park, in December you can get photos of the sun setting right behind the Vancouver skyline on the other side of Burrard Inlet. (To learn more about photo opportunities like these, see our article about North Shore Sunsets in February.)
For more details about Shipbuilders’ Pier visit the City of North Vancouver‘s website.
To learn more about the area check out the following articles:
- Lower Lonsdale
- Shipyards, Shipyard Commons and Shipbuilders’ Square
- City of North Vancouver
- Vancouver’s North Shore
- North Vancouver Restaurants
- North Shore Hotels
Other articles that might be of interest include the following:
- Vancouver On A Budget
- Vancouver Casual Dining Chain Restaurants
- Metro Vancouver’s Top 100 Places
- The A to Z’s of Vancouver
- White Rock (which is another community with a famous pier)