Stanley Park has a vast natural forest, miles of shoreline, beautiful beaches, an amazing seawall, and some of the best walking trails in Vancouver.
With its 400 hectares of parkland attracting close to eight million visitors a year, it’s no wonder that Stanley Park is ranked as one of the best city parks in the world. It’s definitely an amazing place, and it’s free to explore!
Some of the best places in Stanley Park include its seawall, Prospect Point, Siwash Rock, Second and Third beaches and the park’s totem poles. Also, in the middle of Stanley Park you’ll find the Vancouver Aquarium, which is another of Vancouver’s best places to visit.
To see what’s where, click the Map of Stanley Park.
Stanley Park Wildlife
Stanley Park is one of the Lower Mainland’s best places to enjoy nature and the outdoors. It’s also one of the region’s few forests where you have virtually a 0% chance of running into a bear, or cougar for that matter.
The odds of encountering a wild animal anywhere in the Lower Mainland is very small, but especially so in Stanley Park. The most ferocious critters you might see at Vancouver’s famous urban park are raccoons, and they are pretty tame unless you try to approach them. Once in a blue moon a deer finds its way into the area, and birds and squirrels are everywhere.
Stanley Park Seawall
The Stanley Park Seawall goes all around the edge of the park, making it an ideal route with breathtaking views for walking, cycling, jogging and rollerblading.
TIP: Most of the seawall is one-way for cyclists, so you’ll need to walk your bike if you want to go clockwise. Walkers and joggers though can generally go in both directions. If you get tired cycling or walking, you can cut across part of the park and avoid Brockton Point (which is the far eastern tip and which will shorten your route by a couple of kilometres).
PHOTO TIP: The Lions Gate Bridge is in the sun in the later afternoon for photos from Prospect Point.
Located just off the seawall (so accessible by foot or bicycle), Siwash Rock in Stanley Park makes for a great photo, especially in the afternoon or evening.
The rock is just a short walk along the seawall to the north of Third Beach.
Though beautiful, in part because it is a bit out of the way, Siwash Rock is not necessarily a destination in itself. It is, however, an impressive sight to see while walking around the seawall.
Access to the area around Siwash Rock is either from the Seawall, or via a trail down from the main Stanley Park Drive road. You can’t actually get to the rock as it’s surrounded by water. You can walk past it though, along the seawall, which goes all the way around Stanley Park. If you don’t want to walk a great distance, you can park at Third Beach and stroll counter-clockwise along the seawall back Siwash Rock. In that direction the walk takes only a few minutes.
The other way to see Siwash Rock is via a lookout from overhead. If driving around the park along Stanley Park Drive, shortly after Prospect Point there’s the entrance to Merilees Trail which leads to Siwash Rock. You’ll need to park your car at the parking lot a few hundred metres before the trail’s entrance, or a few hundred metres after, and then walk back. Or, if you park at Prospect Point, there’s a 2-km trail through the trees that will take you there.
Parking Tip: If you leave your vehicle in the parking lot a little ways past the entrance to the trail to Siwash Rock, by the giant Hollow Tree, make sure you have enough parking time still remaining. You have to pay for parking at Stanley Park, but at the parking lot just past Merilees Trail there is no meter to pay at, and the closest one is almost half a kilometre back up the road!
Photo Tip: Siwash Rock can be an amazing place to take photos of the sunset.
Second Beach is perfect for young children as it’s the one with the giant (and relatively inexpensive) outdoor swimming pool and kids’ play areas. It makes for a nice pit stop while cycling around the seawall with the family.
Click Second Beach for more information.
Third Beach at Stanley Park is one of Vancouver’s best beaches and offers a great place for a swim, suntan, or break from walking or cycling the seawall. Just a short walk to the north along the seawall from Third Beach is beautiful Siwash Rock.
If needing food or refreshments, an exceptional place to go is The Teahouse just a few steps up the hill.
Stanley Park Totem Poles
Stanley Park has a world famous collection of totem poles that all tour groups will stop at for photos.
PHOTO TIP: The totem poles at Brockton Point are in the sun in the afternoon, and especially the later part.
Bright Nights at Stanley Park
During the dark month of December Stanley Park is famous for its Bright Nights Christmas Lights, which feature some three million sparkling lights and hundreds of Christmas characters and displays. This is a must see, especially for families with children. Admission is by donation and proceeds go to supporting the BC Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund. It’s a great cause, so give generously. Expect lots of people, and check out the Christmas Night Train (cost is $6 to $11 per person). Bright Nights at Stanley Park is well worth a visit, especially for children and people that don’t mind crowds!
Stanley Park Miniature Trains
In the middle of Stanley Park there is a wonderful miniature train attraction that’s open in the summer as well as during special holidays like Easter, Halloween and Christmas.
Click Stanley Park Miniature Railway for more information.
General Stanley Park Tips
TIP #1: Don’t forget to pay for parking – the parking guys are fast with the fines. On the bright side, parking permits are good for throughout the park, so you can buy your ticket for the day in one part of the park and then drive to another part and not have to pay again.
TIP #2: If you plan to sit on a park bench for a while, take some nuts – the squirrels can be quite friendly if you find one.
PHOTO TIP #1: There can be great sunsets from Second and Third Beaches, as well as from Siwash Rock.
PHOTO TIP #2: The City of Vancouver across the water from the south side of the park (from the Rowing Club on) is in the sun in the late afternoon (and evening in the summer).