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Travel Notes | Stanley Park

Updated: Nov 3, 2019

Most people when they think about Vancouver, they think about Stanley Park. This 400-hectare rainforest sits downtown and has over half a million trees throughout the park. The urban park is very unique because it is located within the city itself, similar to that of Central Park in New York. Sitting on the waterfront, the park offers visitors the rain forest as well as several beaches dotted around the park.

Named after Lord Frederick Stanley, Governor General of Canada in 1888, the City opened Stanley Park on September 27th of the same year. Stanley Park is not the creation of a landscape architect but rather the evolution of a forest and urban space over many years. Most of the man-made structures present in the park were built between 1911 and 1937 under the influence of then superintendent W.S. Rawlings. Additional attractions, such as a polar bear exhibit, aquarium, and miniature train, were added in the post-war period.

Today, Stanley Park is considered an urban oasis due to the forestation continuing to grow, with the park containing many tall Douglas fir, western red cedar, western hemlock, and Sitka spruce trees. Since 1992, the tallest trees have been topped and pruned by park staff for safety reasons. Stanley Park thrives with wildlife however, there is a complete absence of large mammals including deer, elk, bear, wolves, cougars, and bobcats. The park is home to a large raccoon population, coyotes, skunks, beavers, rabbits descended from discarded pets, and a thriving grey squirrel population (descended from eight pairs acquired from New York's Central Park in 1909).

There is a lot to see and do within Stanley Park but most visitors take a walk or cycle along the seawall. This 8.8km pathway sits along the water’s edge and is the most popular recreational spot within the city. Lost Lagoon and Beaver Lake are also located within the park, these popular spots are home to wildlife and peaceful surroundings for those looking for a quick city break. The famous hollow tree sits within the park close to the roadside and is a popular attraction for those visiting. Visitors of the seawall will find the popular landmark Siwash Rock, located near Third Beach. Siwash Rock was once called Slahkayulsh meaning he is standing up. In the oral history, a fisherman was transformed into this rock by three powerful brothers as punishment for his immorality.

Stanley Park is a must when visiting Vancouver. There are beaches, lakes, wildlife, and an aquarium. Unlike any other park within a city, Stanley Park is unique as it is not man-made but rather the city was built around the park. Perfect for those looking for a free day out in Vancouver (which is rare), explorers, tourists, cyclists, and joggers all flock here to take full advantage of what the park has on offer. Be wary however as the park is so big that some weird shit can happen, a popular spot for orgies if you sway off the beaten track, so sway with caution.

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