Exploring Stanley Park in Vancouver - Plants, Animals and Nature

A view from a rocky beach in Stanley Park; Lion's Gate bridge is in the background
A view from a rocky beach in Stanley Park; Lion's Gate bridge is in the background | Source

Nature in Stanley Park

Stanley Park is located in Vancouver, British Columbia. It's one of Canada’s most famous city parks and is a wonderful place to observe nature at any time of year. The park is located on a peninsula projecting into Burrard Inlet and occupies an area of 405 hectares (1000 acres). It has a variety of habitats for walkers to explore: carefully tended grass with cultivated flowers, shrubs and trees, a seawall path which offers great views and access to beaches, and trails through forests filled with hemlock, cedar and fir trees. Many different animals can be found in each of the habitats.

Summer is an ideal time to go for walks in parks, especially for nature lovers. Cultivated and wild flowers are in bloom, birds and other animals are active and busy, the days are long and the weather is often pleasant. Wilderness and country parks are beautiful, but city parks are more convenient to visit for most people and can be great places to take an enjoyable nature walk.

Some city parks are beautiful in winter as well as in summer. Stanley Park is one of these parks. The mild weather in Vancouver means that many animals in the park are active all year long. Evergreen plants are beautiful at any time. Buds and catkins open early in the year when many other places in Canada have snow.

A markerStanley Park, Vancouver, Canada -
Stanley Park, Georgia St, Vancouver, BC V7Y 0A1, Canada
[get directions]

Stanley Park is located on a peninsula that juts out into Burrard Inlet.

Stanley Park is a wonderful place to take photos. I always have a camera with me when I visit the park. Unless otherwise stated, all the photographs in this article were taken by me.

Roses in Stanley Park
Roses in Stanley Park

An Overview of the Park

Stanley Park was opened on September 27th, 1888. It was named in honour of Lord Stanley, who was the Governor General of Canada at the time. The park is easily reached from downtown Vancouver by walking, cycling or driving. There is also a bus route to the park.

Stanley Park offers playgrounds, picnic areas, miniature train rides, rides in horse-drawn carriages, a water park and an outdoor swimming pool. It also contains spots that are very popular with photographers, including viewpoints and landmarks such as totem poles, Siwash Rock (a 32 million year old sea stack), a large western red cedar tree with a hollow trunk, and many monuments and sculptures. The Vancouver Aquarium is located in the park and is a major attraction in its own right.

One of Stanley Park's most important functions is to act as a nature preservation area. The park is large enough to contain areas for both nature study and recreation. It's a very enjoyable place to explore.

Exploring the Rose Garden at Stanley Park

The Rose Garden

The Stanley Park Rose Garden contains around 3500 rose plants as well as many other attractive ornamental plants. The rose garden is located next to the Stanley Park Pavilion, a historic building erected in 1911 which is now a restaurant.

Stanley Park also contains a rhododendron garden as well as flower beds distributed throughout the cultivated part of the park. The plants are attractive to look at all year, but a late spring, summer or early fall visit is needed in order to see most of the flowers in bloom.

The Shakespeare Garden is located next to the rose garden. It's an arboretum containing trees mentioned in the works of William Shakespeare. Plaques with the relevant quotes are placed on the appropriate tree trunks. Besides being attractive, the arboretum is a nice place to cool down on a hot day.

Looking into part of the rose garden from the arboretum of the Shakespeare Garden
Looking into part of the rose garden from the arboretum of the Shakespeare Garden

Seashore Life - Green and Purple Shore Crabs

The Stanley Park seawall travels around the perimeter of Stanley Park. The path on the seawall is 8.8 km (5.5) miles in length and is a very popular walking, cycling and inline skating route. The seawall travels by both rocky and sandy beaches. The sandy beaches are nicer for sunbathing but the rocky beaches have the most wildlife.

If you walk on a rocky beach and lift up a rock in the intertidal zone you will often discover little shore crabs, which quickly scuttle away to hide when they're disturbed. The crabs are just a few centimetres wide – a 5 cm specimen is a giant - and are green, yellow, grey, red, brown or purple in colour.

Shore crabs feed mainly on diatoms (unicellular algae encased within a silica shell), sea lettuce (a type of green seaweed) and other green algae. They may also scavenge animal remains and eat animal eggs.

Green shore crab; photo by Ciar
Green shore crab; photo by Ciar | Source

Rockweed

Rockweed is a very common brown seaweed that coats the rocks on the seashore. The blades of rockweed have inflated bulbs at their tips. The bulbs contain gas, which enable the blades to float or stand erect when the tide comes in. This orientation exposes the blades to more sunlight than they would receive if they were flattened under the water. This is important for the seaweed because it makes its food by photosynthesis. Photosynthesis requires light energy.

Rockweed bulbs have bumps on their surfaces at certain times of year. The bumps contain reproductive structures, which release the male and female cells into the water. After the cells join, the fertilized egg forms an embryo which attaches to a rock and grows into a new seaweed.

Rockweed (a species of Fucus)
Rockweed (a species of Fucus)

Acorn Barnacles

Another common sight on the rocky beaches of the park is the acorn barnacles. Barnacles have plates at the top of their shells that open when the animals are immersed in water. The plates act like trap doors, allowing feathery appendages to emerge. The appendages rhythmically sweep tiny creatures into the barnacle for it to eat. If you look for barnacles covered by shallow water you should be able to see this feeding action.

Acorn barnacles and mussels; photo by Rosser1954
Acorn barnacles and mussels; photo by Rosser1954 | Source

Other Intertidal Animals and Seaweeds

Three common birds seen on the beaches of Stanley Park are the glaucous-winged gull, the northwestern crow and the great blue heron. Since 2001, great blue herons have nested in trees outside the Vancouver Park Board's office at the edge of Stanley Park. The birds are often seen fishing in the park.

You may also discover other creatures on the Stanley Park shore, including limpets, mussels, clams, periwinkles, ribbon worms, sea stars (starfish), sea cucumbers and green and red seaweeds, depending on the habitat and on how low the tide is. In the subtidal zone the floats of bull kelp can be seen bobbing on the water surface. From the beach you may see swimming or diving cormorants and ducks.

If you’re interested in seashore life, it’s important to look at a tide table for the day of your visit to see when low tide is occurring and how low it’s going to be. The lower the tide the greater the variety of seashore animals and seaweeds that will be visible.

A great blue heron
A great blue heron

The Great Blue Herons of Stanley Park

Another Nature Site to Explore at Stanley Park - Beaver Lake

In addition to the cultivated area of the park, the seawall and the beaches, Stanley Park has several other attractions for nature enthusiasts. Most of the park is covered by forest. Squirrels, raccoons, skunks and coyotes may be seen from the forest trails or, in the case of skunks, smelled.

Beaver Lake is a natural body of water located near the centre of the park amidst the trees. It's a popular site for waterfowl, frogs and human visitors. It also contains fish. Bald eagles patrol the sky around the lake. Barred owls, little brown bats and northern flying squirrels visit the lake area at night. In addition, beavers can sometimes be seen in or around the lake, as the name of the lake suggests.

Beaver Lake is gradually being filled with soil, plant debris and water lilies in a natural process. It's estimated that if this process continues the water will have gone within about twenty years. The Vancouver Park Board Is planning a restoration project for the lake, however.

Beaver Lake at Stanley Park

Lost Lagoon

Lost Lagoon

Lost Lagoon is located near the main Stanley Park entrance, on the left side of the road if you are approaching the park from downtown Vancouver. It contains fresh water today but was once fed by ocean water traveling with the tide from Coal Harbour. The lagoon is now separated from the harbour by the causeway that passes through Stanley Park.

Lost Lagoon is a bird sanctuary. It contains swans and waterfowl. Many other types of birds visit the trees and shrubs that border the lagoon and the trail that travels around the lagoon. The Lost Lagoon Nature House has nature displays and information to educate and entertain visitors. The nature house is run by the Stanley Park Ecology Society and is located in the former boathouse at the southeast corner of Lost Lagoon.

Looking from the tennis courts over Lost Lagoon, with the North Shore Mountains in the background
Looking from the tennis courts over Lost Lagoon, with the North Shore Mountains in the background

Nature Scenes at Stanley Park

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A mute swan at Lost LagoonA Canada goose Cackling GeeseLost LagoonRed tulipsA rhododendronCultivated plants by the tennis courtsA view of part of Stanley ParkThe horse-drawn carriage rideBurrard Inlet, bull kelp bobbing in the ocean and rockweed on the beach
A mute swan at Lost Lagoon
A mute swan at Lost Lagoon
A Canada goose
A Canada goose
Cackling Geese
Cackling Geese
Lost Lagoon
Lost Lagoon
Red tulips
Red tulips
A rhododendron
A rhododendron
Cultivated plants by the tennis courts
Cultivated plants by the tennis courts
A view of part of Stanley Park
A view of part of Stanley Park
The horse-drawn carriage ride
The horse-drawn carriage ride
Burrard Inlet, bull kelp bobbing in the ocean and rockweed on the beach
Burrard Inlet, bull kelp bobbing in the ocean and rockweed on the beach

A Visit to the Vancouver Aquarium

The Vancouver Aquarium

The Vancouver Aquarium is the largest public aquarium in Canada. It has a large collection of tropical and temperate fish and invertebrates, including sharks, as well as amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. Some mammals at the Vancouver Aquarium are sea otters, sea lions, dolphins and beluga whales.

The stated goals of the aquarium are animal conservation, public education and research. There are daily whale and dolphin shows. Over the years the shows have gradually changed from showing animal tricks to demonstrating much more natural behaviors and educating the viewers as they watch the demonstration. The aquarium offers a wide range of school programs. It also cares for rescued marine animals until they can be released back into the wild.

The Vancouver Aquarium has a gift shop, which people can enter without paying for an aquarium visit. The aquarium also has a café and a snack bar to serve people who are hungry during their visit. The café has a section that can be accessed from outside the aquarium. The aquarium's food is expensive, however, so it might be better to eat elsewhere. In summer the Stanley Park concession stands are open. There are also restaurants in the park.

Aquarium Sea Otters Milo and Tanu Holding Hands

The Joy of Nature Walks

Stanley Park is a wonderful park for nature lovers to visit, but not everyone can visit Vancouver. Perhaps you have parks near where you live that you could explore. Some cities have gardens open to the public as well. Even if you don't have a park or public garden to visit, there may be a trail, forest, field, mountain, pond, river, lake, seashore or museum in your area that would be a great place to take a nature walk. Even walking around a neighbourhood and looking at other people's gardens can be fun.

Nature can be observed at any time of year, but the best time may be in the summer. Even in summer, though, the natural cycle moves on. As the season progresses you will see different plants and animals, or different stages in their lives, in the same area. Nature walks are always interesting!

More Stanley Park Scenes

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Magnolia blossom at Stanley ParkThe entrance to the Vancouver AquariumA glaucous-winged gull A scene in the Stanley Park Rock GardenAnother plant in the rockeryThe story of the Stanley Park Rock GardenA northwestern crowI think that purple roses are beautiful.Lord Stanley welcomes visitors to Stanley Park.
Magnolia blossom at Stanley Park
Magnolia blossom at Stanley Park
The entrance to the Vancouver Aquarium
The entrance to the Vancouver Aquarium
A glaucous-winged gull
A glaucous-winged gull
A scene in the Stanley Park Rock Garden
A scene in the Stanley Park Rock Garden
Another plant in the rockery
Another plant in the rockery
The story of the Stanley Park Rock Garden
The story of the Stanley Park Rock Garden
A northwestern crow
A northwestern crow
I think that purple roses are beautiful.
I think that purple roses are beautiful.
Lord Stanley welcomes visitors to Stanley Park.
Lord Stanley welcomes visitors to Stanley Park.

© 2011 Linda Crampton

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Comments 46 comments

Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Stanley Park is beautiful. It has been quite a few years since I have been there but hope to make it back again some day. Awesome hub! and thanks for bringing back some great memories.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you for the comment, Just Ask Susan! Yes, Stanley Park is beautiful. I'm very lucky to live near the park.


K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 5 years ago from Northern, California

Alicia~ Wow. Your pictures of the Stanley Park in Vancouver make me want to find my way there today! (Your map would be very useful for this). I fell in love with that Heron. The layout for this hub could not be any better; it should be placed in the learning center for reference. Well done and up across the board--

Cheers~

K9


applecsmith profile image

applecsmith 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Wow this place looks beautiful! Thank you for the amazing pictures and detail, I love being outdoors. Another great hub you can be proud of.

Thanks for sharing - voted up and awesome!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, K9keystrokes. Thank you so much for such a kind comment, and for the votes! I enjoy visiting Stanley Park and loved creating this hub.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much for the comment and for the votes, applecsmith! I appreciate your visit. I love being outdoors too, especially when I am observing nature.


b. Malin profile image

b. Malin 5 years ago

What a Wonderful Park to walk in Alicia. Along with your Beautiful Pictures and descriptions I felt like you've taken me there Visually at least in my mind. As always, Thank you for sharing this Interesting HUb.


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

Ooh, it's been too long since we have been down to Stanley Park. -must go nature seeing again soon.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much, b. Malin. Stanley Park is certainly a lovely place for walks and for photography. It's a very enjoyable place to visit.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, FloraBreenRobison. We have so many great places in nature to visit in our area that it's often hard to find time to go to them all! Thanks for the comment.


Mrs. Menagerie profile image

Mrs. Menagerie 5 years ago from The Zoo

Oh hooray! I love seeing the pictures and reading about Stanley Park. I got married there about 11 years ago:) Great hub and great trip down memory lane.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

How lovely to get married in Stanley Park, Mrs. Menagerie! That would be a wonderful place for a wedding ceremony. Thanks for commenting.


carriethomson profile image

carriethomson 5 years ago from United Kingdom

Oh wow what a beautiful place and such good pictures.. specially that crab, it almost gels with those rocks around it..great hub


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thanks a lot, carriethomson. Shore crabs are so much fun to watch, but they are hard to photograph well because they're small and they move away so quickly to hide when their rocks are lifted up. I was very happy to find this close-up photo of a green shore crab.


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

Oh my goodness AliciaC! Your photos are so gorgeous! Stanley Park looks amazing. Now you've inspired me to head out and take some photos in my own local parks!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you for the comment, Simone. Yes, Stanley Park is certainly an amazing place!


Carolyn Moe profile image

Carolyn Moe 5 years ago

great hub...


writer20 profile image

writer20 5 years ago from Southern Nevada

Fantastic hub, I loved the photos. I'll have to get up there some day not to soon away.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you for the visit and the comment, Carolyn.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much, writer20! I enjoy taking photos. I hope that you are able to visit Stanley Park some time.


Rose West profile image

Rose West 5 years ago from Michigan

Vancouver seems like such a cool place - I'd love to go there! Your photos of Stanley Park are great!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thanks a lot, Rose. I enjoy living near Vancouver because there are many interesting places to visit, including Stanley Park.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

Wow! I would love to visit that park. Actually, I drove through BC on my way out of Alaska and I thought it was a magnificent piece of earth that God had created. :)

Great hub.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Denise. BC does have some beautiful scenery! Thanks for reading my hub and for the comment.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

Wow... this was so beautiful hub. I love Vancouver and I love the beauty of Stanley Park related with summer activities. I love walking and I wish I can visit this park someday. You have stunning pictures here and I really enjoy reading this hub. Thumbs up for you and I give my vote to you. Have a nice weekend. Cheers....

Prasetio


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you, Prasetio. I appreciate your visit and comment. Maybe you will be able to visit Vancouver one day! I would very much like to visit your country. That would be such an exciting and interesting trip! I hope that you have a good weekend too.


kashmir56 profile image

kashmir56 5 years ago from Massachusetts

Hi AliciaC, from your great pictures it looks like a very beautiful place to enjoy a very pleasant walk .

Beautiful and vote up !!!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much for the visit and the comment, kashmir56! Yes, Stanley Park is beautiful. It's a very enjoyable place to take a walk, especially in summer. It's a great park to visit because it provides entertainment for families and tourists, but it's also a wonderful place to observe nature and seashore life.


Duchess OBlunt 5 years ago

I've only been to BC once and that was as a child. Since that was soooooo many years ago, I can assure you there is not much that I remember. This park sounds lovely. 5.5 miles is a long hike. Not much for a bike ride. The ride in a horse drawn buggy sounds nice. Great job in sharing Stanley Park


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Duchess OBlunt. Thanks for the visit and the comment. Yes, Stanley Park is lovely. It's a very enjoyable place to visit, and there are many things to see and do there.


iamaudraleigh 4 years ago

This is my boyfriend's dream vacation! Great hub! You should be a travel agent! I love the pic entitled, "A Great Blue Heron at Stanley Park"! Voted up and interesting!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, iamaudraleigh. Thank you very much for the lovely comment and the vote! Stanley Park is a great place to visit at any time of year.


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Beautiful British Columbia! I fell in love with in during the four years I lived at Ft. Lewis, WA. Hope you write more on the fabulous place you live.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you for the visit and the comment, Kathleen. Yes, I think that British Columbia is beautiful too. I'm very happy to live here!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

Wonderful hub! You pictures are awesome and so is the video. This looks like a wonderful place, so much nature to enjoy. I would love to visit some day! Voted up, beautiful and interesting. Have a great day! :)


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much, sgbrown! I appreciate your comment and all your votes. I hope you get to visit Stanley Park some day. It's a lovely place. I hope that you have a great day, too!


poshcoffeeco profile image

poshcoffeeco 4 years ago from Cambridgeshire

AliciaC,

this is a quality article. I love the video about the Herons and watched it all the way through. I never knew they lived in colonies. I often watch Herons by river banks and they have been known to come and steal my Goldfish from my pond!

Sharing this and Pinning tweeting Facebooking and anything else I can think of.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you so much for the comment and all the shares, Steve!! I appreciate them very much. Herons are beautiful birds and I love to watch them, but I wouldn't like them to steal my goldfish!


Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia

Voted up and beautiful. What a lovely park. Thanks for sharing the pictures are great. Passing this on.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank for the comment, the votes and the share, Gypsy Rose Lee! I appreciate them all.


Maralexa profile image

Maralexa 4 years ago from Vancouver, Canada and San Jose del Cabo, Mexico

What a well-written, beautiful hub! Thank you AliciaC!

I lived right across the street from Stanley Park (right next door to Lost Lagoon) for 16 wonderful years. You have brought back some wonderful images for me.

One year, when it was very cold, Lost Lagoon froze and we could skate over it. We don't usually get snow deep enough to ski in Stanley Park but one year we did. I was able to put on my cross country skis outside my front door and ski into and around Stanley Park.

And the walks around the sea wall in the spring, summer and fall -- indescribable!

Thanks for this wonderful hub, plus your hubs on Manning Park and Burnaby Mountain Park. You have a new fan!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

How wonderful to live right beside Stanley Park, Maralexa! It would be so lovely to be able to take walks in the park every day. I would love the opportunity to watch the cycle of nature progress throughout the year, too. Skating and cross country skiing in the park sound like fun activities! Thank you very much for the visit and the comment.


carter06 profile image

carter06 4 years ago from Cronulla NSW

Well written hub about an amazingly beautiful place I would love to go back to...lot's of votes & shares...cheers


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much for the comment, the votes and the shares, carter06! The park is a beautiful place to explore. Even though I don't live right next to it as Maralexa used to, my home is near enough that I can visit Stanley Park often.


freecampingaussie profile image

freecampingaussie 3 years ago from Southern Spain

I love this hub especially the photos as we are going to Vancouver this year after our Alaskan Cruise , It looks a beautiful place to visit. Voting you up . ( Found you in a forum on travel lol!)


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

I would love to go on an Alaskan cruise, freecampingaussie! I hope you enjoy your trip to Vancouver and your cruise. It's very interesting to hear that you found this hub in a travel forum! Thank you for the comment and the vote.

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