Birds, Flowers, and Attractions in Stanley Park, Vancouver B.C.
A Beautiful Park
Stanley Park is a beautiful, 400-hectare park in Vancouver, British Columbia. It contains a large forested area with a rich assortment of wild plants and animals, as well as cultivated areas and tourist attractions.
The park is located on a peninsula which juts out into the ocean. A sea wall path travels around the peninsula, providing walkers, runners, cyclists, and inline skaters with beautiful views as well as an enjoyable exercise route.
Stanley Park offers visitors a wide choice of activities. Nature study and photography can be enjoyed throughout the park. The seawall path, sandy and rocky beaches, trails through the forest, and cultivated areas such as the rose garden are very popular. Lost Lagoon and Beaver Lake are great places to observe birds and wildlife.
The Vancouver Aquarium is located in the park and is a major tourist attraction. A collection of First Nations totem poles is also popular with visitors. Horse-drawn carriage rides and a miniature train ride are enjoyed by many people. The park also contains playgrounds for children, open areas for sports, concession stands, and restaurants.
For many people visiting Vancouver, Stanley Park is one of the "must see" attractions. I visit the park frequently to do three of my favourite activities—walking, nature study, and photography. All of the photographs in this article were taken by me.
Stanley Park is named in honour of Frederick Arthur Stanley, the 16th Earl of Derby. He lived from 1841 to 1908 and was the Governor General of Canada from 1888 to 1893. The Governor General is the Queen's representative in Canada. Stanley Park was opened on September 27th,1888. Lord Stanley dedicated the park to the public.
Hockey's Stanley Cup was also named after Lord Stanley. It was originally given as an award for the winning amateur ice hockey club instead of the winning professional club as is done today. The Earl of Derby and his wife supported amateur hockey in Canada. Their sons and their daughters were enthusiastic ice hockey players. It was the Earl's children who persuaded him to buy a large cup as a prize for a hockey tournament.
Map of Stanley Park
The park is a great place for bird watchers. There are some birds that a visitor is almost guaranteed to see, while the discovery of others requires a bit more effort. Binoculars are very useful for making observations and a camera with a telephoto lens is helpful for taking photographs.
Many of the resident birds at Lost Lagoon can be easily observed without binoculars and their photos can be taken without a long telephoto lens. Lost Lagoon was once connected to Coal Harbour in Burrard Inlet. Now a causeway carrying traffic separates the two bodies of water, causing the lagoon to become "lost". The yellow line at the entrance to Stanley Park in the map above represents the causeway. The lagoon has become a freshwater lake.
At any time of year, a visitor to the Lagoon is very likely to see mallard ducks, glaucous-winged gulls, Canada geese, cackling geese, northwestern crows, rock doves (pigeons), and mute swans. In summer great blue herons are a frequent sight because they nest in the park. The mallard ducks and the geese are very confident around humans, even when they have youngsters to look after. The young mallards in the photos above and below have already learned that humans often have food to give them.
A visitor to Lost Lagoon will probably see other birds too. Their identity will depend on the time of day or year, as well as on good luck. There is a nature house beside the lagoon. This provides helpful information about the birds that live around the lagoon and about those that visit the area.
Birds and Other Animals in the ParkClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Vancouver Aquarium
A wide variety of other birds and wildlife can be seen in and around Stanley Park. In addition, captive animals can be seen at the Vancouver Aquarium. The aquarium has a large collection of fish as well as some invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and marine mammals. The facility runs education and exploration sessions for schools and the general public. It's also a rescue organization for local marine mammals.
Highlights of the facility include the Graham Amazon Gallery and the Treasures of the B.C. Coast Gallery, which are located indoors, and the Wild Coast display, which is located outdoors. The aquarium offers shows, but these are low-key events that emphasize education while watching animals behave naturally.
Gardens and Trees
In addition to wild flowers, Stanley Park has many cultivated areas. The rose garden is a popular site for summer weddings. According to the City of Vancouver website, the garden was established in 1920 and has over 3,500 rose bushes. In addition to flower beds, it contains arbors that support climbing roses. The plant display in the garden is best between March and October. The roses don't bloom until June, however. In the earlier months flowering bulbs are the dominant plants.
Another attractive garden is the Ted and Mary Greig Rhododendron Garden, which was started in the 1960s. Ted and Mary Greig were keen rhododendron breeders. Rhododendrons and azaleas from their nursery formed the basis of the Stanley Park garden, which has 4,500 plants.
The Shakespeare garden has an interesting theme. It contains trees mentioned in William Shakespeare's plays and poems, as well as plaques that show the relevant quotes.
Flowers and Plants in the ParkClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Stanley Park Windstorm
There is also a rock garden in Stanley Park. It was created in 1911 and has an interesting history. Although the garden was popular for a while, for some reason the forest was allowed to encroach on it and reclaim some of the land. The knowledge of the original extent of the garden was forgotten as time passed.
In 2006 a severe windstorm passed through Stanley Park, damaging and destroying old and historic trees in the park and worrying conservationists. The storm had one benefit, however. Trees that had covered parts of the rock garden were felled by the wind, revealing the hidden remnants of the original garden. The rock garden has now been restored to its full size.
The 2006 windstorm was a very serious event in the history of Stanley Park. 41 hectares of trees were destroyed and the seawall was seriously damaged. A tremendous restoration effort was made, which went well, and a detailed management plan was created to improve the park's resiliency to bad weather conditions.
Totem PolesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Totem Poles, Landmarks, and Entertainment
The totem poles at Stanley Park and the accompanying Brocton Point Visitor Centre are on the itinerary of many tour buses. The visitor centre describes the history and culture of the Coast Salish people. The totem poles and other art around the centre were all created by First Nations artists. Some of the poles are painted in bright colours and a few have an uncoloured wood surface, but all are intricate and very interesting to observe and photograph.
Stanley Park contains a number of sculptures and monuments. One colourful sculpture is a replica of the Empress of Japan figurehead. The Empress of Japan was a ship that transported goods between Vancouver and Japan from 1891 to 1922. Another interesting structure is the nine o'clock gun. This is a canon which is loaded with a black powder every day and fires at 9:00 pm every night.
A fun way to travel around the park is in a horse-drawn carriage. Visitors can also travel in a miniature train, which takes travellers on a two-kilometre trail through the forest. At certain times of the year the route is decorated to create a theme ride, including a Christmas ride and a Halloween ride (the "Ghost Train").
The Nine O'Clock Gun at Stanley Park
Some More Interesting Sights in the ParkClick thumbnail to view full-size
Cruise Ships From Canada Place
Stanley Park is located close to Canada Place, which is operated by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority. Canada Place is a tourist attraction which offers great photographic opportunities. It's also the site where giant cruise ships dock in summer. The ships take tourists to Alaska. The close-up view of the vessels while they are docked is very impressive.
A walking path travels beside Burrard Inlet and connects Canada Place to Stanley Park and the seawall path. On my summer walks along the seawall, I often see a cruise ship which has left the port and has started its journey to Alaska. It's always an interesting sight.
Cruise Ships Going to Alaska as Seen From Stanley ParkClick thumbnail to view full-size
Visiting the Park
Stanley Park is well worth visiting for anyone who comes to Vancouver. The park can be reached by car or bus or by walking or cycling from the downtown area.
- If you decide to drive to the park, you'll find that pay parking is in effect.
- A public transit route can be planned at the Translink website. Translink is the organization that runs the transit system. I find their Trip Planner page very useful.
- Vancouver has cycle lanes on some of the quieter downtown roads to accommodate cyclists.
- Walkers can reach the park by travelling west from the downtown area. It's easy to tell where west is in the city because the mountains are located to the north. The time for the journey depends on a person's walking speed, their starting location, and the route that's chosen, but it's possible to reach the park within thirty minutes.
Whatever the time of year, there is always something interesting to see and do in the Stanley Park. Multiple visits are needed to see everything, but even a single visit can be very enjoyable.
© 2013 Linda Crampton