Over the last 5 years or so I’ve had various friends and family from outside of Canada visit me here in one of the most beautiful cities in the world – Vancouver, BC. Often with only 1-2 days to spend in town, each visitor almost always asks for a day tour of town and over the years I have managed to come up with what I, and others believe is a pretty good walking tour.
Part one of this special two-part blog series will take a general look at what you can see on my “Walking Tour of Vancouver”, by listing some of the major sights along the way.
Of course, I don’t expect others to remember the route and/or the spots you should be looking out for along the way, so I have spent some time creating a “Walking Tour of Vancouver Trip” on popular location based social application, “Gowalla”. By checking-in with your smart phone (iPhone, Blackberry, Android) at the following listed locations using Gowalla as you go, you’ll eventually earn yourself a “Vancouver Walking Tour” pin and potentially get your hands on a number of “items” along the way to add to your Gowalla collection.
All this Gowalla talk may be like a foreign language to most, which is why I have prepared a second post for this two-part Walking Tour of Vancouver post series. In it I take a look at the Gowalla service, why I like it more than arguably the most popular location based social application, Foursquare, and how it can add a little bit of extra fun to your Vancouver site-seeing experience.
Click here to check it out.
View Gowalla Walking Tour of Vancouver in a larger map.
Walking Tour Highlights
The following locations/attractions are pretty much all free and act only as major stops of note on this Walking Tour of Vancouver which starts off in Gastown and finishes on Granville Island. There’s so much more you can and will see between these spots, so make sure you bring your camera with you!
As you can see from the summary trip map above, each spot is pretty easily accessible from the one proceeding, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding your way around. It’s a fairly long day during which you cover a pretty large distance on foot (roughly 7miles (11km)), so your fitness level is going to want to be good to better-than-average. Capiche?
Ok… let’s begin.
a. Cafe Medina
560 Beatty Street, Vancouver. V6B 2L3
Kick off your day with a hearty breakfast at Cafe Medina on Beatty Street – definitely one of the best breakfast/brunch spots in Vancouver. Get there early or prepared to wait outside in line for a spell… the secret’s out.
HOT TIP: Try the Paella – “One baked egg, curried orzo, hungarian chorizo, zucchini, red pepper, roast corn, grano padano, avocado and tomato salad.” It’s a WINNER!
b. Gassy Jack Statue
Leaving Cafe Medina, head about 3 blocks north-east to the eastern end of Gastown to the statue of Fraser River pilot turned saloon keeper – Capt. John “Gassy Jack” Deighton.
Considered the founding Father of Gastown (which later became incorporated as the City of Vancouver), Gassy Jack’s statue fittingly marks the start of your walking tour in the spot where the city of Vancouver began.
c. Gastown Steam Clock
Heading west along the cobblestones of Water Street, you’ll eventually reach one of Gastown and Vancouver’s most beloved monuments on the corner of Cambie Street – the Gastown Steam Clock. Undergoing a complete restoration over the years the four-faced clock is now listed as a heritage feature, and is promoted as such.
There’s every chance that you’ll arrive in time to hear the clock announce the quarter hour with a cloud of steam and whistle chime that plays the “Westminster Quarters”. The whole shebang is somewhat underwhelming if you ask me, but hey, the hoards of tourists that gather to witness the spectacle hour after hour seem to take some delight out of the display, so who am I to judge!
d. Steamworks Brewery
Continuing along Water Street you’ll arrive at one of Vancouver’s most popular micro-breweries, the Steamworks Brewery, where you can enjoy any of the hand-crafted ales and lagers brewed on-site.
My HOT TIP: if it’s in season, is a cold pint of the Coal Porter. It’s every bit as smooth as suggested!
e. Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre
Exiting Steamworks (if you end up sipping on a brew), you’ll notice Waterfront Station right in front of you. If you walk towards the station and continue past it heading West sticking to the water’s edge, you’ll eventually arrive at Vancouver’s Convention Centres – the old and the new. You can’t miss the iconic sails of the old version, while the new structure, having served as the press centre for the 2010 Winter Olympics, is worth wandering through if permitted.
f. The Olympic Cauldron and Flame
Popping out the end of the new Convention Centre, you’ll arrive at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics cauldron. More than 12,000 people had the chance to carry the flame that lit this impressive structure throughout the memorable games in early 2010.
g. Harbour Air
Dropping down the stairs back to water level, you’ll have the chance to view Harbour Air’s seaplane airport. With over 25 years of service and more than 30 aircraft, it’s the (self-proclaimed) largest all-seaplane airline in the world.
h. Vancouver Rowing Club
Following the sea wall, which you are now on, along towards the beginning of Stanley Park, you’ll eventually arrive at the unmistakable heritage building perched over the water that serves as the Vancouver Rowing Club. Established in 1886, the rowing club offers decent photographic opportunities any time of the year.
i. Totem Poles
Following the scenic sea wall path for a distance, you’ll eventually arrive at Stanley Park’s, and perhaps one of Vancouver’s, most visited tourist attractions. The series of 8 totem poles each have their own story to tell supported well by descriptive signage.
j. Lumberman’s Arch
Passing straight through the Totem Pole monument area you’ll arrive back on the sea wall which you should head left on. You’ll eventually arrive at a kid’s water park which is where you will leave the wall and head into the interior of Stanley Park.
The first landmark you’ll arrive at is “Lumberman’s Arch” – a timber-and-stump archway that replaced the original Lumbermen’s Arch built by lumber workers for a visit by the Duke of Connaught to Vancouver back in 1912. The arch also marks the beginning of a tree grove which, in the Fall (Autumn), is quite possibly one of the most beautiful places in Vancouver.
k. Vancouver Aquarium
At the end of the tree grove, on the western side of the Aquarium just south of the Japanese Canadian War Memorial, you’ll find a pathway that takes you down into a free viewing area where you can get a great and FREE look at the Vancovuer Aquarium’s main attraction Beluga Whales. Time it right and you almost get the best seat in the house for the 2pm show.
l. Lost Lagoon
Leaving the Aquarium, you’ll want to follow provided signage towards nearby Lost Lagoon – easily one of the best spots in Stanley Park to come face to face with a wide selection of wildlife from ducks and swans, to squirrels, bald eagles and raccoons.
HOT TIP: You’re almost guaranteed an encounter with raccoons near the bridge at the western end of the lagoon.
m. English Bay
Leaving Lost Lagoon and whatever critters you found there, make your way back to the water and the sea-wall. At the south-eastern end of Stanley Park’s section of sea wall lies one of Vancouver’s most populated beaches – English Bay Beach. Get some sand between your toes, take a dip, or just take a seat and indulge in some people watching as a diverse crowd of individuals pass by.
Continuing along the sea wall towards False Creek, you’ll arrive at the English Bay Inukshuk. This ancient symbol of Inuit culture was positioned on the point at the mouth of False Creek in 1987 and was an iconic monument during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.
o. Aquatic Centre Ferry Stop
Heading in the direction of the Burrard Bridge, you’ll come to the Aquatic Centre Ferry stop. One of the quickest and most scenic ways to travel from the sea wall on the northern shore of False Creek, across to Granville Island is via one of the cute little False Creek Ferries.
p. Granville Island
Granville Island is easily one of Vancouver’s best locations for wining, dining, shopping and just a neat spot for general site-seeing. Grab a freshly brewed beer at the Granville Island Brewery while you look over photos from your day’s journey, or grab some fresh produce from the bustling public market.
Arriving at Granville Island you will have officially concluded my walking tour, the same tour I have shared with a number of Aussie and other overseas visitors over the years.