Biking Stanley Park to Granville Island and beyond – an awesome Vancouver ride

In ADVENTURE, CANADA & US by Janice and George22 Comments

Stanley Park Seawall - bicycling

What could be nicer on a sunny spring day in Vancouver than biking Stanley Park (around the Seawall) – and beyond!

It was the first day of May. Not a cloud blurred the bluebird skies, and the temps hit the low 70s with just the gentlest of breezes. We scooted out the door and made our way to Denman Street. Here, we rented bicycles from a bike shop and made for Stanley Park.

biking stanley park

Beloved by everyone, Stanley Park is one of the largest urban parks in North America – photo Brigitte Werner

biking stanley park

View of Burrard Inlet and Vancouver’s North Shore from Stanley Park

Stanley Park – the “best park in the world”

For most visitors to Vancouver, Stanley Park is the Number 1 star attraction.

And move over Central Park! Stanley Park is so gorgeous (at least on a sunny day) that TripAdvisor named it the “best park in the world” in 2014. (It’s bigger than Central Park too.)

We have to thank Vancouver’s original city planners for preserving this 1,000-acre tract of forest as parkland right in the heart of downtown Vancouver.

Want to gape at a half-million trees that are hundreds of years old? This is your place.

During our many visits to Stanley Park in the years we’ve lived in Vancouver, we’ve fed robins and songbirds from our hands, marveled at huge pink and purple blooms in the beautiful rhodo garden, spied great blue herons nesting in trees, watched the antics of octupuses and beluga whales in the Vancouver Aquarium, laughed at curious raccoons and sprightly squirrels crossing the walking paths, and lost track of time gazing at Canada geese watching over their goslings by Lost Lagoon.

biking stanley park - raccoon

There’s lots of wildlife – like this raccoon – in Stanley Park (especially around Lost Lagoon)

Walking, jogging, roller-blading and biking Stanley Park

You can drive – and even take a horse-drawn carriage tour – around the park.

But the most popular way to enjoy it is to walk, jog, roller-blade or bicycle around the 5.5 mile (8.8 km) Stanley Park Seawall.

biking stanley park - map

Stay in your path!

  • The Stanley Park Seawall is divided into two clearly marked paths – one for walkers and runners (closest to the water), and one for bicyclists and roller-bladers.
  • The bicycle and roller-blading lane is one-way only, going in the direction from Coal Harbor around to English Bay.

 

biking stanley park

Pedestrians and cyclists each have their own dedicated lanes

Vancouver Marathon

This day, we couldn’t immediately start pedaling around the Seawall as the 45th BMO Vancouver Marathon was finishing up. (The marathon was just named by Forbes Travel Guide one of the “12 top marathons worth traveling for.”)

But what fun it was to watch and cheer on the last of the 16,500 runners from over 60 countries – some dressed in costumes – as they jogged (and limped) toward the finish line.

biking stanley park

Some marathon runners wore silly costumes or funny hats

Once we were given the “all clear” by the marathon organizers, we started our Seawall ride, beginning with biking Stanley Park.

Sights on the Seawall

Many people enjoy just biking Stanley Park. But the Seawall actually extends much further.

After you pop out from Stanley Park at English Bay, you can continue along Beach Avenue and all the way around False Creek (an inlet from English Bay) to Granville Island, even a little further to Kitsilano Beach (next to Vanier Park).

Stanley Park seawall

Follow the red path to bicycle around Stanley Park from Coal Harbour to Granville Island

The full Vancouver Seawall bike ride is 13.5 miles (22 km) one way, from the Vancouver Convention Center to Kitsilano Beach. (The red biking path shown above, from the Coal Harbor side in Stanley park to Granville Island, underneath Granville Street, is slightly shorter.)

What do you see as you bicycle around the Stanley Park Seawall and beyond? Here are just some of the sights you encounter.

Vancouver Rowing Club

Being almost surrounded by water, Vancouverites are pretty passionate about all water sports, including rowing. One of the first sights when biking Stanley Park is the Vancouver Rowing Club, still going strong after 125 years.

Stanley Park Seawall - Vancouver Rowing Club

Athletes from the Vancouver Rowing Club have competed in the Olympics, Pan American and Commonwealth Games

Brockton Point Lighthouse

Built in 1914, the Brockton Point Lighthouse was busy in the days of old – alerting ships to potential collisions and warning them of impending storms. It was decommissioned as a lighthouse in 2005, and now serves as one of Stanley Park’s best viewpoints. We always stop here to look out at Burrard Inlet (which separates downtown Vancouver from Vancouver’s North Shore) and the Lions Gate Bridge.

biking stanley park - brockton point

You’ve got to stop at the Brockton Point Lighthouse to take in the views!

Girl in a Wetsuit

No, she’s not a mermaid. “Girl in a Wetsuit” (with flippers on her feet and her mask pushed up on her forehead) is a life-size bronze sculpture of a scuba diver sitting on a granite rock in the water. The creator who sculpted her in 1972 was inspired by the fact that scuba diving was becoming quite popular in Vancouver at the time.

biking Stanley Park - girl in a wetsuit

“Girl in a Wetsuit” gets lots of looks from cyclists biking Stanley Park as she sits on a rock surveying the water

Lions Gate Bridge

You’ll cycle right underneath the Lions Gate Bridge, a suspension bridge that connects the city of Vancouver with Vancouver’s North Shore communities. (We live on the North Shore, and during rush hours, the bridge access can be a traffic nightmare on your way to or from downtown Vancouver. We’ve learned to ditch the car and take the bus – so much quicker, as it bypasses snarled car lanes.)

biking stanley park - lions gate bridge

The Lions Gate Bridge connects Stanley Park with Vancouver’s North Shore

Third Beach

Got your bathing suit on? Join the many cyclists biking Stanley Park who stop to cool off for a swim at Third Beach. The logs are handy for resting against in the sand. Washrooms and a concession stand are tucked up behind the beach. On hot summer days, you’ll sometimes find us swimming here – the water is calm and surprisingly warm!

biking Stanley Park - Third Beach

Can you swim in Vancouver? Of course!

English Bay

English Bay is a gorgeous beach area in Vancouver’s downtown, on the edge of Stanley Park. When the thermometer rises, sun-starved Vancouverites love to hang out here on the large swathes of grassy lawn and sandy beach.

biking Stanley Park - English Bay

English Bay is another perfect place to stop and soak up the sun for a while

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There’s plenty of place to relax at English Bay – and lots of restaurants nearby if you need to refuel

Burrard Bridge

After English Bay, you come across the north end of Burrard Bridge. From here, the distance around False Creek to Granville Island, another star attraction for Vancouver visitors, is about 4.7 miles (7.6 km).

biking stanley park - burrard bridge

The Art Deco-style Burrard Bridge is one of three bridges crossing False Creek

Yaletown

On the north side of False Creek in downtown Vancouver, Yaletown was once an industrial area full of warehouses and railyards. But that was back before Vancouver morphed into the cool city it is today. The warehouses have now been converted into funky residential lofts, and a slew of ultra-modern, high-rise condos have since been built. You’ll find many of Vancouver’s best restaurants in Yaletown – Cioppino’s, Blue Water Café, The Flying Pig – along with swanky hipster bars and nightspots.

biking Stanley Park - Yaletown

With tons of chic restaurants and hip bars and nightpots, Yaletown is the trendy place to live

Science World

It looks like a giant golf ball. But Science World is actually a geodesic dome, built for Expo 86 (when Vancouver hosted a huge World Fair). And it’s a very interesting place – a non-profit science center with tons of hands-on, interactive displays and the world’s largest OMNIMAX dome theater screen.

When our son was still a kid, the three of us spent many a happy winter day at Science World learning about the human body (should you drink your own pee?), puzzling over illusions and generally having geeky fun. You’re probably not going to stop here on your bike ride – but Science World is definitely worth visiting in Vancouver (especially if you have kids and it happens to be raining).

biking stanley park - science world

Get your imagination sparking at Science World (one of the best indoor places to visit on a rainy day)

Granville Island

Hey, you made it to Granville Island! Like Stanley Park, it’s one of Vancouver’s most popular visitor attractions, and a thriving shopping and entertainment hub for locals as well. Home to art studios, boutique shops, restaurants, a live theater, craft breweries and colorful floating homes, Granville Island is anchored by the huge Public Market – we never tire of browsing its cheese stalls, bakeries, deli counters, and fresh fruit, veggie and flower stands.

biking Stanley Park - Granville Island

What to eat? There are so many delicious foods in the Public Market – photo Granville Island

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Canada Geese like hanging out in the parks at Granville Island too

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Not up to biking all the way back? Cut your return time by taking the AquaBus across False Creek

Practical info for biking Stanley Park (and beyond)

  • Bike rentals:  You have a great choice of bicycle rental shops on Denman Street (just a few blocks from the Stanley Park seawall). We’ve rented from many of them. This time, we went with Bayshore Rentals and had comfy Norco bikes. Bayshore Rentals is open until dusk (which is late in spring and summer) so you have plenty of daylight hours for riding and relaxing, without stressing about returning the bikes before they close. Bike rental rates are $12 CAD ($9.50 USD) for 2 hours or $23.80 CAD ($18.50 USD) for the day.
  • How much time should you allow?  You can comfortably pedal the Stanley Park Seawall (including photo stops) in 2 hours. Allow up to 4 hours for biking Stanley Park and around the False Creek waterfront to Granville Island (more if you stop for a leisurely lunch or swim along the way). To cut your return time considerably, Aquabus Ferries can take you and your bicycle from Granville Island across False Creek to the Hornby Street landing near Burrard Bridge.
  • Be aware:  Biking Stanley Park gets very busy on warm, sunny weekends and in summer. You’ll have to share the trail with thousands of other people all wanting to enjoy exactly what you want to do. So be careful and go slow – you don’t want to mow down a pedestrian! It’s best if you can go first thing in the morning, or make it a late afternoon/early evening ride (Vancouver has long days of sunshine in the summer when it’s still light past 8:00 pm – and the bike rental shops stay open late).
  • Where to stay in Vancouver? The Pinnacle Hotel at the Pier in North Vancouver is a great 4-star hotel (see our review) – you can easily get to downtown Vancouver by taking the SeaBus from the dock right by the Pinnacle Hotel. Search the lowest prices for the Pinnacle and other Vancouver hotels here.
  • For more Vancouver info: See the Tourism Vancouver website.

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biking Stanley Park
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Comments

  1. Vancouver really is amazing! I got to LIVE there for 2 whole weeks a few decades back and I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. The food was fab and I got to ride around on a bike the whole time….Thanks for sharing and the memories.

  2. Every city needs a Stanley Park…you are so lucky! We have Lincoln Park in Chicago, but it’s nowhere near the same (also, mountains would help!)

  3. It’s ages since I’ve been on a bike as mine is currently in a warehouse – i miss cycling though and what a great way to see this lovely area

    1. Author

      Yes, bicycling around Stanley Park is the best way to see it. It’s quite long for a walk (unless you love walking). Lots of visitors rent tandem bikes also. Hope you manage to get your bike out of the warehouse soon, so you can go cycling again!

  4. Wow that’s an impressive accolade to get from a source as influential as trip advisor but after reading this, I can totally see why and just really wish that I could ride a bike, though the horse carriage sounds like a nice way to see the park too! This park sounds huge and you’ve seen some incredible wildlife there it seems! I really like the Girl in Wet Suit statue – I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a statue like that, which looks so traditional in its design yet embodies something so modern.

    1. Author

      We never tire of going to Stanley Park. We’re so happy we figured out how to get there quickly (by taking the bus) – now we don’t have to worry about whether it’s worth the effort to get there. (And BTW, lots of visitors just walk sections of the Seawall, so you don’t have to ride a bike to get around it. And there are open sightseeing buses that go around the park too – another option!)

  5. I love Stanley Park and I love your beautiful city, Janice! There is so much to see and do there. We stayed only a few days but I’m planning to go back. Lovely photos, as always.

    1. Author

      So glad you loved your visit to our city! If you didn’t get a chance to go biking around Stanley Park, hopefully you can visit Vancouver again in future – and experience some of the city from a two-wheeling perspective.

  6. Love Stanley Park, this post brings back lots of great memories as a kid there. Weeks would be spent at private school on Vancouver Island (Shawnigan Lake) but on weekends I’d take the ferry back to Vancouver and my mom and I would usually ride our bikes around the park. I also remember an aquarium. Haven’t been back to Vancouver in about 20 years…

    Frank (bbqboy)

    1. Author

      It’s probably time for you to revisit Vancouver! The aquarium is still here :-). You’d no doubt enjoy riding around Stanley Park again (and reliving old memories).

      1. I had actually wanted to use it as slow base for a month or two (Spanky has never been) but when I went to find a place on Airbnb it started at about $3500/mo which really doesn’t make sense to us. I don’t know if you guys have any advice on alternatives. $2500 about as high as we usually go and I think Cape Town the only place we’ve been that we’ve had to pay that much during our travels.

        I think we’ll eventually go to Vancouver but most likely it will be a 1-2 week stay passing through back to Montreal or to Asia. One day :)

        1. Author

          Vancouver’s real estate is astronomically high – with increases of 29% and more in the past year. The city’s real estate market is crazy right now. Rents are very high too, so we’re not surprised that Airbnb’s are quite expensive. What about checking out Victoria on Vancouver Island and exploring the island instead? They’re also seeing a real estate boom but prices are less there. We stayed in a few lovely Airbnb’s in Victoria recently, which you can get for about $100 CAD night (so on a monthly basis, perhaps $2,500?).

          1. Thanks guys for the suggestion, might consider that. Oh boy, never stops in Vancouver does it. I remember 5 years ago they were saying the bubble would eventually burst but just keeps going every year. Back when I was there (this is early 80s) the place felt like a small, provincial city.

            One of the most beautiful settings on earth though!

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