Stanley Park SeaWall Walk
Image by Derek K. Miller under Creative Commons License.

Canada, Vancouver Guide (A): Stanley Park SeaWall Walk

Welcome to Vancouver and the Stanley Park Seawall. Easily walkable from downtown Vancouver, the 1,000-acre Stanley Park is known everywhere as one of the greatest city parks in the world. It was Vancouver's first park, opened in 1888. The seawall that surrounds the park is a popular destination year-round. Local joggers, bikers, skaters and walkers can always be found traveling this path that circles this huge, beautiful park.
This article is featured in the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" on iTunes App Store and Google Play. You can download the app to your mobile device to read the article offline and create a self-guided walking tour to visit the attractions featured in this article. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

Download The GPSmyCity App

Download 'GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities' app for IOS   Download 'GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities' app for Android

Walk Route

Guide Name: Stanley Park SeaWall Walk
Guide Location: Canada » Vancouver
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Article (A))
# of Attractions: 12
Tour Duration: 3.0 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 8.7 km
Sight(s) featured in this guide: The Seawall   Totem Pole Exhibit   Harry Jerome Statue   Vancouver's Nine O'Clock Gun   Brockton Point Lighthouse   Chehalis Cross   The Girl in the Wetsuit Statue   Empress of Japan Figurehead   Prospect Point Lighthouse   Siwash Rock   Ferguson Point/3rd Beach   Second Beach  
Author: Dawn Walnoha-MacKechnie
Author Bio: Dawn and Keith MacKechnie have both worked in the Film and TV business for many years. They are recent transplants from Los Angeles to Vancouver and love discovering fun things to do in their new city. They also love to travel and explore other areas with their teenage son.
1
The Seawall

1) The Seawall

The seawall was constructed around the perimeter of Stanley Park to prevent the erosion of the park's shoreline, and most of it was built between 1914 and 1971. James "Jimmy" Cunningham was a master stonemason who spent 32 years directing the project. He continued to supervise construction well after his retirement and on at least one occasion, went to check the seawall's progress wearing his pajamas. He died in 1963 before the wall was finished, but he is the one person most associated with the project. A plaque in his honor can be found near Siwash Rock, which is where his ashes were scattered.

In late September of 1980, the last bit of paving between Second and Third Beaches was finished. Vancouverites view the seawall as an important part of Stanley Park and it is the most used park facility.
2
Totem Pole Exhibit

2) Totem Pole Exhibit

The totem pole display area in Stanley Park is the most visited tourist attraction in British Columbia. In the early 1920s, the Park Commissioners wanted to construct an Indian Village in Stanley Park.

While the Indian Village was never built, the initial four totem poles, all from the Alert Bay region on Vancouver Island, were erected. In 1936, for the Golden Jubilee Celebration, more totems were bought and brought in from the Queen Charlotte Islands and Rivers Inlet.

The poles were moved to their present location in the 1960s.

Some of the original totems date back to the 1800s, but over the years, time has taken its toll. In 1962 a copy of the Skedans Mortuary Pole was put in place. The other totems were sent to different museums to be preserved. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, new ones were acquired.

In 2009, Robert Yelton created the ninth totem pole for the site. Yelton, a Squamish Nation artist created this pole as a tribute to his mother who was one of the last residents of Stanley Park.
3
Harry Jerome Statue

3) Harry Jerome Statue

The 9-foot bronze statue of Harry Winston Jerome (September 30, 1940 – December 7, 1982) in Stanley Park is situated on the beautiful Hallelujah Point that looks towards downtown Vancouver. Seaplanes can be seen from here regularly taking off and landing in Coal Harbor; cruise ships on their way to or from Alaska dock in front of you at Canada place; huge container ships can be seen loading or unloading cargo from the Asia-Pacific market; and it is a great view of the Vancouver skyline.

This statue of Harry Jerome is a memorial to his great life as a Canadian track and field runner who set a total seven world records. He sprinted successfully until the late 1960s despite suffering an injury so severe at the Perth Commonwealth Games in 1962 that doctors initially believed he would never walk again. He won a bronze medal during the 1964 Olympics. He also competed in the 1960 and 1968 Olympics. He won gold medals in the 1966 British Empire and Commonwealth Games and the 1967 Pan American Games.

Jerome stopped competing in 1969, but Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau asked him to create a new Ministry of Sport. In the '80s, he headed BC's Premier's Sport Award Program. He inspired a generation of young Canadian athletes, and there are sports events held in his honor and buildings bearing his name.
4
Vancouver's Nine O'Clock Gun

4) Vancouver's Nine O'Clock Gun

As the name suggests, the 9 O'clock Gun is a cannon that is shot every night at 9 p.m. It was made in 1816 at the Royal Gun Factory in Woolwich, England by H&C King. The 12-pound, muzzle-loaded naval cannon was installed in Stanley Park and first fired there on October 5, 1898.

Why? The story goes that it was originally installed by the department of fisheries to tell salmon fisherman in the harbor that it was quitting time when it was fired at 6 p.m. But as fishermen moved farther out of the harbor, the use of the gun for a fishing curfew became pointless, so it was decided to reschedule the boom to 9 p.m. as a time signal for the general population and to allow the chronometers of ships in port to be set accurately.

Today the Nine O'clock Gun still booms out its nightly message -- heard a full minute after nine in New Westminster and more than three minutes after nine in Mission (when it's able to be heard there).

The gun was restored in 1986 and while it is now activated automatically with an electronic trigger, a black powder charge is still loaded daily.
5
Brockton Point Lighthouse

5) Brockton Point Lighthouse

Here is a magnificent view of the Burrard Inlet and the Lions Gate Bridge that leads over it to the North Shore. Bright yellow sulfur piles can be seen on the opposite shore, where one of the many freighters moving in or out of the harbor may take it to the Asia-Pacific market.

Prospect Point Lighthouse, established in 1888 (which we'll talk about later), guided shipping traffic into Vancouver, but its light was hidden to outbound traffic by the dense forest of Stanley Park. So in 1890, a light consisting of red and white lanterns mounted on a mast was placed at Brockton Point, two kilometers east of Prospect Point, to mark the sharp turn toward First Narrows for outbound ships and toward Coal Harbour for inbound vessels.

Brockton Point is named after the engineer of the HMS Plumper (a BC surveying ship between 1857 and 1860). Francis Brockton, discovered coal in what his Captain, George Richards, named Coal Harbour. The captain then also named this nearby point in honor of his engineer.

In 1914, the existing lighthouse was built. It is 35 feet tall, with arches that allow bicyclists and pedestrians to pass under it along the seawall path.
6
Chehalis Cross

6) Chehalis Cross

Just southwest of the Brockton Point Lighthouse across the road from the seawall, can be seen a Celtic cross. It is known as the Chehalis Cross Memorial. In 1906, the MV Princess Victoria slammed into the tugboat Chehalis and the tug sank quickly just a few hundred feet from Brockton Point. While six of the crew were rescued by the lighthouse keeper, eight people aboard the Chehalis were killed when it sank. The victims remains are still trapped inside the Chehalis under ten fathoms of water, just opposite this site. The cross bears their names and was erected in their honor.
7
The Girl in the Wetsuit Statue

7) The Girl in the Wetsuit Statue

The Girl in the Wetsuit Statue is the City of Vancouver's version of Copenhagen's statue of the Little Mermaid. Vancouver's statue, which Elek Imredy was commissioned to create, has a wetsuit, fins and a diving mask. Imredy's statue now sits on top of a large round rock staring out at the ships, the harbor and the resplendent mountains of the North Shore.

Placed on June 9, 1973, the statue has enjoyed over thirty years on her perch off the edge of the seawall. The statue is either on her own little island at high tide, or sitting on the largest of many rocks near the seawall's edge at low tide. At low tide, some people walk right up to the boulder to take a closer look. However, climbing it is out of the question since the large boulder the statue is welded to is too smooth and large to climb.

Visitors are sometimes entertained by the many seagulls that rest on the statue's head.
8
Empress of Japan Figurehead

8) Empress of Japan Figurehead

The Empress of Japan (aka the "Queen of the Pacific") was an ocean liner built for the Canadian Pacific Steamship Line in 1891 in Barrow, England. She traveled the Pacific between Canada and East Asia until 1922. Over 22 years, she traveled over 4,000,000 kilometers (2,500,000 miles). She broke trans-Pacific speed records that were unbeaten during the years of her 315 Pacific crossings.

She was eventually scrapped and dismantled, and her figurehead was dumped and left for destruction. The dragon was rescued by a newspaper editor, Frank Burd. Through his efforts, it was placed on a pedestal here in the park at the entrance to the Burrard Inlet.

After sitting there, neglected for decades, Norman Hacking, another long-time editor of the Province became involved and in 1960 the original figurehead was removed and was replaced with this fiberglass replica – that's right, what you're looking at is not the original. The original was restored and put on display in the Vancouver Maritime Museum in 1974.
Image by Bobanny under Creative Commons License.
9
Prospect Point Lighthouse

9) Prospect Point Lighthouse

In July of 1888, the drunken crew of the Beaver, the first steamship on the West Coast, slammed into Prospect Point (appropriately known then as Calamity Point).

Within three months, a lighthouse was built there. It was completed shortly after Stanley Park was opened.

The Capilano River flows into the Burrard Inlet on the North Shore opposite Prospect Point, and even now creates dangerous currents. But prior to the Cleveland Dam being built in 1954, the uncontrolled river deposited tons of rock and silt, and even with regular dredging, it constantly changed the locations of the shallows. That, mixed with the rush of the river's less buoyant fresh water, made ships hug the Prospect Point side of the Narrows as they entered the inlet, making navigation treacherous.

For those nautically inclined, the red light atop the square, pyramidal tower (painted white with a single red horizontal stripe) has a focal plane of 38 feet above the water, with a signature of one second on, one second off.

The current lighthouse was built in 1948.

Historically, the Prospect Point Lighthouse is one of the most important buildings in the history of Vancouver, since it marked the entryway for all of the shipping activity in this busy port.
10
Siwash Rock

10) Siwash Rock

Siwash Rock is a large basaltic rock outcropping sticking up out of the water as you head southwest from the Prospect Point Lighthouse. It stands about 60 feet (18 meters) tall. Volcanic activity formed this unique rock formation. It is the only one of its kind in Vancouver. The Douglas Fir tree on its top grows in a very inhospitable environment. Another tree which grew there did not survive the drought of 1965. A sapling, aided by the efforts of park employees, produced the tree that stands there today.

The Siwash Rock is a symbol of “clean fatherhood” to the Squamish people. In the Squamish culture, it wasn’t the infant that required a cleansing baptism, it was the father who needed to be cleaned before being worthy of handling such innocence. According to one legend, a young chief went into the water near Prospect Point to bathe so he would be clean for the birth of his child, ensuring that the child would be born in purity. When he refused to move out of the way of four spirits, they changed him into the rock.
11
Ferguson Point/3rd Beach

11) Ferguson Point/3rd Beach

Up the steps from the seawall, Ferguson Point has great views of English Bay. It's the westernmost edge of the park. It has views of Kitsilano, Point Grey, west toward Vancouver Island and north to West Vancouver, and is the perfect area to view spectacular sunsets. In the summer the bay is filled with sailboats and kayaks weaving through the water, along with gigantic shipping vessels anchored off shore waiting to load or offload in this busy port.

The military used the location during World War II as a lookout for possible attacks on the harbour by ship. The popular Tea House Restaurant was originally one of the military buildings. There's a plaque describing the place's historic significance.

The E. Pauline Johnson Cairn is also located at Ferguson Point. The poet and naturalist's image is etched in stone near a fountain. As one of Stanley Park's true champions, she is the only person to be buried in the park. (As an aside, it is Johnson who gave Stanley Park's Lost Lagoon its name. Before the causeway that divides the park was built, the tide would come in from Coal Harbor and fill it, but when the tide went out, the lagoon would be lost!)
Image by Eyewall under Creative Commons License.
12
Second Beach

12) Second Beach

A popular spot with Vancouverites, Second Beach is a great place for a family picnic and/or swimming trip. Even for Vancouver's pioneers in the 1880s, this was the place to go to for church socials, family gatherings and of course, to cool off from the summer heat. A bathhouse was built here in 1912. In the 1930s the city's first draw and fill pool was built (one of two in the park). The draw and fill pool had a concrete wall with locking gates. The gates were opened to collect seawater at high tide and then closed to retain it. After a few days, the water warmed and was perfect for swimming. At the end of the week the pool gates were opened at low tide, releasing the water and then taking in the cool, clean water of the next high tide. In 1995 new health standards were implemented and the draw and fill pool had to go. A new heated freshwater pool replaced it. It is a beautiful facility, and if you want to cool off after a hot day – and the ocean is a bit too chilly -- swimming in the park's outdoor Second Beach Pool is the way to go. It is open from late May through Labour Day.
Image by Shinsuke Ikegame under Creative Commons License.

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip


16 Distinctively Canadian Things to Buy in Vancouver

16 Distinctively Canadian Things to Buy in Vancouver

British Columbia, in general, and Vancouver, in particular, are among the top Canadian destinations worth being explored. The amalgam of aboriginal and western cultures, Vancouver is a treasure trove of distinctively Canadian delights that are not found anywhere else. Most of these items make for an...