When it’s over 110 degrees here, I close my eyes and think of Vancouver’s Stanley Park. As the news announces another deadly extreme heat warning for this weekend, I know it’s my own fault for continuing to live in the desert. There are beautiful moments here too, but so many days are simply an angry sun glaring on twelve shades of brown. On days like those, I close my eyes and remember watching a family of otters play on the shore while I walked along the Seawall.
All great cities have a unique character. For Vancouver it is a commitment to green open spaces, to being a city of water and wilderness. Are you planning on visiting Vancouver? Let me share with you one of my favorite locations in the Saltwater City (鹹水埠).
Stanley Park on the Sea
If you only read about Stanley Park in a book, you may confuse it with other famous urban parks such as NYC’s Central Park or San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. While those green spaces are amazing, the experience was engineered. City planners and landscape architects designed those parks and planted most of the vegetation back in the 1800s. Stanley Park is 100% Canadian wilderness. No human planted this park. When you walk through it, you walk under trees that have been standing there far longer than Europeans have lived in North America.
Walking into Stanley Park from Downtown Vancouver is one of the iconic experiences of any visit to the city. Packed urban streets (full of amazing food by the way) suddenly give way to dense forested terrain. As you progress along the path, wilderness engulfs you and all memory of the city fades. The air becomes thick with the smell of saltwater and you find yourself at the edge of the great ocean. The trail now takes you through a coastal wilderness where ancient towering trees overlook crashing waves on sandy beaches. Congratulations, you are now traveling on the Seawall.
The Seawall: A Fairy Tale Walkway
One of Stanley’s Park most unique features, the Vancouver Seawall allows you to walk for breathtaking mile after mile along a seaside full of wildlife. Watch a sly raccoon scurry up a tree on one side while a majestic white swan comes in for a water landing on the other. Few locations on earth feel like an enchanted forest from a fairy tale. This is one of those places.
No matter how old you are, I guarantee you will transform into a wide-eyed child watching all the animals along the seawall. I can’t even begin to list all the species of mammals and birds I saw during just one day. The most amazing experience came as I turned a corner on the walkway. For a moment I thought I saw movement in the water. I dismissed it and kept going. Suddenly there is was again, ripples in the surface of the water. I started watching intently, wondering what could possibly be the cause of the disturbance.
Suddenly, the little face of an otter popped up above the water. He was not alone though, in rapid succession multiple otter heads broke through the calm water. A family of five otters swam to shore and calmly climbed up onto land with no regard for my presence. They then proceeded to play with each other. Running along the shoreline and jumping back into the water to float on their backs. They continued this back and forth between the land and sea for a long time. Then, tired of this section of shore, they swam away. Just another day in Stanley Park.
There is of course much more I could tell you about Stanley Park and Vancouver. So many more things to do in that beautiful city. If summer heat is bearing down on you right now, I hope this momentary trip to the Great North has brought at least a little cooling relief. If not, the wilderness of Vancouver is always waiting for you.
About DIY Travelers
DIY Travelers is the real life travel triumphs and tragedies of blogger Giuseppe Macchiaverna. A regular guy giving world travel a try. You can follow his escapades across social media on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Please let us know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org.