Downtown Vancouver is a truly beautiful place, built on a peninsula jutting between the natural harbor and Burrard Inlet, which leads to the calm waters of the Inner Passage, the channel separating mainland Canada from Vancouver Island. The tip of this peninsula is a 1000 acre green space: Stanley Park. So this begs the question, just who is this wonderful place named for, and why?
A pathway through Stanley Park
Frederick Stanley was the 16th Earl of Derby, and the sixth Governor General of Canada, from 1888 to 1893. Son of British Prime Minister Edward Smith-Stanley, Frederick Stanley was born in London in 1841. After a brief stint in the army, he moved into politics, holding a variety of positions before his appointment as Governor General. His time in Canada was best known for three things: widely traveling the western parts of the country and meeting with tribes of the First Nations, reaffirming the political non-partisanship of the Govern General position over a suit other provinces filed against Quebec in relation to a payout to the Jesuits, and presenting Canada with the Stanley Cup in 1892 (it was originally about 7 inches high compared to the 36 inches it is today).
Now, do any of these things directly warrant Stanley Park being named after Lord Stanley? While hockey fans would certainly argue yes, the only real reason the park is named after him is that he was there for its dedication in 1889 as part of a trip to the Canadian west. To reinforce this, the only statue of Lord Stanley in the Park was erected in 1960.
So armed with this important knowledge, let’s explore Stanley Park!
The Vancouver sea wall through Stanley Park
For most Vancouverites, a trip to Stanley Park means one thing: the sea wall. While there is a sea wall around most of the harbor, the portion of the Vancouver sea wall in Stanley Park is incredibly scenic, with paths for walking and jogging, biking, and roller skating/blading working their way all around the waterfront perimeter of the Park. This is immensely popular for locals and tourists alike, and can be very crowded, although never so much as to impede too greatly on the ambience.
The sea wall walk also offers the best views of downtown Vancouver, looking directly across the harbor at the glistening glass skyline. During my recent trip, smoke from nearby fires made it seem hazy, so while still lovely, I’ve also included an amazing overhead view courtesy of Tourism Vancouver, showing what this section of the Park and city normally looks like.
The Vancouver skyline from Stanley Park, obscured by smoke.
Thank you to Tourism Vancouver for this image of what the area normally looks like!
Not in the mood to stroll the sea wall? Stanley Park has plenty of other things to attract tourists. The Vancouver Aquarium is located here, as well as some gardens and other attractions. Check out some of the public art, located all around.
This is Girl in a Wetsuit
Or visit the totem poles representing the different local tribes of the First Nations.
These totem poles are one of the most popular attractions in Stanley Park
You can even just relax and watch local wildlife. I saw herons, seals, and a huge flock of Canadian geese!
Iconic and loud!
While it has virtually no connection to a man who isn’t himself all that noteworthy outside of his name-bearing Cup, Stanley Park is a wonderful place to explore on your trip to Vancouver. Just be prepared to walk… a lot!