Monday, February 6, 2012

Hiking downtown Vancouver with my kids: Coal Harbour & Stanley Park

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My family is big on hiking. We all love going for walks in the woods, along the beach, or wherever there's a good trail. Sometimes we even head into downtown Vancouver for a walk, like we did this past weekend.

Stanley Park's Sea Wall is our usual downtown destination for walks, but this day we chose something slightly different: we started our walk on the waterfront walkways of Coal Harbour. Coal Harbour is home to fancy hotels, fancy condos, fancy restaurants, cafes, bars, and a lot of very, very fancy boats moored in the marina. It's a beautiful spot: across the water you can see the North Shore mountains (snow-capped this time of year), and the walkways link up to Stanley Park's Sea Wall if you follow them far enough.

View of Coal Harbour from Stanley Park.

We parked our car near Nicola and Hastings, and then headed straight down to the water. There's a lot of stuff to look at: boats, C-planes, people, dogs, mountains, water. The walkway is easy to follow, and easy to walk for anyone, including little kids, or parents pushing strollers.

Once we entered Stanley Park, we left the Sea Wall and headed into the park near the Vancouver Aquarium. If you are visiting Vancouver and staying downtown, and the weather is nice, this walk is a great way to see some beautiful scenery and get to the Aquarium, which is one of the best kid-friendly destinations in the city.

We didn't visit the Aquarium this particular day, but instead stopped for a bit at the playground near the Stanley Park miniature train. After that we worked our way slowly through the trails and trees (and another Stanley Park playground!) until we were back on the waterfront walkway in Coal Harbour.

Before heading back to the car and home, we stopped for pastries and coffee at the Admiral Cafe & Bistro. Very tasty Caffe Latte (best-tasting I've had in a while), and very tasty pastries too, though prices were a little higher and the setting a little fancier than where we would usually take the kids. (My daughter picked a very yummy blueberry & cranberry lemon tart that came drizzled with syrup: she immediately ditched the tart, but ate all the syrup. Fine pastries may be wasted on certain 4-year olds...) The staff was friendly however, and we sat outside, watching the people, water, and traffic.

Getting there
  • If you're staying in downtown Vancouver, and it's not raining, then just go for a walk here.
  • If you're outside Vancouver, you can drive downtown and find somewhere to park (street-parking can be pricey downtown!). You could also get to Coal Harbour by taking the Skytrain to Gastown (Waterfront Station), and walking from there. Yes, it's a bit of a walk, but if you're into urban hikes, then this is a nice one.
  • From Coal Harbour you can walk to Stanley Park, or follow Denman Street all the way down to English Bay. There's more beautiful waterfront scenery there, and Denman St. is packed with interesting little shops, cafes, and restaurants.

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