Why the Vancouver Seawall is My Happy Place

Vancouver’s winding waterfront path is the perfect spot for walking, cycling, and, for this shutterbug, photography.

1 / 6
Vancouver Seawall - Mother And Son
Photo: Courtesy Violet St. Clair
Stephen and Violet.

The Vancouver Seawall is One of the City’s Best Treasures

My mother blessed me with an abiding love of Canada and its stunning variety of land, water and people. Although I have enjoyed travelling to many places in the world, Canada’s abundant natural beauty and mosaic of cultures is dazzling. One of my delights is to visit my son Stephen in Vancouver, where I get to enjoy endless days spent along the Vancouver Seawall.

2 / 6
Vancouver Seawall - Geese at Stanley Park seawall
Photo: Violet St. Clair
English Bay resident geese—Huey, Dewey and Louie.

A Kaleidoscopic Backdrop

Completed in 1980, it is surely one of Vancouver’s best treasures, as well as a magnet that draws people from all over to meet and greet by the water. So grab a coffee, find a bench and enjoy the show!

English Bay provides a shifting and kaleidoscopic backdrop. Gigantic freighters anchor and await their turn at dock. Sailboats, kayaks, paddle boarders and small cabin cruisers fill the empty spaces between these monoliths. Small ferry taxis, cute as bugs, dart back and forth from shore to shore. Once in a while, a flock of geese will glide silently by in single file, watchful and slightly bemused. Add a few seagulls keening and careening and, voila, you have a moment worthy of a Monet painting.

Explore more of Canada’s best beaches.

3 / 6
Sikh friends at Stanley Park seawall
Photo: Violet St. Clair
A colourful shot on an April afternoon.

Bustling With Activity

Early morning practices by rowing teams complete the tableau experience, and on particularly calm and quiet Sunday mornings, the commands of the coxswain drift across the waters.

Closer to shore, it is immediately apparent that Vancouverites love their dogs. All sizes and breeds. Jogging along with their humans, disrupting the lives of the pigeons, meeting up with their canine brethren and, sometimes, for the more infirm, just enjoying the scenery from the comfort of a doggie snuggly. As the cherry blossoms bloom, many don their spring fashions—pink ruffles around the shoulders of the girls, muted grey and blue hoodies for the boys. Autumn fleeces arrive for October and November.

There are people everywhere, and of such incredible diversity. Young Sikhs with patkas hurtling frisbees. Tightrope walkers high over the grass performing moves and shapes before an impromptu audience. The easy camaraderie among a group of friends, who grab a spot and begin to pass around sandwiches, and the tangled excitement of teenage girls with colourful hoops to twirl and toss. There are Croatian grandmothers sharing recent family photos, a knot of Japanese schoolmates giggling uncontrollably, a line of Spanish pre-schoolers, each little hand holding onto a rope, and a family of kite-flyers teasing and laughing as they compete for the highest spot. Soapy bubbles float by from one area and badminton birdies whiz by from another. What a delight! An hour later, a whole new set of vignettes will present themselves for your enjoyment. There is always change, movement and entertainment for all.

4 / 6
Girl reading on Vancouver waterfront
Photo: Violet St. Clair
Enjoying a quiet moment by the water.

Ocean Confessions

People bike, push carriages, walk with canes and roller blade or jog in enough fluorescent-coloured clothing to warrant sunglasses. Others simply pause to feed the gulls or enjoy some solitude on a log, bench or rock. Sidewalk philosophers write a multitude of sayings such as “Have you smiled at anyone today?” in chalk, meant to slow your hectic pace.

A group of people even set up a sign reading “ocean confessions” and offered biodegradable paper and pencil to passersby who had regrets, sorrows or wishes they wanted to write down and toss into the water.

I’ve even smiled at the sight of a happy man braving the March waters off Sunset Beach with nothing on but a smile. Of course, it was a different story 20 minutes later when security arrived.

Discover the hidden gems of British Columbia.

5 / 6
Girl in a Wetsuit statue in Stanley Park, Vancouver
Photo: Violet St. Clair
Sculpture of “Girl in a Wetsuit” on the north side of Stanley Park.

Photo Opportunities Are Endless

Each spot along the Vancouver Seawall has its own unique sights and sounds: the colour of cherry blossoms; the craftiness of crows; the poignant dedication plaques on benches and the sudden sound of the blues from a lone harmonica.

Everywhere, there are photographers, all hoping to capture that perfect picture of sun, sea and sand, some with lenses that stretch out a country mile. Whether pausing by the giant inukshuk or passing by the shimmering, jagged wall of glass-and-steel condos, where seaplanes take off, they search for that bit of visual drama.

Check out 10 essential experiences on Canada’s west coast.

6 / 6
Siwash Rock in Vancouver
Photo: Violet St. Clair
Siwash Rock, a prominent and ancient landmark.

The Siwash Rock

Vancouver Seawall sunsets are particularly inviting. Lovers pose for golden-coloured selfies, friends pause by Siwash Rock, families watch from the shoreline or the deck of a sailboat. One time, a solitary yoga enthusiast in a classic “tree pose” stood immobile and picture-perfect against the backdrop of a coral sky.

Yes, surely the Vancouver Seawall is one of the city’s greatest treasures.

Next, check out the best day trips from Vancouver.

Originally Published in Our Canada

Newsletter Unit