Seawall & City, Art & Eatables in Vancouver
City Tour, 10 miles
The gem of Vancouver’s public space, and our best recreational bike route by far, is the seawall. Construction around the Stanley Park portion began in 1917 and now at 22km provides a continuous public space separated from vehicle traffic along almost all of central Vancouver’s waterfront. It’s pretty impressive — so good one wonders if it’s the reason Vancouver doesn’t have a central plaza or any pedestrian streets, but that’s another matter. In recent years Vancouver has also made great strides in building 8 to 80 (safe for 8 to 80 year olds) accessible separated bicycle infrastructure throughout city streets. This tour aims to give a taste of the seawall and recent separate bike paths, along with a healthy dose of some of my favourite pieces of public art, cafés and watering holes. Oh, and there’s a first rate gelato shop and amazing Chinese garden.
The whole route can be cycled at a leisurely pace in about an hour and a half or you can take most of the day if you linger at many of the stops. Almost all of the route is separated from traffic, except for two short sections on not-too-busy roads which are local bike streets or have painted bike lanes. Most of the seawall is separated into pedestrian and wheeled paths, though several sections are shared — keep an eye on the signage and it will make sense. Kids are welcome in all of the establishments listed.
- Spokes - $25+ daily for cruiser, city, mountain, road, tandem, kids, trail-a-bike, trailer, child seat
- Bayshore - $30+ daily for cruiser, mountain, hybrid, tandem, kids, trail-a-bike or trailer. Locks extra
- English Bay - $30+ daily for cruiser, mountain, folding, tandem and kids. Helmets and locks included.
- EzeeRiders - $24+ daily for cruiser, mountain, road, electric, tandem, kids, trailer.
- Reckless - $30+ daily for city, cruiser, road, electric, tandem, trail-a-bike, trailer and baby seat. Includes helmet, lock, basket and map.
- Start of ride - Main Street-Science World, Skytrain's Expo & Millennium lines
- End of ride - Stadium-Chinatown, Skytrain's Expo & Millennium lines
- System Map
What to Bring?
Camera, Swimsuit (for children's waterpark & beach), Money for Chinese Garden or Science World, Pannier or Basket to carry shopping from Granville Public Market
A. Science World 1455 Quebec St | www.scienceworld.ca | (604) 443-7440
The seawall and city tour starts at the foot of False Creek at Science World, the massive golf ball, a left over from Expo ’86. If you have kids or you’re a Rube Goldberg fan, check out the Tower of Bauble, a rolling ball kinetic sculpture outside the entrance.
B. CRAFT Beer Market 85 W 1st Ave | www.craftbeermarket.ca | (604) 709-2337
For a beer (They have over a 100 taps) or something more substantial head to Craft Beer Market, housed in the Salt Building, a beautifully restored timber frame warehouse.
C. Giant Jelly Beans Seaside Bike Path
On the ride to Granville Island, you’ll pass the giant jelly beans of Charleston park. It’s pretty hard to ride by these without stopping to check them out. When else will you get the chance to sit on a 5’ high jelly bean?
D. Granville Island
When you have a visitor from out of town, Granville Island is where you take them, a special place, touristy but not tacky or boring for a local. If you are here in summer, there’s a great playground and water park between the Kids Only Market and the community centre. Granville Island has relaxed zoning laws; it’s only here you will find an art collage next to a cement plant next to a theatre next to a covered market next to a restaurant next to boatyard. The market is a great place to forage for a picnic lunch. Highlights of the market are OYAMA Sausage Co, for incredible paté, saucisson sec and cured meats that are on par with Europe’s best. Not surprising from a small long running family business headed up by a 5th generation charcuterie craftsman and his wife. Benton Brothers has a excellent selection cheese, while Zara’s has some excellent humus. But before you go make sure you don’t miss ‘Giants’, painted by Brazilian graffiti artist and twin brothers OSGEMEOS on the Ocean cement plant silos. The silos were painted in 2014 as part of the Vancouver Biennale.
E. Musette Caffe 1262 Burrard St | www.musettecaffe.com | (604) 336-1159
Next, over the Burrard bridge to the Westend and the downtown peninsula. You will get a little taste of some of Vancouver’s new separation cycle paths on the lead up to the bridge. If you need a coffee or an amazing gluten free salted chocolate chip cookie, stop at the bike café Musette, a great little café hidden off the street in an alley behind a defunct car dealership. It has a kid’s table with distractions for the little ones, and a small shop-in-shop vending a handsome selection of bike apparel and accessories. This café will only be open for a few more months before the lot is developed; however, a second location in Chinatown across from the Dr. Sun Yet-Sen gardens has opened if you’re pining for that cookie when the doors have closed.
F. Lost Lagoon
Following the seawall path into Stanley Park will take you inland, crossing from the English Harbour side to the Burrard Inlet and Coal Harbour side. Along this stretch we will pass Lost Lagoon, an artificial lake that used to be tidal mudflats that extended from Coat Harbour. Named by Pauline Johnson, the Lost Lagoon is one of Canada’s early literary stars, named so because she loved to paddle her canoe there, but being tidal it could sometimes be lost to her for days. The park board officially named it Lost Lagoon after they turned it into a lake.
G. Chinese Garden 578 Carrall St | www.vancouverchinesegarden.com | (604) 662-3207
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese garden has two parts — a public park and, separated by a wall but joined by a pond, a classical Chinese garden with an admission fee. Opened in 1986 this was the first classical Chinese garden built outside China. The Feng Shui is pretty much perfect in here, a good spot to slow down, gather your thoughts and exhale before the last push into Gastown. $14 Adult, $28 Family
H. Alibi Room 157 Alexander St | www.alibi.ca | (604) 623-3383
However, if you’re a beer nut hold out for one last short ride east. The Alibi Room is arguably Vancouver’s finest beer pub, 40 plus taps, usually 3 or more casks on the go and the food is consistently great. The Beef Bourgogne was amazing last time I was there; however, the beer and food menu changes constantly, which would be annoying if wasn’t always getting better.