Route: Seaside Bike Route, Vancouver, BC
Surfaces: almost all paved
Difficulty level: very easy, almost all flat
Safety level: very safe, all off road
Distance: 15.8 km one way
Type of bike required: any, but a hybrid, mountain bike or cruiser would be the most comfortable
Suitable for: the whole family on bikes; also trikes, walkers, inline skates and wheelchairs
Congestion: can be very busy during peak, sunny hours. Gloriously quiet on an early, sunny weekday morning (starts to get busy around 10.00 a.m.)
Average Joe Cyclist Rating: Gold Bike-Star!
This is Part 1 of this post, about the Seaside Bike Route from Vancouver’s Convention Center to the exit from Stanley Park. Part 2 (which you can read here) is about the Seaside Bike Route from the exit from Stanley Park to the Maritime Museum.
Vancouver’s Seaside Bike Route runs along Vancouver’s Seawall. The Seaside Bike Route is a multi-use recreational route, located in the downtown core of Vancouver, BC, Canada. The Seawall begins at the Convention Centre at Coal Harbour on Burrard Inlet, then loops around the magnificent Stanley Park, goes along English Bay past the Old Pavilion, follows that up with an impressive arc around False Creek, then winds past Granville Island and ends up at Vancouver’s Maritime Museum.
Awesome Views and Endless Activities
The route offers awesome views and endless activities all the way. In a different post I wrote about the Stanley Park Seawall Bike Trail, which is the part of the trails that loops around Stanley Park. This is the original part of the Seawall. This post is about the rest of the Seawall, which you can explore by cycling along the Seaside Bike Route. The map below shows this incredibly fun route.
How to Find the Seaside Bike Route
Cyclists can pick up the Sea Side Bike route at Coal Harbour, at the northern end of the Hornby Bike Route. The Hornby SEPARATED Bike Route is one of Vancouver’s hard-won cycling miracles. However, getting from the Hornby Bike Route to the Sea Side Bike Route is a little tricky and requires negotiating a little dogleg.
Continue west all the way along the Hornby Bike Route. You will cross Hastings on a pedestrian/bike crossing, and once across you should turn sharp left, staying on the bike route on the far right of Hastings street (and watching out for pedestrians, as it gets tangled up here). Continue for just one block. Cross Burrard, take a right on the far side of Burrard onto a narrow, separate bike lane, and continue on for two blocks, crossing Cordova, and staying on the extremely well-marked bike route. You will then get to the street pictured above. It’s Canada Place, which you cross over, and then cycle up onto the sidewalk (heading in the opposite direction to the two cyclists above).
In case it helps (and it will) here is a short video that shows the route I have just described:
So now you’ve got to the Seaside Bike Route – enjoy!
If you are interested in architecture, it’s well worth a detour to cycle around the perimeter of the Canada Place Convention Centre. It’s a unique building, originally built for Expo 86, and now used for conventions. (Turned out it wasn’t quite big enough, hence the other convention centre on the left-hand side of the bike route.)
Follow the bike route signs that direct you to turn left and go around the front of the Vancouver Convention Centre. On your right are beautiful water views of Vancouver Harbour; on your left are ample opportunities to buy coffee or breakfast. Also, a Trevor Linden Fitness Center offers the opportunity to rent a bike, if you’re not already on one.
Yachts, Views, Coffee and Food
Follow the signs and you will wind down to a smooth, paved pathway, right next to the scenic Burrard Inlet.
The next place you come to will be the splendidly-appointed Coal Harbour Community Centre, offering the opportunity to stop and use the washrooms, should you need to.
Then there’s a big, bright map, in case you want to get your bearings.
By this time you will be cycling past a seemingly endless yacht marina. In this area are several more opportunities for breakfast, coffee or gelato. Next you encounter the famous Cardero’s Restaurant, where you can sometimes see the top and bottom echelons of Vancouver society side by side, alongside literally millions of dollars worth of beautiful boats.
Right across the road is Café Villagio, which I know from experience offers good coffee and snacks, and has bike parking right outside (always my main criterion for whether to patronize a business).
Go on past the Westin Hotel, where the path veers sharply to the right, and there is a Starbucks handily placed. There’s also a clean washroom in the same building, close to the Starbucks.
Next there are some lunch restaurants, as well as the opportunity to charter a yacht, should you happen to be rich and shameless. On past some lovely waterside residences, that must cost more than I could earn in two lifetimes. You will pass by Harbour Cruises, where you might choose to go cruising in a less expensive fashion than chartering a yacht. Ahead and to the right you can see the beautiful Vancouver Rowing Club, backed by the forests of Stanley Park. Don’t go to the Rowing Club! You will be turning left before you get to it.
Soon you’ll come across a fork in the bike route. If you turn right at this point, you will cycle past the Vancouver Rowing Club and end up doing the Stanley Park loop, the Stanley Park Seawall Bike Route, which I wrote all about here.
If you go left, you’ll bypass Stanley Park and do the rest of the Seawall. To do the route I am writing about here, you should turn left. There is actually a signpost at this point to help you, although it’s somewhat confusingly marked, as it doesn’t say anything sensible such as “English Bay Beach.” Instead it says (somewhat mysteriously) “Chilco” (which turns out to be the name of another bike route.)
In any event, follow the sign towards “Chilco.” You will almost immediately go under a small bridge. On top of the bridge are cars wending their way towards Lion’s Gate Bridge, heading for North Vancouver. They you will see some beautiful sights that can only be seen in Stanley Park, such as this one:
Next you will find the solution to the mystery of the sign that says “Chilco.” The bike route splits in two, with the left side going up a hill and signposted “Chilco.” This is NOT the way to go. Instead, keep right and stay on the Seaside Bike Route.
Now you get to wind your way downhill past the always-pleasing Lost Lagoon with its seemingly endless supply of ducks, Canada Geese and swans. I tried to get a good photo of a swan, but discovered that it is impossible for me to take a photo that does justice to a swan.
Continue upon an outstanding cycling path, paved and surrounded by leafy, shady foliage. Soon you will come across a little wooden footbridge. Just before the wooden bridge, turn left, continuing to follow the cycle path. Along the way, expect more beautiful scenery:
Next you will pass a rhododendron garden on the left, well worth a look if you’re into that kind of thing. Then the path will duck under a little concrete bridge, with a sign that says (miracle upon miracle) “Cyclists ONLY”!!! I love this bridge because it’s the only bridge I have ever seen that says “Cyclists only.”
Go under the bridge, then meander right, and then take the first left, heading towards the water. The clue here is another signpost, this one directing you towards the “English Bay Bathhouse” – trust me, there is a whole lot more than a bathhouse ahead of you, so go that way, even if you are not an aficionado of bathhouses.
On your left will be a children’s playground and a decommissioned fire engine. You are now close enough to the water to enjoy the unmistakable brackish smell of the sea, and to start to hear the crying of the seagulls. From this point on, just keep following the signs, relax, and enjoy the scenery. You will arrive at the bottom of a little hill, clearly marked for cyclists on one side and pedestrians on the other.
It’s well worth stopping at the bottom of this hill to enjoy the views. In front of you is English Bay, stretching as far as the eye can see in both directions. As you look towards the water you will see the amazing Second Beach Pool to your right, nestled on the beach. Early in the morning there will be quite a few joggers around, but almost no cyclists (making it an excellent time to do this wonderful bike route).
The Seaside Bike Trail is so long and interesting that I cannot cover it all in one post. Click on the map below to see the second and final part of this post. Part 2 is about the part of the route that is colored red below.
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