There is plenty of cycling to be done in New Westminster, BC – but not a lot of it is easy or family-friendly. But don’t despair! This post provides an overview of New Westminster cycling, and then focuses in on best place for you to enjoy cycling with your family in New Westminster: the newly redeveloped New Westminster quay.
New Westminster has many enormous hills, which can make cycling challenging. However, the entire city is crisscrossed with cycling routes on the quieter roads. Unfortunately, opportunities for off-road cycling are limited and tend to be short parts of longer bike routes. For example, there is the Millennium Trail in Queens Park, as well as the Brunette-Fraser Regional Greenway. Both of these are pleasant but short.
Some parts of the Central Valley Greenway are off-road, such as the part that runs through Hume Park – however, this part is short and includes a giant hill. (Read all about the Central Valley Greenway and watch a video about it here.) If you continue west along the Central Valley Greenway from Hume Park, you cross North Road (on a pedestrian light), go along a short section of narrow sidewalk, and then enter the Brunette Forest. This offers magnificent off-road cycling in a forest, next to a river. However, you have left New Westminster behind and are now in Burnaby.
Long segments of the BC Parkway are off-road. However, due to the Kilimanjaro-like geography of New Westminster, these segments are mainly uphill (or downhill if you are heading towards the Fraser River).
Note that in New Westminster it is legal to cycle on the sidewalks – and you may HAVE to sometimes, to stay safe. North Road on the Central Valley Greenway being a prime example.
Family-friendly Cycling in Queens Park
Queens Park is a simply magnificent park in New Westminster. It is enormous, and has many cycling trails, as well as a kiddie park, a water park, and even a free petting zoo. And it is a perfect place to teach a child to ride a bike.
Family-friendly Cycling on the New Westminster Quay
You can get to the New Westminster Quay from the New Westminster skytrain station, and from the Columbia skytrain station. The New Westminster skytrain station is your best bet, as it has an elevator to get your bikes to ground level, and is just a block away from the Quay. (Try to ignore the ongoing, nightmarish renovations going on – it is like a team of experts got together to – successfully – devise the most HORRIBLE skytrain station in the universe.)
Avert your eyes from the chaos, (try to) follow the signs, and just head down Begbie Street, cross Columbia Street and the railway line, and you’re there! The iconic giant tin soldier is right in the middle of the Quay, so look out for him.
Unfortunately, our dog Billy finally noticed that the tin soldier has a face, and is now terrified of him. So whenever we pass him, Billy has a little hysterical meltdown, punctuated by fierce growling at the giant-sized figure – quite amusing from an 11-pound dog!
Another way to get to the Quay is to walk from the corner of Columbia and 4th Streets, or park on the roof parking that can be accessed from that intersection. Drum rolll … the elevator from the parking garage roof down to the Quay is finally up and running (it was very possibly the slowest installation of an elevator in the history of the world, but it IS open now. Except if it’s out of order again, and being subjected to the slowest elevator repair in the history of the world). Alternatively, there is plenty of parking right at New West Quay, most of it paid parking, accessible from Begbie Street.
Here is a video of cycling the entire length of the New West Quay here – starting from the far end of the new Quayside Park, and going all the way to the kids’ play park at the opposite end, at the end of the board walk.
There is so much to do at the New Westminster Quay that you could spend the entire day there. It has three play areas for children, a boardwalk for walking and cycling, many restaurants and two pubs, some shopping at the New Westminster Public Market, and the Fraser River Discovery Center. Last but certainly not least, there is the brand new Quayside Park, which includes an artificial beach and hammocks, as well as a small concession.
Quayside Park on the New Westminster Quay
The entire New Westminster Quay is continuously being developed as a riverfront recreation area. The latest addition is Quayside Park, which is a short walk east of the Market (it’s right next to the car park). You can let the kids play in one of the two parks, while you relax in a large lounge chair, or on one of the hammocks. The park also has a small artificial beach (they trucked in the sand) which is used primarily for beach volley ball. It is not possible to swim in the river.
Future plans include linking this park with other water front areas further east. Hopefully I will live to see the day when you can cycle all the way along, and not be forced to cycle on alway-busy Columbia Street.
Take a break at the Paddlewheeler Pub,where you can relax and have a drink or a meal on the patio, with your bike locked up where you can see it.
Or pick up something to eat at the Food Court, and eat it at the tables outside, overlooking the Fraser River. Often there will be musical entertainment while you eat.
Options at the food court include the Re-Up Barbecue Restaurant, offering really top-notch barbecued food. There is also a coffee and gelatto shop, a burger place, a tea shop and a bakery. Close to the food court is Donald’s Market.
For more formal eating, there is the very different and eclectic Wild Rice Restaurant (unique Asian-fusion cuisine with many vegan options). It offers a great social and dining experience every time we go there. Great place to go with a group and share plates! You can eat indoors or outdoors – so it is another place where you can lock your bikes within view.
There is also a Boathouse Restaurant overlooking the water. Like all Boathouse Restaurants, this one never disappoints, with great food and service. But if you plan to go, make a booking – it is extremely popular. Of course, you can almost always go into the lounge, even if you don’t have a booking.
Bike Rentals on New Westminster Quay
If you like, you can rent a bike right on the quay. There is a tiny bike rentals store right next to Donald’s Market, underneath the pedestrian bridge. It’s called Cap’s Bike Rentals and Fraser River Bike Tours. You can rent bikes for as little as five dollars an hour – best deal in the Royal City!
You will need photo ID and a credit card to rent bikes. They also offer bike tours. And you can get a cycling map of the area from them (or download it from their website).
Activities for Kids on the New Westminster Quay
Of course, the boardwalk is a great place for small children learning to ride their bikes. It gives them plenty of space to safely perfect their skills. Read about how to encourage kids to cycle here.
Apart from cycling and walking, there are also many other activities for kids on the New Westminster Quay. There is a display tug left over from Expo 86, that is now used as a play and exploration area.
Apart from that, there are three kid’s parks, and the Fraser River Discovery Center. The Fraser River Discovery Center has many interesting displays, as well as fun activities upstairs for younger kids. The mission of the Fraser River Discovery Center is to be the Voice of the Fraser: presenting the stories of the Fraser River and their contributions to the life, history, and future of British Columbia.
Here’s an interesting short video about the Fraser River Discovery Center. It also includes video of the Quay itself.
The Fraser River is a working river, so you will be entertained on the New Westminster Quay by a procession of tugs and barges.
Across the River you can also see the Fraser-Surrey Docks. And there are river tours available from Paddle Wheeler Riverboat Tours. The ticket office is next to the Discovery Center. We did the Sunday Brunch Tour once with my mom for mother’s day – it was great!
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