Cycling Vancouver’s Seawall & Seaside

Whale spout off of English Bay beach (past kayak). October 2015.

Whale spout off of English Bay beach (past kayak). October 2015.

[May 2017. The False Creek seawall between Cambie and Granville Island (pink line on map) path construction is not over, but the seawall is open again.

There is construction on Point Grey road and surrounding roads, requiring detours south, but it’s usually open despite the signs.]

From Downtown Vancouver to Kitsilano, Vancouver’s seawall is over twenty kilometers of cycling adventure. And with the bicycle route extending further from Kitsilano to UBC and beyond, you can tour almost forty kilometers of Vancouver’s seaside shoreline and beaches virtually any time of the year!

We’ve cycled the seawall for years and provide maps and tips and suggestions for making your ride safe and enjoyable in any weather and at any time of the year. Part of exploring an area includes an understanding of its history, so we’ve included brief outlines of the history of each area.

You may not want to ride the whole forty kilometers all at once! From docks to park to urban paths and beaches, we’ve divided the official seawall and seaside routes into four practical sections you can do all of, or some of. There’s a map below:

…Well, we added UBC for fun and exercise. It’s hardly a seaside route. It’s up a big hill by the ocean, so we’ve included a hike down to Wreck Beach.

Here’s a map of the routes:

Vancouver Seawall & Seaside Bike Path (dark green lines are city bike routes):

The seaside path is roughly shaped like an “S” as it runs along points and inlets. At the north-east top of the “S” – along the Vancouver harbour and docks, the harbour-side route is in three linear sections forming a long top line from Burnaby all the way over to downtown, broken by harbour industry. The formal “seawall” runs through the “S” proper from Coal Harbour around Stanley Park and the West End through False Creek and around to Kitsilano. The remaining seaside route, not a part of the formal seawall, extends a long final horizontal line through Kitsilano and the Point Grey beaches, finally ending at the western end of Spanish Banks on Point Grey.

History

A continuous seaside path has been in the imagination of Vancouver’s farsighted planners and citizens for many decades now – perhaps all along. The Stanley Park seawall was begun in 1917, partly for erosion control purposes, and not finished until 1980.

Other parcels of land have been picked up as they have become available. Vanier Park and Jericho were former military reserves turned over to the city. Hadden Park which is a short strip of park connecting Vanier Park to Kitsilano Beach was acquired with that objective in mind, and in 1928 Vanier Park became joined to Kitsilano Beach.

With the gradual rehabilitation of False Creek from industrial to residential land, the seawall path has been completed as development continues. The south shore was the first to be developed in the sixties and seventies.

The north shore of False Creek remained industrial until Expo ’86, and the route of the seawall was laid out through vacant lots enclosed by chainlink fence on the old fair grounds, until a march of continuous residential development grew around it from the early 90s to now.

Today the effort still goes on. The focus now is on connecting Kitsilano Beach to Jericho Beach in Point Grey. It’s a difficult proposition because residences block the way. If you happen to go down Point Grey road, though, note the small pocket parks along the shore – Margaret Piggot Park, Jean Beaty Park, Volunteer Park, and a couple of “Point Grey Road” parks lie in wait for a future extension, and provide access to the shore. As the Park Board website describes it, “The purchasing of waterfront property along Point Grey Road, to open it for public access, has long been an objective of the Park Board.” But with the cost of property these days, will they ever be able to afford it?

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