Vancouver's Great Green Spaces
Icelandair Stopover Magazine
Fringed by glittering ocean and sawtooth mountain peaks, Vancouver’s dramatic natural setting is its greatest asset. But you don't have to leave the city to commune with this tree-hugging outdoor edge. Read on for a bouquet of brilliant urban green spaces––from vast woodlands to cultivated gardens––then dive in on your next visit to British Columbia’s glass-towered metropolis.
A Vancouver must-see, this 404-hectare oceanfront peninsula can be crammed with summer visitors. But follow the locals beyond the crowded Seawall to find a magical, cathedral-calm interior. Start at Lost Lagoon’s Stanley Park Nature House for flora and flora insights, then slowly explore tranquil, tree-shaded pathways including Beaver Lake Trail (beaver-sightings often included).
Pacific Spirit Regional Park
Almost double Stanley Park’s size, B.C.’s temperate rainforest is on full display at this lush, easy-access woodland preserve on the city’s West Side. You’ll find a greatest hits array of Pacific Northwest trees––from towering cedars to bristly hemlocks––plus an ever-present menagerie of resident racoons, feisty Douglas squirrels and jewel-like little hummingbirds.
Vancouver’s outdoor spaces aren't all about trees. This 8.5km-long former rail line between Kitsilano and the Fraser River is a newly created linear park where public art and viewing platforms are being planned. But it’s already open to the public, creating a popular promenade and cycling route flanked by fluttering butterflies and a kaleidoscope of wildflowers.
Vancouver Public Library Rooftop Garden
An even newer green space opened in 2018. But you’ll need to leave terra firma to find it. Nip into downtown’s elliptical, Colosseum-like library building, press floor nine in the elevator and then step out into a lofty ‘secret garden’ lined with white roses, café tables and ornamental maple trees. A calming break from the busy streets, the elevated cityscape views are a highlight here.
Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
A 15-minute walk away, this meticulously landscaped oasis exemplifies traditional Chinese horticulture, from gnarly-fingered pine trees to intricate pebble walkways. Its tile-topped walls also enclose a mirror-calm pond where vivid koi carp nose beneath flowering lily pads. It’s a paid-admission attraction but there’s a free-entry park next door with similar features.
VanDusen Botanical Garden
Foliage-fringed walkways radiate from a large pond studded with statue-still turtles at this delightful 22-hectare attraction. Displaying a vast array of local and international plantlife (discreetly signposted for easy identification), you’ll find everything from blooming rhododendrons to sprightly monkey-puzzle trees. Don’t miss the tunnel-like laburnum walk and that head-scratching hedge maze.
Hugging the city’s inviting shoreline, this grassy picnic magnet serves-up panoramic views of sparkling ocean, looming mountains and boat-studded tangerine sunsets. A kite-flying hotspot, the park’s Museum of Vancouver also houses a fascinating First Nations gallery, while its beloved Bard on the Beach Shakespeare festival opens its pop-up tented stages here from June to October.
John Hendry Park
Locally known as Trout Lake Park, this busy East Vancouver gathering place takes on a festival feel every Saturday from May to mid-October when it hosts the city’s biggest farmers’ markets. Fuel-up on bakery treats, craft beer samples and fresh B.C. produce (from sweet blueberries to luscious peaches), then explore the park’s lakeside trails before nipping back for a hearty food truck lunch.