Beautiful Stanley Park is a lush 405-hectare (1,000-acre) tree- and garden-carpeted peninsula jutting out into Burrard Inlet. It is a sight for sore eyes in any weather—an enormous peaceful oasis sandwiched between the city center’s skyscrapers and the North Shore  at the other end of Lions Gate Bridge. Unlike other famous parks, such as New York’s Central Park and London’s Royal Park, Stanley Park is a permanent preserve of wilderness in the heart of the city, complete with dense coastal forests and abundant wildlife.
Walk or cycle the 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) Seawall Promenade or drive the perimeter via Stanley Park Drive to take in beautiful water and city views. Travel along both is one-way in a counterclockwise direction (those on foot can go either way, but if you travel clockwise you’ll be going against the flow). For vehicle traffic, the main entrance to Stanley Park is at the beginning of Stanley Park Drive, which veers right from the end of Georgia Street; on foot, follow Denman Street to its north end and you’ll find a pathway leading around Coal Harbour into the park.
Either way, you’ll pass a small information booth where park maps are available. Just before the booth, take Pipeline Road to access Malkin Bowl, home to outdoor theater productions; a rose garden; and forest-encircled Beaver Lake. Pipeline Road rejoins Stanley Park Drive near the Lions Gate Bridge, but by not returning to the park entrance you’ll miss most of the following sights.
Located in the forest behind the information booth, the Vancouver Aquarium (845 Avison Way, 604/659-3474, daily 9:30 a.m.–7 p.m. in summer, daily 9:30 a.m.–5 p.m. the rest of the year, adult $22, senior $17, child $14) is Canada’s largest aquarium. More than 8,000 aquatic animals and 600 species are on display, representing all corners of the planet, from the oceans of the Arctic to the rainforests of the Amazon.
Pacific Canada is of particular interest as it contains a wide variety of sea life from the Gulf of Georgia, including the giant fish of the deep, halibut, and playful little sea otters who frolic in the kelp. At the far end of the aquarium, a large pool holding beluga whales—distinctive pure white marine mammals—and sea lions, which can be viewed from above or below ground, represents Arctic Canada.
The following sights are listed counterclockwise from the information booth. From this point, Stanley Park Drive and the Seawall Promenade pass the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club and then Deadman’s Island, the burial place of the last of the Coast Salish people. At Brockton Point is a collection of authentic totem poles from the Kwagiulth people, who lived along the coast north of present-day Vancouver .
Before rounding the actual point itself, you’ll pass the Nine O’Clock Gun, which is fired each evening at—you guessed it—9 p.m. The Lions Gate Bridge marks the halfway point of the seawall and a change in scenery. From this point to Second Beach the views are westward toward the Strait of Georgia. This stretch of pleasant pathway, about two kilometers (1.2 miles) long, is sandwiched between the water and steep cliffs, with Siwash Rock the only distinctive landmark.
Continuing south, the seawall and Stanley Park Drive converge at the south end of Third Beach, a popular swimming and sunbathing spot (and a great place to watch the setting sun). From Second Beach it’s only a short distance to busy Denman Street and English Bay Beach, or you can cut across the park past Lost Lagoon and back to Coal Harbour.