I've always wanted to live abroad so I feel very fortunate that in December of 2018 I was lucky enough to head to, what I learned to be, the very dog friendly Vancouver BC (Berlin, my 10 year old Shepard mix, and I crossed the border into Canada with ease since the only requirement was proof of her current rabies vaccination, which they didn't even ask to see).
I knew two things before I left Los Angeles:
Berlin and I were going to have lots of adventures, rain or shine, and that the Venetian blinds in our short term rental needed to be temporarily replaced.
Well, you see, Berlin is a very mellow dog except in three situations: 1) After a bath (who doesn't love the post-bath zoomies?) 2) At the beach where she runs in circles in the sand and 3) When she wants to get outside, be it to lay out in the sun or escape a scary sound. It's in this third situation we've learned Venetian blinds don't stand a chance. More on dog anxieties in a future post.
Want to hear about what happened before we arrived at the crossing? Read PART ONE — Dog Friendly Road Trip: Los Angeles to Vancouver at http://feetandpaws.com/dog-friendly-road-trip_la-vancouver_inland/
What I didn't know was how much I would cherish this time together, even as it was happening.
So, let's talk about all the fun dog friendly activities Berlin and I enjoyed in Vancouver. If you haven't guessed it already, it was winter so there was lots and lots of rain, but we didn't let that stop us.
PART TWO — A winter month in dog friendly Vancouver, B.C.
Downtown Vancouver is the southeastern portion of a peninsula and is almost entirely enclosed by a seawall. This path, which also extends around Stanley Park and all the way to Granville Island, is the world's longest uninterrupted waterfront path. Almost immediately upon our arrival I decided that Berlin and I should walk it in it's entirety, in small portions, with one exception. We had a good reason though!
One challenge of going on long walks with your dog in an urban area is the availability of, well, dog-friendly, human restrooms.
Though there were typically large facilities at the popular public areas, 'we' had to be more creative on some of our walks. Over the course of the month we were there, a pet store was kind of enough to let me use their employee only bathroom and on another day I was able to convince a firehouse to let me use theirs (it was small but very clean). Ultimately I love these situations because you get to engage with locals, which in a cell phone world, is becoming less and less necessary while traveling.So, in part due to this hurdle, the only section Berlin and I did not walk was from Science World to Kitsilano Beach. I heard there was a lovely dog friendly beach at the latter though. Had there not been one down the street from us, we might have included this destination on our to-do list.
Note: A lot of the Seawall includes a separate ONE-WAY bike lane. Berlin and I walked and therefore did not have to abide by this regulation. The list below reflects what direction we walked to get the best view.
If I had to break down the Seawall into my favorite locations, they would be:
- The Teahouse in Stanley Park to Prospect Point (the seawall takes you below Prospect Point Lookout so if you'd like to access this vantage point, consult a trail map)
- Vancouver Rowing Club to Hallelujah Point, particularly at dusk
- English Bay to Second Beach, either direction
To see a map of the entire seawall, visit https://vancouver.ca/files/cov/Seawall-Printable-Map3.pdf
There is almost an absurd amount of residential high rises in Vancouver but perhaps because of this, there are also so many dogs. This made our walks and adventures really lovely, especially since all the dogs we meet were well socialized. Now I've done a fair bit of traveling around the world and after being in several dog friendly cities (sadly without Berlin), I have a theory why dogs in most dog friendly cities behave so well. It's not just the availability and accessibility of dog parks, dog friendly trails, restaurants, and stores, but the lack of private yards. When a yard is not available, dog owners need to take their dog on walks as opposed to letting them outside to do their business solo. When a dog is walked regularly, especially from a young age, they are exposed to sounds, people, and of course other dogs, as well as given the opportunity to strengthen their bond with their owner. I'll come back to this in a bit.
With a population of 55,000 and footprint of 1.7km (1 mile) by 3km (1.86 miles), there are 8 off-leash dog parks in the Downtown Vancouver / Stanley Park area. If I'm being generous and include some non sanctioned off leash dog parks, Los Angeles (Inglewood to Sherman Oaks and Santa Monica to Downtown) has about 14 dog parks. Population: Millions. Sadly, not even one of those is on a beach. Not that I don't love Los Angeles, but Vancouver leaves us much to aspire to in this department.
Getting back on track, each of Vancouver's dog parks has a different look and feel. Some are on the waterfront and not even fully enclosed, others are entirely fenced in and surrounded by many of those residential high rises, and two are even on the beach!
Here is the list of the downtown dog parks in order of our most to least favorite:
- Sunset Beach Park (Beach, 'Fenced'): Berlin and I went here as much as possible. She had a ball running back and forth along the shoreline and even contemplated plunging into the cold, winter water to chase the birds a few times. There's a fence/gate at the entrance and a steep staircase down to the beach, which is not enclosed since there are piers and a bridge at either side of the strip.
- Devonian Harbour Park (1929 W Georgia Street, Fenced): Is there a fence present? Yes. Does the fence enclose the dog park? No. Does the fence look like it's just decorative? Yes. This waterfront park is just outside Stanley Park and nicely maintained.
- Coopers' Park (1020 Marinaside Cres-Grass field east of the Cambie Street Bridge): The park is also waterside and well maintained but they don't even pretend to enclose it with even a small decorative fence.
- CRAB Park at portside (101 E Waterfront Road-East side of the park, Beach): This park would be higher on the list if it was easier to access / safer to walk to and from. Once we were there Berlin might have laid down for an afternoon nap in the rare appearance of the sun. It was lovely looking out over the water to North Vancouver.
- Nelson Park (1030 Bute Street, Fenced): This was the park we visited the most because it is smack in the middle of the great Westend area, where our apartment was located. It's fully enclosed by a fence that is maybe 3-4 feet high, or I guess I should say 1-1.2 meters.
- Emery Barnes Park (Corner of Davie and Richards streets, Fenced)
- Stanley Park (Shuffleboard court area, Fenced): This park is probably great for locals to enjoy but I wouldn't say it's a must-see for you and your traveling dog. That is unless you're walking by and want to give them the opportunity to run off-leash as opposed to walking around the nice grass area outside the dog park.
- Andy Livingstone Park (89 Expo Blvd., Fenced): Ok, this is the park we didn't actually go into because we were warned about it being in a sketchy area known for drug activity. Instead we enjoyed nearby Creekside Park which had a wonderful, unique boardwalk and sand area.
For even more information about all the dog parks in Vancouver, visit https://vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/dog-off-leash-areas.aspx
Oh Stanley Park, where do I begin? We enjoyed walking your seawall, especially at dusk, running through your trails, especially during a light rain where we were protected by the umbrella of your trees, and getting lost in your forests, because who doesn't love climbing over and under fallen giants?
To say that I treasure all of our outings here is an understatement. We miss it everyday.
Some highlights of the park are:
- Hollow Tree
- Prospect Point
- Brockton Point Lighthouse
- Siwash Point
- Beaver Lake
- Lost Lagoon
- Totem Poles
- Environmental Art Walk
Now, there are some logistics you should know before you go:
- There is a charge to park. Prices vary by season and visit length.
- Credit cards are accepted at all pay stations.
- Hourly passes are available at all pay stations but daily passes are NOT available at all pay stations.
- The loop road is one-way going counter-clockwise. Plan accordingly.
- There are many bathroom facilities throughout the park. Of course, it is an outdoor nature park so, you know, if you got to go, you got to go.
- It's technically an on-leash park.
- No, sea lions have not invaded Stanley Park. You're just walking close to the aquarium!
And I would be doing you a disservice if I didn't give you just one more tip about Stanley Park.
Plan to get lost.
Even though the trails are well marked, cell reception is good (at least for me), and you don't want get a parking ticket, give yourself some time (and money on your parking pass) to just soak it all in and perhaps go left when you might have gone right.
Capilano Suspension Park
The Capilano Suspension Park is home to the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which is 450 feet (140 meters) long and 230 feet (70 meters) above the Capilano River. It's a very popular attraction and I'm pretty sure it's ALWAYS crowded.
After successfully crossing the bridge with Berlin, among the park's other attractions, we also got to enjoy their holiday light display. I got to say, it was one of the best I've ever seen and a nice perk for visiting in December! They even had two sections that responded to your sounds (a clap or foot stomp) and a forest of floating orbs. It was beautiful.
The icing on the cake was the treetop adventure. We had so much fun crisscrossing from tree house to tree house. Note: The suspended walkways in this treetop section were not very wobbly BUT you do have to cross the long suspension bridge to get here.
With this in mind I should say that this park isn't going to be for every person or dog. So, before you plunk down the money for the pricey admission ticket, I suggest going for a hike at Lynn Canyon to see how you and your dog do on a much shorter suspension bridge. This way you can gauge you and your dog's ability and willingness to cross wobbly bridges without spending money on admission.
That said, there is a huge difference between the Capilano and Lynn Canyon's Bridges and how much they sway. If after visiting Lynn Canyon there is any question at all about your dog crossing Capilano Suspension Bridge, I suggest you leave them at home when you visit. **Remember, never force your dog into any situation, especially when it involves a wobbly pedestrian bridge that is suspended hundreds of feet in the air. Encourage them, listen (to their body language), be supportive, not forceful.
Lynn Canyon Park
This was one of our first adventures after arriving in Vancouver. My Dad stayed in town a few extra days and we wanted to see what it was like outside of the downtown area.
Lynn Canyon was the perfect destination for a great hike.
Unlike Capilano Park, it's free and therefore a great way to see what Berlin though of a Suspension Bridge.
Read about our road trip to Vancouver—
Part One: Dog Friendly Road Trip, Los Angeles to Vancouver
When snow doesn't come to you, you go to it!—
Part Three: A Dog-Friendly Day Trip to Whistler
Same destination, different route—
Part Four: Heading Back. Dog Friendly Road Trip: Driving the West Coast with my Dog from Vancouver to Los Angeles