Greater Vancouver, also known as Lotus Land, offers a wonderful array of public gardens, parks, and beaches, where residents and visitors alike frolic. You can always count on there being enough room for you to play somewhere around town.
In 1792, when Captain Vancouver first sailed into English Bay and Burrard Inlet, he found a sheltered, deep-water harbour. One discovery he overlooked was the mouth of the Fraser River. That remained hidden from Europeans until Simon Fraser and his crew of transcontinental adventurers completed their voyage to the Pacific Ocean by canoe in 1808.
Not long ago, it used to be easy to distinguish Vancouver from its neighbours. Bridges spanned Burrard Inlet and the Fraser River to connect with communities to the north and south, while buffer zones of undeveloped land defined where the Big Smoke left off and all else to the east began.
By the 1970s, such distinctions had blurred to the point where one hardly noticed a transition from one city to the next, particularly between Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, and Port Moody. Today, Vancouver is just one swatch in a quilt of 23 cities, municipalities, villages, districts, and even a township. Although each still maintains its own history, flavour, and relative autonomy, together they form the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD).
There is a vast amount of green spaces and outdoor activities to take advantage of in this little corner of the province. From Bowen Island to Matsqui, the GVRD covers a swath of land 30 miles (50 km) long from the Strait of Georgia east into the Fraser Valley, and about the same distance wide from the North Shore Mountains to the Canada-US border.
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Among its many duties, the GVRD stewards 22 parks that range in size from diminutive Grant Narrows to massive Lynn Headwaters. Include the GVRD’s Seymour Demonstration Forest in the tally, and the total protected area is more than 41,480 acres (16,800 hectares). At the same time, BC Parks, the provincial parks department, also maintains a considerable presence around Greater Vancouver. For example, Cypress Provincial Park in West Vancouver is the busiest in the province, hosting more than a million visitors a year. The range of activities that visitors can pursue inside these parks encompasses all possible modes of exploration – biking, fishing, hiking, skiing, paddling, and swimming.
Many people – residents and visitors alike – view Greater Vancouver as a staging area for adventures in the wilder territories of the province. This region contains one of the most urbanized areas in Canada, with all the attendant benefits and drawbacks that implies. Even so, it’s surprisingly easy to get around the metropolitan core, which teems with parks, beaches, and cycling and walking destinations.
On every corner, it seems, there is a pocket of green space. In the midst of concrete and glass will be an oasis of trees and grass. From the famous Stanley Park to the infamous Wreck Beach, Vancouver is awash with outdoor possibilities. Add to that its world-class restaurants and attractions, and you have enough activities to keep you in this corner of the universe forever. Vancouver is one of the most desirable cities on the planet to explore. It’s time you checked it out for yourself.
The following communities are located in Greater Vancouver: