Surrounded by lush green fields, quiet forest trails, and over eighty spacious parks, the Lower Mainland town of Surrey is the second-largest municipality in British Columbia and the ninth largest city in Canada. With over 200 recreational areas, Surrey certainly earns its motto as The City of Parks.
Incorporated in 1879, Surrey was named by Englishman H.J. Brewer, who looked out across the Fraser River from New Westminster and saw a lovely land that resembled his native County of Surrey in England.
Although First Nations people confined their travels in this area to hunting for waterfowl and gathering berries, European settlers were less choosey. They drained, dyked and cleared the tangled swampland into submission, seeking rich delta soil for their crops.
The Fraser River played a key role in the development of Surrey. As the first highway for pioneers, the Fraser was spanned by boat, barge, canoe and ferry. Surrey continues to be a primarily agricultural area to this day, although farmland has slowly been giving way to strip malls and subdivisions as Vancouver sprawls southward.
In order to avoid confusion when travelling in the Surrey area, it’s important to note that reference is often made to former villages such as Whalley, Newton, Cloverdale, and South Surrey, which have all amalgamated into the city of Surrey. Surrey has pleasant temperatures year round, less rainfall than many neighbouring communities, and a significant number of summer sunshine hours to fully enjoy a variety of outdoor pursuits.
Located at the crossroads of the Pacific Rim, Greater Vancouver and the United States, Surrey is accessible to all major cities in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. The recent addition of the Skytrain rapid transit line means Vancouver is less than 35 minutes away via public transit. Surrey is traversed to five major highways, four railways, deep-sea docking facilities and an international airport. The Canada/U.S. border puts City Centre businesses within easy access of local, national and world markets.
As one of the fastest growing cities in Canada, Surrey City Centre has been touted as the Lower Mainland’s Downtown for the Fraser Valley.
The Surrey Museum on 56A Avenue is the first new museum built in BC in the 21st century, offering a full schedule of fun activities to enjoy, exciting new state-of-the-art exhibits to visit, a 42-seat orientation theatre, and special events to take part in. Hands-on displays of Indian artifacts and pioneer antiquities are on display at the 24,000-square-foot museum, depicting the fascinating history of the Surrey area. The museum features exhibits of a selection of 5,000-year-old stone tools created by the indigenous people of the area, photographs of local pioneers, and historic artifacts depicting business and homelife in the 1900s to the 1930s. Open Tuesday to Saturday.
The Surrey Archives has an archival collection that contains historic photographs, newspaper clippings, diaries, manuscripts, oral history tapes, and a selection of civic records of Surrey. The archives are located in Surrey’s premier heritage building, the rehabilitated 1912 Municipal Hall on 56 Avenue.
The Surrey Art Gallery is a major public art museum that focuses on art made since 1975 including national traveling shows and new works by local and nationally recognized artists. Local art organizations display their work in the Surrey Arts centre lobby. A full program of artist’s talks, workshops and Family Days accompany exhibitions.
History is the key to the unique culture of Surrey, and is reflected in historic landmarks such as St. Helen’s Anglican Church, built in 1911, and the first Town Hall, completed in 1881.
Located on the banks of the Nicomekl River, the 1890s Historic Stewart Farmhouse transports visitors back in time to the elegance of the Victorian era and the hardworking days of pioneer farming. The homestead displays vintage agricultural tools and is furnished to represent the turn-of-the-century lifestyle of the Stewart family, who settled on the property in the 1880s. Elgin Heritage Park is the setting for the Stewart Farm, and offers a network of walking trails and tranquil picnic areas.
Darts Hill Garden is a rare jewel within Surrey. Given to the city in trust by Edwin and Francisca Darts, this garden estate features thousands of species and varieties of plants from around the world. The garden is internationally renowned and visited by interested keen amateur gardeners and professional horticulturists. Garden is closed annually in August and December.
Experience the excitement of live seasonal harness racing and year-round simulcast thoroughbred racing from around the world at Fraser Downs, which services the Fraser Valley with quality equestrian entertainment.
Discover the ancient art of textile making, weaving, spinning and dyeing, and view a collection of looms, spinning wheels and historic textiles at the Hooser Weaving Centre, located adjacent to the historic Stewart Farm.
Just north of the 168th Street Bridge is Cloverdale, one of Surrey’s five central hubs, where life in Surrey began as an agricultural and railroad community back in the 1870s. If you’re out for a leisurely drive, this is an excellent area in which to buy fresh vegetables and fruit from roadside stands. Also, on the west side of 168th Street between 50th Avenue and Colebrook Road, watch for a most unusual display of hubcaps affixed to the side of a large barn and on two tall poles at the entrance of a farm north of the bridge over the Nicomekl. Many farms on Westham Island also feature fresh fruit, vegetables, and flowers from June to October. You can hand-pick berries, or purchase vegetables and fresh flowers from a number of roadside stands.
Enter the rainforest and experience the wonder of nature at the Rainforest Reptile Refuge, a permanent shelter in Surrey for unwanted, abused and abandoned reptiles and amphibians. The Rainforest Reptile Refuge Society educates the public on poaching, habitat destruction and the unfortunate plight of wild animals captured for the pet trade. Admission by donation to this non-profit society.
Blast into Kahuna’s Lagoona at The Newton Wave Pool, for all the fun and excitement of an outdoor waterpark in the warm friendly atmosphere of an indoor pool. See the new interactive water toy, equipped with water blasters, slides, tubes and spray nozzles. Challenge the wildest of waves…the Big Kahuna, and the darkest waterslide in the west…the Black Mamba.
Meet Eddy The Engine and Chough, a diesel locomotive from England and a steam locomotive built in Holland, at the Bear Creek Park Train, located in the heart of Bear Creek Park in Surrey. The miniature trains operate on a 15-inch narrow gauge track, providing family fun and awareness of railway transportation as the rides take travellers through a magical forest and display tunnel. The train station can be booked for school field trips, company picnics, group outings or birthday parties.
Golf: Surrey offers many options for the golfer. Peace Portal Golf Club is a beautiful historic golf course – clubhouse and course construction began in 1927. Eaglequest Coyote Creek Golf Course layout takes advantage of a beautiful tree-lined setting and a creek that strategically comes into play on a number of holes. Surrey Golf Club provides two well-groomed golf courses: the Main Course at Surrey Golf Course, and the 9-Hole, Par-32 Executive Willows Nine Course. Northview Golf & Country Club also offers two of the most exciting and challenging golf courses in BC; the Ridge Course and the Canal Course. Guildford Golf & Country Club is a championship course that has long been considered one of the best in the area, Morgan Creek Golf Club is a championship course offering four-season playing conditions, and Nico Wynd Golf Club provides wonderful vistas that greet you at every turn as you wander beside the banks of the Nicomekl River. Golf Vacations in British Columbia.
Beaches: There’s more to do at Crescent Beach in South Surrey than simply get sand between your toes. Although swimming is the big attraction in summer, you can launch a car-top boat and explore the coastline of Boundary and Mud Bays, as well as the Nicomekl River, which channels into Boundary Bay east of Crescent Beach year-round. For larger boats, there’s a ramp just east of the Burlington Northern railway tracks in Crescent Beach. There’s also a drive-in boat launch nearby on the Nicomekl at Surrey’s Elgin Heritage Park on Crescent Drive near 35th Avenue.
Semiahmoo Park: Although there’s no boat launch at Semiahmoo Park, if you’ve arrived with a car-top boat or an inflatable raft, park as close to the end of the parking lot as possible, beside a baseball diamond. Launch in the nearby Campbell River and drift downstream from here. Paddle out onto Semiahmoo Bay underneath a Burlington Northern Railroad bridge and gaze down through the clear water to the golden sand below. This is a dreamy location. Campbell River is intertidal, and thus more shallow at certain times than others.
Surrey Bend Regional Park: Located on the banks of the Fraser River, the 330-hectare park protects floodplain forests, marshes, thickets and a recently enhanced water channel provide habitat for many wildlife species. In addition to three new picnic shelters, visitors will find trails for hiking and cycling, and viewpoints from which to watch wildlife and river activity along Parsons Channel. One of the best ways to explore Surrey Bend Park is in a small boat. Use the boat launch beside the Barnston Island ferry slip at the foot of 104th Avenue and 176th Street in Surrey. Paddle west along Parsons Channel, hugging the south side of the Fraser River. Make your way into the park on Central Creek, which flows into the Fraser River at Surrey Bend, a short distance west of the dock. Once in the backwaters of Central Creek, paddlers are guaranteed hours of enjoyment as they investigate its meandering course through shaded second-growth forest. This is a unique, West Coast river environment. Toilets, picnic tables and a picnic shelter (seats 75) are wheelchair accessible. Most dual-use trails are level and have firm, crushed rock or gravel surfaces. Indoor and outdoor facilities can be reserved. From Hwy 1, take the 176th Street north exit (#53) to access Hwy 17. Travel north about 1 km and exit right onto 104 Avenue and follow it to the park entrance.
Tynehead Regional Park is a refuge for local wildlife such as coyotes, rabbits, and salmon fry in rapidly developing Surrey. It’s easy to find and easier still to explore. Operated by the Serpentine Enhancement Society, a volunteer organization, this is the site of a fish release that occurs each spring as part of the Salmonid Enhancement Program. Come fall, you can see salmon migrating to spawning beds in the park. Another section of the park features a garden that is designed to attract butterflies. Hedgerows line the borders of the park’s more remote corners, excellent locations to look for some wildlife stalking in the tall grass.
Wildlife: With Canada geese populations very much on the rebound these days, it’s hard to believe that they were threatened in the 1960s. One of the places where the honkers began recolonizing the Lower Mainland was at Serpentine Fen, located at the east end of Mud Bay in Surrey. (On the geological evolutionary scale, fens lie between swamps and bogs.) Watch for a tall wooden observation tower that stands out on the east side as Hwy 99 passes over the Serpentine River. Farther east you can see yet another of these. Exit Hwy 99 at Crescent Beach and head north on Hwy 99A (King George Hwy) for a short distance to 44th Avenue. A garden nursery is located at this junction. Turn left and drive in to the parking lot and picnic area. The towers aren’t hard to find because they are the tallest structures on the fen.
Together, the two observation towers are located at the Serpentine Wildlife Management Area, where Ducks Unlimited released 260 Canada geese in 1972. A series of trails loops around ponds that were created with funds from the Sportsmen of Northern California and the British Columbia government. The refuge provides sheltered nesting grounds for the fat ducks and geese that winter locally. A grove of trees protects several picnic tables from the breeze that often blows in off nearby Mud Bay. The main trail begins here and leads out to the nearby observation towers.
Salmon also spawn in Surrey’s Campbell River in autumn. Visit the Campbell River fish hatchery in September and October for an intimate insight into the effort being made to restore declining salmon runs (you can see salmon being milked for their eggs). The hatchery is on the east side of 184th Street between 16th and Eighth Avenues.
There’s bronco busting, bull dogging and barrel racing every May at the Cloverdale Rodeo, the second largest rodeo in Canada!
Barnston Island in Surrey has the flavour of both the Fraser Estuary and the Fraser Valley rolled into one. A protective dike rings the diminutive island, which has a distinctly agricultural air (and aroma). Dairy farming is the main focus these days, as the soil is infested with iron worms, a nasty predator that attacks root crops. Recently, a park was created at Robert Point on the northwestern tip of the island. A small barge operates between the Surrey mainland and Barnston Island, which lies east of Surrey Bend, and just beyond sight of the Port Mann Bridge. There is no charge to use the ferry, which takes less than 5 minutes to cross Parsons Channel. To reach the ferry dock, take the 104th Avenue exit off Hwy 1 and follow it east until it ends. Take 176th Street if you’re approaching from the east. It meets 104th at the ferry dock. The free ferry runs on demand from 6:20am every day until midnight.
Although much of the island is private property, there are access points to the river, particularly at Robert and Mann Points. From the north side of the island, the view is out over the Fraser River across log booms and open water to the far shore, where light planes buzz around the Pitt Meadows Airport. In the distance some familiar landmarks loom, such as the knolls in the Pitt River Valley and the Golden Ears to the northeast. For most of the time you spend cycling on Barnston, your attention will probably turn away from the river and towards the mighty contented cows, pigs, spring lambs, and ponies in nearby fields. The best view of the island is from the ferry landing as you arrive. Look east past the farmhouses across the fields. In the distance is Mann Point, the site of an old orchard where you can sit with your legs hanging over the high bank and watch families of Canada geese. In springtime, goslings are strung out in a row behind their parents on the water, with their legs pumping against the current to keep up.
There are no tricks to this 6-mile (10-km) loop road that rings the island. The choice of directions is simply left or right from the ferry dock. If you head right and wish to reach the slippery shoreline south of Mann Point, watch for a trail that leads down the embankment just before an especially well-kept farm. Walk from here to the point for a look at the eagles, herons, and geese that enjoy the protection of the Barnston shoreline. Facing the island on the Surrey side is a typical Fraser River industrial scene, but the island itself has no commercial development. In addition to the loop road around Barnston, a secondary road leads through the farm fields at mid-island.
Circle Tours: See the best of the area on a driving Circle Tour. Head north out of Vancouver for the scenic Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island Circle Tour, or stay on the intensely scenic Sea to Sky Highway, passing through the magical winter resort town of Whistler and Coast Mountains Circle Tour. To explore the rural farmlands and forests of the fertile Fraser Valley, take the Fraser Valley Circle Tour, travelling outbound on the scenic route north of the historic Fraser River, returning westwards along the Trans Canada Highway 1 to Vancouver. Circle Tours in British Columbia.