Vancouver's petal power: 5 flower-ful bike routes to take right now
Tours of Lotus Land’s blooming parks and gardens, complete with route maps and tasty rest stops!
There's a reason it's called Lotus Land. Spring has arrived and Vancouver is in full, extravagant bloom, with the streets an explosion of colour and the air fragrant with the scent of blossoms. In our humble opinion, spring in this West Coast outpost rivals that of any other city in the world, including, dare we say it, Paris. And there's no better way to soak up the season than on two wheels. And if you don't live in Van, don't be deterred; visitors to this bike-friendly town can rent at Reckless and take advantage of the many dedicated lanes throughout the Lower Mainland to explore parks and gardens. Here are my current favourite petal power paths, with links to my routes too!
Iona Beach Regional Park
This waterfront park in Richmond, B.C. is one of Vancouver's best kept secrets, with many locals not even aware of its existence. To access it, my cyclist boyfriend designed a 46-kilometre ride that kicks off on the Arbutus corridor at 10th Avenue. Pack a brown bag lunch from Plaisir Sucré (try the Mousquetaire baguette sandwich), and then head to the Arbutus Greenway, which was recently converted from railroad tracks to a cycling/walking trail, passing through beautiful parks and community gardens. It ends on Southwest Marine Drive, where we headed over the Arthur Laing Bridge. This can be a bit tricky – there's a bike lane but without barriers, and the flow of traffic is intense – so be careful. Luckily, the bridge is short, and the ride through Richmond afterwards is pleasant. Once you arrive at Iona Beach, you can cycle out the pipeline path, located on a long jetty, to the mouth of the Fraser River, for spectacular views. Upon returning back to the beach, lock up your bikes, walk the sand dunes, watch the 300 species of birds and marvel at the wildflowers. Homeward bound, cycle through Richmond to cross back into Vancouver via the Canada Line Pedestrian-Cyclist Bridge, and either bike back to City Hall, or hop a skytrain. Wrap up the ride with mouth-watering Mexican fare at the Cambie Street location of La Taquería. Here's the route.
Ten Park Tour
This 28-kilometre cycle also kicks off on the Arbutus Greenway. We recommend fueling up with scones and coffee first at Arbutus Coffee, and then heading off to explore more than ten parks and gardens across the city, including the VanDusen Botanical Garden, Queen Elizabeth Park and Central Park in Burnaby. After winding back through East Vancouver, stop at the spectacular Trout Lake for photo ops, and eventually make your way downtown, via Science World. The ideal way to cap off this action-packed day of fresh air and flowers? A feast of Ramen and delicious dumplings at Gyoza Bar. Here's the route.
Stanley Park is the most famous park in the city, and with good reason. Visitors are not going to want to miss this 400-hectare jewel, which combines a stunning waterfront seawall with lush forests lands and spectacular gardens. But just across the bridge in West Vancouver is another, less trafficked park, Ambleside, with sweeping views of the Burrard Inlet. So why not hit both? We started this 29-kilometre ride at Science World and biked the seawall through English Bay to Stanley Park. After winding our way through the park, we crossed the Lions Gate Bridge – which boasts some of the best views in the city – to the slightly-lesser-known Ambleside Park. Once there, we lunched at the legendary Savary Island Pie Company and headed back. (With a panier full of pie. Naturally.) On the way home, we stopped at the Rose Garden in Stanley Park. Here's the route.
Pacific Spirit Regional Park
The sprawling Pacific Spirit Regional Park on the University Endowment Lands is one of the many natural wonders of Vancouver. To access it, we started this 29-kilometre ride at Kits Beach and biked the beaches on the shoreline, including Jericho and Spanish Banks. After peddling onwards to the University of British Columbia's leafy campus, and past Pacific Spirit, we toured the monster homes (and manicured estates) of Southwest Marine Drive, visited a hidden gem, the Fraser River Park, and wound back down via the Arbutus Greenway. Our post-ride, we feasted on hand-crafted noodles at the West 4th Avenue location of a local institution, Peaceful Restaurant. Here's the route.
Strathcona Community Gardens
The Strathcona neighbourhood of the city gets explored on this short, breezy 15-kilometre return ride. Beginning at Kits Beach, we cycled the seawall past Granville Island to Science World, through Chinatown to Keefer Street – marveling at the heritage homes, and stopping for coffee at Roost Café-Bistro on Gore – and winding up at the 1.35-hectare public green space and inner-city wildlife habitat known as the Strathcona Community Gardens where you can check out the lush plots and dense orchards found there. Before heading back, ice cream at La Casa Gelato on Venables Street was a must. Here's the route.
Tara Henley is a Vancouver-based writer and broadcaster. Her work has appeared on CBC Radio, and in the L.A. Times, the Guardian, the Walrus and the Globe and Mail. She is a books columnist for the Toronto Star.