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coal harbour blue glass towers contrasting a grassy knoll at the vancouver convention centre

9 Best Things to Do in Coal Harbour

Welcome to Coal Harbour Vancouver, a coastal paradise that effortlessly combines the tranquility of nature with the excitement of city life.

Snuggled between the pristine waters of Burrard Inlet and the towering skyscrapers of downtown Vancouver, this neighborhood offers a one-of-a-kind experience that will leave you captivated from the moment you arrive.

Join us as we take a closer look at what makes Coal Harbour a must-visit destination.

Coal Harbour Vancouver

According to legend, Coal Harbour received its name way back in 1859, when Colonel Moody discovered coal in the area. It was of poor quality and wasn’t extracted – but the name stuck anyway.

But a lot has changed since 1859. Picture a place where emerald waters meet the glistening glass facades of modern architecture—welcome to the new Coal Harbour Vancouver.

Nestled along the shores of Vancouver’s waterfront, this modern, dynamic neighbourhood offers a captivating blend of natural beauty, upscale living, and a thriving community.

Coal Harbour now spans between the iconic Stanley Park and the renowned Canada Place to the north. It also borders the West End, Downtown Vancouver, and Gastown to the south and east.

This locale offers an exquisite setting for leisurely strolls and invigorating cycling adventures along its scenic Seawall pathway. And there is even the odd attraction sprinkled in for good measure.

Here are some of my favourite activities to enjoy in Coal Harbour.

The Best Things to Do in Coal Harbour in 2023

A family bikes around Vancouver’s Seawall

Rent a Bike and Explore the Coal Harbour Seawall

Vancouver is one of the most bikeable cities in North America. And there is no better place to ride than the Seawall, the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront path. It passes through False Creek, Yaletown, the West End, and of course, Coal Harbour.

With smooth, well-maintained pathways, this leisurely ride is perfect for cyclists of all skill levels. You’ll pass by waterfront parks and charming marinas while enjoying the invigorating sea breeze.

Not to mention, Coal Harbour is the perfect launching pad for the Seawall’s most famous stretch in Stanley Park. You can enjoy its sandy beaches, towering cedars, and famous Siwash Rock as the wind blows through your hair.

Left your bike at home? Visitors can opt for bike rentals, which offer a fantastic way to explore and fully relish the Seawall experience. Or you can check out our list of Vancouver bike tours below.

Related: The 5 Best Vancouver Bike Tours

A group of people enjoy the Flyover Canada flight simulator
Instagram:@flyovercanadavancouver

Experience FlyOver Canada

Looking for something to do on a rainy day? Why not check out FlyOver Canada, an advanced 4D video flight simulator adventure that sweeps you on an exciting 8-minute expedition spanning the breadth of Canada?

You can observe sweeping mountain summits, sprawling river valleys, and expansive prairies as you immerse yourself in flight’s visual, auditory, and olfactory sensations. It’s truly an out-of-this-world experience!

Situated at Canada Place, this attraction is an ideal conclusion to a day of well-spent cycling or strolling along the Seawall.

Related: The Top Rainy Day Activities in Vancouver

canada place's sails of light in orange to celebrate world day of indigenous peoples

Explore Canada Place

As the hub for the Vancouver cruise ship terminal and notable sites like the aforementioned FlyOver Canada, Canada Place is the optimal launching point for city exploration.

You can begin or conclude a Vancouver Hop on Hop off tour here, venturing into Coal Harbour, Stanley Park, and beyond. Or you can choose a variety of shuttles to attractions such as Grouse Mountain and the Capilano Suspension Bridge. From Canada Place, the world is truly your oyster!

Beyond its role as an iconic landmark and a venue for world-class events, Canada Place is also home to the Vancouver Convention Centre and the World Trade Center.

Related: The 5 Best Ways to Get from Vancouver Airport to the Cruise Ship Terminal

the seawall near devonian harbour park, coal harbour, vancouver.

Enjoy the Tranquillity of Devonian Harbour Park

Spanning 4.2 hectares along the shoreline, Devonian Harbour Park connects Coal Harbour to neighbouring Stanley Park via the iconic Seawall. In truth, the two parks essentially blend together, adding to the vast expanse of greenspace on downtown’s western border.

So, if you’re staying in the area and don’t want to venture into the bowels of Stanley Park, this is a great substitute. Several Vancouver Harbour Cruises depart from the adjacent marina. Or you can enjoy the sculptures or have a picnic along the water.

Interestingly enough, the park is also situated on the former site of Denman Arena, the historic home of the Vancouver Millionaires—the city’s inaugural professional hockey team that clinched the Stanley Cup in 1915. For a special touch, seek out the plaque commemorating this achievement!

Related: Vancouver’s Best Parks

a vancouver to victoria seaplane flying over downtown vancouver with stanley park

Take off on a Vancouver Harbour Floatplane Tour

Imagine taking off from the heart of Vancouver for an adventure like no other. If you’re a tourist or a first-timer, the Vancouver Harbour Seaplane tour is an absolute must-do. And better yet, with a convenient Vancouver Convention Centre departure point, it’s a hassle-free experience.

As your seaplane gently lifts off from the glistening waters of Coal Harbour, you’ll be treated to jaw-dropping views of the city’s iconic skyline, Stanley Park, and the North Shore Mountains. I assure you, it’s a sight that’s bound to leave you in awe.

The tours are a bit pricey. But, if you’re craving a dose of adventure and want to see Vancouver in all its glory, the Vancouver Harbour Seaplane tour from Coal Harbour is your golden ticket.

Related: Your Vancouver to Victoria Seaplane Itinerary

the inside of Cardero’s in coal harbour in vancouver bc canada

Dine and Drink in Coal Harbour’s Best Restaurants

Have you managed to work up an appetite after a long day of exploring? Then why not go on a culinary adventure and savour the exquisite dishes that Coal Harbour has to offer?

Whether you’re looking for a casual meal, an iced cold beer, or an epic fine dining experience, Coal Harbour has something for every palette. And in most cases, it’ll come with an epic view to match!

Here are our top picks that are worth trying:

  • Tap and Barrel: a taphouse that offers top-notch local craft beer and one of Vancouver’s best patios.
  • Lift Bar and Grill: a marine bistro with an upscale twist on classics such as sushi, seafood, and steaks.
  • Cardero’s: a restaurant and marine pub with an elegantly relaxed menu rich in seafood.
  • Botanist: a world-class fine dining restaurant perenially ranked amongst the best in Canada.
  • Nightingale: acclaimed chef David Hawksworth’s sister restaurant to world-renowned Hawksworth.

Related: The 14 Best Restaurants in Downtown Vancouver

a humpback whale spotted during vancouver whale watching tour

Embark on a Coal Harbour Whale Watching Adventure

Choose a half-day whale-watching tour, allowing you to encounter the awe-inspiring presence of up to five diverse whale species, along with dolphins and other marine creatures.

And the exciting news is sightings are assured. Otherwise, your next departure is free!

These tours, spanning 3 to 5 hours, set forth from just behind the Bayshore Hotel, conveniently situated along the Seawall. Or alternatively, there are a variety of tours departing from Granville Island or Steveston.

Begin your day by exploring the Seawall, Coal Harbour, and Stanley Park, then loop back for an afternoon departure. You’ll return in time for a delightful dinner!

Related: Best Vancouver Whale Watching Tours

The view of Burrard Inlet from Vancouver Lookout
Instagram: @vancouverlookout

Check the Panoramic View at the Vancouver Lookout

Located in Coal Harbour across the street from Waterfront Station, the Vancouver Lookout is a stunning observation deck that treats guests to a complete 360-degree panorama from its elevation of 553 feet above the bustling cityscape beneath.

This lofty perch gives you a bird’s-eye perspective of iconic locales like historic Gastown, the sprawling Stanley Park, and the majestic North Shore Mountains, showcasing Vancouver’s most splendid vistas.

After cycling along the Seawall, simply return your bike and stroll over to bask in the unrivalled beauty of Vancouver’s signature sunsets. It’s the ultimate finale to a day of exploration.

Related: The Top 26 Vancouver Summer Activities

digital orca with coal harbour towers at dusk in vancouver bc canada

Check Out the Sights at Jack Poole Plaza

Located adjacent to the Vancouver Convention Centre, Jack Poole Plaza holds significance as the site of the 2010 Winter Olympics’ opening ceremony. Today, the square remains a central feature of Coal Harbour and downtown in general.

The Olympic cauldron, now illuminated for special occasions, graces the plaza alongside Douglas Coupland’s captivating ‘digital orca’ sculpture. Both sites are favourites with local photographers. And the area also offers picturesque vistas of Burrard Inlet and the North Shore mountains.

Dining options are available within Jack Poole Plaza, including Tap & Barrel and Cactus Club. And don’t miss the opportunity to watch floatplanes as they take off from the nearby Vancouver Harbour Seaplane Terminal.

Related: 16 Unique Things to Do in Vancouver

vancouver christmas market at night in vancouver bc canada

Visit the Vancouver Christmas Market

Find yourself in town during the holidays? Well, one of the best things to do in Vancouver during Christmas is to immerse yourself in the enchanting Vancouver Christmas Market at Jack Poole Plaza. It’s like stepping into a holiday wonderland, so trust me, you’re in for a treat!

The holiday spirit here is off the charts. Twinkling lights, cozy wooden stalls, and the sweet sound of carolers singing in the background will make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. It is truly one of the best German-style Christmas festivals in North America.

With over 80 artisan huts, the market is a treasure trove of festive goodies, handcrafted ornaments, and unique gifts. And, oh boy, the food! From sizzling bratwurst and piping hot pretzels to sweet and spicy mulled wine, your taste buds are in for a real treat.

Related: The Vancouver Christmas Market: Unwrap a Winter Wonderland

Coal Harbour Vancouver FAQs

Coal Harbour is renowned for its stunning waterfront location nestled between downtown Vancouver and Stanley Park. Its iconic views of the North Shore Mountains, harbour, and the city skyline make it a sought-after destination for residents and visitors alike.

The picturesque seawall, upscale living, and vibrant community atmosphere are among its many attractions. And it has a more tranquil, laid-back, and residential feel than most downtown neighbourhoods.

Coal Harbour is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. You can rent a bike to explore the scenic Seawall, embark on a harbour cruise to enjoy the breathtaking views, or simply unwind in one of the waterfront parks while watching seaplanes take off and land.

If you’re looking for attractions, Flyover Canada, the Vancouver Lookout, and Stanley Park are located in the district or nearby.

Yes, Stanley Park is easily accessible by foot or bike from Coal Harbour. The park’s seawall connects to the Coal Harbour area, offering a picturesque route for strolling or cycling.

However, due to Stanley Park’s sheer size, you might want to opt for a bike or transit to reach its more far-flung attractions and beaches.

Coal Harbour is easily reachable by bus, Skytrain, or on foot from most parts of downtown. The closest SkyTrain station is Waterfront Station, from which Canada Place, the Vancouver Convention Centre, and the beginning of the Vancouver Seawall are less than a 5-minute walk.

Yes, Coal Harbour offers an impressive array of dining options. If you’re looking for something special, Botanist, Miku, and Nightingale rival anything the city offers. And Carderos and Lift provide and elevated gastropub experience right on the water.

For a casual bite, you can visit Cactus Club or Tap & Barrel in their Jack Pool Plaza locations for reasonable eats with fantastic harbour views.

All Ready for Your Visit to Coal Harbour?

Vancouver’s Coal Harbour stands as a testament to the harmonious coexistence of nature and urban living. In many ways, it is emblematic of Vancouver itself, with the glistening glass towers seemingly teetering on the edge of nature.

The area’s breathtaking scenery, diverse recreational activities, and rich cultural tapestry ensure this laid-back downtown neighbourhood has something for everyone.

Whether you’re a resident or a visitor, Coal Harbour’s allure is undeniable, inviting you to savour its beauty and embrace its vibrant community spirit.

Enjoy your visit,

Julian

I've used online guides on five continents to find the world's greatest travel spots and this is my chance to give back - with insider info on my home, the mighty Vancouver BC!

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