The Chief of the Undersea, outside the Vancouver Aquarium

Vancouver Aquarium Conquered in A Thorough Guide

Let’s take a dip, fish freaks and crustacean crazies.

In Vancouver we’ll even raise you a reptile, some monkeys, and a Pacific-White Sided Dolphin named Helen. Add it all up and we’ve got a hell of a day out.

I know because I’ve been going there since I was 3.

Here’s my very local Vancouver Aquarium visitor’s guide.

Index

  1. Overview
  2. Animals
  3. Exhibits and Galleries
  4. Prices
  5. Hours
  6. Amenities and Services
  7. How to Get There
  8. Ethics
  9. Visitor Tips
  10. FAQs

Vancouver Aquarium

A girl watches the fish at an Aquarium

The Vancouver Aquarium is located in world-famous Stanley Park.

Since opening doors in 1956 it has grown to be the largest in Canada with over 9,500,000 litres (2,500,000 gallons) of water dispersed throughout 166 aquatic displays.

In total the facility is called home by over 70,000 animals. This extensive collection is spread across a variety of displays that mimic the diverse marine habitats found throughout the world.

Naturally, you can expect a heavy focus upon our local waters.

It’s one of Vancouver’s top tourist attractions with over 1 million visitors a year and an important part of any Vancouver itinerary.

Vancouver Aquarium Animals

A Green Sea Turtle swims in an Aquarium

We’ll take a look at the main exhibits in a second. But first here’s a quick list of the Aquarium’s main attractions, which of course are the animals!

  • Pacific White Sided Dolphin (Helen)
  • Stellar Sea Lions (Amak, Kenai, Willo, Ashby, Rogue, Bella Bella)
  • Sea Otters (Tanu, Katmai, Rialto, Mak, Kunik, Hardy)
  • Northern Fur Seals (Meechi, Tikva, Tuku, Kyoo, Aya, Ani)
  • Harbour Seals (DaVinci, Hermes)
  • California Sea Lion (Senõr Cinco)
  • Green Sea Turtle (Schoona)

Aquarium Exhibits and Galleries

There are over 30 exhibits to see at Vancouver Aquarium.

In addition to local displays you’ll be whisked away on sea adventures to far away places like the Arctic Ocean, the Amazon Rainforest, and South Africa.

The goal? Show you the incredible beauty and incredible biological diversity present throughout the earth’s oceans. This in turn raises education and awareness surrounding the challenges many of these animals face in the wild.

Pacific Canada Pavilion

Fish at the Treasures of BC Coast

Animals: halibut, rockfish, sea urchins, starfish, crabs, sturgeon, herring, salmon.

This centrally located exhibit focuses on the wide variety of fish and invertebrates found on the nearby British Columbia coast.

The exhibit includes a massive 260,000 litre tank with a see-to-believe above-surface view of the local marine life.

You can also head downstairs for a face-to-face view.

The fish swim amongst an environment of rocks, plants and kelp that mimic those found in the nearby Salish Sea.

Treasures of the BC Coast

An Octopus in an Aquarium

Animals: hagfish octopus, sea stars, sea urchins, rockfish, sea anemones.

Treasures of the BC Coast is a collection of exhibits that displays the various aquatic environments present within the province, from tranquil sand flats to lush kelp beds and rocky reefs.

The gallery will leave visitors with an increased appreciation for the diversity and adaptability of the various species that have evolved in our part of the world.

Stellar’s Bay/Canada’s Arctic

The Sea Lions at Stellars Bay, Vancouver Aquarium

Animals: stellar sea lions, walruses, fur seals, Arctic fish and invertebrates

This outdoor exhibit was formerly home to The Aquarium’s Beluga Whales throughout the facility’s history.

Now however the area focuses on the incredible diversity of fish, invertebrates and plant life found in Canada’s Arctic Ocean.

Much of the exhibit has also been converted over to house Stellar’s Bay: a sea lion research centre run by with the University of British Columbia.

This unique research outpost has since grown to include walruses and northern fur seals, while retaining the majority of the Canada’s Arctic Gallery.

Penguin Point

A Penguin at Penguin point, Vancouver Aquarium

Animals: African Penguins

Let’s change course and head to South Africa!

Inspired by the unique terrain on Boulders Beach (Capetown), Penguin Point is the home to a variety of African Penguins.

Children especially love watching these ‘flightless fowl’ run amuck and play with each other on the rocks.

Try to time the visit with feeding time for an extra bonus!

The Tropic Zone

Clownfish at the Tropic Zone, Vancouver Aquarium

Animals: green sea turtle, black-tip reef sharks, clownfish, corals, sea anemones, tropical butterflies, and various other tropical fish.

This indoor exhibit focuses on warm-water species from all around the world within a giant Indo-Pacific Reef.

If your goal is finding nemo (is this still a relevant reference?) then you’ll love the fish here from Africa, Madagascar, Central America, and the Caribbean.

The multimedia screens and interpretive programs in The Tropic Zone are probably the best in the whole place.

Graham Amazon Gallery

A monkey eats a melon

Animals: green anaconda, emerald tree boa, goeldis monkeys, red footed tortoise, yacare cayman, and various fresh water fish.

Did I mention diversity?

The Amazon Rainforest is home to over 3,000 fresh-water fish species. Incredibly that’s more than ten times as many as the entire country of Canada!

Enjoy a small sampling in this dramatic recreation of an Amazon Freshwater eco-system complete with fresh-water fish, birds, snakes and even monkeys.

You’ll feel the heat and humidity like you were on holiday in Brazil!

There’s also a very educational portion on Amazon destruction and its devastating impact on wildlife and the world’s environment.

Frogs Forever

The Frogs Forever Gallery at the Vancouver Aquarium

Animals: northern leopard frog, oregon spotted frog, and 22 more species.

Did you know that the world is currently experiencing what may be the single largest mass extinction event since the loss of the Dinosaurs?

Almost half of the worlds 6000 known amphibian species are endangered and could be wiped out within our lifetime.

The Frogs Forever Gallery aims to raise awareness about the potential peril facing many of these species from habitat destruction, hunting and disease.

Learn about the amazing transformations these animals go through in their lifetimes, and what you can do to help them in their time of crises.

Dolphin Habitat

Helen the Pacific White Sided Dolphin, Vancouver Aquarium

Animal: Pacific White Sided Dolphin

The Dolphin Habitat is home to Helen, the Pacific WhiteSided Dolphin who was rescued in Japan, where she was found entangled in a fishing net.

As a research facility, Dolphin Habitat is tasked with the primary goal of understanding how dolphins use their eco location sonar to locate objects in the water around them.

This may lead to developing deterrent devices to prevent the entanglement, injury, and death of these beautiful and intelligent creatures.

Visitors will gain an inside look at Dolphin training and feeding sessions, and come face-to-fin with this charismatic and playful animal.

The Sea Otter Exhibit

A Sea Otter at the Vancouver Aquarium

Animals: 6 sea otters (Tanu, Katmai, Rialto, Kunik, Hardy, Mak)

This rescue facility is home to a variety of adorable Sea Otters who were rescued when they were too young to feed or groom themselves.

Staff members were required to bottle-feed and hand groom them until they were able to learn how to do it themselves.

Thankfully, the animals are now thriving.

The exhibit offers visitors the opportunity to see what have been dubbed the most charismatic creatures at the Aquarium: playful, cuddly, adorable!

Clownfish Cove (Children’s Area)

Children play at Clownfish Cove at the Vancouver Aquarium

Animals: sea stars, sea anemones, sea cucumbers, invertebrates.

A fully interactive exhibit that encourages children to learn through play and allows them to marvel at our ocean: and learn how to take care of it!

This exhibit is targeted at kids 8 and under.

Clownfish Cove includes an animal rescue centre, seaside dock complete with underwater tunnels, and a touch table featuring numerous species of sea anemones, sea stars and invertebrates.

Finally you won’t have to tell your kids “don’t touch!”.

4D Experience Theatre

An empty theatre

If you’re tired of walking then sit down and relax with a fully interactive 4D cinematic experience.

The 4D Experience Theatre comes with a full complement of sensory effects, including wind, mist, scents, vibration, and dramatic lighting.

All is carefully choreographed to the film being displayed – which just might leap right out of the screen and attack you!

We highly recommend budgeting a little extra time to catch a film in the 4D Experience.

*The 4D Experience is included with entry

For more information on what is playing, check out the Vancouver Aquarium’s Now Playing page.

Amenities and Services

The store at the Vancouver Aquarium

Food

The Courtyard Cafe

Open 365 days a year, the Courtyard Cafe is located directly inside the Aquarium’s entrance, adjacent to Ocean Courtyard.

Menu

  • Burgers
  • Fish and chips
  • Sandwiches
  • Salads
  • Pastries and snacks
  • Local beer, wine and ciders
  • Hot and cold drinks

There is indoor and outdoor seating available.

The Oceanwise Cafe

Located just outside the Aquarium, in Stanley Park, the Oceanwise Cafe is open during the summer months to provide an additional option during the busiest time of the year.

Menu

  • Burgers
  • Sandwiches
  • Ice cream
  • Pastries
  • Hot and cold drinks

You have the option of either staying cool under the umbrellas or enjoying the sun on one of the available picnic tables.

Gift Shops

There are two gift shops located on site that allow you to select from a wide variety of gifts and souvenirs for visitors of all ages.

As the Aquarium is a non-profit organization, earnings from all gifts purchased go directly to the funding of their education, research and conservation initiatives.

Finally a travel souvenir you can feel good about purchasing!

Items Available
  • Souvenirs
  • Clothing
  • Books
  • Toys
  • Accessories

For more information on the items found in the gift shop, or to purchase online, visit the Vancouver Aquarium’s Online Gift Catalog.

Accessibility Services

There are numerous amenities and services available to ensure that Vancouver Aquarium’s facilities can be enjoyed by everyone.

These include:

  • Accessibility discounts (50% discount on entry for disabled visitors)
  • Free guides (in lieu of the 50% discount)
  • Handicapped parking
  • Loaner wheelchairs and walkers
  • Adult change table (in the Stellar’s Bay washroom)
  • Priority viewing for guests in wheelchairs
  • Closed captioning on most videos
  • Handicapped accessible washrooms

Vancouver Aquarium Prices

The Vancouver Aquarium is a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of the world’s oceans.

Your entry fee directly contributes to research programs, conservation initiatives and animal rehabilitation.

The cost of entry is listed below:

  • Adult-$40.00
  • Senior (65+)-$32.00
  • Youth (13-18/Student)-$32.00
  • Child (4-12)-$23.00
  • Child (>3)-Free

Included in entry

  • Access to over 135,000 square feet of engaging exhibits
  • Admission to the 4D theatre
  • The opportunity to see over 70,000 animals

*Visitors with a disability or special needs can request a 50% discount off of the general admission price, or receive a free attendant along with a regular priced ticket.

**Members of the military, either in Canada or abroad, are eligible for a $2 discount with the presentation of a valid military ID.

Skip the Line Tickets

The Vancouver Aquarium is a very popular attraction, thus it can become quite busy. This is particularly true on weekends, or during the heart of tourist season when you are most likely to be visiting. 

Our recommendation to avoid the lines is to purchase your tickets online ahead of time. That way you can spend more time enjoying the animals than standing in a queue. Click the button below to secure your skip the line tickets.

Grab My Tickets Now

Behind The Scenes Encounters

a child observes a Sea Otter
Instagram: @vanaqua

For those wanting to get even closer to their favourite animal, you can book a behind the scenes encounter for an additional fee.

This popular option allows visitors to engage in the enrichment training, animal care, and feeding of your animal of choice with Aquarium staff for 45 minutes.

Close encounter participants will also learn more about the animal’s ecology, behaviour, and challenges they face in the wild.

Prices are listed below:

vancouver aquarium close encounters price table

*Price is for one adult or youth.

**If you book one adult and one youth the second party receives a 50% discount.

For more information, check out the Vancouver Aquarium’s Encounters Page.

Vancouver Aquarium Hours

The Vancouver Aquarium is open 365 days of the year. 

  • 10:00am-5:00pm (low season)
  • 9:30am-6:00pm (high season/statutory holiday weekends)

For exact hours head on over to the official website.

Suggested Duration: 2+ hours

We suggest budgeting at least 2 hours of time for your visit.

However, if you plan on taking advantage of the 4D Experience Theatre, or it is exceedingly busy, you may want to tack on an extra hour.

Furthermore, due to the Aquarium’s convenient location in the heart of Stanley Park, we recommend taking a full day to explore the numerous attractions located in what has been voted the best urban park in North America.

How to Get to the Vancouver Aquarium

Address: 845 Avison Way

The Vancouver Aquarium is located right in the heart of Stanley Park.

This makes it easily accessible by car, transit, and perhaps the most prototypically Vancouver method of transport: the Seawall.

In fact the Aquarium offers $2 discounts for anyone who visits via public transit or bike.

Simply present your transit pass, Compass Card, or bicycle helmet at the general admissions window when buying your pass.

Public Transit

The Vancouver Aquarium is located a fair distance from the closest Skytrain station Waterfront Station.

You’ll need to take a bus, and the most convenient way is via the #19 Stanley Park bus.

Bus

  1. Board the #19 Stanley Park bus on the North (mountain) side of Pender Street downtown and purchase a fare ($3.00 or $2.45 with Compass Card).
  2. Stay aboard while the bus enters the Stanley Park Causeway before reaching its terminus stop in the Stanley Park Bus loop. The journey should take 10-15 minutes, traffic permitting.
  3. After getting off the bus, simply follow the signs that will direct you to follow the path East  towards the Vancouver Aquarium. It should only be a 5 minute walk.

For online transit schedules head over to Translink.

Seawall

Looking for a more active approach? 

The 28 km long Seawall is the world’s longest uninterrupted urban waterfront path.

There’s a very important stretch between the Vancouver Convention Centre through Stanley Park towards the Vancouver Aquarium.

If you want exercise and views this is your ticket.

Walking

The walk to the Aquarium from the start of the Seawall beside the Convention Centre is approximately 2 kilometres long.

It is paved, flat and wide, with numerous viewpoints and areas to stop and rest along the way.

Cycling

Stanley Park is among the largest urban parks in the world. This can make it difficult to experience all that the park has to offer while only on foot.

Why no cycle? This way you can experience the park’s numerous attractions, gardens, and some of Vancouver’s best beaches long before exhaustion begins to set in.

You can grab a bike using Vancouver’s bike share service Mobi. However, for a little more independence I’d recommend renting your own bike from Waterfront Station.

Grab My Bike Now

Driving

The most convenient way for most travellers to reach the Vancouver Aquarium may simply be to drive, particularly for families and seniors.

For directions from your hotel or hostel simply click our link to Google Maps.

Vancouver Aquarium Parking

There are 5 parking lots located within a 2-7 minute walk of the Aquarium, along with an electric vehicle charging station.

Cost

  • $2.50 per hour (October 1-March 31)
  • $3.50 per hour (April 1-September 31)

The Vancouver Hop On Hop Off Bus

There’s one last way to visit the Vancouver Aquarium, Stanley Park, and all of Vancouver’s other main attractions all in one shot.

The Vancouver Hop on Hop off bus stops right outside.

This would be a convenient way for families and seniors to experience Vancouver along with other like-minded travellers.

Book My Tickets Now

Ethics

You’re probably asking yourself… is the Vancouver Aquarium Ethical?

Let’s just say it’s a bastion for marine research, education, conservation and animal rehabilitation.

Their goal, like yours, is keeping oceans healthy and flourishing.

The facility no longer pens up any large mammals like Orcas and Belugas (once the star attractions) and now only focuses on rescued, unreleasable, or rehabbing animals.

It’s as ethical as aquariums get.

Vancouver Aquarium Visitor Tips

1) Purchase tickets online

The Aquarium can be a very busy place on weekends and during the Summertime.

It is highly recommended to purchase your tickets online in advance if visiting during these periods. At the very least, it will allow you to skip the line.

2) Go early in the day

During high season and weekends the Aquarium can get very busy. However, even during peak times it doesn’t tend to fill up until the afternoon.

Try and arrive in the morning as close to opening time as possible.

3) Take a full day and enjoy Stanley Park

The Vancouver Aquarium is located within one of the premier urban parks in the world.

We recommend taking a full day to take in all of the park.

Better yet, get a little exercise and go for a bike ride, a jog, or a walk along the Seawall on your way there.

You’ll get panoramic views of the North Shore Mountains, Burrard Inlet, and the Vancouver skyline, and even a small discount on your admission!

4) Bike or take transit

There is a slight $2.00 discount for visitors who display a transit ticket, Compass Card, or bike helmet at the admissions counter.

With the Stanley Park Bus loop located a brisk 5 minute walk away, and numerous bike rental options nearby, the Vancouver Aquarium is easily accessible via alternate forms of transportation.

5) Catch a flick

Enjoy a full 4D cinematic experience free with the cost of admission.

The 4D experience is a feast for the senses, with a range of effects such as wind, mist, scent and vibration designed to trigger all of your five senses.

There is always a cool movie on offer carefully choreographed with sensory effects to keep the audience fully engaged.

6) Book a Behind the Scenes Encounter

Enjoy a little one on one time with your favourite animal by booking a close encounter!

For an extra fee, you can seize this once in a lifetime opportunity and take part in a training or feeding session alongside Aquarium staff.

FAQs

Where is the Vancouver Aquarium?

The Vancouver Aquarium is located at 845 Avison Way, a short distance from Downtown in Stanley Park, one of the most spectacular urban parks in the world.

Who owns the Vancouver Aquarium?

Vancouver Aquarium is publicly owned and is operated as a non-profit organization.

Is the Vancouver Aquarium ethical?

In short: yes!

The Aquarium is world renown for its groundbreaking research and conservation programs, in addition to a fully operational marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation program.

Consequently, it is considered one of the most environmentally conscious facilities of its kind.

What time does the Vancouver Aquarium open?

The Aquarium is open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm during low season and 9:30 am to 6:00 pm during high season.

Does the Vancouver Aquarium have Belugas?

The Aquarium no longer houses any Beluga Whales since the death of the last remaining animals in 2016.

There is no longer a cetacean program due to a city by-law. However, the Aquarium continues to focus on its conservation efforts.

How long should I stay at the Vancouver Aquarium?

We recommend budgeting at least 2 hours for your visit to the Vancouver Aquarium.

If you intend to visit the 4D Experience Theatre you should tack on an extra hour.

What Else Do You Need?

We’ve covered Vancouver Aquarium ad nauseam but maybe we’re a few fish short of a full tank?

Please hit us up with any questions you have about Vancouver for local answers ASAP!

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