Secret Garden Redux

Stanley Park is spectacular, but sometimes we’re looking for a secluded spot to sun ourselves.

Spring has finally arrived and throngs of Vancouverites are looking for a patch of grass to call their own. While our major parks are teeming with sun-seekers, lesser-known green spaces offer empty benches and private views. With the city boasting more than 200 parks, there’s much to discover. If you’re planning a private picnic, here are some spots we recommend. Just don’t tell anyone!

Along Alder Bay on Granville Island
Grab a bite from the public market before heading down to the waterfront to find a grassy spot to relax. Between Sutcliffe Park and The Mound, you’ll find some prime green real estate along Alder Bay. Tourists tend to flock to the docks overlooking English Bay, so this “backside” of the island is pretty quiet. Enjoy the soothing view of paddlers coming in and out of the bay, and make sure you get far enough away from the racket of tennis balls being whacked on the nearby courts.

Alexandra Park
This charming, historic park is so close to English Bay Beach, it’s often overlooked. So while people kick up sand vying for spots on the driftwood, you can spread out your blanket under one of the old leafy trees. Known as the “little park with big views,” this well-manicured space boasts stunning sunset vantage points and excellent people-watching, thanks to its proximity to the seawall. The green space, which has been around since the turn of the 20th century, also features the Haywood Bandstand, a 1988 restoration of the original 1914 Queen Anne heritage structure, and an ornate drinking fountain erected in 1926 in honour of Joe Forte, the legendary volunteer lifeguard who lived in a small cottage across from the park.

Mini-parks along Portside Bikeway
These five picturesque patches along Wall Street in the industrial area of Hastings-Sunrise are so small they don’t even have names. You’ll find the delightful parks set back from the quiet residential road at North Slocan, North Penticton, North Kamloops, North Nanaimo and Trinity streets. From park benches at each site, you’ll enjoy views of Burrard Inlet, the North Shore Mountains, huge ships and industrial yards. La pièce de résistance: a swing set under the cherry tree at the Trinity Street park.

Barclay Heritage Square
If you live in a condo in the West End, pretend this village green is your very own backyard. This lush urban oasis is surrounded by cute heritage-home conversions, giving it an old-timey neighbourhood feel. Stroll along the paths and enjoy the colours and textures of the impeccable gardens. Take some shade in the gazebo or lie down and feel the tickle of some of the city’s finest grass.

Habitat Island
As far as manmade islands go, this one is pretty cool. Part of the development at Southeast False Creek, Habitat Island rose from the sea just before the 2010 Olympics. Walk out on the rocky spit and discover this unique sanctuary, complete with more than 200 native trees, accented with indigenous shrubs, flowers and grasses. Look closely for creatures like crabs, starfish and shellfish clinging to the rocky shoreline. There’s even a bit of sandy beach where you can lose the shoes and kick back for a while.

Image courtesy of dejahthoris.

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