The West End and Coal Harbour are the two conjoined urban residential neighbourhoods on the west side of Thurlow Street. They are divided – Coal Harbour to the North facing Burrard Inlet and the West End to the south facing English Bay and Kitsilano – by Georgia Street, and capped in the northwest by the 1,001 acre Stanley Park with its half a million trees, Aquarium, and seawall.
Coal Harbour has gained the nickname “Cold Harbour” in recent years because it is often regarded by locals and outsiders to be bereft of anything to do, not to mention inhabitants. Indeed, it’s been reported that up to a quarter of its skyscraper condos are either empty or occupied for just a few months out of the year. That may be so, but to us that makes it only more of an interesting place to explore.
In stark contrast, The West End is positively teeming. Its main thoroughfares of Robson St., Denman St., and Davie St. make for great walking, and the area they enclose is a mix of old high rises and heritage homes with a lovely mix of low-rise deco apartment buildings thrown in for the sake of charm. Shopping dominates Robson – it has all the major big and generic brands from The Gap to Starbucks – but as it nears Denman it becomes all about food, especially Japanese and Korean. Denman’s nickname – Fatassenstrasse – was earned because for years its eateries were in the high sugar and fat business (Dairy Queen, Fatburger, Cupcakes, Pizza, Creampuffs, Chocolatiers). A new influx of restaurants in recent years – Italian, Spanish, Japanese – have slowed the sugar rush.
The West End is also home to Davie Village, which constitutes the strip of Davie between Burrard and Jervis. “The Gaybourhood”, as the strip is also called, is home to a vibrant, strong, and exceptionally proud LGBT community. The annual Gay Pride Parade takes place here every summer with 150 float and parade entries, 80,000 people partying on Sunset Beach, and over 700,000 attendees.
Dominating the West End’s cultural life are its beaches, of which there are several but none so central and attractive as the broad swathe of English Bay, which offers spectacular nightly sunsets and the annual Polar Bear swim on New Year’s Day.
Stanley Park winter forest tri-colour; Tableau Bar Bistro menu blue; a glass of local Pinot Noir on the patio at Raincity Grill (now closed, boo); English Bay beach sand; Pride rainbow sidewalk crossing; the seawall loop in the rain; ubiquitous Coal Harbour skyline uniform tri-colour.
STILL HAMMERED REVELLERS JUMPING INTO THE FRIGID OCEAN ON NEW YEARS DAY
A STUNNING, CURVED (VERY RARE) MOSAIC ON THE WALL OF THE INDONESIAN CONSULATE
HOT BBQS AND COLD BEERS ON THIRD BEACH
RAINY WINTER DAY RESPITE IN THE TROPICAL EXHIBIT OF THE VANCOUVER AQUARIUM
THE ALWAYS INSPIRING GAY PRIDE FESTIVAL
27KM OF TRAILS WITHIN STANLEY PARK
THREE MORE STARBUCKS LOCATIONS THAN ARE NECESSARY
OUTDOOR MOVIES IN STANLEY PARK
MALKIN BOWL CONCERTS
THE RARE CRICKET GAME AT BROCKTON OVAL
FIREWORK FESTIVALS RUINED BY POLICE POUR-OUTS & SUBURBAN KIDS ARMED WITH KNIVES
A VAST HEATED OUTDOOR PUBLIC POOL AT SECOND BEACH
TWO OF VANCOUVER’S BEST PIECES OF WATERFRONT OCCUPIED BY CHAIN RESTAURANTS (FACEPALM)
THE OLD & STILL VERY LOVELY SYLVIA HOTEL
SEA PLANES BOTHERING NIMBY ASSHATS
– In 1859 coal was discovered along the Burrard Inlet west of Gastown. The site was subsequently referred to as (you guessed it) Coal Harbour.
– The Lumberman’s Arch in Stanley Park (c. 1952) is actually a smaller, reimagined version of the original “Bowie Arch”, which was demolished in 1947 due to deterioration.
– In 1923 the city took legal action to expel eight families of First Nations and European descent from Stanley Park. A “rent” fee of $1 month was collected until they were evicted in 1931.
– The Lost Lagoon fountain (erected 1936) was originally a leftover from the World’s Fair in Chicago.
– The famous Nine O’Clock Gun in Stanley Park was first fired in 1898 – at noon.
– In 1956, the Stanley Park Zoo welcomed the first penguin to be born in Canada. His name was “Little Whatzit”.
– Famed swim instructor and English Bay fixture Joe Fortes originally lived in a squatter’s shack near the Sylvia Hotel. He was awarded the title of Vancouver’s first official lifeguard in 1901.
– In 1974, following legislation that allowed the establishment of pubs, the Dover Arms on Denman opened as the first of its kind in the city.
– Although known for its sandy shores, sand is not native to English Bay; 1898 was the first year it was added to the beach.
– The West End was once known as “Blueblood Alley”, given its population of wealthy CPR executives in the early 20th century.
– Following World War II, a large German community settled near the northwest end of Robson, earning it the nickname Robsonstrasse.