Staying local: Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Park

As British Columbia’s travel restrictions remain in place, I continue to discover or rediscover local treasures. Last week’s excursion took me to Queen Elizabeth Park, a horticultural jewel in the middle of Vancouver. As I gazed over the resplendent spring gardens with views to the city skyline and snow-covered North Shore Mountains, I was shocked that I hadn’t been to Queen Elizabeth Park since we moved to Vancouver over 20 years ago.

At 125 m (410 ft) above sea level, the park is the highest point in Vancouver proper. I’ve hit the jackpot on this clear day with unobstructed views of downtown and the city’s distinctive mountain backdrop. A large arboretum on the park’s north slope features tree species from across Canada and creates a massive green foreground to the urban scene below.

I play with my telephoto to capture the North Shore’s iconic Lions. Aren’t they magnificent? I’m itching to get back up there when more of the snow has melted.

The Bloedel Conservatory sits at the centre of Queen Elizabeth Park. The domed, temperature-controlled structure provides a tropical habitat for more than 120 free-flying birds and 500 exotic plants and flowers. I’m not able to visit on my spur-of-the-moment excursion as COVID-19 precautions mandate pre-booking. But even from the outside it makes a striking statement.

The park’s Large Quarry Garden looks like an impressionist painting. Meticulously manicured lawns, gracefully contoured flower beds, and artfully layered trees and shrubs sit in a depression that was once the site of a basalt quarry. The quarry was closed in 1911 and the idea to transform it into gardens was conceived in the 1930s (talk about forward thinking). The park was dedicated in 1939 when King George VI visited Vancouver and is named after his wife, Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mum). It took until the early 1960s to fully complete the exquisite park.

I stop to eat my picnic lunch at one of the benches hidden along the little paths that wind through the gardens. It is such a peaceful sanctuary on this sunny, mid-week day. I wish the talented landscapers and garden gurus could do a makeover on my garden. I’d get them to plant dramatic ornamental alliums, cheerful pansies and delicate purple poppies (I’m a fan of purple flowers).

A smaller excavation site, aptly named the Small Quarry Garden, is perhaps even more charming than its larger counterpart. I’m drawn to the wildflowers, the arching stone bridge and the elegant Japanese maples.

Seasons in the Park restaurant is perched above the Small Quarry Gardens. Its outdoor dining space (the only section that is open while COVID-19 restrictions are in place) looks so inviting. I wonder why I’ve never tried this spot before and make a promise to myself to come back for a romantic lunch or dinner before the summer is over.

Queen Elizabeth Park has a delightful assortment of outdoor art. My favourite is a display called Photo Session, bronze sculptures of a man and his three photo subjects, created by J. Seward Johnson. Another one that makes me smile is Bruce Voyce’s Love in the Rain sculpture, a fun Vancouver twist on the love lock tradition.

I’m already planning my next visit to Queen Elizabeth Park in July when the Rose Garden is in bloom.

Like my Stanley Park day, my exploration of Queen Elizabeth Park was another free one. Unless you want to visit the Bloedel Conservatory or use the park’s recreational facilities like pitch & putt and lawn bowling, there is no cost to walk in the gardens. The park is easily accessible by car (with parking fee), public transit using the Canada Line, or via bicycle on Vancouver’s many designated bike routes (I used the Arbutus Greenway and W 37th Ave.).

For detailed information on park access and things to see and do, visit the City of Vancouver’s parks site.

Before I go, just a little promotion. I was honoured to be interviewed by fellow blogger Andrew from Andy’s World Journeys. If you’re so inclined, you can read the interview here. You might also be interested in reading some of Andrew’s posts—he’s been to an amazing number of fascinating, off-the-beaten-path destinations.

Categories: British Columbia | Tags: , , , | 30 Comments

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30 thoughts on “Staying local: Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Park

  1. What a stunning park! I love the view of Downtown Vancouver and the Small Quarry garden is just so beautiful! It was great to take a stroll with you through these gardens, thank you 👍🏻.
    Your post reminded me of our very own Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens at the foot of Table Mountain … maybe it’s time to pay them a visit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! Since writing this post, I’ve dragged a number of my friends to QE Park and they’ve all shaken their heads wondering why they’d either never or only infrequently visited this park. Sometimes we forget about the great stuff we have in our own city. Hope you get to your botanic garden soon.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Caroline,

    Nice post with lovely gardens and flowers.

    But of course, besides the beautiful and colourful flowers, what captured my attention are the Lion peaks! They look very nice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I love the Lions, both from a distance and as a hike. It’s a steep climb up but the views are remarkable. Unfortunately, I need to wait until later in July for more of the snow to melt.

      Like

  3. Lovely post Caroline of one of our fave places. We used to live nearby so would walk up to Q E Park almost every day year round. I have pics of it buried under about 6 in. of snow!
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank Alison. In the past, I’ve “get stuck” in my ‘hood. It has been really great exploring different parts of Vancouver. You are lucky that you lived so close to QE Park…such a jewel.I hope you’re enjoying your own local excursions.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Those sculptures are gorgeous, Caroline. Not to mention the parks. Oh my word, what colours. What a fantastic way to repurpose a quarry. I would also love those garden designers to pay a visit to our quinta. Once again, this felt like a much needed mini-break – not just for the eyes, but also the soul.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Jolandi. I was quite amazed when I learned about the history of the park. I really enjoy beautiful gardens but I lack the skill and patience. Seems like I never get past weeding my place! I’m looking forward to seeing the progress of your quinta and more of your amazing Herculean efforts.

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      • It sometimes feel like nature is working much harder and quicker than we do. 🙂 Yes, beautiful gardens like that definitely takes a lot of skill and patience. I think I will allow for a lot of wildness on the land.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I saw your profile on Andy’s blog – very nice! And this park is yet another plus for your fair city, as if it needs any more! Between you and Alison, you are going to entice hundreds of blog readers to Vancouver the minute the world open up again! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Lexie; you are too kind. I’m channeling all my longing for international travel into local “trips”, and I’ve been surprised at how much fun I’m having. It is kinda sad that it has taken a pandemic to get me exploring Vancouver. Alison’s posts have been my inspiration for several local jaunts. I’m realizing how much there is to see and do. Hopefully I’ll be an expert by the time you visit.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Its so beautiful!!! Great clicks, Caroline!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. “Rediscover local treasures” should be the tourism slogan of this pandemic. The gardens at this park are gorgeous. Good thing you visited during the spring to see many of the flowers in bloom.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, maybe I should sell it. I think of you guys as the poster children for local discoveries. Spring is a great time to visit any of the gardens in Vancouver.

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      • Haha thanks. I like to think that I’m an unofficial Ontario Parks ambassador. Most of the shirts I wear these days are from the various parks that we’ve visited. Oh the joys of working from home and being able to wear whatever. Have a wonderful weekend. Take care.

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  8. Caroline, please stop making me jealous for all those beautiful parks Vancouver has (no, please keep doing it, really!). I love all the colors from the spring blooms, as well as the shades of green of the foliage within this park. If I had a lot of money I would have bought a large plot of land in Jakarta and turned it into a garden where people could visit for free. I loved your interview with Andy — it sounds like we have a few things in common as we’re both perfectionists when it comes to our blogs and we’re also introverts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bama, your comments on my Stanley Park post, and now this one, have made me think about how lucky we are to have these green public spaces accessible to all. I believe you will have to put up with a few more Vancouver park posts as I’m getting excited to visit other parks that I’ve overlooked in the past. Thanks for checking out my interview. It’s not something I normally do, but it was fun and a good exercise in thinking about my relationship with my blog, my readers and how this continues to evolve over time.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. What a beutfiful park. Like you said I’d love the gardeners to design my garden! Not only are the flower beds and lawns wonderful, that must be one of the nicest spots in the city for the views. The sculptures are great too. They’re completely different, but reminded me of Leo Mol’s sculpture garden in Winnipeg.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The views blew me away. A friend of mine just told me that it’s the first place he takes his out of town guests. It gives an even better geographic overview than the viewpoints in Stanley Park because you get to see the city, the park and the mountains. I love a pretty garden but lack the skill and patience. At least I was inspired…we’ll see what happens. I just googled Leo Mol’s sculpture Garden. It looks interesting.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Lovely. The quirky sculptures are wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. What a place! It looks absolutely great. I know what you mean about how it can take forever till we visit places that are close at hand. Philadelphia (I’ve lived in or near the city for about 45 years) has some huge park areas that I’ve never been to.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Weird, isn’t it? When we went to Paris and other cities, we researched and visited many parks. Like you, in our home town, there are still quite a few I haven’t been to. Maybe you can check out some of your Philadelphia parks on your daily wanderings and feature them on your blog.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Lovely gardens and…. Oh the hills 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Uncool Cycling Club

    Looks like a great day out 😎

    Liked by 1 person

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