With the magnificent North Shore Mountains towering overhead and spectacular shoreline, West Vancouver is well known for its luxurious oceanfront homes. Viewing these architectural estates from the water is a unique and thrilling. Paddling affords you an intimate, exploratory experience. Think of it as type of “British Columbia Outdoor Home Tour of the Stars”.
There are numerous places to launch kayaks in West Vancouver. One of my favourites is located in Ambleside Park. Considered to be West Vancouver’s gateway park, visitors to the area are treated to views of Stanley Park, the Lions Gate bridge and downtown Vancouver. The large, sandy beach is an ideal starting point for paddlers. As we loaded up our boats, I found it comforting to gaze up at The Welcome Figure. A gift from the Squamish Nation, the Welcome Figure by Stan Joseph, is constructed from an old growth cedar log and honours the teachings of the Squamish Nation grandmothers. Facing the ocean and Stanley Park, the sculpture fosters respect for the land, animals and all the people who visit the shores.
Inspired by the message of respect, we began our outing. Although, not a difficult route, paddlers must use caution. This is an extremely busy shipping lane. Currents and winds can wreck havoc with your boat, and the swell created by both cruise ship and tanker traffic should never be underestimated. Paddling past the high rise apartments lining the shoreline, we made our way to the distinctive pier at picturesque Dundarave Park. Although it was tempting to pull out on the scenic beach we decided to carry on. Lavish estate homes were calling out to us!
We were not disappointed. Attempting to balance our curiosity with respect for the home owner’s privacy, we paddled in silence, sneaking little peeks at the luxury properties many only dream of. As I floated transfixed, a seal popped his head up. He too, appeared to be touring the estates and seemed to track our kayaks for the longest time. I assumed he thought we were the tour guides. At the end of the day, although the mansions were truly fantastic, I must admit that for me the thrill was viewing the seal in his natural habitat. How extraordinary that Vancouver can offer a wildlife experience in one of Canada’s most desirable neighbourhoods.
Whether you choose to paddle or not, Ambleside Park in West Vancouver is a wonderful and family-friendly beach. From tennis and golf to a stroll along the sea walk pathway, there is much to see and do. Easily accessible by transit, or make your way on foot via the North Shore Spirit Trail.