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Originally published October 19, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 31, 2008 at 3:43 PM

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A scenic stroll on B.C.'s False Creek Seawall path

Enjoy a stroll on B.C.'s scenic False Creek Seawall path, whose last section recently opened, for views of the downtown skyline and the mountains beyond, and lots to do along the way, including a stop at the Granville Island market.

Seattle Times Travel staff

If you go

False Creek

Where

False Creek and Granville Island are on the south edge of downtown Vancouver. Avoid driving onto the tiny Granville Island, which has the public market and many galleries and boutiques, on weekends when it's very congested.

Your dollar goes further

The weakening Canadian dollar is making visits to Vancouver cheaper for Americans in recent weeks. The Canadian dollar has lost almost a quarter of its value against the American dollar since last November, and recently was worth about 85 cents.

Lodging — and deals

If you want to stay in the heart of False Creek and never have to use a car, check out the Granville Island Hotel, www.granvilleislandhotel.com/. Or find a hotel through Tourism Vancouver, www.tourismvancouver.com, or phone 877-826-1717 for its central reservations office. Discounts offered at Vancouver hotels this fall include third-night-free stays at more than a dozen downtown hotels until Dec. 15; Tourism Vancouver can make bookings.

Mini-ferries

Two companies run the passenger mini ferries on False Creek: Aquabus, www.theaquabus.com, and False Creek Ferries, www.granvilleislandferries.bc.ca. Commuters (including bicyclists) and tourists use the little boats to cross False Creek, or you can take a scenic tour. Fares start at about $2 one way.

What's in a name

False Creek was named by British sea captain George Richards, who surveyed the area in the 1850s. He found it was a dead-end shallow inlet — not a stream linked to Vancouver's major harbor to the north — and thus called it False Creek.

Walking the newly completed path that edges False Creek in Vancouver, B.C., was an exercise in envy. I wanted to move into practically every single condo or town house I saw along my 3-mile waterfront walk in the heart of the city.

I'll never be able to afford any of them, so I contented myself with visiting a neighborhood that's one of the most enticing and successful urban redevelopments in North America.

False Creek, a narrow inlet on the south edge of downtown, was the industrial heartland of Vancouver through the 1950s, lined with smoke-belching sawmills and clanking railways. But industry moved away and the area decayed until the 1970s, when the Canadian government spurred redevelopment by helping launch the now wildly popular Granville Island Public Market on an islet in False Creek.

The shores of the inlet, which is roughly two miles long, now are home to tens of thousands of people who live in glittering high-rises, million-dollar town houses and housing co-ops, all linked by the False Creek Seawall path, whose last section recently opened. That makes it easy for residents — and visitors — to enjoy the neighborhood by foot or bike on the broad, paved path.

The route is wonderfully scenic, with views of the downtown skyline and the mountains rearing beyond, and there's lots to do along the way:

Hungry? Head to the Granville Island market, a foodie mecca of small-farm produce and seafood, food stalls and cafes. Or wine and dine at fancier restaurants along the way. Want some greenery? Lounge in waterfront pocket parks. Tired? Take a ride in one of the dozen-seater mini-ferries that buzz around False Creek like brightly painted water bugs.

While parts of the False Creek Seawall have been open for decades, its missing link opened in May — a ¼ -mile section in front of the under-construction Olympic Village.

The walk as described here is about a 3-mile loop, including a quick ride across False Creek on a mini-ferry to complete the loop. (The energetic could go miles farther since the path continues west and joins the six-mile Seawall paved trail around Stanley Park.)

The walking route

I like to start on the south side of False Creek after fueling up with coffee and a pastry at the Granville Island Public Market. To find the walkway, go to the south end of the tiny causeway that leads to Granville Island, on Anderson Street directly under the towering Granville Bridge. Look for the crosswalk and take the path east from there.

The walk begins amid pricey condos and pay-according-to-your-income housing co-ops (with years-long wait lists for rentals), then skirts the grassy lawns and duck-dotted pond of Charleson Park.

Just beyond the park, by a marina crammed with sailboats, is a cluster of waterfront restaurants, good places to stop for a drink or meal. There's the popular Monk McQueen's for seafood, Wicklow pub for a drink and light meal and Ocean 6 Seventeen restaurant for a fusion-bit-of-everything.

Next comes Habitat Island. The artificially made spit, only a few hundred yards long, has a sandy beach, native plants and even an eagle-friendly tree snag. It's meant to evoke False Creek's natural past.

Walk onward to something completely different — the Olympic Village at the southeast end of False Creek, where dozens of buildings are under construction. It will be home to several thousand athletes and officials when Vancouver hosts the 2010 Winter Olympics. When fully developed after the Olympics, it will be a residential area for more than 12,000 people.

Enjoy the participatory public art along this stretch. Sprawl in whimsical, outsize white lounge chairs with views of downtown high rises and the mountains beyond. Or spin around in swiveling steel chairs for a 360-degree panorama.

Keep walking across a canoe-shaped steel pedestrian bridge to the shimmering globe-shaped building that houses the Telus World of Science, a hands-on museum at the east end of False Creek. Beyond it the path turns westward and goes along the north shore.

This north side of False Creek is much more densely developed than the south. Dozens of high-rise condos are packed onto land that once housed rail yards and Vancouver's Expo 86 world's fair. More condos are on the way, and you can stop in the showroom of developer Concord Pacific to see architectural models. But the walkway and the grassy lawns that border it give everyone breathing space.

Want to try your luck? The walkway goes past the front door of the Edgewater Casino, housed in what was one of the Expo 86 waterfront pavilions. The slot machines and table games are always busy.

Keep going west past more high-end townhouses and condos. An eclectic sculpture, resembling a 15-foot tall mobile, rises out of the shallow water. Seabirds perch on its metal bars, including cormorants stretching out their dark wings to dry.

High overhead is Granville Bridge, a main artery to downtown. Just beyond, with floor-to-ceiling windows opening onto the walkway, is the C restaurant, one of Vancouver's top seafood restaurants.

The walk is almost done. Head to the foot of Hornby Street and take the Aquabus mini-ferry across False Creek. In two minutes you'll be back at Granville Island.

Kristin Jackson: kjackson@seattletimes.com or 206-464-2271.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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