14 Unique & Fun Things to do in Coal Harbour

From scenic seawall views and iconic public art to some of the city’s best foodie hotspots, there’s plenty of options for those seeking fun things to do in Coal Harbour.

While firmly in the heart of Vancouver’s Downtown Core, there’s a sense of serenity around this area that you won’t find in other parts of Downtown. Maybe it’s the calming water views or the leafy walkways… maybe it’s the density of office buildings that make it wonderfully quiet on the weekends…

Either way, Coal Harbour is one of our favourite places to hang out in Vancouver, and we hope you’ll soon see why.

In this post, we’ll be sharing some of our favourite things to do in Coal Harbour. 

Let us know in the comments if we’ve missed any of your favourites.

1. Go for a stroll along the Coal Harbour Seawall

Hands down, one of the best things to do in Coal Harbour is a walk along its scenic seawall, arguably one of the most gorgeous walks that Vancouver has to offer.

Dotted with public art and picturesque views every step of the way, this seawall walk is one of our favourites thanks to all the unique sights you encounter, like the LightShed (pictured above), which is an aluminum cast replica of a fishing shed that existed along here decades ago, and multiple leafy parks.

For those curious about history, there are also cool info panels along the way that shed light on various chapters of local history and the people that shaped them.

If you’re looking for an easy walk, there’s an official 6km Coal Harbour Seawall loop that starts and ends at Canada Place.

But if you’re up for it, we’d definitely recommend heading onwards to Stanley Park! (More on this later)

2. Admire the public art around the Convention Centre

Of course, even if you aren’t able to cover the entire Coal Harbour Seawall, one portion that is well worth a visit for its density of unique public art pieces is the stretch between Canada Place and Jack Poole Plaza.

Besides stunning views over to the North Shore mountains, you’ll find some of the city’s most famous artistic landmarks here.

Two pieces you definitely can’t miss are…

  • The Drop | in front of Mahony’s Tavern: 65-foot steel “raindrop” by a Germany-based collective used to reference the city’s strong connection to rain and water
  • Digital Orca | in Jack Poole Plaza: A massive aluminum cladded stainless steel orca whale by Douglas Coupland that references “the synthesis of popular culture and modern technologies”

3. Marvel at the famous Olympic Cauldron

It’s hard to believe that it was well over a decade ago, but the Vancouver 2010 Olympics marked one of the most important and exciting chapters of the city’s history.

For just over 2 weeks, Vancouver became an international party zone, with millions of visitors from all around the world enjoying the spectacle.

There are several legacies left behind from these Olympics (the entire Olympic Village neighbourhood being one!) but the most recognizable and photogenic is probably the Olympic Cauldron in Jack Poole Plaza.

Built largely in secret thanks to multiple screens and tarps, the Cauldron was only revealed a few short hours before the Opening Ceremony, at the end of which hockey legend Wayne Gretzky hopped on a pickup truck to Jack Poole Plaza, where he lit this exact cauldron to officially open the games. At 10m tall (and weighing almost 34,000kg), it’s one of the biggest public art pieces in the city.

According to local news, it costs about $6500 to light it for only four hours, which explains why they only light it for very special occasions… but lit or not, it’s a must-visit photo opp, and a must-do in Coal Harbour.

4. Capture THE perfect postcard view of Coal Harbour

There’s no shortage of great views in Coal Harbour. With the water on one side & the city’s signature glass buildings on the other, it’s really just one scenic vantage point after the next.

One of our favourite places to go though is a nice public viewing spot on the rooftop of the Cactus Club at Jack Poole Plaza. To get up there, look for a stairway/elevator on exterior of the Cactus Club’s Southern side.

This frequently missed view offers a slightly elevated perspective over Jack Poole Plaza and Coal Harbour… and it offers a little reprieve from the crowds below.

5. Watch the seaplanes take off

Another fun Coal Harbour activity that we never get tired of is watching seaplanes come and go.

This mode of transportation is fairly unique, and involves small planes that are capable of taking off and landing directly on water. If you’ve never seen them in action before, they really are quite fascinating to watch. Luckily, Coal Harbour offers plenty of spots where you can do just that.

The biggest company in Vancouver (and actually North America) offering seaplane flights is Harbour Air, who have their main terminal near Canada Place. They operate a variety of sightseeing planes, as well as practical commuter flights bringing passengers to nearby destinations like Victoria, the Gulf Islands, and Whistler.

Best commute ever? I think so.

6. Or hop on a seaplane tour yourself

It’s definitely not a cheap activity, but if you’re looking for an unforgettable experience in Coal Harbour, then we can highly recommend doing a seaplane ride for yourself.

Vancouver is a stunning city, but it’s even more incredible from above. We did this tour with Harbour Air over 5 years ago and still reel from how amazing it was.

There’s a lot of different options in terms of flight times and packages, but honestly the lower end ones are pretty comparable to a night out at a nice restaurant with drinks. So, if you’re looking for a sign to splurge, this is it!

Here are a few of the different seaplane tours you can book:

7. Admire the houseboats 

One of our favourite things to do while meandering along the Coal Harbour Seawall is scoping out all the boats at the marina, especially the whimsical houseboats.

Wondering how much one of these tiny homes would set you back? According to a listing back in 2021, one of them was going for $370,000… which amounts to over $1000 per square feet.

So yes, I guess we’ll stick to looking from afar.

8. Rent a bike 

Just as we recommend for Stanley Park and the West End, one of the best ways to explore Coal Harbour is by bike.

The bike paths along the seawall are very well marked and spacious, plus with a set of wheels, you can get your exploring done much more efficiently.

There are a few companies offering bike rentals in the area, including…

9. Go for Happy Hour

With Vancouver being as expensive as it is, locals and visitors alike love a good Happy Hour, and Coal Harbour (with its high concentration of office buildings and water views) is a great place to do it.

One of our favourite Happy Hours in Downtown Vancouver can actually be found in Coal Harbour: Chewie’s. This spot is a must-try if you like oysters, although their Chicken and Waffles is pretty phenomenal as well.

Other great options for Happy Hour in Coal Harbour include:

10. Enjoy a drink or meal with a view

Of course, even if you don’t make it to Happy Hour, there are a lot of worthwhile spots for food and drink in the area.

As we mentioned before, Coal Harbour has this calm, coastal vibe to it that makes it a great spot to unwind away from the chaos of the Downtown core.

There are tons of restaurants here that offer nice views, but some of the most popular picks include…

11. Venture onwards to Stanley Park

If you follow the Seawall along Coal Harbour, you’re perfectly positioned for further explorations, and if time allows, we highly recommend you continue your journey to Stanley Park.

Stanley Park is of course the city’s most famous park, and also one of its top tourist attractions. That’s not to say there isn’t plenty to do here for locals as well. Spread across over 4km squared, the park is so huge that we always notice or find new spots every time we go.

From walking the seawall and exploring the park’s many gardens and beaches to catching live musical theatre & outdoor movies in the summer, there are so many great things to do in Stanley Park that we had to write a whole separate article for it.

So, yes, if you find yourself in Coal Harbour wondering if it’s worth walking all the way to Stanley Park… the answer is 100% yes.

12. Or venture onwards to Ramen Row

Or if you want a more delicious detour, another great side quest from Coal Harbour is a visit to the city’s unofficial Ramen Row along Robson St.

We’re not quite sure how it happened, but the Northwestern section of Robson Street is packed with some of the best ramen in the city. Since practically none of them accept reservations, it’s not uncommon to see lengthy night club-esque line-ups all along this street, full of hungry hungry people looking to get their slurp on.

Every Vancouverite will have their own opinion on the best spot to go, but if you ask us, it’s Marutama. Tucked away just off Robson on Bidwell St, it’s housed in an ultra cute heritage home, with amazing ramen to die for.

Although if you’re not fussy, perhaps the best option is the one that will seat you first.

13. Look out for popular filming locations

Vancouver’s reputation as Hollywood North is no secret, but Coal Harbour’s towering glass skyscrapers make it an especially popular choice for depicting cities around the world for film and television.

Odds are, Coal Harbour has shown up on your screen at least once or twice (without you even knowing it), so if you’re looking for a fun and geeky activity in the neighbourhood, why not seek out some familiar filming spots?

We’ll start you off with an easy one: one time I was walking around Coal Harbour and had to detour because several blocks were closed due to Godzilla. The movie, I mean… not the monster.

14. Visit Vancouver Christmas Market

Last but not least, if you are looking for wintery things to do in Coal Harbour, then I have a final recommendation for you: the Vancouver Christmas Market, which is actually the largest European-style Christmas Market in North America.

While definitely not the same as the Christmas markets you might find in Germany, France, Austria, or Switzerland, it’s a pretty nice replication, with dozens of wooden stalls selling tasty treats and selling all kinds of unique gifts.

Bonus magical points are of course earned by the beautiful venue, right in the heart of Jack Poole Plaza.

Did we miss any of your favourite things to do in Coal Harbour?

Let us know in the comments so we can add more recommendations to the list!

Leave a Comment