You can be forgiven for not knowing about the Sanctuary at Hastings Park; it’s the definition of a “hidden gem“. Tucked into the middle of the Hastings Park / PNE complex and surrounded by dense foiliage, this wildlife habitat isn’t easy to find if you don’t know where to look, especially if your main visits to the grounds are trips to Playland or to the annual summer Fair at the PNE. (Heck, if you’re new to Vancouver, you may not even know that the PNE is part of Hastings Park!)
Because it’s not well-publicized, this divine little spot is both a sanctuary for wildlife—106 species of bird have been spotted here—and a sanctuary for people, too: with so few visitors, it’s easy to feel completely alone with nature here.
For most of it’s 100+ years, Hastings Park has been anything but a traditional park / wildlife habitat. Used for both the Hastings Racecourse and the trade shows, amusement park, and other PNE facilities, it was only in the late 1990s that the community began a Hastings Park Restoration Plan, which led to the opening of the Sanctuary’s wildlife habitat (as well as other green spaces in Hastings Park) in 1999.
Today’s Sanctuary is a gorgeous 4 hectare garden, complete with a large pond, bubbling brook, winding pathways, bridges, and plenty of picture-perfect sitting spaces. It’s a short walk around the space, and the pathways make it easy to navigate on wheels. (I took my son in his stroller and had no problems.)
From the southwest ‘corner’ of the Sanctuary, you can divert to the serene Momiji Gardens (look for the white Garden Auditorium building, along E Hastings St.). This lovely Japanese garden commemorates a shameful time in Canadian history: the internment of Japanese Canadians during WWII. The garden is located here because Japanese Canadians were held in PNE buildings before being moved to internment camps throughout B.C.
Getting to the Hastings Park Sanctuary can be tricky. I suggest entering from Renfrew St. and, once inside the grounds, heading east, as if you were driving to Playland. You can park near the Hastings Racecourse, then, directly south of the parking lot, you’ll see a stone bridge that will lead into the Sanctuary. Once there, just follow the path!
You can learn more about Hastings Park—and the continuing plans for its development—through the Hastings Park Conservancy. The Conservancy also offers guided nature walks through the Sanctuary at least once a month; more info here.