Skip to content

Coal Harbour in Vancouver

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“It is not down in any map; true places never are.” -Herman Melville

Coal Harbour is an area in Burrard Inlet between the Brockton and Downtown Peninsulas in Vancouver, British Columbia. It is also the name of an upscale neighbourhood adjacent to its southern shoreline. Coal Harbour is bounded by Stanley Park to the north and the Financial District in the south. To its east is Deadman’s Island, the site of the naval station and museum HMCS Discovery. The discovery of coal in the harbour in 1862 inspired its name. A floating gas station for marine vessels is located within Coal Harbour.

The Coal Harbour Sea Plane Base is located in the harbour two blocks from Canada Place. The water airport is within walking distance of the Helijet heliport and the BC Transit waterfront station, where the SeaBus can be taken to North Vancouver. It is classified as an airport and an airport of entry by NAV CANADA and is staffed by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). Presently, CBSA officers at this airport handle general aviation aircraft with no more than 15 passengers.

The Vancouver Harbour Control Tower is the only control tower in Canada for a water airport. At 142 metres (466 feet) above ground it is the highest control tower in the world, and is located on top of the Granville Square Building. The airport handles more than 54,000 aircraft movements annually, and is the thirty-third busiest in Canada. It is the busiest water airport in Canada.

The aircraft docking area is located on the water west of Canada Place. This part of Coal Harbour is listed by NAV CANADA as a restricted area and no aircraft are permitted to take off, land or move through the zone at a high speed. Just north of Canada Place is a section called “Area Alfa,” which is the main aircraft operating zone. The route from Coal Harbour to Victoria Inner Harbour Airport is Canada’s busiest seaplane route.

Read about Seaplane Flights in Coal Harbour.

Read about the Coal Harbour Marina.

Coal Harbour Community Centre

The Coal Harbor Community Centre is located just steps from the seawall at 480 Broughton Street. The centre has a dance studio, full-size gymnasium and 86 underground paid parking spaces. A few of the programs offered for pre-schoolers, children, youth and adults, include arts and crafts, badminton, basketball and soccer. The centre’s conference rooms, lounges and meeting rooms can accommodate groups of all sizes and are available for rent year round.

Notable Inhabitants and Developments

Sḵwxwú7mesh (Squamish Nation)

Sḵwxwú7mesh (Squamish Nation) settlements were first located on Brockton Point, Deadman Island, and Lumberman’s Arch. The Squamish Nation is comprised of descendants of the Coast Salish Aboriginal peoples who lived in the present day Greater Vancouver area, Gibson’s landing and Squamish River watershed. The Squamish Nation have occupied and governed their territory since beyond recorded history.

Coal Exploration

In 1862, minor exploration began of visible coal seams on the edge of the bluff overlooking the harbour. The bluff was situated where most of West Hastings Street is today.

Kanakas Settlement

A settlement of Kanakas (Hawaiians) near the Westin Bayshore and the eastern end of Lost Lagoon was known as the Kanaka Rancherie, or the Cherry Orchard due to its many cherry trees. The area is now called Devonian Harbourside Park; memorial cherry trees were planted in the park in memory of AIDS victims.

Vancouver Boating Club

In 1886, the Vancouver Boating Club, now the Vancouver Rowing Club, was formed. The clubhouse was located at the bottom of the bluff at the foot of Howe Street.

Pacific Lumber Mill Company

The Pacific Lumber Mill Company was established at Coal Harbour in the late 1800s.

Royal Vancouver Yacht Club

In 1903, the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club floated its first clubhouse at the foot of Cardero Street. The club, founded in 1903, officially became the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club in 1906. J Kennerly Bryan and his partner designed the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club clubhouse in Stanley Park in 1910.

Hoffar Motor Boat Company

James Hoffar, a prominent marine engine dealer, formed the Hoffar Motor Boat Company in the early 1900s. The shipbuilding firm was located near the entrance to Stanley Park. Hoffar built the first seaplane at his factory in 1914. He merged with the neighboring Beeching Boat Yard to become Hoffar-Beeching in 1929.

In the 1920s, the Seattle, Washington based Boeing Aircraft Co purchased Hoffar-Beeching. Coal Harbour became Boeing’s first seaplane factory and test site. Hoffar was retained as the President of the Boeing Aircraft of Canada, Ltd.

Taconite Yacht

The Boeing family yacht, Taconite, was built at Hoffar-Beeching in 1931. Taconite still cruises the waters of the Northwest as a charter enterprise.

Canadian Pacific Rail Station and Canadian Pacific Steamships

The Canadian Pacific Rail Station and Canadian Pacific Steamships passenger terminal and dock were located in Coal Harbour.

Harbour Ferries

Harbour Ferries, a tour-boat and water-taxi service, once operated from docks in Coal Harbour.

Howard Hughes

On March 14, 1972, Howard Hughes checked into the Westin Bayshore. At the time, Hughes was the world’s most famous and elusive billionaire. He lived in the hotel’s three-room, penthouse for five months and 28 days. If Hughes had stayed for six months, he would have had Canadian residency and taxation issues.

Denman Arena

The Denman Arena was an indoor ice arena located at Coal Harbour from 1911-1936. It was built at a cost of $300,000 in 1911 and held 10,500 people, making it one of the world’s largest arenas at the time. In 1936, the arena burned down after an explosion at an adjacent Coal Harbour shed. During its existence, it hosted the Pacific Coast Hockey Association’s New Westminster Royals and the Vancouver Millionaires who won a Stanley Cup on home ice at Denman Arena. Frank and Lester Patrick were owners of the team and arena. It was one of the first two artificial ice surfaces in Canada along with the Patrick Arena in Victoria.

Trader Vic’s

Trader Vic’s, for many years touted as Vancouver’s best night-out, was launched in a tiki-style hut next to the Bayshore Inn.

HMCS Discovery

HMCS Discovery is a Royal Canadian Navy Reserve division and shore facility based in Vancouver. The base was created during World War II and was used for recruitment and training. It provided approximately 8,000 personnel during the war. Discovery continued in its training role following the war, and serves as headquarters for Reserve and Cadet units. The stone frigate takes its name from HMS Discovery, the ship used by Captain George Vancouver to chart most of North America’s north-western coast. Originally based at the Stanley Park Barracks, in 1944 Discovery moved to its current location on Deadman’s Island in Coal Harbour. HMCS Discovery has a crew of about 175 officers and non-commissioned members.

First Narrows Floating Co-op

In 1993, Vancouver City Council froze applications for development of the Marathon Realty lands between Canada Place and the Westin Bayshore Hotel. The company was required to reach an agreement with The First Narrows Floating Co-op, representing floating home and live-aboard boat residents in pre existing marinas, for their inclusion in the redevelopment of the waterfront. Negotiations concluded with the guarantee of space for residents in Coal Harbour Marina on extended leases.

12 Comments Post a comment
  1. Awesome photos 🙂

    August 10, 2013
    • Thanks, it’s hard not to take a nice photo there. Coal Harbour is beautiful.

      August 10, 2013
      • you are welcome. It does look very beautiful.

        August 10, 2013
  2. RMW #

    Interesting…. for a recluse, Mr. Hughes certainly did get around…

    August 11, 2013
    • Hughes was an interesting character. I heard he did not leave the hotel. Imagine that, visiting Vancouver and staying indoors the whole time.

      August 16, 2013
  3. Amy #

    Beautiful! Looks like more buildings than three, four years ago…

    August 11, 2013
    • Yes, it is beautiful and there are many more buildings.

      August 17, 2013
  4. So very interesting! Does the Squamish nation have a written language?

    August 13, 2013
    • Thanks Annie, they are an interesting group of people.

      From Wikipedia:

      In 1990, the Chief and Council of the Squamish people declared Squamish to be the official language of the Squamish people, a declaration made to ensure funding for the language and its revitalization. As of 2010, the First Peoples’ Heritage, Language and Culture Council considers the language to be “critically endangered” and “nearly extinct,” with just 10 fluent speakers. As of 2011, the language is being taught using the “Where are your keys?” technique. A Squamish–English dictionary was completed in 2011.

      A Squamish festival was scheduled for April 22, 2013, with two fluent elders. “The festival is part of a multi-faceted effort to ensure the language’s long-term survival, not only by teaching it in the schools, but by encouraging parents to speak it at home, event co-organizer Rebecca Campbell said. Squamish Nation cultural workers, for example, have begun to provide both parents and children with a list of common Squamish phrases that can be used around the home, as a way to reinforce the learning that takes place in the Sea to Sky School District schools, Campbell said. So far 15 families in the Squamish area are part of the program … ‘The goal is to revive the language by trying to have it used every day at home — getting the parents on board, not just the children.'”

      August 17, 2013
      • That is so awesome! Thank you so much for an in-depth view of how they are keeping the language alive!

        August 18, 2013
    • I find history fascinating and enjoy learning about different cultures and places. I recommend a visit to Whistler with a stop in the Squamish on the way to Whistler.

      August 20, 2013
  5. And not a speck of coal in sight 🙂

    August 21, 2013

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: