Time magazine once described Vancouver as a jewel set between snow-covered mountains and deep Pacific Ocean inlets, and it’s hard to disagree.
But for the Musqueam people of Ee’yullmough, the community that originally sat on the bluffs overlooking the Strait of Georgia, the peninsula was known as the “Battleground of the West Wind.” Here was the landmark dividing the territory of the Musqueam from those of the Squamish people. To this day, the winds sweeping over the peninsula bring a mix of weather across the bluffs separating the Fraser River from Burrard Inlet.
The bluffs also offer a natural terracing that provides a range of exquisite views of the North Shore mountains and the jewel-box towers of the downtown core. Vancouver may be a jewel, but it’s one best admired from Point Grey.
The community, which extends west from Alma Street to Pacific Spirit Regional Park and the University Endowment Lands, and north from West 16th Avenue to the beaches bordering English Bay, has long conceived of itself as set apart. Named for Captain George Grey, a friend of Captain George Vancouver, Point Grey was its own municipality from 1908 until its merger with Vancouver in 1929. The historic shopping district along West 10th Avenue between Discovery and Tolmie streets remains intact, yet in a state of constant renewal. Time-loved stores sit by new residential blocks, with their own additions to the retail streetscape.
While it’s one of the most exclusive neighbourhoods in Canada, Point Grey is hardly stuffy. Conservative in the best sense of the word, it embraces a mix of residents including business executives and faculty members of the University of British Columbia; working professionals, business owners, artists, and young families; and students, who find the proximity to UBC and the many recreational opportunities appealing.
Part of Point Grey’s appeal is its compact character, and a fact that has also made it very easy to get around. West 16th, its southern boundary is a key east-west route terminating at UBC, while to the north West 4th Avenue runs through the once-vast tracts of government property, much of it now parkland. West 4th also leads to the UBC campus. Between the two avenues is West 10th, the commercial heart of the neighbourhood and the route of the 99 B-Line express bus, which stops at Sasamat Street. Regular buses also run along West 16th and West 4th, and discussions are in progress regarding a rapid transit line from UBC to SkyTrain lines in East Vancouver.
Point Grey has many parks of its own and borders acres of others that provide many opportunities for recreation and relaxation. Popular beaches and lush stands of rainforest provide a spectacular backdrop to homes and ample space for a variety of activities from birdwatching to beach volleyball, cycling and dog-walking to simple sunbathing.
Trimble and West Point Grey parks sit on the heights of Point Grey, and look down on the beaches where Locarno and Hastings Mill parks offer waterfront settings. A hidden gem is Westmount Park on Bianca Street, where ancient trees shelter benches and a play area for children.
The beaches of Jericho, Locarno and Spanish Banks offer trails through forest and along beaches for walking dogs, not to mention off-leash areas for more free-spirited play. Above the beaches, trails wind through Pacific Spirit, connecting with the area’s main arterials for some stunning circuits that will be sure to keep you in shape and provide fresh appreciation for the natural terrain.
West Point Grey Community Centre offers a variety of activities at several facilities, including Aberthau Mansion, an event centre with a coach house that serves as a pottery studio; Jericho Arts Centre, and its resident drama company; and Jericho Hill Centre and Lord Byng pool and weight room.
Jericho Sailing Centre offers kayaking lessons and is also home to a popular bistro.
Point Grey is home to five schools, both public and private, for elementary school students. The oldest, Queen Mary Elementary School, opened in 1915, and is one of three schools in the city offering Multi-Age Cluster classes. Jules Quesnel Elementary School offers French immersion classes, while Our Lady of Perpetual Help is an independent Roman Catholic elementary school.
The fourth school offering elementary classes, Queen Elizabeth Elementary School, opened in 1940, and is one of the top schools from Vancouver. It’s adjacent to the community’s only public high school, Lord Byng Secondary School, which consistently receives high marks in the Fraser Institute’s annual ranking of local schools.
West Point Grey Academy, which is open to students from pre-kindergarten to high school, is a well-regarded private alternative to the public system that sits on the grassy slopes above Jericho Park.
A number of Montessori schools operate in the neighbourhood, including Sunflower Academy and the Family Montessori School Society.
The highlight of Point Grey’s social calendar is Fiesta Days, a popular community festival organized by the West Point Grey Community Centre with the backing of local businesses. A parade combines with stage performances and a carnival, complete with a small midway. It typically coincides with the end of school, the first weekend of summer, and the high spirits that accompany these things.
In addition, July brings the annual Vancouver Folk Music festival, one of several events that take place at Jericho Park through the year. The music resounds across the neighbourhood, and attracts an international array of visitors as well as leading names from the music industry.
Bean Around the World, 4456 W 10th Avenue: This neighbourhood coffee shop has outlasted the competition and remains a popular gathering spot for cyclists, students, and people – as the name suggests – from around the world. It has what every good coffee shop should have – good coffee, and enough regulars that you can mingle and become part of the community.
Jericho Park: The easternmost of the beaches that wind around the Point Grey bluffs, Jericho is home to forest, marshes and waterfront that make it a microcosm of the area. The park is home to a variety of species, from blackbirds and beavers to turtles and warblers. During the annual folk festival, the beaches outside the admission-only enclosure are a great area to catch a free show as the sun sets.
Pacific Spirit Regional Park: While technically adjacent to Point Grey, Pacific Spirit is very much the neighbourhood’s big backyard. The beaches lead naturally to its cool forested paths, offering an escape from the busier seaside paths and streets in the rest of the community. The park is minutes away, but a world apart.
Burgoo, 4434 West 10th Avenue: The original location of this popular Vancouver chain of eateries, Burgoo offers what it calls “food for comfort” in the heart of Point Grey Village. Like other local shops, it has cultivated a dedicated following and become a local favourite with its affordable homestyle cooking.