Twelve kilometres east of Vancouver, New Westminster predates Vancouver, and was originally proposed as the provincial capital. It was founded in 1859 by Colonel Moodie of the Royal Engineers, and named by Queen Victoria that summer. In 1860, it became the first incorporated municipality west of the Great Lakes. During the 1860s it was the boomtown that supplied the Fraser River Gold Rush. It was originally known as the “Royal City” and until 1866 was the capital city of the mainland colony of B.C. Thereafter, until 1868 it was the capital of the joint mainland and Vancouver Island colony. Unfortunately, by the late 1860s, the gold rush had ended, and its importance as a commercial centre declined, prompting the Crown to shift the colony’s capital to Victoria. In many ways, the city resembles San Fransisco, with its hills, waterfront, and gold rush history.
Today New Westminster, often shortened to “New West,” is a bustling freshwater port. It is nestled in the middle of Greater Vancouver, between Burnaby to its north, Coquitlam to its east, and Surrey and Delta to its south. The Pattullo Bridge, formerly a toll bridge, has long been nicknamed the “Pay-Toll-O Bridge”. The city is now a cluster of modern (and historic looking “post-modern”) architecture in the middle of Vancouver’s sprawling suburbia. The “SkyTrain” commuter light rail transit line between Surrey and Downtown Vancouver (27 minutes away) has three stops in New Westminster.
Annual Festivals & Events
New Westminster Jazz Festival (March), Hyack Festival (week following Victoria Day, May), Finnish & Portugueses Festivals (June), Fraser Fest (boating theme… July).
New Westminster Attractions
Here are the most popular attractions in New Westminster:
302 Royal Avenue
This house was built by Captain William Irving in 1864, the “King of the River”, when New Westminster was still the capital of the mainland colony of British Columbia. Its furnishings were shipped on the early boats, and the house is very well maintained. There’s even a crack in the wall caused by a 1946 earthquake. Open daily May to Sept., Wed – Sun the rest of the year.
Museum of the Royal Westminster Regiment
530 Queens Avenue
This museum includes an impressive collection of military artifacts of The Royal Westminster Regiment and its successors since 1863. See weapons, uniforms, medals, awards, trophies, photos, manuscripts, documents and memorabilia. The museum is housed in the old 1895 gun room of The Armories. Open all year. Tuesday, 1 – 3 p.m., 7 – 9 pm., Thursdays 1 – 3 p.m. or by appointment.
Inn on the Quay
Experience a river adventure on The Native, a 27 metre replica of a sternwheeler! You’ll leave from the New Westminster waterfront and take a ride back to the 19th century. The trip offers an entertaining narration which explains the accomplishments and hardships encountered by Simon Fraser on his voyage to the mouth of the river. You’ll hear about the Natives who fished and hunted along the river, the wild days of the Gold Rush and the role of the Hudson’s Bay Company in the development of British Columbia. The tour will take you past Port Hammond, Barnston Island, Port Haney and you’ll dock at Fort Langley (with a two hour stopover), the birthplace of British Columbia. Pass by the riverside communities of Coquitlam, Pitt Meadows, Surrey, Port Hammond, and Haney. Cruises are offered at various time and fares vary.
SS Samson V Maritime Museum
Waterfront, between public market and the Inn
The SS Samson V was the last sernwheeler to operate on the Fraser River. She was built in 1937, and was operated until 1980. Open Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, with extended hours in the summer.
810 Quayside Drive
This attraction features shops and restaurants alongside a broad boardwalk, an authentic paddlewheeler. Enjoy a table with excellent views of the Fraser River: working tugboats, freighters, barges, log booms, barges and more. See why Vancouver is one of the top ports on the West Coast of this continent.
New Westminster Parks
Here are the more popular parks in New Westminster:
(on the old B.C. Penitentiary site)
This 12 acre ravine park is a quiet getaway in the middle of the City, complete with walking trails extending into a small meadow. You can picnic at the pond and garden in the park.
(20th Street & 6 Ave )
The park, located on the B.C. Parkway Trail, has lots of wide open space for soccer and baseball, plus athletic fields, a lacrosse box and tennis courts. The park also has a picnic area, playground and toddlers wading pool and is.
(North Road & Nootka)
This park is divided into two sections: Upper and Lower Hume. Upper Hume is open year-round and has a spray pool, outdoor pool, a playground, athletic fields, tennis courts, picnic area and concession stand. Take the Nature Trail to the Lower Hume, alongside the Brunette River, where picnic areas and ball diamond are open March 31 to October 15.
(6 Avenue & 8 Street)
This park is a huge green space for family fun, in the centre of the city. The park is home to Kiwanis outdoor pool, a spray pool, a large picnic area, an adventure playground, and tennis courts.
(Between McBride, 6th Avenue, Royal Avenue and 1st Street)
This popular year-round park includes a summertime show of roses in the Herb House Rose Garden, the Bandshell with a free performance every summer Sunday afternoon, the Children’s Petting Farm (with rabbits, chicken and goats). The park has a spray pool, picnic shelter, adventure playground and several athletic fields are available for team sports.
This quiet little park is behind City Hall. It is home to the Friendship Gardens, a beautiful Japanese-inspired garden with ponds, waterfalls and bridges. The Museum of the Royal Westminster Regiment is also at the Park, showcasing its military history since 1863.
Waterfront Esplanade & Quayside
The kilometre-long Waterfront Esplanade begins at the New Westminster Quay Public Market and winds along the banks of the Fraser River to Quayside Park, a marine theme playground. The river-side Esplanade has a pedestrian path and a cycle path, with a landscaped garden between them.