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By Cheryl Rhodes
Carved by First Nations people, totem poles are popular tourist attractions that can be found in many coastal communities in British Columbia. Totem poles are of spiritual significance to the First Nations people and not only do the totems preserve their art, but they capture the living spirit of the tree to tell the history of their legends and tribal families.
Keep your eyes open and your cameras ready. You never know where you might spot a totem pole here are 12 locations I know of but why not share your favourite location!
1. Vancouver Airport – the majority of tourists arriving at YVR will see their first totem poles and aboriginal carvings scattered around the airport.
2. Stanley Park in Vancouver– there are 9 totem poles in the Brockton Point area.
3. Capilano Suspension Bridge located at 3735 Capilano Road, North Vancouver, BC has totem poles in their park.
4. The Pan Pacific Hotel in downtown Vancouver has a totem pole in their lobby. Even if you’re not staying here, visitors are allowed to wander around the lobby and public areas.
5. There’s a totem pole hiding on the grounds of the former Surrey City Hall on Highway 10 and 144 Street. Enter from 57th Avenue, drive past the courthouse, and park in the old city hall’s parking lot. Walk south toward the reflecting pond and head down the path beside it. The totem pole was erected in 1967 when the trees were a lot smaller, but it is still easy to find.
6. At White Rock beach, east beach side, head down Marine Drive and park in the last lot before climbing the hill that goes to the west beach. Walk up the stairs to the plaza for a look at these two interesting carvings. Caution: pay parking in effect everywhere and White Rock has some of the fastest moving parking enforcers around!
7. Thunderbird Park in Victoria, next to the Royal British Columbia Museum, 675 Belleville Street, has many totem poles. They also do totem pole restoration work and occasionally carve new totems here.
8. Also in Victoria, visit the totem poles at Beacon Hill Park. The collection includes (arguably) the world’s fourth largest totem pole at 127 feet.
9. Alert Bay, on the north section of Vancouver Island claims to have the world’s largest totem pole standing at 173 feet. This totem is not carved all from one pole, and other communities along the Pacific Coast from California to Alaska also claim to have the world’s largest totem carved out of one piece. Other criteria, such as free standing structure or assisted by guide wires, become part of the arguments surrounding the world’s largest totem.
10. Also in Alert Bay, many memorial totem poles at the Namgis Burial Grounds can be viewed from the road. Visitors are not allowed on the burial grounds.
11. On the Sunshine Coast, the community of Sechelt has many totem poles including 5 at the Tsain-Ko Village Shopping Centre and 5 lining the waterfront at Trail Bay.
12. Many totem poles can be found on Haida Gwaii, formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands. Some are located in communities only accessible by boat, and some of the popular places for viewing totems are Old Massett on Graham Island, and scattered around abandoned villages on Moresby Island and Anthony Island.
Published: June 8, 2016
Last Updated: November 19, 2018
Cheryl Rhodes writes from Surrey, British Columbia where she lives with two dogs and three horses. She’s the author of 5 novels and a cookbook, and enjoys traveling, photography, swimming, geocaching, reading, and writing mysteries. Visit her at www.cherylrhodes.com