Totems in Stanley Park, Vancouver
New Westminster was originally the capital of British Columbia and known as the Royal City. There are many heritage buildings throughout the city which can be explored today by taking a heritage walking tour of the old town and some of the residential areas. And if you are a history buff visit Irving House built in the mid-1800s that was described as “The handsomest, the best and most home-like house of which British Columbia can yet boast”. Today you can revisit the splendour and grace of those pioneer days. And in December the house is transformed for a Victorian Christmas.
A paddle-wheeler tour down the Fraser River offers lots to see, from wildlife to sunsets and a visit to the world-class interpretive Fraser River Discovery Centre on the quay showcases one of the great rivers of the world, and the importance it has played in the development of not only New Westminster, but also British Columbia. The Westminster Quay is also home to the River Market with popular eateries, fun things to do for the entire family, and fronting the river is a long boardwalk with stunning views across the river and lined with flowers and raised gardens that stretches for several kilometres.
Queen’s Park is New Westminster’s flagship park dating back to 1886. It is a 75 acre haven for outdoor enthusiasts and families with trails, flowers, sporting opportunities, petting farm, playgrounds.
New Westminster is located on the Burrard Peninsula, on the north bank of the Fraser River. The city is 19 km (12 mi) southeast of the city of Vancouver, adjacent to Burnaby and Coquitlam, and across the Fraser River from Surrey. A small portion of New Westminster called Queensborough is located on the eastern tip of Lulu Island, adjacent to Richmond. To access New Westminster use Hwy 1 from the east or west, Hwy 91 from the southwest and King George Hwy from the southeast.
In 1859, New Westminster became the first capital of the new Colony of British Columbia by Queen Victoria, who named the city after part of London and henceforth its official nickname became “The Royal City”. Soon after it became a major outfitting point for prospectors en route to the Cariboo gold rush, as all travel to the goldfield ports of Yale and Port Douglas was by steamboat or canoe up the Fraser River.
In 1866, the colonies of British Columbia and Vancouver Island were united as “British Columbia”. However, the capital of the Colony of Vancouver Island, Victoria, located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, was made the capital of the newly amalgamated Colony of British Columbia.
In September 1898, the Great Fire destroyed the downtown area of New Westminster, sparing just two buildings – the Queen Hotel and the Burr Block. The citizenry had little choice but to accept the enormous challenge of rebuilding the city, which was accomplished by 1910. Even today, the downtown shopping district along Columbia Street is still known as The Golden Mile.
By the 1970s the distinctions between the various surrounding communities had blurred to the point where one hardly noticed a transition from one city to the next, particularly between Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, and Port Moody. Today New Westminster is part of the area known as Metro Vancouver.