Vancouver Harbour Seaplane Base, alternatively named Vancouver Harbour Water Airport or Vancouver Coal Harbour Seaplane Base, is the busiest water aerodrome in Canada. It is classified as an airport of entry for Canada, suitable for aircraft with no more than 15 passengers. The base has its own control tower, situated on top of Granville Square building. At 466ft, it is the highest control tower in the world. The base is a must see for aviation enthusiasts visiting the Vancouver area. This guide includes the nearby Vancouver Harbour Heliport. Currently, work is underway to construct Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre, a major expansion of the current Seaplane Base right at the bayside of the convention centre.
The actual docking area is situated just west of Canada Place, whereas take-offs and landings take place a bit further north in the operating zone, dubbed Area Alfa. The main waterway has an east-west direction. Vancouver Harbour Heliport is located 1 km east of the docking area.
The seaplane base is near the convention centre in downtown Vancouver. If you do not have a car, Waterfront Station is the nearest public transport stop.
Around the Airport
1Water runway - south side & heliport - west side
Canada Place is the place to watch the action at both the water runway and the heliport. Situated down town, Canada Place is Vancouver's no.1 tourist attraction and not just because of the seaplanes one can see from the far end of the pier. It features as a landmark, theatre, cruise ship terminal, and as Vancouver's World Trade Centre. Just walk up to the end of the pier and watch the action. The sun is in your back for most of the day. For pictures of approaching and departing helicopters head back a few hundred meters on the pier, with best photographic results in the late afternoon.
2Main docking area - east side
The convention centre is right between Canada Place and the docking area and like in Canada Place, its the shoreline is mostly paved as a walking area. From the far left corner, views of the docking area can be had. Aircraft berthed to the east side can be graphed from here, with light conditions best in the morning.
3Main docking area - west side
At spot 3, you can get very close to the docking area without entering the premises. Coming from spot 2, walk past the docking area and enter the first marina for close-up views of the seaplanes berthed here. Photography is best in the afternoon.
4Salt Spring Air Docking Area
Salt Spring Air has its own docking area, west from the main docking area. Simply follow the Coal Harbour Seawalk, the name of the pedestrian walkway, to the west. The docking area is right in front of the Westin Bayshore Resort. Restaurant The Lift, right to the west of the docking area, has been recommended.
5Approach E - west side
Stanley Park, Vancouver's main down town park is a great place to visit and sea plane activity can be watched from here as well. The park offers great views of the Vancouver skyline. Aircraft taxi not too distant from the easternmost point of the park and with some luck, even approach or take-off shots should be possible from here. Not yet validated.
6Heliport - east side
The best views of the heliport without entering the parking lot of the heliport itself, are obtained from Portside Park, sometimes referred to as Crab Park. The park can be found right off Waterfront Road W and also has a small beach and a few benches. It does not get any better than this in a down town area. Photography is best here in the morning, but with an western breeze the helicopters tend to fly by here, which makes it also worthwhile to stay here in the afternoon.
Seaplane action as witnessed from spot 2. Marcel Sloover.
Another view at the activity taken from spot 3. Leo Hoogerbrugge.
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