Totem Poles in Stanley Park

House Totem Pole

The sun shone for our second day in Vancouver so we went to the park! We only had the morning to explore the city before boarding the Crystal Symphony to begin our cruise to Alaska so we didn’t want to stray too far from Canada Place.

We’d heard about Stanley Park and we could see it from our hotel window, so it made sense that we’d explore the park. From my pre holiday research, I had the totems on my ‘to visit’ list so we picked up some bikes in Coal Harbour and cycled into the park to find the the Totem Poles. In place since 2008, these historic replicas are now Vancouver’s top tourist destination.

The Totem Pole ‘park’ is a small collection of modern interpretations and historical replicas from the Salish people. The Salish are a diverse collection indigenous First Nations tribes on the Pacific Northwest Coast.

Entering the ‘Poles park’ you are greeted by this new totem pole.

Totem Pole Vancouver

It is the Rose Cole Yelton Memorial Totem Pole. She was the last surviving resident of the Brockton Community that lived in the area. This Totem Pole stands in front of where her house once stood.

We can also see a collection of replica totem poles, including my favourite, the Thunderbird House Post Totem PoleHouse Totem Pole

This was a beam to support a huge cedar wood roof. This replica post has only two animals – a thunderbird at the top and, below a bear holding a human.



What is a Totem Pole?

The word totem refers to a guardian or ancestral being, usually supernatural, that is revered and respected, but not always worshipped. A totem pole is a carved and painted log, mounted vertically, constructed by the Indians/First Nations of the Northwest Coast of the United States and Canada. The poles can be carved for several different reasons:

  • Memorial, or heraldic poles
  • ‘Home Ownership Poles’ that a erected to reflect change in ownership of a home (identify the past and new owner)
  • Grave Markers (tombstones
  • House posts, decorative posts to support the roof of a house
  • Portal poles, which have a hole through which a person enters the house
  • Welcoming poles, placed at the edge of a body of water to identify the owner of the waterfront
  • Mortuary Poles, in which the remains of the deceased are placed like a sarcophagus
  • Ridicule poles, on which an important individual who had failed in some way had his likeness carved upside down

Where can I find the Totem Poles in Vancouver?

They are super easy to find. Just head to Stanley Park on foot, by bike or in a car/taxi. There is a dedicated walkway and separate bike path along the sea wall from Canada Place. There is also a car park so you can drive there and park up.

Pro Tip: For good photos I suggest visiting in the afternoon. In the morning the light is behind the Totem Poles so you don’t get such a good shot!

There is also a gift shop and small café on site.

Jamie is a luxury travel blogger and the creator of Wine Travel and Song. You can find him on a ‘plane with a head full of music or in the pages of this blog! Next Stops; Tel Aviv, Paris and TBD!