Ride the Seawall, a paved route for bicyclists and pedestrians, in the heart of the city.

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VANCOUVER, B.C. — For an easygoing urban bike ride, it’s hard to imagine anything better than the Seawall route around False Creek and Stanley Park in the heart of Vancouver.

What makes it so great?

• It’s flat. Completely flat. You can ride a whole loop of about 15 miles or break it into shorter loops.

• It’s a paved route for bikes and pedestrians that’s completely separated from cars.

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• It’s ridiculously scenic, hugging the waterfront almost all the way with panoramas of downtown high-rises, mountains and sea.

• It offers dozens of enticing stops along the way, including Granville Island Public Market; Science World museum; the Vancouver Aquarium; cafes and restaurants; pocket parks (many with children’s playgrounds) and sandy beaches.

So take yourself, take the kids, take the grandparents. Bike the whole route, or shorter Stanley Park or False Creek loops.

Ready to ride

Begin biking anywhere along the Seawall path, which hugs the shores of False Creek, English Bay and Stanley Park. While the Seawall technically starts near Vanier Park farther west, I like to begin and end at Granville Island, the three-block-long islet that’s crammed with shops, craft stores, and dozens of food stalls and cafes in the Granville Island Public Market. Think tasty fuel, before and after your ride.

If you have kids and it’s a warm day, pause at the free Granville Island Water Park with its fountains, slides and spray hoses. Dangle it as their reward at the end of the ride.

Look for the 50-yard path leading from the water park past a towering totem pole to the broader Seawall path. You’ll be on the south side of False Creek; turn east and you can roll for miles.

The two-way False Creek section of the Seawall is shared with pedestrians, so don’t be a speedster. Cruising along, you’ll pass low-rise housing; park lawns; the popular Monks restaurant, with an enticing waterfront patio; and condos that were athletes’ residences during the 2010 Olympics. There’s whimsical public sculpture along the way, including super-size lawn chairs. The glittering dome of the tech-fun Science World museum sits at the end of False Creek, a good family stop.

The Seawall curves to the north side of False Creek, past glittering high-rise apartments and luxury town homes, with more pocket parks. For adult fun, veer off the path into the trendy Yaletown neighborhood that’s packed with restaurants, coffee shops and bars.

The Seawall continues past more condos and benches where walkers pause to bask in the sun and views. A brief (and well-signposted stretch) takes bicyclists away from the water and under the soaring Burrard and Granville bridges. Just keep heading straight and in a few minutes, the Seawall path is indeed back on the sea along the sandy, open stretches of Sunset Beach and English Bay Beach.

Hungry? Stop for a bite at the trendy Cactus Club, which opened this spring right on the sand at English Bay Beach.

Into Stanley Park

Back on your bike, pedal into Stanley Park, the 1,000-acre park that is Vancouver’s beloved playground.

Be a good citizen bicyclist and go counterclockwise on the 5.5-mile section of the Seawall that circles the park. It’s divided in half to separate pedestrians and bikes, with most of it designated to be ridden counterclockwise by bicyclists (although some clueless bikers try to ignore it). Pedal east past the park’s Lost Lagoon to Coal Harbour, where float planes and fancy yachts flit about.

Interested in the orcas and other creatures of the Vancouver Aquarium? It’s just off the Seawall in this eastern end of the park, as is the Stanley Park Miniature Railway, a delightful 1.2-mile ride through the woods for kids of all ages.

Back on the Seawall, pass the Brockton Point lighthouse and another free waterpark where kids play to a backdrop of freighters and cruise boats gliding in and out of the harbor.

Soon Lions Gate Bridge towers high over the path; beyond is the sunny west-facing and most popular part of the Seawall.

Stop to picnic or swim (the water’s surprisingly warm in summer) at the half-block sandy stretch of Third Beach. Farther along at Second Beach is a vast, heated outdoor pool, with small slides for kids. Both beaches also have restrooms and food kiosks (go local with fish and chips sprinkled with vinegar).

Soon the Seawall leads back to English Bay Beach. Retrace your route to False Creek and Granville Island. Or shave a few miles by riding the bike-friendly AquaBus mini ferry, which shuttles walkers and bikes for the two-minute crossing to Granville Island. Park your bike and enjoy a well-deserved culinary treat — or a cold one at Granville Island Brewing.

Kristin Jackson: kjackson@seattletimes.com

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