How and why did we end up in New Westminster?
We were going to meet a friend for lunch, but just as we arrived, they cancelled. Yes, we could have turned around, but we were there and we love to explore, so we thought why not enjoy an afternoon out in New Westminster.
Just 20 minutes on the Skytrain’s Expo and Millennium lines from Broadway & Commercial, New Westminster also happens to be western Canada’s oldest city (history says western Canada is west of the Great Lakes).
Small, proud and dubbed the Royal City by locals, New Westminster is a river city boasting a rich British, military, and transportation history.
Located 26kms up the banks of the Fraser River, New Westminster was named by Queen Victoria in the mid-1800s after her favourite part of London, Westminster. Google New Westminster’s history and you’ll find out that it was originally proposed to be named Queensborough by Col. Moody, but the Queen didn’t like it.
We got off the Skytrain and made our way down to the road. It doesn’t look like much when you first arrive, shops surround the terminal station and when you get down onto the road, apart from the aptly named Hops bar, it’s pretty industrial – you just see road, a mixture of heritage and modern buildings, and large cargo train carriages.
But when you make your way across the road and over the train pedestrian bridge, you find yourself on the famed Quay waterfront – a city improvement project from the Expo 86 era.
There are more shops, markets, tug boats, apartments, pubs, and paddle steamers you can go for a cruise on. We made our way to the Paddlewheeler pub, renowned for one of the biggest patios in the district. It was a rainy day so we sat inside – friendly people, attentive staff, small but okay layout, decent beer selection and food options, and quite a few large TVs for sport.
We had a couple of pints of the locally brewed Steel & Oak (seriously, don’t miss the Red Pilsner), and for lunch, we had their 6oz steak sandwich and fish tacos. Get the fish tacos.
The steak sandwich was a small round steak on one piece of garlic toast. The flavour was awesome and the steak was cooked to near perfection, although the fries were a little soggy. It was also the same price as the three burrito sized fish tacos – the battered cod was cooked perfectly with a nice raw coleslaw – thoroughly enjoyable and filling.
A couple of pints, lunch, a tip and $50 later, we wandered off along the Quay river walk.
About 10 minutes later we found ourselves at a random concrete ship installment in a park, and took a detour off the waterfront and another five minutes later we stopped in at the Steel & Oak tasting room.
It’s small with space for about 30 people. They have eight beers on tap, their usual’s (including the Red Pilsner and Ale which we had at the pub) plus a test tap and their newest Projekt (seasonal beer). They also sell bottles of beer and do growler fills.
Steel & Oak are serious about their beers and they produce both quality and variety. We got a flight of four to share – the rye lager, Projekt 003 Hull Melon vs Jarrylo, Test Tap Brune Aigre and Smoked Lager, each were distinct and full flavoured (and although not all to our liking, you don’t know till you try).
They also have some merchandise, a great record collection playing, and a few board games if you’re there for a bigger session.
We finished our tasters and moseyed on. A little over five minutes later, on our way toward the Skytrain station, we stopped off at the highly favoured pub of the town, The Terminal.
A pint each (a Scottish cask-aged lager by Inns N Gunn and a Japanese rice malt lager by Moon Under Water) and we called it an afternoon. Three pubs, a meal, a waterfront stroll and a bit of history, a nice little Sunday afternoon.
A few fun facts we learnt about the Royal City:
- Was the first capital city of (the colony of) British Columbia, before Victoria on Vancouver Island was named the capital city of British Columbia in 1866 (to which it still is today)
- New Westminster was home to this side of the country’s first federal penitentiary (1878-1980)
- Much like most cities, it’s history includes a great fire that razed the city (1898)
- Around 300 ocean Cargo Ships make their way to the New Westminster port every year
- The river has sediment training walls – instead of dredging to allow the larger ships in, they dump sand and silt (sediment) into the river, and the training walls allow the natural forces of the river to do its own thing which in turn makes the river deeper
- The entire city is just 15.3km2 in size
So why not check out New Westminster. It’s its own city, it’s not far from Vancouver (or Richmond and Surrey for that matter), there’s a mile of history to explore (most of which we didn’t see) and like every good place, they have a respectable food and beer scene.
What fun facts do you have about New Westminster? And where else should we check out in the area? Leave your comments below 🙂