For a city that’s so well endowed with urban features—from bustling malls to more than 800 restaurants—Richmond is also surprisingly green. With scenic shoreline trails, popular parks and lush nature areas, there are dozens of great places to unplug your digital devices and enjoy a rejuvenating respite outside.
But while many locals have favourite outdoor hangouts here, not everyone knows exactly where to go. In the second part of our handy Outdoor Escapes series, we give you the lowdown on what to see and do at Terra Nova Rural Park, a popular community green space located in northwest Richmond.
Heritage buildings and a pollinator meadow are highlights of the park. | Photo: John Lee
Bordered on two sides by the riverfront West Dyke Trail (along with a small portion of the Middle Arm Trail), and across the street from a protected nature area that’s loved by local birdwatchers, 63-acre Terra Nova Rural Park has a diverse array of attractions. From a brilliant playground and a flower-packed bee garden to historic buildings and winding trails fringed by dense foliage, it has been luring locals for years.
This former farmland area is just across the river from Vancouver International Airport—you can see its glassy buildings shimmering on the opposite shore. But while seaplanes pass directly over the park, they never spoil the tranquility of an area that leads you straight into nature’s restorative arms.
Terra Nova’s trails are well-marked with multicoloured signage and it’s worth spending an hour or so wandering these pathways. Keep your eyes peeled (and your camera ready) for wildflowers, butterflies, and a plethora of neon-hued dragonflies—especially on the boardwalk that runs alongside the slough, a reed-fringed ribbon of water that’s often full of ducks and turtles.
You’ll also spot some unusual public artwork benches and—if you follow the trail signs—you’ll easily locate the park’s many additional attractions. Craving a longer leg-stretch? The West Dyke Trail connects to the park’s northern and western edges and, on sunny days, it’s like a promenade of wandering locals as well as families enjoying bike rides together.
The well-marked trails in Terra Nova Rural Park. | Photo: John Lee
Heritage buildings and a wildflower meadow
Located in the park’s northern end, you'll find a small group of vintage wooden heritage buildings. Evocative reminders of Richmond’s 1800s settlers, they recall the cannery and farming operations that once called this area home. But while these preserved pioneer buildings are brightly painted, there’s an even more vivid carpet of colour nearby.
Just in front of the buildings, the park’s Pollinator Meadow is a dense, delightful carpet of wildflowers planted to assist local bee populations. In summer, expect a rainbow of rich hues and a chorus of busy bees working the blooms here. Fancy a challenge? Try snapping an action shot of a fast-moving bee at work.
Colourful wildflowers in Terra Nova Rural Park. | Photo: John Lee
Terra Nova hasn’t totally forgotten its decades-long history as a productive farming area. Follow the trail signs and you’ll soon find yourself in the verdant Community Garden. Spend some time checking out the impressive allotment plots here and marvel at just how good other people are at growing fruits, vegetables and wildflowers.
Even on the hottest days, you’ll find sun-hatted locals tending their little plots in this area. Many of them are happy to talk about what they’re growing, and even offer you a few tips on how to cultivate that perfect heritage tomato or pest-free cucumber in your own garden back home.
The Sharing Farm also cultivates 4 acres at Terra Nova Rural Park. The farm is run by community members and is dedicated to providing fresh, local produce to less fortunate locals—thanks to volunteers and a small core of part-time staff, thousands of pounds of produce makes its way to the Richmond Food Bank every year.
The park’s biggest lure for families is the tree-fringed Terra Nova Play Environment, where the welcome sign proclaims ‘A place for off-leash kids.’ That means a vast array of inviting equipment, guaranteed to make children squeal with pleasure—including a pivot swing, climbing frames, and even a maze.
For the more adventurous, there’s also a zipline, rope walkway, and a very popular twisting slide. This is one of the best playgrounds in the Lower Mainland and kids of all ages will happily spend hours here if you let them—make sure you plan your timing accordingly!
10m tall ‘Tree House’ at the Terra Nova Play Environment. | Photo: Crystal Solberg
Just across the road from the Community Garden, you’ll find the entrance to Terra Nova Natural Area, a separate 35-acre park space that’s been carefully preserved as gem-like wild habitat for flora and fauna.
This celebrated grassland is home to more than 80 local and visiting bird species, which is why birdwatchers regularly hit the trail snaking around its perimeter. Early morning and early evening are the best times for sightings—look out for everything from eagles, hawks, and herons to colourful waterfowl and twittering songbirds. This is also an owl-watching hot spot, with specially installed boxes encouraging them to call this area home.
Need to know
Terra Nova Rural Park is open during daylight hours. Smoking is not permitted and you are not allowed to walk dogs here. Not directly accessible by transit, it’s nevertheless just a 15-minute walk from the Westminster Highway and No.1 Road bus stop on the 401 route. The park is also accessible via car or bicycle and there are picnic tables and washroom facilities onsite.