Small passenger-only ferries conveniently zip back and forth across the inlet.

False Creek Inlet is a shallow, narrow anchorage right in the heart of downtown Vancouver, British Columbia. Staying on your boat in the inlet allows you to take daily shoreside excursions to explore the third largest city in Canada. The interesting and enjoyable sights of this historic city are all within a short dinghy ride from your moorage location. Anchoring in False Creek Inlet is sure to provide a unique urban cruising experience in a bustling waterway that you will not regret… or forget.

The name of False Creek Inlet is actually a misnomer. When George Henry Richard surveyed the surrounding area in the 1850s and 1860s he thought he was traversing a creek, when really it was an inlet. The inlet has been used for thousands of years by the indigenous peoples of the area. In the early 1900s, False Creek became an industrial center that housed many sawmills and port operations. Today, there is very little industry still operating on the creek, with one exception: the Ocean Cement Company. Visually, you can’t miss this cement operation on your starboard side as you enter the inlet, which features tall silos painted with cartoon characters. Once past it, the inlet opens up and it’s time to look for a spot to drop the hook.

When coming by boat, the entrance to False Creek Inlet can be found on the southeast side of English Bay, cutting eastward into downtown. The hustle and bustle of Granville Island, with its public market and shops, are located just south of the western entrance. Science World is located at the far east end of the inlet, with BC Place Stadium and Chinatown a short walk away.

Short-term moorage for smaller boats can
be found at Granville Island Public Market.

Anchoring in False Creek

While at anchor, watching the dragon boats race and practice is a highlight.

Care needs to be taken when anchoring in False Creek, not because there are lots of hazards, but due to the numerous local boats anchored in the snug confines of the inlet. Pick your spot wisely. Make sure you don’t anchor within the channel leading in and out of False Creek Inlet, or get too close to other vessels. If you anchor in the channel, you may be asked to move or, worse yet, get a ticket.

There are three bridges that cross the creek. Be sure to verify your mast height before passing under them. We found our Hylas 44’s mast was too tall to transit under the Cambie Bridge, which is the farthest east of the three.

Once you are anchored, make sure you get an anchoring permit. Boaters need to get a permit to anchor in False Creek when they are anchoring for more than 8 hours during the day (9 a.m. to 11 p.m.) or anchoring anytime between 11 p.m. and 9 a.m. the following day. This permit allows you to anchor a maximum of 14 full or partial days of 30 days during high season (April 1 to September 30) and 21 days of 40 days in low season (October 1 to March 31).

For more information about where to anchor and how to obtain the anchoring permit visit:

If anchoring is not your thing, there are also a few marinas that offer moorage. Another option would be to pick up a reciprocal privilege slip at False Creek Yacht Club, if space is available.

Inlet Logistics

You don’t need to worry about where to land your dinghy while hanging on the hook in False Creek. Dinghy access to shore is available at designated public wharf areas, and there is a 3-hour time limit. There are seven different dinghy docks that dot the shoreline along the inlet and, as with any urban area, some precautions should be taken to make sure your dinghy stays put while exploring the sights of the big city. We always chain up our dinghy while out on the town.

If you don’t want to run your dinghy around False Creek, you don’t necessarily have to. Instead, you might find it fun to just dock your dinghy and ride the little passenger-only ferries. These small, 10- to 15-person capacity ferries transit the entire length of False Creek, with nine different stops. They flitter back-and-forth along the creek from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. You can buy a one trip ticket or an all-day hop-on-hop off pass.

Pacific Central Station is a great place to pick up and drop off crew. The station was originally named False Creek Station and was built in 1917 to serve as the terminus to the historic trans-Canadian Railway. Today, Amtrak and Greyhound bus services can be found here. The “Central” station is just a few blocks east of Science World. Even if you are not picking up or dropping off crew, it is well worth visiting this historic building.

At the east end of False Creek, TELUS World of Science is great for kids and adults alike.

Sights of the City

Granville Island Public Market has a variety of shops and vendors selling fresh food and much more.

Similar in some ways to famous Pike Place Market in Seattle, Granville Island Public Market is a must see destination when visiting False Creek. Located on the western edge of the Inlet, you can even find some short-term moorage for smaller vessels and dinghies right in front of the market.

The market itself has a variety of different types of shops. And if you need fresh provisions such as vegetables, fruits, and meats — this is a place to restock. The market also has lots of different take-out food that you can eat while watching the activities along the waterfront.

On the other side of False Creek, downtown Vancouver has a world-class Chinatown. The entrance can be found 1 kilometer northeast of Science World. The busy Chinatown grew up during the flourishing expansion years of the 1880s and 1890s. During those boom years, Chinese immigrants came to work in the mines, farms, and logging industry that operated around the Vancouver area. These days, you can find numerous shops and some of the best authentic Chinese cuisine in Canada. Additionally, there is a large Chinese Garden to stroll through, which contains well manicured grounds, numerous koi ponds, bridges, and pagodas.

The unmistakable entrance to Vancouver’s Chinatown, which is worth a visit.

Family Friendly Fun

Kid friendly toys and play structures are conveniently located along the south shore seawall.

Cruising with kids? If so, then remember to walk along the south shore seawall. Along the walk, the kids will not be disappointed. Every so often, you’ll come across play structures and different big toys for your kids or grandkids to play on. You might find it hard to get them to move on once they start running, jumping, climbing, and swinging on all the kid friendly toys.

There is also a seawall that runs all the way around False Creek Inlet and Stanley Park. Capping the shoreline originally started in the early 1900s to protect Stanley Park from eroding into the sea. When the seawall was completed in the 1980s, it capped 30 kilometers of Vancouver’s shoreline. Today it is used daily by walkers, joggers, bicyclists, skateboarders, and inline skaters.

It is always nice to get an ice cream cone from one of the vendors, and there is nothing like sitting down and enjoying your cold treat, while watching people and boats cruising the False Creek corridor.

Be sure you stop at the Kids Market, which is close to the Granville Island Public Market. The Kids Market has lots of shops that cater to the younger crowd, but not only that, it has numerous arcade games that are sure to make your young ones smile.

Science World, also known as TELUS World of Science, is at the east end of False Creek Inlet. It is the number one kid attraction in Vancouver. It was originally the EXPO Centre for the 86 EXPO fair and has been repurposed into the science center with rotating exhibits. Science World is for kids of all ages and has a 400 seat OMNIMAX theater that offers extraordinary educational movies.

A stay in False Creek wouldn’t be complete without a stunning sunset.

End to a Perfect Day

You don’t even need to get off your boat to enjoy False Creek Inlet. It is fun to just observe the activities along the creek from the comfort of your own cockpit. While relaxing with a hot cup of coffee in the morning or a cold beverage in the evening, you can gaze at the small passenger ferries zigzagging back and forth, kayakers and paddleboarders slowly stroking their way up and down the waterway; as well as dragon boats racing along the inlet.

After a fun filled day of exploring downtown Vancouver, it is rewarding to just relax while the sun slowly sinks in the sky. As the light of day disappears, the street, navigation, and building lights come on making for some dramatic evening views. You will not find a nicer urban anchorage in British Columbia than the one at False Creek Inlet.

Greg Larsen is a cruiser and racer with a lifetime of sailing experience. He and his family have been cruising the waters of the Salish Sea from Olympia to Alaska for decades.