If you have ever watched the ABC series Once Upon a Time, then you know there are many secrets in Storybrooke, Maine.
Perhaps the biggest secret of all is the fact that the picturesque village that represents Storybrooke isn’t really in Maine. Once Upon a Time is actually filmed in Steveston, British Columbia.
Steveston is home to Canada’s largest commercial fishing harbour, but its real charm lies in the way the community has managed to maintain the atmosphere of a small village while technically being inside a large city.
Although Steveston lies within the boundaries of Greater Richmond, a walk down main street will reveal why this quirky little place was chosen as the ideal place to film a television series about a village in Maine.
Steveston began as a farming community back in 1878 when Manoah and Martha Steves and their six children settled in the area near Lulu Island.
By 1890, the town was booming and commercial fishing had become the primary industry. At one time, 15 canneries were located in Steveston and a large population of multicultural workers were employed in the fishing and processing industries.
Modern Steveston holds onto its historic past and celebrates its small town atmosphere and multiculturalism. When you are walking around Stevston, it feels like you are in a village.
Do It Yourself Walking Tour
Even though the canneries are long gone, Steveston is still all about fish and any walking tour of the village should begin at Fisherman’s Wharf. Strolling along the wharf, you can see commercial fishing vessels and even purchase fresh fish right from the fishermen. Steveston Harbour Authority posts the catch of the day aboard each vessel, so you know what’s for sale before you even get close.
If you prefer to purchase your fish already cooked, there are several great wharf-side restaurants that specialize in fish and seafood. There’s nothing quite like basking in the sun on a patio and watching the fishing boats come and go while enjoying the fresh catch of the day.
At the far end of the wharf you will find Vancouver Whale Watch, an ecotourism tour operator that offers whale watching tours with naturalists along the Gulf and the San Juan Islands. Steveston Seabreeze Adventures also offers whale watching tours and guided fishing charters.
From the wharf, it’s a short walk to the Gulf of Georgia National Historic Site. Once one of the largest cannery operations in Canada and the largest in Steveston, this cannery processed 2.5 million tins of salmon annually in the 1930s. After its close in 1979, the cannery site was ultimately turned into an historical site commemorating the industry and the people who worked in it. Visitors learn about the industry and its history in Steveston through a variety of interactive displays inside the old cannery building. During the summer months, there is live music at the cannery every Friday from 6:30 – 8 pm.
Those interested in history might also consider visiting the Britannia Heritage Shipyard, another national historic site that was once part of Steveston’s Cannery Row. This site particularly emphasizes the multiculturalism of the cannery workers and their families.
From the Gulf of Georgia Historic site, you can enjoy a walk or bicycle ride along some of Steveston’s spectacular trails. Ride along the Dyke trail to Terra Nova Rural Park or along Heritage Trail past some of the modern fishing vessels.
Eventually, you should make your way to Steveston’s downtown area to explore the quaint little shops. Fans of Once Upon a Time will enjoy finding the shops on Moncton Street that correspond to Storybrooke’s Main Street. At the moment, many store fronts leave the Storybrooke signs and window displays up year-round. Favourite shops to checkout include the Romanian Country Bread store, Heringer’s Old Fashioned Butcher Shop, Sarah’s Homemade Ice Cream, The Cannery Café (Granny’s Diner on TV) and Splash Toy Shop. The friendly staff in Steveston’s shops really makes the area feel like a small village.
Once Upon a Time is a television series based on fairy tale characters living in a fictional seaside Maine town known as Storybrooke. There are many secrets in Storybrooke, but the best kept secret of them all is the real life village of Steveston.
If You Go:
-Steveston is incorporated into the city of Richmond, which is located outside the city of Vancouver. The Vancouver International Airport is actually located in Richmond, BC.
-If you are a fan of Once Upon a Time and you are interested in visiting filming sites for the show, you should check out this fan podcast website, which identifies the stores in Richmond that are used in filming: http://ouat.roneyzone.com/ouat-moncton-streetstorybrooke-store-list/. Most of the filming takes place on Moncton Street and the filming dates are not posted, but if you walk around Moncton Street you should keep an eye out for cars with old Maine license plates, a sign that they will be filming soon.
-If you are interested in traditional Fish ‘n’ Chips, try Pajo’s at Fisherman’s Wharf or Dave’s Fish ‘n’ Chips on Moncton Street. Other great seafood spots near the wharf include Sockeye City Grill or Blue Canoe.
-Fans of Once Upon a Time will want to stop at Sarah’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream on Moncton Street, a few steps away from the store that serves as Mr. Gold’s Pawn Shop. The owner, Kate Badenhorst, has created homemade ice cream flavours to represent the characters of the show. Snow White ice cream has cheesecake and white chocolate to represent her fair skin, raspberry sorbey for her red lips, and dark chocolate stracciatella in honour of her black hair.
-For more information on Steveston, visit the official tourism site for the City of Richmond: www.tourismrichmond.com.
Debbie Olsen is a Lacombe-based freelance writer. If you have a travel story you would like to share or know someone with an interesting travel story that we might interview, please email: DOGO@telusplanet.net or write to: Debbie Olsen, c/o Red Deer Advocate, 2950 Bremner Ave., Red Deer, Alta., T4R 1M9.