New Westminster is located on the Burrard Peninsula, on the north bank of the Fraser River. It is 19 kilometres (12 mi) southeast of the City of Vancouver proper, adjacent to Burnaby and Coquitlam and across the Fraser River from Surrey. A portion of New Westminster called Queensborough is located on the eastern tip of Lulu Island, adjacent to Richmond. The total land area is 15.3 square kilometre.
The city has a total population of 58,549 (2006 Census).
Notable New Westminster natives include singer/actor Alexz Johnson, musician/producer Devin Townsend, actor Raymond Burr, race car driver Greg Moore, astronaut Robert Thirsk, magician "Mandrake the Magician" Leon Mandrake, actress Crystal Dahl, professional baseball player Justin Morneau, the MacArthur award winning poet Daryl Hine, and retired professional hockey player Bill Ranford.
In 1859, New Westminster was recommended as the first official capital of the new Colony of British Columbia by Richard Moody, the Lieutenant-Governor, because of its location farther from the American border than the site of the colony's proclamation, Fort Langley. New Westminster, at a defensible location on the north bank of the Fraser River, possessed, according to Moody, "great facilities for communication by water, as well as by future great trunk railways into the interior". Governor Douglas proclaimed "Queensborough" (as the site was initially called by Moody) the new capital on February 14, 1859. "Queensborough", however, did not appeal to London and it was Queen Victoria who named the city after Westminster, that part of the British capital of London where the Parliament Buildings were situated.
From this naming by the Queen, the City gained its official nickname, "The Royal City". A year later New Westminster became the first City in British Columbia to be incorporated and have an elected municipal government.