Summer and winter, the beaches in Metro Vancouver are never without visitors. Thanks to a mild climate moderated by the ocean residents are able to enjoy their coastline year-round. But just as soon as the mercury begins to rise, you’ll find sun worshipers with their toes in the sand. As a downtown resident myself, it’s a true joy to be able to step off the city sidewalk and onto the beach. Whether you’re a family enjoying the Sasamat Lake shore or part of the after work crowd flocking to First Beach, part of your B.C. lifestyle likely plays out on the beach. With summer nearly upon us, here are 14 beaches we love. Read on to see if your favourite made the list.
Lower Mainland Beaches
White Pine Beach
Beach: sandy lake shore Parking: lot Amenities: concession, washrooms, picnic tables Other activities: hiking Dogs allowed: yes (on-leash only) Website:sasamat.org
A lake, for a change. White Pine Beach on Sasamat Lake attracts Port Moody-area locals who seek a family-friendly beach atmosphere more akin to the traditional Canadian cottage country experience. Enjoy it before somebody takes a blurry photo of a lake monster and the place really gets crowded.
Barnet Marine Park
Beach: sandy Parking: three large lots Amenities: washroom, outdoor shower, picnic tables, boat launch (car top boats only) Other activities: canoeing, kayaking, fishing, walking Dogs allowed: yes (off-leash area) Website:burnaby.ca/Lakes/Barnet-Marine-Park
Locals love Barnet Marine Park for its tranquility, despite its relative proximity to Burnaby’s busy city centre. Drive out just 15 minutes and reach this peaceful oasis of walking trails and a sandy beach. Views from the shore overlook Burrard Inlet and the mouth of Indian Arm. One can’t go to Barnet Marine Park without being reminded of its rich logging past. The remnants of a mill scrap burner jut out of the water and it is considered a heritage site. Click here for a park map.
White Rock Beach
Beach: sandy Parking: lot/street Amenities: close proximity to town means access to restaurants, shops and galleries Other activities: shopping, dining, promenade walk Dogs allowed: no. Click here to see waterfront leash-on area map Website:whiterockonline.com/beaches
White Rock is Metro Vancouver’s only real beach town. Stroll the beachfront strip, enjoy fish ‘n chips by the sea, dash across the Canada-US border to fill up on cheap gas (a popular activity not directly related to traditional fun-in-the-sun). A little resort getaway close to home. ‘The Hump’ divides the beach into what’s referred to as East Beach and West Beach. Nearby Crescent Beach is a more secluded alternative—popular, but not so popular as to lose its popularity as a secluded alternative.
Beach: sandy & mud flats Parking: lot Amenities: washroom, concession/cafe, fire pits, picnic tables Other activities: nearby volleyball and tennis courts, bird watching. Boundary Bay Park supports equestrian riders, cycling and trail hiking. Dogs allowed: yes (on leash) Website:metrovancouver.org/boundary-bay-regional-park
It’s a wide stretch of sand lapped by salty ocean waves. Best of all it’s in Tsawwassen—best, that is, if you live nearby or want to avoid the Vancouver crowds. The shallow waters of Boundary Bay are warmed by the sun, and the tide recedes a long way to uncover a vast expanse of sand and shells. If it’s fish you’re after, you’re in luck—there’s a fancy new concession.
Beach: rocky outcroppings Parking: lot Amenities: washrooms, picnic tables, viewpoints Other activities: hiking (maintained trails), outdoor amphitheatre, rock climbing Dogs allowed: yes Website:lighthousepark.ca
For some, the definition of beach does not include giant rocks. They should get over it. Lighthouse Park, located off Marine Drive halfway between West Vancouver and Horseshoe Bay, offers a unique waterfront experience for sunbathers and nature lovers alike. One of the few remaining patches of old-growth forest in the Lower Mainland, Lighthouse Park juts into Burrard Inlet with sun-baked rock outcroppings from which to watch sailboats, kayaks, and cruise ships ply the waters.
Ambleside Park Beach
Beach: sandy Parking: lot Amenities: concession, outdoor shower, picnic tables, picnic shelter, barbecues, playground, waterpark, public washroom/change rooms Other activities: nearby sports fields, duck pond, skate park & tennis courts Dogs allowed: 3.52 hectacre off-leash dog area Website:westvancouver.ca/ambleside-park
Many stretches of West Vancouver’s stunning waterfront can be enjoyed in complete peace and privacy for only $10-15 million. For those of us unable to pony up sufficient funds for a little mansion hideaway on the shore there is Ambleside, West Van’s premiere stretch of public sand. The Lion’s Gate Bridge stands sentinel to the east, while over to the west a large wooden dock is populated with strollers and crabbers. Lifeguards are on duty during the summer, supervising the designated swim area. If you’re a dog owner you’ll love the off-leash dog park. If you’re a sea lion you’ll love the crab bait.
Beach: wide sand flats Parking: pay parking lots at UBC, some street parking or use public transit Amenities: vendor’s row, some washrooms at trail heads Other activities: n/a Dogs allowed: March 1 – September 30 no dogs allowed. See map. Website:wreckbeach.org
Wreck Beach is wildly popular among Vancouver residents and visitors alike. We’re talking 12,000-14,000 daily visitors popular. But don’t worry, there are nearly eight kilometres of sandy beach to enjoy. Wreck Beach wraps around the western tip of the Point Grey headland providing incredible views of the Salish Sea. Visitors should note that Wreck Beach is clothing-optional but it should not deter non-naturists. The atmosphere on the beach is very relaxed, with social beach-goers playing card games, bocce or throwing an impromptu jam session. It’s important to know that the beach is set back from the road and accessed by a number of steep stairs that should not be considered accessible for all.
Beach: sandy Parking: free lot parking Amenities: concession, public washrooms, picnic tables Other activities: volleyball, barbecues permitted, skimboarding, kiteboarding launch Dogs allowed: only in dedicated off-leash areas Website:vancouver.ca/spanish-bank-beach
With low tide revealing a kilometre of beach, Spanish Banks is a popular spot for sun seekers. Located on English Bay’s southwest lip, the beach affords visitors an incredible view of the city skyline. Spanish Banks is separated into three sections: East, West and Extension. Spanish Banks West is the largest portion and is a designated ‘quiet beach.’ Extension is the shortest and features a kiteboarding launch. Those seeking to lay out with their tunes cranked should head to Spanish Banks East. All sections have lifeguards on duty from late May to early September.
Beach: sandy Parking: pay parking Amenities: concession, public washrooms, picnic tables, swimming raft, beach wheelchair Other activities: Jericho Beach Park has soccer fields, baseball diamonds, tennis courts, Jericho Sailing Centre and picnic shelters. Dogs allowed: no. Use Locarno Beach Park Dog off-leash area. Website:vancouver.ca/jericho-beach
Another beautiful beach located in Point Grey along Vancouver’s Seawall. Beach-goers flock to the east end of the beach while the west is better suited to windsurfers and sailboats. Lifeguards are on duty from late May to Labour Day. Stake your claim against a beached log and take in the stunning views of the North Shore Mountains. Jericho Beach Park plays host to Vancouver’s annual Folk Fest (July) and UBC’s Day of the Longboat (late September).
Beach: sandy Parking: pay parking lot Amenities: concession, public washrooms, picnic tables, swimming raft, playground Other activities: tennis and basketball courts, outdoor swimming pool, dining Dogs allowed: no Website:vancouver.ca/kitsilano-beach
‘Kits Beach’ is one of the most popular beaches in Vancouver. Its close proximity to the downtown core and sandy shore attracts families and a picnicking after-work crowd. The beach lies in English Bay along the Vancouver Seawall and is also a popular place to view fireworks during the Celebration of Light. Lifeguards are on duty from Victoria Day to Labour Day. Kitsilano Beach is also home to a 137 metre, seaside pool. It is salt-water, heated, wheelchair accessible and has three slides.
English Bay Beach/First Beach
Beach: sandy Parking: pay parking lot, street parking Amenities: public washroom/change rooms, restaurants, designated swimming area, raft, beach wheelchair Other activities: beach volleyball, kayak rentals Dogs allowed: no Website:vancouver.ca/english-bay-beach
The heart of English Bay Beach lies just off the intersection of bustling Denman and Davie. Its close proximity to Davie Street Village, shops and restaurants make it downtown Vancouver’s most popular beach. Residents of the West End neighbourhood truly consider First Beach a part of their backyard. During the day foot traffic, cyclists and rollerbladers travel along the Seawall adding to the beach’s hubbub. In the evening visitors linger as the sun floods the sky with colour, and finally dips below the horizon. During the height of summer the beach is very crowded and those looking for solitude should seek it elsewhere. Lifeguards are on duty from late May to early September.
Beach: sandy Parking: pay parking lot, street parking Amenities: public washrooms, concession Other activities: beach volleyball court Dogs allowed: yes (adjacent off-leash dog park) Website:vancouver.ca/sunset-beach
Just a few minutes down the Seawall (travel east in the direction of the Burrard Street Bridge) is Sunset Beach. This beach can be considered the smaller, quieter sibling of English Bay Beach. Sunset Beach Park is located just beyond the shoreline for those who prefer laying out on grass rather than sand.
Beach: sand/rock Parking: lot Amenities: concession, public washrooms/change rooms, picnic tables, playground, picnic shelter, Second Beach Pool Dogs allowed: yes (in designated off-leash area) Website:vancouver.ca/second-beach
Second Beach is tucked just inside Stanley Park’s south corner. The beach itself has many logs to lean against and offers views of Point Grey and the container ships moored in English Bay. Beach-goers enjoy Second Beach for the reprieve it offers from First Beach’s crowds. Adjacent to the beach is a seaside, heated pool that attracts families and length swimmers. A graduated slope means the pool is great for tots wading in the shallows, and accessible for those with mobility limitations. An ample number of picnic tables and green space encourages visitors to stay at least a half day. During the summer Second Beach hosts a well attended outdoor movie series.
Beach: sand, some rocks Parking: lot Amenities: public washroom, concession Other activities: n/a Dogs allowed: Third Beach does not have a designated off-leash zone Website:vancouver.ca/third-beach
Third Beach is no secret but because it is located deep in Stanley Park, it attracts less people than First and Second. That being said, don’t think for a moment that you’ll find much privacy during the summer months. The Seawall runs along the beach, bringing foot traffic, rollerbladers and cyclists through in droves. Lay out on this sandy stretch and take in the panoramic views of the water. Lifeguards are on duty from Victoria Day to Labour Day (late May to early September). On summer evenings don’t be surprised to hear the rhythm of drumming floating on the breeze. Third Beach hosts organized drum circles, some of which attract hundreds of participants.
A Local Tip
If you’re looking for somewhere a little more quiet to lay out in Stanley Park, travel north along the Seawall from Third Beach. You’ll find pockets of beach to lay a blanket on. If you’ve reached the base of the Lion’s Gate Bridge you’ve gone too far.
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