Which way to the beach? Well, in this city you can find one everywhere you turn. You might not associate Vancouver with beaches, but whether you're looking for a stretch of sand to spread out and relax with a good book, an outdoor court to spike a volleyball, or a catwalk to strut your stuff, you’ll find it here. Here are some of our favourite beaches in the city.
If Vancouver is "Hollywood North," then Kitsilano Beach, known as "Kits Beach" to locals, is our Venice Beach. Buff and bronzed bodies are sure to make their rounds, but don't be worry, you're sure to fit in somewhere among the mix of joggers, stroller-pushing families, sun-worshippers and your everyday loungers. Grassy patches above the tide line are perfect for tossing the disc, the tennis courts are always popular, and the beach attracts volleyball players from all over the city. And don't forget Kits Pool where kids and adults can splash away the day in an outdoor, heated salt-water pool with a wrap-around view of the city, ocean and mountains. It's almost three times the size of an Olympic pool.
When all the elements are right, fishing and a picnic at the Jericho Beach pier makes for a perfect evening. Enjoy the long, sandy stretch with stunning views of the North Shore Mountains and downtown core. It's also a great spot for sailing, windsurfing, sea kayaking and beach volleyball.
To commemorate the discovery of the Spanish explorers in 1792, the British named this particular shore Spanish Banks. The least crowded of Vancouver's beaches, this stretch of sand is a wonderful retreat for those who wish to escape from the pace of city life. Skimmers alert: this is the perfect place for skim boarding once you learn the optimal tidal conditions.
West End Beaches
The southern edge of the West End neighbourhood has two of the most attractive waterfront urban environments - English Bay and Sunset Beach. Amazingly, this large stretch of sand is no more than a 30- minute walk from most downtown hotels - with no commercial exploitation intruding on the peaceful environment. In summer, English Bay becomes a jumping off point for rollerblading adventures, strolling for ice cream, and picnics. Kids will love the floating slide and parents will appreciate the full time lifeguard. It's also the place to lay down your blanket and look up to the sky during the Celebration of Light international fireworks competition held over three nights in late July and early August.
Second and Third Beaches
Second Beach is a quick stroll north from English Bay into Stanley Park. Like Kitsilano Beach, Second Beach also has an immense, heated outdoor pool. Further along the seawall lies secluded Third Beach, which is due north of Stanley Park Drive. Locals tote grills and coolers to this spot, a popular place for summer evening barbecues and sunset watching.
This 7.8-kilometre (4.8-mile) long, secluded beach is Canada's first and largest, legal, clothing-optional beach. Wreck Beach located at the western tip of Vancouver, adjacent to the University of British Columbia campus, down a long flight of steep stairs. On a summer weekend, as many as 14,000 visitors flock to the beach which stretches from the Musqueam Reserve to Spanish Banks West. Vendors Row, located down the middle of the beach below Trail 6, offers snacks and refreshments. Note: Wreck Beach enthusiasts are a loyal and protective bunch who take their right to "bare" arms, legs and everything else pretty seriously.
Just over the Lions Gate Bridge in West Vancouver, Ambleside Beach is a favourite with families. You’ll find a lovely long stretch of sandy beach for building sand castles, a playground for climbing, and a little café for grabbing an ice cream. But among grown-ups, Ambleside is known for its own strollable seawall boasting spectacular views back to Stanley Park and the downtown skyline.
Some Important Park By-laws for Beaches
To make sure that Vancouver’s beaches remain safe and enjoyable for everyone, here are some things that are prohibited on Vancouver’s beaches:
- Drinking alcohol
- Dogs, other than at designated off-leash dog beaches (see below)
- Fires (barbeques permitted in containers)
- Playing ball sports (except in designated areas)
- Using inflatable devices in the water
- Kiteboarding and kitesurfing (except at Spanish Banks Extension)
❐ Find out more about amenities offered at each beach, such as food kiosks, lifeguards, washrooms, etc.
❐ Find dog-friendly beaches in Vancouver
❐ Learn more about accessible beaches
❐ Related reading: check out our series on Vancouver Beaches on InsideVancouver.ca