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British Columbia is a beautiful place. Whether you’re a visitor or resident, a trip to one of Vancouver’s beaches is always a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. No matter what time of year it is, there’s plenty to do and on a clear day my favourite thing to do is watch the sun go down.
- Sunset Beach: This beach is located on the Stanley Park Seawall system on Beach Avenue between Bute St. and Thurlow St. The area is considered the West End but it’s also very close to Yaletown. Look to the west from the Burrard St. Bridge to view the shark tooth pattern the sand forms as it juts out into False Creek. The amenities here include a concession stand and public washrooms. The Vancouver Aquatic Centre is right next door as is the False Creek Ferry pier. Play volleyball on the sand, bike, walk or blade along the seawall or take your dog for a swim at the dog beach but don’t play your music here- this is a designated quite zone and amplified music is not permitted. Sunset Beach breaks its own rules once a year when it plays host to the Vancouver Pride Parade’s festival.
- English Bay: By far the busiest beach area in Vancouver, this beach is also referred to as First Beach and can be found in the West End, southwest of Stanley Park on Beach Avenue between Gilford and Bidwell Streets. There’s a concession, public washrooms, off-leash dog area, volleyball courts, shuffleboard, kayak rentals and storage as well as a large raft complete with water slide. With numerous street vendors, close proximity to Denman Street and the newly built Cactus Club Cafe right on the beach, you will not go hungry while spending the day here. If you happen to be a fan of fireworks, be sure to catch the annual Celebration of Light from English Bay during the summer but secure your spot early in the day as thousands of people descend upon the beach with the same idea!
- Second Beach: Within Stanley Park, there are two official beaches with Second having less sand but more park. A heated outdoor, Olympic-sized pool is open during the summer, there’s a large playground and picnic area, a concession stand, public washrooms and of course access to the Seawall. Again, there are beach volleyball courts and an off-leash dog area.
- Third Beach: Known to be a local’s hangout, Third Beach is a naturally sandy area with a small park, concession stand and public washrooms. Less is more here; you won’t find a volleyball court or a dog area but you can watch people pass by on the seawall, try to spot landmarks across the Burrard Inlet in West Vancouver and count the ships awaiting entry into our port. Famous for its sunsets, this is a quite beach and perfect for using as a base for walks into Stanley Park. The Teahouse in Stanley Park is adjacent to Third Beach. Access this beach via the Seawall or by car through Stanley Park.
West Side beaches:
- Kitsilano Beach: This is a long beach with ample green space running the shoreline in the Kitsilano neighbourhood on Cornwall Avenue. With tennis courts, beach volleyball, a playground, basketball courts, field, floor and ball hockey, a large outdoor salt-water pool, and ocean-going activities such as swimming, skimboarding, windsurfing, paddleboarding, canoeing or kayaking: there’s no shortage of ways to keep you active. The Seawall also passes by Kits Beach on its way to False Creek. If you’d rather just lie on a blanket or relax by the water to take in the view, you can do that too but I find this to be the loudest beach. If you’re hungry, try the many restaurants on Cornwall Avenue and Yew Street, visit the concession stand or grab a table at The Boathouse Restaurant. Public washrooms are available. Nearby Hadden Park allows dogs.
- Jericho Beach: Within Jericho Park, located in Point Grey on Point Grey Road between Wallace St. and Discovery St. The Jericho Sailing Centre is here as is the Vancouver Youth Hostel. The park is home to a soccer and rugby field, a baseball diamond, tennis courts, a pond, and a young forest interspersed with walking and biking trails. The beach caters to swimmers on the east side and boating/windsurfing on the west. The Seawall begins again here and winds its way west towards UBC. As always, there’s a concession stand and public washrooms. The Brock House Society, Vancouver Royal Yacht Club and the Jericho Tennis Club are all adjacent to the park.
- Locarno Beach and Spanish Banks: West of Jericho, Locarno and then Spanish Banks together form the longest stretch of sand within Vancouver. There are concession stands and public washrooms, volleyball courts, dog areas, picnic spots, grassy areas and access to the Seawall. Locarno is a designated quite zone but Spanish Banks is not. Parking is free here.
- Wreck Beach: Ranked second of all nude beaches in North America by the Huffington Post this is Vancouver’s only clothing-optional beach. Located in the Spirit Pacific Regional Park on the UBC Campus and running 7 kilometers from Acadia Beach to Booming Ground Creek, the area at Trail 6, down some four-hundred stairs, is considered by most to be Wreck Beach proper. It is possible to walk the entire shoreline through the rocky beach starting on the eastern most section, however this can be difficult or impossible during high tide. The facilities are not the same as the other beaches: there are outhouses and a port-a-potty but no running water, no lifeguards and you won’t find a concession stand but there are licensed vendors selling food, drinks, clothing, jewelery and other beach related items such as blankets. Many people come to play board games, listen to their music with headphones, sunbathe, swim and play beach volleyball all in the nude. While it isn’t mandatory to strip down, most people do. With its location on the western most edge of Vancouver, Wreck Beach is home to a spectacular sunset.
The Seawall runs the perimeter of Stanley Park through all four downtown beaches and around False Creek. It starts again at Jericho Park and runs west to Spanish Banks West.
- Things to do: swim, play in the sand, windsurf, kayak and canoe, paddleboard, picnic, read a book, suntan, play volleyball (all beaches except Third have beach volleyball courts), skimboard, search for critters, people watch, and on and on and on.
- If you’re visiting between Victoria Day (late May) and Labour Day (early September) lifeguards are on duty at all beaches in Vancouver with the exception of Wreck Beach.
- When the tide is out, you may need to walk several minutes to reach the ocean! Check the tide calendars prior to your visit for up-to date information.
- Be prepared to pay for parking at most beaches. If you’re willing to walk a bit, free two-hour parking can be found if you’re patient.
- If visiting during the summer, the beaches can get busy both for a spot to lounge and for your car. Unless you arrive early or late, be prepared to walk or circle to find a spot.
- Always wear sunscreen or stay in the shade.
- Bring your own grill if you plan to cook. If you’re planning a large get-together (50 people or more) a permit is required. Visit The City of Vancouver‘s website for details.
- Vancouver’s parks and greenways are smoke free expect in designated areas. Please respect our bylaws.
- Keep the area litter free by depositing all waste in the receptacles. If you’re interested in helping clean up the shoreline, please visit Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup.
- The following are not permitted: alcohol, smoking, ball play (designated areas only), dogs (designated areas only), fires, horses, kite surfing and inflatable devises.