Note: It is now legal for women to go topless on Vancouver beaches and in public swimming pools. This is a result of a recent court case which threw out the previous law.
Vancouver is blessed with many beaches, most suitable for swimming, although the water can be a little chilly at some of them. Some beaches near the harbour can be closed at times for swimming if the coliform count is too high. Considering they border a large city of 2 million, the water around Vancouver's beaches is quite good. The inner harbour where the docks are, is located on a body of water separate from English Bay, around which most of the beaches are located. Vancouver is North America's second largest Port and has a tremendous amount of Freighter traffic using it. Ships anchor out in English bay, awaiting berths (see Kitsilano picture below). They are, however, monitored closely to ensure they don't dump bilge into English Bay. Summer water temperatures for the English Bay Beaches (Stanley Park, Kits, Spanish Banks) vary from about 16 to 22 degrees C. or 60 to 73 Fahrenheit. The later in the season, the warmer the water. White Rock and Pt. Roberts/Tsawwassen beaches are usually warmer especially after the tide has come in, due to shallow water. They can sometimes be as high as 28 C or about 82 F. One of the big days on Vancouver beaches is Jan 1st, New Years Day. On this day the annual Polar Bear swim attracts several hundred die hard individuals out to prove that Vancouver is a year round swimming destination. The black areas, you can see near the water lines in the pictures are seaweed (kelp), not oil, by the way.
English Bay-First Beach:
Nice Sandy Beach in the West End (western foot of Davie St. near Denman). Walking distance from Downtown Youth Hostel. Lifeguard in summer. Change room. Food vendors in summer. Grassy areas. Walking distance to Second Beach below. Site of the annual International Fireworks competition in late July, early August.
First Beach/English Bay in the West End, and yes that is a Palm Tree. Many tourists are surprised to see them in Canada. (photos July/98)
Slightly rocky beach located in the Southwest section of Stanley Park near the Beach Ave. Entrance. This beach is about as far in as you can drive in this direction before you encounter the one way Park Drive (in the wrong direction). A salt water pool and playgrounds are also located here. Change rooms and food concession. Lifeguard . Access from walking the seawall or driving around the park from the Georgia St. or Beach Ave Entrances.
Sandy beach located at Western end of Stanley Park. This is probably the nicest of Stanley Parks beaches. To get there, you must enter the Park at the Georgia St. Entrance. If you enter from Beach Ave, you can turn right where you encounter the one-way Park Drive and follow that road to the Georgia St. Entrance. The beach is located about 3/4 of the way around the Park at the Teahouse. You can save half the drive around the park, by taking the Beaver Lake road to your left before reaching the Aquarium area, but its a nice drive, so why bother. When you reach the teahouse, there is a turnoff to the right that takes you down to the Parking lot. There are Change rooms and a Food Concession. Good Sunset beach. Lifeguard .
3rd Beach, West Vancouver and Ambleside Beach are visible across the Bay. (Photos Aug 98)
I hesitate to include this postage stamp size beach, located in Stanley Park on the inner harbour, with its views of yellow sulphur piles on the docks across the harbour. It does, however, have food concessions and a water park, which is good for the kids.
Lumberman's Arch Beach, not very aesthetic, but a good place to watch Freighters and Cruise Ships. (Photo Aug 98)
Probably Vancouver's nicest beach, Kits is located on the South side of the Burrard Street Bridge and a little west along Cornwall Street. Walking distance from downtown. Nice white sand beach. One of the best bikini watching spots, if your male. Change rooms, food concession, salt water pool and large grassy areas. Lifeguard.
Kitsilano Beach (Photos July/98)
Large Sandy beach located near Youth Hostel at the foot of Discovery Street. Sailboat and windsurf rentals. Lifeguard. Food concessions and change rooms. Grassy areas. To get there, head across Burrard street Bridge going south, then go west on 4th Ave. to Discovery.
Jericho Beach outside the youth Hostel (Photo May/98)
Large sandy Beach located west along the waterfront (NW Marine Drive) from Jericho. Food concession and change rooms. Grassy areas.
Large sandy beach located further west from Locarno and Jericho (NW Marine Drive). Food concessions and change rooms. Grassy areas.
Pt. Grey Beach:
Located still further west from Locarno and Spanish Banks. A little more deserted, but rockier.
Nudist beach located down steep trails from the western end of the University of BC campus. Somewhat rocky. Good sunset spot. Used to be the best place to find Japanese fishing balls when I was a kid. Now the only type of balls you see, aren't made of glass. No food concessions, but there are beach hawkers.
Sandy Beach located along the West Vancouver waterfront. Change rooms and food concessions. To get there, follow Georgia St. west from downtown, through Stanley Park, across Lions Gate Bridge, then west on Marine Drive to 11th Street.
There are smaller beaches located at various points west of Ambleside. Some are not easily accessible. All beaches are free to public access, even if they appear to be in front of expensive looking homes.
There is a beach in the town of Deep Cove where Indian Arm joins Burrard Inlet. Follow Dollarton Highway or Mt. Seymour Parkway east of the Second Narrows bridge. There is also one at Gates Park on Burrard Inlet east of the Second Narrows Bridge, off Dollarton Highway. Since Vancouver harbour is located between these beaches and open ocean, water quality varies. Check before swimming.
Belcarra Park: (click for web site)
Pleasant Beach and Park located on the opposite side of Indian Arm from Deep Cove. To get there, follow Hastings Street east as far as it goes, it will turn into the Barnet Highway. Proceed through the town of Pt. Moody and turn left on Heritage Mountain Blvd. Follow this until its becomes Bedwell Bay Road and follow to the Park. Scuba Diving is available.
Nice lakeside beach with mountain backdrop. Buntzen Lake is actually an artificial reservoir, although you would never know it. It has 2 sandy beaches at the north and south ends of the lake. The one at the north end is only accessible by hiking, biking or boat. There is a trail along both sides of the lake between the 2 beaches (the east side is shorter). There is also a gravel road on the east side which makes biking between the two beaches easy, although you can't use a car on this road. There is plenty of parking at the south beach and the area has grass, sand, washroom and picnic facilities. It can become very crowded on weekends. Lots of hiking and recreational opportunities here, besides just the beach. To get to Buntzen Lake, follow the instructions above for Belcarra, except turn off Heritage Mountain Blvd. onto East Ave., then right on Sunnyside Road. This is a little confusing, but there are signs, albeit rather small ones and its best to have a map. The only store is located just outside the park entrance, so stop there for any supplies or munchies, first. Click Here for a picture of Buntzen Lake. This is the site of quite a few X-File episodes, if your fan. For more information on Buntzen lake and a description of the hiking trails in the area click
Pleasant Park located in Burnaby, although the lake is not very good for swimming. Located near Canada Way and Deer Lake Parkway. Here is a link to more info: Burnaby Parks and Recreation - Deer Lake Park
Deer Lake (Photo late Oct 98)
White Rock Beach:
Large black sand beach located in the town of White Rock near the US border. Follow Highway 99 (Freeway) and take the last major exit just before the US Border. (Marked Marine Drive, White Rock). Water tends to be warmer here since it is quite shallow. Lots of fish & chip shops. Change rooms. There used to be a large annual sandcastle competition here, but it got too expensive to police. Be careful of the Parking meters here. They are expensive ($1 per hour) and meter maids are vigilant. Parking is free before noon.
White Rock Beach (Photo Sept. 98)
Large sandy beach located west on the Crescent Road exit as you near the US border near White Rock. Food Concessions and fish & chip shops. Change rooms. Crescent Beach itself is a quaint village. There are several excellent restaurants. The north end of this beach turns into marshland with trails and various forms of bird life. This area is known as Blackie Spit. To get there take Highway 99 south towards the US border, take the first White Rock Exit & follow the signs.
Crescent Beach in Winter
Sandy beach located at the west side of the Tsawwassen peninsular, south of the city. Not a very aesthetic view of the Roberts Bank Coal port. Take Highway 99 and exit onto Highway 17 south of the tunnel. Follow signs to Tsawwassen. There are also beaches located on the East side of the Peninsula (see below).
Pt. Roberts/Boundary Bay Regional Park:
Large sandy beach with warm water, extending along the east side of the Tsawwassen peninsular and extending into the U.S. at Pt. Roberts. (this is a small jetty of land extending below the 49th parallel and therefore in the United States.) See Tsawwassen above for directions, keep going until you cross border. There are several beaches on the US side, but unlike Canada, not all beaches in the US are public.
Iona Beach Regional Park
Beach Located on the Fraser River in Richmond. Not the best for swimming, but a pleasant area anyway.
This windswept beach is located at the Southwest tip of Richmond in the Steveston area. Its located on the Fraser River and is not great for swimming, but it features fantastic views, sunsets and is a great place for a picnic, fire, and star gazing. Its northern side borders on one of the last remaining wetlands in Greater Vancouver. It is also probably the best spot in Vancouver to fly a kite and is the southern end of the network of dyke trails in Richmond.