Vancouver Beaches

notes from Mom

Vancouver was chosen numero uno in 2005.  Those who live here and those who’ve been here know why.  We have mountains, we have water, and we have temperate weather.   Vancouver has 20 plus beaches facing the ocean.  If that saying, “life’s a beach,” has any truth to it, Vancouver has a lot of life.

Here is a listing of Vancouver beaches that stretch all the way from West Vancouver to White Rock.  Remember you don’t have to wait for warm weather before going.  What’s more thrilling than walking along the Ambleside or Stanley Park walkways on a stormy day, dodging the crashing waves and trying not to get soaked?  I know my kids would have a blast.  

See a map of 52 Greater Vancouver Beaches.

Note: In British Columbia almost all tideland beaches are public. A public beach is defined as land below the ‘high high’ tide, or winter tide mark. In general, no waterfront property owner has exclusive rights to a beach.  Enjoy but be respectful.

West Vancouver

Stearman Beach (bird's eye view)

When our kids were small, they loved Stearman Beach.  There’s a small stream trickling through the middle of it where they could build dams and castles to their heart’s content.

Sandy Cove (bird's eye view)

You won’t find any signs or arrows directing you to Sandy Cove.  It’s a small out-of-the-way spot, only those looking for it will be lucky enough to find.  When Nathan was small he used to have visions of a pirate ship rounding the cove at any moment.  His time would be spent building the ultimate defense catapult.  Nowadays we spend more time fishing off the rocks that circle the bay (more on that under Fishing-Caulfield-West Vancouver).

Dundarave Beach (bird's eye view)

This is my husband’s favorite beach for swimming.  It has a fairly quick drop off, which isn’t ideal for little kids, but it typically has one of the lowest scores on the summer water contamination count.  You got to like that.  If you feel like going for a walk, the waterfront stretch between Dundarave and Ambleside is spectacular.  Dundarave has lifeguards on duty.

Ambleside Beach (bird's eye view)

Ambleside Beach has everything under the sun.  On top of having one of the best swimming beaches in Vancouver (with lifeguards), Ambleside has par 3 golf, baseball diamonds, soccer pitch, basketball courts, skateboard park, playground, and an area where you can take your dog off leash.  If you stay till suppertime, you can see the cruise ships sail by and try your luck fishing off the dock while the sunsets.  You couldn’t ask for more.

Whytecliff Park (bird’s eye view)

Whytecliff Park is a very popular park to have a picnic in the summer.  The waters off Whytecliff Park are a marine sanctuary which explains why this beach has a lot of people going into the water wearing black rubber suits, and metal tanks on their backs.

Secret beaches of West Vancouver

Here are a few secret, hard to find beaches in West Vancouver.  Some of these beaches may seem private being in front of ritzy waterfront homes and all, but keep in mind everything below the high tide water mark is public access.  As my husband likes to say use it or lose it.

Cliff Cove; foot of Arbutus Lane. (bird’s eye view)
Batchelor Bay Park – foot of Dufferin Avenue, next to Whytecliff Park. (bird’s eye view)
Garrow Bay Park (bird’s eye view)
Larson Bay Park – at the foot of Gleneagles Drive.  (bird’s eye view)
Tall Trees Park (bird’s eye view)
Eagle Harbour Park – somewhat sandy beach. (bird’s eye view)
Parthenon Park (bird’s eye view)
Kew Beach Park  - Seaside Place Road. Some sandy spots. (bird’s eye view)
Gulf Beach Park – foot of Gulf Place Road. Very small rocky beach. (bird’s eye view)
Caulfeild Park – Quite a long park with trails alongside Pilot House Road.  Good swimming off the rocks at high tide, and a sandy beach on the east end of the park. (bird’s eye view)
Erwin Park – in the Stearman Beach area, three access points off Erwin Drive. (bird’s eye view)
Oxley St. Park – small beach at the foot of Oxley Street. (bird’s eye view)
West Bay Park –Somewhat sandy beach at the foot of Maple Lane.  Also two access points from Radcliffe Avenue. (bird’s eye view)
Proctor Park – very small beach and access just down from Altamont Park Beach on Proctor Avenue. (bird’s eye view)
Altamont Park Beach – this larger beach is rocky, and no sand. (bird’s eye view)
26th Street Park (bird’s eye view)

Lions Bay

Lions Bay is a small community 20 minutes north of West Vancouver:

Brunswick Beach (bird’s eye view)
Lions Bay Beach (bird’s eye view)
Kelvin Grove Beach (bird’s eye view)

North Vancouver

Cates Park (bird's eye view)

Cates Park is full of surprises.  Perfect for beachcombing, little kids love searching for sea critters and precious shells.  As well, don’t miss the authentic Indian war canoe and the cement fortress perfect for playing hide-and-seek inside.  You need to take the walkway on the north side of the park to find these treasures.  There’s plenty of forest to let your four-legged friends loose, so leave room in the hatch for them.

Panorama Park, Deep Cove (bird's eye view)

If you have little kids, Panorama Park is the perfect spot.  It’s in a sheltered bay so you don’t have to worry about sweltering waves, plus the water is surprisingly warm.  Unfortunately these conditions are also perfect for a high fecal count (better check if you plan on swimming).  If your kids get bored of the water, no problem, there’s a wonderful playground and hiking/biking trails nearby.  Not to mention the village, home of “Honeys Doughnuts.”


Third Beach (bird's eye view)

If your kids like exploring, take them to Third Beach.  When the tide goes out they can hop from one rock to the next checking out tidal pools along the way.  Jen used to think she’d landed on the moon, because the rocks had big green craters on them.

Second Beach (bird's eye view)

If you haven’t made it to Second Beach yet, make a point of it this summer.  It has a heated outdoor pool, complete with a turtle slide for your little ones.  In the background you can pick from a playground, par 3 golf, or Lost Lagoon complete with ducks, squirrels and maybe raccoons.  Did I mention the fries yet at the concession?  My husband swears by them.  Definitely lifeguards on duty.

First Beach (English Bay) (bird's eye view)

If you’re looking for action, First Beach is the place for you.  There is a gigantic slide for kids and lifeguards are on duty, but there are way too many bikinis for my liking—unfortunately not for my husband’s.  When you get tired of people watching, there’s one hundred plus restaurants nearby to pick from along Denman Street.

Sunset Beach (bird's eye view)

Sunset Beach is not as crowded as Second and First beaches.  It’s a perfect spot to kick back and watch the world go by.  Literally 100 metres away, across False Creek, is Granville Island.  You can even hop the ferry and be at Granville Island in five minutes. 

Kitsilano Beach (bird's eye view)

Once you go to Kitsilano Beach, I guarantee you won’t be able to stop yourself from going back.  It has the best, biggest, outdoor, heated pool I’ve ever seen.  The beach has plenty of sand for everybody and when you’re tired of the water you can just sit back and gaze at the most incredible views of the North Shore mountains.  Apparently Kitsilano Beach just got outfitted with a brand new restaurant right on the beach.  Time to plan an impromptu picnic and leave the cooking to someone else.  Both the pool and beach have lots of  lifeguards.

Jericho Beach (bird's eye view)

If you like water sports like windsurfing and sailing, Jericho Beach is the place to go.  They have a beachside rental centre that has a casual dining restaurant attached to it.  Last time we went I made the mistake of taking Nathan in there, my 15 year-old with the hollow leg.  He ordered a plate of Nachos, which turned out to be a platter so big even Nathan couldn’t take it out.  I suppose sitting on the outdoor veranda, sipping a glass of wine and watching the sunset wasn’t such a bad ending after all.  Meantime the others were busy catching bullheads off the dock and picking blackberries alongside the grassy fields beyond.

Spanish Banks (bird's eye view)

Spanish Banks has the most incredible sand that never seems to end.  Whenever our family goes we take everything except the kitchen sink:  dinghy, kites, fishing rods, towels, bathing suits, cooler, sand toys, Frisbees.  Speaking of Frisbees, our teenage son dreamed up a new pastime last summer—setting traps.  How does the Frisbee fit in?  The Frisbee covers the trap hole, and is then camouflaged by seaweed, twigs, and driftwood to fool unsuspecting passerbys.  The funny thing is Nathan usually ends up stepping in his own trap.

University of B.C. Area—Towers Beach, Wreck Beach (bird's eye view)

These are two beaches our family has never been to.  We never seem to get past Kitsilano and Spanish Banks.  That and the fact Wreck Beach is a nude beach.  I asked Nathan (our teenage son) if he was interested in going to Wreck Beach.  His reply, “Sure.”  That surprised me, because I always thought of him as being shy.  Of course he went about face when I finished off saying Dad, me, Jen, and Cole would be tagging along too.

New Brighton Beach (bird's eye view)

If your kids are bored of swimming at the same old pool, try New Brighton.  Not many people know about it.  Across from the P.N.E. and beside the ominous grain elevators, New Brighton Beach has an unlikely location.  The pool is perfect for younger kids, and has a few dedicated lanes for lap swimmers.  Outside the pool there’s lots of grass and plenty to watch in Burrard Inlet. 


Centennial Beach, Boundary Bay (bird's eye view)

I don’t know why it took us so long to visit Centennial Beach.  It has everything, including miles of beautiful sand, playground, tennis court, hiking path stretching all the way to Mud Bay.  The water is so warm Coleman asked me if it was heated.  Lastly, my kids (and husband) would never forgive me if I didn’t mention Pajo’s, the best fries ever.  A word of warning, Pajo’s gets busy at suppertime.  Jen was the first to point out how nicely dressed some of the people in line were.  They must’ve made a special trip.

Boundary Bay Beach (bird’s eye view) is nestled right beside the US/Canada International Border...just make sure you don't swim across the border.

Beach Grove (bird’s eye view)

Tsawwassen Beach (bird’s eye view)

White Rock

White Rock (bird's eye view) is the perfect place to make a day trip.  On top of the sandy beach getting lost in the horizon, it has a fishing dock, paved pathway hugging the beach, big trains that chug by, and a strip of small shops.  When you’re tired, hungry, and need a break, there are plenty of restaurants to satisfy even our picky eaters.


Crescent Beach (bird's eye view)

White Rock is great, but it gets busy.  If you’re looking for a quieter pace, try Crescent Beach.  It’s only ten minutes away.  Your little kids will have a blast building castles in the sand, but your older set may get itchy feet.  There’s a pleasant beachfront walk you can take in and do some sightseeing at the same time.  An added bonus is the restaurant.  I always appreciate beaches that sell food.  I’m rarely organized enough to pack a picnic.


Barnet Beach (bird's eye view)

Ready for a new adventure?  Barnet Beach pops out of nowhere along the stretch of highway between Kensington and Port Moody.  It’s unassuming and quiet; you may even have the entire beach to yourselves.

Port Moody

Belcarra Park Beach (bird's eye view)

If you have a day, the weather is sunny, and you want to break out of the city, take a drive to Belcarra.  You won’t be disappointed.  Belcarra Beach is actually the site of an old Indian village.  Nathan and Jen used to spend hours scouring the beaches for arrowheads.  When they gave up on that Jen turned her efforts to the schools of tiny fish swimming around the dock.  She tried scooping them up with her bare hands.  (Don’t forget your fishing rods)  Coleman couldn’t miss the playground.  That kept him busy, while we spread out the blankets.  A few kids played in the water, but I actually haven’t seen too many people swimming.  Belcarra is a small beach, but if you have small kids, maybe that’s what you want.  

Rocky Point Park (bird’s eye view)