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12 Best Beaches in Vancouver, BC

Written by Magee Walker
Dec 13, 2019

When it comes to Mother Nature's bounties, Vancouver seems to have hit the jackpot. First, there are the mountains, dominating the horizon to the north and beyond. Then, there are the forests, green and lush year-round thanks to that infamous Vancouver rain. But many would argue that city's best natural attraction is the Pacific Ocean, and the beaches in Vancouver offer a great way to enjoy it.

The Pacific is one of the first things visitors to Vancouver notice, whether arriving by cruise ship (for obvious reasons) or by air—where it sometimes feels as though your plane is about to land in the water until the Vancouver International Airport's runway appears just in the nick of time!

The influence of the ocean on the city is everywhere, from the fresh fish you'll find on the menus at local restaurants to the iconic sails of Canada Place, arguably the most recognizable building in Vancouver's skyline.

No trip to Vancouver would be complete without spending a little time by the sea. It's one of the few activities that truly has something for everyone. A trip to the beach can be active, involving swimming or a walk along a seaside trail like the Seawall. It can just as easily be a mellow excursion: simply find a log or a bench to perch on and watch the boats and seaplanes float by.

Vancouver is home to several different beaches, each with its own personality and attractions. We've summarized what we love most about each of the city's beaches—plus a few other favorites located a short trip away on the North Shore—to help you pick the best one for your visit. But why stop at one? Even with all the other things to see and do in Vancouver, time at the local beaches is time well spent.

The best part about Vancouver's beaches? There's no bad time to visit them. Whether you're looking for a place to catch some rays on a sweltering summer day or you want to huddle on a piece of driftwood and watch the clouds roll in, you'll be perfectly content at any of the local beaches.

Make the most of your time by the sea with our list of the best beaches in Vancouver.

1. Kitsilano Beach

Driftwood on Kitsilano Beach

No list of Vancouver's best beaches would be complete without the legendary Kitsilano Beach, better known as "Kits Beach." Located just across from downtown Vancouver via the Burrard Street Bridge, Kits Beach embodies everything that the neighborhood of Kitsilano has to offer: an outdoorsy hub of activity that is equal parts trendy and unpretentious.

During the dog days of summer, Kitsilano Beach is the place to see and be seen. There's lots to do, from swimming laps in the outdoor saltwater pool to playing tennis, basketball, or beach volleyball. Your four-legged friends are welcome at the designated dog beach, where dogs can happily tucker themselves out running in and out of the ocean.

With plenty of restaurants and shops just a short walk from the beach, you can squeeze in a visit to Kits Beach as part of a fuller day exploring the neighborhood, but with so much to see and do, don't be surprised if you find yourself spending a little longer here than you anticipated.

2. English Bay Beach

English Bay Beach

Overlooking the eponymous English Bay, English Bay Beach offers an oceanside sanctuary in the otherwise busy West End of downtown Vancouver. With Stanley Park to one side, the hustle and bustle of downtown life on the other, and the Stanley Park Seawall running right along it, English Bay Beach is a lively beach with plenty of people watching.

If you're staying downtown, English Bay Beach is one of the easiest of Vancouver's beaches to access by foot, bike, or public transit.

On a blazing summer day, it sometimes feels like half of the city is at English Bay Beach, and finding a spot to set out a towel or picnic blanket can get a little competitive. Arrive early, or be prepared to make new friends.

There are plenty of reasons to visit in the winter months, too—one in particular is the Polar Bear Swim. For many Vancouverites, this traditional dip in not-so-warm waters is the preferred way to ring in the New Year. Up for the challenge?

3. Jericho Beach

Jericho Beach

Jericho Beach is a lovely stretch of sandy oceanfront between the Kitsilano and West Point Grey neighborhoods—but it's so much more than that. It's home to some of Vancouver's posher facilities, like the members-only Royal Vancouver Yacht Club and Jericho Tennis Club, as well as tennis courts that are open to the public.

While Vancouver's beaches can be enjoyed from shore or by taking a dip in the ocean, one of the most exciting ways to experience them is to get way out in the water. Jericho Beach hosts the non-profit Jericho Sailing Centre, where anyone can access sailing, windsurfing, stand up paddleboarding, and skimboarding lessons and rentals.

The adjacent park area features a network of winding trails—the ideal place for a dog walk or trail run. Just keep your eyes on Fido—there is a considerable rabbit population in the area that might spark a spirited chase.

4. Second Beach

Second Beach in Stanley Park

Looking for a family beach that offers something for everyone? Look no farther than Second Beach. Nestled at the south end of Stanley Park, Second Beach is surrounded by trees and overlooks English Bay and the Burrard Inlet.

There are many things that draw kids to Second Beach, from building sandcastles on the seashore to playing at the beach's two playgrounds. But the biggest attraction is undoubtedly the heated outdoor pool, and its two slides, which is open seasonally from late spring to early fall.

If you're visiting during summer vacation, keep your eyes out for the Stanley Park Summer Cinema schedule, which is when Second Beach transforms into an al fresco movie theater. The movies, projected onto a large screen right on the beach, are free—but BYO popcorn.

5. Wreck Beach

Wreck Beach at sunset

Wreck Beach is a beach quite unlike any others on this list. For one, it's the only one located at the University of British Columbia. You'll have to head all the way out to the campus to visit it, and even then, you'll still have to put in plenty of legwork to find it. The beach is tucked away at the base of a cliff, and you'll have to descend 500 steps to get here. Yes, you read that right, and no, that's not an exaggeration. Save some steam for the trip back up!

Perhaps the most noticeable difference, however, is that Wreck Beach is Vancouver's only clothing optional beach. Beachgoer, be warned!

Wreck Beach has a distinct bohemian vibe that attracts a hippy-like crowd. It's not unusual to see a group huddled around a guitar or a local artist selling their work. Something about the rugged shoreline makes this beach feel a little wilder and more secluded than many others around the city.

At low tide, a walk along Wreck Beach is a must-do. The beach goes on for quite a while and there is plenty to look at—from abandoned towers from World War II to the local flora and fauna. Be sure to watch your step, as the rocks can get rather slippery.

6. Spanish Banks Beach

Spanish Banks Beach

With views of the city skyline, Spanish Banks Beach is similar to Kits Beach and Jericho, but tends to be quieter due to its location in a more residential area. It's the optimal place to stake out a picnic table to host an impromptu barbecue, with unreal views over the water and of the city.

With the Seawall stretching from one end of the long beach to the other, Spanish Banks is the ideal beach for a quiet stroll, set to a spectacular backdrop of squeaking seagulls and sailboats drifting along the water.

On a clear evening, there is no better place to catch the sunset than from Spanish Banks Beach. Lay out a blanket and watch the sun sink below the horizon as the city lights flicker across the bay.

7. Third Beach

Third Beach

Find a piece of driftwood (which makes a handy makeshift bench) and sink your feet into the sandy shores of Third Beach in Stanley Park. Surrounded by trees behind you and the ocean before you, many beachgoers quickly forget that they're in the middle of Canada's third largest city.

If you're lapping Stanley Park's Seawall—on foot or by bike—schedule some time to pull over and enjoy Third Beach. Because it's deeper into the park and farther from the city center, the crowds tend to be sparser than nearby English Bay Beach and Second Beach. There's no better place to catch your breath.

8. Locarno Beach

A lifeguard boat at Locarno Beach

Located between Spanish Banks Beach and Jericho Beach, Locarno is a smaller beach that is perhaps lesser known than its neighbors—and, for that very reason, it is a bit of a hidden gem. It offers the same perks as other beaches nearby: epic vistas, sandy beaches, and plenty of room to go for a long walk. Whether you're looking for a place to enjoy a walk, a picnic, or a game of bocce, you'll find it all at Locarno Beach.

Two things it doesn't have? Crowds and noise. Locarno is designated as a quiet beach, meaning no amplified sound is allowed. Leave the boombox at home and head here to enjoy the sights, sounds, and smell of the ocean.

9. Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach

Adjacent to the Burrard Street Bridge, Sunset Beach sits on the mouth of False Creek and offers quick and easy access from downtown Vancouver.

It's also the perfect kickoff point for exploring other areas along False Creek: the Aquatic Centre Ferry Dock is a pickup/drop-off location for the colorful water taxi, a scenic way to hop among popular Vancouver destinations like Granville Island, Yaletown, and the Olympic Village.

As the name suggests, plenty of people enjoy heading to Sunset Beach to watch the day come to a close. It also fronts a highly-trafficked section of the Seawall, making it a great place to spot joggers, walkers, cyclers, and lots of cute dogs.

10. Ambleside Beach

Ambleside Beach

On the opposite side of Burrard Inlet, just across the Lions Gate Bridge, is a beach that—while technically not in the city of Vancouver—is too lovely to leave off this list.

Located in the District of West Vancouver, Ambleside Beach is a vibrant hub that serves as a home base for local activities and festivals. Ambleside Park features walking paths, sporting fields, a playground, tennis courts, and even a Par 3 golf course. It's a short walk from Park Royal shopping center and the shops and cafés along Marine Drive.

The trip across the bridge is a relatively easy one and is well worth the extra bit of effort. If you head to Ambleside Park, give yourself ample time to explore the beach and its surroundings. A quick stroll will lead you to Ambleside Pond, where you might catch a glimpse of the resident swans.

11. Trout Lake Beach

Trout Lake Beach | Mike / photo modified

Not all of the beaches in the Vancouver area front the Pacific Ocean. Trout Lake Beach is the city's only official freshwater beach, located in the landlocked neighborhood of East Vancouver. It's a truly peaceful getaway in the middle of the city.

With picnic areas, sporting fields, playgrounds, and walking trails, the man-made Trout Lake has many of the same amenities of Vancouver's other beaches, but it boasts a few unique attributes, too, like a swimming dock. Though the water at Trout Lake is still pretty cold, many find it more swimmable than the Pacific Ocean.

Trout Lake Beach is located in a true park-like setting, nestled among plenty of trees and with a picture-perfect backdrop of mountains.

12. Dundarave Beach

Dundarave Beach at sunset

The final beach on our list is, like Ambleside Beach, technically located in the District of West Vancouver and not in Vancouver itself, but the wide rocky and sandy shoreline makes it a must-visit for any beach-lover visiting the area.

Dundarave is a true swimmer's beach, with calm waters and a swimming dock available for community use. It's a great bet for families, featuring wading pools and a playground to keep the little ones busy.

The nearby Dundarave Village is a quaint shopping area loved by locals and, given its location, often missed by tourists. Check it out for a quick bite to eat before or after you hit the beach.

More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com

Where to Stay in Vancouver: If you are new to the city, you may want to spend a bit of time figuring out where to base yourself before selecting a hotel. For a quick overview of locations and hotels see our article on Where to Stay in Vancouver: Best Areas & Hotels.

Things to Do in Vancouver: Vancouver has enough attractions to keep you busy throughout your stay, but if you want to venture a bit further afield, have a look at our list of the Best Day Trips from Vancouver. Skiers often head directly to Whistler to get their fix of skiing, but you can find several ski resorts near Vancouver, many of which offer great snow, cheaper prices, and a little different experience. For a comprehensive look at the options, ski our guide to the Best Ski Resorts near Vancouver, which does include Whistler.

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