Downtown Beaches: An ode to city swimming

English Bay (First) Beach

It’s no secret that Vancouver has some incredible urban beaches.  In fact, last year National Geographic Traveler recognized Vancouver as one of the top 10 beach cities in the world.

But what sometimes goes unnoticed is exactly how urban Vancouver’s beaches really are.  We’re not talking about lovely suburban strands where you can see the distant city skyline.  We’re talking about beaches that actually brush right up against skyscrapers, in some of the most densely populated real estate on the West Coast.

This point was driven home to me when I took a dip at downtown’s Sunset Beach, where False Creek meets English Bay.  I had just walked up from the urban jungle of Yaletown, a maze of 20- to 30-story condo towers, cranes and construction sites.   As I was about to dip my toes in the water I happened to turn and see commuters racing over the nearby Burrard Street Bridge – hundreds of cars zipping across the span in the midst of the evening rush hour.

Vancouver Beaches

And yet here I was on a sandy beach, surrounded by sunbathers and swimmers doing laps in the water.   Directly behind me – just a few meters away, really – was one of the biggest cities in western Canada, a metropolis crowded with more than two million people.   But in front of me was golden sand, clean water and a scene straight out of a Caribbean postcard.

Well, that might be going a little too far.  The water around Vancouver isn’t exactly crystal clear – it tends to be murky brown  a lot of the time.  And there aren’t too many palm trees growing along the shore.  And, even in the hottest days of summer, you can only plunge in for a minute or two before the chilly water gets uncomfortably cold.

But, all things considered, Vancouver’s urban beaches are really a marvel.  I’ll go out on a limb and guess that few cities of this size boast swimmable beaches right in the heart of their downtown core.  Now, if only the summer beach season were just a bit longer . . . .

Anyone else find the downtown beaches amazing?  What’s your favourite stretch of city sand?  Please comment below.

Tagged: , , , , ,

Comments are closed for this post

3 Responses to Downtown Beaches: An ode to city swimming

  1. Ray

    “But in front of me was golden sand, clean water and a scene straight out of a Caribbean postcard.”

    Clearly you’ve never been to the Caribbean. Or anywhere outside of BC for that matter.

    • Linda

      Hey Ray,

      I think your comment was a bit insulting to the author. Did you read the paragraph after that sentence?


      • Hi, Linda — Thanks for sticking up for me!