After shining the spotlight on a handful of 604 Neighbourhoods I’m turning the focus of my weekly series onto waterfronts and seaside recreational areas in Vancouver, just in time for summer. Today’s Vancouver Beaches feature highlights Point Grey on the Western tip of Vancouver. Its beaches — Spanish Banks, Jericho, and Locarno — have equally fantastic views of the North Shore Mountains and the shimmering glass towers of Downtown Vancouver:
Location: Head west through Kitsilano (past Kitsilano Beach) and you’ll soon run into Jericho Beach Park. You can turn right from West 4th off Alma, then left on Point Grey Road or keep going on West 4th until it splits into NW Marine Drive on the right. Turn right there, right onto Discovery and you’re there.
The Jericho Sailing Centre (with sailboats, kayaking, Stand Up Paddleboarding, and windsurfing) is on the west side of the park and the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club is on the east side. The general recreational area and swimming beach is right in the middle. The “Seaside Bicycle Route” will also take you from False Creek, over to Point Grey Road, link up with NW Marine Drive, and lead you to all of the other Point Grey Beaches.
Features: Jericho Beach is a popular destination at any time of year with its tennis courts, playing fields, sailing centre, and also the Vancouver Youth Hostel across from the rugby field. There is a full concession, parking, and a lifeguard on duty from Victoria Day to Labour Day (that goes for all of the Point Grey beaches). At 46.71 hectares, this massive green space with ponds and park trails connecting all the way out to the sandbar is a local favourite for picnics and events.
Before the arrival of European settlers this area was home to a native village called Ee’yullmough. Later in the 1860s a logging camp under the auspices of Jeremiah Rogers took hold here. Known as “Jerry’s Cove”, the name evolved into the now familiar ‘Jericho’. [Source: Vancouver Park Board]
Location: Tucked between Jericho and Spanish Banks, Locarno Beach is often mistaken for either of those other two. You can use Jericho’s big parking lot to the east (paid) or park along the road (for free) if you’re not coming in on two wheels using the Seaside Bicycle Route.
Features: Locarno is a designated “quiet beach” so you’ll want to come here for the beautiful stands of evergreens, picturesque sunsets, picnics (with no amplified sound devices), and a peaceful swim. This 19 hectare strip of sandy beachfront connects Jericho with Spanish Banks and begins the western portion of Point Grey’s waterfront off-leash area for dogs.
Before the European settlers arrived, this site was home to a First Nations Village called Eyalmu, roughly translating to “good camping ground.” It was named in 1925 by the Municipality of Point Grey after having been purchased from the Provincial Government. The name comes from the Locarno Pact, an agreement which outlawed war signed in Locarno, Switzerland in 1925. [Source: Vancouver Park Board]
Location: Spanish Banks spans the furthest along the north side of Point Grey with Spanish Banks East, Spanish Banks West, and the Spanish Banks Extension (even further west) running in parallel with NW Marine Drive. There is free parking in lots at each of the distinct sections.
Features: While it’s hard to get my husband and I away from Third Beach in Stanley Park (a favourite of West End and downtown residents) I’d have to say we spend the most time at Spanish Banks otherwise. Picnics with friends, Frisbee, badminton, and the off-leash area (at Spanish Banks West & Extension) makes it a favourable attraction for pet parents.
Concessions crank out summer snacks, barbecues are permitted, there are 8 volleyball courts, lifeguards on duty for swimmers, and the sandbar stretches out about 1km at low tide. You can also head south and connect with Pacific Spirit Park if you’re up for a forest walk.
Named for some of the first European explorers in the late 1790s who charted this area, Spanish Banks has been leased to the Vancouver Park Board since 1929. [Source: Vancouver Park Board]
Location: Western tip of West Point Grey
Features: The biggest attraction to UBC’s sharp shoreline is Wreck Beach, which has been ranked the #2 Beach in North American for Skinny Dipping. It’s accessed by a set of 473 steps down an old growth ravine off NW Marine Drive in UBC and it’s worth the trek back up all those stairs to check out this very natural beach. Keep in mind, this is a family-friendly area however there is nudity (it’s clothing optional) and photographs are forbidden. There are only outhouses and no official concession building but there are a few friendly vendors with goods like scarves and sarongs, and some barbecued treats.
If you have some favourite “604 Beaches” feel free to drop a note in the comments. I have a nice selection queued up over the coming weeks but would love to hear some feedback as well. Remember to always be sun smart and drink plenty of water when you’re out and about this season!