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 Stanley Park and its sandy shores where this world-famous forest meets the ocean.
I admit that for years I have been encouraging locals and visitors alike to explore beyond the Seawall that hugs Stanley Park, taking in hikes on the forest trails. However, it’s tough to walk away from the waterfront at this time of year. Waves lap at a string of sandy beaches separated by rocky cliffs and stands of evergreens, linked together by a winding seaside path for walkers, joggers, cyclist, and rollerbladers.
All three Stanley Park beaches face west into Burrard Inlet where views consist of north shore mountains, parked freighters dancing in the tides, and fiery sunsets.
Location: English Bay is also known as First Beach, matching the names of the other two along Stanley Park’s waterfront. It is located along Beach Avenue, spanning from about Bidwell Street to Denman (where Denman meets Davie in the West End) and leads into Stanley Park where sandy beach turns into grassy slopes and eventually forest. It’s where downtown truly meets the park, connecting the Seawall to busy streets, bus connections, and restaurants.
Features: English Bay Beach is the main viewing area for the annual Honda Celebration of Light fireworks display and is a very popular recreational spot all throughout the year. There is a concession, a full service Cactus Club Cafe restaurant, washrooms, a swimming raft with a large slide, sand volleyball courts, and a lifeguard on duty from May to September.
There is pay parking along the roads — like Beach Ave, Davie, or Denman — and a series of parking lots as you head south towards Sunset Beach and the Burrard Bridge. You can’t take your dog off-leash (not until you reach a corner of Sunset Beach) but you can stroll along the Seawall with your four-legged friend at your side.
Location: You’ll find Second Beach’s parking area and pool where North Lagoon Drive meets Stanley Park Drive on the west side of the park, south of Third Beach.
Features: Second Beach is very family-friendly with many activities at Second Beach Pool and Ceperley Meadow. The heated pool is right along the Seawall and the adjacent meadow features a playground, a picnic shelter, and a barbecue area. There are amenities like washrooms and a full concession. Pay parking is available and a lifeguard is on duty from May to September. Walking over to Second Beach from English Bay on the Seawall you can spot rock sculptures, herons, and explore tidal pools when the tide is out.
Location: On the Stanley Park Seawall system, just north of Ferguson Point. Coming off Stanley Park Drive you’ll turn in at The Teahouse and do a sharp right turn.
Features: There is plenty of pay parking, a general concession, washrooms, barbecues are allowed (subject to restrictions), and lifeguards on duty from May to September. This is our favourite downtown beach because of the beautiful walk through the park we take to get there.
I find more locals setup their blankets here as opposed to English Bay since it’s a bit more removed from the crowds. However, Third Beach’s popularity has grown over the years with it being the first stop on the Seawall route when you loop all the way around under Lions Gate Bridge by bicycle (since the Seawall is one-way for bikes).
Bonus: Lumbermen’s Arch Variety Kids Water Park
While it’s not a beach exactly, this watery playground sits between the north side of the Seawall and the shores of Burrard Inlet offering some much-needed refreshment on a hot summer day. You can loop around Brockton Point to get there or cut through Avison Way from Coal Harbour, crossing in front of the Vancouver Aquarium. There is plenty of parking either at the aquarium or in a lot at Lumberman’s Arch.
If you have some favourite “Vancouver 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!