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 spotlight takes us to the southern shores of the city, along the Fraser River.
I have chosen two Fraser River parks to feature and while they do have a few sandy banks, it’s not advised to go for a swim (consulting the Swim Guide App) and there are no lifeguards on duty. Instead these waterfront trails, boardwalks, grassy fields, and shorelines are better for picnics, play time, lunch breaks, and letting the family dog romp and frolic off-leash.
Located in quiet areas, away from busy streets, these tranquil waterfront parks are bordered by residential communities and are teeming with (wild)life. The river ripples with tugboat traffic and planes land at YVR Airport just across the water. Dogs bark as they chase their favourite toy into the river and birds chirp with excitement from their perches in bushes and on branches.
Location: Riverfront Park is located at the foot of Kerr Street, which intersects with SE Marine Drive in Vancouver, near the Burnaby border at Boundary Road. There is free street parking and a lot (for customers only) at the River District Centre where you’ll find Romer’s Burger Bar. Kerr Street also has painted bike lanes that reach up through Everett Crowley Park.
Features: There is a boardwalk at the very foot of Kerr Street that leads out into the water that gives some great opportunities for panoramic photos along the river. The elevated stage-like structure at the end of the pier seems to be a great spot for entertainment or for sitting and enjoying a treat from Romer’s Burgers.
The park has a picnic site, tennis courts, an ultimate field, basketball courts, and washrooms. There is direct waterfront access just off the separated bike and pedestrian paths that opened in 2008. Heading east, you’ll connect with Fraser Foreshore Park in Burnaby and going west, Riverfront Park blends into Gladstone Park.
Evidence of the area’s industrial past remain as this 4 hectare waterfront area is restored for local wildlife and residents.
Fraser River Park
Location: Fraser River Park is located west of Granville and SW Marine Drive, off 75th Avenue. Its paved, separated bike paths connect with SW Marine Drive’s painted lane bike route.
Features: At over twice the size of Riverfront Park, I noticed much more activity here. There was a game of soccer being played on the grass field and a few couples eating lunch on the boardwalk. Most of the park is an off-leash area and I must have passed at least a dozen dog owners (with very happy pups) along the trails and at the sandy beach.
Fields of green grass connect with gravel paths and a network of boardwalks flanked by Nootka rose and Crab Apple. There is a pier that once again provides a great panoramic vantage point of the entire waterfront and a long sandy beach.
Bonus: Iona Beach
Iona is a great spot for a stroll, picnic, relaxing day at the beach, and also for a swim (although no lifeguards on are duty). It’s just across the North Arm of the Fraser River from Vancouver, technically in Richmond, and sits right between the mouth of the river and the open waters of Georgia Strait.
Iona Beach Park is part of the Metro Vancouver Park system and offers 13km of walking trails, 4km of bike trails, and 3km of horse riding trails. Dogs are allowed but only in certain areas as there is a very sensitive wildlife management plan in place along the park’s east side and near its ponds. However, there is a leash-optional trail along the lower roadway on the Iona Jetty.
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!