In the middle of a rainy February, English Bay may not be one of Vancouver’s biggest attractions. In fact, this time of year, you’re likely to find more seagulls than sun worshippers hanging out on the beach.
But that hasn’t stopped the strip of sand from earning a spot on a new list of the 50 best beaches in the world. According to the UK’s The Guardian newspaper, English Bay is the 47th best beach on the planet. It’s sandwiched between Rio de Janeiro’s Arpoador Beach and Durban, South Africa (not bad company!).
Here’s what the writers at The Guardian had to say: “By day, English Beach Bay sands are a mecca for families and volleyball players, but it really comes into its own at dusk. It’s then that Vancouverites stroll in to sit on the huge blanched logs that wash up here and gaze out at the sunsets, glass or guitar in hand. West End’s coffee shops and the iconic Stanley Park are within easy reach, and it’s a prime spot for watching the fireworks on Canada Day (1 July).”
City officials probably won’t approve of that “glass in hand” remark (drinking is a no-no on Vancouver beaches) and the Celebration of Light fireworks that the beach is famous for are actually in late July, but otherwise that’s a pretty accurate take on the English Bay experience. A unique sanctuary in the otherwise bustling West End, the beach offers plenty of sand to stretch out on, clean (and cold) water for a refreshing dip (including a waterslide during the summer months) and grassy hillsides to spread out a blanket and enjoy the view.
The beach has been popular since Vancouver’s earliest days, though to reach it back in the late 1800s required a lengthy trek along forest trails and through bushes from the city’s core. Sand was added in 1898 and simple beachside cottages began to spring up. Among the earliest year-round residents was Joe Fortes, a Barbados-born immigrant who acted as the city’s first lifeguard and swimming instructor. In the early 1900s, an ornate bathhouse was constructed on the beach, along with a long wooden pier and glassed-in dance hall, which were subsequently torn down in the 1930s. The current bathhouse on the beach dates all the way back to 1932 and is still in use.
One other Canadian beach made The Guardian’s list. Chesterman Beach in Tofino on Vancouver Island nabbed the 33rd spot. The top of the list was dominated by tropical and balmy getaways far from Canadian shores, including Source d’Argent in Seychelles (1), Dune du Pyla, France (2), and Shoal Bay, Antigua (3).