Looking for the perfect beach day in Vancouver? Look no further! This insider’s guide will take you on a tour of the best spots to swim, sunbathe, and enjoy the great outdoors. This article will give you the inside scoop on the best beaches in Vancouver, BC.
Located in the Pacific Northwest, Vancouver is known for its stunning natural beauty and instagrammable spots, and its beaches are no exception. Whether you’re looking for a quiet spot to relax or a lively beach with plenty of activities, this coastal city has something for everyone. From Kitsilano Beach to English Bay, this guide will take you on a tour of the best beaches in Vancouver.
Every beach listed here, with the exception of Wreck Beach at the end, has lifeguards from May long weekend until Labor Day weekend. The swimming areas are off-limits to motorized vehicles, providing swimmers and stand-up paddleboards a safe environment to enjoy the water.
Vancouver’s beaches are not dog-friendly, but there are dog beaches that welcome your furry friends. Most are located near or in between Vancouver’s beaches and a few are mentioned here.
One big difference between Vancouver and other cities near the ocean is that there are several beaches situated right downtown the city. There’s no need to pack up your car and drive anywhere in order to spend a day at the beach. Kinda nice, right? Without further ado, here are Vancouver’s best beaches.
1. Sunset Beach
Aptly named for the epic sunsets you can witness from this beach, Sunset Beach is right in the heart of downtown Vancouver. As such, it is a very popular beach that gets crowded on any sunny day. There are both grassy areas for picnics and beach games, as well as lots of sandy areas. The water isn’t the nicest here so if you’re looking for an afternoon of swimming, keep reading.
While there are no restaurants, there is a concession stand that sells burgers, hot dogs and ice cream. It is open from 12 noon to 8PM daily during the summer months. Public washrooms are located next to the concession stand but there is always a line-up so be prepared to wait.
This beach is also home to some of Vancouver’s outdoor art sculptures. Here, you’ll find the Engagement sculpture, which is two large engagement rings displayed on the grass, as well as 217.5 Arc x 13, a large steel arc that lies on the beach.
If you have your dog with you, there is a sliver of Sunset Beach Park that is dog-friendly where you can enjoy the views with your pup.
2. English Bay
Located west of Sunset Beach is English Bay Beach, another one of the most popular beaches in Vancouver. It’s the only other beach located in the downtown core of the city. Located in the west end of Vancouver, steps from downtown, it offers stunning views of Vancouver Island with the North Shore mountains as its backdrop.
The beach is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and people-watching. It’s also one of the only beaches with plenty of restaurants and cafes nearby. Cactus Club is right on the beach and is very popular on hot, sunny days. Its patio is always packed so be sure to make reservations if you hope to enjoy a Happy Hour overlooking English Bay Beach.
In the summer, English Bay Beach is home to the Honda Celebration of Light fireworks festival, which attracts over one million visitors each year. The festival runs for three evenings in July, two Wednesdays and one Saturday, and all of them are equally busy. The beach becomes so crowded it’s almost impossible to walk around.
If checking out the fireworks is something you’d like to do, it is highly recommended making a reservation at a nearby restaurant with views of the water, such as The Loft, Papi’s, or Park. It will be a much more enjoyable experience. Otherwise, you best be at the beach bright and early and mark your spot with a large blanket.
3. Kitsilano Beach
Kitsilano Beach, also known as “Kits Beach,” is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. Located across the water from English Bay Beach in an area of Vancouver called Kitsilano. With its long stretch of sandy beach, it has the most volleyball courts of any beach. It’s also home to a giant outdoor swimming pool. The Kits pool is the only saltwater pool in the city.
Kits Beach is surrounded by a park with picnic areas, playgrounds, and a basketball court. And if you’re feeling hungry, there are plenty of food trucks and cafes nearby. The Boathouse restaurant is located right on the beach and they offer takeaway should you wish to grab your food and eat it on the beach picnic-style.
If people-watching is your thing, then Kits is your beach. The volleyball courts bring Vancouver’s most athletic out to play in the sun. The sand here is much softer than that of Sunset Beach as well, making it a nicer beach to lie out on the sand.
If you want to bring your canine companion to the beach, they are welcome at Kits Dog Beach, officially called Hadden Park. Located between Kits Beach and Granville Island, you’ll find Kits Dog Beach. Don’t try and bring your dog to Kitsilano Beach as it is heavily patrolled and you will be asked to leave.
4. Jericho Beach
Jericho Beach is a popular destination for families and water sports enthusiasts. This beach offers stunning views of the North Shore mountains and is a great spot for swimming, kayaking, and paddleboarding.
There are also several volleyball courts and a large grassy area for picnics and games. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can rent a sailboat or windsurfing board from the nearby Jericho Sailing Centre. And when you’re ready for a break, head to the Jericho Beach Cafe for a refreshing drink or snack.
Jericho Beach is an ideal spot for anyone looking for a fun day in the sun. It’s one of the more chill, laid-back beaches in the city. It’s much quieter than nearby Kits Beach. If you are visiting with your family, Jericho Beach is recommended over the others as a family-friendly environment.
5. Spanish Banks
Spanish Banks Beach is a hidden gem in Vancouver, offering an even quieter and more secluded beach experience. This is simply because it’s further away than the rest. Jericho is slightly further down the road, and Spanish Banks is even further. And by “further,” we mean 5 minutes. None of these beaches are located far from downtown Vancouver.
Spanish Banks Beach is a great spot for kiteboarding and windsurfing, with strong winds and shallow waters. Don’t forget to bring your own food and drinks, as there are no restaurants or cafes nearby. It is one of the more secluded beaches in Vancouver, located in more of a residential area.
Near the entrance to Pacific Spirit Park on NW Marine Dr. lies the dog-friendly stretch of beach. There is a large area of pebbly beach to play fetch and let your dog have a swim. It’s recommended to bring water shoes to protect your feet at this dog beach as there are lots of rocks here.
6. Wreck Beach
Wreck Beach is Vancouver’s only clothing-optional beach and is known for its stunning views and relaxed atmosphere. Located at the bottom of a steep staircase, and we mean steep, this beach is not for the faint of heart. There are 490 stairs, but the effort is well worth it.
Wreck Beach is surrounded by towering cliffs and offers a unique perspective of the city skyline. It is also a popular spot for drum circles and other impromptu musical gatherings. Keep in mind that alcohol and smoking are (technically) not allowed on the beach, but this beach is much more lax than the rest.
This isn’t a beach we would recommend for families because visitors are expected to respect the clothing-optional policy. And yes, you do see a lot of topless and naked people here.
Parking for Wreck Beach is limited and can be extremely difficult to find so be sure to go early or take public transit. While a beautiful spot to chill and swim and watch the sunset, always keep an eye on the time as the stairwell back up is not lit.
And there you have it, the best beaches in Vancouver BC to visit. Which of these Vancouver beaches will you visit next?
Kat Anderson is a Vancouver-based travel writer and the founder of Coffee & Mascara, an adventure and wellness-focused travel blog. A travel and wellness expert, this former fitness instructor shares her expert tips to encourage others to live a healthy, balanced lifestyle full of travel and adventure. Follow her adventures on Instagram.