• Menu
  • Menu
The view of English Bay from Locarno Beach

The Best Beaches in Vancouver BC (+ Cleanliness Ranks)

You can call me biased, but Vancouver beaches are the most spectacular urban variety on planet Earth.

They won’t make headlines like Miami or Rio de Janeiro, but we make up for what we lack in weather with unspoiled nature and epic mountain views!

Let’s pick out the best Vancouver beaches, depending on your needs.

Vancouver Beaches

Beaches are scattered over many of Vancouver’s top neighbourhoods.

You’ll find most Vancouver beaches surrounding English Bay in the neighbourhood of Kitsilano and along the water downtown.

However, if you’re willing to go a little further afield, you can bask in the peace and tranquillity of the beautiful North Shore beaches.

Swimming season is weather dependent, but generally, between June and early September, it’s one of the top things to do in Vancouver – with lifeguards on duty from Victoria Day to Labour Day.

Need directions? Scroll to the end for my Vancouver beach map!

Also, keep reading to see the top five cleanest beaches in Vancouver.

people suntanning at kits beach in vancouver with downtown and mountains

Kitsilano Beach – The Best Beach in Vancouver

This popular Vancouver beach easily slots into virtually every Vancouver itinerary. But be aware it gets absolutely packed in the summer. So if you want to do some people-watching or meet some locals, this is the spot.

It’s also one of the best beaches for sports: whether you’re looking to set up a volleyball game (there are drop-in games over summer from 6:30 pm) or shoot some hoops, you’re guaranteed a game.

Kits Beach is also home to a 137-meter-long swimming pool: Canada’s largest.

There’s also The Boathouse, one of Vancouver’s best restaurants.

It’s just a $10.00 taxi from downtown.

Related: Visiting Vancouver in July

Second Beach at Stanley Park

Second Beach at Stanley Park – The Most Accessible Beach in Stanley Park

Want to explore Stanley Park on your day at the beach? This is the closest one to downtown Vancouver’s top hotels and hostels, a 15-minute walk if you’re lucky.

Here you find the massive, outdoor, heated Second Beach Pool (May-September) that’s got everything from wading families to lap swimmers.

The beach itself is quite narrow and gets packed in summer. It’s best to set up on the grass at Ceperley Meadow (BBQs allowed!) and dip in for swims.

One of my favourite Vancouver summer activities is doing the seawall from Canada Place in Coal Harbour and setting the finish line at Second Beach as a dip in the cold Pacific.

Related: Best Time to Visit Vancouver

Vancouverites perform yoga in front of the Inukshuk, English Bay Vancouver

English Bay Beach – Downtown Vancouver’s Best Beach

Right at the bottom of Denman Street, just past the A-maze-ing Laughter statues and palm trees (!), English Bay Beach is the most popular beach in downtown Vancouver.

This is the beach you see in the postcards with the legendary Inukshuk, a human figure made of stacked stones traditionally used as a landmark by Inuit peoples.

If you’re looking for events and amenities, this is the beach for you.

English Bay Beach is home to the Celebration of Light fireworks festival, the annual polar bear swim, and the hip local restaurant chain Cactus Club.

This has been the main swimming beach in the city for over 100 years: there are even changing rooms and showers at the English Bay Bath House.

Related: Best Things to Do in Vancouver with Kids

The whale bones at Sunset Beach, Vancouver

Sunset Beach – The Best Beach for Checking out the Sunset

Sunset Beach is not just a clever name. This is where to watch sunsets and look out into Vancouver’s mass harbour expanse.

Out of all the downtown Vancouver beaches, it’s the most tranquil, owing to its ‘quiet beach’ designation forbidding amplified sound. So if you’d like to avoid the crowds and chaos of English Bay, take the 10-minute walk down the Seawall.

There’s also a False Creek Ferry stop that’ll take you to legendary Granville Island.

 

The view of Vancouver's skyline from Jericho Beach

Jericho Beach – The Best Beach in Vancouver for Swimming

Things are a little more laid back at this Kitsilano neighbourhood beach famous for its tranquil adjacent park and winding walking trails.

The sand beaches here are in parts almost twice as wide as their more urban cousins, and the area has unobstructed mountain views – you’ll get a great sense of being out in the open.

The small bay near Jericho Beach Park is also reasonably well protected from the elements. Not to mention, it is deeper than most nearby beaches – making for better conditions for swimming.

Vancouverites head here for family picnics or BBQs.

The view of English Bay from Spanish Banks West, Vancouver

Spanish Banks – The Best Vancouver Beach for Dogs

This beach is popular with residents on Vancouver’s affluent west side. It actually counts as three beaches, with the West, East, and Extension.

All three wind slightly north, creating a magnificent view of Vancouver’s skyline and Stanley Park.

It’s one of the few beaches in Vancouver with free parking. And during low tide, you can walk hundreds of metres out into English Bay.

Beyond the Spanish Banks West parking lot is the offleash dog beach, likely the best in the city.

Follow Spanish Banks Extension ‘around the corner’ and away from the main road if you want to have a fire, throw a party, or open a few cans of beer.

? Big on beer? Check out the best brewery tours in Vancouver.

A woman relaxes at Third Beach, Vancouver

Third Beach at Stanley Park – The Best Beach in Stanley Park

Deep inside Stanley Park at Ferguson Point is the site of this quaint little beach completely hemmed in by trees, sheltering it from urban noise.

It’s popular for its Tuesday night drum circle and a common break area from cycling/running around the Seawall.

It’s also close to the famous Siwash Rock: a 59-foot high basalt stack known to local mariners as ‘Nine Pin Rock’ for its resemblance to a bowling pin.

Go for this Vancouver beach if you’re looking for a quiet sunset.

The view from Wreck Beack on a spring day

Wreck Beach – The Best Nude Beach in Vancouver

If you’re looking for a nude beach in Vancouver, this is where it starts and ends. At 7.6 km, it’s North America’s longest naturist beach.

You’ll find Wreck Beach in the University Endowment Lands, roughly 400 steep steps down from a road surrounded by forest. It is also located near the popular Museum of Anthropology if you’re looking to pair a little culture with your nude bathing

Otherwise, this is as isolated as it gets for an urban beach.

There are loads of water activities and even a haphazard market with towels, jewellery, clothing, art and more. The food vendors are city certified and delicious.

Musician? There are nightly jam sessions in summer around sundown.

The view of English Bay from Locarno Beach, Vancouver

Locarno Beach – The Best Vancouver Beach for Families

Locarno is officially designated as a quiet beach. This means that music and amplified sound are not permitted.

It’s the smallest one of the bunch and, as such, isn’t famous for anything in particular, perhaps for its concession serving fast food in the warm months.

There’s also a small free parking lot at the bottom of Trimble Street.

This is the best Vancouver beach for families as it balances amenities, open space, and accessibility to the city.

Related: 12 Things to do in Vancouver with Kids

The view of the Lions Gate Bridge from Ambelside Beach, North Vancouver

Ambleside Beach – The Best Beach in West Vancouver

If you’re staying in West Vancouver, there’s no shame in finding a spot of sand to admire downtown and the Lion’s Gate Bridge from the other side of the water.

The boardwalk here winds its way along the ocean and provides a unique way to burn off calories. Families picnic here.

This is a true west coast beach and much more rugged than the main city beaches, but that’s a plus! With fewer crowds, it’s generally cleaner as well.

There’s also a small water park and playground for the kids.

The view of Deep Cove from Cates Park
Courtesy: North Van Recreation and Culture

Cates Park – Vancouver’s Most Secluded Beach

If you’re looking for Douglas Fir and Maple trees for a true Vancouver vibe, this 6 km waterfront trail winding its way through a forest is ideal.

Just step down from the main trail to the lower area, and you’ll be rewarded with semi-sandy beaches mixed in with pebbles and local foliage.

There’s even a free outdoor concert series here every summer.

Cates Park requires 45 minutes of transport from North Vancouver’s Lonsdale Quay, so a car is recommended.

The view from Whytecliff Beach, West Vancouver

Whytecliff – The Most Beautiful Beach in Vancouver

Speaking of cars, if you’ve got one, there’s no better beach near Vancouver to drive to than Whytecliff Park.

It’s about as far west as you can get without heading into Howe Sound. Here you’ll see the rugged British Columbian coastline as nature intended. If you’re looking for white sand, you won’t find it here.

Think more rocks and pebbles nestled into the adjoining rocky cliffs. But you can’t do any better if you’re looking for spectacular views of Howe Sound and the Sea to Sky Corridor.

One of my favourite things is climbing up on the rock formation overlooking the swimming beach and watching the boats go by. But more daring souls have been known to jump!

It’s also a great place for scuba diving.

 

Vancouver Beach Map

Here’s where you’ll find all the beaches.

If you’ve got any more questions about getting there, feel free to drop us a message in the comments or on Facebook – we respond to everything!

Vancouver Beaches FAQ

Are Vancouver beaches safe for swimming?

Yes, swimming is possible and completely safe at all Vancouver beaches. However, it is not without risks, and basic safety precautions are advised.

Due to environmental factors, coastal waters may develop contaminants. For this reason, it’s advised to shower with soap after swimming.

Vancouver Coastal Health monitors Vancouver waters closely. Thus warnings are issued in these rare circumstances.

How clean are Vancouver beaches?

They are as clean as expected for any city beach surrounded by millions of people.

In summer, it’s mandated by the Federal Government to take weekly tests of waters in recreation areas defined as ‘primary contact areas.’

200 is the maximum permitted coliform level per 100 ml of water, and none of the beaches in the city come even close to this level.

What are the best beaches in Vancouver for swimming?

If you want to stay in the downtown peninsula, English Bay Beach is likely your best bet. Kitsilano Beach is likely the most popular with locals, but you’ll have to deal with the crowds. If you’re willing to go for a drive, Jericho Beach offers the perfect combination of cleanliness, shelter, and tranquillity.

What is the cleanest beach in Vancouver?

According to water quality tests, the five beaches with the lowest coliform levels are in order: Third Beach, Locarno, Jericho Beach, Kitsilano Beach, and Cates Park.

What are the dirtiest beaches in Vancouver?

The highest coliform levels found on Vancouver beaches are at Trout Lake, Wreck Beach (Trail 7), Sunset Beach, Wreck Beach (Trail 4), and Deep Cove.

That said, none of these come even close to reaching the maximum allowable by the Canadian government – they are still safe to swim at.

Can you drink alcohol on Vancouver beaches?

It is legally forbidden to consume alcohol in public spaces in Vancouver, beaches included.

However, there’s an unspoken rule between police and citizens that if you don’t give them a reason to come over and ask, they probably won’t.

This means keeping all cans in a cooler, only pouring them into plastic cups, and showing no sign of alcohol consumption – including your behaviour!

Be smart – keep all signs hidden.

Can you BBQ on Vancouver beaches?

It’s not permitted to create fires on any of the beaches. That said, you can bring stand-alone BBQs, hibachis, or other grill systems.

Just ensure you deposit your coals into the designated bins the city offers.

What’s the water temperature at Vancouver beaches?

Over swimming months, water temperatures are the following:

  • June 10.8°C (51.44°F)
  • July 11.5°C (52.7°F)
  • August 12.7°C (54.8°F)
  • September 12.3°C (54.1°F)

It is considerably colder than the water highs at other city beaches like Los Angeles (20.0°C/68.0°F), Barcelona (25.0°C/77.0°F), or Miami (30.0°C/86.0°F).

Is the water cold at Vancouver beaches?

Yes and no.

It often takes a while to get used to, but Once you’ve been in for a few minutes, your body will adjust. While it may take a while to get used to, swimming will eventually become quite easy.

In fact, on hot summer days, you’ll find it quite refreshing.

Can you surf on Vancouver beaches?

Unfortunately, surfing isn’t possible. Vancouver isn’t exposed to the open Pacific Ocean due to the shelter provided by Vancouver Island.

Barring the tsunami of a generation, you’ll have to stick to stand-up paddle boarding or windsurfing.

Still Looking for the Best Beaches in Vancouver?

Water’s warm and all that.

I didn’t come here to write a post on Vancouver beaches and run away.

If you need any custom advice on your upcoming vacation or beach day in Vancity then please hit me up in the comments below.

Enjoy the best beaches in Vancouver?️

Ash

I've lived in 5 countries and created content for travel websites like eDreams and Amex Essentials, but here I finally get to work my passion project - my hometown, Vancouver!

View stories

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

2 comments