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 what we lack in weather we make up for 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 tranquility of the beautiful North Shore beaches.

Swimming season is weather dependent but generally between June and early September, 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

This popular Vancouver beach gets absolutely packed in the summer, so if you’re looking to do some people watching or meet some locals this is it.

It’s also one of the best beaches for sports: whether you’re looking to set up a volleyball game (no net? there’s 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.

Second Beach at Stanley Park

Second Beach

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 (BBQ’s allowed!) and dip in for swims.

One of my favourite 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.

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

English Bay

Right at the bottom of Denman Street, just past the A-maze-ing Laughter statues and palm trees (!) 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 hip local restaurant chain Cactus Club.

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

The whale bones at Sunset Beach, Vancouver

Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach is not an unclever name. This is the place 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

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

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

With some of the big tides you can walk out hundreds of meters.

Vancouverites head here for family picnics or BBQs.

The view of English Bay from Spanish Banks West, Vancouver

Spanish Banks

This beach popular with residents on Vancouver’s affluent west side actually counts three beaches: 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.

Beyond the Spanish Banks West parking lot is the offleash dog beach.

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.

A woman relaxes at Third Beach, Vancouver

Third Beach

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 as a common break area from cycling/running around the Seawall.

It’s also home to 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

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.

This is as isolated as it gets.

There’s loads of water activities and even a 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

Locarno is a quiet beach, meaning no music or amplified sound can be played out loud.

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 finds the balance between amenities, open space, and accessibility to the city.

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

Ambleside Beach

If you’re staying in West Vancouver there’s no shame 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 less 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

If you’re looking for Douglas Fir and Maple trees for a true Vancouver vibe, then 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 is in North Vancouver and requires 45 minutes transport from Lonsdale Quay, so a car is recommended.

The view from Whytecliff Beach, West Vancouver

Whytecliff

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 being in a different city. Here you’ll see rugged British Columbian coast line as nature intended.

One of my favourite things to do is climb up on the rock formation overlooking the swimming beach and watch the boats go by.

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 on 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?

Swimming is possible and completely safe at all Vancouver beaches, though doing so is not without its risks and basic safety precautions are advised.

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

Vancouver waters are monitored by Vancouver Coastal Health and warnings are issued in these rare circumstances.

How clean are Vancouver beaches?

As clean as a city beaches with millions living around it can be.

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 is the cleanest beach in Vancouver?

According to water quality tests the 5 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 where 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 behavior!

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 types of grill systems.

Just ensure that you deposit your coals into the designated bins offered by the city.

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 awhile to get used to but once you’ve been in for a couple of minutes your body adjusts and swimming is quite easy.

On really hot summer days you’ll find this to be a massive plus for its refreshing properties.

Can you surf on Vancouver beaches?

Unfortunately no, due to the city being sheltered by Vancouver Island it isn’t exposed to the open Pacific Ocean.

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

Take a Dip in the Comments

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.

Local advice for free, what’s not to like?

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