Vancouver and the surrounding regions are blessed with dozens of amazing beaches. Below is a list of the top beaches in Metro Vancouver and the Lower Mainland.
In this article you’ll find information about the following beaches:
Ocean Beaches | Third Beach | Second Beach | English Bay | Kitsilano | Jericho | Locarno | Spanish Banks | Wreck Beach | Ambleside | Whytecliff Park | Deep Cove | Cates Park | Barnet Marine Park | Crescent Beach | White Rock
Lakeside Beaches | Alice Lake | White Pine Beach | Buntzen Lake | Whonnock Lake | Trout Lake | Alouette Lake | Rolley Lake | Harrison Hot Springs | Kilby Park | Cultus Lake Beaches | Other Information
Click on any of the above links to skip to a specific section, or continue reading to learn all about the best beaches in Metro Vancouver.
The Lower Mainland’s Top Beaches
The Lower Mainland is a great place to visit and live in, especially if you enjoy the water. While it might not be a tropical paradise, it’s still, arguably, a paradise. The area has numerous great places to swim and have fun on the beach. Whether you’re looking for a spot to catch a tan on a hot summer’s day or to brave the frigid waters (even in the winter with the Polar Bear swim, which happens on January 1st most years at various Lower Mainland beaches), below are some of the best places to visit.
In our first list below we describe the region’s top ocean beaches. In no particular order, they are Third Beach, Second Beach, English Bay, Kitsilano, Jericho Beach, Locarno, Spanish Banks and Wreck Beach in the City of Vancouver. Other amazing beaches by the ocean are at Ambleside, Whytecliff Park, Deep Cove and Cates Park on the North Shore. There is also the beach in White Rock, and the one at Crescent Beach in South Surrey.
As you’ll see from our second list below, top Lower Mainland lakeside beaches include the ones at Alice Lake in Squamish and both White Pine Beach and Buntzen Lake in the Tri-Cities. There are also great beaches at Whonnock Lake and Alouette Lake in Maple Ridge, and at Rolley Lake in Mission. Further into the Fraser Valley, there are exceptional beaches at Harrison Lake, Kilby Park and Cultus Lake.
Metro Vancouver sits right on the Pacific Ocean. As such, there are a number of great sandy beaches along the shoreline. Below are some of the most popular ones with salt water.
Third Beach (at Stanley Park)
The first of a couple of Stanley Park beaches on this list, Third Beach stretches right along the Seawall. This makes it a convenient place to walk or cycle to. It’s also a great spot to take a break if you’re doing a full loop around the park.
On Tuesday evenings during the summer (when it’s nice out), Third Beach is home to the Brahm’s Tams Drum Circle. This is a free, loosely organized event that sees dozens of djembe drummers and hundreds of spectators gather to enjoy some music and a fun atmosphere as the sun sets. This is an event well-worth checking out, that is, if you enjoy the cacophony of loud drumming.
As well, Third Beach is home to the Teahouse. Despite its name this restaurant serves much more than tea. It also has a great patio to sit and eat at when the weather is nice. The Teahouse offers nice views of the ocean, even though it’s not directly on the waterfront.
The beach itself is first-rate. It’s nice and sandy. It’s also a large beach with terrific views.
Second Beach (at Stanley Park)
Second Beach is located just 1.5 kilometres from Third Beach, further down the Stanley Park Seawall. What makes Second Beach unique is its amenities. Not only are there two children’s playgrounds, but right along the ocean is one of the most popular outdoor heated swimming pools in the Lower Mainland.
The pool is usually open from May to September. It features a small water slide and there are lifeguards on duty. Admission is around $6.99 for adults and $3.50 for children. If you’re looking for a warmer swim, or for a contained, slightly safer environment for you and any young ones, the Second Beach pool is a great option.
Second Beach is also home to some special events (when there’s no pandemic to disrupt them). The most notable is Stanley Park Summer Cinema in July and August. Held on the large grassy field next to the sand, there are weekly outdoor showings of popular movies on a giant screen.
Second Beach is also a great place to watch the fireworks from during the Celebration of Light fireworks events in the summer (in years when they aren’t cancelled).
The beach itself is nice and sandy. It’s not as large or impressive as the one at Third Beach. It’s very nice though, and has the fabulous outdoor pool which makes it even better than Third Beach in some ways.
English Bay Beach
One of the most well-known and popular beaches in Vancouver, English Bay is located in quite a convenient spot. You can find this beach downtown, along the seawall right at the edge of a tiny strip of Stanley Park.
English Bay is home to the Celebration of Light fireworks competition most summers. The festival takes place over multiple days and the crowds can get quite packed!
The beach is also home to the Polar Bear Swim every New Year’s Day. Not for the faint of heart, thousands of brave souls take the icy plunge every January 1st. Even if you’re not participating, it can be fun to watch people dive into the waters.
From English Bay there are cycling and walking paths that go up and around Stanley Park in one direction and all the way to Point Grey in the other. Getting to the beach by foot or by bike is recommended as there isn’t a ton of parking close by.
The beach itself is stunning. It’s big, long and full of really nice sand. There are logs to sit on, and even a few palm trees in the area. There are also a good number of nice restaurants in the area (which isn’t the case with most other Lower Mainland beaches). It truly is a world-class beach!
To learn more see our article about English Bay.
Kitsilano Beach is another much-frequented spot in the summer. It too is an amazing, world-class spot! Kits, like Second Beach, has a large outdoor swimming pool right next to the ocean. The beach offers great views (as do the other beaches surrounding English Bay) of the fireworks during the Celebration of Light fireworks festival.
The area around the beach has a number of tennis courts and a couple of basketball courts. There is also a concession stand if you’re looking for some food. If you’re looking for a meal at a high-end restaurant, there’s the Boathouse Restaurant. The building offers lovely views of the ocean, with the only downside being the relative expensiveness of the menu.
During non-pandemic summers there is usually a concert series at the Showboat Stage. All the shows there are free and feature local artists.
Similar to Third Beach and English Bay, the sand and views at Kitsilano Beach are amazing! Kitsilano is a tremendously popular beach, and for good reason! Its outdoor swimming pool is also as good or even better than the one at Second Beach.
To learn more click Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach.
Located in Point Grey very close to Locarno Beach, Jericho Beach gets pretty busy in the summer. That’s especially the case in July when the Vancouver Folk Music Festival is held there. Thousands of people attend the shows on each of the festival’s three days and there are dozens of performers from a wide variety of countries.
Jericho Beach also includes a park with a pond, picnic tables and some shade. This makes it a nice place to visit in the summer. There are also volleyball nets, tennis courts and soccer fields for those who are sporty. Year-round you can find different soccer clubs (especially youth teams) playing at Jericho on weekends.
Similar to Kitsilano and other beaches in the area, the sandy beach at Jericho is amazing!
To learn more click Vancouver’s Jericho Beach.
Right near Jericho Beach, Locarno is a little less known but just as nice. Really, the fact that it’s less known can be a good thing if you’re looking to find smaller crowds in the peak of summer. The sand still gets completely packed, but very slightly less than at other nearby places.
Situated along the cycling and walking path that connects it to Jericho and Spanish Banks, Locarno has a decent amount of amenities for a smaller beach. There are multiple volleyball courts and a concession stand on land. There is also usually a swimming raft out in the water. As well, there are normally lifeguards on duty from the end of May until early September.
Similar to Kitsilano, Jericho and Spanish Banks, the beach at Locarno is nice and sandy. Because the water is shallow for a long ways, at low tide the sand extends for what seems like miles.
To learn more see our article about Locarno Beach.
Spanish Banks sits in the Point Grey neighbourhood of Vancouver. It’s a fantastic spot to take children. The reason for that is because at low tide the water pulls back a ton, leaving a large expanse of wet sand and shallow water.
There aren’t many better places in the Lower Mainland to build a sand castle than at Spanish Banks. Also, when the tide comes back in, the water is usually warmer than most other Vancouver ocean beaches (although still far from Hawaii-like warm).
The beach at Spanish Banks is sometimes used for volleyball tournaments due to the large number of courts. It’s popular with kite enthusiasts too. There is a small concession stand that sells snacks and ice cream in the summer.
The sand at the beach is amazing, as are the views. Spanish Banks is justifiably one of Vancouver’s most popular and famous beaches!
To learn more see our article about Spanish Banks.
Wreck Beach (at UBC)
Vancouver’s most infamous beach, Wreck Beach out at UBC is a clothing-optional beach. In other words, it’s a nude beach! Going in the buff isn’t mandatory, but many people do. If that’s not for you then go to one of the nearby beaches like Spanish Banks, Locarno or Jericho.
Besides the fact that many of its visitors enjoy the beach naked, the most noteworthy part of Wreck Beach is the staircase from which the beach is accessed. These stairs are steep! Going up and down them is quite a workout on its own. If you have mobility issues, or if you get out of breathe easily, then Wreck Beach isn’t the place for you to visit.
To learn more see our article about Wreck Beach.
Ambleside Beach (in West Van)
Ambleside is located in West Vancouver and it’s one of the most popular parks on the North Shore. The beach itself is very nice and sandy. It has a pier where you can fish from. There’s also a concession stand open during the summer if you’re feeling peckish.
One of the benefits of visiting Ambleside Beach is that once you’re done there you’re in a good spot to find other interesting places to go to. Ambleside Village is right nearby and features a number of restaurants to eat from and shops to peruse. Similar to English Bay Beach, Ambleside is one of the few exceptional Lower Mainland beaches where there are lots of restaurants nearby.
As well, Ambleside Park is home to some fun annual events. These include the Persian New Year Fire Festival in the spring, West Vancouver Community Day, the Harmony Arts Festival and the Ambleside Live Rock Festival in the summer, and the Coho Festival in the fall.
To learn more about the area see our article about Ambleside.
Whytecliff Park (in West Van)
While the coastline at Whytecliff Park in West Vancouver is mostly rocky, there are some sandy spots. Though it might not be the most popular place for casual swimming, it’s a beautiful area. There are walking trails and some nice cliffs near the beach, and good scuba diving as well for those with the equipment to indulge in the sport.
One of the notable features at Whytecliff is the small island near the beach that is accessible by foot at low tide. If you go at the right time you don’t have to change into a swimsuit to get to it. The island is a fun place to explore, but make sure to keep an eye on the tide so you don’t get trapped there!
The beach area at the park is really nice. The sand isn’t as fine as it is at most other beaches, but it’s still okay.
To learn more see our article about Whytecliff Park.
Deep Cove (in North Van)
Deep Cove is one of the most popular places in Metro Vancouver for paddling, and for good reason. The views are spectacular! The fact that the beach is on a calm bay rather than the full ocean means that paddle-boarders and kayakers of all skill levels can manage.
The beach itself is a little small, but still perfectly good for swimming (although that’s not the main attraction of the area).
Deep Cove Village is right next to the water. It offers plenty of places to eat. Not far from the beach there is also the Baden Powell Trail. If you’re interested in a hike after some water activities, follow the trail for a little under an hour and you’ll find yourself at a beautiful clifftop at Quarry Rock.
To learn more see our article about Deep Cove.
Cates Park (in North Van)
Cates Park is child-friendly. Like Whytecliff Park, it has a beach that is both rocky and sandy in places. Located in North Vancouver, the Cates Park beach might not be the best for swimming, but it’s not bad. It has a good boat launch and rents out kayaks in the summer. There is also a small pier open to the public.
There is a fabulous playground right near the beach for the young ones and a nice network of hiking trails that surround the park. This means there’s a variety of activities on offer in the area, especially during the summer.
There are actually a couple of beaches at Cates Park. There is the main one, that stretches along the main part of the waterfront. Much of it is rocky (and where you’ll find tiny crabs under the larger stones). There are also a couple of nice, sandy, smaller and quieter beaches that can be accessed via the trail at the eastern end of the park. The sand in the area isn’t super fine, but it’s still nice.
Click Cates Park in North Vancouver to learn more.
Barnet Marine Park (in Burnaby)
The beaches at Barnet Marine Park vary as there are some rockier ones and some sandy ones. The most popular beach is on the eastern edge of the park as it’s the one closest to the parking lots. It’s nice and sandy there.
The park is long and narrow with lots of waterfront. The main trail by the water is Drummond’s Walk which is around 1.5 kilometres long. Along this path is a big off-leash dog area which is a great place to take your pet. Dogs can play at that part of the beach too!
As the beaches are both family- and pet-friendly with nice sandy and grassy areas, the park can get pretty full on hot summer days. Given the amount of beachfront, you shouldn’t have to worry about not having a place to set up. The parking lots though can sometimes fill up.
To learn more check out our Barnet Marine Park article.
Crescent Beach (in South Surrey)
Make sure to go to Crescent Beach when the tide is lower because, when it’s high, the beach is pretty rocky.
This is one of the most popular beaches in Surrey, although it’s much better for sun-tanning and sightseeing than it is for swimming. The reason being the water is shallow. There have also been cases of swimmers itch (a skin rash) in the area.
The above doesn’t mean you can’t swim if you want to. Just make sure to use a good oil-based sunscreen lotion before doing so (and that will help with the swimmers itch). Also, dry off as soon as you’re out of the water.
When the tide is out the sand stretches on for ages, making Crescent Beach a fantastic place for sandcastle building. Not far away from the beach is Blackie Spit Park which is another well-known and nice place to visit.
To learn more see our article about Crescent Beach.
White Rock Beach
The town of White Rock has a massive stretch of beaches that goes for around eight kilometres. Appropriately, that much coastline is complemented by the longest pier in Canada (at over 1,500 feet long!).
In years where there isn’t a pandemic, various events take place at the pier over the course of the year. There is a series of free outdoor concerts in the summer, a fundraising picnic, and the White Rock Festival of Lights during the Christmas season. White Rock’s Canada Day celebrations also take place near the beach.
The White Rock coastline can get pretty packed during the summer as many people want to enjoy the beach. During the winter White Rock also hosts one of the larger Polar Bear Swims in the area on New Year’s Day.
The beach at White Rock is one of the best in the Lower Mainland. It’s long and sandy. Similar to a number of other places, the sand goes out for miles at low tide. It’s a world-class place for sand castle-making!
To learn more about the surrounding area, see our article about White Rock.
For those who prefer freshwater over saltwater, the Lower Mainland contains plenty of lakes for you to enjoy. Below are some of the most popular ones. They include Alice Lake and both White Pine Beach and Buntzen Lake. There is also Alouette Lake, Whonnock Lake and Rolley Lake. Top beaches in the Fraser Valley can also be found at Harrison Lake, Kilby Park and Cultus Lake.
Alice Lake (in Squamish)
Part of a very popular provincial park, the actual lake at Alice Lake has three sandy beaches you can enjoy. Two of them are almost side-by-side near the main camping area. They are also close to a small children’s playground, a bike park and picnic table areas.
The third beach is only about a 10- to 20-minute walk away (depending on your speed and which way you go). It’s at the far end of the lake. You can walk around the lake to get there, or drive and park. This beach has its own dock. There is often a floating raft out in the water during the summer too.
Alice Lake is well-known for its great camping and day-trip options. Consequently, you can expect the lake to be pretty busy during the summer. There are no lifeguards on duty, however, so make sure to be careful when you go out swimming.
There is a walking trail that loops around the lake. On top of that there are a number of different walking and cycling trails that go through the park.
The lake is stocked with trout a few times a year, so it’s a popular spot for fishing. As long as you avoid the goose dropping, Alice Lake is a fantastic spot to visit during the summer. The beaches are nice and sandy.
See our article about Alice Lake for more details.
White Pine Beach (at Sasamat Lake)
The waters of Sasamat Lake are some of the warmest the Lower Mainland has to offer. Of course, that’s just warm by BC standards. The temperature might not be tropical, but the beach still gets packed on hot days. If you want to avoid a lineup when it’s nice out you have to go fairly early in the morning!
As there are large shallow areas in the water the beach is very child-friendly. However, there are no lifeguards on duty so be careful when you swim. For those who want to explore the area without getting wet, there’s also a fabulous trail loop that goes around the lake. The trail is about 2.5 kilometres and a very easy walk.
The beach is nice and sandy. It’s not huge, but it’s not small either. It’s a beautiful spot, very popular and highly recommended. During the summer there is a concession stand that provides standard basic refreshments.
Buntzen Lake (in the Tri-Cities)
Around a 20-minute drive from Port Moody, Buntzen Lake is a popular park. Similar to White Pine Beach (but slightly less so), it’s recommended that you arrive early on summer weekends as, despite a lot of parking space, the area can fill up quickly.
There are two beaches on the lake. The South Beach is busier since it’s the one closer to the parking lot. There is a boat rental store around a five-minute drive from the lake. Non-motorized boats are allowed on the water if you’re looking for a place to paddle.
Again similar to White Pine Beach, Buntzen Lake is surrounded by walking trails. The ones at Buntzen can be much more intense though. One popular trail, the Diez Vistas, is 15 kilometres long! Of course, there are some shorter ones in the area too if that’s more your style.
The beach itself is nice and sandy. There is also an off-leash dog area at the water nearby.
To learn more about the beach and surrounding area, see our article about Buntzen Lake.
Whonnock Lake (in Maple Ridge)
A smaller lake in Maple Ridge, Whonnock Lake is a nice spot with a variety of activities available. The area is a popular fishing hole as the lake is stocked with trout. It’s also attractive to birds and other wildlife in general due to its bog-like nature. Non-motorized boats are allowed on the water and there is a boat launch as well as a couple of docks.
There is a roped-off area for swimming in the summer. In the winter the lake can sometimes freeze over completely! When that happens people enjoy going out on the lake to skate. However, the ice might not be strong enough to do so! Be very careful if you want to try out your skates there.
Near the lake is a gazebo that can be rented out for private social gatherings. There are also volleyball courts, a basketball court and a rhododendron garden. The beach itself is nice and sandy.
To learn more about the beach see our article about Whonnock Lake.
A pretty small lake in John Hendry Park, Trout Lake is a favourite for East Vancouver locals. Right next to the lake is the park’s community centre.
The lake itself has two beaches, with the south beach being the more popular one and the one with a lifeguard on duty in the summer. The south beach also has a concession stand and washrooms.
The north beach is in the dog off-leash area of the park, meaning that it’s very popular among Vancouver’s canine population. People don’t swim there, but if you stop by when the weather is nice you’re sure to see some dogs splashing around and having a great time.
(Note: Years ago, Trout Lake used to be nicer to swim in than it is today. Nowadays the water isn’t actually the cleanest. It’s still though a very nice spot.)
For more information check out our article on Trout Lake.
Alouette Lake (in Maple Ridge)
Alouette Lake is where you’ll find a super popular campground in Golden Ears Provincial Park. There is a giant parking lot at the day-use area. The place can get quite busy though in the peak summer season.
The beaches on Alouette Lake are a bit rocky, but it’s still a pleasant visit. There are boat rentals, a designated swimming area and picnic tables that have BBQ attachments on them. Fishing and other water sports like windsurfing are popular on the lake.
If you want to camp at Alouette Lake you have to make your reservations pretty early. It’s one of the more popular campgrounds in Metro Vancouver, and so you might need to reserve your spot a couple of months in advance.
There is more than one beach at Alouette Lake. The main beach, in the day-use area, is very nice. It doesn’t have the best sand, and there can be lots of goose droppings, but the views are pretty. There are also grassy areas, picnic tables and public washrooms.
At Alouette Lake there is also a beach between the Gold Creek and Alouette campgrounds. It’s pretty, but rocky. Instead of sand the beach is covered in small to medium-sized stones. If you plan to go in the water there you’ll likely want to wear flip flops or some kind of water shoes.
North Beach is a third beach at Alouette Lake. It’s large and very pretty. It too is mostly covered in stones, but there are a few sandy patches.
Rolley Lake (in Mission)
Another good camping spot just east of Golden Ears Park is Rolley Lake in Mission. It’s a family-friendly place to visit in the summer. The water there is shallow which makes it nice to splash around in. There’s also an easy walking path that loops around the lake.
The lake is open to non-motorized boats like canoes and kayaks, but there are no rentals available. Consequently, make sure to bring your own boat if that’s something you’re interested in! As with Alouette Lake, it’s best to reserve a spot at Rolley Lake well in advance if you want to camp there.
The beach at Rolley Lake is very nice. It’s not huge, but it’s big enough. The beach is sandy and there is a large grassy area which is nice for picnics.
Near Rolley Lake is the Stave Falls Powerhouse. Stave Falls is a BC Hydro facility that (during non-pandemic times) is open to visitors. It’s a good place to learn all about electricity and how BC Hydro works.
To learn more about the beach and park, click Rolley Lake in Mission.
Harrison Hot Springs
While the Harrison Hot Springs Resort gets all the headlines, Harrison Lake is another waterway worth visiting. The biggest lake in the region, Harrison Lake has an appropriately massive beach. You won’t have to worry about finding a spot for yourself! And it’s a beautiful beach with really nice sand and stunning views.
For some people, the best swimming spot there is Harrison Lagoon. It’s a shallow pool purposefully cut off from the rest of the lake by a manmade sand bar. The Lagoon can get warm during the summer and is a great place for children as well as adults. We prefer swimming in the lake.
The lake itself is one of the coldest bodies of water in the area. There have been cases of people swimming out too far and almost catching hypothermia. As long as you stay close enough to shore though the lake is a great place to swim. There’s even an Inflatable Water Playground open on the lake during the summer (although you have to pay to go on it).
Of all the freshwater beaches in the Lower Mainland, the one at Harrison Hot Springs is one of our favourites. There are also some nice beaches at nearby Sasquatch Provincial Park.
To learn more about the area see our article about Harrison Hot Springs.
Kilby Park (in the Fraser Valley)
Kilby Park is home to a campsite (which is smaller than ones at some of the other provincial parks). There is also a really nice beach.
The beach sits on Harrison Bay. It’s where the Harrison and Fraser rivers connect. Like Harrison Lake, the waters there are usually fairly chilly, even in the summer. There is also a natural drop-off in the water depth that visitors should be aware of.
As of early June, 2021, there is a limit on how many single-day visitors are allowed on the site. As well, no walk-in bookings for the campground are allowed. If you want to go fishing, swimming or boating at Kilby Park, make sure to book a spot in advance.
The beach at Kilby Park is beautiful. It’s a good size and nice and sandy. Dogs are sometimes allowed on-site (although likely not in the summer).
Cultus Lake Beaches
Cultus Lake is one of the most popular summertime destinations in the Lower Mainland, especially for young people. There is the famous Water Slides Park of course, and there’s also the just as well-known lake.
Cultus Lake has multiple beaches ringed around the water with campgrounds by most of them.
The biggest of the beaches is aptly named Main Beach. All the beaches though are fine places to set up for the day. Motor boats are allowed on the water, and activities like paddle-boarding, windsurfing and water-skiing are common. The water can get reasonably warm during the summer as well, making it a good spot for a swim.
With plenty of hiking trails and campgrounds available, Cultus Lake is one of the premier camping spots in the Lower Mainland. Just know that most everyone knows that too, so it can get quite busy during the warm months!
To learn more about the area see our article about Cultus Lake.
Other articles that might be of interest include the following:
- Outdoor Pools in Vancouver
- Lower Mainland Parks and Nature
- Vancouver Activities for Children
- Vancouver on a Budget
- Lower Mainland Water Slides
- Lower Mainland Summer Activities
Articles and websites that might also be of interest include the following ones about venues in Whistler and Victoria:
- Whistler Attractions
- Whistler Parks and Nature
- Whistler’s Alta Lake
- Attractions in Victoria
- Willows Beach in Victoria