Vancouver is one of the best cities in the world to live in, and the presence of the English Bay sure adds to the charm of the most diverse city in the Great White North. With the Canadian Rockies to the east and the beaches on the west, it’s easy to see why so many people move to the province of British Columbia.
The inlet ranges from Point Grey down southwest to Prospect Point in Stanley Park, which is located further up north.
The beaches facing the English Bay are some of the most happening places in the city, with various festivals being observed by the seaside yearly. The idea is to outline the most detailed guide to the seaside on West Vancouver, and that is exactly what you’ll get.
Exploring the Amazing English Bay: 5 Points
1. The Beaches
The inlet meets the land at various points in the city, giving rise to plenty of beaches. We’ll guide you through each and every one of them, so be sure that you’ll be an expert on the matter by the time you finish with this column.
1. English Bay Beach
The English Bay beach is the single most famous beach in the city of Vancouver. It is also called the First Beach and is the go-to beach for a lot of citizens.
Of course, you can have a dip in the waters of the sea but there’s a lot more to do at the English Bay Beach. You can have a game of volleyball with your buddies as the waves wash the sand at the two courts on the beach. If you’re good with the kayaks, then you can rent one, or even store your own at the beach.
Sunbathing is among the most popular things that people of the city indulge in along the seaside. There are beach umbrella and chair rentals as well, so you can unwind while watching the sun drown into the sea.
There’s a swimming raft at the beach as well, loaded with a large slide so that you can have a thrilling day at the beach with friends and family.
Keeping to the topic of having a day out with your friends and family, stand-alone BBQs are also allowed at the English Bay Beach, but be sure to contact the authorities beforehand as they are subject to some restraints.
There are lifeguards on duty to ensure that nothing goes wrong, and you also have the option of enjoying a meal at the Cactus Club Cafe located really close to the beach.
With all these facilities at the beach, it is easy to see why the place is so favoured by the citizens of Vancouver. That popularity does come with a certain side effect, in the form of a shortage of parking spaces.
Yes, there is a paid parking lot near the beach but it gets so crowded so quickly that people have trouble finding another place to park that is relatively close to the sands. Hence, your day out at the beach can be a lot smoother to go about if you use public transport.
The English Bay Beach is really easy to find, due to its accessible location just across the ever-crowded Denman Street.
2. Jericho Beach
The first thing that comes to mind when you mention Jericho Beach to the locals of Vancouver is the Jericho Sailing Centre that offers visitors a chance to rent sailboats and head out into the waters of the English Bay.
Another great thing about Jericho Beach is the presence of the Jericho Beach Park right next to the mile-long shoreline. The park has quite a few playing fields with facilities for football, baseball, softball, t-ball, volleyball and tennis. As you can see, it’s a great place to visit for anybody who likes to have a crack at outdoor sports.
Towards the east end of the park, you will find the Old Hastings Mill Store Museum which is a great way to learn about the past of the city. One of the most well-documented events at the museum is the fire that took place in the city in the 19th century that almost destroyed everything. You’ll find pictures, artefacts and all the amazing hidden treasures that a museum can, and does house within its walls.
If you come to this beach along the English Bay during the month of July, then you might want to stick around for the Jericho Beach Folk Music Festival that invites artists from within the country, as well as abroad.
3. Kitsilano Beach
The Kitsilano Beach, better known as the Kits Beach can be found at the northern end of Yew Street, the end of Cornwall Avenue. Windsurfing is one of the special things about Kitsilano Beach, as it is something that can’t be done at most of the other beaches in the city.
Much like the Jericho Beach, Kitsilano Beach also has many sporting fields for sports enthusiasts to enjoy. Additionally, the Kitsilano Pool at the west end of the beach is a great attraction for people looking to relax and unwind after a week of hard work.
The Kitsilano Pool is an open, saltwater pool that welcomes guests throughout the summer months of May/June through mid-September.
The Boathouse Waterfront Restaurant near the beach is one of the most favoured places to dine for most of the people that come down to Kits Beach.
4. Locarno Beach
Locarno Beach can be called one of the most scenic beaches in all of Vancouver. A lot of the credit for that tag goes to the presence of the tall, evergreen trees just beside the sand.
It is located west of Jericho Beach, between Discovery Street and Mariner Street.
If you’re looking for some peace and quiet to get away from the rush of the city life, but really can’t make your way to somewhere more ‘country’, then the Locarno Beach is exactly what you need. This is a designated quiet beach, in the sense that no sort of amplified sound is permitted along the shoreline of the English Bay.
There are six volleyball courts along the beach for multiple groups to have a game simultaneously, as well as a swimming raft.
You’ll have access to a parking lot along the beach, and the service is free of cost for all visitors coming to the Locarno Beach.
With picnic tables present, overlooking the waters of the English Bay there is absolutely no excuse for you not to pack a basket if you’d love some well-needed peace and quiet to recharge and rejuvenate yourself.
5. Second Beach
Another Beach that comes in touch with the waters of the English Bay, the reason why the Second Beach is called so can be understood by the fact that the English Bay Beach is called the First Beach. In other words, the trend is continued by the Second Beach.
The Second Beach is located in Stanley Park, one of the best places for a picnic in the entire city. Barbeques are allowed along the Ceperley Meadow, much like they do at the English Bay Beach.
There is a heated outdoor pool located along the Second Beach, as well as multiple picnic shelters along the shoreline of the beach which can be booked beforehand for private gatherings, like picnics themselves.
6. Spanish Banks Beach
Spanish Banks Beach is one of the most unique beaches in the city. This is because of the three distinct sections that it is divided into namely east, west and extension. All of which have their own engaging features.
Starting with the east division of the Spanish Banks Beach, there are as many as eight volleyball courts at Spanish Banks Beach east. Picnic tables can also be found along the sandy shoreline, along with the availability of barbeques for a relaxing time out with family and friends.
Spanish Banks West is like the Locarno Beach in the sense that it is a quiet beach where any sort of loud sound is not permitted. Another great thing about the western side of the beach is the fact that it is an off-leash area for pets so you can bring along your furry friends for a day out along the English Bay.
That leaves us with the extension division of the Spanish Banks Beach. Most of the facilities coincide with the eastern and western division of the Spanish Banks Beach, the only extra feature is the fact that there is a kiteboarding launch zone at the extension.
The waters of the English Bay recede to about a kilometre long walk from the starting of the shoreline during the low tide.
The Spanish Banks Beach can be found west of Tolmie Street, with paid parking lots available.
7. Sunset Beach
Located at the opening of False Creek, Sunset Beach is one of the lesser populated beaches along the English Bay. It is close to the Vancouver Aquatic Centre and can be found between Thurlow Street and Bute Street.
Sunset Beach is another one of the quiet beaches in the city of Vancouver, where the people who enjoy the peace and quiet frequently visit this meeting of the sand and the English Bay.
To get the best out of the sunset beach, go there when the sun starts to set. Walk on the False Creek Ferry Pier and watch the sunset along with a snack or a drink as you please. It’s a great way to get the best out of the little things from the city of Vancouver and the waters of the English Bay.
8. Third Beach
You’ve heard of the first and the second beaches, and now we come to the last of the three, the Third Beach.
Third Beach is found at the Ferguson Point, which is in turn located inside the famous Stanley Park. Although the beach is quite sandy, the English Bay and the sandy coast are shielded off from the rest of the world by a rather thick cover of trees that form a protective cover around the beach.
As you can imagine, it is very secluded and is far off from the white noise of the city and offers visitors a chance to have a swim in the waters of the English Bay and enjoy the quietude of the area without any major disturbance.
You can also have a picnic at the Third Beach, which is best ended with a view of the sunset over the English Bay.
2. The Festivals
The English Bay Beach is the site of two famous festivals along the coast. Let’s take a close look at both of them and see how they add to the charm of the seaside.
1. Celebration of Light
Ever since the 1990s, the English Bay Beach has been the site of the world’s largest recognized offshore fireworks display competition. Originally named the Benson and Hedges Symphony of Fire, it later took on the mantle of the Celebration of Light.
The competition welcomes participants from not only Canada but multiple countries overseas. The nations of Mexico, Croatia, Sweden, India, Japan, the United Kingdom and Australia have all been participants of the spectacular event held every summer on the coast of the English Bay.
The event is held over a week’s duration and attracts over a hundred thousand people from all across the world, let alone the country. It is more than just a fireworks display, as the purpose of the Celebration of Light is to unite communities from all across the globe and celebrate our different cultures with food, enjoyment and a splendid, firework-filled sky.
If that isn’t enough, then there is live music to enjoy as well! Many famous artists from all across the world are invited to perform at the Celebration of Lights. The 2019 line-up consisted of performers such as The Boom Booms, Scott Helman, Funk Hunters and Vidya Vox.
The festival also has food stalls boasting a number of different cuisines to complement the local Canadian food and offer something unique to the audience during the time of the year.
Check out the 2019 recap video of the Celebration of Lights that took place near the English Bay Beach here.
2. Polar Bear Swim
Now, I’m not going to lie. The first image in my head when I heard the phrase ‘Polar Bear Swim’ was a horde of baby polar bears stumbling into a pool.
However, that would be the result when you Google ‘polar bears swimming’.
Polar Bear Swims involve humans, to the surprise of whoever believed what I said. Polar Bear Plunges or Polar Bear Swims are basically people jumping into icy cold waters of the sea, for donation to a charitable organization. Much like the ice bucket challenge, that was once a trend. The only difference was that the Polar Bear Swim started much earlier and wasn’t a trend.
When we talk about Polar Bear Swims taking place on the English Bay, then the idea is a yearly tradition that takes place on New Year’s Day every single year and involves the authority of the Polar Bear Swim Club which has been active for a century now since it’s humble beginnings in 1920.
Every single year since 1920, people from all across the country have registered for a dip in the waters of the English Bay on New Year’s Day. Which, in my opinion, is actually a very exciting way to start the new year.
The number of people that register per year tends to be around 1,000 to 2,000. However, the registration of the participants is not compulsory. The most number of registered participants that took a dip in the English Bay on the 1st of January was at the turn of the century in 2000. The number of people that took a plunge was recorded to be 2,128 which has still not been beaten.
The number of observers of the entire event tends to be around five times the size of the number of people actually taking part in the event. About 10,000 people watch the event from the shores every year with much speculation on the matter that the number of people that actually watch can be a lot more than 10,000 because of a lack of headcounts.
3. Vancouver Pride Parade
The Vancouver Pride Parade is a celebration of the LGBT community and its supporters. The event is held every year on the English Bay Beach and is the largest parade in the Western part of Canada.
The Vancouver Pride Parade is run by the Vancouver Pride Society, which is a non-profit organization run by the volunteers of the community that seeks to educate and produce events that celebrate the victories of the LGBT community.
3. Stanley Park
Stanley Park is a naturally made public park that is almost completely surrounded by the waters of the English Bay and the Burrard Inlet. The park is one of the oldest establishments in all of Canada, as it was integrated all the way back in 1888.
The park is huge, with a recorded size of 1,001 acres or 405 hectares. History states that the land was used for thousands of years by the native people of the region before the province of British Columbia was colonized.
Although it was originally called the Coal Peninsula, it was later named after the 16th Earl of Derby, Lord Stanley. The rather funny thing about it is that Lord Stanley named the park after himself.
Read on further about the vast and extensive history of the Stanley Park here.
As of the twenty-first century, various attractions and improvements have been added to the Stanley Park by the governing body of the park, Vancouver Park Board. The park is thickly forested and boasts of over half a million trees growing within its borders, most of the prominent species include the Douglas fir, western red cedar, western hemlock, and Sitka spruce trees.
Monuments such as the Japanese Canadian War Memorial, a statue of poet Robert Burns and Harry Jerome are some of the more notable establishments within the park.
Beaver Lake within Stanley Park is also a great way to spend some time with nature, along a water body.
The Vancouver Aquarium is the largest of its kind in all of Canada and is home to a lot of different species of aquatic animals. It is also home to a 4D theatre and is found within Stanley Park.
One of the most attractive features of Stanley Park has to be the miniature railway, which you can ride. It is almost a seasonal tradition for families in Canada, especially those having kids.
Stanley Park is also home to one of the largest Great Blue Heron colonies in all of North America.
4. The Seawall
The Seawall is one of the most prominent establishments along the English Bay and borders most of the beaches along the bay, mentioned above. The Seawall is recognized as the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront path, which is something to be proud of.
It is a 9-kilometre long path around the Stanley Park that takes two to three hours to cover, depending on how fast you can walk. It takes about an hour to go around the Seawall on a bike, or on rollerblades.
There are two different paths, one for people going along the path on foot such as walkers or joggers and the other for people going around the Seawall on wheels, such as bicycles or rollerblades.
The path for the people going on foot is closer to the English bay, and the path for the wheels is inward. There are a further two parts of the Seawall, one that falls within Stanley Park and another that is outside Stanley Park and towards the English Bay.
The Stanley Park section is closer to the Second Beach whereas the English Bay part of the Seawall is closer to the Sunset Beach. Both of the parts were renovated in 2010-11 due to concerns rising among the people of the city due to erosion.
The Seawall is arguably the most favoured destination for a picnic or a day out for the people of Vancouver in the city. This place is most crowded during the summer when the beach season really comes into the trend.
The province of British Columbia is blessed with features like the English Bay and the Stanley Park, and they are definitely some of the reasons why the province is so habitable. Read more about British Columbia here.
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