Situated near Horseshoe Bay neighborhood in West Vancouver, the Whytecliff Park opened in 1909. The park was originally known as Rockcliffe Park and is home to around 200 species of marine animals. It is also the First Marine Protected Area in the country.
Whytecliff Park is full of scenic beauty, ranging from mountains and passing boats to fantastic hiking trails to explore the island and the beach area and scuba diving in an area that is also popular for diving underwater.
Directions to Reach Whytecliff Park
The park is accessible by both transit or by a car, and is situated a little away, reached through a residential area. However, it is worth the effort, and you are going to have a fabulous time there.
Once you are already driving from Downtown Vancouver, follow the directions below:
1. Take the West Georgia Street and then cross the Lions Gate Bridge.
2. Move towards West Vancouver and take Marine Drive.
3. At Taylor Way, turn right and then take the exit onto Highway 1 in the west.
4. Take another exit for Eagleridge Drive, then follow the road and take a left onto Marine Drive after an overpass.
5. Finally, after a roundabout, move through the residential area to reach the park.
You can also pay a visit to Lighthouse Park. It is a quick 20-minute drive from Whytecliffe.
History of Whytecliff Park
Whytecliff Park is located near West Vancouver and spans an area of 15.63 hectares. It was established in 1909 and was then the White Cliff City. In 1914, Colonel Albert Whyte requested changing its name to Whytecliff. Earlier in 1926, the park was developed by W.W. Boutlbee and was known as Rockcliffe Park.
The Union Steamship Company purchased the Boultbee estate spanning 50 acres in 1939. Between 1939-1941 and 1946-1952, the shipping company operated Bowen Island Ferry from the park. The ocean surrounding the park became the first saltwater Marine Protected Area of the country in 1993.
Marine Protected Areas were established to protect the ecologically vital areas of rivers, ocean and lakes, and the habitat, species, and ecosystem of the waters. Whytecliff Park was the first Marine Protected Area of Canada, and it is because of this exceptional protection that marine life has been able to flourish, making it a popular location for diving and a safe place for the 200 marine animal species.
In addition to this, Whytecliff Park has an interesting history.
6 Awesome Things To Do At Whytecliff Park
Whytecliff Park is famous for its opportunities for cold water diving and provides water diving at all levels ranging from classes for beginners at the inner cove area to the advanced ones in Queen Charlotte Channel. In the wildlife, you will get to see fish, dolphins, octopuses, orcas, squid, and beautiful coral life.
In the months between April and October, the cold water is clean, and you can also get yourself lessons, rentals, and tours arranged by the dive shops. An important thing to note is that you should be well aware beforehand of all the restrictions as you are in a Marine Protected Area.
You are expected to respect the wildlife, and the dive shops are always there to assist you if you need them. The classes for beginners generally take place at the beach. There is not much sea life to view here due to the silty water and a lot of traffic.
However, you may be able to view some wildlife in the area of east and west of the main beach. The areas are just a five-minute swim away from the beach and are 15 feet deep. More advanced divers can go for exploring a vertical dive wall and sloping reefs, which are to the north of the main beach.
Go for a short hike around the Whytecliff Park where you can enjoy watching the wildlife. If you wish to find a lot of trails, head to the north-west corner of the gravel overflow parking or near Batchelor bay. When there are low tides, it is possible for you to safely make your way across the rocks to the Whyte Island’s bluffs. However, it would help if you were careful enough so that you are not stuck out there.
You may also be able to spot a few resident orcas in the summer season or the sea lions in the ocean basking on rocks depending on the time of the year you visit the place.
In the warm summer months, swimming is a preferred pastime. The pebbly sand beach is also sunny throughout the daytime. The water does not get warmed up and is clean enough for swimming, which is a plus point.
It is, however, advised that before you go swimming, you should always check the local news websites, signboards of the park, or other such sources suggesting any warnings related to the area.
4. Scuba Diving
It is a fantastic sport not just for the experienced divers but for the beginners too. One can surely expect to spot crab, sculpin, rockfish, lingcod, harbor seal, occasional wolf eel, giant octopus, and starfish in this Saltwater area, which is also a Marine Protected Area.
5. Outdoor Sports
Whytecliff Park is a perfect place to get together with your family and friends to enjoy some outdoor activities. There are two tennis courts in the play area to show off your skills. The courts function on a first-come, first-serve basis.
There is also a grass field large enough to play a game of badminton for tossing around a frisbee. Kids can enjoy themselves on the playground and go for some quick fun.
You can have lunch at Whytecliff Park’s cafe or go there to relax. There are a variety of snacks at the restaurant to hog on, including delicious homemade ones, burgers, ice-creams, smoked meat sandwiches, and healthy sides.
A. Public Washrooms
The public locations are located at different spots in the lower section of the park. One of them is at the far end of the main parking stand, and the other one is located near a paved pathway, which is next to the beach. There are no washrooms located in the upper section of the park.
In most areas of Whytecliff Park, dogs are permitted with certain restrictions. Dogs should be leashed at all times, and the dog droppings should be picked up and disposed of by the respective owners. There are only a few spots in the park which have signs indicating that dogs are not allowed.
C. Hiking Route
The best views of Whytecliff Park are near the beach and the cliffs area. When you walk up to the pavement from the parking area, you will come across a grassy area on your left. You will then see a gravel path that further leads to an elevated area at the end of the pavement.
You will now be able to view Bowen Island and Howe Sound. You can sit down on the park benches there and see the B.C. Ferries at the Horseshoe Bay or enjoy the beautiful view of the ocean. The cliff there is fence off and has a steep drop-off.
It would be best if you now headed south along the rocky and narrow trail. You will come across some more picnic benches before you finally reach the concrete steps. There are several viewpoints and paths so that you can move at your own pace through the rocks. You will get some fantastic views of rugged coastline further South after a few moments in Strait of Georgia.
Enjoy the beauty, but also make sure you do not get too close to the edge of a rocky cliff. You can even walk into the cave during low tide and enjoy a different perspective from the tiny beach. When you come out of the cove and are back on the trail towards the main beach, you will come across Whyte Islet and an open and large overlook of the beach.
Relish the view from the high point and come down the stone steps to the beach when you are ready. The rocks may be a little slippery in wet weather, so one needs to be careful. Carry along the coast a bit further to get a better view of Whyte Islet, which is an excellent spot for clicking yourself, especially during high tides.
If you decide to climb Whyte Islet, make sure you keep a check on the tide as it would not be cool to get stuck there. The initial climb on Whyte Island is steep, so it can get difficult for you if the rocks are wet. There is a beautiful view of houses in Gleneagles above the water.
You can take a short walk to the Whyte Islet that is in the northern end to enjoy the captivating scenery before moving back to the beach and then up the path towards the parking area. If you wish to keep walking, you will find a few short trails near the upper parking lot that explore the northern section in the park. You can also refer to the trail map.
Want to explore more places in Vancouver?
In all, Whytecliff Park is a fantastic place to explore with your family and friends. What aspect of the park did you like the most? Please share it with us in the comment section below!