There are several beaches that can be enjoyed throughout East, West, North, South Vancouver and its outer areas. They don’t look like any other beaches in the world mainly because of large logs, which have been purposefully positioned, although look shipwrecked amongst the sand. The beaches themselves take on the character of their neighborhood and gain a reputation that is a reflection of their inhabitants.
Kitsilano beach or ‘Kits’is an idyllic snap shot of Vancouver’s West Side. Here young singles and small families can be seen lounging in the sun, playing volleyball or throwing a stick to their dog, within the specially designated dog area of course! In the distance ahead are mountains that stack one into the other, and create a breathtaking landscape. Further west is Jericho and Spanish Banks, spacious and serine, where a perfect view of the city center glimmers at sunset. Asian fisherman cast traps off of the wharf as Kayak classes, in rows of three pass by. At the far edge of the city lies the University of British Columbia,(UBC). Here you have to look closely for Gate 6, the entrance to the famous nudist beach, Wreck beach. To get to there you must prepare for a 1,000 step journey down to the beach and then back up to the road. This is not a passage for the faint at heart; you must be in good shape. Once you make it down half way you will find a sign that reads ‘Clothing Optional’. This is where the fun begins as you discover a beachfront with musicians playing the bongos, artisans selling jewelry, clothes and food. You can get some exotic beverages like Jello shots, made of vodka and mint jello. The smell of ‘BC Bud’, or marijuana, wafts through the air as people freely pass around joints. The beach has its regulars, including a self-declared Wreck Beach ‘mayor and city council’, who impose the beach’s rules on new visitors. Photography and voyeurism are frowned upon and some have had their cameras confiscated for taking pictures without permission
Third Beach is nestled in Stanley Park, a massive green space right in the heart of the city. Young kids run jubilantly as cyclists zoom by the sea wall that runs around the park. In the water you can see small sail boats and people drifting on paddles. This beach continues on to become English Bay, which is in the West End of Vancouver, and is known for its large gay community. Here the views are breathtaking as same sex partners walk hand in hand and tourists extend their selfie sticks with Starbucks coffees in hand.
The South and East side beaches are more rugged with large rocks that you have to clamber over. You can hear the loud crunch of shells underneath your feet as you smell the pungent scent of fish, seaweed and other sea life. This is more of an industrial setting with the bold presence of foreign tanker ships anchored in the harbour. The playgrounds are rusty and the grass is unkempt,dogs run freely. The grand snowcapped mountain range, not too far in the distance, is a sight that never gets boring.
There are many private beaches in North and West Vancouver, and even some private islands. Here you will often see massive cruise ships slowly fading into the sunset as they make their way to Alaska. The British Properties loom in the hilltops behind, displaying the homes of the wealthiest citizens of Vancouver.
Since it rains in Vancouver much the year, the beaches themselves transform from sun worshipping grounds to quiet silver landscapes. In the wintertime people grab their umbrellas and rubber boots, head to the beach for some perspective and interaction with the turbulent grey sea. Vancouverites have made a pact with the grayness of winter, as it promises a rich green setting and another summer of blue skies and fun at the beach.