English Bay Beach (also known as First Beach) is one of Vancouver's top 5 beaches. Located on Beach Avenue between Gilford Street and Bidwell Street in the West End, near Stanley Park, English Bay Beach is the most popular beach in Vancouver's downtown core.
In summer, English Bay Beach is crowded with sunbathers, swimmers (it's one of the best beaches for swimmers in Vancouver), and volleyball players on the sand, as well as loungers and Frisbee players on the grass.
Because of its urban setting--it's just across the street from bustling Denman Street, where there are loads of restaurants, gelaterias, bakeries, and shops--it's easy to spend the entire day at English Bay Beach. (Since this is Vancouver--where casual dress is the rule--you can feel comfortable grabbing dinner in your beach-wear after a day in the sand-and-surf.)
Even in the cooler months, English Bay Beach is a huge attraction for both locals and tourists alike because it boasts some of the most beautiful scenery in Vancouver. From the beach, you can see the mountains of West Vancouver and the beaches across English Bay, including Kitsilano Beach and Vanier Park.
Getting to English Bay Beach
Unlike Kits Beach or Spanish Banks, it's not easy to find parking (even paid parking) at or near English Bay Beach. It's better to get to the beach via public transit (use Translink to plan your trip), or enjoy walking/biking/rollerblading along the seawall from areas farther east, like Burrard Street or Yaletown.
English Bay Beach Features
English Bay Beach is awesome for a host of reasons. Here is a short list of the top features:
- Access to/on the Stanley Park Seawall
- Cactus Club Cafe
- Kayak rentals
- Kayak storage
- Stand-alone BBQs allowed (subject to restrictions) nearby at Ceperley Meadow
- Lifeguard on duty Victoria Day to Labour Day
- Swimming raft with large slide
- Sand volleyball courts
Special Events at English Bay Beach
English Bay Beach plays a major role in two annual Vancouver traditions: the Celebration of Light International Fireworks Competition (held every year in late-July/early August) and the New Year's Day Vancouver Polar Bear Swim.
The Celebration of Light International Fireworks Competition is three nights of spectacular fireworks displays held over English Bay, making English Bay Beach one of the top spots for watching the fireworks. During the Celebration of Light, English Bay Beach is absolutely packed--as in, standing room only--but the carnival-like atmosphere makes it worth the pushing-and-pulling for a spot on the beach.
At the other end of the weather spectrum, the New Year's Day Vancouver Polar Bear Swim welcomes in the new year with a traditional swim in the cold January waters off English Bay Beach. Held annually since 1920, the Vancouver Polar Bear Swim has grown in popularity every year; anyone can join this event, as long as you can take the cold water!