“It’s packed don’t come here.”
#3 in West End
1700 Beach Avenue
Sure, you could describe English Bay Beach, but what would be the point?
It’s sort of like describing the Eiffel Tower to people living in Paris or Parliament Hill to people in Ottawa — it’s the postcard image, the one you’ve seen and experienced again and again, the place where the fireworks happen and the Inukshuk stands, the “fabled front door” of the city, as Vancouver Sun writer Robert Sarti one called it.
There’s the curved beach and adjacent grass, the lovely art deco bathhouse, the way it funnels into Denman and all the frenetic activity of the West End, but how it also eases off into Stanley Park and the residential buildings to the north.
It’s old Vancouver, the city’s First Beach (which is why Stanley Park’s beaches are called 2nd and 3rd), the beach you see in all the archival photos and videos, linked to the story of Joe Fortes (the city’s first lifeguard, and one of its few celebrated Black pioneers) all across from the Sylvia Hotel.
It’s so populated by tourists, and so beloved by people in the West End, that there’s always a vibrant energy to it — a great historic beach with atmosphere galore.
It’s also, objectively, the least essential of all Vancouver’s major beaches.
Some of the blame is due to the lack of anything else *within* the beach — yes, it’s well located, but outside the washrooms, there’s no amenities at English Bay, unless you count the relatively thin strip of grass (where there’s competition for real estate with the birds), and the one slide out in the ocean.
This is nice, but consider the additional things you can do at Kits or Jericho, or how far out the tide goes at Spanish Banks, or the quality of the sand at Third. By comparison, English Bay suffers.
And then there’s the crowds, and while it’s fun to feed off that energy of people, it can get a little exhausting in the summertime. In the winter it’s a lovely extended backyard for thousands of West Enders, but that has limited virtue for the rest of us.
Of course, such is the ridiculous nature of Vancouver that what could be the most famous beach internationally — and the one with the most local history — is, all things considered, only the fifth or sixth best sandy space to go in the city.
Then again, one shouldn’t nitpick the details of having a postcard view, but just appreciate that you have it.