#9: Spanish Banks

“Had a few qualms with this beach. All the signs were in English, met no Spanish people, no tapas or time for a siesta.”

#2 in West Point Grey

4801 NW Marine Drive

For Kids

B+



For Adults

A-



Design

B



Atmosphere

A



Final Score

32.22


You can have Science World, Stanley Park, or the seawall all you want — there may not be a more enticing view in Vancouver than Spanish Banks at low tide. 

It goes on for hundreds and hundreds of metres, extending what is already a massively long beach into a massively wide one, with nothing but encumbered ocean to the west, mountains to the north, and the Vancouver skyline to the east. 

For pure simplicity, it’s perfect. You won’t find more unencumbered sand in Vancouver than Spanish Banks, you won’t find better quality sand in Vancouver other than maybe Third Beach, and outside Stanley Park, you won’t have a better sense of being surrounded by nature while being right in the middle of a metropolis. 

Leased to the park board since 1929, Spanish Banks is the best beach in the city. But it’s not the best park — and only the sixth best park in the city with a beach — because there’s little else to it. 

(Yes, 7 of the top 10 parks in Vancouver have beaches. If you disagree with this assessment, you’re more than free to do your own 49,000 word counterargument)

Other beach parks usually have some grassy areas or playgrounds, providing some alternatives if some members of your party are less inclined to romp through the sand. Spanish Banks really has neither — the only additional amenities are an off-leash dog area, volleyball courts, picnic tables, a concession stand and washrooms. 

Which is all good, but limits its potential for some folks. Are you in a group with five beach bums with a desire for some volleyball and a BBQ? Spanish Banks is amazing. Have a family where some kids want a playground and others prefer soccer? Its magic is wasted. 

But there is still plenty of magic, plenty of kiteboarders, plenty of people out on high tide, plenty of people enjoying all Spanish Banks has to offer.

Even in 1937 with the city less built out, the and stark sand of Spanish Banks (seen in the bottom left) still stood out. (Courtesy Vancouver Archives)

And it’s worth noting that the expanse of flat nothingness was fought for tooth and nail back in the day — a few proposals for airports in the area were rejected after community outcry, as was a planetarium and tower

So many of Vancouver’s fights are about whether to build or preserve, whether the benefits of the fancy world-class proposal outweigh the simpler pleasures already in place, the balance shifting slightly with every decade and every proposal.   

It’s fair to say that on Spanish Banks, they got it right.  

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