The 14 Best British Columbia Beaches

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Occupying Canada's western seaboard, British Columbia not only has thousands of kilometres of coastline but a myriad of lakes and rivers. There are no shortage of beaches in BC and perhaps the biggest challenge is finding the right one for you. Admittedly it gets a little chilly in the winter months and the summer sea temperature rarely heads north of bracing but don't let that put you off a great day at the beach.

If you are looking for somewhere to watch the world go by and top up your tan then one of Vancouver's sandy beaches could be for you. For adventurers, surfers and nature lovers though, Vancouver Island is the place to head. The size of a small country you'll find cities, mountains and many of Canada's very best beaches on the island.

Here are our selection of the best beaches in British Columbia, ranging from wilderness paradises to buzzing city beaches...

  • 1. Long Beach

    Long Beach
    © Adam Jones / CC BY
    Great for:
    • Surfing

    Located at Tofino on Vancouver Island, Long Beach certainly lives up to its name. Stretching for 16km, the unbroken white sand is the longest beach on the island. Reached from Hwy 4 (Pacific Rim Highway) and despite its isolated location it attracts over a million visitors each year.

    The beautiful sand collects massive amounts of driftwood and is edged by old-growth forest. Pounded by the Pacific Ocean, this rugged coastline… read more »

  • 2. Chesterman Beach

    Chesterman Beach
    Imogene Huxham
    Great for:
    • Surfing

    Chesterman Beach is on the west side of the Tofino peninsula on Vancouver Island, just south of Tofino town. It is divided into two main sections, Chesterman Beach South (or "South Chestie" as the locals call it) and Chesterman Beach North. Totalling 3 km in length, Chesterman Beach is divided in the middle by Franks' Island, a tombolo which is an island attached to the mainland by a narrow causeway… read more »

  • 3. San Josef Bay

    San Josef Bay
    Rick McCharles

    Located at the northern end of Vancouver Island within Cape Scott Provincial Park, San Josef Bay boasts a beach of near-white sand in natural unspoiled surrounds. Lacking cell phone coverage, you'll need to be prepared for all eventualities, which include a 45 minute easy hike along a well-maintained gravel trail from the nearest parking, as well as regularly sightings of bears and wolves.

    The most accessible of Cape Scott's beaches, it… read more »

  • 4. Parksville Beach

    Parksville Beach
    © marneejill / CC BY

    Overlooking Lasqueti Island and the Strait of Georgia, Parksville Beach is a pristine sandy beach on east coast Vancouver Island. Sweeping views look out across the expansive ocean to the Coast Mountains on mainland British Columbia.

    The clean sand here is ideal for young families to play. Access is via the Parksville Community Park which has children's play areas, water cannons, swings and slides as well as picnic areas right on… read more »

  • 5. Kitsilano Beach

    Kitsilano Beach
    © Xicotencatl / CC BY
    Great for:
    • Swimming

    Overlooking the waters of English Bay in Vancouver, Kitsilano Beach is a popular, often crowded sandy beach at the north end of Yew Street. Edged by a broad seawall, it is home to the saltwater Kitsilano Pool, the longest pool in Canada, which is operated by the Vancouver Park Board and open from May to September. Alternatively, visitors can swim in the sea and make use of the swimming raft… read more »

  • 6. Wreck Beach

    Wreck Beach
    © Colin Knowles / CC BY
    Great for:
    • Swimming

    Located in Vancouver, BC Wreck Beach is a 7.8 km long nudist beach, making it the largest naturist beach in North America.

    Just 15 minutes from downtown Vancouver, the beach wraps around the western tip of Point Grey Headland and is fairly easy to access down one of the steep trails with wooden stairs (about 500!) from Marine Drive. There's a car park (fee) and toilets at the head of… read more »

  • 7. Spanish Banks

    Spanish Banks
    Great for:
    • Swimming
    • Kitesurfing

    Located on Northwest Marine Drive about 8 km west of downtown Vancouver, Spanish Banks is possibly the most beautiful sandy beaches in the area.

    The beach is sandwiched between Locarno Beach and the University of BC and a cycling/walking trail connects them. It has three distinct areas: east, west and extension.

    The sandy beach is very flat with shallow water; at low tide, the water can be almost out of… read more »

  • 8. MacKenzie Beach

    MacKenzie Beach
    Ruth Hartnup
    Great for:
    • Surfing

    Close to Tofino on Vancouver Island, MacKenzi Beach (also spelt Mackenzie or MacKenzie Beach) has surprisingly calm sheltered waters making it popular with families.MacKenzi Beach's main claim to fame is that the remake of the movie The Fog was filmed there.

    Protected from high winds and wave action by rock formations and the offshore island, Mackenzi Beach is a good choice for swimming, standup paddleboarding and learning to surf away from… read more »

  • 9. English Bay Beach

    English Bay Beach
    © Kenny Louie / CC BY
    Great for:
    • Swimming

    Originally known as First Beach, English Bay Beach is in downtown Vancouver along Beach Ave (of course!) between Gilford and Bidwell Streets. The curving sandy beach is where the shores of Vancouver meet the Pacific Ocean.

    The eastern edge of the beach is bounded by the Stanley Park Seawall which is popular for walking, bicycling and running. This wide promenade runs along the waterfront offering stunningly beautiful views of… read more »

  • 10. Jericho Beach

    Jericho Beach
    © GoToVan / CC BY
    Great for:
    • Swimming
    • Kitesurfing

    Located just west of Kitsilano, Jericho Beach is a well-used sandy beach and grassy park in Vancouver. It's a great place for a picnic overlooking the water and watching sail boats in the waters of English Bay from the local Sailing Centre.

    The beach is named after Jeremiah Rogers who ran a logging camp in the area in the 1860s. The beach was known as Jerry's Cove and later… read more »

  • 11. Locarno Beach

    Locarno Beach
    © Jeff Hitchcock / CC BY
    Great for:
    • Swimming

    Locarno Beach is on the Stanley Park Seawall just 7 km west of downtown Vancouver. It runs from Spanish Banks in the west to Jericho Pier and Park to the east.

    This beautiful sandy beach is shaded by stands of tall evergreen trees and within sight of the high-rise architecture of the city. It was named after the Swiss city of Locarno where a peace treaty was signed in… read more »

  • 12. Qualicum Beach

    Qualicum Beach
    © GoToVan / CC BY
    Great for:
    • Fishing
    • Kitesurfing

    Qualicum Beach is located 48 km northwest of Nanaimo on the east coast of Vancouver Island. Bordering the Strait of Georgia, this beautiful beach has plenty of parking along the Oceanside Route (Hwy 19A) with a promenade, changing rooms, picnic tables and restaurants. The Qualicum Beach railway station is open from late May to September and is located on Beach Road.

    The name "Qualicum" comes from a native Salish word meaning… read more »

  • 13. White Rock Beach

    White Rock Beach
    Great for:
    • Fishing
    • Swimming

    White Rock Beach is actually a trio of beaches known for their fine weather and stunning sunsets. The beach is part of the Boundary Bay Wildlife Management Area.

    Together, West Beach, East Beach and Crescent Beach make up White Rock Beach and between them they offer 5 miles (8km) of clean sand and ocean fun. An area known as "The Hump" marks the separation between East and West Beaches.

    The name White… read more »

  • 14. Rathtrevor Beach

    Rathtrevor Beach
    Marcin Chady

    Rathtrevor Beach is located off Highway 19, three kilometres south of Parksville within Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park. It has a massive 5 km wide expanse of flat white sands that are popular for walking in all seasons.

    The beach was named after a pioneering gold prospector, William Rath who settled here in 1886 with his wife Elizabeth and 5 children. When he died in 1903, his wife developed the campsite… read more »