All of Vancouver ’s best beaches are along the shoreline of English Bay; 10 have lifeguards on duty 11:30 a.m.–8:45 p.m. through the summer months. Closest to downtown is English Bay Beach at the end of Denman Street. Flanked by a narrow strip of parkland and a wide array of cafés and restaurants, this is the beach for people watching. From English Bay Beach, the Seawall Promenade leads north to Second and Third Beaches, both short, secluded stretches of sand. To the south is Sunset Beach, most popular with families.
Swimmers take note: Even at the peak of summer, the water here only warms up to about 17°C (63°F), tops. If that doesn’t sound very enticing, continue to the south end of Sunset Beach to Vancouver Aquatic Centre (1050 Beach Ave., 604/665-3424, adult $5.50, senior $4.20, child $3.30). Inside you’ll find a 50-meter heated pool, saunas, whirlpools, and a small weight room.
On the south side of English Bay, Kitsilano Beach offers spectacular views back across the bay to downtown and the mountains beyond. Take a dip in the adjacent public pool, which is 137 meters long and was built in 1931. The beach and pool are an easy walk from both Vanier Park and a False Creek Ferries dock.
The westernmost of the city’s beaches is also the most infamous. Wreck Beach is a nudist hangout, where the unabashed prance around naked and nude dudes sell hot dogs and pop from driftwood concession stands. Swimming here isn’t particularly good, but the beach still gets extremely busy. Access to the beach is down a steep trail from Northwest Marine Drive, near the end of University Boulevard (take Trail No. 4, 5, or 6).