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English Bay Beach in Vancouver – Everything You Need To Know

English Bay Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Vancouver. Located in the heart of Vancouver’s West End, English Bay has been a beloved gathering place for Vancouverites and tourists alike for centuries. On the cusp of Stanley Park, bordered by the seawall, and steps away from the popular Davie and Denman streets, English Bay has the amenities of the city with the escape of nature close by. 

English bay beach in vancouver looking north

Where is English Bay Beach?

English Bay Beach is located in Vancouver’s West End neighborhood on Beach Avenue, between Bidwell and Gilford Street. The main entrance to English Bay is on Beach Avenue and Denman St. English Bay Beach looks out over English Bay, a large bay that separates downtown Vancouver and the western Vancouver mainland. 

From English Bay Beach you can see Kits Beach and the Point Grey peninsula, as well as West Vancouver and Bowen Island to your right, and even Vancouver Island in the distance. English Bay sits at the entrance to Stanley Park and is connected by the Seawall to Second Beach and Third Beach. Southbound along the seawall is the also popular Sunset Beach. 
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main entrance to english bay beach in vancouver

The history of English Bay Beach

English Bay Beach was home to the first ever official lifeguard in Vancouver, the legendary Joe Fortes. Fortes in the late 19th and early 20th century was known to patrol the beach and taught hundreds of beachgoers how to swim[3]. The beach became even more popular when sand was added to the shores in 1898[1], making for more comfortable sunbathing and swimming. The original public changerooms and restrooms were built in the 1930s and still stand today. The Vancouver seawall began construction in 1917 in Stanley Park[2], and completed in 1980, and now connects English Bay to a large loop around Stanley Park and Second and Third Beach. 

English bay beach in vancouver looking south east

English Bay has long been a destination for city events in Vancouver, like the Celebration of Light annual summer firework festival, and the Polar Bear Swim. It is one of the most popular beach destinations in Vancouver and remains busy year round. 

english bay beach looking towards the seawall in vancouver bc

Why Vancouverites love English Bay

English Bay is an incredibly popular beach in Vancouver. The sand and grassy areas fill up in the summer with all kinds of people, and even during the other off-seasons. English Bay is very much an inner city beach, and locals know not to come to English Bay if they want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. With the proximity to the busy Beach Ave and Denman street, it’s not exactly a tropical oasis. However, English Bay does have a certain charm. Beachgoers get all their favorite beach activities, like swimming, sunbathing, and volleyball without having to travel out of the city. Plus, the seawall and inner-city location make getting to English Bay a breeze by car, transit, bike, or on foot.

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lookout to the water at english bay beach in vancouver

The addition of the Cactus Club restaurant and concession stand also take away the need to pack a large picnic, and the public restrooms, changerooms, and outdoor shower bring some extra added comfort. While English Bay Beach is not perfectly pristine, it is still a major staple in the list of Vancouver beaches, and a strong standing favorite amongst locals. Personally, I’ve spent dozens of hours at English Bay, and it is my favorite city beach in Vancouver. 

English bay beach looking out into the ocean in vancouver

Cactus Club restaurant and concession at English Bay Beach

A beachfront location of Cactus Club, a popular Canadian restaurant chain was built at English Bay Beach in 2012. Cactus Club offers midscale beach dining on the lower level of the restaurant, with a variety of options like burgers, salads, seafood, steak, and Asian fusion cuisine, as well as cocktails. Cactus Club has a wide variety of dining options, so even the pickiest of eaters are likely to find something they will enjoy on the menu. 

Cactus club on the beach at english bay in vancouver bc

The main entrance to the upstairs of the restaurant is for reservations only, as the beachfront section of the restaurant often has a long line during the weekends and in the summer. 

Cactus club restaurant on Beach Ave in vancouver bc

Cactus Club also runs the beach concession stand at English Bay Beach, with an outdoor dining area for concession patrons. The concession is done completely online, with QR codes posted to scan and place your order online, and then pick up your order from the beachfront dining entrance. 

cactus club concession at english bay beach in vancouver

Food trucks at English Bay Beach

If you’re looking for something on the go, you can also find food trucks located on the seawall in front of the building that houses the change rooms, lifeguard station, and restrooms. On this trip to English Bay, Rain or Shine Ice Cream, a local artisanal ice cream company was servicing the beach. The food trucks rotate, but typically offer more casual beach fare like ice cream and cold drinks. 

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Rain or shine ice cream truck at english bay beach in Vancouver

The seawall at English Bay Beach

The Vancouver seawall runs along the eastern side of English Bay Beach. The seawall connects English Bay to a series of beaches, parks, lookout points, and historic locations across Vancouver’s shoreline and Stanley Park. If you continue north along the seawall from English Bay you’ll find yourself at Second Beach, and then Third Beach. The seawall then wraps all the way around Stanley Park and ends in Vancouver’s Coal Harbour neighborhood.

seawall at english bay in vancouver

If you follow the seawall south from English Bay Beach you can walk to Sunset Beach, and continue down the seawall through Yale Town, traveling alongside False Creek. The seawall continues to Science World, and then wraps around through Olympic Village all the way to Kits Beach. If you’re visiting English Bay Beach and want to get a change of scenery, follow the seawall and you’ll find scenic routes along Vancouver’s coast anyway you go. 

grass park area english bay in vancouver

FAQ’s about English Bay Beach:

Is there parking at English Bay Beach? 

There is no parking lot at English Bay. There are paid parking lots in the West End close to English Bay, but there is no parking lot specified for the beach. There is also street parking available in the West End, but all parking lots or streets have paid parking. 

public restrooms at english bay beach in vancouver

Are there public restrooms at English Bay Beach?

Yes! The large concrete building on the southern end of the beach houses the changerooms, lifeguard station, and public washrooms. There is also a public shower on the seawall in front of the building. 

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English bay beach wheelchair mat in vancouver

Is English Bay Beach wheelchair accessible?

Yes, English Bay Beach is wheelchair accessible! There are no stairs leading from Beach Avenue to the beach, as well as the seawall. There is a wheelchair beach mat leading from the seawall to the water located near the lifeguard station at the main English Bay building. Water wheelchairs are also available to rent from the lifeguard station. 

 

Article Sources:

  1. English Bay. “History of English Bay
  2. Vancouver.ca. “The Seawall in Vancouver
  3. Wikipedia. “English Bay, Vancouver