Tower Beach in Vancouver is one of the most isolated and picturesque beaches you can find without straying too far from the city. Technically part of Wreck Beach, Tower is a clothing-optional, northwestern facing beach with incredible north shore views, and views all the way to Vancouver Island to the west. Keep reading to find out if you should add Tower Beach to your summer bucket list.
Where is Tower Beach?
Part of the University Endowment Lands, Tower Beach is just outside of the UBC campus on the Point Grey Peninsula. Tower Beach faces northwest and has amazing views of West Vancouver, Bowen Island, and Vancouver Island to the west.
Accessing Tower Beach
While Tower Beach is a bit out of the way for Vancouverites who live outside the UBC area, you can still get to the beach pretty easily by car or public transit.
Getting to Tower Beach via public transit
There are several bus routes that go to UBC, such as the 44, 84, and 99. The UBC bus routes all end at the UBC Exchange or UBC Bus Loops, and Tower Beach is within walking distance from there. I took the 84 bus from Kitsilano and got off at the UBC Bus Loop. I walked down the UBC Bus Loop to E Mall road through the UBC campus and continued toward NW Marine Drive.
The trailhead, Trail 3, is located at the intersection of NW Marine Drive and Chancellor Blvd and is clearly marked. Trail 3 is about a 300-meter stretch of wooden stairs. The stairs are very well kept, and there are benches along the way for you to rest (especially on the way back up). The walk from the bus stop all the way down Trail 3 to the beach is just under 20 minutes. Be sure to bring enough water as the stairs can be challenging for some, and the beach is pretty isolated. While the stairs can be challenging, particularly on the way back up, the views are absolutely incredible as you work your way through the lush densely forested area.
Getting to Tower Beach by car
To access Tower Beach by car you can take 4th or 16th avenue all the way into the UBC campus. There are 2 parking lots on NW Marine Drive close to the Tower Beach Trailhead, the UBC Rose Garden Parkade, and the UBC Buchanan Meter Lot Zone. You’ll still have to continue down the same route down the Trail 3 stairs to access Tower Beach.
About Tower Beach
Tower Beach is part of the Pacific Spirit Regional Park and sits on the most western point of Vancouver on the UBC Endowment Lands (University of British Columbia). Officially an extension of Wreck Beach, another nearby clothing-optional beach, this spot has been renamed by locals to Tower Beach after the two concrete towers that sit on either end of it. These towers while unassuming now and covered in colorful graffiti are actually remnants of World War II. The towers originally “held 60-inch searchlights capable of a three-to-five-mile projection into the Burrard Inlet to help spotters identify an incoming German or Japanese attack”. The towers were part of a defense battery system that runs along the Point Grey area, and still, stand today as unusual relics of Canada’s history.
Not your average sandy beach
You won’t find any white sand at Tower Beach, but rather large pebbles and rocks line the shore all the way up to the tree line. The rocks can be challenging for some to walk on barefoot, so if you plan on swimming, definitely bring water shoes. The rocks aren’t the most comfortable to lay out on, so bring a thick blanket, or double up a few towels, or better yet, bring some beach chairs. There are also lots of logs scattered around the beach to lean up against.
One of the most tranquil spots in Vancouver
Though Tower doesn’t have the most comfortable sand, it is arguably one of the quietest and most peaceful beaches in all of Vancouver. The views of the North Shore are incredibly striking, and on clear days you can see all the way to Vancouver Island in the west. There are usually very few people at Tower Beach, and it is far from any city noise. It’s also very uncommon to see any boat traffic surrounding the beach. Tower Beach is pretty close to an oasis, quiet, peaceful, private, isolated, and surrounded by beautiful nature.
The pros and cons of Tower Beach
PRO: Surrounded by nature
At Tower Beach, you’re surrounded on all sides by beautiful nature. The gorgeous walk through the forest down the stairs, the sand cliffs behind you, the natural pebbly shoreline, and the uninterrupted ocean and mountains in front of you.
PRO: Tranquil and isolated
Because Tower is practically at the edge of Vancouver, and the necessary hike through the woods, it is incredibly quiet and peaceful. The dense forest dampens any sound from the above streets, as do the ocean waves. It is also a much less populous beach than nearby beaches like Spanish Banks, and Wreck Beach. You can come here for some needed peace and quiet, to read a book, and enjoy a relaxing day.
PRO: Amazing views
The ocean stretches out in front of you all the way to the North Shore at Tower Beach, and you get gorgeous views of the mountains that shelter Vancouver.
CON: Not accessible for some
Because of the stairs, and rocky beach, Tower Beach is not accessible by wheelchair, and may not be accessible for some with mobility issues.
CON: A bit uncomfortable
The pebbly beach isn’t the most comfortable, so you’ll need to pack in a little extra cushioning or beach chairs depending on how picky you are.
CON: Not the best for swimming
The waves are a bit stronger at Tower Beach than at other beaches because it is not sheltered by another closeby landmass. The ocean floor in some areas is also covered with rocks and barnacles, so getting out into the water can be a bit of a challenge. Water shoes are definitely recommended.
FAQs about Tower Beach
Is there parking at Tower Beach?
There is no designated parking lot for Tower Beach but there are two parking lots nearby on NW Marine Drive, as well as several parkades throughout the UBC campus.
Are there public restrooms at Tower Beach?
There is an outhouse at the trailhead at the top of the stairs, as well as garbage and recycling bins to discard any trash you bring to the beach.
What should I bring to Tower Beach?
Getting back up the stairs from Tower Beach is a bit of a workout, so be sure to bring plenty of water. Additionally, because the beach is so far to the west you can easily become overexposed to the sun, so you should drink lots of water throughout the day and find shade if needed. There is no concession, so if you plan on spending the day at Tower Beach be sure to pack a lunch. There are many cafes and restaurants at the UBC campus where you can grab a bite as well on your way in or out of the beach. Bring beach chairs for maximum comfort, or double up a few beach blankets to soften the rocky beach, and bring water shoes if you plan on swimming as the rocks in the ocean can be sharp and slippery.
- Atlas Obscura. “Point Grey Battery Ruins“