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English Bay

Stretch out on the sands, swim in the sea, and amble along the shoreline of this gently curving urban beach. 

English Bay, a popular beach not far from the city center, features salt air and soft sand. It’s an ideal destination to sunbathe, nap, stroll or picnic. You’ll find cafés, bars and shops across the road in Denman Street, while in nearby Stanley Park there are biking and hiking trails. 

English Bay was formally established as a swimming beach in 1893 with the building of a few shacks along the shore for shade and changing. One hundred years previously, Captain George Vancouver, with the British Navy, and Captain Dionisio Galiano, with the Spanish Navy, collaborated in charting the region for their native countries. English Bay, as well as the nearby series of beaches known as Spanish Banks, were both named in honor of this international collaboration.

The views from English Bay are stunning. Swathes of greenery cloak Stanley Park and soaring mountains hug the shore. At the end of the day, join the crowds watching the sun set as the sky turns shades of red, pink, and orange. 

The bay hosts two popular annual events. The Celebration of Light International Fireworks Competition held in late July/early August is a three-day carnival of pyrotechnics that light up the night sky with explosions of color. Three competing international teams vie against each other each year to be the brightest spark.

During winter, the beach is the starting point for the annual Polar Bear Swim, a chilly and invigorating plunge into the Pacific on New Year’s Day, a tradition that began in 1920. It attracts people with and without swimming costumes, and some in fancy dress. To take part in the 100-yard (91-meter) swim, you must register (for free) with the Vancouver Polar Bear Swim Club before the race.

English Bay is a great destination to stroll to from downtown. It’s also accessible by bus. Street parking is available, but can be tricky to find during the busy summer tourist season.

Guide to Exploring English Bay Inukshuk