White Rock & Crescent Beach (BC)
Beautiful Beaches & Stunning Sunsets
Heading north on Interstate 5 from Seattle to Canada, we went through the Douglas (Peace Arch) border crossing into British Columbia. Traveling north for a few minutes on Highway 99 from the Peace Arch, we took the 8th Avenue exit heading east to the Hazelmere RV Park and Campground. From here, it was only a five-minute drive to the oceanside community of White Rock and a forty-five minute drive to Vancouver. The Pier in White Rock is the city’s famous landmark and destination. The original structure was built as a dock for steamships in 1914 and over the years the Pier has been rebuilt and extended to a staggering 470 meters (1,542 ft). Seeing the pier for the first time, you know why it’s White Rock’s main attraction. We had to find the closest parking spot and venture out on the Pier. At low tide, you can just about walk out to the Pier’s marina from the beach.
White Rock Sea Tours is set up next to the marina at the end of the Pier. Their Zodiac was getting ready to go on a whale watching tour, so we jumped in and went for a ride. It wasn’t long before we saw our first Orca (Killer Whale) cruising around the San Juan Islands. They also do harbour and sunset tours. This spur of the moment, unplanned trip, was another highlight of our visit. East of the Pier, on West Beach is a big white rock for which the community is named. It’s over four meters high, and said to weigh 486 tonnes - likely a glacial deposit from the last ice age, thousands of years ago. The First Nations “Coast Salish” people have their own legend on how the boulder landed here. They believe it was the result of a forbidden love between a native “Cowichan” Princess and a Sea God’s son. When they were refused their wish to be married, the Sea God’s son threw a rock from Vancouver Island, over the Gulf of Georgia. It was said that he and his bride would move to wherever the rock landed to make a home together. We estimated the distance to be about 92 kms (57 miles). It was their descendants who became the “Semiahmoo” First Nations people of White Rock.
Marine Street travels east to west along White Rock’s shoreline. On weekends, and during the summer, the restaurants, shops, pier and museum are bustling with people. The climate is a few degrees warmer than Greater Vancouver and has helped transform the area into a family and middle age living community. Another landmark and a must- see on White Rock’s Marine Street is the “Great Northern Railway” train station. It was built in 1912, and
is now home to White Rock Museum and Archives, with local railway history as one of the museum’s main themes. The track running next to the station is used mostly by BNSF Railway (Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway) to transport goods between the Port of Vancouver and the continental U.S. The passenger train Amtrak also uses the tracks to transport people between Vancouver, British Columbia; Washington and Oregon.
Traveling west from White Rock for fifteen minutes, we came to Crescent Beach. It is a funny thing, White Rock borders the municipality of Surrey on all three sides, and Semiahoo Bay on the fourth, and is in the district of Metro Vancouver. But Crescent Beach is farther west (closer to Vancouver) and is in the Surrey municipal district. Crescent Beach is a definite family destination - the beaches are the best we have seen for swimming in the lower mainland. Permanent dykes were built in 1913 to prevent flooding and allow for future development of a subdivision. Homes and cottages built from those early years have been restored and some are now B&B’s or for rent. Their yards, streets and walkways are immaculate. Walking along the waterfront on the dyke is very scenic.
Crescent Beach faces southwest and looks at Boundary Bay, the City of Vancouver and the North Shore Mountains. When the sun comes out, the restaurants, shops, and marina are busy. People still come here for weekend retreats from the outlying cities and Washington State - just like they did over a century ago. One of the highlights for us was the gorgeous sunsets. Having dinner in a little seaside restaurant watching the sun go down was a perfect ending to our beautiful vacation in Crescent Beach and White Rock.
Crescent Beach has been a holiday destination for more than a century.
Top: Looking at White Rock from the Pier. Bottom:The Pier is the main attraction for visitors.
BNSF Railway uses the track daily to transport goods to and from Vancouver to the USA. The 475 m/1,559 ft Pier stretches out into Semiahmoo Bay.
Spray from an Orca Killer Whale.